Vie de Camille

Beat Back the Cold with Real Food Hot Chocolate

by: Sherika Tenaya


There is nothing more comforting, more warming, more commemorate of home than a deliciously made cup of hot chocolate. And what better time to partake than now, as winter snows barrage the senses, chill the extremities, discourage travel, and induce a sense of quiet introspection and spiritual hibernation.

Camille Beckman Beat Back the Cold with Real Food Hot Chocolate

Just about everyone has, at one point or another, enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate, whether from a pre-packaged powder mixed with hot water, a throw-back to one’s childhood, complete with semi-solid floating chunks of marshmallow or something made from real cacao, creamed exquisitely with milk, thick and soothing.

Camille Beckman Beat Back the Cold with Real Food Hot Chocolate

Yet, when it comes to drinking chocolate, not all cups are created equal. Oftentimes, the pre-packaged powders we loved as kids are full of toxic ingredients, strange preservatives and sugar overkill. Watery and thin, we drink them down quickly without any real complexity of flavor, perhaps masking the lackluster flavor profile by mixing with coffee, paying no mind to the long and reverent history drinking chocolate once held in Central and South America.  

Once considered to be the holiest and most sacred of drinks, beloved for its perceived connection to the divine as well as its many medicinal uses, drinking chocolate has come a long way in our culture and is only now beginning to once again resemble the traditional drinks that marked such powerful cultures as the Aztecs and Mayans. There is no shortage of sacred cacao ceremonies popping up in alternative spiritual communities, usually centered around prayer and ecstatic dance and the sharing of potent cacao elixirs.

Camille Beckman Beat Back the Cold with Real Food Hot Chocolate

Regardless of whether you drink it for spiritual purposes, nostalgia or just to have something warm on a cold winter’s day, here is a recipe for a healthy, real food hot chocolate drink that I love.


Real Food Hot Chocolate

servings: 3

preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ c. hot water
  • ½ c. canned coconut milk OR 1 c. milk of choice
  • ¼ c. - ⅓ c. cacao powder
  • 2 TBS cashew butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 - 2 TBS real maple syrup OR 4 medjool dates, pitted
  • dash of cayenne
  • optional spices: clove, cinnamon, vanilla bean powder to taste

Instructions:

  1. Take all ingredients, place in blender, and blend on high for 30 seconds or until fully mixed and frothy.
  2. Drink and enjoy.

Feel free to play with the recipe according to your individual tastes. The range of cacao powder you add in will take it from having a lighter flavor (¼ c.) to a stronger, dark chocolate taste (⅓ c.), and subsequently, may alter how much sweetener is needed. Add in the maple syrup slowly, tasting as you go. For those who prefer less sugar, blending in medjool dates is a great way of enhancing flavor while prohibiting excess sugar intake.

If using raw ingredients, make sure that the water you add to the blender is hot, but not boiling, as that can detract from the nutritional content of the raw ingredients.

Be mindful that real cacao has some notable stimulating effects, so it may not be wise to drink right before bed, but different people have different responses to it. Be curious and playful as your build a relationship with this powerful plant ally, cultivating awareness of how it impacts your individual physiology.  

Making Space in the New Year

By: Sherika Tenaya


As we emerge from the longest dark of the year, noted by the passing of the winter solstice, we find ourselves approaching a new year and, consequently, the chance to reevaluate what we want in our lives for ourselves and our loved ones. This is traditionally the one time a year we give ourselves to really check-in with where we are at and where we want to go - as individuals, professionals, parents and lovers.

There are any number of articles out there articulating the finer points of goal setting, of “getting your act together”, of finding motivation and changing your less-than-exemplary habits so that you may move closer to a perceived idealized version of yourself: someone more physically fit, more financially stable, more disciplined, etc.

Camille Beckman Making Space in the New Year

While these are all great ways to prepare for the new year, one of the primary ideas not getting a great deal of limelight in all those new year resolution articles is the one thing that necessarily predates one’s ability to engender new growth in one’s life: the ability to first make space.

Before you can bring new things into your life, whether it’s a stout workout regimen or a raise, there must be an equal and opposite letting go of something else. A workout regimen, for example, is a common and commendable goal that will inevitably take a greater amount of energy expenditure from you, which in turn, requires consistent, quality rest. This means that you will need to make space in your life by letting go of of late nights on the computer or going out with friends so that you may get to bed at a reasonable time.

Camille Beckman Making Space in the New Year

Likewise, a raise may seem like a great goal to reach toward, but perhaps achieving such a raise may mean that you lose time and space in your life for your growing children.

The point is that all things are a give and a take, and all too often, we focus on the things we want to gain for ourselves, without really taking the time to think about what we must let go of in order to have space in our lives for it.

So in approaching the new year, rather than following through with the tired old pattern of making resolutions, perhaps turn your attention towards making space in your life’s garden to plant new seeds, sewn from your dreams and aspirations, and taking the time to cultivate them wisely, providing yourself the space and sustainable environment you need in order to make your plantings flourish.

Camille Beckman Making Space in the New Year

In doing so, you may find that by this time next year, you will be reaping the flourishing new “crops” you planted, denoted by a true and lasting change in your behavior patterns and representative of a fully integrated new lifestyle - a direct result of what your careful cultivation has sewn. All the while, adhering honestly to the give and take of balance, the hallmark of sustainable change, and what it demands of you in order to achieve your aims.

Only through making space can we bring in healthy and sustainable new growth and no amount of manic goal setting will work to bring about a change in established, unsavory patterns if we don’t wisely and realistically maintain a whole-view balance of how our desires, and the pursuance of them, will affect all aspects of our lives.



These are a Few of our Favorite Things, For Him (and more!)

The holidays are just around the corner! Studies show that women do a majority of the shopping in their households, and for many of us it’s easy to select gifts for our daughters, sister, mothers, grandmothers, and BFF’s. But buying for men, or the little ones in your life, can be a bit more challenging for some. To help ease your worry, we have compiled a list of thoughtful and unique gifts from around the world, for the gentleman or sweet tot you’re shopping for this year.

Camille Beckman 1 Voice Beanie

Music to His (Warm) Ears: We love products that pull double-duty! The new headphone beanie from 1 Voice fits that bill in the coziest way, providing practical warmth plus high-quality beats. The 1 Voice beanie is water resistant, so he can wear it snowboarding or skiing, and it connects wirelessly via Bluetooth technology. Comes in a variety of colors and styles for $69, available at http://www.1voicenyc.com/


Making Scents: ManCans were invented after 13-year old Hart Main watched his sister sell candles for a school fundraiser and thought, “Why don’t people sell candles with scents men like?” This entrepreneurial young man launched his own candle company, not only to provide candles men would like, but also as a massive effort to give back to his community.

Camille Beckman Gift Guide Man Cans

“ManCans are made inside a real soup can, and each candle helps provide a meal to someone in need,” he states. On top of the over 100,000 meals that have been donated by candle purchases, each candle is hand-poured and manufactured at a developmentally-disabled facility, providing jobs and empowerment to the men and women who work there.  Scents include Root Beer, New Car, Grandpa’s Pipe, Fresh Cut Grass, Gunpowder, and more, and are all $9.50 at www.man-cans.com.

Camille Beckman Gift Guide Grizzly Good Gift

Grizzly Good Gift: You may have noticed a huge trend in many men’s approaches this season: the beard. From trimmed hipster to Gandalf-wizard-wise, facial hair is loud, proud, and popular right now! Help your guy manage his mane with products from The Beardsmith. Wendy Rose and Jeff Summers, long-time barbershop professionals, crafted these popular balms and greases from years of hands-on feedback from customers, and grooming work on thousands of beards.  They use all-natural, plant-based oils and butters that have been shown to promote healthy, moisturized and soft hair and skin. The Beardsmith offers variety of products and scents for all types of facial hair, from Beard Grease to Mustache Putty. If you’re unsure which product he would love the most, opt for a pre-packaged variety gift set! $29.99-35.99 at. 

www.thebeardsmith.com.  

Camille Beckman Gift Guide Star Wars Cufflinks

Reach for the Stars: If you’re looking to splurge on the professional gentleman in your life this holiday season, we love the Star Wars 3D Cufflinks from Neiman Marcus! These officially licensed accessories come in a variety of characters, and are sterling silver with swivel closures. From Darth Vader to the Millennium Falcon, he can wear his Star Wars fandom on his sleeves with pride! $250 at Neiman Marcus.

Camille Beckman Gift Guide Life Straw

Stay Hydrated, Anywhere: Is the man in your life an adventurer or traveler? The award-winning LifeStraw personal water filter is a must-have. This handy little travel-sized tube filters parasites, waterborne bacteria, and surpasses EPA standards for water filters. Perfect for hiking, camping, fishing, weather emergencies, and international travel! Only $13.99 right now at Amazon.com here.

Camille Beckman Basics For Men

Best Face Forward: Winter weather can mean dry skin for many of us, especially those who work or exercise outside. Help your guy pamper his skin with Camille Beckman’s Basics For Men Tough Skin Relief. Made with pure vegetable glycerin and sweet almond oil to soothe and condition, the Ultimate Tough Skin Relief is perfect to rectify patches of rough skin, calluses and dry spots. $13.95 at CamilleBeckman.com.

Camille Beckman From War to Peace Bottle Opener


Make Beer Not War: From War to Peace, a jewelry and art company in California, recycles copper from disarmed nuclear weapons to create unique and beautiful gifts for everyone on your list! Our favorite “manly” accessory is their Beers Not Bombs bottle openers. Transformed from the most ferocious bombs ever created, these mounted or keychain openers aim to better the world one beer at a time. So raise a toast to world peace, with their unique and creatively-recycled works of art! $14.95-24.95 at www.fromwartopeace.com.

Camille Beckman Future World Changer

The Future Begins Now: Give the gift of empowerment this holiday season with a Future World Changer t-shirt from Sudara. Every human being, young or old, has their own special power to help make our world a better place - let them know while they are little, that their influence on those around them can be so big! As we shared in our previous Women’s Gift Guide (INSERT LINK!), Sudara products are crafted and hand sewn by women who have escaped the horrors of sexual slavery in brothels around India. Even these cute little shirts go a long way towards helping women maintain their freedom, and rebuild their lives! $29, Sudara.org.

Camille Beckman Ernies Wish Trail Augmented Reality Book

Show Stopper: For the little one in your life, bridge the gap between learning and technology with this first virtual reality book, “Ernie’s Wish Trail.” An augmented reality app accompanies the book, which brings characters and settings to life in a way that’s fresh and new for children everywhere. Ernie’s Wish Trail makes a great gift for kids ages 2-6, but parents and grandparents will also enjoy reading to their little ones, and watching them interact with the sweet characters in the book. Even our pre-teen testers had fun playing with the story’s effects and cute animals! Purchase at Amazon.com here.

Camille Beckman The Shoe That Grows

On the Other Foot: Did you know approximately 300 million children in this world do not have shoes? And when kids live in places that don’t have proper sanitation, bare feet can lead to huge problems, like parasites, soil-borne diseases, and more. Donated shoes are great for adults, but what about children, who grow out of them so quickly? TheShoeThatGrows.com aims to solve this global dilema! They have invented shoes that look great, are sturdy and nearly unbreakable, and that G R O W up to five sizes! When you purchase a pair for a child in your life, two pairs are donated to children in need elsewhere in the world! And you’ll rest easy knowing no matter what size you select, the shoes will grow for years right along with the child you bought them for. $50 at www.theshoethatgrows.com .

Camille Beckman Mom and Baby Balms Cough and Cold Balm

Practically Perfect: Camille Beckman has the perfect gift for a growing family this winter. Give her the Cough and Cold Balm & Mom and Baby Balm for an ultra-natural and soothing remedy to everything from dry skin to winter colds. The Cough and Cold Balm utilizes lemon, eucalyptus and lemongrass essential oils to open the sinuses and nasal passages for a lighter, yet more effective formula than standard over-the-counter options. The Mom and Baby Balm is perfect from early pregnancy to post care, combining the healing power of olive oil and shea butter with natural plant waxes and butters to soften dry skin. Safe for everything from stretch marks to cracked nipples from nursing. $10.95-$14.95 at CamilleBeckman.com.

Camille Beckman Hometown Luggage Tags

Hometown Pride: We love these state-specific luggage tags from Bed, Bath, & Beyond! They make a great stocking stuffer for the globetrotter in your life who may often roam, but will always appreciate home. $9.99 for a set of two, at bedbathandbeyond.com here.

Camille Beckman Bath Soaks

Moment of Zen: Perhaps the best gift of all this holiday season, is a moment of peace amidst all the festivities! Give the Bath Soak Variety Pack from Camille Beckman for those who might crave a little nourishment and healing. The Pack includes Beauty Bath, Full Relaxation, Skin Soothing, and Wellness Plus, which relieve sore muscles and leave the body feeling regenerated and renewed. These blissfully-scented bath salts are all natural, nutrient rich, and made with nourishing oils and healing salts. On special NOW at CamilleBeckman.com here.


Love this list? For more shopping, fashion, travel, and lifestyle tips visit Tanya’s blog at www.stylespygirl.com.

The Secret Spice of Life

By: Sherika Tenaya

Love it or hate it, all of us have, at one time or another, felt the shocking sear of capsaicin, the active compound in spicy chilies and peppers. Having a rather high tolerance for spicy food myself, I still remember, in stark clarity, the times in which I have overstepped my spice threshold. Most notably, when I was traveling through Thailand, a land well known for its love of lava-hot sauces and fiercely fiery cuisine.

Camille Beckman Thai Chilis

Here in the US, we have a spicy rating system that is generally divided into three categories: mild, medium and hot. In Thailand, they have a rating system that stretches into 7 or 8 degrees of heat and should you venture beyond the first three or four levels, the Thais regard you with an air of amused, wary compassion, as you would regard a child playing with power tools. Should you successfully stomach the higher ranges of spice level with any modicum of dignity, you will enjoy a sense of elevated esteem from the surrounding Thai, who appear to see one’s level of spice tolerance as a certain measure of one’s character.

Needless to say, traveling to Thailand, you ensure you know the words for “not spicy” when ordering food. Otherwise you will pay the price, as I did when I ordered an unforgettable red curry dish from a delicious, roadside restaurant. Sweating profusely from pores in my nose I never knew existed, eyes burning and tongue and throat a-sizzle with heat I had never felt before, I reviewed my order in my mind trying to discern if I had somehow messed up the subtle intonation of the Thai words for “not spicy”, feeling the unmistakable burn of a language barrier I couldn’t hope to overcome .

Unbeknownst to me, that insidious heat I was experiencing was actually prompting my body to release endorphins, a chemical released by the body in response to pain, or in this case, exaggerated heat, which the body perceives as one and the same. It is this rush of endorphins that actually makes capsaicin a viable and proven treatment for pain, whether neuropathic in nature or more focal pain, such as arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions.

Camille Beckman Spicy Chilis

According to Dr. Ashwin Mehta, director of integrative medicine at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, pain management is only one of it’s uses. “It’s used for all kind of arthritis pain….and dermatologic conditions that have a painful itch.” One study corroborated its ability to treat psoriasis, decreasing both itching and inflammation.

It is no surprise that these red hot foods decrease inflammation, as they have high vitamin and antioxidant content. According to this well cited and highly informative article, “The bright color of red chili peppers signals its high content of beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. Just two teaspoons of red chili peppers provide about 6% of the daily value for vitamin C coupled with more than 10% of the daily value for vitamin A. Often called the anti-infection vitamin, vitamin A is essential for healthy mucous membranes, which line the nasal passages, lungs, intestinal tract and urinary tract and serve as the body's first line of defense against invading pathogens.”

A quick, interesting note on the color of peppers: according to WebMD, green peppers are red peppers that haven’t ripened yet, drastically altering their vitamin content. Therefore, “compared to green bell peppers, the red ones have almost 11 times more beta-carotene and 1.5 times more vitamin C.”

Camille Beckman Red Chili Pepper

Perhaps it is this thrilling vitamin content that portends a chili pepper’s ability to increase the resistance of healthy blood fats to oxidation, or free radical damage. Oxidation of blood fats, incidentally, is one of the main components to developing atherosclerosis. In a 4 week long study, half of the participants were fed a diet with fresh, chopped chilis while the other half were fed a bland diet. Those that ate the chili-containing diet saw a significantly lowered rate of free radical damage to their cholesterol and triglycerides than those that ate the bland diet. Interestingly enough, the men who ate the chili-containing diet in the study enjoyed increased blood flow to their heart and a lower resting heart rate, making spicy peppers a heart-healthy food.

Unsurprisingly, the article goes on to say that “cultures where hot pepper is used liberally have a much lower rate of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism.”

If heart health isn’t enough to convince you to try and add a little spice to your life, then perhaps the finding that these peppers help prevent Type 2 diabetes will put a little pep in your step.

In a study published in the July 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Australian researchers found that eating a meal that includes chili reduces the amount of insulin needed to balance blood sugar. And if such meals are a regular part of one’s diet, insulin needs are diminished even further, compounding the benefits. The same study found that the benefits increase even further for those who are overweight, showing not only a reduced need for insulin to stabilize blood sugar but also that the liver’s ability to clear insulin has increased, making for a more efficient system.

Camille Beckman Chilis

Chilis have even been implicated in battling cancer, namely prostate cancer. Undoubtedly due to the aforementioned antioxidants, flavonoids and carotenoids, which happily scavenge free radicals in our system. Whatever the means, studies have shown that capsaicin stops prostatic cancer cells in their tracks, killing them and potentially preventing further growth. The doctors don’t herald capsaicin as a cure for prostate cancer, but it is definitely considered to be an effective preventative.

While the sting and burn of capsaicin can seem like a formidable deterrent to those who shudder at the sight of hot sauce, there are simple ways to slowly build up one’s tolerance, methodically and with minimal burn-twice effect. I like adding cayenne to hot chocolate drinks, for example. Or even including a chili in a well-loved soup recipe to add the perfect amount of tolerable heat suited to your taste. Just be sure you remember to remove the chili when your optimum level of spice is achieved, otherwise one of your dinner guests may receive a rush of endorphins they neither expected or wanted. Add chili to your condiments for the perfect amount of spicy kick, knowing anything with a milk component, such as yogurt, will provide a helpful dousing of capsaicin’s potent sting. Experiment in a playful way with incorporating this volatile ingredient in your food, knowing the bountiful health benefits will linger long after the biting sting of capsaicin fades away.  

The Sweetest Way to Stay Healthy this Holiday Season

by: Sherika Tenaya

I still remember my barely concealed skepticism when I first saw Elderberry syrup, with its viscous, delicious-looking, dark purple syrup pouring forth from a small, glass bottle onto the silver teaspoon we always use for medicines.

Camille Beckman Elderberry Syrup Blog 

With one dubious eyebrow raised in suspicion, I wondered, how can this sweet syrup, more appropriate as a topping on a kid’s waffle, possibly be construed as a medicine? Surely it is nothing more than a glorified alternative to maple syrup or honey! The sugar content of which, I thought derisively, can only antagonize the cold symptoms I was experiencing. 

Yes, elderberries have a distinct, sharp sweetness that lends their syrup a candy-like appeal...but it is their other properties that transform this berry from being merely sweet, to being a remarkable health superfood.

Camille Beckman Elderberry Tea Blog

Elderberries come from a flowering plant called Elderflower, Elder, or more pompously, by its scientific name, Sambucus Nigra. It is mostly commonly found in the Northern hemisphere, including the U.S. and Europe, although there have been some species grown in Australia. The berries are usually so dark a blue or purple as to be perceived as black.

Elderberries contain not only a thrilling amount of dietary fiber, but also a slew of essential minerals like iron, potassium, phosphorous, and copper as well as vitamins A, B, and C. Other organic compounds include tannin, amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, sugar, rutin, and viburnic acid, whatever that is. They are known to be mildly laxative, a diuretic, and diaphoretic.

It is the unassuming word “flavonoids” in that long list of whatevers that makes these berries pack a serious health punch. Namely, quercetin and anthocyanins, both of which are considered bioflavanoids and do wonders in boosting immune function; providing relief from colds, coughs and bronchitis, acting as an expectorant, protecting cells from infection (both viral and bacterial), and even treating the flu, a purpose to which elderberry extract was famously put in the flu epidemic of Panama in 1995.

Camille Beckman Elder Flower

There are a couple schools of thought on what exactly renders these bioflavonoids so effective, according to one source, “Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell”, whereas in Germany, researchers conducting studies on elderberry showed that “elderberry anthocyanins enhance immune function by boosting the production of cytokines. These unique proteins act as messengers in the immune system to help regulate immune response, thus helping to defend the body against disease. Further research indicated that anthocyanins found in elderberries possess appreciably more antioxidant capacity than either vitamin E or vitamin C.”

Interestingly enough, elderberries have even been used for diabetes, as the antioxidant properties of the stuff work directly on the pancreas to help regulate insulin and glucose levels, providing stabilizing relief for people who suffer from diabetes and even as a preventative to others who are susceptible to this disease.

So now that you know some of the exciting medicinal uses for this sweet tasting defender of all things healthy, how to incorporate it into your daily life?

Elderberry Syrup

Simple enough to buy it from your local health food store or online, however, you can also make this at home and get more bang for your buck.

If you are looking to make your own, check out this wonderful blog, that not only has a recipe but also a Youtube tutorial video for the visual learners out there.

Camille Beckman Elderberry Blog

Alternatively, this blog offers another take on a homemade syrup recipe as well as a highly intriguing elderberry “master elixir” concoction that looks amazing, albeit somewhat more involved.

Once you have made or bought your syrup, you can put it on pancakes or waffles, stir it into yogurt, freeze it into ice cubes to use in mixed drinks, stir it into warm tea or add it to a fresh batch of kombucha as flavoring.

Elderberry Lozenges

Enjoy the many benefits of elderberry’s healing effects on the respiratory system when you feel the onset of the sniffles by sucking on some tasty elderberry lozenges. The localized effect of slowly dissolving the lozenge on the tongue soothes an inflamed throat and adjacent nasal passages. Here you can find a lovely, simple recipe for making homemade lozenges if buying them at the store doesn’t fit into your budget.

Elderberry Wine

If you’re looking for a fun project that will provide you a shareable form of this yummy-yet-medicinal superfood that will last you through the winter and see you through the various viruses and insidious infections of your peers, look no further than elderberry wine. Delicious and fruity, it’s relatively simple to make in the scope of homemade wines.

Camille Beckman Elderberry Wine Blog

I really like this blog, which not only provides multiple methods for making this wine, but also provides some great information on wild harvesting your elderberries and tips on identifying them.

Things to Think About

Through all your elderberry endeavors, always remember to cook the berries somewhat before eating as the branches, leaves and stems have trace amounts of cyanide that can be toxic if consumed in crazy large amounts. Cooking the berries is a simple way of countermanding this concern.

Generally, a teaspoon of syrup a day during peak cold and flu season should suffice and be aware that the syrup can last anywhere from two weeks in the fridge to several months if you put it in a mason jar with an airtight lid. It is recommended to freeze whatever syrup you won’t be using for awhile, perhaps in ice cube trays, for easily accessible small doses.

You can buy bulk elderberries online to save some money and make enough medicine to cover you and your family for a year.

Who says medicine can’t be affordable, delicious and wildly effective? Despite my skepticism, elderberry syrup has become a mainstay at my house and I look forward to branching out from syrup and trying some of these other recipes. If I can enjoy a glass of wine while building my immune system’s defenses to invasive infections, it is a happy day indeed.

 

These Are A Few of Our Favorite Things, For Her

by Style Spy Girl 

The holidays are approaching, which means it’s time to start shopping! This season, we have compiled a list of our favorite, unique things that you can not only give, but many of which also give back. At Camille Beckman our mission is to be kind this holiday season, and think beyond our families to those in need around the community, and our world.

Thankful Good Hyouman

Good Fashion Sense: Express your gratitude in style this holiday season in the “THANKFUL” Stephanie cropped sweater from good hYOUman ($65). This cozy, soft, long-sleeved sweater is made in the USA, and part of a beautiful line of clothing launched in 2011 by David Novek, in memory of his beloved son Brett. Throw it on with the line’s matching “Passion is Everything” leggings for a jog around the neighborhood, or pair it with jeans and a trendy jacket for a fun fashion statement!

Bella Modi Handbag

Handbag Perfection: Have you ever been on a mission to find the perfect handbag, and ended up settling for something you didn’t love? Bella Modi is here to change all that! This woman-owned and invented handbag company promises to end your purse woes forever, through a personalized design processes you can at the studio in Boise, or through an easy web form online. Whatever color, shape, metal trimming, or accessories you can dream up, Bella Modi can put it all together and ship it to you! Each bag is crafted and sewn by hand, and prices start at $150 and go up based on design and additions. Learn more at http://bellamodihandbags.com/!

Punjammies Sundara

Sleep Happy: Cozy up in a pair of delightfully colorful “Punjammies,” by Sudara. Crafted and hand sewn by women who have escaped the horrors of sexual slavery in brothels around India, these pajamas are the most comfortable way in the world to help women maintain their freedom, and rebuild their lives!  Besides crafting beautiful, handmade pajamas for men, women, and children the site has expanded to include beautiful leather wallets, handbags, freedom bracelets, and more. Prices range from $29-59. 

Coach Handbag

Put a Heart On It: Nothing beats adding a little personal touch to something you love and treasure. All-American luxury handbag line COACH has begun offering monogramming services on a variety of their handbags and accessories, and the results couldn’t be prettier! From symbols and initials on bags, to crafting a special-occasion massage on the inside patch, the unique possibilities are endless. Prices vary. Go to http://www.coach.com/shop/personalize to learn more!

Be The Light Optimist Bracelet

Be the Light: Purchase an OPTIMIST bracelet from Neiman Marcus, and brighten the future for a woman in need. These beautifully-crafted jewelry pieces make excellent gifts, with hand-rolled paper beads, a recycled glass bead, and two accent discs plated in 18-carat gold. With every $25 bracelet sold, Neiman Marcus donates $25 to the Akola Project, which helps marginalized women across the globe!

ASSAM Tea Press

Tea For the Minimalist: Bodum’s best-selling ASSAM Tea Press uses the same brewing system as a French press, so you can control how mild or strong you want your tea. Easy to use with loose leaf or tea bags, this beautifully-elegant pot comes in 17oz., 34 oz., or 51oz., and ranges in price from $35-60 at Bodum.com. 

Sorapot Joey Roth Tea Pot

Tea For the Maximizer: The Sorapot, by Joey Roth, wins the award for best practical conversation starter on this list. With its striking appearance and futuristic appeal, the Sorapot was designed using an ancient metal casting process, and every pot is hand-polished to a brushed satin finish. It’s easy to clean, dishwasher safe, and gives even the simplest teas an air of grandeur. $285.

 

And Don’t Forget the Tea… To either pot above, add this special Christmas release from world-renowned tea-makers Kusmi Tea, the Tsarevna 7oz. metal tin. This beautiful black tin with gold star accents, inspired by Russian princesses in the time of the Tsars, is filled with a holiday blend of black tea, spices, orange, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, amiseed, and licorice. $29.90. 

Luna Play Silicone Cleansing Brush

Best Face Forward: Give the gift of fresh, clean skin with the Luna Play Silicone Cleansing Brush by Foreo. This mini-version of the wildly popular Foreo vibrating facial cleanser is now available in a macaroon-sized version! It’s easy to pack and travel with, less expensive than the larger version, comes in eight colors, and is a great size for tweens or young ladies just beginning to experiment with their regular skin care routine. Added bonus: after cleansing, put a dab of your daily moisturizer on the Luna Play for a soothing and deeply-penetrating facial massage! $39

Camille Beckman French Vanilla Gift Duet

Posh Pampering: For many of us, Winter brings more than just cold weather and shorter days; it’s also the season of dry skin. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! It’s not hard to see why the French Vanilla Duo gift set by Camille Beckman is one of our biggest sellers. While the scent of these scrumptious lotions is delightfully reminiscent of fresh-baked cookies topped with hand-churned vanilla ice cream, it’s the feel of massaging them into your skin that has customers coming back again and again. The French Vanilla Holiday Duo also makes an excellent gift, not just during the holidays, but for any occasion! $32.95

Tangem Smart Rope

Jump to the Future: Amp up the cool factor in your workouts with the new Smart Rope from Tangram Factory. While you jump, LED-embedded lights display your fitness progress in mid-air, right in front of your eyes like a futuristic personal billboard. The Smart Rope comes in chrome, gold, or black, and makes an incredibly unique gift and beautiful for the fitness fan in your life! $90,  http://tangramfactory.com/home/htm/pc_eng.htm

Glitter Celebration Gift Pack One Wine

Cheers for a Better World: This holiday season, give hope with a Glitter Celebration Gift Pack from One Wine. This super fun set includes a silver glitter bottle of Brut Sparkling Wine, two champagne flutes, and a confetti tube to ring in the New Year! Every gift box sold provides 25 meals to a child in need, through One Hope Wine’s End Hunger campaign. Other wines and gift packages are also available, and every bottle sold provides a donation to one of ten worthy causes across the globe. Cheers to making this world a better place! $18.99 - $134.

A Peaceful Bomb Vase

Flowers Power: Taiwanese design duo Owen and Cloud designed this beautiful and minimalistic flower vase as a statement against war. The A Peaceful Bomb Vase is not only a beautiful gift, but also a brilliant conversation-starter in any home! Proceeds from sales of the vase are donated to “Act Now to Stop War & End Racism" (A.N.S.W.E.R.). $49.

A22 Carryon Luggage RADEN

Globetrot in Style: The new A22 Carryon from RADEN is technology’s latest foray into travel products, and it couldn’t be prettier! This airline-regulation carry on is little enough for plane hopping in ease, but carries a wallop of special perks like location services, weight scale, and a charger for your phone or other electronic device! Available in white, pink, black, hunter green, navy, light blue, or light purple. $295

LuMee LED iPhone Case

Light up Your Life: Get the best selfies possible, check your makeup, Skype with a friend, or light a path in the dark with the durable and fun LuMee iPhone Case. Developed by a professional photographer, the LuMee protects your phone and has LED on the right and left sides of the case, which give you soft and beautiful lighting for every occasion. Comes in rose gold, hot pink, navy, silver, black, rose, white, and gold, for both iPhones and Samsung Galaxies.  $59.95.

 

Love this list? For more shopping, fashion, travel, and lifestyle tips visit Tanya’s blog at www.stylespygirl.com.

The Compelling Characteristics of Coconut Oil & How it Can Heal You

By: Sherika Tenaya

In examining the relationship of food with bodily health and wellness, perhaps there is no greater food heralded for its healing properties than coconut oil.

Camille Beckman Compelling Characteristics of Coconut Oil

Widely touted for its anti-aging properties, undoubtedly due to its fatty acid content as well as its potent antioxidant vitamin E content, coconut oil is the perfect moisturizer, both for skin and scalp. Our All Natural Lip Balms are the perfect blend for moisturizing your lips. Not only does this nourishing oil block 20% of UV rays making it an effective light sunscreen, but it has been shown to slow down the aging process, reduce sagging skin, gives shine and suppleness to hair, and even relieves chronic dandruff. 

 

Coconut oil has even been shown to help treat more serious skin conditions. According to this well articulated article, “[Coconut oil] helps in preventing degenerative diseases and premature aging due to its well-known antioxidant properties. It also helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections. For that exact reason, coconut oil forms the base ingredient of various body care products like soaps, lotions, and creams that are used for skin care.” Using products such as bath soaks that use coconut oil and coconut milk can help in rejuvenating dry, flaky skin.

Camille Beckman Compelling Characteristics of Coconut Oil

Aside from its beauty applications for skin and hair, coconut oil has also been shown to boost dental health when used in the same manner as mouthwash in a process referred to as oil pulling. Long used as a traditional Indian folk remedy and in Ayurvedic medicine, oil pulling was demonstrated in a study done by the Journal of Indian Society Pedodontics and Preventative Dentistry to be “an effective preventive adjunct in maintaining and improving oral health” as it reduced the presence of Streptococcus Mutans in the saliva and plaque of children.

 

Once ingested, the health benefits of coconut oil only begin to compound upon themselves. Full of healthy saturated fats and energy boosting medium chain triglycerides, coconut oil has been demonstrated to improve everything from heart health to weight loss to immune system optimization.

Camille Beckman Compelling Characteristics of Coconut Oil

While it was once thought that saturated fats were bad for the body, recent science has totally debunked this myth. Not all fats are created equal and the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil provide an easily accessed source of alternative energy, called ketones, that breaks down quickly and efficiently in the body and provides longer, more sustainable energy.  One study found that MCTs found in coconut oil can actually increase the amount of calories you burn more than the same amount of other fats, resulting in improved weight loss. If you’d like to read more about the weight loss benefits of coconut oil, check out this highly informative article.

 

If better teeth and weight loss aren’t convincing enough, coconut oil is a formidable opponent to harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi. About half of the fatty acids found in coconut oil are lauric acid. When ingested, lauric acid turns into monolaurin and this, in turn, has been found in studies to kill harmful pathogens including Staphylococcus Aureus, a persistent and dangerous pathogen, and Candida Albicans, most commonly associated with yeast infections.

Camille Beckman Compelling Characteristics of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has even been implicated in boosting brain health in a landmark 2004 study that showed that ingesting MCTs such as those that are found in coconut oil actually resulted in a pretty immediate cognitive boost in people with milder forms of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

While more studies need to be done, it appears that Alzheimer's, to some degree, is a result of the brain’s increasingly reduced ability to use glucose, or sugar, as energy. Since the brain is easily one of the most energy-hungry organs in the body, an inability to synthesize energy from our most commonly used source of it - sugar - equates to major cognitive problems.

Camille Beckman Compelling Characteristics of Coconut Oil

However, as mentioned previously, MCTs break down into energy molecules called ketones that come from fats, not sugars. It is because of this highly efficient alternative energy source derived from fats that MCTs have been studied for not only Alzheimer’s patients, but also children with epilepsy.

 

Whether used as a sensual massage oil, a hair mask, a cooking oil or weight loss agent, coconut oil has rightly earned its status as highly revered superfood. However, as with all other food items, the quality of the coconut oil is paramount. Not just any kind will do. Always look for organic, extra virgin, cold expeller pressed coconut oil. The less processed, the better. You will thank yourself for taking the steps toward greater health and wholeness.

 

The Surprising Benefits of Exercise

by: Sherika Tenaya

 

Everybody knows the benefits of regular exercise on the muscles and body tissues are innumerable, yet when grimly setting our New Year's resolutions or resolving in quiet despair to exercise more, we are generally considering the benefits to our waistlines and our looks, rather than to our brains.

Camille Beckman Surprising Benefits of Exercise

Yet new science is coming out with more and more compelling reasons to exercise for brain health and longevity, beyond the siren call of smaller pant sizes and a toned physique. Here I will enumerate the latest findings on how exercise impacts your health in surprising ways and what kind of exercise is most ideal for these benefits.

 

Exercise to Entice Optimal Gene Expression

 

I have mentioned on more than one occasion the exciting new science of epigenetics, which is basically the understanding that, while we do indeed have genes that we are born with, those genes get turned on and off throughout the course of our life based on lifestyle choices we make and our environment.

 

Exercise has been shown to be somewhat of an elixir of youth and benefits the brain and body regardless of how old an individual is when they start exercising. Dr. David Perlmutter, a leading expert on brain health, explains, “Aerobic exercise not only turns on genes linked to longevity, but also targets the gene that codes for B.D.N.F, the brain’s ‘growth hormone’.”

Camille Beckman Surprising Benefits of Exercise

I’ll be talking a little bit more about BDNF later in this blog, but suffice to say that the impacts on gene expression are profoundly far-reaching and we still aren’t aware of just how MUCH benefit there truly is.

 

Gretchen Reynolds, science writer for the New York Times, describes in her article the exciting implications for the elderly as well as what more there is to learn, “A recent study of the brains of elderly mice found 117 genes that were expressed differently in the brains of animals that began a running program - and the scientists were only looking at a small portion of the many genes that might be expressed differently in the brain.”

 

So while we don’t yet know the full extent of how exercise affects gene expression, what we do know certainly aids the resolve of the workout woebegone.

 

Exercise Literally Makes Your Brain Grow

 

BDNF, the acronym mentioned earlier that Dr. Perlmutter referred to as a “growth hormone” for the brain stands for brain derived neurotropic factor and is indeed something like fertilizer for the garden that is the brain. It strengthens cells and axons (the part of the cell that sends signals to other cells), it fortifies connections among neurons, and instigates neurogenesis.

Camille Beckman Surprising Benefits of Exercise

Neurogenesis, I am pleased to tell you, was once thought by science to be impossible but now is known to be not only possible, but our natural birthright. It is defined as the creation of new brain cells in an already mature brain. Meaning that no matter how old we are, our brains can continue to form new cells - rending the expectation that we get senile with age obsolete.

 

Reynolds tells us that BDNF levels are markedly higher in the bloodstream of most people post-workout and that we are literally growing our brains and halting its decay. “Studies in animals and people have shown that physical activity generally increases brain volume and can reduce the number and size of age related holes in the brain’s grey and white matter. Exercise also augments adult neurogenesis.”

 

What Type of Exercise and How Much to do to Boost Brain Health

 

You may be imagining that these kinds of benefits require running ultra marathons or back breaking weight lifting regimens. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As it happens, simple, consistent aerobic exercise show greater brain benefits than weight lifting, stretching or high intensity interval workouts.

Camille Beckman Surprising Benefits of Exercise

“In studies with animals, exercise in the form of running wheels or treadmills has been found to double and triple the number of new neurons that appear afterward in the animal’s hippocampus, the key area in the brain for learning and memory.” Reynolds writes.

 

If you would like to know more about the research behind the various types of workouts and how they affect brain health, check out this intriguing study published in the Journal of Physiology.

 

As for how much exercise will suffice, Professor Nicola Lautenschlager of the University of Western Australia conducted a compelling study that was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association where she had elderly individuals engage in regular physical exercise for a 24 week period, averaging 20 minutes of physical activity a day, that showed an 1800% improvement on measures of memory, language ability, attention and other important cognitive functions in comparison to a control group.

 

Just 20 minutes a day creates better blood flow, catalyzes the growth of new blood vessels as well as new brain cells and can even improve brain plasticity.

 

Finding motivation to workout can be exceedingly difficult for the working person, with so many distractions and contesting aspirations vying for one’s attention. Yet making small choices each and every day to work towards a healthier version of oneself in the form of 20 minutes of aerobic exercise isn’t such a difficult thing when the payoff is a more nimble brain as well as body.

 

 

 

Hydration for Health

by: Sherika Tenaya

When traveling this last summer in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the scarcity of water was a serious issue. Both countries were experiencing record breaking drought conditions. In Costa Rica, from 5pm in the evening until 8am the following morning the entire town we were staying in was without water, save for the commercial restaurants and hotels who paid handsomely to fill private water tanks.

Camille Beckman Hydration for Health

It only takes one such experience to understand the value of water and how easy it is to take it for granted. Our bodies are comprised of primarily water, about 70 percent in fact. Water is instrumental in all of our major bodily functions. Larry Kenney, PhD, a professor of physiology and kinesiology at Penn State, puts it succinctly when he says on WebMD, “Hydration is important because the body is comprised mostly of water, and the proper balance between water and electrolytes in our bodies really determines how most of our systems function, including nerves and muscles.”

More specifically, maintaining proper hydration is key for a number of seriously important bodily functions such as removing waste through urine, controlling body temperature, maintaining heart rate and blood pressure as well as playing a pretty pivotal role in metabolism.

 

Water Loss

We lose water throughout our day due to the carryout of these cycles: urination, sweating, even breathing causes us to lose water. Not to mention certain environmental factors such as hot weather, if we’re exercising or fighting a fever. And, of course, vomiting and diarrhea are one of the fastest acting dehydrators out there.

Camille Beckman Hydration for Health

Exercise is a key time to ensure proper hydration, as the margin for error is actually quite small. Kenny elaborates, “Very slight changes in body water may create some performance issues in sports; as little as a 2% decrease in body water can lead to dehydration and performance detriments in sports. When your water levels decrease by higher levels like 3% or 4%, there are physiological changes that occur that may have health consequences, such as increased heart rate and body temperature."

One of my old soccer coaches used to admonish me that if I started hydrating when I felt thirsty, I was already too late. Prevention is the best way to avoid injury or compromised health when it comes to dehydration.

Camille Beckman Hydration for Health

 

Signs of Dehydration

One of the clearest ways to determine whether you are walking the line of dehydration is if your urine is dark colored or pungent smelling. Dry mouth, headache, fatigue, and in later stages, confusion and dizziness are all signs that water levels are dropping.

 

How Much Water is Enough?

As with all things, different individuals have different needs. The old adage of “8 glasses a day” has actually been completely debunked. Especially as we get about 20 percent our water intake from our food alone.

As a general rule, drink when you feel thirsty, and in so doing, you should be urinating every three to four hours, expelling urine that is colorless or pale yellow. Athletes, of course, will need to be considerably more vigilant as exercising can actually depress the thirst mechanism, meaning people who exercise should be drinking even when they don’t necessarily feel thirsty.

Camille Beckman Hydration for Health

How to Hydrate Effectively

As previously mentioned, we get a good deal of our water intake from our food. Foods that have the highest water content include soups, yogurt, fruits like watermelon and oranges, vegetables such as cucumbers and celery and also salads.

If drinking water feels a bit tedious to you, you can always add in a slice of organic meyer lemon or some muddled berries for taste. Oftentimes, I will add essential oil of sweet orange to my water bottle. Fizzy water is also a great solution, flavored with essential oils or mixed with orange juice for a refreshing bubbly drink without all the sugar of sodas.

If exercising, hydrating before, during and after the workout is wise. It is important to note that there is such a thing as drinking too much water. Most common amongst ultra marathon runners, hyponatremia is a condition in which runners drink too much water while sweating out a good deal of the salt in their system, leading to decreased sodium in the blood. For a balanced view on what to be aware of in regards to hyponatremia and how to manage it, refer to this well articulated article.

Camille Beckman Hydration for Health

Caring about the quality of your water is key. Tap water has all manner of chemicals in it used in the purification process, including chlorine bleach and fluoride. Buying a home water filtration system goes a long way in the longevity of your health as well as the health of your pipes and porcelain.

In honoring the water needs of our bodies by maintaining hydration, we also find reason to honor the water needs of the world as we transition into a time of climate change. This means being more aware and appreciative of the water we have by being mindful about water waste: turning off the water as we lather our hands with soap during handwashing, turning off the shower water while lathering the body, ensuring hoses or sprinklers aren’t running frivolously - all are suggestions for appreciating the simple pleasures and boundless health benefits pure, clean water can afford us.

What You Perceive Predicts What You Achieve

By: Sherika Tenaya


To be a human in this world is to bear a heavy burden indeed: will my life be a success or a failure? Inherent in the so-called “American Dream” itself is the knowledge that some people make it and some people don’t. In constant competition with each other, we all strive to gain our idea of success; be it money, beauty, fine possessions, fame, early retirement, vacations, children who are themselves successful, or all these things.

Camille Beckman What You Perceive You Achieve

From the first day we spend in school, having tasks put before us that we either pass or fail, gold stars earned or detracted, detention or honor roll - we are trained to see our successes and failures in a linear, absolute way.

We all have ways of responding to and interpreting these messages we receive and develop beliefs, perceptions and mindsets that do a great deal in determining the way we make choices and lead our lives.

In her seminal book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck, Ph.D., calls upon 20 years of research to describe two mindsets that she says greatly impact each individual’s ability to meet success or flounder in failure.

She calls these two mindsets the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset is characterized by the belief that our qualities are inherent, carved in stone, immutable - the notion of natural born talent or gifts that simply are. You are born with the hand you are dealt: a certain amount of intelligence, artistic ability, a certain personality. Therefore, you must strive to prove yourself over and over - asserting to others that you were born with an impressive quantity of each.

The growth mindset, on the other hand, is the belief that our qualities are things we can cultivate through our efforts. “The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it,” she imparts. “even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.”

Camille Beckman What You Perceive You Achieve

Both mindsets have a distinct relationship with success and failure. For the fixed mindset, in which natural ability is the cornerstone of one’s success, a sense of superiority or entitlement abounds when things are going well. If you are born with it and others are not, you are inherently better. Unfortunately, this concept has a paralyzing flip side: when the fixed mindset experiences failure, it becomes entwined in the person’s identity. That person’s entire sense of self is thrown into chaos - they move from being something special to being just like everyone else. Those who are accustomed to being extraordinary in some way, cannot handle the identity crisis that ensues when they find themselves in the realm of the ordinary.

Dweck says that when someone in the fixed mindset experiences failure, they generally respond in one of three ways. In order to preserve their self-esteem, they will often go look for people who are worse off than themselves. They may also blame others or make excuses. They are also known to completely quit trying when something goes awry or not engage in activities they aren’t immediately good at.

For a person in the growth mindset, success is not so much relished as the journey or process of getting there. Failure, rather than being an identity crushing catastrophe to be denied and avoided, serves as a motivation to try harder. Acknowledgment and careful evaluation of mistakes as well as a continued curiosity in how to overcome the obstacles is the hallmark of the growth mindset.

Camille Beckman What You Perceive You Achieve

Dweck elaborates, “When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them. And if abilities can be expanded - if change and growth are possible - then there are still many paths to success.”

Dweck clarifies that a person may not be wholly in one mindset or the other all the time, that in some avenues of their life, they may exhibit the fixed mindset - say in their perception of their artistic ability - but in their intellectual skills they may exhibit the growth mindset. We are all of us complex creatures and there are simple things we can do, or be aware of, to better determine which mindset we are acting out of and move into the mindset that serves our needs.


Know Your Mind(set)

“Just by knowing about the two mindsets, you can start thinking and reacting in new ways.” Dweck explains. “People tell me they start to catch themselves when they are in the throes of the fixed mindset - passing up a chance for learning, feeling labeled by a failure, or getting discouraged when something requires a lot of effort. And then they switch themselves into the growth mindset - making sure they take the challenge, learn from the failure, or continue their effort.”

Just being aware of which mindset is predominating, you can alter your actions to reflect which mindset you feel will better serve you. Saying yes to challenging things that require effort, things you aren’t sure you can do, will encourage and kindle your growth in ways you never thought possible.


Accept Imperfections while Learning and Reject Critical Self-Talk

Pay attention to your inner dialogue in times of challenge when you feel inept, out of your element, ungraceful or hopelessly inadequate. Is your self-talk judgmental and cuttingly critical? Is it discouraging you from asking multiple questions so as not to be seen as stupid? Is it constantly comparing your performance to those around you?  Learn to recognize that voice and give it a name, perhaps it’s the voice of a hard-to-please parent or cruel teacher from your past. Simply noticing when this aspect of your mind is bombarding you with unhelpful judgments and sneering condemnations in the fledgling stages of learning allows you to distance yourself from its growth-killing dialogue.

Camille Beckman What You Perceive You Achieve

Seek out Constructive Criticism

Notice the people who surround you. Do they only ever flatter and praise you? Seek out those who challenge your growth in positive, healthy ways; who are honest in their assessment of your abilities and can articulate useful reflections. Ensure you are receptive to honest, constructive feedback by distancing your ego from your ability.


Make Effort your Friend

The next time you are doing something that is difficult for you, notice if your immediate reaction is to let it go. Do you suddenly find yourself feeling tired, dizzy, bored or hungry? Rather than succumbing to the desire to stick with only those things that come easy, stay with the challenge and picture your brain forming new connections as you effort and learn.


Make a Point to do Things that Scare You or Intimidate You

We get so accustomed to the security our lives afford, thoughtlessly pursuing that which is comfortable and avoiding the things that scare us. It is easier to never try a thing then to do something intimidating and potentially fail. And yet, it is only when we try and fail and then try again, that we learn the true innermost content of our character. It is then that we come to understand the vast resourcefulness we never knew we possessed. Think of something you have always wanted to do but have been too scared to try. Make a plan and do it.

Success and failure, it turns out, aren’t such polar opposites. One tends to bleed into the other. Only when we can be distanced from both can we meet our true potential and find a deeper well of true contentment in our lives. When we forgive ourselves for our deficiencies and flaws, accept our shortcomings, and face our imperfections during the learning process, then can we grow to our fullest potential.

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