I’ve been meaning to buy coffee creamer the last THREE times I’ve been at the grocery store, and have even written it in the notes section of my phone, but I keep forgetting! It’s mommy brain, I tell you. Finally, after I realized I forgot it AGAIN, I figured I better make me some, because I don’t want to go to the store one more time and have another brain fart.

So, after I woke up early this morning to nurse, I set out the ingredients for a cashew creamer in my blender. I fell asleep again for a little bit, and when the babe woke up, I ran the blender in the kitchen while she was still in her crib. I don’t know why I didn’t attempt this sooner – the creamer is rich, smooth, and slightly sweet with the addition of dates. Coffee was a treat this morning, and I’m going to do this more often!

*Note – I soaked these cashews for about an hour before I blended them, but you don’t have to. Just simply run the blender a little longer. You don’t have to strain the creamer because cashews make an easy milk.

Cashew Milk Creamer
A rich, velvety coffee creamer, perfect for your morning cup o' joe!
Servings Prep Time
16 oz 2 minutes
Cook Time
1 minute
Servings Prep Time
16 oz 2 minutes
Cook Time
1 minute
Cashew Milk Creamer
A rich, velvety coffee creamer, perfect for your morning cup o' joe!
Servings Prep Time
16 oz 2 minutes
Cook Time
1 minute
Servings Prep Time
16 oz 2 minutes
Cook Time
1 minute
Ingredients
Servings: oz
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend on medium for 20 seconds, then on high for 40 seconds until smooth.
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This recipe is for my friend, Stella! I post frequently on Instagram (@this_veglife), more often than I do here. I haven’t had much time to do other stuff, since I had my baby towards the end of August, and meals as of late have been flash-prepared in a matter of minutes, with no time to write down recipes.

When I posted a picture of this and Stella asked for the recipe, the pressure was on to start doing this recipe-writing again! I love this curry, and don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Once you stock your spice pantry, it’s easy peasy. I always have a can of chickpeas in the pantry as part of my vegan cooking essentials, as well as coconut milk. This curry just came together one day because I had more potatoes than I knew what to do with. A kaffir lime tree is in the garden that was also readily available. If you don’t have any lime leaves, don’t worry about it, and DON’T substitute lime juice (it’s SO not the same thing).

So voila! Chickpea curry, one that is complex in flavor, has a little kick, is hearty and filling, and perfect for a cool day (there is no such thing as cold in California, so I’ll settle for “cool”). Ha!

Chickpea curry
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 1 hour
Chickpea curry
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
8-10 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 1 hour
Instructions
  1. In a 5-qt Dutch oven on medium low, add the coconut oil. Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger for 10 minutes while you prep the other vegetables.
  2. Increase the heat to medium, and add the carrots, sweet potato, and red potato. Add the spices through (and including) the lime leaves, stirring until incorporated. Add the water and bring the heat to medium high. When the curry starts to simmer, lower the heat to medium low. Add the chickpeas and coconut milk.
  3. Cook on low for 30 minutes, covered. Then, take the lid off the curry and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add salt or seasoning to taste. Stir in the cilantro and serve, with either brown rice or baguette bread.
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My family LOVES this shake – it really just tastes like a chocolate milkshake, and you wouldn’t even think that it’s good for you! I make this when I am having a sweet tooth and have some frozen, sliced bananas ready for me in the freezer. It’s full of good stuff like calcium (from fortified almond milk), potassium (bananas), hemp seeds and almond butter (plant-based protein), cocoa powder, maple syrup, and cinnamon. I love lots of cinnamon in this milkshake, and it’s kind of like a cold Mexican hot chocolate. YUM.

Nutrition facts (approximate): 344 kcal, 54.5 g carbohydrate, 9.5 g protein, 7.5 g fiber

Chocolate almond butter shake
Servings Prep Time
2 cups 5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 cups 5 minutes
Chocolate almond butter shake
Servings Prep Time
2 cups 5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 cups 5 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: cups
Instructions
  1. In a blender, add all ingredients and blend until smooth. Drink up!
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Yesterday, I posted this Thai tofu scramble up on my Instagram account (@this_veglife). I’ve made this tofu scramble for a couple of years now, and even taught it to a vegan breakfast cooking class at the Whole Foods Culinary Center in Annapolis, MD.

This is an old recipe, but one that I have been using for a long time. I never measure, so when I have to write a recipe, I have to buckle down and jot things down on my phone! You can serve this with plain old whole-wheat toast, a tortilla, or even some leftover rice. People in my class, who vehemently say they’re anti-tofu, change their minds after this easy-peasy recipe. I even had one person go buy a block of extra-firm tofu after class, after finding that this recipe was so easy to make (and delicious, too!).

Thai scrambled tofu
Perfect with a slice of toast, tortilla, or potatoes for a hearty breakfast to start the day off right!
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Thai scrambled tofu
Perfect with a slice of toast, tortilla, or potatoes for a hearty breakfast to start the day off right!
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6-8 people 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Ingredients
Optional:
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, crumble the tofu with your hands (or a potato masher). Add all the ingredients to the bowl, except the canola oil, and mix until all incorporated.
  2. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil. When it is shimmering and hot, add the tofu mixture. Stir-fry until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Serve with tortillas and slices of avocado, as desired.
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The past year, I was in the habit of buying a package of Medjool dates every week, to make my energy bites to fuel my hubby for his Ironman training. Well, he pretty much rocked the Ironman on a plant-based diet, but now that it’s over, the training is scaled back a lot. Even though he’s still swimming/biking/running, now it’s just to keep up his fitness level and to feel great. I don’t have to be super-involved in planning his diet anymore, and we have found a lot of great vegan restaurants to eat out here in California since the move. But I’ve had these dates, sitting in the fridge, for the past few weeks, because at the time, my mind was still in his training mode. What to do with all these dates?!

I thought of what I’ve seen some people out there in Pinterest-land do, and that was to make a date paste. It’s basically a bunch of soaked dates, and pureed into a paste with some added water if necessary. I was then thinking of making something simple, since I am a few weeks from going into labor and have been feeling like the energy is sapped out of me. I’ve been making soups and other foods to put in the freezer, and wanted something else to add to the foods I had. I decided on a banana bread. I’ve made the past few banana breads with coconut oil, all of which has been great. Instead of the brown sugar, though, I subbed in an equal amount of the date paste.

The result? A wonderful, hearty banana bread that has just the right amount of sweetness with the dates and ripened bananas. No refined sugar! I’m sure that after having the baby, I will want to keep my sweets intake moderate to try to get my pre-baby body back and feel normal again (but I will obviously still want the sweets)! This would be perfect, especially taken from the freezer, toasted, and then with a smear of vegan Earth Balance butter. Yum!

Date-sweetened banana bread
Serve a slice of this banana bread, toasted, with a smear of vegan Earth Balance butter!
Servings Prep Time
12 slices 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 slices 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 20 minutes
Date-sweetened banana bread
Serve a slice of this banana bread, toasted, with a smear of vegan Earth Balance butter!
Servings Prep Time
12 slices 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 slices 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
1 hour 20 minutes
Instructions
Date paste:
  1. For the date paste, cover whole, pitted dates in boiling water for about 20 minutes. Drain, and puree in a food processor. Add a few tablespoons of hot water to get the dates to process into a puree, resembling a loose peanut butter. Set aside 1 cup, and store the rest in a covered mason jar in the fridge for another use.
Flax eggs:
  1. For the flax eggs, whisk flaxseed and water in a small bowl until combined. Set aside for 5 minutes, until the mixture becomes gelatinous and egg-like.
Banana bread:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan with canola oil spray and coat lightly with flour. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the mashed bananas, coconut oil, flaxseed eggs, and date paste. When incorporated, pour the wet mixture into the large bowl of dry ingredients. Stir to incorporate, and pour evenly into prepared loaf pan.
  4. Bake banana bread for 60-65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf pan comes out clean. Allow to cool at room temperature, then slice and serve.
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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted something on the “beauty” page, because I don’t like to buy lots of things and accumulate them! I use what I have, make what I can, and only buy something when it’s absolutely essential.

If you guys know me, I’m a simple kind of gal. I don’t get manicures or pedicures, dye my hair (because there’s not too many white hairs on my head…yet!), wear tons of makeup, spend lots of money shopping, or other things like that. My mother-in-law has told me she brags to her friends that I just splurge on buying good food to feed my family. Which makes me feel good. It’s flavor and experiences that matter in life, not all that other stuff.

But I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy now, and I’m in love with the scent of rose water. I try to keep my exposure to chemicals minimal, because what I’m exposed to, baby’s also exposed to. Things like bisphenol-A in plastics and canned foods (which I rarely consume anyways, because I’d rather cook from fresh produce), all the fragrances in perfumes or lotions scented with unnatural things, and cleaning products (which is why I’ve been on a rampage making cleaners out of vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, and essential oils). I’ve never used toner before, but I ran across rose water toner on Amazon to spritz on my face. It claims to balance the pH of the skin, tone without irritating or introducing unnatural chemicals, and absorb excess oils on the face. And when you’re in the third trimester of pregnancy, feeling great is an absolute necessity when you’re out of breath doing simple things around the house, or you can’t even bend down to put on your shoes (thank you to my 5-year-old and hubby for helping me with all that!).

So I bought Teddie Organics: Organic Rose Water Toner this week. I was SO HAPPY I made this purchase (under $20). A spritz on my face every day, either on a clean face or over makeup, makes me happy. I feel like it rejuvenates my skin, gives me a little aromatherapy, and it’s not drying as some rose water products can be. It’s not tested on animals, is 100% rose water, so it’s vegan. If you want a little splurge (as I do in this pregnancy), I say go for it! From my research, rose water is fine to use during pregnancy and doesn’t contain those questionable chemicals that regular facial toners have. I bought an organic rose water toner to be sure there were any pesticides sprayed on the roses before it was made into rose water. #treatyoself ! 🙂 <3 signature

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We went to a Strawberry Festival the other week, and naturally, you buy tons of strawberries! I was back in the kitchen after an almost two-month hiatus (see previous post) and so glad to uncover these 4-inch tart pans from my baking arsenal.

Because I moved to a new area, I spent a lot of time the past few weeks figuring out where to buy my groceries. I discovered a Mother’s Market nearby, and this vegan strawberry Jel seemed interesting to me, so I thought I’d give it a try. I wanted a jello-like consistency and glaze to top off fresh strawberries, that can’t really be acheved with cornstarch, rice flour, agar agar, or tapioca starch. It worked great, and my 5-year-old was able to help me make this simple dessert.

This strawberry tart is fresh, not too sweet, and perfect for a hot and sunny day. I love the crust, too! I intended to make the crust out of graham crackers, but everything I found in the store had honey in them. Animal crackers didn’t and were perfect with what I added in. Hope you make these – they’re delicious!

Fresh strawberry tarts with animal cracker crust
Servings Prep Time
4 4-inch tarts 20 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 4-inch tarts 20 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Fresh strawberry tarts with animal cracker crust
Servings Prep Time
4 4-inch tarts 20 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 4-inch tarts 20 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Ingredients
Animal cracker crust:
To assemble:
Servings: 4-inch tarts
Instructions
For animal cracker crust:
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. In a food processor, process the animal crackers until coarsely ground. Add the dates, melted vegan butter, maple syrup, and salt, processing until ingredients are incorporated and finely ground.
  2. Press equal amounts of the crust mixture into 4 4-inch tart pans. Bake at 300 degrees F for 10 minutes and cool at room temperature, about 15 minutes.
Strawberry Jel:
  1. For the vegan strawberry Jel, boil 1 cup water in a small saucepan. When water boils, turn off the heat, pour into a medium mixing bowl, and whisk in Jel powder until incorporated. Set aside for a couple minutes while you pile the strawberries onto the pie crusts.
Assembly:
  1. Pile the sliced strawberries onto the pie crusts, and spoon the Jel mixture evenly over the strawberries. Let cool and set for about an hour in the refrigerator, and garnish with fresh lemon zest, as desired.
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Hey guys! It’s Tram, and I’m still here! The past few months have been a blur of activity, so I haven’t posted at all in awhile. This is what our family has been up to the last couple of months:

– Moved from Annapolis, MD, to Southern California
– Traveled to The Woodlands, TX, for my husband to compete in the Ironman 140.6 (he is a FINISHER! Check out my fueling strategies here and here.

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– Said our goodbyes to work, friends, midshipmen, school, and life on the East Coast

– Entering my third trimester of pregnancy with kiddo #2

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That is A LOT! We are currently unpacking our stuff from Annapolis, and even though I’m so proud of the fact that I majorly downsized and embracing a minimalist-ish lifestyle, I still want to purge some more. Maybe that’s the nesting phase I’m going through in this pregnancy? Anyways, when the movers came the other day to unload our stuff, they were pleasantly surprised that we only had 4 crates of home goods to unpack, and one crate was going to our newly commissioned midshipman, to furnish her new digs. They said the most they’ve moved was 22 crates for one family! That is nuts (I’m so glad we’re not those people!).

Back in December, I read Marie Kondo’s best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” When I was done with it, I gave it to a friend, and told her to keep sending the book along to other people who needed it, because I learned all the things I needed to know from that book. I sent this picture of my closet (my house in Annapolis was built in 1910, hence the super tiny closet space!) to my MIL back in December when I went through phase 1 of decluttering, and so proud to say that when we moved in May, the amount of clothes that I had had not changed. Of course, there’s a separate dresser for my undergarments, sleepwear, and gym clothes, but that picture’s what I wore for work and everyday-wear.
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It was awesome, feeling like I could coordinate different outfits and looks without getting a whole new wardrobe. I was donating and selling my clothes, and even had a great consignment store in Annapolis (Navette) that helped me find some transition pieces for my growing belly bump.

It’s funny where embarking on a more plant-based lifestyle can take you. I feel like it snowballs into other areas of your life. Because my eyes were opened to the health, environmental, and animal welfare aspects of becoming more plant-based, I was becoming more excited about the creativity I could express when cooking and the effects of it all. My husband, while training for the Ironman, did it on mostly a plant-based diet. We’d eat seafood maybe once a week when going out. His recovery time for hard training sessions was so great; he didn’t feel lethargic and was always so quick to bounce back. He lost 30 pounds in the three years we were in Annapolis, and improved his cholesterol lipid panel to become NORMAL. He FINISHED his first triathlon, which was the full-on Ironman 140.6, and I didn’t have to wait forever at the finish line (thanks, babe, because it was pouring Texas rain).

I felt good about the dishes I made, because they were not making a great environmental impact for the large get-togethers I would host (Naval Academy midshipmen eat A LOT). No meat at parties means less carbon emissions from animals, less water waste, less demand for slaughtering of animals. But that didn’t mean I served steamed kale and broccoli, heck no! Teaching plant-based cooking classes to vegans and non-vegans alike at Whole Foods Annapolis allowed me to spread the message that vegan food is great when done right. I’d teach appetizing things such as lemongrass seitan tacos, lemon-blueberry scones, Thai red curry and butternut squash soup, and farro salad.

From all this, and especially the environmental aspect of eating more plant-based (saving tons of water and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that stem from cow farts, as one of my students used to say), I started becoming more mindful of my use of plastics and non-biodegradable items that we use. I started using more mason jars for storage, reusable grocery bags, and reusable produce bags. I started making my own toothpaste, bought bamboo compostable toothbrushes, making some easy, non-toxic cleaning solutions, and donated MORE items that we didn’t need. Minimizing, making more of my own stuff, reusing, reducing what I consumed, recycling, and next up: composting. Baby steps, people.

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So, friends, that is my update. I’ve recently gotten back into the kitchen (thank goodness, because eating out often gets boring and $$), and baked a delicious, easy-peasy strawberry pie yesterday. I’ll share the recipe with y’all next week!

 

**follow me on Instagram @this_veglife for more plant-based recipe and lifestyle ideas!*

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When I first ventured into eating more plant-based, I thought I would have to just say goodbye to flavors such as bacon for good. But the more I cook vegan food, the more in awe I am of how flexible this way of cooking can be (as long as I eat in; when we eat out in Annapolis, it’s hard).

Some things I’ve learned to cook with: I’ve discovered that there’s such a thing as liquid smoke seasoning, to impart that smoky, bacon-y flavor to my “non-meats.” I can soak cashews overnight, and make things like cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, and cheesecake of all things! I’ve discovered that adding some nori to a dressing can give it that fishy, sea flavor, so I’m no longer deficient in things like Caesar salad dressing. Adding cooked lentils to a chili gives that meaty texture. Making date paste out of dates and water adds subtle, natural sweetness to foods of all kinds. Adding apple cider vinegar to non-dairy milk replicates buttermilk (which is great, because I’ve always disliked the idea of sour buttermilk from a cow). And of course, there’s that nutritional yeast, or nooch, as the vegans call it. A little bit of this adds that cheesy flavor I’ve been looking for in pasta dishes, that umami factor. There really is no “bending” on the way of flavor and texture – all the people that have tried the things I made often exclaim, “but it tastes like the real thing!”

And I’ve discovered my own little ways of making this all easy to prepare with a busy life in the mix. Always be soaking something (cashews, almonds, dried beans), utilize the time you have to multitask (put a pot of beans on the stove to cook while you get ready for the day, make a jar of overnight oats for the next morning while your dinner is sauteing on the stove, blend soaked cashews quickly to make cream cheese for the week, etc). Not only that, think ahead to the next meal, jot down what you’ll make on your phone (or what you need on your grocery list, also on the phone), and just be productive when life gives you a spare few minutes (I only watch an hour of TV at night before bed).

Back to the “bacon.” I’ve been making BLTAs (“bacon,” lettuce, tomato, avocado) a few times the last couple weeks, because I love pairing them with my adaptation of Isa Chandra’s vegan flaxseed mayo. I have tried making other vegan versions of bacon before – with portabello, or baking tempeh, but I just find my version to be heartier, quicker (it takes less than 10 minutes-12 minutes, tops), meatier, and full of flavor. You can make this with breakfast potatoes in the morning, BLTAs for lunch, or top your vegan burger off with them for dinner. SO easy and tasty. Make it today!

"Bacon" tempeh with maple-tamari glaze
This is a flavorful, easy, and quick bacon that is no-fuss, but sure to please in any meal.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
5-7 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
5-7 minutes
"Bacon" tempeh with maple-tamari glaze
This is a flavorful, easy, and quick bacon that is no-fuss, but sure to please in any meal.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
5-7 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4-6 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
5-7 minutes
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, tamari, liquid smoke seasoning, apple cider vinegar, and black pepper. Add the tempeh slices into the bowl, tossing the slices in the marinade with your hands and coating the tempeh. Marinate for 5 minutes.
  2. In a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, spray some canola oil cooking spray. When the pan is hot, add the tempeh and marinade. Toss the tempeh every so often and allow the marinade to caramelize and coat the tempeh. It’s done when the marinade almost evaporates and the tempeh is coated with the maple-tamari glaze, about 5-7 minutes. Serve with breakfast potatoes, toast, or scrambled tofu.
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Hi friends! It’s been awhile since I posted about beauty products that are animal cruelty-free. I’ve been using these products for a few months now, and they work for me.

Let’s start with Burt’s Bees fragrance-free body lotion, with shea butter and Vitamin E. Burt’s Bees is an example of a company that does not do animal testing, but is not vegan, because their products contain ingredients such as honey, beeswax, milk, or other animal byproducts. Some vegans use honey, some don’t. It’s totally a personal choice – as is my lifestyle, to be as plant-based as much as possible. Anyways, I love this lotion. It moisturizes, is not greasy, and not too thin.

On to facial wash. I found this face wash a year ago and loved it. It’s Yes to Cucumbers Gentle Milk Cleanser with Hydrolyzed Soy Proteins. It’s cruelty-free, but I’m a little unsure if it’s vegan. I did email the company but am still waiting for a reply. I’m guessing that the “milk” part of this face wash is the hydrolyzed soy protein. This facial wash was out of stock in the usual stores I’d go to, but luckily I found it online on Amazon, so have just been getting it there. It smells clean, moisturizes, is good for my finicky, sensitive skin, and does the job.

Mama Bee Belly Butter up at the top of the picture. Again, this is made by Burt’s Bees, which is a cruelty-free company, but not all of its products are necessarily vegan. Side note about stretch marks: you can’t apply a magic lotion to apply to areas prone to stretch marks during pregnancy. The most you can do is to just gain weight steadily (as opposed to quickly), exercise to keep the skin elastic, and moisturize to hydrate and keep the skin supple. I’m currently halfway through my pregnancy (where did the time go?!), try to be active in some way each day (walks at work, gym time a couple times a week, and prenatal yoga), drink loads of water, eat TONS of fruits and vegetables, and slather on this belly butter once daily. So far, so good. And I feel great, too!

Being on the East Coast the past three years always does a number to my skin in the wintertime. This winter, especially. A couple of months ago, it seemed like nothing was keeping it moisturized. Even my regular moisturizer by LUSHImperialis. I even resorted to spreading some coconut oil on my face for some much-needed relief. The skin under my eyes was rough, you could see peeling around my lips, my whole face felt like sandpaper, and I was a hot mess.

I usually moisturize with coconut oil when there are super-dry parts on my body (my feet and hands, usually), but the day after I put coconut oil on my face, lo and behold, a pimple showed up. Kind of irritated, because by eating super plant-based for over a year and a half, my skin was really clear and I had no problems. Until that dang coconut oil! I love that stuff, and use it to brush my teeth with baking soda too, but not on my face. Lesson learned.

I went back to LUSH and told them my facial skin woes. They were really helpful and suggested I try the moisturizer that is a bit heavier than Imperialis, which was Celestial. I used it for a few days, and my skin became less irritated, felt soothed, and I stopped looking like sandpaper. THANK GOODNESS! Since then, I went back to using Imperialis, because the weather is warmer (by warmer, I mean 50 degrees instead of 25 degrees), and all has been dandy with my skin. Whoop! Both moisturizers – Imperialis and Celestial – are vegan and animal cruelty-free. No animal testing. No animal products or by-products used. Both awesome.

So there you go – a look inside my skincare regimen!

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