Thursday, September 22, 2016

Using Teas to Soothe and Fuel My Day (+ a Giveaway from Lauku!)

Those of you who read here regularly or follow me on social media know that my family and I have been going through some pretty stressful times recently. And while I am incredibly grateful for the small victories we've seen, the love and positive vibes we've received from others, and the pieces of good news that have come our way thus far, I would be lying if I told you the stress hasn't taken its toll. I've been physically and mentally drained like never before, and my brain has been on overdrive thanks to worry and lack of sleep. As a result, I've had to stop and consciously figure out how to take care of myself along the way, and also to find new ways to enjoy simple moments in my days that I've set aside just for me. One of the biggest (and most effective) ways I've done this is through the act of drinking three very different but equally soothing cups of tea each day, all from a wonderful, inspiring little company called Lauku.

The act of drinking tea as a means of self care is nothing new, of course, and it's something I've personally done for a long time. But it really took finding a conscious tea brand with a "farm-to-cup" philosophy and a talent for creating the perfect teas for different moments of the day for me to genuinely feel completely satisfied by the experience. The flavor is one of the main reasons Lauku Tea is my personal favorite, but there are a lots of other aspects of the company that make me feel good about them being such an integral part of my current daily routine. First, you can't find their teas on grocery store shelves or even in specialty tea houses. This is because the tea travels directly from the Ozolini farm in Lativa to me (or to you!). And on this farm, the Lukina family plants, grows, harvests, picks, dries and hand-packages all the tea themselves. (Did I mention that women rule the farm? I am totally down with that!) I also love that their teas are all natural, certified organic, and 100% sustainably grown - and without a doubt the freshest teas I've ever tasted. I genuinely feel soothed, restored, and fueled for my day with the help of these delicious teas - which has been really important to my headspace and body during a challenging time. Oh, and the teas are absolutely gorgeous to look at too. I feel like I'm pouring dried flowers into my cup every time.

Each morning, I start out with a cup of Brigita's Daylight Blend. The blend of dried apple and meadow clover flowers is sunny and rejuvenating and an overall great way to wake up. Sometimes I add a splash of almond milk and some honey, but I usually just drink it plain. I really like starting my day feeling like I'm doing something to take care of my mental well being, even if just through a cup of organic tea.

In the afternoon, I make myself a cup of Anna's Heritage Blend. Crafted with forest raspberry, wild strawberry, chamomile and mint, it makes for the perfect mid-day break. The chamomile calms my mind and the mint and berries provide a subtly uplifting burst to help me feel motivated to continue with my daily tasks. I always drink this plain.

I end each day with Evita's Twilight Blend, which I'd best describe as serene, soft, and soothing. With meadowsweet, calendula, catnip and lemon balm (also called Melissa and the herb after which my mom named me, by the way), it's the perfect blend for winding down. I usually drink this with a splash of organic milk and some honey. (It's hard to pick a favorite, but if I had to, this one would likely be my choice).

Reevaluating things and reminding myself of the importance of being intentional with self care - even through something as simple as three cups of tea a day - has been incredibly helpful in getting on a path to feeling more like myself again. Whether you're in the best place you've ever been in your life or you're in some need of some serious self care like I have been, I highly recommend trying out Lauku Tea's delicious, handcrafted blends. I'm hooked, in the best of ways. And I can't wait to give Lauku as holiday gifts in a couple of months.

Speaking of giving, I also get to give the gift of Lauku Tea to one of you! One lucky Bubby and Bean reader is going to get a beautiful Latvian Sun Sampler package, as well as one 2 ounce package of each of the three blends: Brigita's Daylight Blend, Anna's Heritage Blend, and Evita's Twilight Blend. The value of these goodies is $60, but the pleasure they'll bring you is priceless. Trust me on this.

To enter, just use the form below. There are several options for extra entries as well.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway will run through September 29, 2016 and is open to Bubby and Bean readers worldwide. A winner will be randomly chosen via and announced here shortly after the end of the giveaway.

Thank you to our friends at Lauku Tea for giving us such a fantastic package to give away, and for making such delicious, consciously crafted teas. I can't wait to hear what you guys think once you try them for yourselves!

This post is in partnership with Lauku Tea. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Baby Emmett Update: Good News + a Scare

It's been a while since my last Emmett update. And while I'm trying to get back into the swing of things blog/work wise (it felt pretty great to get to do a lighthearted What I'm Wearing Now post yesterday), the reality is that Emmett's illness is still the biggest part of our daily life right now - so it would feel a little insincere not to continue to share what's happening with him here now and then. We actually had a pretty substantial scare that required hospitalization last week, but for the most part, he is doing so, so great. I can't put into words how grateful I am for that. 

I'll start with the awesome things that are happening. Emmett is now in the final stages of his 8+ week medication run (6 weeks down, 2.5 to go), and has gone from twice daily injections of .4 ml to every other day injections of .3 ml (which goes down to .2 this week!). So far (fingers crossed so hard!) he has not had any more seizures. We know that there is a 50% chance of them returning after the wean ends, but we are staying positive. He is such a happy baby, and he is continuing to progress developmentally, so for right now, we are remaining cautiously optimistic  The type of epilepsy he has causes developmental delay in the vast majority of cases, but so far, we haven't seen that with him. Early Intervention assessed him and despite lack of any noticeable delay, will continue to come out and work with him once a month. They are so wonderful and Emmett loves his therapist! We did receive some semi-concerning results from some bloodwork that showed a possible Vitamin B12 deficiency or other metabolic issue, so I took 10 days of a high dose of B12, as directed by his neurologist, to transfer to him via breastmilk, and he will be retested next month. But really, he is doing so great you guys. I close my eyes and mentally thank the universe for this multiple times a day.

And now I'll get into the hospitalization and profoundly intense scare we had last week. (I confess that this is mostly copied from an update I did on Facebook, but there's no sense in repeating it with different wording.) I'd noticed a mass on the muscle on his back early in the week. His neurologist examined it last Tuesday and ordered an MRI for Friday morning to look into what was diagnosed as a "mass of the spinal cord." Thursday morning though, I noticed that it had increased in size. I called his neurologist and emailed some pictures. We were advised to go to the ER. Apparently Neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer, can present itself as a mass in that area along with seizures like Emmett has had - and our neuro had patients in the past where this had occurred. I packed a bag and left Essley, who woke up with a 103 degree fever by the way, with Robbie's mom who happened to be in town, and Emmett and I drove to the hospital.

In the ER, Emmett was given an ultrasound. He was also given a dose of a cancer treating steroid used for Neuroblastoma, which was pretty terrifying. He was then admitted with an MRI scheduled for first thing in the morning. The ultrasound came back normal, which was actually potentially "bad" because it meant that because nothing superficial was found, there was a greater chance for a potential spinal tumor deep underneath. Robbie flew home from the road and met us at the hospital, and we spent the night researching this type of cancer and feeling indescribably stressed.

This morning at 7:30 Emmett was put under general anesthesia and underwent a 2 hour MRI. He was brought back to the room at 9:45 and we spent the day waiting for the results. At 3 PM, the doctor finally came in and told us he did NOT have Neuroblastoma. I stood there shaking and weeping uncontrollably, hugging the nurse so hard I'm surprised she didn't fall over. What they found was basically an asymmetrical muscle, and although we were told that they don't know exactly why, or if it is related to his seizures, or what it means for his future, the main thing was that it isn't cancer. He has a follow up appointment, and we will keep our eye on it in the meantime. We drove home, gave Essley a huge hug, gave Emmett his regular injection of seizure medication, and here we are. Happy and lucky.

The past 6 weeks have been a massive challenge on so many levels, but they have also brought incredible life lessons for which I can't help but be grateful. Every one of us has our own problems, our own challenges, our own struggles. None are any more valid or real than others. But I will say that what we've been going through with Emmett has taught me how to shrug off day to day stresses, to complain less, to feel extreme gratitude for the most mundane everyday moments, and to realize that what I have is more than enough. Go hug your kids or your partner or your parent or your pet, like right now, and think about the small things in your life that make you so, so lucky. Every second of normal in each of our lives is something pretty special that I personally will never again take for granted. And remember that there are no guarantees and anything can change in an instant. Maybe that's cliche and you've heard it before but our family is living it right now and I can tell you that it's true.

If all goes as we hope, the next update I post will be to tell you that Emmett is officially off the seizure medication, doing great, and still seizure free. Any good vibes you want to send his way until then are so greatly appreciated!


Monday, September 19, 2016

What I'm Wearing Now: September

Early Fall Style // Bubby and Bean
1. Plaid Shirt Dress, Target (image above is slightly different; see here for exact dress)  //  2. High-Rise Waist Flare Jeans, Target  //  3. Patterned Off-the-Shoulder Dress, H&M  //  4. Sliced Cuff Bracelet, Flourish Leather  // 5. Beaded Tassel Bracelets, Madewell  // 6. Slate Leggings, J.Crew Factory  // 7. Lily Tote Diaper Bag, Newlie  //  8. Off-Shoulder Peasant Top (mine is old but this one is close to identical)  9. Double Fringe Side Zip Boot, Minnetonka  // 10. Rene Sandal, Trask  

Because of everything going on with my son Emmett and the tornado of anxiety that came along with his diagnosis in August, I didn't do a What I'm Wearing Now post last month. And really, it wouldn't have looked like much, since I spent almost a week in the hospital and the rest of month basically living in pajamas. While things are still far from normal around here, it has been nice to have the motivation to care a little more about what I'm wearing. And even though the blog is still not quite in its usual place in terms of regular posting, it feels good to be working on a post that is part of the usual monthly schedule.

It has still been fairly warm around here this month (something this summer girl appreciates more than I can say) so there has been a lot of carry over from summer time in terms of wardrobe choices, but I've also added a couple of fall pieces to the collection. I've worn this plaid shirt dress (which was a serious bargain at $27.99) more times than I should probably admit. I love it without the waist tie, paired with these sandals and bare legs. I've also been sporting these flared jeans - I never thought I'd be a fan of a high waist again, but I'm pretty smitten. And this dress (which is currently on sale for $12.99!) is one of my top summer pieces that I plan to wear until it's no longer weather appropriate.

October usually brings a pretty substantial drop in temperature in Chicago, so I have a feeling next month's What I'm Wearing Now will look quite different. It is the midwest though, so you never really know what you're going to get.

What have you been wearing this month? Does it feel like summer or fall where you live?


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Reducing Plastic and Harmful Toxins in Everyday Life (+ 2 Easy Recipes to Help You Do So)

By Lifestyle Contributor Jen Vertz

I used to eat, drink and basically do whatever I wanted without a concern for my health. If you knew me at a certain point of my life, I always had a Red Bull or coffee in my hand, was chewing gum, and was covered in paint. For years, I lived in an art studio, surrounded by chemicals and paint, that should have been better ventilated. My signature fragrance was Michael Kors, I loved getting my nails done, and for the past 10+ years, you'd have never seen me without makeup. I drank coffee only with a straw so my teeth would stay whiter, and I lived in a situation where plastic bottled water just seemed more convenient, so that's what I had. When I was living in the city, I ate out almost every day or had packaged foods, because it was so much easier than preparing meals at home.

Me and some of my bad habits, circa 2011-2014: 1. Drinking hot coffee out of plastic straws  // 2. Using chemical based hair dye  //   3. Using chemical based makeup  //  4. Chewing gum  //  5. Living in a chemical paint laden art studio, for years

Then I started having some health problems. My main issues are based in my reproductive system (including several surgeries to remove fibroid tumors).  Of course, when something like this happens, you start researching like crazy, diving into Google even when your doctor says you shouldn't. I ended up discovering some potential reasons for my issues, and decided to make some drastic food and lifestyle changes. The one I'm really going focus on today is my attempt to eliminate as much plastic and endrocrine-distrupting chemicals as possible.

It turns out that we are surrounded by these dangerous chemicals every single day. Synthetic chemicals in everyday products like plastics and fragrances can imitate hormones and disturb your fragile endocrine system. (Did you know that even BPA-Free plastics contain estrogen blocking chemicals that disrupt your hormones and cause health problems?) Thankfully, lowering the amount of exposure can save you from a number of detrimental health issues. And it's not even that hard!  If you are lucky enough to have kids, it's especially important to limit their exposure due to their high vulnerability.

Here are a few things that I have changed to try to avoid the worst of the chemicals. Since we'll never be able to get all plastics or toxins out of our lives, the key is to make a real effort to lower your exposure.

I've eliminated:
  • plastic straws
  • gum (most are plastic based)
  • fragrances (they contain phthalates so the fragrances stick)
  • plastic water bottles
  • regular household cleaners (check the labels and go natural)
  • plastic bags (even reusable grocery bags)
  • plastics in general (even BPA-free plastic which has estrogenic chemicals linked to a litany of problems in humans and animals)
  • products with phalates or parabens (ie. sunscreen, lotion, soap and other personal hygiene products)
  • plastic food storage containers

I've switched:
  • liquid soap to all natural bar soap
  • plastic food storage containers to glass
  • canned food for homemade foods (canned food comes in metal lined with plastics)
  • boxed milk to homemade coconut or almond milk (boxes also lined with plastic)
  • vinyl or plastic reusable bags to canvas bags
  • foods packaged in plastic for foods in glass
  • plastic sink sponge to a cotton washcloth
  • coffee maker to a ceramic single serving coffee maker
  • plastic sandwich baggies to parchment paper bags
  • canned sparkling water to bottled sparkling water (soda cans are lined with plastics)
  • poly blend socks, underware and some clothing for 100% cotton or bamboo alternatives (where I could without breaking the bank)

I've started:
  • washing my hands more often and always before eating
  • refusing receipts as often as I can (thermal receipts have a thin coating of an endocrine-disrupting chemical powder that raises your internal BPA levels)
  • eating organic every time it is possible
  • dusting my house more often (chemicals like fire retardants escape from electronics, couches, baby products, etc. and collect in your household dust)
In the kitchen: 1. Choose glass storage for food (silicone lids when possible).  //  2. Make a real attempt to buy food packaged in glass (even even when their lids do have plastic, it's better than the alternative) // 3. Choose glass bottle for beverages instead of cans or plastic.  //  4. Replace BPA plastic water containers with glass ones.  

I had the hardest time in my bathroom, but I was ultimately able to make some changes there too. Compromise is key. I switched my toothbrush to a bamboo one (but go back to the Sonic Care a few times a week). I made my own terrible tasting toothpaste that just made me want to skip brushing all together (and admittedly ended up going back to my old one in a plastic tube). I found a good website for DIY shampoo and conditioners. And I traded all of my makeup for those with less chemicals - and I could do an entire post about how that worked (and in some cases, didn't.).

Basically, it is my opinion that we all need to start thinking about this and making an effort to reduce exposure where we can. One way to do this is to ask the companies that make the products that you love to switch their packaging and to remove harmful materials! You can also try your best to keep toxic chemicals out of your food, water, and homes - and do it before health problems start. You can use the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, EWG's Food Scores, and the Guide to Healthy Cleaning to make regular checks on products you buy. And below you'll find two of my favorite staple food recipes that I've found helpful in making the prices of eliminating plastic and toxins easier - beans from scratch and homemade coconut milk.


Buy beans in bulk and store in glass. I really love the pinto beans - they're perfect in tacos which are a staple in our house. I'll cook them for almost 2 hours, then jar half of them for whole beans, then cook the remainder down and mash for refried beans.


1 Onion
6 Cloves Garlic
4 Tablespoons oregano
2 tsp salt
2 stp chili powder
2 tsp cumin

Rinse beans in a colander well and remove any that look discolored. Soak 2.5 cups of beans (or 1lb dry beans) overnight (or for at least 8 hours) with 10 cups of water. After soaking, rinse well with cold water. In a stock pot, add the rinsed beans and a fresh 12 cups of water (or enough that it is 2" above the beans). Bring beans to a boil and add all other ingredients. Reduce boil to a low simmer and cook until desired tenderness (from 45 mins to 2.5 hours). Keep checking beans and add more water as needed. Drain and allow to cool before storing.


This goes so fast in my house. We always have a mason jar of coconut milk in the fridge for everything from cereal to soups!


1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 cups water

Heat shredded coconut and water on the stove. Just when it starts to boil, turn it off and allow to cool.
Once cooled to the touch, blend for several minutes until thick and creamy. (You may have to do 2 batches if you have a small blender like mine.) Pour through cheesecloth and squeeze to remove all of the liquid. Add strawberries, vanilla, or banana, and blend again for flavored coconut milk. Best used within 3-4 days after making. Store in a large jar with a wide mouth so you can remove the cream, which rises to the top. Or just shake or stir and keep the cream for a thick, delicious drink! Cream can be used to make coconut whipped cream.

Do you have any tips or tricks to helping reduce the amounts of plastics and/or harmful toxins in your life? I'd love to hear them! Cheers, here is to a healthier YOU! - Jen

top image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
In edition to sharing her DIY, design, and food posts here on Bubby and Bean, Jen is a talented designer (for brands, wineries, and restaurants throughout the California Bay area) and social marketer. You can read more about her here, and also find her on her website, Instagram, and Twitter.   


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Healthy Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

If someone told me I had to pick one favorite food, I would have a very difficult time choosing between veggie tacos and veggie burritos. I think ultimately I'd say "veggie southwestern taco/burrito filling," because when it comes down to it, it's the stuff inside the tortilla that I so profoundly adore. And when it comes to these fillings, there are a few ingredients I love the most: sweet potatoes, black beans, corn, avocados, and fresh salsa.

Our kids eat an obscene amount of sweet potatoes, and we always have them around the house. A couple of months ago, we were trying to figure out something to do for dinner, and decided to try a different take on our beloved tacos and burritos by making loaded sweet potatoes. (Think loaded baked potatoes that, instead of using ingredients like butter and sour cream and cheese and bacon, use healthy ingredients like the ones I listed above.) The results were phenomenal you guys. I mean, so, so good. So clearly I had to share our recipe with all of you. This is a healthy, clean meal that is ridiculously easy, but both delicious and filling. We love it so much that it's become a week (or more) staple in our house.

2-3 medium to large sweet potatoes (one per serving)
Rojo's Homestyle and Southwest Salsa
1 cup black beans, rinsed
1 cup sweet corn
1/2 avocado
chili powder
black pepper
plain Greek yogurt (for topping)
2-3 limes

Preheat your oven to 400. Wash and dry your sweet potatoes and prick them each several times with a fork. Line a cookie sheet with foil and bake the sweet potatoes for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on size. While the sweet potatoes are baking, combine the black beans and corn, season with chili powder, cumin, and black pepper, and heat over medium heat. Dice the avocado. When the sweet potatoes are done, cut them in half lengthwise and place each one on a plate. Top with the black bean and corn mixture, then a heaping helping of Rojo's Homestyle Salsa and Rojo's Southwest Fire Roasted Salsa. Then layer on the diced avocado, top with a dollop of plain Green yogurt (so much healthier than sour cream), squeeze the juice of a lime over the tops, and sprinkle on some chili powder. That's it!

Aside from the sweet potatoes themselves, the fresh Rojo's Salsas are what make this dish. Always made in small batches using premium, fresh-cut ingredients, their salsas taste like we just picked the ingredients from our garden and whipped them up in our kitchen. Skip the jarred stuff on the shelves you guys - both for this recipe and for any time you use salsa - and go for the fresh, refrigerated varieties from Rojo's. They are the best, for real.

Who else is obsessed with taco and burrito fillings? Have any of you tried loaded sweet potatoes?

This post is in partnership with Rojo's Salsa. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.