Vie de Camille

Learn New Things for a Better Brain

by: Sherika Tenaya

From a very young age, precipitated by our entry into school, we condition ourselves to a life of sameness. Whether you are at school or at work, we learn to live our lives by habituated scheduling which we rarely deviate from and which often lulls us into a feeling of security or comfortability.

Some consider this to be an ideal way of living life, to always know what’s coming next around the riverbend, to be able to depend with certainty on one’s own expectations of where life is going. Others find it stifling, wishing to break free from the constraints of the repetitive, eagerly looking forward to that two week vacation which never quite seems long enough.

Camille Beckman Learn New Things for a Better Brain

Regardless of which side of the fence you lie on, our brains are collectively hardwired to benefit, and even flourish, from novelty. Our ancestors lived lives of constant uncertainty: vulnerable to the ever-changing forces of nature such as weather, encounters with predatory animals, and continually plagued with the unknown of where to find the next meal or water.

Nothing was certain for them and so our brains adapted to learn from novel experiences, to be intrigued and inspired by coming across new objects in our environment, which in turn, triggered a highly motivated exploration of our environment.

In a highly intriguing study, researchers Bunzeck and Düzel examined the relationship of a particular region of the midbrain that is responsible for regulating our motivation and rewards-processing, and how that interplays with novel stimuli.

Camille Beckman Learn New Things for a Better Brain

In the words of Dr. Emrah Düzel, “When we see something new, we see it has a potential for rewarding us in some way. This potential that lies in new things motivates us to explore our environment for rewards. The brain learns that the stimulus, once familiar, has no reward associated with it and so it loses its potential. For this reason, only completely new objects activate the midbrain area and increase our levels of dopamine.”

When it comes to learning, we learn best when we mix in newness to our endeavors. Kelly Howell, co-author of Brain Power: Improve Your Mind as You Age, writes, “Newness and novelty excite the brain and create a stronger connection between neurons. Every time you have a new experience, a new synaptic connection forms. The more you use that connection, the stronger it gets. If you stop using the connection, the neurons are pruned away.”

Camille Beckman Learn New Things for a Better Brain

Engaging in new activities can keep the brain engaged, motivated, and even strengthen its neuronal connections. However, not all new activities pack quite the same punch.

In this fascinating article, cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman distinguishes between the efficacy of “brain games”, gaining popularity in the media and sold as harbingers of salvation for the diminishing mind, and actually learning a new and challenging skill when he states, “While brain games improve a limited aspect of short-term memory, challenging activities strengthen entire networks in the brain.”  

It is important to note that these benefits affect long lasting brain health no matter what age you are. Whether young or old, your brain has an amazing capacity to continually grow and renew itself - even until the day you die.

So begin today by turning off social media , stepping out of your comfort zone, and focusing on a new activity or skill to engage in. Not only will this excite and stimulate your brain, but you will receive residual benefits by meeting new people and broadening your social circle, which invites the same novelty as the activity itself.  

Scent & Sensuality: Stories, Myths & Legends of Scent through the Ages

By: Sherika Tenaya

In my last blog, I described the power of scent and how potent a hold it has over the human psyche - coloring all aspects of our lives: from memory recall to sexual intimacy to conduit between human and the divine.  

In my research for that blog, I came across quite a few astonishing and enthralling stories that demonstrate just how powerful a role scent has played in the drama that is human history, as well as its characterization in our myths and legends. Many, though not all, of these stories were pulled from the highly engrossing and superbly well written book Essence and Alchemy by Mandy Aftel. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

In many cases, much of the mystique surrounding certain scents or essences was the way in which they were harvested - with the same care, concern and ritual as priceless religious artifacts. Like the story of frankincense, as told by Pliny in his Natural History treatise in which he stated that it could be found only in Saba, a nearly inaccessible part of Arabia due to the surrounding treacherous mountains.

Scent & Sensuality Frankincense

Harvesting frankincense was a hereditary privilege, passed down through male members of certain families who were considered holy in their own right. While making their small incisions in the trees to harvest this precious material, these men were forbidden from having sex with women or attending funerals. The collected frankincense would then make its way to the town of Sabota on camel where it could only enter the city through one gate where priests would take one-tenth of the harvest for the god Sabin. To do anything else with the frankincense before the priests received their share was punishable by death.

The harvesting of sandalwood is also rather involved as the sandalwood tree is considered a hemiparasite, meaning it gets some nutrients from photosynthesis and the rest of its nutritional needs are gained by siphoning from the roots of its neighboring trees, who, in return for their unwilling donations, are gifted with a slow death.

The essential oil of sandalwood does not appear until the tree is at least twenty-five years old, so the tree must be at least thirty before any harvesting can be done. One cannot simply chop the tree down at this point because the precious oil is just as much in the roots as the trunk and branches. Instead, the tree must be wholly unearthed and the help of white ants enlisted to eat away the sapwood and bark. The ants very congenially leave the heartwood, where the oil is, untouched. The heartwood is then coarsely powdered and steam-distilled.

Camille Beckman Scent & Sensuality Sandalwood

Sometimes certain scents capture our imaginations because figures in history gain almost comical attachments to them. For example, musk - an aphrodisiac of legendary proportions, was so well loved by the empress Josephine, that she filled her dressing room with it despite Napoleon’s indignant protestations. Forty years after her death, after multiple washings and coats of paint, the scent still remained.

The Arab love for roses is well renowned. According to Aftel, “They preserved them by gathering the buds and placing them in earthenware jars that they sealed with clay and buried in the earth. When roses were required, they dug up the jar, sprinkled the buds with water, and left them to air until the petals opened.” She even mentions a sultan who was so enamored with roses, that he forbade anyone else to grow them, as a jealous lover. He purportedly dressed in pink in their honor and had his rugs continually sprinkled with rosewater.

Perhaps one of the most famous historical figures whose love for scent was well known was the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. While everything we know of her and her story is given to us through the secondhand writings of men who hardly, if at all, knew her, and who were on the side of her enemies; her love for perfume and opulent taste in her immediate surroundings withstands.

Egypt was easily the richest country in the world at the time she lived and Egyptian women in general enjoyed a great deal of personal liberty that many of our history books ignore or fail to mention. Perhaps it is no surprise then that Cleopatra was said to have her own perfume workshop and was known to rub her mouth with solid perfume before kissing a lover so that “the scent would force him to think of her after they parted.” She even had the sails of the barge upon which she received Mark Antony, an incredibly important political meeting for her at the time, drenched in perfume. Later, she held court in a room with a carpet of rose petals, said to be several feet thick, that were fixed in place by nets fastened to the walls.    

Camille Beckman Ancient Fragrances Scent & Sensuality

Even well after her infamous death, Cleopatra’s love for perfume touched the lives of two Hungarian brothers as late as 1923. Laszlo Lengyel was a major figure in dispensing “love potions” and other products, very popular at the time, that were said to enhance sexual desire and performance. Lengyel and his brother, inspired by the recent discovery of King Tut’s tomb, produced a perfume they said was based on a formula of Cleopatra’s that had been found in the tomb. Interestingly enough, the two brothers promptly developed serious illnesses, in accordance with the vengeful legends of what happened to those who disturbed such tombs, and only regained their health when they withdrew their new perfume off the market.  

The power of scent was so remarkable that certain prudish governmental bodies attempted to impose legislation criminalizing the stuff. In England in the year 1770, an act of Parliament decreed: “all women, of whatever age, rank, profession, or degree, whether virgins, maids, or widows, that shall, from and after such Act, impose upon, seduce and betray into matrimony, any of His Majesty’s subjects, by the scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes, bolstered hips, shall incur the penalty of the law now in force against witchcraft and like misdemeanors, and that the marriage, upon conviction, shall stand null and void.”

Camille Beckman - Scent & Sensuality

Of course, such a thing was impossible to enforce for long. The following year in London, a man named James Graham gained national acclaim by setting up a business that aimed to help childless couples conceive. According to Aftel, this featured a “Celestial Bed” supported on a series of elaborately carved and colored pillars that Graham claimed to possess “magical influences which are now celebrated from pole to pole and from the rising to the setting sun.” The bed was the appetizer to the perfumed entree. Atop the bed was a dome that wafted “odoriferous and balmy spells and essences” that were said to enliven and vivify. The mattress was stuffed, not with the customary feathers, but with “sweet new wheat or oatstraw mingled with balm, rose leaves, lavender flowers and oriental spices.” To complete this scent-saturated experience of celestial lovemaking, the sheets themselves were scented with resins and balsams.

Across the world, scent is used as the tinder to fan the fire of desire. “In the highlands of New Guinea,” Aftel writes, “shamans say incantations over ginger leaves, which are thought to lend allure to the man who rubs them on his face and body. In the Amazon, Yanomamo men carry sachets of fragrant powders that are supposed to make attractive women tumble into their arms.”

Even Sigmund Freud, well known for his sexually-focused, if not obsessed, theories on human psychological development, suspected that the nose was related to the sexual organs and he therefore considered the repression of smell to be a major cause of mental illness.

When it comes to scent and the role it has played in our growth and development as a species, this blog is barely scratching the surface of what is out there, yet even so, fully captures the obsession - some might call it the possession - of scent upon our imaginations. So the next time you are rubbing your favorite scented bath product on your skin, remember the stories of old and immerse yourself in the delicious madness, the sensual grandness that scent has carried through the ages.

Scent & Sensuality

By: Sherika Tenaya

When it comes to sensory pleasures, our sense of smell is often overlooked in favor of the more “flashy” sensory inputs: our deceiving, yet compelling, sense of sight; our practical and informative sense of touch that lacks nothing except imagination; our gluttony of pleasurable tastes, misleading us all too often to trade in long lasting health for flavor.

And yet, odor can deliver directly to the brain in a way that none of the other senses can. In each of the upper air passages of the nose, there is a dime-size patch of olfactory membrane that contains more than 10 million olfactory nerve cells, each of which comes equipped with about a dozen hairs, or cilia, upon the exposed end that are equipped with receptors. Fragrance, which can be imagined as a diffusion of gaseous molecules, caresses these receptors until they fire, sending their signal right to the brain. Our sense of smell is actually quite sensitive, as well: we can detect up to one part of fragrant material in 10,000 billion parts or more.

Camille Beckman Scent & Sensuality Chocolate

This olfactory membrane is the only place in the entire human body where the central nervous system comes into direct contact with the environment. All other sensory information initially comes in through the thalamus. So by the time we are aware of a smell, our bodies have long since received and reacted to it. Perhaps this is why in the French language, the same verb, sentir, means both “to smell” and “to feel”.

Because of this direct effect on our brains and our psyches, scents have been used not only therapeutically to enhance mood and recall memories, but also to invite sexual intimacy between partners, and even in religious ceremony.

Unfortunately, because scent speaks to us in a language, not of words, but of abstract images and associations, the scientific method has a hard time verifying the uses attributed to certain scents, since different people have markedly different reactions to the same scent based on their life experiences.

Camille Beckman Scent & Sensuality Sandalwood

However, it is widely known that mammals release sexual olfactory signals called pheromones - from the Greek pherin, “to transfer”, and hormon, “to excite” - pheromones are volatile chemical substances that are produced in the body to evoke a response, usually sexual, in members of the same species. Therefore, it is no surprise that most high end perfumes and scented products contain ingredients that mimic them. Sandalwood, for example, like that used in our Oriental Spice fragrance line, is remarkably similar to androsterol, a human male pheromone.

Interestingly enough, some scents are deemed to be aphrodisiac in nature because they replicate the smells of our erogenous zones, areas of sweat and hair and the natural smells that abound there. This is due to an earthy scent component called indol which is found in many of the most beautiful flower absolutes, such as jasmine and orange flower. It is said scents that contain indol enhance our body’s natural scent profile, rather than covering it up.

Camille Beckman Scent & Sensuality Jasmine

Enjoy the enlivening and enhancing effects of indol-containing orange flower, infused beautifully with another known aphrodisiac - blood-heating cinnamon - in our lovely collection of bath soaks, the perfect gift to inspire intimacy on Valentine’s Day. You will find our sample set of bath soaks also includes lavender, one of the most potent scents we carry for inducing relaxation, lifting mood, and fomenting deeper intimacy with our loved ones.

When it comes to romance, perhaps there is no greater love laden scent than rose. One need only to read the impassioned depiction of roses written by chemist and perfume writer, Paul Jellinek, to understand the sway roses hold over our sensual imagination, “The opulently rounded shapes of the petals of a rose in full bloom are suggestive of the mature female body and their rich red color evokes thoughts of lips and kisses. The austere form of the bud before blooming, which only subtly hints at the rounded abundance and fragrance of full maturity, and its opening to amorous life, exhuming a ravishing scent, are external manifestations of the flower’s life processes which man sees and senses and which stimulate his erotic fantasies.”

Camille Beckman Scent & Sensuality Glycerine Rosewater

Perhaps it is this reason our glycerine rose water line is our top seller, not only as a gift given to a well-loved woman, but also as a reminder to that same woman to love herself and recognize her own sensual nature.

Eroticism aside, rose is considered a heart note in perfumery, with far-reaching effects that are oftentimes unexpected. In the words of famed perfumer Mandy Aftel, “Heart notes give body to blends, imparting warmth and fullness. In their boldness, sexiness, sincerity, and dearness, they are the perfect metaphor for - no, embodiment of - passion. When you put them into a blend, you’re literally putting the heart into it; they are the tie that bonds.”

Partners can spend this Valentine’s Day rekindling the ties and bonds of intimacy by exchanging a sensual massage using our rose-scented silky body cream, using a combination of both scent and touch to allow for relaxation, induce trust, and invite ease into the day.

For those who may not be so enamored with the scent of rose, simply substitute our delectable French Vanilla, a scent worn well by members of both sexes. With its aroma, rich and sweet, combined with a woody, tobacco-like, balsamic body note, this scent engenders feelings of warmth, comfort and safety.   

Camille Beckman Scent & Sensuality French Vanilla

Whatever your plans this upcoming Valentine's Day, find the time to cherish and spoil those you love, but most of all, yourself. Only by being deeply rooted to your own sensual nature, can you be a fun and curious playmate in helping others discover theirs with you.  

Breath of Serenity

By: Sherika Martinez


For many people, this time of year can be one of the most challenging, and not without reason. Some may be susceptible to seasonal moody blues, brought on by seemingly endless days of dreary gray skies, slushy streets and the shyness of the sun. Others may be stressed by the abnormally large amount of snow days, scrabbling to find some way to care for their kids despite their own busy schedules resuming as normal. Still others may be feeling trepidatious over residual bills now coming in from the spending of the holiday season.

Camille Beckman Breath of Serenity

Regardless of the reason for the heaviness of the season, there is one sure way to regain some equilibrium in this chaotic world: take a breath. In my previous blog, I described in detail how science has found a common link between breath and mood, specifically pertaining to a study done by Pierre Phillipot who demonstrated that certain breath patterns engender specific emotions, and vice versa.


The link between emotion and mood is the reason wholeness-based movement practices, such as yoga or Qi Gong, highlight the importance of breath to invite not only a softening in the mind, but in the body as well.

Camille Beckman Breath of Serenity

One type of breathing, the Breath of Serenity, also known as the Box Breath, is not only helpful in calming riled emotions, but actually helped me soothe the nausea I experienced on an airplane after some particularly harrowing turbulence. Feel free to give it a try the next time you find yourself all a-dither.

Camille Beckman Breath of Serenity

Breath of Serenity

  1. Take a moment to settle into your body, breathing normally, as you purposefully scan the various segments of your body, taking the time to feel your legs, arms, spine, front body, back body and crown of your head in space. Notice the gentle rise and fall of your torso as you breathe your normal, uncontrolled breath.
  2. When you are ready, begin counting your inhale, allowing it to stretch to a count of five beats, allowing the breath to travel deep into your belly.
  3. At the end of the inhale, when your lungs are at their fullest, hold the breath in for a count of five beats.
  4. Exhale all your breath to a count of five beats.
  5. When your lungs are completely emptied, hold the breath out for a count of five beats.
  6. Continue breathing in this way, keeping the five count going for 5 - 10 rounds of breath. If five beats is too long or too short for your personal preference, feel free to change the number of beats, but keep that number consistent through the inhale, exhale and the pauses in between.

This type of breathwork is extremely helpful in inducing a calm, meditative state - not only because it keeps the breath even and consistent, but also because the act of counting engages the mind, preventing it from wandering too much and dwelling on what ails you.


Give it a try the next time you find yourself unduly ruffled, or better yet, with a partner or friend with whom you are in the midst of a conflict. Its power to de-escalate and re-center is truly a profound gift.

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.

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