Blissful Basil Cookbook Review + A Giveaway

I am making a conscious effort to build and bloom better health habits. This involves taking initiative into myown hands and setting my pricipes to practices. Health is more than topical: its what we ingest. I believe in moderation, treating yourself, and self care. However it can be easy for some of us to neglect our health in lieu of easier options. Beginning now to December 2017 each month I will be featuring cookbooks that center around my values of whole foods, nutrient dense cooking. Though some may not be vegan, they will be vegan optional but all plant-based. My criteria involve ease, flexibility, and zero waste-friendly. So little to no packaged foods will be the cornerstone of my picks. Lets get started!

I’m not sure if cookbooks are supposed to make you emotional but when I began to read Ashley Melillo’s namesake book Blissful Basil that’s what happened.

The beautiful book opens up with a poignant introduction from Ashley. Candid about her pre-Blissful Basil days as a graduate student where she dealt with the perils many students may face: anxiety. Motivated to take control of her own health Ashley humbly and briefly discusses her journey to “self-acceptance, self-love, and sustainable joy.” I was moved by her honesty about some of the roughest points of her life, the road that led to create a brand and curator of healthy, and delicious plant-based and allergen conscious meals.

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Perhaps it hit so close to home to me because of my own issues and rough patches with my own health. Similar to Ashley, I sought out natural and therapeutic methods of self-care through good nourishment, stress control, and being honest with my own loved one about my limits and how I feel. And it starts with making healthier choices that adhere to your own needs and learning what makes you thrive, which more likely than not, is consuming plant based foundations – don’t think of “diets”, think of sustenance
Ashley’s vegan cookbook is centered on the healing through healthy nutritional choices. She chooses to thrive with her practice of cultivating happiness through wholeness. Naturally this involves being conscious of what you consume.
If you’re new to the realm of bountiful vegan eating, Ashley’s got you covered with a quick portion of her book with a rundown on her pantry & kitchen essentials with explanations on their nutrient fundamentals. Want to know why sorghum and millet are underrated nutrient & powerhouses, or the difference between the natural sweeteners, conversion charts? She’s got the bases covered. My favorite part is her decision to have a primarily allergen friendly primer, similar to her blog she focuses more on wheat-free options and substitutes. (Thank you!)
But the bulk of this book is filled with vibrant, rainbow hued recipes. The pages are filled with stunning photography, which, lets be honest, is really helpful. These meals aren’t challenging but they aren’t basic – Blissful Basil is chockfull of creative recipes that look exquisite but don’t require an overload of ingredients. Perhaps Ashley was also innately inspired by her background as a school psychologist for many of the recipes would be really great to create with children.  Think: Hazelnut Espresso Shakes, Cauliflower Tots, & Vegan Pulled “Pork” BBQ with Polenta. There’s also Electric Tumeric Lemonade and Fiesta Salad to round all that out.
Personally I am working on living a minimalist/zero waste life. This applies to what we consume. Instead of reaching for packaged meals, I want to incorporate make-ahead or overnight meals, meals that focus on whole foods and leave no waste (or it can be composted). If this is also your vibe, Blissful Basil is on your level.  Processed ingredients don’t make their way through the pages – instead it’s composed of pure plant-based sustenance without being intimidating. Anyone from clean-foodies, experimental cuisine folk, to current/former busy students looking to incorporate easier & healthier vegan meals will enjoy this delightful book. 

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Ashley’s cookbook Blissful Basil comes out December 20th (click to purchase) but if you want to win this beautiful vegan cookbook:

·      Visit this Instagram post and leave a comment with your favorite recipe from Blissful Basil’s website
·      Follow me on Instagram
·      Follow Blissful Basil on Instagram
Extra points:
·      Leave a comment here with your favorite or new winter traditions

·      Subscribe to Blissful Basil’s website and leave a comment saying you did
Ends on December 29th** Good luck y’all! 

Winter Ethical & Minimalist Clean Beauty Guide

Since I started my voyage into zero waste living I sought for ways to incorporate it into most aspects of my life. Naturally this includes beauty. While there are many DIYs and tutorials you could choose from, not everybody will lean towards that route. I wanted to create a guide (or gift guide, hello December!) with ethical and clean ingredient products with minimal impact on the earth. 
An excellent piece I recently read by LITTERLESS  Progress, not Perfection” echoes this point – don’t fight or struggle for perfection. Others can define “Zero-waste” in their own interpretation with the goal of minimizing their trash. While I believe we should reduce our trash & recycle less – I also recognize that everyone’s transition is different. We are all on our own paths and I personally choose to support companies making the effort to create sustainable choices in their products. 
It took me a good while, but striving to find a happy medium I compiled a beauty assembly that is sustainable/organic ingredients based, several of these are multi-tasking (lip/cheek stain), involve packaging that can be recycled or upcycled and all of these clean beauty treasures with companies providing sustainable practices. I will end up using these products well into 2017 before i need to make any new purchased. Make investments in well-made and ethical products and it’ll pay off! Do you have any zero waste beauty items you like? Let me know!


Axiology Lipstick in Bad & (c/o) Elusive (V/GF) | These lipsticks are hands down the goldmine of cruelty free lipstick. Free of palm-oil and full of botanical ingredients like avocado oil, elderberry, and neem seed oil. Axiology’s principles to use pure plant based creations without the use of harsh chemicals, toxins, and sourcing organic whenever possible. 
Bad is a matte chestnut 90’s brown and Elusive is a dreamy true brick red. They go on smooth and nourish and heal. Axiology doesn’t use synthetics dyes and chose to go with mineral pigments. These are truly high quality investments.

WasteWhen you order off Axiology they do come with sample that are in plastic cases so let them know you’d like to omit the samples – stick the full products. Axiology lipstick packaging are not made of plastic and it can be recycled. Although I didn’t snap the paper packaging that the lipsticks come in, Axiology’s outer packaging is collected from an island and is taken to a small factory where goes from trash to recycled packaging. Sweet!


Pacifica Natural Eyeliner in Jet (V/GF) | I was using liquid eyeliner prior to discovering Pacifica’s eye pencils. Though the liquid eyeliner’s plastic cover was recyclable I thought there were better options. Pacifica’s eyeliners are vegan, gluten free and formulated with jojoba oil, shea butter for senesitve skin. The color glides on smoothly and I

Waste: The plastic cover on the pencil generates some waste. However the packaging it comes with is completely recyclable. Company-wise, Pacifica aims to have a zero waste in their manufacturing, they recycles and use post-consumer materials.
Pacifica Mystical Supernatural Eye Shadow Palette (V/GF) | These luscious vegan palettes are made with coconut, ginseng, and kelp extracts.  I love that these are botanical based and come in a variety of colors – although I also own Power of Love, the Supernatural packet has the best winter colors.
Waste: A representative for Pacifica told me that the eye shadow palettes are also recyclable. Simply remove the aluminum tin that holds the shadows themselves then put the palette in your recycling bin for safe disposal. The outer packaging is recyclable as well.
Pacifica 7 Free Nail Polish (V/GF) in London Tomboy & Luxe Interior | What is 7-Free? These nail polishes are made without parabens, phthalates (dibutyl phthalate), toluene, xylene, camphor, formaldehyde, resin, and animals. I love the emerald color and that these polishes are very matte and lasted quite a long time than other non toxic nail polishes I’ve used. (I don’t use top coats or any other primer). These nail polishes contain vegan brush applicators as well.
Waste: Conventional nail polishes contain chemicals that are bad for the environment. Pacifica’s brand omits these but imagine how many generic nail polishes get trashed? Imagine those nail polish chemicals making their way into water systems or released into the air via incinerators. The US EPA considers nail polish to be household hazardous waste. So what to do? Check out Earth 911’s guide on properly disposing and recycling your nail polishes when they have run out. In the meantime I stick to 2-3 nail polishes per season. After than I rotate and only support recyclable and earth-friendly brands.
Fat & The Moon Dusk Lip Paint  (GF) c/o | Made up sunflower oil, beeswax, and minerals this is a hazy mauve medium-pink that can be used on the cheeks as well.
Fat & The Moon Hecate Lip Paint – (GF) c/o | Made with the same ingredients as Dusk this is a dark brick-wine color that is a semi-matte to full matte depending on how much you apply.
Fat & The Moon Eye Coal (GF) c/o | to round out the dreamy and intense color spectrum of Fat & The Moon, the pure midnight black eye coal is the non-vegan (contains beeswax) answer to clean beauty eyeliner. Since its in pot form, you can use an eyeliner brush (I recommend Eco-Tools) or clean fingers to smudge. Skip any cotton q-tips, these are smooth thanks to the sunflower oil and only contain ingredients found in nature.
Waste: Since these Fat & the Moon products come in tins you can upcycle them. The company create small batched organic & farm grown ingredients while aiming to use little to no plastic and packaging is set up to be recycled or reused.

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Ethical & Sustainable Beauty | Wellness | Pet Holiday Gift Guide

So this Holiday Gift Guide is a little late but better late than never right?! This year I wanted to feature products + shops that are of course natural but also sustainable, cruelty free and in particular no palm-oil use, or little to no use of it. 

The overproduction and unregulated use of palm oil has a led to deforestation + loss of habitat in  Indonesia, however as consumers we can support and shop from amazing brands that do not contribute or use palm and focus on environmentally friendly products! For some of these companies I wrote about why they go above and beyond to create lasting effective products and give back to communities.

But the holidays are meant to be fun, and I like to pick out beautiful Winter gift choices that are thoughtfully crafted and will make any recipient (or yourself…) happy!! All products featured here I have bought & used (with the exception of the True Balm which was sent by my partners at the Detox Market) therefore they have tested and used. Some of these would make great stocking stuffers or little handmade theme gift boxes (which is something I did this season!)

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Pacifica is a wonderful company who is also committing to using no palm-oil in their product. Along with creating vegan & cruelty free beauty & lifestyle products they care about the environment using recyclable materials and incorporating zero-waste standards.

Pacifica Natural Soy Candle in Mexican Hot Chocolate | I remember going into a Whole Foods looking for candles and came across this one, it smells so decadent – exactly like a hot-cocoa with warming spices. I can’t get enough, this is probably my favorite cold-weather candle its perfect for any candle-lover or foodies (because it smells so good!) / Pacifica Island Vanilla Natural Soap | Y’all I am a sucker for vanilla & this soap should have been named Tahitian Vanilla because thats what it smells like, its a beautiful amber color and also has jasmine, it is vegan & cruelty free *A Portion of proceeds from all Island Vanilla sales goes to the Ocean Futures Society, a nonprofit marine conservation organization.

Andalou Naturals is an amazing company who choose ingredients that are Non-GMO, Cruelty-Free, Gluten-Free, Certified Organic, Fair Trade, Vegetarian & Vegan. If they ever use a palm oil (which I haven’t found in any of the products I own or on their site) it must be sustainably sourced. They use fruit-stem cells & work with many charities (read more here) including Vital Voices and SHE CAN.
If you know anyone who loves beauty & would like to introduce them to more natural based products (the skin is the largest organ, treat it well!) These cleansers are is a great start off and would also make a sweet stocking stuffer.

Andalou Naturals Meyer Lemon Creamy Cleanser For Normal & Combination Skin. | This is a vegetarian (contains manuka honey) cleanser for those who have surface pigmentation, uneven tone, and dark spots caused by sun damage. Contains lemon, sea buckthorn & white tea. /
Andalou Naturals1000 Roses Cleansing Foam for Delicate & Dry Skin. | This is a magical product that utilizes fruit stem cells along with purely plant based ingredients to cleanse + soothe the skin. Contains hyaluronic acid & aloe vera.

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Copper & Kraft Soy Candle in Pumpkin Chai & Sea Salt Caramel | These candles are made using natural soy wax, lead-free cotton wicks, phthalate free fragrance oils and no dyes. Y’all, no lie I spent most of autumn buying a lot of candles & wax tarts from this shop. These do not have any paraffin wax and if you know someone who likes the Bath & Body Work candles these are a natural alternative that smell amazing and come in a variety of scents. They now come in a variety of sizes!
Eco Tools Kabuki Retractable Brush | This is an amazing cruelty free brush that is so soft, free of parabens & phthalates. It comes with a pouch (I lost mine though!) and its extremely effective + good for travel!

HoneyBee Gardens Pressed Mineral Powder in Luminous* | I love this powder, and its the first powder I have used (because the drugstore stuff I used as a preteen doesn’t count) I use it with the eco tools and its not “powdery” which was my initial fear. It covers my light freckles. HoneyBee gardens is cruelty free, gluten free & fragrance free & vegan.

*This product contains a palm oil derivative & I have emailed HoneyBee Gardens on future palm use and I will update this when I know.

Purple Prairie BotanicaSunStick SPF 30 | A friend of mine, Sophie, had posted an article on how many sunscreens contains chemicals such as oxybenzone & parabens contribute to coral reef damage(read more here, here & here) So I began searching for sunblocks that do not contribute to this. This Purple Prairie SunStick SPF sunblock is vegetarian (contains beeswax) natural & moisturizing thanks to shea & cocoa butter,  it must be applied ever 2 hours but it doesnt leave any white residue & its safe for kids. The company maintains rigid standards for sunscreen allowed in the protected coral reef lagoons of Mexico.

True Organic of Sweden All You Need Is Me Lotion | I received this lotion a few months ago through the Detox Market and its been a life saver because L.A. has very, very dry weather and I have felt the circumstances of it through my skin. this vegetarian balm protects the skin against weather & wind, irritation, relieves minor sunburn, whitens and reduces age spots can be used anywhere topically.

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Oh Mimi, you got your Holiday gift a little earlier. for the puppies, I like the Bobby & Bambi  Holiday Shop. The cookies featuring the Gingerbread Man are on Amazon & I got the Holiday Biscuits which I also got are still up for grabs and feature the new apple + kale w/ mint biscuits. My dogs LOVE these treats. Especially Mimi, and their other pet goodies are wonderfully made with organic, human grade, grain free they are & vegetarian!

Though not featured…and not for pets!, another animal friendly company is Grounds & Hounds who make amazing coffee and donate proceeds to no-kill animal shelters & rescues.

Well there you have it! Do you use any of these products? I also have some gift items in my shop and a coupon for 10% with the code READER. I hope everyone has a great winter season no matter how you celebrate. Stay warm!

Pet Gift Guide

This gift guide is centered around our animal companions. I have a little Shih Tzu named Mimi who is the joy of my life and consistently inspires me to be a better person and especially embrace that pesky concept called responsibility. If you are lucky to have a animal companion hopefully this will inspire you to reach out and give them a little gift to cherish their presence in your life. The items I chose vary from ethically obtained, USA made or support no-kill animal shelters.

And if you are considering to get a animal companion I could endlessly emphasize the importance of adopting from shelters and giving an animal a forever home. For more info check out Best Friends Animal Society you can also sponsor animals at wonderful sanctuaries/rescues such as Woodstock Animal Sanctuary or Nowzad

gift guide for pets

Free People Hand Stamped Pet Tags / American made coin tags for your feline or canine

Animal Hearted Best Friend’s Tee  / Animal hearted is apparel for all animal lovers and they are quite popular on Instagram. These shirts are printed with eco-friendly waterbased inks on 100% ringspun cotton tees They donate 25% of proceeds from this product will be donated to a no kill animal shelter!
Ground and Hounds Coffee Co. Morning Walk Breakfast Blend / What is coffee doing here? This shop sells 100% organic & fair trade coffee blends and donates 20% of all proceeds to rescue organizations  helping stray animals find forever homes. They believe in the no-kill shelter movement and truly work to improve animal welfare through their ethically sought out coffee beans and blends.

Calming Stress Reliever for Dogs / I have used this for my pup when we moved earlier this year. Mimi is prone to anxiety and sometimes gets scared and this was nice to have on hand when I felt she wasn’t feeling safe in new surroundings. 

Free People Fireside Plaid Doggie Tee / During winter, some dogs get cold quite easily and canine clothes can come in handy. This one is USA made from Penny and Pooch
Dr. Harvey Emune-Boost for Dogs / This one is one my wish-list, Emune-Boost is a blend of herbs that help the body’s immune fighting abilities. Its a vegan formula and I recommend this article to read and please note if you do offer your canine or feline something new such as food, medical, health (be it holistic or not) – be sure to check with a vet or start off small to make sure they are adjusting well 
Free People Printed Cat Tipi / Can’t forget the felines! handcrafted from cotton canvas, birch wood, and micro fiber suede, vegan friendly.
Bobby + Bambi Gourmet Bakery Holiday Biscuits / These treats are one of the best you can possibly get for your pup. Handmade with organic ingredients. The flavors are centered around winter such as gingerbread men and cranberry stockings. My pup really loved the pumpkin + peanut butter, and cranberry ones! They are gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free, and preservative-free. The packaging is also cute
Squeaky Plush Dog Toy Houndstooth / Squeaky dog toy filled with eco friendly fiber filling that is safe for pets

Bone Bons Organic Dog Treats Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies theoretically dogs can have chocolate in the form of carob, I have these treats and my dog loves them, they are crunchy and made with organic ingredients made in the USA. I think most dogs adore peanut butter…