Why I Love Beautycounter (and a Safe Beauty Sale!)

I recently announced on my Instagram that I am now a Beautycounter consultant and am on a mission to share #betterbeauty with all of you!

Beautycounter is cleaning up Black Friday early with Clean Friday. Starting today Beautycounter is offering 15% off site-wide* and FREE shipping over $65 from now until December 1.

Beautycounter’s mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone. This means they not only rigourously test their own products using only clean and safe ingredients, but they also are leading a charge to lobby government to implement stricter legislation around what can be used in skincare and beauty products. Interested in reading more about Beautycounter and its founder, Gregg Renfrew? Visit their story on the Beautycounter website here.

Never shopped Beautycounter before and don’t know where to start? Let me break down a few favourites for you.

For You

Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Lotion: This is kind of the holy grail of the entire Beautycounter line. It provides 24 hours of hydration adapts to your needs througout the day. Countermatch mimics skin using plant molecules and gives you only what you need and nothing that you don’t. An excellent daily moisturizer that gets the job done.

The Charcoal Mask: This mask is AMAZING. With activated charcoal, it absorbs excess oil and draws out impurities. Trust me, you need this mask in your life. It literally draws the dirt and oils out from under your skin’s surface and the tingling sensation feels SO satisfying.

Overnight Resurfacing Peel: Use the resurfacing peel on a clean face under your moisturizer at bedtime and wake up to a brighter complexion. That tingling sensation? It’s clearing away dull surface cells and feels so damn good.

Counter+ Lotus Glow Cleansing Balm: This balm cleanses, removes makeup and impurities with nourishing ingredients and won’t strip away your skin’s natural moitsure. It doubles as an overnight mask for a hydrating facial effect. Did I mention it smells like a dream and leaves your face feeing oh-so-soft?

Holiday Gifts

The Better Balm Duo (shown above): Are there any men reading this still? Yes? Okay, good. This makes an amazing stocking stuffer for your wife or girlfriend. Includes one tinted and one untinted lip balm formulated  conditioning muru muru butter and a plant-based alternative for retinoids to give her even more kissable lips. Trust me, she wants these balms!

The Jellies: Okay, these are SO FUN! A pack of five fun lip glosses sweetened with Stevia. Perfect for your sis or best friend – or break them up and add them into teacher, daughters, nieces, cousins and hostess gifts. Or just keep them for yourself!

The Body Butter Trio: Giving winter skin LIFE, the Body Butter Trio is formulated with shea butter and sunflower oil and leaves your skin feeling so hydrated. Again, this is a perfect gift to break up and split amongst recipients or gift all three to one lucky lady.

For Him

Counterman Cooling Aftershave Tonic: Not all men are into “products,” right? Mine isn’t anyway, but he does shave every day. So this Christmas, I am going to ease him into skincare with the cooling aftershave tonic. He loves the Saje wellness peppermint halo roll-on, so I know he’ll love this cooling, protective tonic after his morning shave.

Counterman Charcoal Body Bar: Everyone needs to get clean in the shower, right? There’s no reason that this charcoal body bar for “him” can’t actually be for you, too!

Those are just a few of my recommendations but please feel free to reach out here in the comments or DM me on Instagram if you have any Beautycounter questions. Let’s make sure what we are putting on our skin is SAFE, friends. Thanks for popping in!

*exclusions apply.

How We Stay Happy and Active in Winter

Winter has arrived in Winnipeg! With a crazy snow storm landing in early October, it feels like winter came and left and then came back again. After a little bit of seasonal confusion, I feel that I can safely say winter is here to stay, so let’s embrace it, friends!

This weekend, a few families from our street bundled up and walked over a couple of blocks to Omand’s Creek for some outdoor fun. We spent two hours removing ice from the footbridge, sliding down hills, checking out natural ice rinks, and drinking hot chocolate. All in all, an amazing day.

I’m the first to want to hibernate and hide from frigid temperatures, but I know that actually just makes it harder. I definitely feel the affects of winter on my mental wellness if I’m not being pro-active and embracing it. Here’s what I find helps:

  1. Exercise. This can be indoors or outdoors but incorporating some aerobic activity where I get my heartrate pumping a few times a week definitely keeps me feeling optimistic about life. My favourites ways to stay active throughout the winter are The Fitual, winter running, and Wheelhouse Cycle Club.
  2. Spending time outdoors. Even if it’s reeeeeeaaallly cold, which will happen, it’s still so important to spend time outdoors and breathe in that crisp, cold air. I’m prone to come up with all kinds of reasons to stay in when it’s bitterly cold, so if you see me do that this winter please just refer me back to this post.
  3. Dress warm! Layers, layers, layers. I love wrapping myself up in my MPG Sport Blizzard Down coat, it literally feels like a warm hug. Miles stays cozy in his bright red MEC Toaster Suit and Juliette is in year two with her Gapkids parka. She was very specific that she wanted a black coat with a fur hood just like mom’s.
  4. Make plans with friends. Last winter, we started a monthly pizza night with a couple of other families. It was such a great way to stay connected and enjoy a night out as a family. Making it a pizza night is extra helpful because then no one feels pressure to cook!
  5. Stock up on games and puzzles. Long hours spent indoors can wind up meaning long hours spent on screens if we’re not careful. Having a stack of puzzles and kid-friendly games will get us off our devices and enjoying time together. Some of our favourites are Telestrations, Headbanz and, the classic of classics, Monopoly (or Monopoly Jr.).

There you have it! A few fairly easy solutions to beat winter dulldrums and embrace what can be an unpopular time of year.

Thanks for popping in, friends!

What we’re eating: One pot curried vegetables

Jason called me around noon yesterday and said (with a mouthful of food, I might add), “I’m eating a chicken wrap for lunch… I forgot!” What he forgot is that we aren’t supposed to be eating meat anymore! At least not for the most part.

And before you ask, or make the recommendation, yes we watched The Game Changers on Netflix and, yes, that documentary was a big motivator in trying to make the transition to a more plant-based diet. If you haven’t seen the film yet, I definitely recommend checking it out. The main focus of the doc is on the health benefits of a plant based diet but they also discuss the environmental and animal side of things as well.

It’s been about a week and a half with our new-found eating habits, and by no means have we made the full switch over to all plant based. Will we ever go all in? I don’t know. Maybe yes? This shift will take some time and a bit of getting used to but so far we’re into it.

Surprisingly, Jason has been the main driver of it all. I mean, let’s not get confused, I basically do all the household cooking (and it’s not like that’s changing anytime soon), but he’s just as eager as I am to make the change and actually he was the one who piped up first and said “we gotta do this.” Both of us really prioritize health and wellness, so this next step feels like a natural evolution.

We all know the benefits of plant based diets whether we choose it or not. Lower cholestoral. Less animal agriculture. Better environmental impacts. But here is what I’m actually discovering to be one of my favourite benefits. MORE DELICIOUS FOOD OPTIONS AND RECIPE IDEAS.

I’m happy to report that I have navigated out of a cooking rut that I’d been wallowing in for a loooooong time. And hallelujah! Last night I made a one pot curried vegetable dish and it was, in my and Jason’s humble opinions, delicious! I’ve also started incorporating miso and ramen noodles into my repertoire. More soups and stews! And this weekend I am testing out a meatless Shepherd’s Pie with green lentils from Fraiche Food, Full Hearts. I’ll let you know how that turns out!

I was so stuck in my meat-with-a-side-of-vegetable cycle and dinners were just becoming so boring. Which is sad because I love cooking and, I love eating! So this shakeup in the kitchen has been welcome change. I encourage anyone who’s stuck in the same rut I was to consider going meatless a couple of days a week and force yourself out of your routine. You just may find yourself with way more culinary imagination and rewarded by delcious food! And with veganism and plant-based foods becoming so much more mainstream, it’s never hard to find inredients or inspiration.

Here is last night’s curried vegetable “recipe” in case you’re looking for some inspiration.

1 medium red or yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 medium carrots
Several mini potatoes (I don’t know how many I used! But just eyeball it. These will make up a bulk of your dish.)
1 red bell pepper
handul of spinach
1/2 cup of cashews (optional)
tablespoon-ish of curry powder (I actually didn’t measure so just use your own judgment)
1 can coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
s + p to taste

Start by sautéeing the onion and garlic over medium. Add sliced carrots. Sautée for about three minutes. Add potatoes. Sautée another four to five minutes and add chopped bell pepper. Sautée another couple of minutes. Add can of coconut milk, vegetable broth, curry powder and cayenne. Let simmer on medium for five to eight minute and then reduce meat to medium low. Let simmer another six to ten minutes until vegetables are soft but not to mushyy. Then add the spinach and mix until wilted. Top with raw cashews and serve with toasted naan bread. Enjoy!

Do you have any great meatless dishes that you love? Share them with me! I’m always looking for new ideas.

Have a great one, friends!

Am I officially middle-aged?

Me, a woman in her 40s and feeling pretty okay about it 🙂

Just writing out that title feels weird. Middle-aged? Me? At 40 years old, I think I can safely say I have arrived in the middle.

A couple of days ago, I was driving around running errands and listening to Q on CBC Radio. Tom Powers was interviewing Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20, and they were chatting about that song Smooth that he did with Carlos Santana in the late 90s. Remember that one? If you don’t, you clearly lived under a rock because it was everywhere. Listening to it, I was immediately transported back to being 20 years old and dancing with my then boyfriend at bars and parties surrounded by friends and having loads of fun. (Back in those days, the partying still WAS fun until I took a real nose-dive later on and eventually got sober at 27.)

The song has really stuck with me over the last couple of days, mostly because it’s so damn catchy but also because it represents a moment in time that will never relive itself. I will never be in my twenties again. I mean, this isn’t news but it also kind of IS news…

It sort feels like we just go along in life and do our best, right? Choosing left or right turns, buying a home, making career changes, having babies (or not having babies), and all the rest of it. And then BOOM, you realize it’s been 20 years since you were 20! When it really only feels like it’s been about five.

Truthfully, I wouldn’t want to relive my twenties. They were hard and I struggled a lot. As mentioned, I wound up making transformative changes that would redirect my life and steer me in a better direction. But in the earlier part of that decade, before it got tough, there was such a sense of carefree living and fun to be had. Old enough to live on my own, travel and be adult-ish but young enough to also still be kind of a kid. This was especially true for me because I reeeally took my time before eventually deciding to grow up.

I actually met my husband at right around age 20. Obviously, I didn’t know that we would wind up together (we didn’t start dating until five or six years later) but sitting here today with the perspective of having lived through it, it’s so interesting to me that that 20-year old Alison had NO IDEA that she met her future husband on that night. Funny how life works. Twenty-year old me had no clue that 40-year old me would marry that guy and even have a couple of kids together.

My mom, who is in her 70s, tells me that her 40s is how she pictures herself in her mind’s eye. She tells me that this version of me is the one that will stick with me the longest. The honest-to-goodness, grown-up, 40-something me is who I will think of when I am older and close my eyes to sleep at night. The middle-aged me.

I’ve told the following story to so many friends on so many occasions, but I am going to tell it here, too. A few years ago, while on maternity leave with Miles, I was on my way to the hair salon and stopped in at Starbucks along the way. As I entered the coffee shop, I caught my reflection in the window and was taken slightly aback by what I saw. “There’s a woman firmly situated in her mid- to late-30s,” I thought to myself. At age 37, that was accurate, but I had never seen myself that way before. For so many years, I looked a bit younger than I actually was. I think I handily pull off 27 until I was at least about 34 (okay, maybe 32). Catching my reflection that day was the first time I realized that was no longer the case. I definitely did NOT look 27 anymore. And it felt…strange.

Today, the creases and wrinkles in my face continue to take me by surprise. It seems that at age 40, I’m really starting to look and sometimes feel older than I ever have before (which I am, duh). I notice, sometimes with a touch of resentment, that the deep laughlines around my mouth show my age long before I have a chance to utter it. I privately curse all my years of smoking and sun-bathing as though my twenty-year old skin would remain that way, unchanged, forever. Yes, the creases tell a story of a life well-lived but damnit, they sure do take some getting used to.

Here’s the upshot though, and it’s a good one. I also feel so much more in tune with myself than I ever have before. I really know who I am today and have confidence in my abilities. It’s a confidence that has taken decades to solidify. I’ve got the benefit of time on my side and a track record to look back on to see where my past experiences can help guide my future choices. My heart and my gut lead me today, and with the benefit of having history to look back on, I know that when I trust them they always steer me down the right path.

It’s true, my days of dancing in bars as a 20 year old are done. But isn’t that actually a huge relief? I’d way rather curl up in bed next to my husband at 9:30 pm with a cup of tea and a good book. I know that today because I know who I am, and I know that simple pleasures are what make me feel content. That 20 year old me? She was fun, but she really didn’t know herself very well at all. It makes me wonder what 80 year old me will look back on and think of 40 year old me. And just as I couldn’t have imagined being 40, today I can’t imagine being 80!

How do you feel about getting older? Does it sneak up on you, too? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! 🙂

Spring has sprung

I am feeling RENEWED this week! Spring has finally arrived in Winnipeg and along with it a new sense of optimism has opened up in my mind and heart. I recently wrote about feeling a bit like I’ve been floating in limbo. Uneasiness has lingered around me like a fog for the last few months, sometimes light and other times dense, but always more or less present.

I think change presents those foggy feelings. It’s just like when you start a new job and have to learn things all over again. You might be excited for the new job but the transition part always more or less sucks. It takes time to settle into it and find your mojo. I was expecting that I was going to make this huge life change (leaving 9 to 5 to work p/t for our family biz) and have immediate mojo. Insta-mojo, if you will. I was wrong.

The good news is that this week everything shifting and the fog feels lifted. I can see sun beams shining through again and, let me tell you, it’s a relief.

This shift is no accident. Although it coincides with spring’s rather late arrival in Winnipeg, it’s also being escorted in with a new attitude I’ve been fostering. I know from years in a recovery program that when I open myself up to the universe, willingness and openness collide with opportunity and it’s no coincidence.

I’ve learned that it’s important to remember that nothing is permanent. Whether floating on a high of good feelings or struggling with discomfort and restlessness, you can always count on things changing whether you actually want them to or not. And I was getting pretty uncomfortable in recent weeks with that heavy, dense fog that followed me around with only intermittent relief. I started to worry that my discomfort wasn’t going to change.

Turns out, what was actually needed for the sunlight to burst through the fog was an inside job. You know that old saying, nothing changes if nothing changes. It was up to me to open myself up to create some space for opportunity and light to find me.

So, today I have a renewed sense of optimism and hope for a bright, meaningful future where passion collides with opportunity and output.

Happy long weekend!

Habits: the bad, the good and the better

Do you have any bad habits? I do. Several, actually. None that are necessarily harmful or that I worry too much about. I feel I also have good habits and so it all balances outs. I work out and run regularly, and I eat fairly well. So, I’m all good, right?

Almost… but there is one nasty habit that I have to break. Part of me doesn’t really WANT to break it, but I know I NEED to break it.

I spend too much time on my phone.

There, I admitted it. I’m sure it’s probably an addiction (but I prefer to call it a ‘bad habit’). My guess is that I’m not alone with this phone habit, am I? We live in a society of fifteen second videos and perfectly curated Instagram feeds constantly bombarding us with ideas of how we can be better, thinner and more stylish versions of ourselves. And, unfortunately, it’s got me hooked. Part of me figures since we are all basically hooked on our phones, then why should I have to bother changing anything.

The answer is, I think it’s bad for my mental health and stunts potential opportunity for growth. And I don’t want to be stunted.

Moreover, I find myself CONSTANTLY negotiating and putting limits on my kids’ screen-time (I’ve also been known to nag Jason about picking up his phone while we are talking or eating dinner together). In reality, I’m probably the worst for this in my family and (shame on me) if anyone dares to police my phone habit, they’re likely to get a quick snipe back at them! So, I’ve decided it’s time I police myself a little and start building better screen-time habits.

In order to put limits on my bad habit, I know I need to replace it with good habits. With that in mind, I’ve come up with three tactics to put into place to switch the bad to good.

1. Put the phone in a drawer and put on some good tunes.

One of the times of day I am particularly bad for mindless scrolling is after the school/dinner-making hour. Juliette and Miles will usually be playing or watching a show and eating a snack around this time. I tend to enjoy some time chilling out and scrolling my phone before I start to pull supper together in the kitchen. Isn’t that awful?? I could be spending quality time with my kids but instead I’m wasting time on Instagram. I feel a little gross just admitting it!

This time of day organically starts to change as the weather warms up, and we naturally start spending more time playing outside with our neighbours. But until that happens (spring weather can feel free to show up anytime…), we tend to stay indoors more between the hours of 4 and 6 pm. So, rather than stick my nose (and theirs) in a screen, I’m going to put on some music, pull out some puzzles or colouring, and enjoy some time with the kids. Maybe we’ll have a little dance party or handstand contest! I can leave the tunes playing while cooking dinner and maybe even get the kids to help in the kitchen. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that children learn from what they see, not what they’re told. If I want them to have less screen time, I need to set that example. It starts with me!

2. Morning meditation

I doubt that spiritual gurus and wellness coaches have been spreading the word about the benefits of meditation and setting intentions for the day because it’s a BAD idea!

I’ve dabbled with meditation on and off over the years but rarely stayed committed for any length of time. My excuse is always that “mornings are crazy with the kids,” yadda, yadda… But honestly, I spend twenty to thirty minutes upstairs blowdrying my hair, putting on makeup, and looking at my phone every morning. During that half hour, the kids rarely come upstairs. With that in mind, I know I can definitely dedicate five minutes daily to a morning meditation. Five minutes may not seem like much time but it feels like a manageable starting place for a beginner.

In the past, when I’ve played around with meditating, I used the Headspace app on my phone and found it super helpful. My plan is to start using that app again to get me into the habit and to acquire some helpful meditation tools. The narrator, whose voice is so calming and gentle, presents guided meditations of any length you choose. You can also set up the app to send you notifications throughout the day with mindful messages and little bits of wisdom.

3. Read a book

Finally, I am going to start reading BOOKS again, dammit! I used to read every night before bed and now I lay under my covers, comfy and cozy, and I scroll. For far too long, I scroll and peruse images of people I know, and many don’t, doing random things that have nothing to do with me. I waste SO MUCH TIME scrolling! I don’t want to be that person! I want to be the Ali that reads again!

It’s not for lack of reading material that I wind up scrolling. Frankly, I’m just being lazy. I have a stack of books just waiting for me to pick them up. Good books, too! Becoming by Michelle Obama is first up on my list. I started reading it a couple of months ago and set it down after two chapters with the intention of picking it up again the next night… and then, I just didn’t.

On the plus side (and in my defense), I have been reading an excellent novel with Juliette for the last month. Every night we read a few chapters of Wonder. Have you read it? I cry almost every night while reading it to Juliette. Technically it’s children’s literature, but I think it’s a beautiful book for readers of all ages. Highly recommend! They made it into a film with Julia Roberts that we are going to watch when we finish the book. I’ll be sure to have a fresh box of tissue nearby…

My reading goal at one book per month. Maybe I’ll even start a book club here on the blog! Would you join? Leave a comment below and if there’s interest that could be something fun to roll out in the coming months.

There you have it! I am consciously committing to spending less time on my phone and MORE time doing things that are actually good for me. Here’s where the accountability comes in: I am going to report back to you on the blog how I’m doing with my commitment. I promise I’ll be honest! I plan to write quick weekly updates on my progress and, thanks to that awful little iPhone feature that reports your screen-time, I’ll have actual measurables to tell me if I’m succeeding or not.

Wish me luck!