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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

How to use essential oils

When we were in England, my cousin Olivia raved about the genius of essential oils. She uses them for everything from perfume to cleaning to baths...I was intrigued.

First things first: What are they, exactly? An essential oil is simply a very potent extract from the leaves, stems, roots, flowers or bark of plants. Essential oils are relatively inexpensive and come in hundreds of varieties, from lemon to lavender to sandalwood. Here are 13 amazing everyday uses...


For the ultimate bath: Add a couple drops of an essential oil to bathwater to help you decompress. (Scents that promote relaxation: lavender, camomile, bergamot, cedarwood and jasmine.) If you have sensitive skin, you can also mix the oil with coconut oil or a bit of shampoo before adding it to the bathwater.

For a signature scent: To make your own fragrance, mix 25 drops of your favorite essential oils (sandalwood, patchouli and bergamot are all sexy scents) with 1/4 cup of high-quality vodka (the higher the alcohol content, the better) in a clean glass bottle. Allow the mixture to sit for two weeks before using. Voila: custom perfume!

For incredible moisture: Sweet almond oil, which contains vitamins A, B, and E, is a wonderful natural moisturizer. You can rub it on hands and feet, use it to heal chapped lips and even dab a bit underneath your eyes before going to sleep to help reduce dark circles.

To heal a pimple: Tea tree oil, known for its healing properties, is great for controlling oily skin and calming blemishes. Neem oil is a natural antibacterial and makes a fantastic pimple-fighting potion. Mix a few drops each of neem and tea tree oil and dab directly on your blemish with a cotton swab. (As with any topical treatment, it's best to spot test a tiny area first to make sure your skin isn't sensitive to it. Also, beware the strong odor!)


For a natural room freshener: Add a few drops of essential oil to a spray bottle filled with purified water and shake it up for an all-natural air purifier. (Lemon, lavender and peppermint work well for freshness, but this will work with any scent.)

To make your whole house smell amazing: Add a few drops of your favorite scent to a pot of boiling water and let it simmer. Voila! Your whole home will smell fantastic. Warm scents like nutmeg and cinnamon are especially welcoming around the holidays.

To make shoes stink less: Put a few drops of lemon or geranium essential oil on a cotton ball and then place into shoes to freshen them up.

To freshen while cleaning: You know how vacuums can smell kind of gross? Put a few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball, then place it in your vacuum cleaner bag for help freshening while you clean. If you have a bag-less vacuum, mix a few drops of essential oil with a small spoonful of baking soda, then vacuum it up!


To make your own massage oil: Mix a couple drops of your favorite essential oil(s) with an unscented carrier oil, like avocado or coconut. (The scents of lavender and patchouli help you relax, while vanilla and orange are heralded as aphrodisiacs.) Perfect for an at-home date night.

For relaxation: Lavender promotes relaxation, but did you know it may also help with stress and even teeth grinding? Some sources suggest rubbing a few drops on the bottom of your feet (!) before you go to sleep to ensure a restful night.

For an energy boost: Peppermint is said to boost your mood and reduce fatigue. Keep a small bottle on your desk to sniff during a long work day or in your bag before you head to the gym. (Note: Peppermint oil can sometimes cause irritation when applied directly to the skin.)

To reduce congestion: Eucalyptus oil is lauded as a wonderful decongestant. The next time you have a cold, simply sniff the scent or place two to five drops on the shower floor and let the scented steam work its magic.

For overall well-being: Jasmine oil is said to reduce stress and combat depression. Rub a few drops on your pressure points, like your wrists or temples, when you need a pick-me-up. Jasmine is safe to apply directly to your skin. Bonus: It doubles as a heady perfume.
Would you try them? Or do you already use essential oils? I'd love to hear any tips or recommendations...You can find a bunch of essential oils here—I think I'm going to order sandalwood and eucalyptus:)

P.S. The loveliest fall nail polish.

(Written by Caroline Donofrio. Photos by Kate Jordan for Cup of Jo. Tips found via Real Simple, Style Craze and Edens Garden)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Have a beautiful long weekend.

What are you up to this weekend? Any fun plans or trips? We're going out to a romantic dinner tonight, and I'm hoping to go kayaking in the East River tomorrow morning. Thank you for all your great comments this week; I always love hearing from you. Hope you have a good weekend, and here are a few links from around the web...

Words to remember from Roald Dahl.

In one sentence, Amy Poehler schools a guy on what it's like to be a woman.

Do you sleep in something cute? I'd love to wear this instead of pjs and socks.

Ha! An awesome screensaver.

The 23-year-old who is making the New York Times crossword puzzle cool.

Nude portraits with a funny twist.

Abstract Parisian rooftops.

My friend makes the best sandwiches—and here's his secret weapon.

What every trendy restaurant menu looks like.

How to be polite.

The five love languages. Which are you?

Yoga moves to do after sitting at a desk all day.

On my fall wishlist: This beautiful wallet, of all things.

Cool gallery exhibit in Denmark.

What a glass of wine looks like. (Smaller than you'd think!)

Have a good one. xoxo

(Painting by Mary Burke. Yoga hacks via Swissmiss)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

8 things I've learned about marriage

Alex and I are celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary tomorrow. Over the years, I've learned many things about marriage—both what to do and what not to do. Here are my top eight...

City Hall weddings

Would you ever get married at City Hall? There's something so exciting, laid-back and intimate about these small ceremonies. My friend got married at City Hall a couple weeks ago, and she wore a white linen T-shirt, jeans and sandals. And when Alex and I stopped by years ago to get our marriage license, we saw a bride, groom and their entire family wearing Mets jerseys!

What do you think? Would (or did) you get hitched at City Hall? Refinery 29 just photographed a bunch of couples—see the slideshow here.

P.S. This would make a lovely casual wedding dress.
P.P.S. My friend Lee's wedding, the day New York legalized gay marriage and this bride wore overalls!

(Photos by Winnie Au for Refinery 29)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Laundry! We're grown ups!

We moved into our new apartment about two weeks ago (I'd love to share more photos once we finish unpacking and painting), and the new place has two things we've never had before: outdoor space (a small balcony off the living room) and...a WASHER AND DRYER!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's the first washer and dryer Alex and I have had in our adult lives (and we're old), and I cannot tell you how happy we are that our dragging-bags-to-the-laundromat days are over.
We turned to (you guessed it) The Honest Company, one of my beloved long-term sponsors, to try their natural, non-toxic laundry supplies, including laundry detergent, non-chlorine bleach, stain remover and dryer cloths.
For lingerie and delicates, I washed everything by hand in the sink with baby shampoo (have you heard that trick?). It's gentle and smells like sweet orange vanilla—so good.
The laundry scents are very subtle, light and fresh, and the ingredients are all-natural and safe for babies and sensitive skin.
Four-year-old Toby helped me sort the laundry into colors vs. whites; we've been giving him chores lately and he takes them very seriously.
And one-year-old Anton helped by rolling around on the blanket. :)
If you'd like to try Honest, you can see their cleaning supplies here. We've loved and trusted all of their natural baby, beauty and cleaning products for years and highly recommend them. (Especially their adorable patterned diapers.) Looking forward to sharing more apartment photos soon. xo

Bonus for all readers: Get 35% off your first bundle with the code CUPOFJO35OFF, good until September 10th. Thank you, Honest!

(Photos by Julia Robbs for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by The Honest Company, whose products our family has used for years. Thanks so much for supporting the brands that keep Cup of Jo running.)

Chicken Parm Meatballs

My friend Jenny Rosenstrach is warm, wise and a genius when it comes to dinners. Her new book, Dinner: The Playbook, takes you through 30 days of dinners, inspired by a time she and her husband, Andy, challenged themselves to make 30 different meals and have their young daughters try them all. I especially love her recipe for chicken parm meatballs, and here's how she makes them...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lace jumpsuit

We're going out to dinner for our anniversary, and I'm planning to wear a dress I've had for years, but then I stumbled upon this lace jumpsuit. Isn't it sexy? So cool, elegant, effortless—and with such alluring details, like the lace bodice and low back. What a gorgeous ensemble for a date, especially with red lipstick and a low bun.

P.S. How to keep the sparks alive.

What are your favorite romantic comedies?

Alex and I are celebrating our fifth anniversary this Friday. Our wedding simultaneously feels like yesterday and a million years ago. So much has happened! This week, I'd love to talk about what I've learned during the past five years of marriage, but first...

Let's talk about romantic comedies. When I was dating in my twenties, if I liked a guy, I would suggest we watch So I Married an Ax-Murderer. If he enjoyed it, I knew that our senses of humor aligned. It got terrible reviews, but even just thinking of this scene or that scene make me laugh out loud. What rom coms do you like? New York Magazine just did a list of 25, and here are 10 of my personal favorites...

* When Harry Met Sally
* Emma
* Bridget Jones's Diary
* Roxanne
* Clueless
* Say Anything
* Her
* Forgetting Sarah Marshall
* 13 Going on 30
* Silver Lining's Playbook

Plus, four amazing romantic movies (that aren't really comedic):
* A Room with a View
* Sense & Sensibility
* Away from Her (broke my heart)
* Romeo & Juliet (the 1968 version with Olivia Hussey)
And just for fun, here's a fake trailer of When Harry Met Sally made into a horror film. Makes me laugh.

Agree or disagree? Which romantic comedies or movies do you like? I'd love to hear...

P.S. The seven types of women in romantic comedies, and the movie we watched on our first date. Also, will you cry at your wedding?

Monday, August 25, 2014

18 Surprising Things about Parenting in Chile

Thank you for being so enthusiastic about our Motherhood Around the World series. It has been an honor to share these women's personal stories, and we loved reading all your comments. We hope to do another round next year.

Our thirteenth—and final!—interview features Natasha Ngaiza. She moved from Philadelphia to Santiago, Chile, with her husband, David, and their young daughters, Mia and Sara. Here are 18 things that have surprised her about being a mom in Chile...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Have a wonderful weekend.

What are your plans for the weekend? We're getting settled in Brooklyn and have been loving it so far. Everyone is so friendly. Meanwhile, thank you so much for these inspiring tips! I'm looking forward to trying some things. Hope you have a wonderful weekend, and here are a few fun posts from around the web...

Head's up: Everything at J.Crew is 25% off right now.

Breakfast downgraded from "most important meal of the day" to "meal."

Although I still really, really want to make this.

This anniversary card made me laugh.

What?! You can sleep in IKEA for the night!!!

Classic movies changed to not be sexist.

LOVE these day-in-the-life photos of ballet dancer David Hallberg and actress Jemima Kirke.

Genius alarm clock.

10 pictures of the daily recommended servings of fruits and veggies.

The thought process of being late. Too true.

Tip: Treat a night with a friend like a date night.

Makes me want another baby.

(Coffee brewer link via Girls of a Certain Age)
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