Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Fun

I love Thanksgiving. What is not to love? Four days away from work - a big long weekend full of family, friends, food, lazy tv watching, hiking, and hanging out. While it can be fun to travel and visit friends and family during Thanksgiving, taking advantage of the long weekend, I love it best when you can stay close to home. Then it really is a relaxing four day long weekend. This year we were around home and able to take full advantage of the holiday.

This year we volunteered to do a lot of the cooking. It was worth the slaving away that went into it. Cooking this meal is a lot of work, but it can be a lot of fun and rewarding - if all the recipes and dishes work out. I cooked a turkey for the third or fourth time in my life and the first time in many years. And it worked! I was very happy with the results.

We had a dear friend as a house guest; we spent Thanksgiving close by with family; and then had some family over one night for a little dinner party. Lots of socializing. We rarely go to the movies, but often go to see a matinee on this holiday weekend and we did it this year. We rented and watched a couple of movies at home. And lots of other good, bad TV. There is usually a hike that happens somewhere over this holiday weekend - motivated from guilt and gluttony - too much food and too much laying around. We had a nice one up in City Creek Canyon.

Lot's of people do their shopping during this holiday, but not me. I avoid that like the plague. You won't catch me shopping during that holiday weekend. No way. Too much drama. Too much stress. Too many people. Although I did pick up my Christmas present over the weekend (a little early). Thanks Santa :)

Once we hit Thanksgiving, then it always feels like winter really is here and Christmas is just around the corner. It all goes too fast. I love this time of year. I have a lot to be thankful for. I hope you enjoy the season. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hamster TV

What is it about tiny rodents snuggling in a tiny cartoonish plastic television that makes me giggle every time I see it?

Petco, the pet store where I spend a lot of money each month to care for my two cats (seriously I don't know how a lot of people manage to keep pets - they are really expensive!) sells hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, mice and rats. You can see them all when you walk into the store. I of course, animal lover that I am, have to stare at all of them when I visit. I don't want one, but I think they are cute.

I had hamsters when I was growing up, and then later a little mouse. They are all smelly and not as much fun as cats and dogs, but they can be sweet and entertaining. I used to put my hamsters in a dollhouse. I would also put them in a toy truck that would get pulled around by our poodle. Poor little guys. Somewhere I have a great photo of that. I have a shag haircut too. It was the 70s after all.

Anyway, Petco has started carrying these little plastic tvs. Every cage with any kind of little rodent creature has these little plastic tvs. The hamsters are always, I mean always, sleeping and grooming and hanging out in these little plastic tvs. And its so dang silly and cute. I tried to capture it with my iPhone - two of them snuggling in the tv. I am not sure you can fully appreciate the cuteness of it all via this photo. Or maybe its just me...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Making the Switch to Natural Beauty Products

A few months ago I wrote about a new obsession with a journey to get toxins out of my beauty care products. I think many people would like to switch out their beauty care products for healthier alternatives. The challenge is how to begin that journey and find products that work for you and your budget.

In May I finished using products on hand (or in some cases tossed them - sorry mom!) and made a switch. I went all out and changed everything I put on my body: shampoo, conditioner, detangler, body wash, deodorant, face cleanser, face and body lotions, and all make-up. I even stopped using regular nail polish and polish remover. If you are on a similar journey or want to start, I would like to share a few informational websites and product recommendations based on my own experience.

Product Information Resources: I don't have a lot of time to dedicate to understanding the science of what is and is not a good product or to review the thousands of products that are out there. I find and read things when I can. Resources that have helped me identify good products include The Glamorganic Goddessthe Environmental Working Group, and the Organic Consumers Association. The EWG has this amazing cosmetics database with more than 69,000 (!) products where you can research the ingredients of your products and find their ranking on a hazard scale. Its kind of depressing and scary, but good to know, don't you think? We have so many choices for products - so why not find something that is less of a potential health risk? Use this site to check out the ratings for the products you already use or new ones you are considering. Finding the results for products that I was already using is in part what motivated me to change. Many products that I thought should be good - because of their brand name or claim to being "natural" or "organic" - were not. It was a real eye opener.

Product Shopping: Whole Foods and independent health food stores still remain the best places to physically go and find products. However, I am doing most of my shopping online. You have far more choice and it takes less time. Many sites offer sales or special deals from time to time and many remove the shipping costs if you purchase a certain $ amount. So, planning and buying all at once can save you money. Also, once you find products you like, you don't have to keep buying them from product home sites. Shop around and price compare and find discount sites to purchase the products. Here are some of the places I've been shopping.

Vapour Organic Beauty. I buy the majority of my make up from this site. I love their products and have been very satisfied. Prices might be higher than drugstore make-up, but less than what you would pay for department store brands. It is worth it to me to buy this make-up. I don't but a lot of products and what I do buy I use carefully and sparingly so I don't waste it. Best of all this site will send you sample kits so you can try different products and test them out. It can be very frustrating when you have to consider buying new products that costs $20+ when you have no idea if you will like them or they will work. Products I use include: elixir plumping lip gloss, lux organic lip conditioner, clarity make up removing cleanser, stratus soft focus skin perfecter, and illusionist concealer. I am just about to try their eye shadow and powder.

Futurenatural Organic Beauty. Futurenatural offers a lot of fun product lines for hair, face and body care. This is where I buy my mascara. Have you ever smelled the mascara that you buy in the drugstore or department stores? Some of it is better than others, but once I focused on all the chemicals in this product, and how much some of the stuff SMELLS horribly like chemicals, I could no longer bring myself to put it on my eyes! Now I use a product with fruit pigment. You read the ingredients and you can understand every single one of them.

I have been buying non-toxic nail polish here (Zoya and Scotch Brand). Have you ever read the ingredients on your typical nail polish? Its some pretty scary stuff. We should know this just from the nasty smell of it. I never thought about this much until I started to see alternative nail polishes in places like Whole Foods. Once I really thought about what is in that polish and how stupid it seems to be putting it on my body, I just couldn't bring myself to use it anymore. I can't do it. It feels like I am poisoning myself. This non-toxic nail polish is a little different, but it works for me. Try it out - you can usually find it at your local Whole Foods.

Futurenatural sells John Masters Organics products which I really like. All of my facial care products come from his line and I sometimes use his shampoos and conditioners. I've found that you can find a pretty decent selection of his products at your local Whole Foods and you can also go directly to the John Masters Organics website. But remember to shop around because you can sometimes find better deals elsewhere. Futurenatural frequently offers specials and waives the shipping costs making it better to buy there.

Bubble & Bee Organic. This is a local Utah business and I really love their products. If you can't find their products in stores, you can find them on their website. I swear by their lotion sticks and I really like their body butters and deodorants. If you want to support a small business, and a really great one - shop here. I am thinking about this place for Christmas presents.

I know that switching out your daily beauty products can be challenging. It takes time to research and find and experiment with new products. The products you find and want to use might also cost more than your old products, so there is a financial commitment and adjustment. But, if you really want to do this, you can. I started this process simply by stumbling upon one or two products in my grocery store that caught my eye and I wanted to try. I liked them and realized they were healthier alternatives to what I had been using. Taking that first step motivated me to do more research (where I found the Glamorganic Goddess site). I don't have time or money or the energy to just go and try 20 different products and this site, with numerous personal product reviews, helped set me on my way. Recommendations from what has worked for others is a great help. So, if you are interested in making some changes and finding better products, I hope that these recommendations will help get you started on your own journey to eliminate toxins from your beauty products.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Aging Pets

One of the cats crapped outside of the litter box last night. Which wouldn't be so bad if it hadn't been crazy sick diarrhea. And if it hadn't been on THE COUCH. And if it hadn't been directly on the spot where the two cushions meet, meaning that there was crap on both of the cushions and down between the crack between them. Awesome. And that was my morning. How was yours?

Thankfully it was on the couch down in the basement rec room. We never use that couch, but still its a nice couch and fairly new and expensive. And now its kind of ruined. I've removed the cushion covers but still...I will spare you all the details.

How come when you get pets you don't think about what you will do when they get old and sickly and have bowel problems or dementia? We always had pets growing up but I don't remember all of this. Oh I remember dogs starting to lose control of their bladders and having to be put down when they were too old and sickly. But dog pee is not cat pee.

I have two cats that are getting older and having more and more and more problems. Yet they aren't ready to be put down. It is extremely frustrating and getting worse. One cat is about 17 years old. He has had diabetes for several years now with several scares and a very traumatic brush with death earlier this year, but he has bounced back and seems to be doing well. Except we think he is getting a bit of dementia. We've had some recent random messes - of both kind. They are very random in timing and location so I can only suspect that he's just getting a little crazy. He ruined the carpet in our basement. Thankfully that is it. The most annoying thing is that he has started howling. Loudly. In the middle of the night. And its happening more often (pretty much every night) and for longer periods of time. It wakes us up. Its eery and sad and it sucks. And I don't know what to do? Do I start locking him in the bathroom in the basement at nights? That's not fun.

But the worst thing that is happening is that my other cat who has always been sweet and problem free has developed a habit of crapping in random places. That carpet that the other one started to ruin? Its really ruined now. I am constantly cleaning up crap from the floor. And its not the clean easy pick up kind. Its the kind that seeps into the carpet and makes it tough to clean. Sorry for the graphic details but I want to be sure you understand the depths of my despair here. Besides, if you have pets and/or kids, you shouldn't be afraid of talk about excrement. Anyway, the carpet was bad, but we already know its ruined, so c'est la vie. What really irks me is that she also keeps doing this on my antique Indian rugs. They are messed up and no longer on the floors. But I had one sitting up on the couch downstairs (after I had cleaned it) and she decided to climb up there use it again as her own personal toilet paper. Sigh. I've cleaned them, but I am not convinced they are clean. I need to send them to a professional cleaner and put them away until the future. But the worst thing is that this has now moved to the furniture. And its escalating in frequency. But its still random so I don't know why she does this or what to do? I am so frustrated. What can I do? Traumatize her and lock her in a room? I am just at my wits end. Realizing that I have two old cats who aren't old enough to just die or be put to sleep, but old enough to have issues, with the promise of more to come.

I love my pets, but I hate this. I really do.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tbilisi Scenes

View of Tbilisi from the Narikala Fortress.

Our office is in the large building with the gold reflective windows.

View from Hotel Betsy.

Streets of Tbilisi.

Ferris wheel in Mtatsminda Park.

He is the one

Anyone know the story behind this one? Found this in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Mother Georgia - Kartlis Deda

Kartlis Deda, the mother of Kartli, or Mother Georgia, is a symbol of the city of Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia. This 20 meter high aluminum statue sits on Sololaki hill, near the Narikala Fortress, looking down on the city. It was erected in 1958 to celebrate the 1500 year anniversary of the city. The statue symbolizes the Georgian national character - she holds a bowl of wine in her left hand to greet those who come as friends, and a sword in her right hand for those who come as enemies. You can see her from across the city, but yesterday I finally went to see her up close. She is far more impressive from a distance, but visiting the site is worth it as it offers amazing and sweeping views of the city below.

Tbilisi Skyline Scenes

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Tomorrow I am Tbilisi- bound.

It has been far too long since my scenic byway took me there. Its been more than two fact the last time I was there was June, 2009, for work and a friend's wedding, and it was there that I met my now husband. A friend, of a friend, of a friend. Kismet. Fate.

I really like the Republic of Georgia. I've been traveling there for work for six years. I don't go often - once every year or two. Tbilisi is a fun city. The city and country are beautiful. Lots of farm land. The Caucasus mountains. Fantastic food and wine, in my opinion. I have friends there, and the team of people I work with is great.

I always stay at a small boutique hotel that is awesome - Betsy's Hotel. If you visiting, trust me, that is where you need to stay. The staff are nice, the hotel has a great view of the city and a fun bar. The owner is a friend and was the best man at our wedding. It is because of him and another friend that my husband and I met. That all makes Tbilisi a wonderful place to visit for a work trip.

I also highly recommend this place for a visit as a tourist. There are many things you can do and see across the country including mountain villages that make you feel you are in the Alps...remnants of the old Soviet world and occupation (check out the Stalin Museum in Gori in all its kitschy awesomeness)...the David Gareja Monastery - monks still living in caves since the 6th Century...and many beautiful old churches. Just to name a few things you can do. And don't forget the wine! Georgia has fantastic local wine. Georgia claims, in fact, to be the birthplace of wine.

Just thinking about it all makes me excited to get back over there. I can't wait to see the city again, see my friends, and drink that good, good wine.

P.S. I just realized I was incorrect...the last time I was there was in September/October of 2009...just a few months after first meeting my husband. After work we managed to sneak in a weekend trip up in Svaneti in the Caucasus mountains. These photos are from that time.

Caucasus mountains, Svaneti area.

Me and the cows.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Walk

I've come to realize that if I don't exercise, I go a little crazy. I am not exaggerating. I become stressed, easily agitated, moody, emotional. The world looks bleaker and less possible to manage. Dumb little things take on greater power than they should. I don't feel happy. But, if I can just make myself get outside and walk, walk, walk...then all of that washes away. My mood instantly changes. My spirits lift, the stress eases, the world looks brighter, manageable. Those little things roll off my shoulders and don't hang around. To go for a walk is a beautiful thing.

Photo: Paul Hadley -