Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sustainable AND Fabulous: Inner Fire

Over the past several years I've slowly replaced my Lulu yoga wardrobe with more sustainable and locally made products. The only Lululemon apparel that has survived my decade of yoga practice are the first pieces I ever bought, back when Lulu was actually MADE in Canada. The rest have stretched and worn away to being unwearable. 

In Halifax, the BEST place to get high quality and sustainably North American made yoga gear is Bhavana Yoga Boutique (above Heartwood). That said- you don't HAVE to practice in fancy schmancy yoga apparel- all yogis know this. But in the spirit of encouraging those who may feel the fashion urge to Lulu, I offer some gorgeous alternatives that will allow you to look fabulous without feeling embarrassed (which I do when I wear Lulu). 

Recently I discovered a fabulous Canadian company and purchased a pair of gorgeous yoga leggings that passed the "I am extremely bloated and uncomfortable from having ovaries the size of oranges and a line of bruises from nightly triple injections marching across my belly" IVF yoga practice. 

They are a Vancouver based company that makes the most vibrant yoga leggings (and tops) I have seen in a while. When I put on these leggings it was an instant KA-POW to my eyes. Which is, of course, the whole point. Loud colours with beautiful designs for me to gaze at during downward dog? Yes please!

These leggings are not only sweat-shop free and Canadian made, BUT they are made from recycled plastic bottles and are BPA free. Over 80% of my leggings are recycled material! #BAM

When I first tried them on at Bhavana, despite their visual smorsgabord, I was a little unsure due to their texture (a more nylon, galaxy leggings type feel- which makes sense from their recycled plastic origins), would be comfortable for a yoga practice. 

That said, Krista (Bhavana Queen), assured me they were ridiculously comfy and I did very much enjoy their large belly band (I am not a fan of the thin leggings belly band- I mean who really is?? Right?). So, purchased they were. For sizing- I am a size six and fit well into a medium. :)

I wore them for two yoga practices and as kickass leggings with an outfit for an entire day. 

Verdict: Love!
Although they are not the typical yoga fabric, these leggings move just as well during asana. Not bunching, pinching nor sliding. The wide belly band really is comfortable and as I got sweatier during my practice they only fit better. This is especially impressive since my belly at that time was so sensitive and enlarged from the IVF injections- even touching it hurt. 

A final bonus: unlike the typical fabric yoga pants I'm accustomed to, these leggings won't ever pill and the wear factor is significantly decreased. In other words, they will last longer... EcoBonus.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, if you are looking for gift ideas for a fellow yogi (or yourself ;) ) Inner Fire will make the planet AND the yogi happy :)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Keeping It Real: IVF

Where have I been, dear readers? All these months I've been coping with the reality of infertility and focusing on getting through two cycles of IVF. 

As I sit here, in bed, recovering from my oocyte retrieval this morning I feel like I'm finally ready to write about what IVF has been like for me. 

Most people I've talked to typically have no idea (or a very vague idea) of what In Vitro Fertilization is and the cost it takes emotionally and financially on a couple. Like everything else to do with women's bodies and health, we just don't talk about it. That shit is private yo. 

But you know what? How is that fair? So eff that. If you're dealing with infertility, or know someone who is, this post is for you. Because you are NOT alone.

As I've written before, the absolute shock that my body isn't doing something that a) I have fought long and hard to PREVENT for all those years and b) everyone else seems to be able to do simply by sneezing is a constant grieving process that I relive every time I hear a colleague or friend is pregnant, every time I see a happy little family with their child, every single step of the IVF process. For most people conceiving is a very intimate and magical process filled with fun times and orgasms. 

Not us. 

It took months to accept that our 1% chance of conceiving each month meant that our options were... IVF. 

In Nova Scotia IVF is not covered by medicare. No matter that our infertility is a medical condition. Or that the Nova Scotia government bemoans the decreasing birth rate and losing it's young families. Or that other, more "cosmetic" surgeries are covered. Nope, in order for us to conceive we had to fork out 6550$ to BEGIN the IVF process. 

Thankfully, MAGICALLY, my insurance provides coverage for most of the injectable medication... otherwise the final tally would have been closer to 14-16k. For ONE cycle. In a country where healthcare is "free", I find it deplorable that conceiving a baby is like purchasing a car. Only with more needles. 

In all, this cycle we will have spent close to 8,000$ just to TRY to conceive. 

So. What exactly happens in an IVF cycle? I mean, you know it's a "test tube" type sitch, but the deets!

Step by step breakdown:

1. Have period. Call the clinic to tell them the date of your "day one". Pay the clinic 6550$. Cut out caffeine (sob) and alcohol, ingest a ridiculous amount of supplements, like 25 pills a day. Do yoga 6x a week. 

2. Day 21: start Suprafact Nasal Spray 5x a day. This will cause your body to go into a sort of "menopause". Yep- don't want your body doing anything it naturally does on it's own. Set 5 alarms on your phone. For two weeks you can be found awkwardly snorting up hormones since you HAVE to take the nasal spray at the exact times during the day. Awkwardly excuse yourself from your clinic sessions with clients stating you "have to take medication now". Take while driving and hope you don't cause an accident. Break the vial on the hospital floor outside of a conference and breakdown sobbing in front of colleagues. Repeat.

3. Down Regulation Check: Go in for blood work to check whether your body thinks it's in menopause. Since you have a phobia of needles, this is the beginning of a lovely relationship with the blood work nurse. They have foamy sperm shaped stress "balls" (hah) that you can squeeze. It's hilarious. 

4. You get a phone call from the clinic that yes, you are good to start injections. Pick up said needles at the pharmacy. Now starts the GOOD STUFF.

5. That night you start injections. These hormones are meant to make your ovaries make a RIDICULOUS amount of eggs. Like your ovaries may swell up to the size of oranges. The first time around I only had 1 needle a night. Since I have a phobia of needles I thought this was the worse.thing.ever. The second time around I had 2 needles for four days followed by 3 needles for 8 days. In total that is 33 needles in twelve days (including the final "Trigger" shot). This is where the cost can skyrocket depending on how much medication you need. What we learned from the first failed cycle is that my ovaries just really don't like the hormones and are like "eff you guys". Which meant I ended up on the max meds (hence the 3 needles per night). One medication, saizen (human growth hormone, which is terrifying- I know) wasn't covered and cost us 1600$ for a week. I feel so thankful that the rest were, otherwise we likely would have been out 700-800$ a day for 12 days. 
(My nightly trophies. Two of the needles involved mixing the medication with a saline or bacteria-free water solution. The "pen" was pre-mixed. In all this took approximately 30min per night). 

I am also so thankful that my husband is such a phenomenal person. He did such a great job. I had minimal bruising (which is a miracle), I got hugs and kisses after each injection and he was my steady calming force when I cried at the injustice of needles vs orgasms each night. 

Every night you are reminded that THIS is what you have to go through just to conceive. 

6. Every other day during injections you go in for blood work and vaginal ultrasounds. to check on how well you are responding to the meds. For me this was so stressful, since each step we were informed just how I wasn't responding. When the nurse informed me I would actually be moving forward to retrieval I actually sobbed on the ultrasound table.
(my ultra sound from Tuesday. This is the left side, only showing half of the follicles. The follicles are the large black holes. In reality they were between 17-20 millimetres (1.7-2.0 cm). Neato eh?)

The neat part of this is you get to see the follicles growing in your ovaries on the ultrasound. This time around I had one monstrous follicle on the right (we named him Arnold) and 10 on the left. 

7. Once the follicles have reached a good size (and you are bloated and feel nauseous and uncomfortable) they deem you ready for "retrieval". You get a "trigger" shot that you are to take EXACTLY 36hrs pre-retrieval. Not five minutes more or less. EXACTLY 36hrs. 

8. You get one entire day of NO MEDICATIONS. It was bliss. 

9. Retrieval. This is what happened today. I went in to the clinic at 8:30am for acupressure (see- needle phobia). Then we went into surgery prep. I was terrified. All of it is overwhelming and scary- from the hair nets, hospital gowns, slippers. The nurses were lovely and super kind in the face of my holding back tears of fear and hiding the iv from my sight. The wheel you in an operating room where the Doctor (Dr Ripley.... hah!) uses a ultrasound probe with a long thin needle attached to go through the vaginal walls straight to the ovaries and suck out all the follicles and fluid. Thankfully drugs are involved. 
(this little gal is one of six oocytes sucked out of the follicles today. Andrew grabbed a pic with my phone. Andrew thinks she could kick some serious ass. I agree.)

While this is happening the embryologist shouts out the number of eggs she finds. Some follicles may not have any eggs (or oocytes). My count: six. As soon as that first egg was found I started to cry. I think it looks like either a weird mould spore or a gorgeous sun of life. 

10. Your partner does his "thing" and they fertilize the eggs. (or they use a donor if your partner is a "she" :) ).  

11. You get daily calls on the status of how the eggs are doing, which ones were successfully fertilized and how they look. They actually RATE THEM on a scale of 1-20. I hear this is stressful, since it is likely quite a few won't make the cut. Since every single step of this process has been a battle for us, I just hope 1 or 2 make it to the end. 

12. Since your body has no idea what the hell just happened, you have to take progesterone vaginal suppositories (3x a day) AND estrogen (estrace) pills (2x day) to keep up that uterine lining. GO UTERUS. This would continue until 11th week of pregnancy if you manage to be successful. 

13. Transfer day: This happens at day 3 or 5 post retrieval. They pick the best 1 or 2 embryos and put 'em back in the uterus. This will likely be a much less of a big deal compared to retrieval. Yin yoga will be my jam at this point. 

14. Wait 16 days for a blood test to reveal whether or not it worked. 

Start all over again if this fails. 

There you have it. I know one day I will look on this whole horrible "adventure" and think (hopefully): it was worth every single gods damned needle. Andrew and I have only grown closer because of it. I couldn't have done it without him. 

I also have a completely new perspective on just how lucky people are to have children. No sleep? Complete change in lifestyle? Responsibilities up the wazoo coupled with no more private time? BRING IT. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DIY Natural Antibacterial Yoga Mat Spray

Last week the Twitter-verse provided me with a reminder article on just how many germs live on my yoga mat. You may have seen it. In case you haven't: "What's living on your yoga mat?"

Now. I am a firm believer that we've been over sanitizing our lives and that a little germs are actually a good thing (there's actually some pretty legit science behind this belief). That said, I also recognize that perhaps I need to admit that my yoga mat, on my floor being run over by my cats and sweat on by my body, may collect some nasty stuff in it's spongy, read porous germ home, and maybe disinfecting is not such a bad idea.

The article suggests a few things that are a bit of an over-kill (and SUPER wasteful) in my opinion:

  1. Antibacterial washes/wipes: I don't think I need to even say why we're not going there. Right? You're reading this eco-blog because you already know that wipes are wasteful and antibacterial is filled with some sketchy chemicals.
  2. Throw out your mat every year.... OMG I can't even. I mean... they may as well have suggested you build a bonfire and burn the mother effer while screaming "BURN BABY!!!". If I could get beyond the fact that we would be throwing out millions of yoga mats filling the landfills, which I can't, just the cost would be astronomical. A good yoga mat, particularly an environmentally friendly one, isn't cheap. An absolutely ridiculous suggestion. 
  3. Use some combo of essential oil combo to kill the bacteria.

Ok. So on that last one. Some essential oils have antibacterial properties, such as lavender, tea tree oil and thyme oil. But are they really enough to kill bacteria on a yoga mat? A quick google search (which isn't really enough, but ya know), shows that yes essential oils are showing some very real antibacterial properties... but a lot of the studies have them undiluted and sitting on the substance for long periods of time (like 60minutes).

Maybe essential oils are an ingredient to support the BIG GUN:

Hydrogen Peroxide.

Yep. This stuff has been shown to be a killer of germs extraordinaire.

Recently I heard an interview on the CBC with "The Germ Guy": A microbiologist and specialist in microbes... aka germs. His reactions weren't 100% anti-green cleaning, which was refreshing. His perspective on vinegar and water was one I had heard before- good for light cleaning, lifting dirt but not so great for intense germ killing. He suggested hydrogen peroxide as THE natural heavy weight for germ killing.

Since my previous recipes have involved variations of vinegar and water, it was time I revisited my mat cleaner. That and the next time I practiced yoga I was completely grossed out with the reality that I hadn't cleaned my mat in MONTHS. (ick, I know, don't judge me).

Hydrogen Peroxide, although scary sounding in name, is actually very safe and easy on the planet. Woohoo!

Recipes that I could find generally suggested a 1 part HP (3% concentration) to 2 part water ratio. I decided to also add a few drops of tea tree oil (we will remember that last time I put too much and had an allergic reaction which resulted in swollen hands after my yoga practice.... Always know whether essential oils are for you!). Other EO options include lavender or thyme oil.

Natural AntiBacterial Yoga Mat Spray:

(In a spray bottle):
1 part hydrogen peroxide
2 parts water
10-15 drops of EO of choice

The key with hydrogen peroxide is to spray it on and leave it for a good 10 minutes to let the germ killing really take place. In my tub I sprayed the mat all over liberally and left the germs to die a horrible death while I did other house chore stuff (ie cleaning).

After about 45min (cuz I totally forgot about the mat), I took a cleaning rag (we use our old wash cloths as rags for cleaning the bathroom), ran some water and rinsed off the mat. Then I hung it up on the shower rod and let it dry for two whole days. Truly, the trick to cleaning a rubber mat is to allow enough time for all the water to dry from the porous, spongy holes. For my mats that has meant at least one, even better for two, days.

Three yoga practices later and no allergic reaction, my mat smells and feels great and we're good to go for another six months few weeks!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Extra Soft Chocolate Orange Whipped Body Butter (Pro-Tip Version)

If you aren't from the Canadian Maritimes then you *may* have seen the photos of the ridiculous amounts of snow and storm after storm (#stormchips !!!) we got in February. Perhaps, if you are the states, you may have seen a news shot of some snow in Prince Edward Island with the tagline "Prince Edward Island, ONTARIO"....

Just in case- PEI is not in Ontario, they are separate provinces (our equivalents to a "state") and one is an ISLAND. And Canada is not in fact referred to now as the country of "Ontario". Rant over.

Anyhoo, regardless it has been cold and snowy and dismal. Last night, the night before leaving for a three day work trip to even colder Cape Breton, that I ran out of body butter.

OMG I am OUT of body butter *screams internally while waving arms in a panic*.

So, despite the fact that I accidentally picked up and BOUGHT the tester for cocoa butter, I decided that desperate times called for throwing caution in the wind (and really, it looked like it was just opened so people could sniff the delicious chocolate-y goodness, and we live in Halifax where people aren't crazy so.... I felt pretty safe).

I realized as I was throwing the ingredients together frantically that I've adjusted or maybe "pro-tipped" my original recipe over time to make it faster and more efficient. And of course I thought I could share it with you! This recipe has less ingredients (cuz who can afford to buy cocoa butter AND shea butter these days??), takes about an hour start to finish and has some definite body butter tips. Enjoy!
(My Chocolate Orange batch- actually  made a whole other 500ml mason jar that isn't in the pic)

Pro-Tip Version of Whipped Body Butter (Extra softening version):

5 tablespoons of cocoa butter
5 tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil
5 tablespoons of almond oil
1 tablespoon of castor oil (optional)
20-25 drops of EO choice (optional)

*EO Note: For stronger scents like peppermint or anise, less is probably good. I used orange this time and found it needed at least 23 drops for it to smell like those Yulemas time chocolate oranges. I suggest trying 10-15 and cautiously taking a smell to decide whether you need more. There are health cautions with using EOs- please look into it if you have any health conditions (or are pregnant).
*Castor oil: I added this oil since I had it already for making soap and it's "extra softening". So far, I love the tiny bit of extra silky smooth it's had for my skin!

Place stand mixer bowl in the fridge to cool while you're melting the oils. (This will help speed up the cooling process that takes the biggest chunk of time).

In a double boiler (or pot with 2 inches of water and a stainless steel bowl on top) add all the oils. Keep the heat at medium so you don't over heat or boil over. Once melted, add essential oils.

Pour oil mixture into the chilled stand mixer bowl and place in the freezer. Let chill until the oils harden to roughly an inch ring around the edge and pudding-y type texture in the middle. This may actually take 20-30min, depending on your freezer temperature. That said, the already chilled bowl AND using the freezer instead of the fridge shave off about 15-20min of wait time.

Scrape away the sides of the congealed oils using a spoon before starting to whip. Set standmixer to the highest setting (make sure you have the shield in place since the oils fly everywhere) and let'er rip for about 5-8min. If it was cold enough, the oils should quickly form white fluffy peaks but continue whipping (it's not like whipped cream, you won't "break" it). Continued whipping allows for more oxygen to enter the body butter and makes for a more creamy, melt in your hand while keeping the "whip" shape.

Halfway through whipping, slow to a stop the mixing and scrape the sides to make sure no congealed oils are missing the attachment. Start'er up again.

Once done, scoop out into 1 cup mason jars. This recipe makes about two to two and a half cups. Store one in the fridge. If you live in a hot/warm climate or home you might want to store them both. For myself, even in the summer, as long as it's out of the sun it doesn't melt.

Application tips:

  • This recipe does need a bit more time to soak into the skin. It's definitely different than chemical filled lotions. All you need to do is melt a piece in your hand, apply and I dunno, brush your teeth while you wait for it to seep in. Honestly though, I've been using it for years and rarely wait longer than 2-3min and the oils have never damaged my clothing. (Though I don't wear silk... so...).
  • This stuff also works amazingly on your face. Especially as a heavy night cream.
  • It should last at least a month, if not longer.
  • If it starts to smell "nuttier" or look kinda wonky- throw it out! Oils can and do go rancid, so keeping it in a cool, dark, dry place is best (My bedroom is usually dark during the day since we keep the blinds shut to preserve heat...). 

In Halifax: I buy the cocoa butter and castor oil at Petes Frootique. So far it's the cheapest place I've found, but if you know of somewhere cheaper, let me know!
You can also purchase sweet almond oil and coconut oil at Petes, but some Superstores and Sobeys also carry it, and it's usually cheaper there.

Outside of Halifax: Most natural food stores carry these ingredients. Or you could order them online... although I am unsure it would be worth the shipping at that point.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Two Challenges: Breakfast and Caffeine

In keeping with the "living as if you're pregnant" rule suggestion I've begrudgingly (if I am to be honest) been trying to make two, albeit healthy, changes in my life.

One: eat some sort of breakfast most mornings of the week.
Two: decrease caffeine consumption.

Oh I know loads of you out there already do these things, and yes I recognize that they are good changes (which is why I'm doing them), but they are Kinda a Big Deal (sorry, just watched Anchorman and couldn't resist).

Eat Some Sort of Breakfast Most Days of the Week
(This was my breakfast one morning!)

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yes I know. Historically, I've either been nauseous every morning (it took years to figure out it was likely reflux... lovely) and when that was taken care of my sensitive stomach really just doesn't handle anything before 10am very well. Add to that the fact that I generally see clients all morning and eating breakfast isn't the easiest feat.

BUT... Last week I tried and sorta succeeded! By sort of, I ate a breakfast three out of the five mornings! YES! (On weekends we sleep in ridiculously late because we can...).

I owe this sorta-success to Chef Michael Smith... and his overnight oatmeal in a jar recipe (In Family Meals). (Unbelievably Andrew and I have TWO of his cookbooks and they are actually amazing. Highly recommend). Now, I don't actually really like oatmeal, but this recipe is pretty tasty and preps the night before which is fantastic.

Chef Michael Smith's Overnight Oatmeal Jar (w some EcoYogini mods)
1/2 cup rolled oats (organic is best!)
1/2 cup of milk
drizzle of maple syrup (or other sugar)
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves

Add to a 500ml mason jar and shake vigorously (with the lid on...). Add copious amounts of frozen berries (raspberries and blueberries are delish!) but leave room for the yogourt in the morning! Chill in the fridge overnight. In the morning add a dollop of yummy yogourt (I splurge for the rich fat and highly berried stuff). You could add some crunch. DONE.

I make two jars at a time since it will keep for one extra day!

Decreasing Caffeine
Now, I am a "one cup a day" coffee drinker as it is. But... that one cup is actually my Klean Kanteen thermos, which is really closer to two cups if we were being honest. Going full on decaf just sounds ridonculous and crazytown. Who willingly DOES THAT?

Sigh. But I *GUESS* I could try to decrease my coffee.

Which is what a co-worker suggest I do- not cut out (which would cause massive caffeine withdrawal headaches) but cut down.

Another co-worker, who was forced to go decaf when she was pregnant- sad I know, who was also a coffee snob so I could trust our tastes would be similar (I am not even pretending here), said that the BEST decaf beans were from Smiling Goat. Which are roasted at Java Blend.

If I'm going to do this it is going to be no holds barred, Andrew has to as well, and only during the weekdays. I still want my fancy full caffeine coffees on the weekend.

For the past two weeks I have been putting half decaf, half caffeine beans (1.5 scoops each) into the grinder and, gasp, mixing them together. Both locally roasted organic fair trade beans (Goddess I am such a hipster), both fancy and delicious.

And it has WORKED. No headaches, no extra tiredness, no awful disgusting taste. *Pumps fist in air*

One reason why I feel fairly confident both these new life changes will stick? My total lack of all-or-nothing approach. I often feel that as a society we often have unreasonable and, let's be honest here, crazy expectations when making changes in how we live. All these crash/30daychallenges with yoga/diets/cleanses (the last which is absolutely bonkers- our body never needs to be "cleansed") are never sustainable, sometimes dangerous and as a result never meant to be integrated into a feasible daily practice.

Small, attainable and easy steps to help me feel success, accustom to change and eat my darn breakfast.