In Memory of My Boy

April 12, 2019

Writing this is hard. Writing has a way of making things real; even things that are pure fiction, like magic and Middle-earth, can be made so familiar through skillful writing we can find ourselves subtly jaded upon returning to reality after closing a book.

This is one case where I wish writing had no such quality, where I wish my writing would be so horrible there’s no way anyone, especially myself, could believe it. As things are, it wouldn’t matter how many misspellings and cliches I make, this reality remains.

My dog of 18 years left me behind for the first and last time. He died on March 24, 2019, in his beloved little bed, with the hands and love of his family surrounding him. I wasn’t there; I was out of the state, completely convinced he would be right there in his little bed like he’s always been for almost 2 decades upon my return.

I hate myself for not being by his side for the loneliest journey of every animal’s life. By his side the way he’s been by my side for his entire life. He wasn’t alone when he died, but I was alone when he died and that’s my burden to carry. A burden of my choice, of course, as dogs wouldn’t be dogs if they held grudges the way we do.

I’ve written something for Simba and for me. It’s messy, it’s a pile of grief and gratitude and then more grief and gratitude; it’s a bunch of words to communicate my love for a dog that never needed a single word to communicate his. Simba deserved every good thing that this earth could give but there’s nothing else I can give now except my mournful, grateful words.

I look at the ground where you sleep and I have to hold myself back from digging you out, just to hold your perfect, tiny, potato-round body one more time. You were just here and now nothing — no money, no miracle — nothing can take us back to 1 week ago. In a world with so many exceptions and caveats, death feels otherworldly. A punishment from an alternate world. It’s been 1 week since you were sleeping in that little brown bed and I still thought we had 10,000 years left together. The innocuity of an empty bed is so deceiving; an empty bed is loss — loss of sleep, loss of love, and now, loss of life. I never once thought of how painful seeing your empty bed would be.

Now I too feel empty. Worse, I feel robbed. I didn’t know the last time I saw Simba would actually be the last time I saw him. I hate the world for taking someone so pure. What kind of place lets a life so gentle end? I don’t want to spend my grievous energy contemplating the circle of life and accepting our life’s limited time. I don’t want anything except my boy. My small, irreplaceable, fat-bellied, fire-bellied boy of 18 years. I want to tell him how much I appreciate him. How massive an impact this 9 pound being had on me, on my life. How sorry I am for all the times I walked past you without taking 60 seconds to give you affection, attention, even acknowledgement — how sorry I am for how human I am.

Thank you for being my friend, a tiny but fierce blockade against that penetrating sense of loneliness we humans are so sensitive to. I am no exception; without the comfort of knowing you are somewhere in this world at the same time as me, that fearsome loneliness creeps around me. I’d never felt your presence so heavily until I lost it forever. How selfish I was, to take for granted that greatest gift of companionship you gave to me, the loneliest of species. I hope you’re not alone. I’ll try to step away from my humanness just to live a little bit more in the way you taught me; I’ll try to be a better companion to the lonely humans around me, just the way you were to me.

You taught me so much. We shared the simplest, smallest joys that all mammals understand — stepping outdoors and breathing fresh air, skin warming under a mild sun; feeling safe and trusted, the only relationship I knew to have been effortless without language. I didn’t understand how valuable those daily 4 minutes we would both step barefoot onto the damp grass were. I was so impatient. I’m told I was the epitome of patience, of care, but even 1 minute of unappreciated time is too much to forgive now that all our time is gone. I can’t believe our time is gone.

Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for tolerating me. I’m a verbose person and you were of so few words. Just a few words in this world of endless talking and languages — “walk” and your name were the only words you needed. By the end you had no words left, no way to hear those words, relying solely on the bond of trust and care to communicate. I know I gave you everything because you trusted me and felt safe and cared for til the last sigh. It was so easy to give you everything because you never wanted anything more than loving care. It’s that purity, that genuine ego-less selflessness that breaks me apart now. Another lesson you taught throughout your whole life but one in which the student is destined never to surpass the master.

All I can do now is feel the acute guilt of a less than selfless existence, a bond marred by human frailty — the times I was annoyed, the times I was busy. I would apologize, but a dog has no need for this human invention; an apology isn’t love, love is love. So once again, even gone from my side you still teach me — guilt, mourning, apologies — they have no use for those without ego. The only language you understood was love. So I’ll try, though only having a fraction of the vigor your 9 pound body coursed with til the last second, to set aside my self-indulgent grief and give to others in your name the only thing you ever asked of me, compassion and a few moments of gentle, loving care.

Sleep peacefully, little man

Modern & Holistic Pet Care

Feeding Dogs Raw Food On A Budget: How to Supplement Your Dog’s Food

June 8, 2018

Not everybody has the time or disposable income to prepare a diet of fully raw dog food, particularly if it’s a larger dog, but that doesn’t mean your dog’s health has to take a back seat. Unfortunately for dog owners, the grocery store kibble brands have had a death grip on our ideas about the type of food we should feed our dogs. Big kibble corporations (I’m talking big – did you know Science Diet is actually owned by the same company that makes soap, Colgate-Palmolive?) have even sponsored nutrition courses in veterinarian education programs, which helped to further the public’s idea of what dog food should be. 

Dogs need a varied diet made up of whole foods and mostly meat. Kibble, even the healthier grain-free formulas, lack variety, moisture and freshness. What makes kibble a not-so-great diet staple but a wonderful retail product is its shelf life. Regardless of recipe, kibble starts out as a meatball of ground up ingredients, then cooked at high temperatures so the piece of food hardens into a kibble. It’s the human equivalent of processed cereal – something we would never eat at every single meal, so why should our dogs?

Supplementing with raw dog food snacks

One of the main issues with feeding only kibble is the lack of moisture in it. Dogs historically acquired roughly 70% of their water intake from eating uncooked meals. If you check the bag of your dog’s kibble you’ll see moisture percentages as low as 10% and 12% – your dog has to make up for this difference solely through drinking water. Many dogs, especially health compromised or older dogs, simply can’t and begin to show the symptoms of perpetual, mild dehydration. Store-bought raw dog food is generally 70% moisture.

When a dog’s body doesn’t have sufficient moisture, it begins to redirect these resources to more vital functions, like digestion. Issues like a dull coat, constant and heavy shedding, dandruff, urinary tract issues and even joint health are affected by a lack of moisture. 

dog food for soft shiny coat  You might feel you just don’t have the time, money or expertise to invest in switching your dog to 100% raw dog food, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. So let’s get to my recipe for supplementing your dog’s diet with a raw food booster snack.

I was boarding a client’s dog and saw that for having a coat of thin, short hair, the dog was shedding tons; entire clumps of fur. I also noticed that her coat was riddled with dandruff. These are classic signs of a chronic lack of moisture – the skin and hair are not vital functions and are thus some of the first to have moisture stolen from them to facilitate more integral functions. 

dog food for soft shiny coat

I learned her diet was strictly kibble, but it wasn’t even a low-quality brand of kibble, as it was Taste of the Wild. Yet it didn’t matter whether the kibble was grain-free, organic or kosher – it was still kibble and never above 15% moisture – that leaves your dog having to make up for over half their moisture requirement strictly through drinking water. There are many problems with this but one of the most dangerous that has plagued especially larger dogs is bloat, or gastric torsion – a condition that’s been observed to occur when a dog consumes too much water too quickly; it occurs suddenly and can kill. 

So being that this wasn’t my dog, I wanted to find a cost-effective way to boost her dietary moisture without switching her food or even buying raw meat. The recipe in this post is what I came up with and it’s made almost entirely of ingredients you almost certainly have in your kitchen right now. 

Supplementing with raw dog food snacks

This is a great recipe to either feed as a snack or add to their meals of kibble. Just be aware of how this addition to your dog’s diet could alter their daily caloric intake.

Raw Healthy Skin & Coat Snack
Yields 1
A supplemental raw dog food recipe for a skin/coat health boost
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
  1. *1 egg (plus shell, crushed).
  2. *1 tablespoon of sprouts
  3. *0.5 tablespoon of shredded spinach
  4. *0.5 tablespoon of coconut oil
  5. *1 teaspoon olive oil
  6. *1 teaspoon chia seeds
  7. *0.5 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. 1. Crack egg into food bowl and add crushed shell.
  2. 2. Add shredded spinach and all other ingredients.
  3. 3. Mix until an even mixture is attained.
  4. 4. Add a splash of hot water if coconut oil solidifies.
  5. 5. Serve as is or with kibble.
  6. 6. Dispose of leftovers after 30 minutes.
  1. * This recipe is crafted with a health 40 pound dog in mind. Each item can be researched to confirm the proper serving size for your dog.
Luna Gemme

The Benefits of Each Ingredient

  • Raw Egg: No, your dog will not get salmonella. The ph of a dog’s stomach is highly acid and kills bacteria that a human’s would not. Plus, ever seen a dog eat another dog’s poo? Yeah, they can handle a raw egg. Dingos are actually known to eat raw emu eggs, so this really isn’t an unusual addition to your dog’s diet. Eggs are a great source of amino acids (what proteins are made of), vitamin A, iron and fatty acids too. 
  • Eggshell: It might seem strange to feed your dog the egg’s shell, but powdered eggshells is already a supplement available to humans because it’s rich in calcium. Letting your dog chew up the egg shell is also somewhat helpful in keeping their teeth clean, particularly great for dogs that already have trouble chewing bones.
  • Spinach: Dogs need a diet that is mainly comprised of meat, organs and bones, but even wild wolves are known to forage for berries and get a notable portion of plant matter from the stomachs of the herbivores they prey on. Plus, if our dogs can benefit, why not feed it? Spinach is packed with antioxidants, iron and vitamins A, B, C, and K that all have the same healing benefits to our dogs as they do to us.
  • Sprouts: This is something else that I already buy for my own consumption and just share with my dog. While there are definitely some foods you can’t share with your dog, a quick search can confirm any of your questions. Whether it’s pea, mung bean, alfalfa, broccoli, radish, clover or sunflower, sprouts are superfoods for both humans and dogs because most plants actually contain higher levels of all the nutrients they offer in the sprouted stage. So sprouts are basically steroids but made of vitamins and minerals, thus including them in your dog’s diet can help address issues with chronic ear infections, IBD, pancreatitis, allergies and arthritis. If your dog eats grass, they might be engaging in an instinctive behavior to consume trace minerals lacking from their diet, which sprouts can provide.
  • Olive Oil: Adds moisture and shine to dry skin and dull coats. Olive oil is also full of antioxidants that can boost the immune system. Plus it’s known to aid circulation.
  • Cinnamon: You might think cinnamon would be toxic to dogs the way nutmeg is, but it’s actually beneficial to help control or prevent diabetes and its anti-inflammatory properties help ease the severity of arthritis. It’s also antibacterial which can give you some peace of mind knowing that you’re helping to provide your dog with nutrition to keep them from succumbing to any bacterial infections. Cinnamon has even been found to prevent the growth of E.coli.
  • Chia Seeds: They have 3 times the amount of omega 3 fatty acids as salmon, making them a super potent supplement for issues with skin, coat, immune and joint health. 
  • Coconut Oil: Almost entirely made up of healthy fats, coconut oil was my go-to in restoring this dog’s shiny and soft coat. It’s known to improve digestion (an important aspect if your dog is known to have stomach sensitivity), reduce bad breath, aid with joint issues, and control or prevent diabetes. 

Supplementing with raw dog food snacksWhat do you feed your dog now? My dog eats a mixture of homemade and store-bought raw food, with the occasional canned food when we’re traveling. Does your dog have coat/skin issues too? Let me know if you try out the recipe – you should see a noticeable improvement in coat health after about 30 days.


*Looking for more immortality potions? Here’s one for humans. Reading this when you should actually be sleeping? Check out my sleep routine (and then go to bed)!

Adding Beauty to Your Life

A Sleep Routine for Waking Up Earlier That Doesn’t Require $50 Candles

May 17, 2018

It seems like everyone’s writing about sleep routines. That’s great, sleep is very important and we live in a culture that has a pretty complicated view of rest/work balance. I just can’t help notice that most of these sleep routines are being written from light flooded luxury lofts and require $50 candles and $400 sheets.

Listen, I love sleeping as much as the next person but I don’t know anyone in a position to spend that much money on a sleep routine. That doesn’t mean a sleep routine itself is a luxury we should go without. If your goal is to wake up early and have that picturesque productive morning, a well-constructed sleep routine is vital. 

So I’m writing my own realistic sleep routine that requires minimal investment but is just as effective (I’d even argue it’s better because I tend to sleep more soundly knowing my bank account isn’t stressed).

This is my own night routine, but you should pick and choose what suits you to create your own night routine. 


Every article that talks about waking up early says you should go to bed at the same time each night. That’s because it’s true. Yeah, I’m bad at it too but are you really trying though? Because I’m not. So let’s start together after having read it for the 50th time instead of waiting till the 100th. 

You should also start your sleep routine 1 hour before you actually want to go to sleep. I know, I always wait until 10 PM to go to sleep at 10 PM too. It doesn’t work. Just remember that your productice morning actually starts the night before. 

Strains for Sleep 

If you’re lucky enough to live in a state that’s got it together, you can purchase a strain of weed that will make your pre-bed ritual its own nightly event that you look forward to. Whether you decide to be old fashion with straight up flower or you prefer something a little less abrasive like an edible, making weed part of your night ritual takes it to a whole different level. 

I accidentally found this out after finding myself in the unusual situation of being fairly lifted right before bed. The nighttime yoga recommendation that’s next on this list? Completely conceived of during that accidental bedtime sesh. It’s 2018 and weed is legal people, use the tools you’ve been given!

My Bedtime Bud Picks:

  1. Afghan Kush
  2. Querkle
  3. Big Bud
  4. Skywalker

For sleep purposes I recommend you go the edible route as this produces a more potent effect that will last longer and ensure a deep sleep. I have a friend that swears by her pre-bed edibles and says they send her into a pleasant coma every night. Just be sure to time it so the effects occur at the start of your night ritual. 

Sleep Stretches 

I’m not a super physical person – I don’t even exercise daily. Point being, if I can incorporate a mini yoga session into my night ritual, you probably can too. Make it a super short and basic practice so it’s never too daunting to start when you’re already tired. It’s also important to set aside a special location where you do these stretches so that going over to it at the same time every night immediately triggers the habit to start stretching. 10 minutes of stretching and deep breathing will help release the tension you’ve been carrying all day while also slowing your thoughts down by getting you to focus on your body. 

This is the short version of my nightly yoga routine that I try to do even when I’m pressed for time:


Meditation is a great trick for getting your mind to quiet down so you’re not being harassed by thoughts while trying to sleep (if I sound bitter it’s because I’ve definitely been there). If you’re even just the slightest bit tired, a 5-minute meditation will make it hard to open your eyes afterward. I like to end my 10-minute yoga session with a 5-minute meditation; after that the day is officially over and I’m safe from worry and stress until tomorrow.

Add Lavender Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender candles, lavender lotion, lavender essential oil – whichever way you find most convenient, add lavender to your night ritual. While I personally find the smell of lavender relaxing just from of how pleasant it is, there’s plenty of actual science to back up why lavender is a useful sleep aid. 


If you don’t have a warm drink before bed you’re missing out on a powerful nighttime ritual. Having the same drink every night can condition your brain to disengage with the outside world and slip into night-mode every time you sip a certain flavor.

Chamomile tea is the traditional pre-bed drink of choice for its mild flavor and for proven sedative effects. You don’t have to be too preoccupied with which tea to buy as the chamomile will do its job regardless. This is a good starter option and here is a good Oh-You-Fancy option.

Want to really treat yourself? Make a cup of my Golden Moon Milk recipe before bed on those days you really need some deep restoration and detoxification. 

Read Before Bed 

There’s something really peaceful in how Amish it feels not to have technology around before bed. So reserve your pre-bed hour as a mini end-of-the-day-media-blackout: no phone, no computer, no screens. Plus, the last thing you need before bed is to raise your heart rate like social media is so good at doing.

The importance of sleep can’t be overstated, but the importance of the time we spend right before sleep warrants just as much attention. A well-planned and healthy sleep routine directly influences the type of morning routine you’ll have. Create your own night ritual to make sleep a more appreciated and purposeful event instead of something we do for 1/3 of our life but never really make a conscious effort to do well.

What night rituals do you already have? I’m always looking to improve my sleep situation so share your own ritual or what new steps you plan to add in the comments or on social media here and here


*Did you like this post because you’re a neurotic freak about personal growth like me? Then you’ll lose it for this post. Do you care more about health and holistic living? I got you. Just need some pre-bed reading material? Here’s the perfect warm-feelings-as-I-drift-into-sleep story.*

My Work, Wanderlust, Writing

The Introvert’s Travel Guide – for Travel Latina

May 7, 2018

I wrote about the way I’ve molded my personal travel routine to better fit my introverted personality; a major change that has improved my traveling experience immeasurably. Though, if I had to measure it, I could probably measure the reduction in stress plus the physical and emotional wearing down brought on by the typical hectic travel plans.

I also shared the new method for traveling I use that cuts down the cost of accommodations to nearly zero! Reject the cookie-cutter model of travel and learn more about tailoring your trips to fit your personality from my featured piece on Travel Latina.

Have you experienced travel burn out? In my article I argue that feeling worn down stems from planning our trips using a one-trip-fits-all mentality that ignores our personal needs. What are some ways you keep travel exhaustion from interfering with your travels? Let me know in the comments or on social media here and here!


*Looking for a travel story to read while you procrastinate? This one might almost make you feel slightly less guilty about that procrastination. Have an interest in personal growth and travel is just one tool in your self-development kit? This thought-experiment is all you

Fashion Files

Kimonos to Kill People In

April 28, 2018

I snagged these two vintage kimonos recently and I have to say it was pretty difficult to list them in my shop. But if it were up to me I’d have 58 kimonos in my closet and a girls gotta draw the line somewhere.

So lucky you, this golden treasure is up for sale here. This is what I’m gonna call a Power Cloak – because really, who can tell you shit while you’re cloaked in gold silk??

This kimono is breaking my heart. I don’t need a boyfriend, I don’t need friends – this kimono listens to my problems and reassures me that I truly am That Bitch. It will be for sale in my shop for as long as I can find the discipline to go without this Power Cloak. 

If you make the amazingly wise decision (I’m not biased) to grab these from my shop before I grab them for myself, let me know what incredible accomplishments your new Power Cloak™ has helped you achieve. I don’t know about yall, but no piece of clothing makes me feel more like a mysterious heiress than a dramatic silk kimono. What’s your go-to power clothing item? Divulge your fashion-psychology in the comments or on social media here and here!


*Looking for something a little more serious to read because you’re a masochist and like to worry? This is all you. Noticed my skin is glowing and want me to drop the skincare routine, I got you. Bonus: my top tips for curly hair care. *

Foodophiles, Recipes

My Coffee Shop Worthy Golden Moon Milk Recipe

April 9, 2018

Golden Milk

Though this drink has garnered more than it’s fair share of hipster-hatred, Golden Milk is one trend that we should all be happy to see, as it’s a beverage that’s both healthy and delicious. Haldi doodh, “turmeric milk” in Hindi, is exactly that — a drink of turmeric and milk in following with Ayurvedic medicine.
Golden MilkThis foundational recipe of milk and turmeric has been built upon to include many more ingredients so as to create an even more powerfully healthy drink. In my Golden Moon Milk version, I’ve prioritized the addition of sleep aid ingredients. 
Golden Milk

(If you hate when blogs put a bunch text before the recipe I’M SORRY just scroll way down past all my hard work and attempts at sharing knowledge because the golden milk recipe is the last part.)

Golden Milk

Here’s a breakdown of the health benefits some of these everyday golden milk ingredients offer:

  • TurmericThe active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has been shown to possibly prevent depression, reverse liver damage, and prevent and treat Alzheimer’s. It’s also anti-inflammatory, making it beneficial for pain management and healing. Turmeric even helps your skin by controlling eczema and rosacea It’s possibly also literal magic but that requires further study.
  • Cinnamon – Rich in antioxidants that promote the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cardiovascular diseases like heart disease AND cell mutation and tumor growth that leads to cancer. That is 3 out of the 4 most common causes of death. (Here’s an interesting podcast about health and the 4 major preventable causes of death if you were looking for some light subjects to pass the time with)
  • Coconut Milk – I switch out dairy in any recipes I adapt for my own usage because dairy is unbelievably bad for you, seriously listen, it’s lowkey ruining (and shortening) your life but it’s such a strong part of American cuisine we usually don’t question it. Using coconut milk removes the harm of dairy while also adding in a bunch of benefits like reducing your risk of stroke and heart attack through controlling cholesterol levels. Yeah it’s a little high in calories but you don’t get the goodies without some fat (yes this is a body positivity, thickness appreciation joke).
  • Ginger – This is not my favorite flavor, I’ll be honest, but I’ve added it to the recipe in a small enough amount not to offend me. I include ginger whenever and wherever I can because it’s a serious Super Root (I made this term up but you better show respect and capitalize). Ginger is anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol, eases nausea and pain plus it can maybe help you get your shit together since it’s been shown to improve attention and brain function. Lord knows not even intravenous turmeric applications can help me there. 
  • Cardamom – This ingredient is kind of like a guy who’s really good looking but stupid – you’re willing to have him around for a bit but not in any major capacity. If you just love cardamom I’m sorry, but it’s an offensively mild flavor. What it isn’t though, is unhealthy. Cardamon is a pretty serious cancer preventative as well as heart protectant through its ability to lower blood pressure.
  • Nutmeg – Now THIS is a damn flavor. Aw man, is my overplayed pumpkin spice obsession showing? I’d prefer to pretend I’m in it for the health benefits, some of which include a high manganese, copper and magnesium content which help in metabolizing carbohydrates (oh now you’re listening right?) and facilitating cell repair. 
  • Coconut Oil – Yall know damn well this shit is an elixir of gods I’m not even gonna bother.

Golden Milk

Golden Moon Milk
Serves 2
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
  1. 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (DIY Coconut Milk) (canned is for lazy champions but other shit works too)
  2. 1 1/2 cups unsweetened plain cashew milk (or almond if you’re less exciting than me)
  3. 2 cinnamon sticks (or 1 tbsp ground cinnamon – or both, you party animal)
  4. 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  5. 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  6. 1 tsp of coconut oil
  7. 1/4 tsp ground ashwagandha
  8. 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  9. 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  10. 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  11. “a pinch,” which basically means, an-amount-that-translates-to your-feelings-on-this-flavor of black pepper
Optional Add Ins
  1. Saffron – 5 strands
  2. Sweetener - 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of honey or alternative for strict veganism. Adjust as needed based on your taste preference.
  1. Add all ingredients into a small pot.
  2. Whisk to mix ingredients and warm over medium heat, without boiling (about 5 minutes). Stir frequently.
  3. Remove pot from heat and adjust flavor per your taste. You can ddd more sweetener or turmeric and ginger for more spice, or vanilla and nutmeg for a more mild but flavor boost.
  4. Serve warm out of the pot, as it's best when fresh. If using cinnamon sticks, I place them into the mug and serve them with the drink because it looks fancy.
  5. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Just reheat using the microwave or the stovetop.
Oh You Fancy notes
  1. Garnish by serving each cup of golden moon milk with it's own cinnamon stick.
  2. I always dust cinnamon (or your preferred of the spice ingredients) on top of the served drink.
  3. If using saffron, you can drop a few strands on top as a garnish as well.
Luna Gemme

Golden Milk

This recipe might look complicated but seriously it’s a 10-minute effort that’s totally worth it – you just have to throw a bunch of spices in a pot! Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried golden milk before and what you thought of it. I’m also curious if you have your own recipe and how your version differs. You can also share your thoughts with me here and here.


*If you’re into living holistically or want to be, this post is meant for you. If you’re more into cooking, here’s the perfect recipe to use if you want to show off when you’re cooking for someone.*

Tips for Immortality

Why You Should Throw Out Your Air Fresheners – From a Self Professed Scentophile

March 20, 2018

A few weeks ago I did something kind of scary; I, a born and bred Miamian with cafecito and humidity in my bloodstream, went to snow-covered Vermont in the deepest part of winter. I expected to experience a forested mountainside blanketed in snow but also I encountered something else I would have never expected…breathing!!

I’ve had asthma on and off throughout my life and while it’s not life-threatening it’s definitely a constant discomfort when something triggers that lung-constricting feeling that burdens my breathing and makes me hope my inhaler is near. While I hate the feeling, I figured using my inhaler once or twice a week was just my life and thus something I’d have to contend with basically forever. 

Then I spent a month in a cabin in the woods of Vermont and realized, even though I was sharing the space with 4 long haired pets, a good deal of dust and a few other major asthma triggers, my inhaler was practically untouched for the entire trip. The whole month. Just 1 use out of my normal 5-8 uses a month. 

That one use was what made me realize how environmentally dependant asthma is. I lit up a scented candle and had it on the table near me; something I’d done a million times before, yet this time I felt my lungs reacting in slow motion, that chest-tightening feeling rising up in me once again. My reaction to this candle was the difference between night and day compared to all this free and easy breathing I’d been doing.

Suddenly everything was so obvious; the air quality on a forested mountainside in Vermont felt like freshly cleaned white linen compared to the air of a traffic-filled city like Miami. The house I was staying in had a total of 0 air freshening products, save for that one candle, which immediately triggered my asthma, but my own house had an assortment of air fresheners in basically every room, plus I love lighting incense as well. I realized that the bulk of my allergies and breathing issues were environmental, not just biological. 

The minute I realized labored breathing and allergies weren’t just my burden in life, they were actually my body’s natural response to dirty air and products filled with harsh chemicals to create artificial scents, I couldn’t wait to get home and completely rid my house of all these toxins. 

Just as I had thought, removing as many artificially scented things as was possible (you’ll find artificial fragrance in things you would never expect once you start looking) improved my asthma symptoms almost immediately. Within a few days of opening my windows and letting any built up artificial scents filter out, my breathing felt less constricted. Breathing more easily after removing certain items from your space is the most bright and clear sign that those things are harmful. 

The Science Behind The Spite

No, I don’t just irrationally hate air fresheners, although I do really, really hate them. It just pisses me off that companies will use ingredients in their products that are proven to be detrimental to people (i.e. their customers!!) and actually charge us to be poisoned. Yes, I’m mad about it, but here’s the less angry sounding more science sounding reasons for my anger towards air fresheners.

  • Air fresheners don’t get rid of smells; they just mask them with artificial fragrance or by interfering with your ability to smell. The latter is done by coating your nasal passages with an oil film or releasing a nerve-deadening agent.
  • Known toxic chemicals that can be found in air fresheners include formaldehyde, camphor, ethanol, phenol, petroleum-based artificial fragrances (which contain their own mix of toxins) and benzyl alcohol. 
  • These chemicals can cause symptoms like headaches, rashes, dizziness, migraines, asthma attacks, mental confusion, coughing and more. Some of the substances in air fresheners are also known carcinogens and others are hormone disruptors (the latter which cause issues with obesity, diabetes, female reproduction, male reproduction, hormone-sensitive cancers in females, prostate cancer in males, thyroid, and neurodevelopment and neuroendocrine systems as well as the healthy development of a fetus).
  • Severity and triggers, as well as symptoms, vary from person to person. But when used in a confined area like a house, the intense amount of toxins in a small area can be especially problematic. Children and animals are particularly susceptible to harm from chemicals in indoor air.
  • Asthma is a major problem related to air fresheners and perfumed cleaning products. In a 2007 European study, researchers found that using air fresheners as little as once a week can raise the risk of developing asthma in adults.
  • In aerosol form, the dangers of these products are multiplied because of the micro-particles that are created of the chemicals.
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council found that 12 of 14 brands of common household air fresheners contained phthalates (chemicals that are used to prolong the length of time that scented products maintain their fragrance).
  • Regular exposure to phthalates can increase your risk of experiencing endocrine, reproductive, and developmental problems. Some of the brands that tested positive for phthalates did not include phthalates on their lists of ingredients; some of these brands were even labeled as being “all-natural” and “unscented.”

According to the EPA, air freshener contains four basic ingredients: formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, aerosol propellants, and p-dichlorobenzene.

Formaldehyde can cause a number of health effects including:

  • Watery eyes
  • Burning eye, nose, throat and other mucous membranes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Asthma attacks

Petroleum distillates come from petrochemical manufacturing, which contributes to air, soil, and groundwater pollution. The effects on human health include:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Asthma
  • Chemical pneumonia
  • Pulmonary damage

Aerosol propellants can harm earth’s ozone layer. Likewise, they can damage human health including:

  • Increased cancer risk
  • Breathing problems
  • Development of chronic health issues

Paradichlorobenzene (p-DCB) is often found in mothballs and may cause:

  • Anemia
  • Skin Lesions
  • Liver damage
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes to the blood

So basically, air fresheners are literally made out of poison. It just kind of blows my mind that companies are selling scented poison and charging people to pollute their own air. Is there an Anti-Air Freshener bumper sticker? Because I really want like 5.

If you’re jumping to throw out all your air fresheners but love having a beautiful smelling home, don’t hesitate! I’ve often said scent is one of my favorite senses, so I’ve taken great measures in finding ways to keep my home aromatherapeutic without actually poisoning myself and others. Check out my guide for how to make your own essential oil based room spray or try to make your own homemade potpourri. These are so safe you could actually consume them and be fine; your air freshener could never.

homemade room spray

Let me know if you’ve felt any nastiness from air fresheners like I have or what you think about the production of these perfumed poisons. I’ve actually noticed that my sense of smell has become more fine-tuned since abandoning artificial fragrances; now I can’t stand how synthetic they smell!


*If you’re into holistic living, you’ll love this Ayurvedic recipe for a cozy, nightcap. If you’re more interested in environmental issues, this is perfect for you.*


How I Travel (Mostly) for Free

March 15, 2018

Traveling is really my hobby at this point; I do it every chance I get and it brings me joy every time whether in the form of a lovely experience or a challenging one that helps me grow. It’s something I can’t recommend enough for other people to do if they’re hoping to develop as an individual because it’s the fastest way to become aware of your subconscious worldviews and comfort zone, things that are major obstacles when trying to improve as a person. 

Naturally, something so beneficial and enjoyable isn’t easily accessible. I’m not wealthy by any means, but I’ve been able to do more traveling than most people my age or in my situation. There absolutely are ways to help you afford traveling at least slightly more than you currently do. 

In this video, I explain the one thing I use that completely cuts out the most expensive aspect of traveling: accommodations.

Let me know if you have any questions and what you think of my method in the comments or here and here on social media!


My Work, Photography, Wanderlust, Writing

A Country Named Mother – (For La Liga Zine)

March 8, 2018

I finally took a trip I’d been planning for years. I knew it would be a different kind of trip, more serious and personal. In some countries more than others, maintaining contact with family is difficult. Historically, Cuba has been one of the more difficult countries, as home phones were a luxury shared between several neighbors and communications are still monitored and intercepted as seen fit. Through a burgeoning access to the internet, my own family, now living in Miami, was able to make contact with family members still living in Cuba, after 30 years of silence. 

Staying in the home of family members I had only known through my mother’s stories felt like watching figures of the past come alive. In the short week I spent on this tiny island with a massive world presence, I came to know myself through knowing the many women of my family who call this country mother. 

I’ve written one of my most personal essays yet for La Liga Zine. You can read it here. 

A Country Called Mother

The niece of my abuela, my “new abuela.”

La calle my family lives on in La Habana

Cuban art with Cuban resources

Staying vegetarian in Cuba was much easier than one might imagine!

Land of the mamoncillo

The iconic Flamboyan trees of the Caribbean

The most photographer-friendly country I’ve been to

These photos and this essay are extremely close to me and as such are that much more important for me to share. I know the feeling of being part of a diaspora and tracing your lineage isn’t exclusive to Cuba, so I’d love to hear how you personally relate to this experience! I’d also love to hear any and all feelings A Country Named Mother brought you, so please share either in the comments or on social media here and here!


*If you enjoyed this essay about Latin American identity, you’ll probably want to know about this problem facing indigenous South Americans.

Adding Beauty to Your Life

Recipe for Essential Oil Room Spray (5 Minute DIY)

February 22, 2018

homemade room spray

I decided to make find a recipe for essential oil room spray after traveling in Vermont and realizing the difference between fresh mountain air and my once artificial fragrance laden home in an already pollution-ridden city. I tossed out everything that could be contributing to bad indoor air quality and I learned about all the shocking garbage that companies put in air freshener products. I decided my home should be the least polluted place I spend my time in, not one of the most. 

But of course, I had all these artificially scented items in my home because I truly enjoy beautiful smells. So that left me with the dilemma of trying to keep my home smelling wonderful without all the harsh chemicals used to do so. Thus far I’ve found these to be the most healthy and effective ways of scenting my home:

  • Homemade essential oil based room spray
  • Essential oil diffusers in every room
  • Homemade potpourri

Look, no option is going to smell as strong as an artificial fragrance just as most unprocessed foods don’t taste as sweet as refined sugar. Once you break down your tolerance to scent by weaning yourself off artificial fragrances, you’ll find that these natural methods are more than enough to have a lovely smelling home. Plus, it’s worth dialing down the intensity on your home’s scent if it means removing your exposure to cancer-causing and all around health degrading chemicals.  

Recipe for Rosemary, Vanilla, and Orange Blend Room Spray

I personally love this blend because it has that clean citrus smell with the sweetness of vanilla, plus rosemary is beneficial for respiration. 

These recipes are for a 4 oz. spray bottle, but of course they can be doubled or halved as needed.

homemade air freshener

  1. There’s just 1 step: pour everything into your spray bottle and shake it each time before spraying!

If you’re a taking the optional step, just add enough of whatever ingredient you choose into your bottle so that it’s visible. This is mainly an aesthetic principal but infusing the live ingredient with your mix will also strengthen the scent. 

I’ve put together a small list of other awesome essential oil blends that you can substitute into the above recipe for different scents. There are some blends based on desired scent and others based on holistic benefits.

It’s a good idea to invest in a bulk purchase of several different essential oils so you don’t run out anytime soon and you’ll be able to experiment with making your own essential oil room spray blends. These also make amazing and easy personalized gifts.

I recommend the brand “NOW” as they have every essential oil you could imagine for a really fair price. This brand has several different kits you can choose from, but this one is the best. For the recipe pictured above, I used a different brand for the first time and it was also great quality.

essential oil air freshener

Spiced Chai Blend

Forest Blend

Almost Eternal Sleep Blend

Focus & Get Shit Done Blend

Anxiety-Away Spray

Stank Fighting Power Blend

essential oil room spray

As someone who’s super sensitive to smell and loves being in wonderfully scented spaces, I was pleasantly surprised at how well this totally-natural-no-unnecessary-garbage air freshener works. I actually decided to make my essential oil room spray pretty randomly but didn’t even have to buy anything beforehand; it’s so simple and easy you really can make it in 5 minutes if you have even just one bottle of essential oil. 

Let me know if you try any of these recipes out and how you like them; I’m also curious as to what led you to the decision to go for all natural air fresheners. Mine was breathing mountain air so clean it practically cured my asthma!


*If you’re into natural approaches, you’ll probably be really into this ayurvedic recipe for a cozy, nightcap. If you care about environmental issues and you’ll definitely love learning about this.*