Thursday, August 16, 2007

On the Search For Good Hypoglycemic And Vegetarian Friendly Cookbooks (Vegetarian and Hypoglycemia Information)

As many people are already aware, I'm hypoglycemic as well as vegetarian. I've been vegetarian for about 13 years (I became veggie in high school), and I think I've had mild hypoglycemia since childhood (I could eat refined flour and sugar in moderation as long as I ate every few hours and my symptoms were mild most of the time). Shortly before I became a grad student my hypoglycemia became severe (mainly due to major stress and adrenal fatigue) causing many strange and unusual symptoms, and my body basically collapsed. Nearly three years later I still suffer from many of the symptoms but they are thankfully less severe and in most cases are mild/moderate (except when they flare up during frequent colds or pms) due to major changes in my diet.

While it is hard learning how to eat a hypoglycemic diet, it is doubly hard being a hypoglycemic vegetarian! My symptoms are much better than they were, and while I eat pretty well, I know I can do even better. Since I have to eat 6 times a day (at least) and protein at every meal or snack, I've been relying far too much on nuts, soy, and fake meat products (like veggie sausages etc which are probably way too processed for me). In addition, I think I recently just developed a mild allergy to cashews, so it is definitely time to re-evaluate my hypoglycemic diet and what I've been eating!

I have been scouring bookstores for good cookbooks for a while. The problem is that there is only a couple hypoglycemic cookbooks, and while they aren't bad, the recipes in it are...well, kind of bland! (My taste buds are spoiled. Though I live in VA/DC metropolitan area, I've been to so many great restaurants (all types of different cuisine) in NYC and Philly that I am a bit of a food snob, LOL! ;P Restaurants in Philly are very underrated, by the way). These books have a lot of good ideas for snacks, and some veggie or many easy-to- convert-to-veggie recipes, and while the recipes are okay, the ones I've tried aren't extraordinary either (they don't utilize spices well to make up for the lack of sugar in many recipes). They contain some good basic recipes for every day, comfort food, but if you crave things like Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, and most importantly good American and fresh salad/gourmet-type/'peasant' food dishes--basically food that is healthy but loaded with flavor--like I do, I've found these cookbooks a bit lacking in the taste department.

The low-carb, high protein cookbooks I've seen aren't that great either. While most hypoglycemics follow a lower carb, high protein diet, many of the cookbooks I've flipped through in the bookstore are meat based (eating meat 6 times a day would not be that healthy for an adrenal fatigued hypoglycemic, much less anyone else!), too strict (eliminating all carbs or too many carbs), or the (veggie) recipes simply don't look that good.

Diabetic books aren't that much better. While most eliminate sugar, the ones I've seen do not eliminate things white flour, white rice, etc, or use things like synthetic sugar substitutes (which I avoid like the plague!).

So I've been inventing my own recipes or converting recipes from my favorite veggie books for the better part of the last few years.

When I was in Philly I went through my sister's cook book selection (she is an awesome cook--much better than me--and has a wonderful selection of good cookbooks) and went to one of my favorite used book stores (Molly's Bookstore in the Italian Market). My sister recommended several of her vegan cookbooks (she even gave me one of them; love you, Bexn!) and I found a couple of nice macrobiotic cookbooks at Molly's.

I've found that both the vegan and macrobiotic cookbooks I got are much closer to how I eat than any other cookbooks I've seen. I didn't know anything about the macrobiotic diet, but it looks similar to the hypoglycemic diet because it is based on fresh ingredients (non-processed), mostly vegetarian, based on whole grains and non-refined sugars, and taste is an important factor. It isn't as high in protein than a hypoglycemic diet though, and while there are many recipes I won't have to convert, I will still have to convert some a bit (though just one or two ingredients instead of several).

I was surprised that the vegan cookbooks were much more similar to how I eat than many of my plain veggie cookbooks. It took me a couple days to figure out why: they used a variety of whole grains (like quinoa and spelt--which are high in protein--and not just the common products like refined wheat and white rice); these particular cooks preferred granulated frutose, agave, or other liquid sweeteners over white sugar; since they don't eat eggs or dairy they used a much wider range of ingredients (many of which were high in protein); the cooks/chefs realized if you don't use eggs and dairy you need to pay extra attention to seasonings to be satisfying; and when subbing for eggs and dairy in desserts they used hypoglycemic-friendly things like pureed fruit and tofu. Like the macrobiotic books I won't have to convert most recipes, but even the ones I will have to, I'll only have to change them a little (less chance of the recipe failing).

So I am a happy camper and the recipes I've tried so far are easy to prepare and so good! I am super excited at trying the dessert recipes because I used to be a baker (and not a cook), and in the last three years I've only had about 6 or 7 real baked goods or desserts (not including breads or the occasional grain sweetened chocolate and carob). In the following weeks I'll try to post reviews of all my cookbooks once I try several recipes :)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Monave's Mineral Makeup and Marketing Class Review (Natural Cosmetics Class)

I just came back from Monave's mineral makeup and marketing class (I mentioned it in my last crafting notes entry).

I had a lot of fun, but I am very tired right now (from blood sugar fatigue and brain fog, meals/snacks at odd times, and driving to Baltimore and back). Overall I thought the seminar was very informative and I learned a lot! This year's class was focused more on marketing and business strategies than mmu crafting, though we did craft a little bit :) Topics included protecting intellectual property (things like copyright and trademarks), maximizing profit/buying in bulk, tips for selling, setting up the workspace, and also crafting.
Crafting (of course) was the most fun (we made a sample foundation, and the most beautiful shade of blush :) ) but I am glad that I went because I really need to learn as much as I can about the business side of things! I took a lot of notes and we got a lot of useful handouts too, and I can't wait for the transcripts to be available (see below).

I was excited since I got to meet Deb (owner of Monave), Kelley (Monave's wholesale executive and also an esthetician with her own business), Sharen (Monave's skincare and makeup artist), and Kim (owner of Geografx Cosmetics), as well as all the attendees! But I didn't get to talk to anyone as much as I'd like since I arrived only minutes before the first class was supposed to start, and sometimes when my blood sugar gets low I tend to be a bit quiet since I had brain fog on and off throughout the day :( . But the people I did briefly talk to were very nice and seemed very passionate and knowledgeable about their chosen fields (some had businesses already, some were starting from scratch, there was at least one other skin care crafter, and some were skin care estheticians or makeup artists getting into the mmu business). Deb and her staff were also extremely nice, and so was Kim of Geografx (I haven't used Geografx Cosmetics before but I must comment she had great looking skin!). It was amazing seeing so many mmu addicts and (present/future) business women in one room :) (The class was at Kim Ease Salon on Fleet Street, who lent Deb the space for the day).

After all the classes were over, we got to visit Monave's warehouse/office. It was really cool seeing where one of my favorite MMU lines is made/packaged/sent. I got a few free powders (including a very generous amount of a couple of unblended minerals--thank you very much Deb!), and I also bought one of the crafting booklets that I didn't have (which are usually sold with the kits but since I already have two kits, and I have most of the minerals/pigments, I only needed the matte mmu booklet), and also bought a few mini-lippie vegan glazes (Deb was so sweet and gave us all big discounts on the minis).

For those that missed it, in a couple months, videos of the more hands on lectures will be online and transcripts will also be available online to buy (the transcripts will be free to those who attended though). Also next year's MMU class will be focused more on the crafting rather than the business side, and (according to the retail forum), Deb will also be offering classes in CA sometime in the future.

Overall a good but tiring day :)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Organic Cloth Menstrual Pads: Gladrags

Gladrags is one of the best known cloth menstrual pads. Unlike many other online vendors, gladrags are available at many online stores and some retail (actual) stores. Unfortunately I could not find them locally, so ordered one online.

I bought a colored organic day time pad from Gladrags has its own website (and if you sign up for their newsletter you'll receive a coupon for 15% off your next order) but I decided to get my pad at because their prices for their individual pads were less expensive. The Gladrags website has great deals on kits (and coupled with the 15% coupon it's even better) but since Gladrags individual pads are a tad more expensive than smaller less known brands, and since I only wanted to try a single pad before I invested in more, I got my pad at In addition to Gladrag's organic pads, they also sell non-organic pads (which are much less expensive than the organic ones).

I've been shopping at since my undergrad days, and their customer service is usually great: they ship fast. The only minor qualm I had with this order was that I ordered a burgundy colored pad and they sent me a light blue one. But since I didn't care too much about the color and the blue was a nice shade, I didn't bother contacting them.

At first I wasn't too sure what to think about the concept of inserts. Basically a single pad comes with a thin outer layer called a holder and two inserts. You can either put one or both of the inserts (or more if you buy others) in the holder to cater the thickness of the pad to your needs. I kind of liked the idea that I could control the thickness but at first I didn't get why if after you use it, you have to change the entire pad (holder plus inserts) and not only the inserts (like how you change just the liners in the changeable-liner type pads), then why even use insert pads? Why not just buy all-in-one pads (AIOs) in different absorbencies? Since you change the whole thing (and not only the inserts), the cost of one gladrags pad (holder and inserts) is slightly more expensive compared to AIOs from other companies (but still cheaper in the long run than using disposables).

When I first looked at the pad, I thought I wasn't going to like it very much. The holder (without the inserts in them) looked very flimsy. Also when both inserts are placed in the holder, the pad is much bulkier than AIOs. I think it's still a tad thinner than regular maxis, but it was still kind of thick. But once I used it, I really liked it! :) The pad is actually pretty sturdy once you put the inserts in it. It did not bunch up or move, and it was very comfortable. The organic cotton was soft (but not as soft as hemp, cotton velour, or bamboo velour). A plus about the inserts: I could peak into the pad and see if I needed to change it or not. And though I initially thought the pad looked bulky, it didn't feel bulky at all! You could not see the outline of the pad through clothes. It was also pretty easy to wash. The pads are not made with artificial backing (like fleece or PUL) so it was a completely natural and organic pad.

Overall I like gladrags. The only reason I may or may not buy more is because there are other pads I like more. But they worked well and were comfortable, and if I hadn't tried hemp, bamboo, and cotton velour AIOs, I'd probably buy a kit. I may try their panty liners in the future though (which are basically AIOs). They are a good pad to start out with and more widely available than other companies. Also I really admire their company ethics; their website host is powered by green, renewable energy (carbon neutral). They also offer huge discounts (20%) to students doing a group order. They also guarantee their pads if you order from their website (they are returnable unlike many other pad companies). And I don't remember which company it was, but when I looked at their website last month, they were working with an organic lipbalm company (offering a special deal). They are a great company and I think one of the first cloth pad companies established (they were established in 1992).

For non-pad users, they also offer the diva cup and the keeper moon cup (inserts). For women who have given birth, they also offer a specially designed insert called a moon cup. My sister uses the keeper and she loves it!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Li's crafting thoughts 08-01-07

Products I've been working on over the last several weeks (I haven't crafted much over the last two weeks since I'm currently out of town)

Serums (oil based):
A few weeks ago I made a serum that's good for all skin types, one that is super high in antioxidants, and one for mature skin. I still have to work on all the essential oil blends for my serums though (which will up the antioxidant content even more, so all my serums will contain antioxidants). I also need to craft serums for other skin types too. But the trouble is that I have thirty or so carrier oils to work with and I can't seem to decide which oils to use because I keep coming up with so many different combos! ;P

I've been experimenting with blending different hydrosols together for toners. I think that initially I may just offer plain hydrosols to tone and hydrate, and later add hydrosol toners to my product line.

Lip Balm:A while ago, I also made yet another vegan lip balm; this time I made one that is high in antioxidants. I don't really know what I think about it yet. The texture of this one is nice but I don't like how much the balm shrinks after pouring them in the tubes. Either I need to find a different way to pour it in tubes, reformulate it, or offer it in a pot or jar. Also I used distinct smelling carrier oils which may bother some people (I tried to improve the scent with essential oils but it didn't really help).

I also need to test all my balms to make sure they don't melt too much in the heat! (They aren't as hard as some of the balms I've tried on the market). The trouble with crafting vegan balms is that if you use too much of certain (vegan) waxes the balm will not only become too hard but it will be so hard it becomes brittle (ask me how I know-LOL!). I kind of miss crafting with beeswax because the texture of a beeswax balm is perfect; it is really hard to mess up a beeswax based balm (if you use too much beeswax it simply gets really hard but not brittle).

Though I am pretty happy with the formulation of my other three balms, I still need to work on which scents/essential oil combos to offer. The bad thing is that I don't know if I will be able to sell the lip balm formulation I like the most, which has east shea butter in it, because east shea is really hard to come by now (very few places sold it before, and all the sources I know of are all sold out now or do not wholesale it any longer). I may have to switch to using west shea butter, but that will totally change the texture, and may become gritty if I'm not careful.

Mask:A couple days ago I made a body mask/scrub with some basic food stuffs (true 'kitchen cosmetics' :) ). I love traveling but when traveling I really miss not crafting almost every day, and having access to all of my herbal ingredients :( The mask/scrub was vegetarian but not vegan. The mask was yogurt (unsweetened, organic), honey, and sugar based (one of these days if I find a good unsweetened organic soy yogurt I'll probably try using that in skin care instead of regular yogurt! :) ) It was very moisturizing for my dehydrated skin.

Hair: My family has asked for some hair products to improve hair health so I am going to craft some for them using herbs from their delicious garden :)

Those are the main (new) things I've crafted (in addition I crafted some old favorites like body oils, herbal rinses, and a couple new things like other masks and scrubs, etc)

Agenda: (once I get back into town): lotion, lotion, and more lotion (for face and body) and a variety of facial cleansers, but mostly I will be focusing on serums (I think I may end up offering at least 12 and maybe up to 20 different formulations) and essential oil blends (for both the serums and lip balms, and possibly other products).

I also will be attending Monave's mineral makeup and marketing seminar on August 12th :) Looking forward to it since there will be a lot of business info.