The Epic Double Chin Diary Holiday Gift Guide

Ah, the holidays. The smell of chestnuts roasting (really, who does that?), family fighting (now that’s more likely), and the season of sales, sales, and sales, causing us all to stress out about the perfect gift when really it doesn’t matter. However, because gifts are kind of a thing, I’ve rounded up some new favorites for your consideration for those who like relaxing, cooking, fashion, and exercise. All of these gifts were sent to me gratis in exchange for mention (but only if I really liked them – two got the axe!). This post also contains affiliate links, so if you click on something and buy it, I might make four cents (I’m rich!). Enjoy — and be sure to read carefully as you have a few chances to win some of these goodies for yourself!

1) Royal Silk Scarf by World Vision

Looking for the perfect thoughtful gift for your world conscious friend? Consider this royal silk scarf from WorldVision. Vietnam’s Ma Chau villagers weave these traditional silky smooth scarves, helping to provide them with a sustainable income. This scarf is 68″ long, and has the most incredible colors and vibrancy.  Each is unique; size and color may vary slightly. You can make a suggested donation of $95, or enter an amount that’s meaningful to you. Want to see how purchasing from WorldVision works? Click here.

Alyssa rocks the World Vision Royal Silk Scarf

Alyssa rocks the World Vision Royal Silk Scarf

You know you want one of your own… so follow the steps below for your chance to win!
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2) Tiger Tail Classic

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Foam rolling both terrifies me and delights me; the concept of massaging painful, tight muscles is initially scary, mildly painful, and then after it’s sweet relief. When I heard about Tiger Tail, I knew I would need one of these puppies (kitties?) for my post-walk soreness. I packed it along with me on my trip to San Diego, and this thing was passed among my teammates with more enthusiasm than a box of chocolates. The small, compact size and quality build make it perfect for bringing along on trips, or for stashing in your house. Our traditional foam roller is bulky and giant, and this removes a lot of heft but still packs a punch. Plus, look at how adorable the packaging is! I loved this thing post 3-Day, and am super psyched about using it to roll out my muscles post-hike. The Classic is priced at $34.95, is made in the USA, easy to clean, and has a 3 year warranty. The next thing I’ll try out is the Knotty Tiger — I can really see that sorting out the giant knots in my neck!

The cutest sticker on the packaging!

The cutest sticker on the packaging!

3) Creekside Farms Kitchen Herb Wreath

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it’s too bad smellovision doesn’t exist yet on the web!

This is the type of thing that doesn’t come across my inbox too often; a gift that simultaneously makes me go “ooh, pretty” and “Ahhh, it smells good.” While I was initially struck by the photos of how stunning Creekside Farm’s Kitchen Herb Wreath is, when I received it, it was the amazingly lush smell of lavender, dill, oregano, sage, and rosemary that won me over. It looks great outside (away from direct light) and also inside, where you can see the naughty cat that isn’t supposed to be on the table. (She argues that the wreath smelled so good she just HAD to be closer to it.) This wreath would be the perfect gift for the Foodie in your life, and if you want a different style, check out my other favorite, the Sunflower wreath. Creekside Farms grows all of their own herbs, and they dry everything on site, truly making these family-created products artisanal.

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Stunning Kitchen Herb Wreath Scents Up The Kitchen

Visit Creekside Farms on Facebook here, and on Twitter here. Want 15% off your order? Use code CURAN. I know that I personally will be making an order for one of these beauties!

Gorgeous Up Close Shot of the Kitchen Herb Wreath by Creekside Farms

Gorgeous Up Close Shot of the Kitchen Herb Wreath by Creekside Farms

4) Natracure Heated Booties

So what if these are technically for Arthritis – after walking a ton of miles this past weekend in the 3-Day, I couldn’t wait to slip these babies on my feet. With separate microwavable gel inserts, you heat up the pads, stick ‘em in the bottom of the super fuzzy velour slippers, slip them on and oooh and ahh your way to toasty relaxation. Better yet, these booties are coated on the inside with a smart gel lining, with 7 botanicals. My feet did actually feel smoother and smelled like a foot that had been freshly scrubbed at a spa. One tip with these: don’t walk in them! Thankfully I Googled it online before I took a step and burst the gel packs, but these booties are meant to be worn 5-10 minutes at a time to heat up your tired tootsies, and they’re worn best when you’re relaxin’ in one spot. These retail for $49.99 and are great for people with foot pain and stiffness, and you can also find a pair designed just for the hands. Time for relaxation!

Cozy and comfy in Natracure's Heated Booties

Cozy and comfy in Natracure’s Heated Booties

5) Goody QuikStyle Brush

Ever since I got my hair cut and colored, I’ve been making an effort to actually style my hair rather than throwing it in a sloppy bun. Part of that means blow drying my hair, and since I’m lazy, I like to exert minimal effort. That’s where the Quikstyle comes in – an awesome, space age looking hair brush that has microfiber tufts between the bristles. I had actually seen this brush in stores and wanted to try it, so when it came through my inbox I figured this would be a fun one to review.

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The awesome Goody Quikstyle

While initially I was skeptical, it does actually dry your hair as you brush through it. And, it’s designed smart, so antimicrobial microfiber keeps the brush fresh and inhibits mold or mildew growth. Seeing is believing, so how about you enter to win one yourself by following the steps below? The Goody Quick Style Paddle Brush is six bucks on Amazon.com, a perfect stocking stuffer for the lady in your life who needs a darling ‘do on the go.

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I hope you’ll consider some of these goodies for the loved ones in your life this holiday season. What’s on your wishlist?

Health Warrior Chia Bars Review and Giveaway

If we were in person together, I’d totally start telling you about these Chia bars by chanting, Ch, Ch, Ch, Chia! Side note: I have had several Chia pets in my lifetime, and they never grow as beautifully lush as the ads made them out to be. Typical. Thankfully, I now have a much more useful application for Chia Seeds in my daily life: as part of my diet! My tentative enchantment began when I started making pudding out of Chia Seeds, like this nommy Peanut Butter Cocoa recipe. Then, I worked briefly for a nutrition bar company, and one of the bars they recommend I try was the Health Warrior Chia Bars. Right away I was intrigued by their small size. I know that sounds weird because usually in America, bigger is better, but I was on the lookout for something I could tuck into my purse or waist pack for on the go. I picked up a mango bar and was blown away at the taste. Immediately, you notice the lovely, chewy texture, the real hunks of mango, and the nutty, toasty taste of the Chia seeds. Each of these bars has 3 grams of protein, 4g of fiber, 4g of sugar and is only 110 calories. Plus, they’re packed with 1,000 mg of Omega-3.

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Health Warrior has kindly sent over a few packages of Mango and Coconut Bars for my 3-Day team, and I know we’re all looking forward to fueling up with them over our 60-mile journey. If tropical delight isn’t your thing, you can also try Chia Bars in Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Banana Nut, Coffee, Acai Berry, and Dark Chocolate Cherry. I’ve had the Banana Nut before as well and it was like delicious banana bread in a tiny, compact bar that’s lots better for you than banana bread. Now, I might say I love this product, but how do we know it’s legit, and I’m not just another rambling blogger? Because Mr. Double Chin Diary has been going through these like crazy, and I actually had to hide the last two boxes from him and remind him that these are for my walking team! Usually he turns his nose up (and usually, rightfully so) at the variety of chalky protein powders and stuff that makes its way into the house.

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Let’s talk about the nutrition stats for a moment. While these bars aren’t 100% organic, they use a bunch of organic ingredients, and there’s NO CRAP in their ingredients. You can pronounce every ingredient, and it’s all stuff that’s, you know, actually made out of food! These bars are dairy free, gluten-free, soy-free, and 100% vegan — and 100% tasty.

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Now! Enough about what I think about them. Let’s get you a chance to try them too. Enter now to win a box of Chia Bars, valued at $23.50 for 15 bars. The only mandatory entry is for you to hit “Easy Entry” on the Rafflecopter below. Then, score extra chances to win by doing the additional steps. This giveaway will end on Monday, 11/17 at 11:59 p.m. PST. GOOD LUCK!

 
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Alyssa takes on New York in 36 hours!

Hello hello! I’ve just returned from a beautiful wedding in Northern California that I’ll tell you about soon, but first, I have to share photos from my whirlwind trip to New York. I was on business in Philadelphia and decided when my trip ended that I had to go to New York. I’d never been, and NY is just an easy 1.25 hour train ride from Philadelphia. Matt and I packed up our stuff on a Monday morning, and arrived to New York at noon. When I first got out of the train and was greeted by sky-high buildings, honking yellow taxis, and people in business suits swarming around the train station, I instantly knew I would love this city. It felt like a more urban version of Los Angeles, with the frantic pace and bustling energy I see so often around me in my city of Angels. Matt and I checked into our tiny, overpriced hotel and headed off to Shake Shack to have lunch with our dear friend Sarah, a Los Angeles transplant. After an awesome burger, we went off to the Met, where I geeked out over the Egyptology room. Did you know the artwork behind me is from approximately 15 BC? Incredible!

The Met

After the Met, we walked through Central Park. This park was so incredibly calming; and I learned that Central Park is basically just reserved land to keep some of New York’s natural elements intact. It was so green and lush and at points really did feel just like you were walking in a forest. We stopped near this fountain to hear a cello player and violinist fill the air with famous classical pieces, and I just wanted to soak up all of the beauty around me.

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Then, we headed over to Times Square to check it out and also get some dinner. Times Square was one of those things that was cool to see, but a brief walk through was more than enough for me. I’m not a huge fan of tons of light and noise and people, and at night time after a crazy jetlagged weekend, all I wanted to do was eat some pizza and head to bed. We hit up a tiny little corner shop, I don’t even remember the name, and got our first New York pizza. We really lucked out, because it was AMAZING. We started with a slice of white pizza and veggie supreme, and then decided to really go for it and share a piece of pepperoni. This deep-dish, sauce on top, Chicago girl was impressed.

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Then, it was off to bed, and the next morning, we had brunch with another awesome friend, Nick. After brunch, we went to Greenwich Village for a food walking tour! A coworker of mine recommended Foods of NY tours, and I’m so glad I took her recommendation. For just over $50, we got to walk and talk with our awesome tour guide Bari on the beautiful streets of Greenwich Village, learning about history, and tasting nine different foods of New York, including pizza, herbed olive oils and truffle butter, arancini, meatballs, cookies, eggplant rollatini, fresh foccacia, cheese, and cannoli. Arancini are stuffed rice balls which are coated with breadcrumbs and fried. They were traditionally known as a peasant food because most people had rice, and it was a new way to eat rice, and we all know that variety is the spice of life.

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My favorite tasting of the tour was this miniature cannoli. Holy smokes was it delicious! The crackly “shell” was the perfect complement to the light and fluffy cream inside, with just a hint of lemon zest and studded with chocolate chips. I could go for one of these right now..

Cannoli

We also stopped by a beautiful little restaurant called Palma that was pretty much a real-life display of everything I love in design. Palma had fresh flowers and rustic wood everywhere, book cases loaded with old books, sparkling glass trinkets, and fragrant herbs tucked into tarnished old pewter. The room shown below was actually the family’s original home and is 200 years old. The restaurant is directly in front of this building, and one day, they had to open Palma up  for a dignitary as they were out of space in the main dining room. (My memory on this is fuzzy, so apologies if I’m making anything up.) Basically, word got out that people could eat in the family’s kitchen, and it became so popular they eventually had to move out, build a house upstairs, and let their original home become an extension of the kitchen. Howard Stern is a big fan. Can you see how wonderful it would be to be with your friends and a great bottle of red in this cozy little carriage house? I definitely need to make reservations to eat here when I go back to New York.

Restaurant

For this foodie, the tour was an awesome way to get to know one of New York’s neighborhoods and get some walk-training in at the same time! I’ll definitely be trying out some of their other tours when I head back to New York, which I hope I can do in the near future. 36 hours in NYC was enough to let me know that I need to take a proper vacation there one day, probably at least a week, to really get a feel for the city. There’s SO MUCH more I wanted to see and do; like a broadway show, checking out the High Line, walking the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing Lady Liberty, visiting Ground Zero, going to the Natural History Museum, etc. I can’t wait to experience the Big Apple when I have more time on my side. For now, I’m so glad I got the chance to experience another amazing city. Have you been to NYC? What did you think?

I can not eat-eat-eat apples or bananas

It’s been a little over two months now since I found out my food allergies. I’ve been plagued with constant headaches and tummy problems my whole life but never considered it to be from the food I was eating nearly every day. I had cut out processed crap years ago so it just didn’t make sense to me how I could eat “clean” for a week yet still have a headache nearly every day.

Finally, after a blood test, the results came back saying I was allergic to wheat, rice, oats, apples, oranges, and bananas. I also am apparently right on the border line with eggs, cow dairy, corn, and CHOCOLATE.

Since finding out about the wonderful things I should no longer enjoy, I have drastically reduced everything and have noticed a dramatic change. I can not choose which food has really been the hardest thing to give up as I loved all of it. Since I’m on the border of the eggs, dairy, chocolate and corn – I have yet to even attempt giving those things up. I just don’t want to. Giving up the rest of the foods has been a challenge enough and with how great I’ve been feeling since making the change – I just don’t see a need to give up my border-line foods just yet.

I’ve lost twelve pounds in the past two months and I credit 80% of that weight loss from getting rid of my allergens. Of course, all the training walks I have been doing and having a routine food schedule from my summer job certainly helped however I am positive the food has made the biggest change. Besides the weight loss, not having to take ibuprofen nearly every day or carry tums in my pocket has been amazing.

What has freaked me out the most is what happens when I cave and eat one of the things I am allergic too. I had an enchilada at work two weeks ago, hoping it was made with corn. Within twenty minutes, I had a raging headache and within three hours, my head was worse than it had been in a long time. Six hours after the initial enchilada, I was completely congested as if I had a horrible cold.

Last Thursday night I have three small cocktail glasses of blood orange soda, a BIG favorite treat of mine. I didn’t experience any symptoms that night but the next morning I awoke with a headache that cradled the whole front part of my skull. The headache wasn’t gone until I woke up the next morning.

It’s things like that which make me realize that my sensitivity to certain foods is a real thing. I’ve mostly accepted it but I’m still somewhat in denial. I think most of my denial comes from the weirdness being that apples, bananas, and oranges are such “normal” fruits so I just don’t understand how I could be allergic to them. I can get the wheat – and even the rice and oats – because those are all grasses. Outside grass has ALWAYS been horrible on me in the sense of hay fever so obviously consuming it would be devastating for me too.

For those of you who have food allergies too – what was it like for you when you found out? What kinds of allergies do you have?

Have a fabulous Wednesday everyone, I’ll be back with another blog Friday as Alyssa is off working on the FIRST 3-day walk in Detroit happening this weekend. Did you guys know she is less than $900 from reaching her $2,300 goal? I know I still need a ton of money towards my goal – but in case you’d like to help Alyssa get to her goal since she’s already so close – click here for her page!

Bye bye!

 

AprilSignatur

 

 

De-stress with Organic India Tea: Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: I received free samples of Organic India Tea in exchange for a review.

Stress. No matter how many downward dogs, deep breaths, or meditation chants I do, stress always finds a way back into my life. It’s kind of just the age we live in; life is chaotic. Cell phones buzzing, emails pinging… the constant connection, though delightful, can also add up. When you think about a de-stressing beverage, you probably think of beer or wine. Oh yes; a nice buzz can sometimes be a great way to de-stress. But! If you’re seeking a de-stressing beverage that is appropriate for the work day, or one you can consume while in a moving vehicle, I think I have a solution.  ORGANIC INDIA has over 18 different flavors of its signature organic Tulsi, Holy Basil herb, that helps reduce stress, aid in digestion, balance metabolism, support anti-aging and overall immune system.

I was sent three types of tea to try; Original Tulsi Teabags, Raspberry Peach Tulsi Loose-Leaf, and Moringa Tulsi Teabags. First of all, I love that these teas are organic, because I recently learned that some big-name tea companies cover their tea with all sorts of pesticides (that sucks – but Organic India doesn’t). Holy Basil itself has a slightly peppery taste to it with a sweetness I really like, and don’t worry — it doesn’t taste like the classic Italian pesto, so you’re not going to feel like you’re sipping a mug of pesto. The Raspberry Peach was my favorite out of this batch, tastewise, for its fruity undertones. However, Moringa takes the cake for the coolest attributes — “Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Moringa (Moringa oleifera) are two of the most unique herbs to come out of India, and together they offer a myriad of health benefits. Tulsi is well known in the west for its adaptogenic benefits and uses in combating stress. The antioxidant activity in Moringa is extremely high, and the easiest way for your body to assimilate them is in tea form. There is one antioxidant in particular that Moringa contains called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, which is twice as powerful resveratrol, one of the most popular anti-aging antioxidant supplements on the market. EGCG has been shown to help maintain healthy LDL cholesterol levels and protect cardiovascular health.” I try and drink a cup of tea daily anyways; can you imagine if I replaced my daily breakfast tea with this one? Cashing in on the health benefits!

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The concept behind Tulsi that I love, besides the organic, non-GMO, sustainible farming side, is that you’re taking the very relaxing act of drinking a cup of tea and turning it into even more of a “chill” moment by using an herb that’s shown to be a mood lifter. Some people think that herbal remedies are hocus pocus, but having had my own garden for years and seeing how cats take to catnip and how aloe soothes burns and how peppermint can cure a gnarly stomach has proven to me that herbs are powerful forms of medicine. One note about Tulsi Looseleaf that’s just good to know: it is a smaller brew of leaf product, so you’ll end up with some sediment at the bottom of your mug (shown above). It won’t harm ya, and you’ll barely notice it, but if you’re a super picky tea drinker, you can brew through a coffee filter or use a french press.

Because I’d rather show you than tell you, let’s get to the good stuff! One lucky reader will win a nice starter pack of Tulsi Teas, in Pomegranate Green tea, Original Tulsi, and India Breakfast. Please use the rafflecopter to enter to win, and note all the extra ways you can score entries! This contest will run until Thursday, July 31 at 11:59 p.m. PST. Winner must be 18 years or older and live in the United States. GOOD LUCK!
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What’s up, Wednesday?

Hey guys! How is it Wednesday already? Time is just flying by over here lately. I had a really awesome busy weekend — saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on Friday night, saw my two wonderful friends get married on Saturday, and then went and saw New Order and La Roux on Sunday night. I also get to see Tori Amos next Wednesday! I used to be a band nerd, did you guys know that? I played the flute, and then eventually learned how to play the guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, and dabbled in the french horn and cello. I really miss music in my life; I think I should get back into it — it was an awesome creative release!

We have a winner for the Sweet Leaf Cola Drops giveaway! Congratulations to Stephanie! If you didn’t win, don’t worry; we have a giveaway coming soon for some delicious Organic India stress relieving tea.

My California Avocado prizes arrived today! Once I have everything unpacked I’ll show you some photos and also share what I’m planning to purchase from Williams Sonoma. I’m so grateful to them and Fitbloggin for hosting the contest… it’s been such a bright spot this summer! Last week, my shipment of beautiful, ripe avocados arrived, and I’ve been eating a TON of avocado. Avocado caprese salad, avocado toast, guacamole, and my favorite — avocado egg sandwiches. Look at this beauty! (I know that to some people it may not look yummy, especially if you don’t like dippy eggs, but I think it’s darn good, so there.) I also made avocado fudgsicles with honey, coconut milk, vanilla, and avocado, and they’re SO good. I’ll share a picture next time I have my camera handy in the kitchen.

I’ve been feeling a little bit sluggish this week as my stomach has been acting up, so I haven’t been as active as I like, I’m hoping I start feeling better tomorrow so I can get back into my walk training schedule. This weekend I’ll be traveling up to Northern California and I’m hoping I might also be able to squeeze in a nice long walk while I’m up there. How are your weeks going so far?