22 June 2015

Motherhood Is Not For Perfectionists

Hello world, I'm still alive and kicking, in case you've been wondering. Today I want to write something memorable, empowering, because this is exactly what happened to me in the past year while I kept the blog quiet. For a year I almost forgot what photography was and wrote exactly 7 posts.

Because life happened.


My husband and I created new life.

Our baby DJ is now 4 months old and is the most amazing little boy.

For the first two months of his life I was so overwhelmed that I only grabbed my tablet or laptop to read more about increasing breastmilk supply, or how to deal with colics, irregular bowel movements, or to understand why he caughs after burping; I watched videos on proper latching, burping positions, baby massage and bathing.

Kissing perfectionism goodbye

If you have followed this blog long enough to remember The Simple Living Challenge I created in the beginning of 2012 you maybe recall my confession in perfectionism. Well, three years later I thought I had overcome it but then the baby came. I was so scared, insecure and genuinely disappointed by the fact that I was not the perfect mother. Was I even mother simply because of the fact that I had given birth? I didn't know it all, I didn't know why he cried, when he was hungry or when he had colics, I couldn't understand his language, I was terrified by the fact that I couldn't cope alone and there were those shameful moments when I wodered why, oh why...

Until I realized that motherhood is in clear conflict with perfection. Believing I could be perfect in my role as a mother was an utter deception. Perfection doesn't tolerate development. As a parent one is supposed to learn, grow and change with their child. The family is like a living organism that flourishes and adapts constantly so why would I want to constrain it into a stagnant perfection form?

I am yet in the very beginning of this new journey but I like it as it is already. No, actually I love it. Who needs perfection when there is the unconditional love to give and to receive.

Saying no to multitaskig

Not only was I a perfectionist but I was also a serial multitasker, something I considered a trait before I realized it lead me to nothing but burnout. Quite unconsciously I also tried multitasking with my baby: a definite no-no. There is no way to be present and alert for baby when carrying him and freshly boiled water at the same time regardless of how handy you think you are.Never ever multitask with baby around. It is doomed.

Keeping expectations low

Perfectionism is closely related to having high expectations towards yourself and the world around you. I needed about a month to get rid of my inadequate expectations.

Take something as simple as pooing. I have always sympathized with people with irregular bowel movements and considered it a very important blessing to not be one of them. Before I had a baby I remember stories about babies who had constipation or only pooed once a day and considered it a nighhtmare. Well, what can I say, after an extremely hard month I am now over the moon when my boy poops once a day, instead of the expect two - three times. Life is a good teacher.

Taking it slow

Perfectionism is the reason, which in the past pushed me beyond myself to achieve my intentions. I didn't spare neither time nor efforts in the name of goals, I could work forever on a project or I could literally bend time if that was needed. But you cannot rush a baby without that leading to terrifying results.

Taking it slow and going with the flow, learning to understand my boy is the only healthy way both for him and for me. Raising a human being is not a competiotion and hurrying never leads to anything but disaster. So, I chose to relax and take it slow.

Which leads me to the Slow and Simple slogan of the Kanelstrand blog. Let's snever forget that taking life slow and living it simply is the only way to fully appreciate all that happens and all that we make happen. Because in the end, the only thing that matters is the love we have given and what it has produced.

Now it's your turn: Say hello and let me know you're still around! What challenges did you have to overcome in the first months with your new baby? How were your expectations during pregnancy different from the reality that followed?

08 December 2014

Homemade Salve to Prevent and Treat Pregnancy Stretch Marks (Without Coconut Oil)

Pregnancy is a wonderful time in a woman's life, isn't it. It gives us the time to recollect, plan ahead, simplify and focus our lives on a something higher than our well-being, that of another person. During that time of preparation women grow – mentally, spiritually and physically.

Today I want to address the physical growth of pregnancy; although beautiful, natural and glowing, it often has a negative effect on our self-esteem later in life. The growth of our bellies, breasts and thighs sometimes leads to the appearance of stretch marks.

Based on a my detailed research, I created the most effective natural salve that will prevent and treat stretch marks. As with all things I share on this blog, the stretch mark salve is rather simple and will take no more than 15 minutes to prepare.

Before I let you know the full recipe, let me remind you that each type of skin is different but no matter how susceptible yours is to stretch marks it is very important that you keep yourself hydrated and eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as fish high in Omega-3.

No to Coconut Oil

For this stretch marks salve I am not using coconut oil, regardless of the number of praises I've heard and read about it, the reason being that for people with very dry skin coconut oil is not moisturizing enough. Actually, I experienced this effect on my lips last winter when I used my homemade lemon lip balm which included coconut oil and wondered why the hydration wasn't as expected.

As discussed in Skin Care Talk, coconut oil is made up of glycerol esters of shorter-chain fatty acids, mostly lauric acid (about 47%). Lauric acid has 12 carbon atoms compared to 18 carbons in stearic acid, a common component of most fats and oils. Other major components are 8, 10, and 14 carbon fatty acids. This makes coconut oil a lot different than most other oils.

Coconut oil obtains some very special benefits for your skin from these shorter-chain fatty acids, very nourishing and healing, in part because they penetrate skin very well. What they don't do well is stay on top to form a moisture seal on your skin. Some folks would interpret this as "drying."

Also, coconut oil is considered to be fairly comodogenic, so if you have a tendency to get clogged pores (blackheads, etc), coconut oil might exacerbate that problem. To stay away from any possible harm, I left out the coconut oil this time.

Yes to Aloe Vera and Wheat Germ Oil
Aloe Vera gel is effective in the treatment of many skin problems. It has various essential nutrients and active compounds that can be used in the treatment of minor burns and acne scars. Basically if there is a skin disease chances are that Aloe Vera can help with it. Its healing and soothing properties can be used to get rid of stretch marks as well.

Wheat germ oil aids the regeneration of the natural processes of the skin. It nourishes the skin and heals and preserves it. Its antioxidant properties prevent all sorts of tissue damage and builds collagen.

Wheat germ is a "true carrier" oil, as it has the ability to travel through the epidermis into the dermis where the actual stretching occurs. It carries the regenerating oils or Aloe Vera it is combined with into the dermis feeding new skin cells as they travel up to the epidermis.

According to a study published in Pharmacognosy Research titled Comparative measurement of hydration effects of herbal moisturizers the combination between wheat germ oil and Aloe Vera extract produces the highest hydration effect on the skin, due to their synergistic effect. Wheat germ oil or Aloe extract, when present separately produces skin hydration to lesser extent.

Yes to Calendula Infused Olive Oil
According to the same study in Pharmacognosy Research, second in rank in terms of skin hydration is the combination of Aloe Vera extract and olive oil.

It is worth noting that when oil is added to a hydrating salve, the effect is increased as it forms an occlusive layer on the skin and prevents loss of moisturizer. In general, when applied to skin, the vegetable oils are easily absorbed and show great spreadability.

In my stretch mark salve recipe I use calendula infused olive oil because calendula is known to have gentle, cooling, and soothing properties. Calendula oil is the most successful oil for assisting with dry and damaged skin, skin inflammations, rashes, diaper irritations, and other skin disorders. It makes a wonderful baby’s oil and is exceptional for those with sensitive skin.

An easy and quick way to infuse olive oil with calendula is to fill a clean, dry glass jar with dried calendula flower heads, then cover with olive oil. Put in a double boiler on the stove top and warm over low heat at approximately 100 degrees F (40 degrees Celsius) for at least 4-6 hours. Once the oil has infused, strain out the herbs using cheesecloth and pour the infused oil into glass bottles, date and store in a cool, dark cupboard. Add a few drops of liquid vitamin E which will act as a preservative and will be an added bonus for all skin recipes you'll use it in. Use it up within a year.

* * *

Pregnancy Stretch Marks Salve

Equal amounts of:
  • cocoa butter 
  • pure Aloe Vera gel
  • wheat germ oil
  • calendula infused olive oil
I use 100 g / 3.50 oz of each, which is usually enough for 2 months.

Melt the cocoa butter in a double boiler.

In the meantime combine the other ingredients and stir well. Add the warm cocoa butter, stir.

If you dislike the calendula smell you can add a few drops of essential oil of your choice.

Pour in a clean glass jar and let cool. The stretch mark salve will harden at lower temperatures but it will quickly soften by the heat of your fingers and palms before applying.

* * *

And that's it. A pregnancy stretch mark salve cannot get any easier but that doesn't make it unreliable. Backed with serious scientific research, this is the most moisturizing natural homemade salve you can use to prevent or treat stretch marks.

Start applying the stretch marks salve as soon as possible, i.e. once you start seeing your belly grow. Apply on your belly, breasts, and thighs – these are the areas most prone to stretch marks.

Massage the salve gently into the skin and allow about 20 minutes before
getting dressed. It is best to make this a daily ritual after taking a
shower to lock even more moisture in your skin.


20 October 2014

Guilt-Free Creative Living in the Rhythm of the Seasons

Summer is for living, fall is for reflecting, that is the lesson I learned in the past months. I spent the summer traveling, meeting people, running on hot sands and jumping over waves.

The feeling of guilt for not blogging was following me everywhere I went and the more time passed by, the less inclined I felt to write. Have you felt the same too?

Don't resist
On some days, my head was exploding by the thought that I could not collect myself and write a single post, on others I blamed myself for not taking pictures to update my etsy shop, but I refused to give in to the guilt. Instead, I chose not to resist.

You see, I believe in not resisting; if a creative urge comes, I succumb and try to live it as fully as possible. So, in this case, the urge was to live in the moment. For the first time in three years I stopped blogging and for the first time in more than ten years I left my camera at home. If you are a blogger you will understand what an effort that was. If you are a photographer, maybe you will be appalled.

But guilt has never led anyone to good decisions. Actually, being guilt prone is only ruining your life. Psychologist Guy Winch advises to try to define if the signal of guilt is real or not, then to identify if you are really doing something wrong and if the message is false to ignore it.

With my feeling of guilt identified as faulty, I simply decided to trust the rhythm.

Trust the Rhythm

Trust the rhythm
Trusting the rhythm of my emotions is very much connected to trusting the rhythm of the seasons. I believe that every creative person is influenced by the natural world, and the changing of seasons. So, instead of trying to follow a strict regime of creating – be it writing, painting, photographing or sculpting – you might want to listen to your urges, stop feeling guilty and enjoy a detour on the your creative path.

Summer is a vibrant season. Instead of shutting yourself off from the world, go outside and be part of it. Even if that means you have to stop what you're doing.

Feeling guilty is so out of the question in this situation because even when you are not literally crafting or creating, the impressions and the change in activities will charge you up for your next endeavors.

Trying to follow a routine regardless of season will only make you feel stuck and sooner or later your creativity will perish because of the pressure you put on yourself.

So, you know how everything in nature evolves and follows an up-and-down curve? It's quite the same with us, our emotions and our creativity.

If we accept that summer is the season for living outside, then fall is the perfect season for reflecting on all that we lived through and employing it in our creative process. Then comes winter, when held indoor by cooler temperatures our reflections deepen and we have enough time to create an to live in the virtual world of our thoughts, followed by an awakening in spring and new creative juices.

Don't push yourself, follow the natural rhythm of the seasons and breathe.


Breathe in – breathe out;
work – rest;
create – collect impressions;
day – night...

It's as simple as that. Don't push yourself. Try to understand and respect your rhythm instead, as you do the rhythm of nature. Allow yourself time to rest and time to be active. Keep this dynamic balance alive and your creativity will flourish.

Now it's your turn: Have you gone through long periods of burn-out and how have you dealt with them? Leave your reply in the comments below.

03 July 2014

The Photographer's Connection to Nature

When I planned buying a macro lens (and that took quite a few years) I was sure I would never shoot bugs. Not that I wasn't interested in them but I thought there were enough male photographers doing that already, plus I couldn't figure out how I would include them in my surreal photography.

But as the saying goes: Never say never.

What do you think happened on my first official "macro" walk? I shot mostly bugs and I was actually impressed about the way I handled them.

The Photographer's Connection to Nature

I thought it would be extremely hard to make them stand still but some of them even cooperated. For example, this blue guy was flying very frantically, but impressed by his color (why did I decide it was a male?) I waited for him to calm down until he landed on a leaf and stared right at me while I was getting closer and closer.

Then, in a magical moment of connection between a human and an insect he stood still until I managed to focus on his eyes. We stood there, hanging in the moment, while I was pressing the shutter-release button, making sure I have a few of his poses to choose from. I thanked him and I left happy by this divine communication.

See, this is one of the most important things I love about photography. When I am alone in the wild, I am able to hear and see more than in the town. I feel connected on a level that is more powerful than words. The magic of art, of reconnection, of listening to your heart...

Whatever it is, thank you, Nature for sharing your beauty (and bugs) with me.