10 Funny Benefits of Having a Shaved Head

Almost 12 years ago, I shaved off all my hair after having long hair that I hadn’t brushed for months and that had developed these gross knots I liked to call dreadlocks.

I’d had hair my whole life and had never had my head shaved before.

At the time, I was out-of-my-mind sick and was later misdiagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder. Years after that, I discovered all my symptoms were being caused by a gluten intolerance. Today, I just get to skip gluten and feel awesome.

I say all this to say that part of the reason I got all my hair cut off is because I was so sick I couldn’t take care of it. I could barely stand up by myself, and I couldn’t walk without assistance.

But I also had just seen V for Vendetta the year before and completely loved Natalie Portman’s shaved head.

After over a decade with this hairstyle, here are 10 funny benefits of having a shaved head I love.

1. Look Like a Fucking Badass

While seeing myself without hair for the first time was certainly strange, I was kinda in love with it.

I also sleep a lot better without hair, which to me, is one of the best benefits of having a shaved head.

While I did startle every time I went by the mirror the first dozen times or so, I came to see the beautiful shape of my head with a kind of reverence and naked adoration for this new self, even if I was sick at the time.

Today, I’m healthier than ever and I love looking like a fucking badass. I love my shaved head with every single look.

2. Just Feels Good

One of the benefits of having a shaved head is that it just feels really nice. I love the way it feels. My husband loves it. I feel fresh and free and unburdened by my hair.

I don’t hide behind my hair anymore like I used to with my blonde mane—I’m just there and it feels so good to not worry about sleeping, shedding hair all over the house, having to brush my hair, or finding a scrunchi. It just feels so refreshing having a clean buzz.

3. Towels Don’t Get That Wet

This is one of the weird benefits of having a shaved head, but the towels I use just don’t get that wet since I don’t have all this freaking hair to dry.

I don’t have to dry my hair and then dry the rest of my body with a wet towel. I guess I could have just used two towels, one for my hair and the other for my body, but seriously, who wants to do all that laundry?

4. Experience Weather Better

Oh. My. God.

This is probably one of my favorite benefits of having a shaved head.

It feels so good with water, rain, wind, and sun on it. My favorites are feeling the rain on my shaved head and the wind. It’s an indescribable feeling, both these things, one I would have never felt if I hadn’t cut off all my hair.

I feel more connected with the elements without hair and I love the way the weather feels on my skull.

5. Less Likely to Be Kidnapped

I read a book when I was in fourth grade about a girl who got kidnapped. Her attackers held onto her long hair and dragged her into the woods.

Really though, how was she supposed to escape?

I do feel I am less likely to be kidnapped, but maybe the truth is that I’m just less scared to be kidnapped. I mean seriously, what are they gonna grab onto? By the time they figure that out, hopefully they’ll be tased/pepper sprayed/stabbed (by me).

6. Use Less Shampoo

Ok so I definitely use less shampoo and conditioner (and, it goes without saying, other styling products), so I’d say one of the benefits of having a shaved head is saving money on crap like this.

However, it should be noted that I do spend more time cutting my hair.

Lately I’ve been cutting my own hair and doing this an average of every two weeks. It really doesn’t take long but the time adds up I suppose. I spend maybe 10 minutes cutting it every two weeks.

It’s really nice to not have to buy shampoo that often, though. I think my husband and I buy it like once or twice a year.

7. Nothing to Grab in a Cat Fight

So I’ve been in a cat fight before and it’s not frickin fun. Fortunately in that fateful eighth-grade cat fight, I just got scratched, didn’t get my hair pulled or my face cut.

But in the event that stuff goes down and someone wants to grab me, there’s nothing there so good luck with that.

I’m not really planning on being in a cat fight again, just saying.

8. Don’t Get My Hair Caught in Stuff

I’d always get my hair stuck in scrunchis and stuff. It was so annoying and hurt like hell. Now, I don’t get my hair caught in anything, so I feel no pain. It’s really nice.

I also don’t get that weird aching feeling in my head after wearing my hair in a ponytail for too long. I hate that feeling. Now I feel so free.

9. Have So Much More Time

The time that I spend cutting my hair is way less than the time I spent shampooing, brushing, drying, and styling my hair when I did have hair.

I would usually need to figure out what I was doing with my hair for a certain outfit too, which would take time and effort. I also washed my hair every day which was annoying too.

Now, it’s one hairstyle and I go.

10. Less Sweaty

I’m absolutely less sweaty without my mane of hair, which is super nice in the summertime and also when I exercise (especially when I run).

However, I do tend to be a lot colder in the winter. But since I don’t have cold wet hair hanging in my face, I like to think that I stay warmer overall.

Love being less sweaty.

Will I Have a Shaved Head Forever?

Honestly, at this point, I’m planning on having my shaved head for the rest of my life. I’ve grown out my hair twice since I shaved it off twelve years ago and each time have found it very annoying and have hated it.

I truly love my shaved head and feel so fortunate that this hairstyle has rocked my world!

Have you ever shaved your head? How did you feel about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

6 Cons of Having Rabbits

Let me begin this article by saying that I absolutely adore my rabbits. However, there are cons of having rabbits.

I have four fluffy bunnies—three boys and one girl—that I’ve pretty much devoted my life to.  I’ve had rabbits since 2010 when a flyer for free bunnies at a local grocery store essentially ruined my life.

Now, after becoming an experienced rabbit mama over the last eight years, I’ve discovered that while these four living creatures are one of the greatest joys of my life, they also really annoy me at times.

So without further ado, here are six cons of having rabbits.

1. They Eat a Lot

One of the cons of having rabbits is that they have high metabolisms, so they are pretty much constantly eating.

I feed my rabbits four meals a day (breakfast, snack, dinner, bedtime snack). This sounds ridiculous, but this is what works best for us since they eat so much and need regular feedings. So it goes without saying that they eat a lot of food.

The staple of their diet is fresh timothy hay, so they go through bunches of this. It helps wear down their teeth so they don’t have dental problems later. A rabbit’s teeth are constantly growing, so they need to be chewing a lot so their tooth roots don’t grow into their skull (this happened to Olivier last spring due to his being inbred; the surgery cost over $3,000, so yeah, don’t neglect to give them hay).

They also eat lots of fresh vegetables such as carrots, collard greens, kale, and red and green leaf lettuce. They occasionally get fruit for a treat (they are completely bananas about bananas).

Depending on if my garden is doing well, I do spend some money on rabbit food. If you have a garden, it’s a lot cheaper to own a rabbit! You can buy hay in bulk at your local farm store, just make sure it’s fresh.

2. They Poop Wherever They Want

While rabbits can control when and where they pee, they don’t have the same motivation to do this with their poop. All my rabbits are litter-trained when it comes to pee (most rabbits are instinctively so), but they poop everywhere.

Although this is one of the cons of having rabbits, fortunately, their poop is pretty cute, they are formed spheres that don’t make much of a mess. Regardless, I clean their living quarters numerous times a day to keep the area clean. When you have four of these critters, all that poo adds up.

3. They Are So Adorable You Just Want to Die

When I first saw Merthin and Olivier (in the below photo), just hours after their birth, the wonder and emotion I felt couldn’t be contained. Of course, I didn’t handle them until weeks later when this photo was taken, but they were so adorable I felt like I would throw myself in front of a truck to save their lives.

Having something this cute in your house means you bend the rules just a little to ensure that they are happy and comfortable, which is one of the cons of having rabbits.

My rabbits pretty much run my life. Is it because they are cute? Maybe. Is it because I love them? Yes. They are animals and do not respond to discipline the same way that children do, so instead of being angry that they accidentally bit you or ran away from you while playing outside, you just love them.

You love them so much that the cons of having rabbits don’t seem like a big deal.

4. They Shed

To me, this is one of the major cons of having rabbits.

Some rabbits seem to shed more than others. My two outside bunnies don’t shed much. My two albino rabbits, who are inside, shed terribly about two times a year. It’s honestly awful. I usually take them outside and gently pull all the loose hair off and let it float away in the breeze so it doesn’t float all around my house.

As one of the cons of having rabbits, there’s not much you can do about the shedding besides ride it out until the shedding process is over, which can take a couple weeks. If your rabbit is shedding often, for long periods of time, or losing lots of hair during non-shedding periods, this could be a sign of a nutritional deficiency and should be evaluated by your rabbit-savvy vet.

Otherwise, get the vacuum and lint rollers out.

5. Finding a Good Vet Is Difficult

Actually, finding a vet who will even see rabbits can be difficult. This is one of the most frustrating cons of having rabbits.

When we lived in North Carolina and Nadir and Fiver were experiencing gastric distress (also called GI stasis), I called about ten different animal clinics in the area only to be told none of them saw rabbits.

What’s even the point of being a vet if you can’t treat anything besides cats and dogs?

Fortunately, I was able to heal Nadir and Fiver by giving them water from oral syringes (as they refused to eat or drink) and abdominal massages. You can find out more about bunny distress here. I do not recommend treating your bunnies without professional vet care; I only did this because I had no other option.

Now, we live outside of DC where there are a few rabbit vets in the area. The one we go to in Fairfax is my favorite. It’s expensive, but after having had one of my rabbits misdiagnosed at another vet, I won’t go anywhere else. It’s not worth it.

If you’re considering getting a rabbit, ensure you can find a reputable vet who will see your bunny first. Otherwise, if a problem comes up with your rabbit, you won’t have anyone to turn to. The Internet is not a reliable source of information!

6. They Are Easily Stressed

This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest cons of having rabbits.

They are prey animals and easily scared. In the wild (like the wild rabbit above), their fear would keep them alive. In my house, it only serves to cause them and me additional stress.

What this means is that:

  • They should not be kept in homes with a lot of noise, such as barking dogs, loud televisions, or loud people. They really, really enjoy their quiet.
  • They absolutely hate the car. Some rabbits do better than others, but my two inside rabbits are petrified of the car, making vet visits and traveling very difficult and stressful for all of us.
  • They do not like being handled by unfamiliar people. Again, some rabbits do better than others, but mine are wont to bite and scratch you if they don’t know you and you try to handle them.
  • They do not like things happening outside of their usual routine or being moved to different living quarters.

Many people don’t realize that rabbits can actually die from stress (see the gastric distress link above). This is a very real concern for rabbit owners.

If you’re going to commit to a bunny, it needs to be in a quiet home where the rabbit can have its own space and live in peace while you take care of it and it gets some fresh air, playtime, and plenty of good food.

Having rabbits has been one of the great joys of my life, but my life and the decisions I make in my life pretty much revolve around these little critters. I love them and can’t really see myself without rabbits at this point, although I probably wouldn’t have four again, maybe just two!

If you’re considering getting a rabbit, know that these cons of having rabbits are real concerns for potential pet owners. Know before you adopt!

6 Things I Learned from Living Alone in a Cabin in the Woods for Two Years (And Why I’ll Never Do It Again)

Yes, a picture of the actual cabin.

I got my associate’s degree from a local community college, which meant that I only had to do two and a half years at university to complete my bachelor’s degree. It didn’t sound so bad, and I got into my dream school, so I was pretty excited to go.

Fortunately, my grandparent’s second residence—a log cabin in the woods—was located just shy of an hour south of my dream campus in University Park, Pennsylvania. Being the recluse that I am, I figured I could live there and completely avoid the student population while I did my schoolwork.

It was a great idea in theory. Here’s how it played out and why I’ll never do it again.

1. You Do Actually Need People

I will never forget that feeling when my parents drove away and left me at the cabin for the first time. Yes, I was older than the typical-aged college student. But my love for my parents was no less, and as I watched them drive away, I cried.

I was prepared to not have friends. I’d never been social, didn’t feel the need to be, and I wasn’t counting on making any friends. My boyfriend was going to university in Virginia, about two and a half hours away. My best friend at the time, Stephanie, was going to university in Maryland. I was fully prepared and equipped with my smartphone to stay in touch with them during my time there.

My brother pulling me on a sled in the snow in PA. I am having the time of my life, as you can see.

Turns out, it wasn’t enough. I went days on end without seeing anybody. It’s a feeling I wasn’t used to and one I learned not to like. I felt very isolated despite being on a campus with 40,000 people and missed simple face-to-face interactions with people. I made two friends during my time at Penn State (hey, Dom and Chris!) and their kindness and friendship made me realize just how much people matter in life.

2. You Don’t Actually Want to Build a Log Cabin

I can’t tell you how much I hear people nostalgically talk about cabins. They vacation in cabins. They honeymoon in cabins. They party in cabins. They talk about building cabins because they’re cheap.

I stop these people every time. I’m like, “NO! You do not want to do that!”

Vacationing in a cabin? Fine. Honeymooning in a cabin? Fine. Partying in a cabin? Whatever floats your boat. But for real and serious, you DO NOT want to build a log cabin.

Although this is a gorgeous picture of the Juniata River, which happens to be right in the backyard at the cabin.

The log you see on the inside is the same log that you see on the outside. They do not hold heat well. The animals destroy them. They are a bitch to maintain. You will regret this decision and in a relatively short amount of time, the cabin will not be worth the money that you put in to maintain it.

Trust me, I’ve seen all this firsthand. Go visit a cabin. Do not invest in one. It is not an investment and it’s definitely not comfortable to live in year round. You can thank me later.

3. The Winters Are Cold in Pennsylvania

I’ve been going to that cabin since I was three years old. I KNOW the winters are cold in Pennsylvania. But here’s what I learned from living in that cabin for two winters: the winters are cold in Pennsylvania.

Now, before everyone freaks out and tells me what I wimp I am, yes, I have been to Canada, and no, I do not handle the cold well. I have low blood pressure and am borderline anemic, so I freeze in anything that’s below 70 degrees basically.

I froze my ass off there for two years. My social anxiety kept me from taking any sort of public transportation while on campus, and since I was a commuter, I needed to walk from the school parking lot to my classes every day. So I walked my ass right past the bus station where all the normal commuters got picked up and hoofed it in my Timberland boots 40 minutes to and from class every day.

A heart I drew in the snow for my boyfriend because I was bored.

I’ll never forget the day it was 5 degrees outside and I stole a pair of mittens out of the women’s bathroom and grabbed a sweater out of the lost and found because I was so cold (ok, I’m lying, I didn’t do those things because I was cold, I did those things because I was weird and I wanted to; they also didn’t happen on the same day, which somehow makes it even weirder).

Did I mention Penn State is notorious for not canceling classes because of snow? Classes were not canceled once during my two years there. We had two 2-hour delays and it seemed I was lucky to get even that. I missed a week of classes one winter because I couldn’t get out of my driveway, let alone up the mountain I drove every day to get to campus.

The freezing cold was not fun and I was miserable and I hated it. I’d get home at night when it was cold and dark and soak in the hot tub for a long time while I shuddered at the thought of going outside again.

4. Animals Like Log Cabins

Log cabins are the epitome of nature. The wood that’s there, the fact that no one lives there year round, its location in the middle of the woods: all these features made it irresistible to animals.

Deer, foxes, squirrels, turkeys, mice, flying squirrels, and rabbits were some of the animals I saw there. The flying squirrels and mice had taken up residence with me in the cabin. I rescued one from the coat closet one evening when I was doing my homework at the dining room table and heard it rummaging around in there. I was scared to death.

A picture of that poor flying squirrel. Don’t worry, I got it off the glue trap safely and released it. I HATE glue traps; my grandparents put them out and I throw them away every time I go up there.

The mice liked to try and eat my food and somehow found their way into my panty drawer (yes, you read that right: panty not pantry) and the silverware drawer. Two of the worst places to find evidence of mice, let me tell you. I washed all that stuff more times than I care to count.

I learned that there’s essentially no separation of nature. You are one with the animals, the forest, the cabin. A good thing? Yes. Sometimes. When you don’t own that building.

5. I Will Never Live in a Log Cabin

Two years and I was DONE with that shit. Don’t get me wrong—I am so, so grateful to my grandparents for letting me stay there. The cabin was beautiful and they maintained it well and I was alone, mostly secure, and able to have my bunnies with me. I could canoe whenever I wanted and got to bike and run in beautiful spots.

A picture of the cabin from the backyard.

But I will never live in a log cabin again.

Summers are gorgeous. Winters are brutal. I’m fine to visit but I will not live there. Thanks, but no thanks. I want a real house next time.

6. I am Actually Scared as Shit

Like I said, I thought I was prepared for the loneliness and isolation I would experience. Turns out, talking to Ian and my parents and my best friend Stephanie every day wasn’t enough. My four adorable, amazing rabbits weren’t even enough.

I still slept with a shotgun next to me.

I still slept with a six-inch knife under my pillow.

I still slept with my cell phone beside my ear just in case someone broke in.

Did I mention the can of wasp spray on my nightstand? Shit sprays 20 feet and your attacker is blinded until they get to a hospital.

Or the cabinet underneath the laundry room sink that I cleared out? Yeah, I fit perfectly in there. I figured if someone broke in I would hide in there while calling the police. No one would look for me in a cabinet!

I spent nights before I fell asleep going over escape routes in my head. What would I do if someone broke in the basement, what would I do if someone broke in the main level, what would I do if a car came in the driveway, what would I do if they were going to hurt my bunnies?

Me and the bunnies at the cabin.

I was scared as shit basically every single night while I was there except for the nights that Ian or my parents or Stephanie were visiting, which wasn’t often. I realized that I’m actually terrified and was completely unprepared for being alone after growing up in a house with four other people and numerous guns. Terrified.

For all of these reasons, although I am grateful for my time in the cabin, I will not live in a cabin again, definitely not alone, and definitely not in central Pennsylvania in the dead of winter. Was my English degree worth it? You tell me.

Watching the Eclipse Topless with Kimchi in Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina

Once I heard about the eclipse, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I was going to go see it.

So I switched shifts with a co-worker at my weekend job, booked a hotel in Black Mountain, North Carolina, and tried to convince Ian to go with me.

Ian had to work so he didn’t want to go, but when I mentioned Rosetta’s, he gave in and we packed the cooler, the pooch, and headed south.

Turns out, everyone else had the same idea we did. We spent a total of 30 hours on the road there and back to see the total solar eclipse (for reference, Asheville, North Carolina is only an 8-hour drive from my place).

It was absolutely and completely worth it to be present for this spellbinding moment.

Nantahala National Forest

We planned on going to Lake Santeelah, North Carolina, but due to traffic and the beauty of the Nantahala National Forest in Topton, North Carolina, we didn’t make it there. We found this beautiful picnic area by a river—the perfect place to watch the eclipse!

The river was private beneath a bridge right along a road. I have no idea where we were since the GPS didn’t work. It was amazing!

We were so excited to find this perfect, private spot.

In order to ensure no one else would try to watch the eclipse with us, we went topless. We figured it was the best way to create awkwardness and prevent anyone from invading our privacy.

Plus, it’s not illegal to be topless in North Carolina, which is pretty cool.

 

While we waited for the total eclipse (the partial eclipse had already started while we set up our picnic), we took pictures, played with Lisbeth, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, occasionally glancing up at the sun with our glasses.

Gosh, we look like dorks. Fortunately, our glasses weren’t too expensive. $15 with shipping.

Here are some of the pictures we took while we waited for totality.

Loving the fresh buzz on me! It’s really interesting how the light changed as the moon passed over the sun. It was an incredible experience.

The Kimchi

If you don’t know what kimchi is, don’t let the following photo throw you off. It’s fermented vegetables and really good for you. It contains probiotics and is extremely tasty; Ian and I eat it all the time.

So we had some during our picnic before the total eclipse and got some really funny—and weird—photos, including this one here.

Ian said I looked like a zombie either throwing up or consuming some type of bloodied meat. This is actually a piece of fermented napa cabbage. This particular type of kimchi is spicy!

In case anyone is wondering what exactly I’m eating, it’s this delicious stuff here.

 

Ian and I buy this all the time; it’s extremely spicy and I would absolutely not recommend eating it by itself, but there you go.

 

It’s best when it’s eaten with other foods. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a dish to eat it in and I forgot to bring forks, so here we are in the national forest eating it like zombies with bloodied fingers and a huge appetite.

 

 

Totality

We meditated for a few minutes before totality happened. The darkness happened really fast and then all the sudden it was there. The sky seemed to be shimmering while we stared up at the moon blocking the sun’s light. It was dazzling. I have no other way of describing it.

I did start crying a little because it’s a weird feeling when you do something and you know that you’re never going to do it again. I know that I probably won’t travel to see another eclipse, so seeing this gorgeous, amazing total solar eclipse in my life was the epitome of beauty and sacredness.

Ian and I stood there together in what felt like a dream for the two minutes and thirty seconds of totality, then we watched the sun emerge again together by the river.

eclipse 2017

This is the best photo I have of totality. It does not capture it at all.

And some photos after the sun joined us again.

jenn ryan

jenn ryan

We waited for the eclipse to almost totally end before leaving. It was an experience that I was so grateful to have. A huge thank you to my fiance Ian for taking these photos.

Shirt: Butterfly Cropped Shirt by Gaia Conceptions

Necklace: Handmade vintage piece by local jewelry vendor Minxes Trinkets

Then, of course, we got a bunch of Rosetta’s on the way home. So although we were on the road for 12 hours for what should have been an 8-hour drive, we had vegan chili cheese fries, a buddha bowl, and some kick-ass pad thai to make it through.

I love you, North Carolina!

Harnessing Nature’s Power to Heal

This is a guest post by Martyn Williams, who is a record-holding extreme explorer, author, and successful entrepreneur. He is a yoga teacher and practices natural and Ayurveda healing. To learn more, check out his site here.

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The natural world has an incredible ability to help us heal. Letting yourself open up to the beauty, wonder, and life of nature is a way to encourage your own healing processes and to experience something profound.

The ancient Indian healing tradition known as Ayurveda is deeply appreciative of the value of time spent in nature. Getting out into the natural world and letting yourself become a part of it, even momentarily, will do wonders for you. When we make it a habit to get in touch with nature, we make it easier to find our own proper place in the world.

Ayurvedic Healing Through Nature

In order to get the full benefit of the bountiful healing energies that flow through the natural world, we need to engage all of the Ayurvedic elements (fire, water, air, earth, and space) with all five of our classic senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. The Ayurvedic elements are called mahabhutas in Sanskrit, and we need to set aside some portion of every day to appreciate them.

In many ways, the most potent form of healing we can do when we are in the presence of the natural world is simply to open up our senses and pay attention. Simply striving to become more aware of the world around us and the vibrant play between the different mahabhuta elements going on, encourages both our bodies and our spirits to seek balance and peace.

Meditation and Nature

Meditation is a vital part of the attention that the natural world requires. When you meditate, you turn your gaze inward, paying attention not to the active, rational mind but to the spiritual soul. This, too, is a potent part of the healing process.

Make use of this healing exercise that you can practice almost anywhere. Step outside into a natural environment. Make yourself comfortable and still and then concentrate exclusively on the sensations that you’re experiencing. Reach out with all five senses and do your best to grasp every aspect of the living environment.

Using Nature to Protect and Heal

Once you become accustomed to taking advantage of nature’s restorative effects, it can serve as a powerful shield against undue stress or disruptive life events. Taking the time to return to nature—either literally or by reviewing your favorite memories—can give you a much-needed shelter against the most challenging parts of life.

Retreating to nature temporarily is an excellent way to adjust your perspective on your problems and to cultivate new insights which might lead you to solutions.

Three Bodies, One Healing

Healing in the Ayurvedic tradition is about more than simply purging a body of illness.

According to Ayurvedic beliefs, each of us is blessed with three bodies. The first is the physical body, the crude shell of matter that occupies physical space in the world. The second is the subtle body, made up of your thoughts and ego. The third is the causal or spiritual body, that distinct essence which is inextricably linked to the rest of the world.

Connection is important to all three of these forms, and our bodies both influence and are influenced by their surroundings. This means that personal healing is also a step towards making the world a better place. Improving your physical and mental health will send positive ripples out into your environment.

Life Always Finds a Way

Take the indomitable spirit of the natural world to heart as a useful object lesson when you are feeling most overwhelmed. Life is a nearly unstoppable force that pushes through every obstacle, recovers from every setback, and heals every type of damage. The next time you see news of a natural disaster, pay attention to how quickly new signs of natural growth appear in the aftermath. Life always finds a way and by doing so it teaches us to do the same.

Generally speaking, approaching the natural world as an instructive teacher is a useful attitude. Our world is so rich that it would be virtually impossible to absorb all of the potential lessons that happen around us every day. Pay a little more attention to what the natural world is trying to teach you. What you learn won’t disappoint you!

My Herbs Are Dying! I’m Making Tea

Want to know how to experience the benefits of herbal tea? Welcome.

As a certified winter herb killer, I know how to take advantage of herbs before they go south.

Since the summer is over and my herbs are on their way to death (I’ve never had good luck with moving them inside), I’ve decided for the first time to pick them, dry them, and experience the benefits of herbal tea.

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With that being said, herbs are very important things for people. Creating a unique herbal tea blend can help you during the chilly winter months and have some additional health benefits.

What are some of the benefits of herbal tea?

Rosemary

Rosemary is amazing for circulation and can provide relief from headaches or colds and infections. Rosemary essential oil is a great headache reducer.

Rosemary helps to promote mental clarity and helps reduce the symptoms of brain fog or fatigue, therefore boosting concentration. It’s known to decrease inflammation as well.

Rosemary is an extremely hardy herb. I left mine out all winter long and the plant thrived. Just don’t forget to water it—and it will spread, so you may want to keep this one in a pot!

Mint

Mint actually isn’t far away from rosemary, as they’re part of the same family. I prefer peppermint myself, but you may also enjoy spearmint.

Mint is well-known for helping with digestion, which means it can also help with symptoms such as nausea or vomiting.

Your mint tea blend can also help soothe respiratory ailments. This herb is fantastic by itself or blended with lavender or lemon balm. Try peppermint tea with a spoonful of coconut oil in it—it tastes like a peppermint patty!

Mint provides some great benefits of herbal tea, but you’ll definitely want to pot this herb. It will spread so fast you won’t even know it happened until you have a yard full of mint.

Thyme

Thyme can be really good in your herbal blend. It can help if you have a cold and detox you—get rid of that negative energy and start fresh.

Don’t ever be fatigued again with thyme in your herbal blend. It can help boost your mood and fight off sickness. The benefits of herbal tea are amplified when you add thyme into the mix.

Thyme is particularly yummy with lemon in there, and pairs well with sage and lavender as well.

Sage

Stressed out? Sage can help calm you down.

Combined with your blend of thyme for detox and energy, mint for comfort, and rosemary for clarity, sage can help restore balance to your life.

Sage can help boost the immune system and even promote a sharp memory. It can decrease inflammation and promote healthy bones.

This herb is soft and fuzzy and just feels good, plus it provides benefits of herbal tea you didn’t know you needed.

 

Lavender

Lavender is known for comforting and relaxing even the most stressed-out people, providing excellent benefits of herbal tea.

If you experience any type of anxiety, need lavender for your tea. Even if you don’t, it’s just great to have around and pairs really well with the other herbs!

Lavender can be difficult to grow, so might not be good for your first go when it comes to how to make tea. Buy a hardy plant to start rather than the seeds!

Other Herbs That Are Great for Tea

Ginger and turmeric make a perfect cancer-fighting blend. Buy the roots fresh and preferably organic at the store. Peel and drop in some boiling water for approximately a half hour.

The above photo is ginger while the below is turmeric, the color difference is apparent.

A blend of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, and ginger can also make an excellent chai tea that provides detoxing benefits in addition to winter comfort.

Pick these herbs up at your local herb shop!

Other amazing herbs you can add include stevia, lemon balm, stinging nettle, calendula, chamomile, and rose petals. Yes, they’re edible. Just make sure they haven’t been sprayed with insecticides before you eat them or dry them for your tea.

You can also use dried fruit peels or other dried fruits such as strawberries and blueberries in your special tea. Enjoy 🙂

How to Blend the Dry Herbs

Pick your herbs, give them a thorough wash first, then hang them up somewhere to dry.

There are also many other methods you can use to dry your herbs, but I’ve found that hanging them up is the easiest.

Once they’re dry, simply crumble up the leaves and put in an air-tight jar for storage throughout the winter. You can experience the benefits of herbal tea all winter long!

You’ll love having a cup of your special herbal blend in the afternoon, morning, or evening.

Have fun!

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5 Reasons I Love Eckhart Tolle

The one thing that has changed my life when it comes to how to be present minded is the simple—and yet, life-altering—fact that I am not my mind.

I am not Jenn.

I’m not a health blogger.

I’m not even a bunny loving, tea-drinking, glitter girl.

I am something infinitely more than my mind, my thoughts, or emotions. I am a Being.

I just am.

I recently read Eckhart Tolle’s Book A New Earth after going through a rough patch in an area of my life. It was so amazing, and it helped me heal more in two weeks than all these years without my illness.

Here are five reasons I’m really loving Eckhart Tolle and how his musings have transformed my life.

1. Tolle Advocates for Not Identifying with Your Mind

Tolle acknowledges the power of being present and not identifying with our pasts, our minds, or our emotions.

Doing so only gives strength to the ego in us, which creates a multitude of problems and suffering. When you identify with something, you must defend it, nurture it, become victim to it.

The bridge in the picture represents the pathway between you and your mind.

Bridge

While many people are unable to separate themselves from their mind and feel that they have no choice but to identify with their emotions, their struggles, that fabulous baby pink shade of nail polish, or a career, they don’t see a bridge.

They see only one thing without a way out, which is their mind. People tend to think a lot and totally identify with their thoughts.

The bridge is between you and your mind.

You can be on one side and travel to the other side occasionally, that is to think or be creative or whatever you choose.

But we don’t need to be thinking all the time. In fact, it’s pretty hurtful to us and prevents you from realizing how to be present minded. When you’re here, right now, in this moment, you realize nothing truly matters and just enjoy being.

2. He Cultivates Presence

When considering how to be present minded, we can cultivate presence to experience more joy, less sorrow, and be more effective at what we do.

Cultivating presence is the act of just being in the moment. Cultivate awareness of your body, your environment, your emotions. Allow things to come and go, but do not judge them or label them.

Just be right here where you are.

When you can feel your own presence without the constant chattering of the mind, you become more whole in this moment and less immersed in all your perceived mind problems.

3. He Establishes a Way out of PAin

It’s not easy to let go of all the things you feel establish you and help you to be grounded.

But when you’re thinking how to be present minded, consider that what grounds you is not what actually grounds you, rather just something that makes you feel more secure in your ego.

The way out of pain and suffering is to stop identifying with your mind. Yes, your mind is there, but do not let it consume you. Do not let your emotions be who you are. Nothing can define what you are. You are right here.

4. Tolle Points out the Power of No Resistance

Many of our feelings are responses from the ego.

The ego is always seeking, always wanting, always trying to be superior. Nothing is ever good enough for the ego, not even yourself.

The ego thrives on reaction. It wants you to react and defend your position, which in effect strengthens it. What the ego cannot and will not realize is that there is great power in no resistance.

It’s a challenge to realize that you have a choice and not react. Try it. Next time someone gets upset with you, do not react. Remain present.

How to be present minded begins here.

5. He Acknowledges that Being Is the Ultimate Experience

Just be.

Don’t try to find yourself, seek happiness, or ground yourself in things. It’s amazingly liberating to realize that your past does not define you, that your life situation does not define you, that your objects do not define you.

We’re people who have the ability to stay present, not take criticism personally, and are always looking to learn and grow.

How could you ever be defined?

The Truth About “Humane”, “Free-Range”, and “Cage-Free” Meat and Eggs

chickens in cage

I know some of you nice people out there think that you’re doing good by buying only “cage-free” or “humane” or “free-range” eggs and meats.

While I will agree that this is the lesser of the two evils that come with harvesting food from animals, I will also argue that these are just marketing claims and are still not ok. The truth about free range is different than what these advertisements claim.

The Marketing Behind Organic or Humane Products

There’s a huge market out there for organic, free-range, cage-free, and humane animal products. People want to feel that they are making better, smarter choices by choosing these products.

The truth, however, is that these products aren’t too much different from conventionally-raised meat.

I’d like to begin with some excerpts from Michael Pollan, an author, journalist, and activist who I dearly love and admire. In his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he talks about “Big Organic” and what he found out it really means.

“I enjoy shopping at Whole Foods nearly as much as I enjoy browsing a good bookstore, which, come to think of it, is probably no accident: Shopping at Whole foods is a literary experience, too. That’s not to take anything away from the food, which is generally of high quality, much of it “certified organic” or “humanely raised” or “free-range”. But right there, that’s the point: It’s the evocative prose as much as anything else that makes this food really special, elevating an egg or chicken breast or bag of arugula from the realm of ordinary protein and carbohydrates into a much headier experience, one with complex aesthetic, emotional, and even political dimensions. Take the “range-fed” sirloin steak I recently eyed in the meat case. According to the brochure on the counter, it was formerly part of a steer that spent its days “living in beautiful places” ranging from “plant-diverse, high-mountain meadows to thick aspen groves and miles of sagebrush-filled flats”. Now a steak like that has got to taste better than one from Safeway, where the only accompanying information comes in the form of a number: the price, I mean, which you can bet will be considerably less. But I’m evidently not the only shopper willing to pay more for a good story.

With the growth of organics and mounting concerns about the wholesomeness of industrial food, storied food is showing up in supermarkets everywhere these days, but it is Whole Foods that consistently offers the most cutting-edge grocery lit. On a recent visit I filled my shopping cart with eggs “from cage-free vegetarian hens,” milk from cows that live “free from unnecessary fear and distress,” wild salmon caught by Native Americans in Yakutat, Alaska (population 833), and heirloom tomatoes from Capay Farm ($4.99 a pound), “one of the early pioneers of the organic movement.” The organic broiler I picked up even had a name: Rosie, who turned out to be a “sustainably farmed” “free-range” chicken from Petaluma Poultry, a company whose “farming methods strive to create harmonious relationships in nature, sustaining the health of all creatures and the natural world.” Okay, not the most mellifluous or even meaningful sentence, but at least their heart’s in the right place.

I also visited Rosie the organic chicken at her farm in Petaluma, which turns out to be more animal factory than farm. She lives in a shed with twenty thousand other Rosies, who, aside from their certified organic feed, live lives little different from that of any other industrial chicken. Ah, but what about the “free-range” lifestyle promised on the label? True, there’s a little door in the shed leading out to a narrow grassy yard. But the free-range story seems a bit of a stretch when you discover that the door remains firmly shut until the birds are at least five or six weeks old–for fear they’ll catch something outside–and the chickens are slaughtered only two weeks later.”

—From Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, pages 134-140 (pub. 2006 by Penguin)

The Food and Drug Administration’s Policy for Free-Range, PAsture-Fed, and Grass-Fed

The Food and Drug Administration’s free-range policy for poultry is this: the facility must show that the chickens have been allowed access to the outside.

This doesn’t mean that the animals are required to spend any time outdoors or even that they have gone outside at all during their lives. So while you might be purchasing chicken thinking that the chicken lived its life in a peaceful meadow, the reality is often far from this idea.

So what about eggs?

Turns out, the FDA doesn’t have any solid guidelines for what a free-range chicken egg should be, so this label really is just a marketing term, similarly to how the claim “dairy-free” has literally no backing according to the FDA.

But what about beef and pork?

So for these types of meat, pasture-raised means that the animal has been provided access to the outside for a minimum of 120 days a year while grass-fed means that the animal was fed a diet consisting solely of forage its entire life after being weaned off its mothers milk, but not necessarily that the animal was ever outside, just that they were fed grass and not grain (which, from a consumer standpoint, is healthier, but not really humane).

The Local Difference

I advocate for LOCAL meat and eggs. This does not mean you trust a supermarket to tell you the truth about free range, where this animal has lived, what it ate, or what its lifestyle was.

I do believe that buying organic (according to the USDA’s definition) is better even though I don’t necessarily believe it’s the most humane or sustainable way to enjoy meat and eggs.

You need to look for small grocery stores (and I mean really small) if you truly want local or humane meat. Some of these meat and egg products might not even be humanely raised or handled, just local, so you’ll need to find out for yourself how the animals are treated.

You need to go find these farms and actually see them for yourself. And if the people don’t let you see the farm even after you offer them money for their meat or eggs, you know there’s a problem and something disturbing is going on there and that they don’t want you to know the truth about free range.

If you want to buy your eggs and meat from the supermarket, going to a place like Whole Foods and buying products that say “humane” or “free-range” might not be any better than going to Wal-Mart.

How You Can Make a Difference

I would advocate for you to buy locally or just kill and skin that animal yourself.

Afraid of doing that?

You probably shouldn’t be eating meat then. If you’re not willing to go through with the actions that brought you your meal, what sense does it make to eat it?

You can make a difference by choosing to purchase truly local foods that ensure animal welfare and healthier products.

Oh, and “cage-free”? This term, according to the FDA, means that the chickens are usually packed so tightly into barns that they live in their own feces, get their eyes and feathers plucked on by other chickens, and are more prone to disease.

Happy eating!

18 Questions to Ask Your Local Beef Provider

Is your beef local beef?

cow

Listen, I’m not into slaughtering animals. My diet is mostly plant-based and I rarely eat meat. If I do eat meat, I know exactly who killed it and where it came from and what kind of life it had.

So why am I doing this post?

I’m doing this post because I recognize that people like meat. People think meat is a cultural thing and that they’re entitled to eat it. If you want to kill and eat an animal, I’m ok with that.

BUT, it’s HOW you kill the animal that I have a problem with. This is why I only eat meat if I know who killed it and how—aka local beef.

Local beef is great, but before you purchase local beef, you need to figure out a few things. I’ve compiled a list of questions you can and should ask your local beef provider.

 

1. Do you have one location or several?

Best answer: one.

The reason you want to ask this question is because this will be the easiest way for you to determine if you’re dealing with a legit local beef farm or an industrial farm masquerading as a local one. If they tell you they have several locations, that should be a big red flag—aka not local beef.

 

2. How often are the cows outside?

Best answer: always.

You want to ask this question rather than “are they given unlimited access to the pasture” because they could very well be given unlimited access to the pasture, but they may not actually be going into the pasture for whatever reason.

The cows should be outside pretty much all the time when it’s real local beef.

 

3. Do you provide shelter for the cows outside?

Best answer: yes, but they are not contained in this shelter.

If the cows are outside all the time, you want to be sure they have some adequate shelter for inclement weather.

 

4. Do you raise both male and female cows? If so, how do you regulate breeding?

Best answer: yes, we do our own breeding and regulate breeding with castration.

The reason you want this answer is because this way you know they are not bringing in cows from somewhere and that the farm truly is local beef.

 

5. Are the male cows castrated? If so, how? Is anesthesia used?

Best answer: yes to the anesthesia!

If they don’t castrate their cows, that’s great. The problem is that most places do, so hoping they’ll say “no” might indicate that they engage in unethical practices to inhibit breeding.

You want them to say that they use local anesthesia and that they simply cut them off. Look up more about these practices to find out why you want them to use anesthesia.

If you speak to the actual farmer and he or she says they do it themselves, that’s even better. That’s true local beef, where the farmer takes care of his cows.

 

6. If the cows get sick, are they treated and how?

Best answer: yes, they are treated.

The farmer should tell you exactly how the local beef cows are treated and if they have an on-site vet that comes as needed.

 

7. How is the pasture maintained?

Best answer: organically.

Chances are your farmer won’t actually say “organically”, they’ll just tell you that they don’t spray the pasture with anything and the cows simply maintain it by grazing. Yay, local beef cows!

 

8. Are the cows purely grass-fed or are they fed supplemental grains?

Best answer: mostly grass fed.

Some farmers feed their local beef cows a bit of supplemental grains to take the “gamey” taste out of the meat like you get with deer or squirrel, but ideally, you’d like the cows to be almost purely grass-fed. Ask what the supplemental grains consist of and if they are genetically modified (corn and soy).

 

9. Any growth hormones used?

Best answer: no.

If a farmer tells you they use growth hormones, you should just hang up right then, unless you want an enlarged prostate, acne, and overweight children. That’s not local beef, peeps.

 

10. Are the cows tagged/branded? If so, is anesthesia used?

Best answer: yes.

Sorry, but most farmers will at least ear tag their local beef cows, like the cow you see in the above picture. If they say they brand, you should probably just end the call, because if they are cruel enough to brand an animal, chances are they are not using anesthesia.

NOW. It is time for the slaughter questions. Brace yourself.

 

11. Do you process your own beef?

Best answer: no.

Unfortunately in the United States, if you want to sell your meat, your animals have to be killed at a USDA approved slaughterhouse.

So chances are if you are buying this local beef meat, it will need to be killed at a slaughterhouse. If they tell you that they process their own beef, it’s technically illegal for you to buy it.

 

12. Where is the slaughterhouse?

Best answer: close.

Have them give you the name of the slaughterhouse and the exact location. Look up how far away it is from the farm. It should be less than an hour away if it’s for local beef.

 

13. How are the cows transported to the slaughterhouse?

Best answer: by me.

If they call a company to come and take the cows, that’s not really local beef and chances are they probably don’t care about the cows and how they are transported. The more details they can give you, the better.

 

14. How many animals does the slaughterhouse kill per day?

Best answer: less than 10.

If this is a really local place, you’ll want them to have minimal slaughtering going on. The more animals they slaughter, the less humane they treat them.

The answer to this question will also tell you how large the slaughterhouse is. If they tell you that they slaughter hundreds of animals per day, this is a commercial slaughterhouse and chances are your cow is not dying humanely.

That’s not local beef for you.

 

15. How do they slaughter the cows?

Best answer: they shoot them with a gun.

This is the better option, as terrible as it sounds, because this means your local beef cows are not getting stunned and tortured before they die.

If the farmer tells you he doesn’t know how the cows die, you can contact the slaughterhouse, but I would most likely end the call. If the farmer doesn’t care how his cows are being killed, what else doesn’t he care about?

You want to make sure the cows are killed quickly and not being dismembered while they are still alive.

 

16. Can I visit the slaughterhouse?

Best answer: yes.

The farmer may not know the answer to this question, and that’s fine. You can always contact the slaughterhouse. But, if he tells you they let people in and that you can go see it, this is great news. You’ll want to confirm with the slaughterhouse though. Commercial slaughterhouses will not let you in there.

 

17. How are you sure that you’re getting your cows back?

Best answer: I’m sure.

The farmer should tell you a detailed process for how he knows he’s getting his cows back, such as he knows the people at the slaughterhouse personally, his meat tastes distinct from all other meats, etc.

If he says he has no idea, then this is not someone who is very informed.

 

18. Can I see the farm?

Best answer: yes.

Any farmer who is proud of his animals and the way he treats them will welcome you to his farm to check out his local beef.

After you ask all these lovely questions, schedule a trip to see both the farm and the slaughterhouse. This is local beef for you! You’ll feel so much better and more conscious purchasing and eating this beef if you know exactly where it came from, how it lived and died, and what it ate. Support humane cow farms!

Do You Really Know What’s Been Done to the Animals You’re Eating? Take This Quiz!

Today I’ve been feeling depressed about the meat, egg, and milk market in America. I can’t speak for other countries, but this industry in America is really messed up.

But just how depressing is America’s meat, egg, and dairy industry? Think you know what’s happening behind those closed “barn” doors that the “farmers” won’t let you see?

Let’s take a little quiz to see how informed you are, you educated thing.

Animal Industry Quiz: What Happens to the Meat, Eggs, and Dairy before We Eat It?

Disclaimer: may be depressing.

1. Before pigs are killed, they are:

a) given a farewell hug, then their throats are slit

b) Ushered into a room with other pigs, where they all are shot

c) stunned with a taser, thrown in a giant tub of scalding water, then skinned (they may still be alive at this point)

2. Male chickens do not lay eggs. What happens to the male chicks after they are born in the egg industry?

a) they are sent to happy local farms where they will become roosters and peck away at their hearts’ content

b) sent to another farm in the meat industry where they will be raised with hormones, then killed for some American family’s dinner

c) they are ground up alive

3. Veal is some tasty beef (I’ve never had it, but I’ve heard this). What happens to veal before you pick it up at the store?

a) the baby cow has played happily in a field with its mom

b) the baby cow lived on a giant factory farm with other baby cows, being fed unnatural grains before it was slaughtered

c) the baby cow was tethered to a post in a dark stall all by itself where it never saw daylight or moved much, and then it was killed

4. Male cows are neutered in the meat industry. How is this process accomplished?

a) with anesthesia, a vet comes to administer this and remove the testicles

b) without anesthesia, a qualified individual simply cuts off the testicles and stitches up the area

c) without anesthesia, someone ties a rubber band around the testicles to cut off the blood flow. The testicles turn black and then fall off

5. How are female cows able to keep producing milk?

a) female cows just naturally produce milk all the time

b) they are injected with hormones to keep them producing milk

c) they are impregnated time after time by having sperm injected into their vaginas. Immediately after they give birth, their calves are taken away to farms where they will be injected with hormones, raised for meat, and slaughtered at a young age

6. A specific breed of chicken has dominated the meat industry. Why was this chicken bred?

a) it tastes better

b) it looks better

c) people in America want chickens with bigger breasts, so the chickens are bred so their breasts grow so big that many of them cannot walk

7. When pigs are transported to the slaughterhouse, they are:

a) put in sturdy cages so they don’t fall or hurt each other

b) put into trucks where they have room to lay down and are given water and a snack

c) packed into trucks so tightly with no food and water for many miles; many die from heat exhaustion or freeze to the side of the trucks, where, if they are still alive upon arrival, they are cut off the side of the truck and their skin is removed

8. What happens to chickens at the slaughterhouse?

a) they are given baths before their throats are slit

b) they are gassed to death

c) hung upside down by their legs and dragged through water with electricity run through it, which paralyzes them, and then their throats are slit while they are still conscious. Although, some of them miss the blade and end up being dumped in scalding hot water still fully conscious

9. Cows at the slaughterhouse are:

a) comforted before they die

b) get their throats slit and someone is there to ensure that every cow dies quickly

c) they are shot in the head with a bolt to stun them, their throats are slit, and they are dismembered. Some cows are not properly stunned or do not immediately die after their throats are slit, and they are dismembered while still conscious

10. Egg-laying chickens:

a) sit on pillows while laying their eggs

b) are in individual cages where they don’t have much room to move

c) are so tightly packed in cages with other chickens that they do not have room to move or clean themselves. With cage-free chickens, they are usually packed the same way on the floor where the spread of illness is more likely and they still do not have room to do much

I’m going to make this super easy for you guys: the answer to all of them is c.

Shocked? You shouldn’t be.

This stuff is happening right now all over the country. If you guessed c for most of them, then you’re well informed and know your stuff, and hopefully, you aren’t still buying commercial meat and dairy and eggs.

The great thing about this is that you DON’T have to stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy to stop supporting this industry. You just need to get local meat, eggs, and dairy. This means that you need to find small local farms where the farmers are actually farmers and they let you see and pet the cow and other animals.

This food is also so much healthier for you too as usually, these local farms let their cows and chickens eat natural food such as grass without shoving unnatural GMO grains down their throats.

Finding local farms is not easy, depending on where you live. And when you do find them, you’ll need to make sure the animals are happy and healthy before you choose to support them by buying their meat, milk, or eggs.

It’s ok to be depressed about this stuff but don’t be angry or depressed without reason—act on this! Stop buying commercial meat, milk, and eggs and pack on the veggies!