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3 Reasons to Put Your Phone Away on Vacation


Originally posted October 2016

Stephan and I recently returned from our first “real” vacation in four years. Almost one solid week of getting away from it all, and enjoying several beautiful locations. Time to unplug, unwind, and enjoy conversations with each other.

Little did we know that from this vacation, we’d gain a completely new perspective on what it really means to “unplug.”

Our first stop was Disney’s Magic Kingdom. If you’ve ever been there, you know that there is a ton to do. It is one of our absolute favorite places to visit.

In true millennial fashion, I’ll admit that I can never totally “unplug” from my phone, especially at Disney World. There are so many photo ops and unique social media check-in locations. With that being said, Stephan and I are by no means glued to our phones. We’re firm believers that if you are paying to be on vacation, BE on vacation. Be present, soak in your surroundings, and make memories.

To our surprise, everywhere we looked, people were immersed in their smart phones. I could go on for hours about the almost impossible to believe things we saw. This continued to be the theme even after we moved on to the other locations on our trip. People couldn’t pull themselves away from the digital world to be part of the real world.

I want to clarify my tone for a moment. The last thing I want is for this post to sound judgmental. I’m writing this for the purpose of drawing attention to an epidemic in our culture that is robbing us of the moments of joy around us. This is especially true when going on vacation with family and friends. Vacations (and even mini getaways) with those we care most about are precious times that are fleeting and rare. As I can confirm from first-hand experience on this trip, your smart phone will still be there if you turn it off for a day.

If you are going on vacation (or any other mini trip), consider for a moment these three reasons to put your phone away:

1. Be present: Even though waiting in line to board a ride at an amusement park may seem like a good time to play a game on your phone, or scroll through social media feeds to pass the time, you are missing all of the sights and sounds around you. We saw this happen more times than we could begin to count on our vacation. By not being fully present in your surroundings, you are missing out on making memories and taking in the experience in full. Get comfortable with the idea of not having to fill every moment with something to do. You will feel a lot more alive, rejuvenated, and connected to others.

2. Restore your health: Vacations are a time meant for de-stressing and hitting the “re-set” button on your health. This is one of the rare times you have permission to get lost in a new book, take a three hour nap, go to an extra long yoga class, spend an entire evening at the pool, or do any other leisurely activity you want to do. You cheat yourself out of the real health benefits activities like these provide when you’re checking your phone. Prioritize your health while on vacation by letting go of the need to stay connected to your phone.

3. Show those you’re with that you care: Of any point I could make on the subject, this is the most important. Spending time on your phone instead of engaging in conversation with your family and friends shows them that they are less important. No matter what your intentions are, you are communicating to those around you that you care more about your latest status update, your work email inbox, and so on. When you turn off your phone and talk with those on vacation with you, you will feel much more connected with them. You’ll find that your conversations become more meaningful when you give your full attention to those you care most about.

The Go-To Elderberry Syrup Recipe

The Go-To Elderberry Syrup Recipe
For the past few years, my husband and I have relied solely on natural remedies to prevent us from getting colds, flus, and other seasonal illnesses. We have found our favorite all-natural ways of preventing common seasonal illnesses, and we find that we get sick no more than anyone else. Regularly taking homemade elderberry syrup is easily our go-to way of staying healthy throughout the year.

One huge disclaimer before we move on: I’m not a medical professional, nor am I making any judgements. This is simply a recipe for an incredibly healthy syrup that helps us stay well during cold and flu season. When I say that elderberries are healthy, I mean it. Do a quick Google search on these fabulous purple health-giving berries.  Elderberries are super rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, antioxidants, and so much more. They are a true all-in-one!

Moving on, I wanted to share with you my own go-to elderberry syrup recipe. I use this syrup as a preventative measure, and also as a get-better-quick remedy for when icky cold and flu symptoms creep up.

Why make elderberry syrup instead of just buying it?
Check the price tag on any elderberry syrup at a health food store and you may feel a tad bit of sticker shock. Depending on the brand, you’ll pay on average $3/oz. The last time I made multiple batches of my elderberry syrup, I made about 166oz for $30. You still get just as many health benefits from homemade syrup, and you can customize the ingredients that you add.

Where on earth do you find elderberries?

Before trying to make my own elderberry syrup, this question intimidated me to the point that I almost didn’t try it. I admit this to you even after having been the marketing director of a health food store a few years back! Elderberries are available in fresh and dried form. I always choose dried elderberries because they are the easiest to find. While I don’t have any reliable suggestion as to where to find fresh if you choose that route, dried elderberries can be found at nearly all health food stores in the bulk spices area (i.e. look for the section of the store with the large bookshelf-looking apparatus with labeled jars).

The recipe
Before starting to work on this recipe, take note: it’s slightly time consuming. I like to make this syrup on one of my days off. I use a simple blend of dried elderberries, water, fresh ginger, cinnamon, local honey, and cayenne.

•    1 cup local, raw honey
•    2/3 cup of dried elderberries
•    3 1/4 cups water
•    1 1/2 tsp cayenne
•    1 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
•    1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1. Add water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne to a saucepan that fits all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil.

2. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low for about one hour.

3. Remove from heat for about 30-45 minutes (or until the liquid is warm instead of hot).

4. Strain and discard elderberries and grated ginger, and pour liquid in to a large heat-safe bowl.

5. Stir in honey.

6. Pour syrup in to mason jars. For this recipe, you will need about two mason jars (they will not be completely full). Refrigerate syrup.

What now?
The finished elderberry syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for several months. My husband and I take about one teaspoon per day as a cold and flu preventative. If we fall behind on taking care of ourselves and start to feel a scratchy throat, fever, or any other symptoms, we up the dose to about three teaspoons per day. This is our absolute favorite way to stay healthy over peak cold and flu season.

Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar & Tea Tree Facial Toner

Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar & Tea Tree Facial Toner

Originally published February 2016

Facial toner has always been a luxury item for me. While my face definitely benefits from using facial toner, I can never justify the purchase. The last time I bought facial toner, I splurged on incredible raspberry facial toner pads for $40. My face has never felt or looked better than when I used those toner pads. But I felt guilty for weeks because, being the frugal gal I am, I could never shake the feeling that the purchase was impractical.

Lately, I’ve experimented with making budget-friendly beauty products at home with all-natural ingredients. I have searched Pinterest for inspiration (as usual), and found a variety of ideas for making your own facial toner.

After trying multiple facial toner “recipes” and changing the ratio of the ingredients to fit the needs of my dry skin, I found that the following mixture works best for me. You may need to adjust the ingredient ratios if you don’t have dry skin. My advice is to start with this “recipe,” and make edits as needed for the next batch.

•    2 parts apple cider vinegar
•    4 parts distilled water
•    4-5 drops of tea tree oil

After mixing all of the above ingredients in a metal spray bottle (typically found in the essential oils section of any health food store), you can begin using the toner right away. It is best to spray the toner on a cotton round, and then apply gently after cleansing your face.

I use this toner 1-2 times per day, and I am truly impressed with the results. I love that I can now make effective, inexpensive facial toner (for about less than $1 bottle), and it is made with pure, all-natural ingredients. Beauty products don’t get much better than that!

The Easiest Gluten-Free Victoria Sponge Cake Recipe

The Easiest Gluten-Free Victoria Sponge Cake Recipe

To state the obvious, this recipe falls far more on the side of the “foodie” part of the blog than the “healthy” part. With that statement out of the way, I excitedly present to you my new favorite recipe: The Easiest Gluten-Free Victoria Sponge Cake!

If you follow the Our Healthy Foodie Life Instagram page, you’ll know that this was my project a few days ago. I have wanted to make this traditional British cake ever since I first saw it featured in a challenge on an episode of The Great British Bake Off  (love that show!). The Victoria sponge cake is a simple, yet extravagant looking cake. When making all parts of the cake from scratch (especially the jam), it can quickly become quite an involved recipe.

Despite my appreciation for baking treats from scratch, I intentionally wanted to make my version of the cake as easy as possible. Also, since I can’t eat gluten, my version of the cake had to be gluten-free.



I am delighted to report that my unbelievably simple version of a Victoria sponge cake turned out wonderfully! I was so surprised at how rewarding it was to make this dessert. For such a low amount of effort, I could hardly believe that I was rewarded with such a beautiful looking cake.


Ready to try making this delectable dessert? Take a look at how simple it is to make a superb, gluten-free cake with minimal effort.

•    2 boxes of gluten-free yellow cake mix (if you don’t have to be gluten-free, feel free to use standard yellow cake mixes)
•    1 large (about 17.25 oz) jar of all-natural or organic strawberry jam
•    Homemade whipped cream (use your favorite recipe, or make this an ultra lazy recipe by using pre-made whipped cream. It is up to you!)

•    Follow the directions for your chosen box cakes to make each cake separately in its own circular cake pan (as shown in the picture below).
•    Once the cakes have been baked and fully cooled, slice the rounded top off of the larger cake (or the cake you plan to use on the bottom if they are both the same size), so that it makes a flat surface to spread the jam and whipped cream.
•    Spread a generous amount of the strawberry jam on the flat cake surface.
•    After adding the jam, lightly spread a generous amount of whipped cream on top of the jam. Be careful not to mix the jam and whipped cream, but to keep them in their own separate layers.
•    Place the other cake on top of the bottom cake.
•    Serve and enjoy! (See, I told you this was easy…)

Three Effective Ways to Pick Yourself Up When Your Day Starts Badly


We all know this kind of morning: you wake up, start to get in to the day, and something negative happens almost immediately. The car won’t start, your alarm didn’t go off, or some other frustrating event(s) occur. As you make an attempt to shake off the discouraging start to the day, things continue to go wrong, and you are just about ready to crawl back in to bed.

Does the above description sound familiar? Nearly everyone experiences days like these with some regularity. Starting your day with a sequence of things going wrong is enough to put even the most resilient of individuals in a sour mood.

So why not just allow yourself to be in a bad mood, get through the day, and start over the following day? There are a few good reasons not to approach a poor start to your day in this way. First, your mood impacts the mood of those around you. Negativity and positivity alike are contagious, so you need to be courteous to others. Second, why allow yourself to suffer through the day when you can leverage strategies to turn things around? Don’t have a bad day when it isn’t needed.

Next time you find your day starting off with an aggravating series of events, utilize these three suggestions for picking yourself up:

Make peace with less-than-awesome days
This is quite different than allowing yourself to sulk in the events of the day. Far from it, in fact. Making peace with the less-than-awesomeness of the day is more of a sincere, well-meaning adjustment of your expectations. It is an acknowledgement of being ok with the flow of life. Some days will be amazing, some will be average, and some will be downright awful. Consciously getting comfortable with the dynamic nature of life will allow you to breathe a sigh of relief. It allows you to be ok with the uncomfortable things that happen, and expect life to be less than perfect. You can acknowledge that while today isn’t great, there will be a day coming up that will be wonderful.

Schedule time to do something you really love
Think of the things you love to do that you only reserve for special occasions. Maybe it’s a bubble bath, wine, and a favorite book. Or allowing yourself to indulge in an extra long yoga class, followed by a long walk in your favorite location. Fight the struggles of the day by intentionally scheduling time to do something you absolutely adore. If you don’t have much time at any point in your day, do something small, but wonderfully exciting. Make it impossible to feel less than fabulous in those moments of doing what you love.

Be extra kind to others
Treating others with kindness is an amazing way to turn your day around. By making it a point to show love, respect, and extra care to those around you, not only will the person you are interacting with benefit, but you will feel positive feelings as well. Remember what I said earlier? Positivity, much like negativity, is also contagious. Spread those smiles, kind words, and happiness!