Lavender- The Sleepytime Essential Oil

During one of my supper clubs, my friend brought nachos that I had to warm up in my oven. When they were done, I accidentally burned my forearm taking them out. It burned like hell, but I just put some lavender oil and within seconds I felt relief. I was hosting my favorite folks, so I didn’t even bother to tend to it again and by the end of the night, I had already forgotten about it. The next day I applied some more lavender and now there isn’t even a scar. Two applications, that’s how effective it is.

Lavender is usually considered the quintessential essential oil, known for its calming and soothing effects. It is extracted from the plants fresh flowers and has a variety of uses. Lavender is found in many different soaps, detergents, shampoos, sachets. The word lavender comes from the latin ‘lavare’, which means to wash and was traditionally used in baths to purify the body and spirit. It’s a fairly mild oil and can be applied ‘neat’ in small areas, but I recommend diluting when using on children and sensitive skin.

I am completely in love with Lavender and have used it the most since I first learned about oils. I’ve used it for sleep on my pillow, for anxiety and stress, for allergies as part of my favorite trio with peppermint and lemon. My good friend used it to get through her divorce. I use it in a baths, in my homemade face oil. It can be used on minor burns, cuts, scrapes, rashes, skin irritations. And my all time favorite is the combination of Lavender with Peace and Calming to sleep.

I actually had my nieces and her friends here this weekend and at 10 pm they were giddy and excitable, typical teens after the ACL festival and I casually turned on my diffuser with Lavender and P&C into their room and just watched as they very slowly quieted down and were in bed soon after. This oil is really useful.

For sleep, I just place some on my pillow or in my diffuser. Take some deep breaths, maybe use the 9-breath technique here and you’ll be in dreamland in no time.

Go-To Green Smoothie/Juice

If you knew me ten years ago, you could equate me to a veritable garbage disposal. I would eat loads of fast food, microwaved meals, junk, sweets, processed carbs, and drink like a champ. I was also newly diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, an autoimmune disease, suffered from severe allergies, asthma, acne, and anxiety. I didn’t give what I ate a second thought. My training didn’t teach me about nutrition. Plus my doctors never once mentioned food as medicine for my very diet related gut disease. Then I met a sweet girl with the same autoimmune disease who shared her experience with an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and how she self-healed and controlled her symptoms through nutrition and other changes.
Around the same time, I discovered farmers markets and began expanding my very junk-food heavy palate. I remember buying a bunch of vegetables at the market and had no clue what to do with them. Most of the time they would rot away in my crisper. But then I found Goop and recipes that would incorporate the vegetables I would buy. I also discovered unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice and began to use my blender to make smoothies with all those good, whole foods I would purchase. This took over my life in the morning and became my go-to green juice to kickstart my day. It was easy, fast, inexpensive, powerful and energizing and a really simple way to integrate a bunch of vegetables at the beginning of my day. This juice became my go-to green and though it has changed over the years, the basis is still the same.

Go-To Green Smoothie/Juice

If the vegetables used are organic, I keep the peel on, if not, then I wash well and peel them. More peel= more fiber= better for you.

1 cup of unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice
1/2 cup cucumber
two sprigs of parsley
1 rib of celery
handful of spinach, kale, chard or whatever green your heart desires
1 inch of ginger


add ice for smoother consistency

Now I will add a 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil, a handful of chia or flax seeds, or a couple pinches of turmeric.

I’ll usually cook an egg with spinach, garlic, and onions and top it with my pickled carrot mix and breakfast is done! It’s fast, healthy and will keep you feeling good and energized right into lunch.

9 Breaths, That Is All

We all stress out. we all get anxious. We all feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to just sit and reflect. But I’ve learned that there is. It took me many years to get here, to get to the point of work less and gain more. Once you get in the groove of ‘addition through subtraction’ you’ll start to see that this is true. It takes baby steps, time, discipline and work. It takes a desire to live in your truth and your highest self. And though I encourage EVERYONE to meditate, I realize the challenges involved with starting a meditation practice.
The benefits of mindfulness and meditation abound. Meditation has been found to decrease blood pressure and lower blood sugar as well as make your skin glow and heal anxiety. Russell Simmon’s says, “if you don’t have 20 minutes to meditate, you need two hours”. Though I totally agree with his statement, it’s difficult for me to meditate for 20 minutes and I’ve been practicing for more than a decade, I feel like there are simple techniques that can get you to a place of occasional moments of stillness and mindfulness that I share on this website.
The Dalai Lama is a wise master of all things peace, compassion and love. According to the interwebs, he practices a 9-round breathing technique that calms his mind when all is awry. The 9-breath technique helps shift your negative thoughts to positive ones, helps improve focus and concentration, boosts energy and creates overall well-being.
I’ve adapted his technique and created one that is simpler to do and learn. Take time to read and fully understand the steps. Practice with your eyes open and when you’re ready, follow for 9 rounds and wait for the magic.

First, create a quiet space that will allow you two minutes of uninterrupted breathing. Place your feet on the floor or lay down if you want.

1) Close your eyes
2) Inhale through your nose,feeling your belly expand (you can put your hands on belly to feel it) and your body fill up with light and love.
3) Exhale through your mouth, audibly if you feel it, pulling your belly button in towards your spine, attempting to make the exhale longer than the inhale. Release all the worry, anger, concern, stress on your exhale.
4) Pause at the end of exhale for two counts.
5) Repeat for 9 rounds.

After you’re done, sit for a moment experiencing the echo sensation throughout your mind and body. When you’re ready, open your eyes. Remember this technique when life goes pear-shaped or you need a boost of self-love. There is always time to calm the mind and you can do it in a simple 9 breaths.

photo by: nenetus

How I Learned To Talk Again On The Camino

In 9th grade, we sat in Mr. Bridges class listening to him lecture about the Spanish-American war. I remember the setting vividly in my mind, portable classroom with loud a/c window units, sitting on the first row, second seat, closest to the door. He asked I question and for the first time in his class, I had an answer. I raised my hand to participate, “Yes Erica, what do you think?” All eyes on me, my thoughts shuffled through my brain. I struggled to articulate my words, to deliver a succinct answer, a complete sentence. I’m not sure how long I fumbled, but it felt like forever. It wasn’t until the kid in front of me, a popular and beautiful football player, turned around and gave me a look that said ‘you’re an idiot, you’re not making any sense, shut up now before you make a total fool of yourself’ or at least that is what I read on his face. So I did. I stopped talking and contributing and would stop contributing for 20 years. That single look in an attempt at a little courage and bravery in life traumatized me forever. This on top of the lessons from my parents and society, to stay humble, stay quiet, to keep opinions to myself and share my story only with a select few, formed me into the gold-star listener I am today. This skill allows me to provide a safe space for my patients and loved ones, to listen to their joys, sorrows, worries and celebrations and have them leave with a sense of peace and hope of healing. Because storytelling and sharing with others is therapy in itself.
Last night, my friend said to me “Todd and Jessica, they’re really nice, they seem genuinely interested in my story”. I wondered why he would question this. Of course, your story is fascinating, everyone’s is. But then I remembered this feeling. The feeling that I get when people ask me about myself and I felt like it came form inauthentic place, out of obligation or platitude.
This feeling was familiar for so long, for much of my life. So when I started traveling the world in my 20’s, it would throw me for a loop that people actually inquired about me, my background, my interests, my life. If I was drinking, my confidence poured over and the words would easily flow from my mouth. But sober, I was right back in Mr. Bridges classroom, fumbling and on the verge of tears.
Then came the camino. A journey of 500 miles on foot to find my truth, to find forgiveness, to open my heart even more. A journey where all you have is your backpack and your story and the most loving, open human beings waiting to hear it. Walking side by side to a stranger was the most accelerated therapy I’ve ever experienced. They say that ‘community is the guru of the future’, I believe it. Walking and talking to strangers, sharing my struggles, my hopes, my dreams and having them reciprocate with their own, created a bond that will never be broken. Most pilgrims strip away the facade, the mask that protects our hearts from any pain and just dive in water or not. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve had the honor of experiencing. And now after three years, I still have my camino family around the world, ready to pick up where we left off.
I learned to talk again on the Camino de Santiago. I learned when people ask you a question, they’re most certainly interested in finding out your answer, in whatever manner you deliver it. They’re not asking to judge you and test you, they’re trying to find a way to your heart to see what makes it tick. Sometimes they ask to get a sneak peak into your soul. And sometimes they ask because they find you beautiful and they want to know if that beauty goes beyond your skin.
And if they walk away mid-sentence, that’s ok too. That’s a lesson to learn as well.
I’m grateful for the countless lessons that the camino taught me, from accepting kindness from strangers to the monumental importance of human connection to the deliciousness of a pilgrims menu at the end of a 20 km day. But my most powerful lesson, the one that has brought me to where I am today, able to sing my truth and not shy away, was finding of my voice again. The one that allows me to tell my story in person and on paper. Thank you Camino, you saved me in so many ways.

The Power of Community

A few weeks back, I deactivated my Facebook account. It was a practice for lent and a challenge to break my addiction to the social media devil and outside approval. I found myself attached to ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ and spent a good portion of my day checking the FB to see if I could get a boost of dopamine through my phone or computer screen. This Sunday, I logged back on after realizing that everything can be therapeutic or poison depending on how you use it.
The past few weeks away from the FB, I connected more to human beings, new friends and old buddies, than I have in a long time. It was wonderful and total bliss. Everyone I interacted with I either met face to face or through email or a phone call. This past week, my friend Melisa and I hosted a film crew who had their World Premier at SXSW. I met the director/producer of the film after telling my story about my parents on the American Pilgrims of the Camino FB page. She contacted me after sending my mom encouraging words, her film Walking the Camino and sweet messages along our journey. When she called to tell me that they had been asked to debut Phil’s Camino for SXSW, I immediately wanted to be part of it.
Yesterday, we had a sweet Pilgrim’s Brunch for the crew, Phil and Rebecca, and all the local Austin pilgrims. We were even fortunate enough to Have Pat Haggarty of Lavender Country, the first gay-themed album in history, perform acapella in my backyard!
And while Annie, Jessica, Todd, Karin, Doug and the rest of the Phil’s Camino crew were having their dreams come true, I was having mine. My dream of having an “Austin Albergue”, of people communing at my home to commune, eat, drink and be merry, came true and though it felt like everything was chaotic and scattered, it came together beautifully. I even told Annie that I could die now, that my life felt complete at that moment. The only thing that would have made it even more perfect, would be having my family of origin there with me as well.
This is my goal, to have more of these events, planned and unplanned, to have more connections away from the screen and my phone. To feed both strangers and people I love. I truly believe that revolutions can happen when people come together in the name of love and in the presence of food. We simply have to put aside our differences and find the common ground, which in the end is always love and kindness. We’re all in this together, I can’t say that enough. Hate, war, isolation, abuse, neglect has no place when you come from a place of love and compassion.
So for this, I’m infinitely grateful to FB, that it brought me to people that I would have maybe never have met, but I probably would have someway, somehow as that is how the universe works. And I believe I’ve healed my addiction to social media. My plan is to post and respond only, not peruse and stalk or procrastinate. We’ll see how it works out.
If you get a chance to watch Phil’s Camino and These C*cksucking Tears, both really beautiful and inspiring short documentary films during the festival, I highly recommend it. They are both powerful in their own right. One speaks to the power of following your dreams, perseverance and not allowing your circumstances to keep you from accomplishing what is in your heart. The other about singing your truth and not sneaking, as it ‘ruins your immortal soul’. Amazing stories, check them out for sure.

And now onto SXSW, the ultimate opportunity for connections to humans from all areas of the globe. Let’s do this!!

11 Ways To Stay Healthy During SXSW

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!! Honestly, South By SouthWest gets me super giddy and excited more than Christmas or my birthday. Many locals and Austinites curse the day that SX was born, but I frolic in the revelry that is 200,000 plus people descending upon my hometown bringing a creative energy and innovative vibe that is unrivaled, in my opinion. SXSW is THE festival of the year. Craving new, amazing music? Done. Want to meet fascinating people from all walks of life? Done. Solar powered merry- go-round? Done. Free ice cream? Done. Jack White Pop Up Show? Done. Bill Murray bartending at Shangri-La? Done. President Obama keynote? About to be done.
The only part of SX that has gotten me in my early years was sleep deprivation, over-intoxication and greasy, unhealthy food indulgence. I would often go all day and all night and wake up early to do it all over again. Now that I’m older and wiser (and rarely drink), I’ve created a plan to keep me ready to go for the entirety of the festival. Usually, I’ll just gear up to do the music portion, which lasts five days, but this year, I’m hosting a film crew who is world premiering their short at our beautiful festival, so I’ll be non-stop for 11 days and I would love for you to join me.
Here are 11 ways to get your healthy on during the most wonderful time of the year:

1. Juice It UP
This is an easy way to get a nice, robust boost to your whole body and mind in the morning or afternoon. If you live here and you have a blender or juicer, invest in a big ass bottle of unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice. Wheatsville, HEB, Whole Foods all have their own version of this. Then buy a ton of organic greens like spinach, kale, celery, cucumbers, parsley. Add carrots, beets, ginger, some coconut oil, chia seeds and blend it with ice. Boom. Healthy greens, first thing. Trust me your body will thank you. If you’re from out of town, go to Juiceland and get the Tigerlily or Applelily. You can have them add some good stuff too.

2. Turmeric Tea
Turmeric is my go-to feel good herb. My momma gave this to my poppa early in his Alzheimer’s disease, as its an anti-inflammatory powerhouse. It’s been used for 4,000 plus years and comes from the ginger family. It comes in root form or powder and functions as well as 800 mg of ibuprofen. I often tell my athletic friends to drink a jar of this turmeric tea post-workout. That means instead of killing your kidneys by taking ibuprofen after your all-night drinking binge, you can make this and feel even better! So here it is: boil some filtered water, add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder, squeeze a half lemon, a couple drops of honey and a dash of black pepper, to activate the turmeric. Put over ice or drink as a warm tea and feel the anti-inflammatory goodness fill you up.

3. Shots! Shots! Shots! Of Water
Buy a cool glass or metal water bottle and carry it all around town. Or drink ‘shots’ of water after each alcoholic beverage. This is actually Bill Murray’s hangover prevention tool. He taught it to me. Seriously. Right after he served me a Tito’s press at Shangri-la followed by a shot of water. Okay, maybe not. A girl can dream, can’t she?
Our bodies are 70-75% water, this means if you overwhelm your system with crap in the form of food, drinks or drugs, then it has a hard time balancing and operating optimally. Plus it makes your skin look fabulous. Ideally, what I tell my patients is to drink 1/2 their body weight in ounces of water daily. Deal? Trust me, your stamina will go through the roof if you follow this one. And stamina and SX go hand in hand.

4. Eat at Casa De Luz
According to my very reliable source, this plant-based, macrobiotic mecca was started by a certain MaryAnn who lived in Clarksville and fed her low-income neighbors wholesome, vegetarian food for health before it was a trend. This in fact is kind of one of my dreams, by the way, but it’s going to be on the East side instead. It eventually turned into a restaurant that is run by volunteers and only serves the healthiest of foods and beverages. For a fixed price of $12 you can make your cells sing and get an energy-infusing meal right in the heart of Barton Springs. It’s also a good place to connect and incorporate community into your SX, as if there wasn’t enough already. The entire area around CDL is pretty magical, I guess you’ll just have to make a visit.

5. Eat at Soup Peddler
These folks know what they’re doing when it comes to souping and juicing. I believe they have four locations now, two South, one off Airport and a north location. The green goddess and veggie chili are my usual go-to soups. You can actually feel the nutrients steep into your body with each slurp. They also have bagged bone broth, which I recommend getting and drinking in addition to your morning coffee every morning of SX, if you’re not vegetarian. The folks here are also farm-to-soup/juice enthusiasts and try to integrate local farmers food into their menu as much as possible.

6. Eat at Thai Fresh
Jam has been my jam since her farmers market days. She has cooked up some of the best thai food I’ve had and I love that she’s always tried to use local farmers meat and produce. Thai Fresh has ‘Clean’ options that they will curate just for your anti-inflammatory mojo and delicious deserts and ice cream that range from vegan to gluten- free to sugar-free. Like anywhere else you can indulge, but I stick to their papaya salad, kale salad, chicken rice, glass noodles with extra veggies or one of their delicious curries.

7. Eat at Whip-In
There are so many places I’m grateful for learning about early on, but this is probably my favorite. I’ve always dug the vibe of the Whip-In and the people who go there are truly the coolest of the cool. It’s deeply rooted in community, which is my beloved, so perhaps that is why I’ve held it in such high esteem. I love that I can get kombucha on tap and not feel out of place. They too use organic, sustainable, local produce, meats and products like Slow Burn queso, freaking YUM!! I typically get the rice bowl or the special depending on the number of veggies involved. Go eat here, but don’t tell anyone about it. Thanks.

8. Eat At Ingredients
Another cool place to snag a cold kombucha and some yummy healthy food is Ingredients. It’s a zero packaging grocery store that also makes a bunch of their own salads and dishes. Their vegan ‘chicken’ salad is amazing as is their kale salad. They have bites like dolmas and empanadas and then a whole local produce section in the back that you can use to create your own food. Picnic tables galore among a beautiful garden make this place a go-to if its gorgeous out.

9. Eat At Hightower
I have a special place in my heart for Hightower. Maybe its because I see the head chef at my farmers market and I see where my food comes from. I’m also an East Sider, which means that this restaurant is my neighborhood bar and grill. Though the quality of the cuisine is quite high-end in my opinion, you won’t blow your SX budget dining here. It’s one of my favorite farm to table restaurants in Austin and my go-to menu items include seasonal veggies like brussel sprouts in PB, roasted broccoli, blistered green beans, fried chickpeas. They also have amazing mahi-mahi ceviche and smoked redfish that is to die for. Yes, these may sound a bit decadent, but if done right in the perfect fill-you 80% full sizes and you pace yourself practicing mindful eating (which I always recommend), you’ll be just fine and your belly will be so very happy.

10. Climb Some Rocks
Austin Bouldering Project is kind of a dream come true for anyone who grew up climbing rocks. A day pass gets you access to the gym, yoga classes, and bouldering and will put you back a mere $16. Shoes are free to borrow on your first visit. I live down the block from the gym, so my day will likely start with some climbing, a sauna session and maybe some yoga, if I can get there early enough. They’re super nice folks and the community is rad. It’s a nice escape from all the downtown madness with just as much fun and creative energy.

11. Sleepy Tea and Lavender Oil/Bath
Tiny Taiga is a sweet little ‘heal goods and soul treats’ store on e. 11th street that I recommend checking out. I was given some of their muscle relaxing, super-stressed mind tea as a gift for V-day and whoa, does it relax the hell out of you. Drinking their tea plus rubbing some lavender oil on the bottoms of your feet and into your pillow will allow you to get a goodnight’s rest so you can go all day and all night all over again. Or if you wanna get really crazy, try a lavender oil bath and soak your weary bones after a day of drinking, walking, talking, eating and dancing.

Obviously there is a theme here. Lots and Lots and LOTS of veggies. Plant-based foods keep you the healthiest of healthy. Yes, you can have your Micklethwait deliciousness and East Side King pork belly at some point during the madness, but our bodies and mind need the nutrient dense, powerhouse foods to stay gold and stay SX. Veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes provide a foundation on which your body works at its best. Plus it helps clear up your skin, gets your bowels moving like a champ, boosts your energy improves sleep, improves thinking, and you’ll have better sex!

So why not go to the best places in Austin to get them prepared just perfectly for your picky, Whiskey loving palate?

OH!! And one plus I learned this weekend during my Ayurveda class. Travel often causes your digestion to slow down and sometimes things stop moving. If you want an easy, effective way to get them going again get a bite of ginger, a piece of rock salt and a squeeze of lime and eat it. You should feel your intestines talking soon after. Gut health and good digestion are keys to optimal health, trust me.

Some other things you can do to keep healthy: pace yourself, find time to meditate or go still, you’ll boost your optimal brain and body power with just five minutes of mindful silence and breathing. No FOMO allowed (increases stress hormone, leading to immune system suppression and acne), set your intention, release expectations and just have fun. Oh and laugh, laugh as much as possible. Go see a comedy show, a funny new film, or sit with people who help put those belly muscles to work.

My intention: to hear incredible, unknown music, to connect to amazing, interesting, funny humans, eat from all of my favorite places and pack a lunch or two, to laugh, have as much fun as possible and go with the freedom flow. That is all.

Hope this helps as you go along your beautiful SXSW journey. Happy SX!!