Saturday, November 30, 2013

Travel: Israel (Shephelah, Negev Desert, Judah Wilderness, Galilee, Jerusalem)

We had the privilege to join the "Come and Learn to Walk" tour to Israel for two weeks in October. It was a Bible study tour, learning to understand the Bible better as we walked the steps of our forefathers and Jesus. After meeting our group in Tel Aviv, we traveled south to the southern-most part of Israel, stopping at various national parks, exploring the deserts, and driving back up towards the northern-most part of Israel, staying at the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee in between, and spent the last few days in Jerusalem. Click here to watch the video of our Israel trip.

"This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" - 1 john 2:5-6

This trip was not the typical sightseeing tour. Our day included hiking to different archaeological sites, learning about geography, history, and archaeological finds (ancient city gates, cisterns, olive oil press, columbarium, etc.), going to places where stories of the Bible happened and reading the passages right there and then. I think we went to and hiked in more than fifteen national parks in total. It’s the most amazing thing to be able to see what I otherwise would have no idea of, when I read the Bible. God speaks through His creation and the whole world and everything in it is holy, but standing in the promised land where God’s people came to worship and where Jesus lived and ministered, brings a new level of appreciation of the Bible. I understand now why I should do more learning with my feet. The Bible becomes "alive!"

We started everyday praying the Shema:

Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And love your neighbor as yourself.

It was a good reminder daily that we are to love our God with all we are and all we have and love our neighbors as ourselves. I learned so much during this trip. Our leaders were phenomenal. We made new friends. Our experiences were priceless. More than words can ever say. It’s a trip I highly recommend to everyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the Bible and relationship with Jesus.

"Think of the best food you've ever eaten. The taste that makes you go back for another bite, and then another. I find Israel that "food" - wanting to dive further and not satisfied by just a piece. Being here and seeing with my own eyes and feet is a new taste, a new hunger. A ravenous hunger." - Silvia Milani (my friend from this tour)

Mitzpe ramon, located in the Negev desert of Southern Israel

I will be running a series on what I learned in Israel for advent. You may ask what this has got to do with a health blog that I'm running this for 24 days. The very core of our existence is not only about our physical being, but also emotional, mental, and psychological. Understanding all this will not only be good for our health, it will give us a happy, joyful life. I feel this series has got everything to do with our health. The Psalmist says a cheerful heart is medicine. Someone who takes care of his physical needs well and eats only the best, organic, pastured food, while avoiding processed foods, may be physically healthy but may also have a miserable life. He may live a life of worry, doubt, hatred, jealousy, and discontentment. He may very well work all his life looking for "more" - more money, more power, more fame- and there is never "enough." While he has all the money in the world and able to afford the best of everything, he may suffer from critical illness that doesn't even allow him to enjoy the fruit of his labor. And soon, emptiness, anger, and frustration fills his heart. How is this healthy? God says Man does not live by bread alone and the fact is our days are numbered, so numbered in fact that we cannot add a single day by worrying about our lives. There is no doubt that taking care of our physical health and living healthily is pleasing to God but there are far more important things that will make our whole existence worth living for. Join me in this series as we unveil what it is that will make our lives much healthier and happier, satisfying our hunger and quenching our thirst, fulfilling the emptiness that we feel inside, and finding a purpose in life that's building our legacy worth passing on for the generations to come. Come with me, learn with me, grow with me as I share my lessons from the desert.

Let’s Learn about The Promised Land as a start. I will share what I learned in the desert starting tomorrow.

Israel is a land "in between." It is a crossroad. If you see the map of Israel, it is in the middle of so many nations and religions and there are reasons why God put His people there.

1. Israel owned a few trade routes that were strategically located. One of them was Gezer (1 Kings 9:15-17), which means to cut or divide. It was a trade route wanted by so many rulers including the Assyrians, Persians, Babylonians, Egyptians, etc. In Solomon’s time, Israel expanded. He was so strong that Pharaoh of Egypt might have felt threatened that he gave Gezer to Solomon as dowry when he married Pharaoh’s daughter. It’s the only time Egypt allowed their daughter to marry non-Egyptians. This means Solomon must be very big and powerful that the Pharaoh sacrificed the Egyptian tradition of marrying only Egyptians.

Standing pillars in Gezer

These are standing pillars we saw in Gezer. Exodus 24:4-6 references how Moses built an altar and set up stone pillars where the Israelites worshiped God. Why did God place His people in Israel? Why these standing pillars are here? Maybe God places His people here so that God’s Word may be spread everywhere and that people can stop and think about what these pillars point to, what God did to His people when He brought them to the promised land, His blessings and provisions while at the same time being just, and how God was glorified through all this. These pillars serve as a reminder that we too need to live life that is pleasing to God so that when other people comes across us and asks about our lives, God’s name will be glorified.

Zin wilderness, the general area where
the Israelites wandered for 40 years.

We hiked up!

Why did God let the Israelites wander in the desert for forty years? 

- To experience God: The Israelites were in the desert to learn about faith and trust. Although they are God's chosen people, it didn't mean their lives were without hardship and pain. They didn't always have it all together. If they always had it all together, how could God’s name be glorified? How could they experience God's goodness in their lives?

"Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you." - Deut 8:2-5

Just as it is with us, it is easy to forget about God when life is easy, but when life is hard, it is when we cry out to God and pray the hardest. It is when we are closest with God and experience God’s faithfulness, blessings, interventions, protection, forgiveness, healing, and restoration in the most intimate way.

- To give them good gifts: Many good things came out of the desert. Think of Moses, the Ten Commandments, King David, John the Baptist, and Jesus. God has good gifts in store for His people. When the Israelites were in the desert, they were able to hear Him in ways they couldn't while they were in Egypt. The desert was where God spoke. It was where God shaped and molded them to be different than they were before. It was the place where His people received God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and protection. As it is with us, we are a work in progress. But God continues to transform and renew our mind so that we can receive God’s gifts of love.

"For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills." - Deuteronomy 8:7-9

- To remember God’s goodness and spread the good news to the world: Desert is a land without boundary. It just goes on and on. When God spoke in the desert, everyone could hear. When God guided them as pillars of cloud by day and fire by night, everyone could see Him. The first thing God said to them when He brought His people out of Egypt was "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt." God wants us to know that He is God and that He is a good God and that the world may know that He is God and He is good.


"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." - Deuteronomy 6:6-12

True, the Promised Land is beautiful. Here are some of my favorite moments while in Israel:

Riding Camels

A very rare opportunity to ride on camels. It humbled me because as fun as it may sound, I cannot imagine going around town on camels. But this was one of the most common modes of transportation in Biblical times. Even the Kings who visited baby Jesus rode on camels. Thank God for modern modes of transportation!

Swimming in the Red Sea

As my husband puts it: "The water here is ridiculously blue!"

Floating in the Dead Sea

What an awesome and interesting experience!

Swimming in and watching sunset over the Sea of Galilee

Just perfect.

Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee

Woshipping, reading the Bible, singing, praying, and dancing in the boat ride over the Sea of Galilee. Beautiful beyond description.

Jordan River Experience

Playing water in Jordan river and witnessing some of our brothers and sisters in Christ getting baptized. To Him be all glory.


Enjoying Israel's local bounty and enjoying each other's company. If you are wondering what we eat while we were there... we ate lots of stuffed pitas with hummus, tunas, ham, cheese, vegetables, falafel, and shawarma. Yum!

Mediterranean Sea Fun!

Playing sand and water in the Mediterranean sea. The sand is so smooth and water so clear. Like the Red Sea.

God is good. It is a sweet experience walking with Him and He wants us to share that sweetness with other people too. I had a piece of that while in Israel and I hope to share it with you through this series. Join me as I share with you what I learned in the desert, open the Bible with me as we learn God's Word and see how God speaks to you through His Word. As we are nearing Christmas, the day that our Savior was born, may we reflect on what purposeful, healthy living is all about.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Summary of Skincare Series

This month at Pasture Living, we are doing a series on how to take care of our skin naturally. The skin is the body’s largest organ and it absorbs everything we put on it directly into the body’s bloodstream; bypassing the organs that would filter out harmful ingredients. This is why it is so important know what we put on our skin.

We have learned in the past few weeks how important it is to choose and buy safe skincare products. We lather our bodies with soaps, shampoos, creams, lotions, and cosmetics on a daily basis but many do not realize the harmful ingredients that are hidden in these personal care products. It is a sad reality that there is no governing bodies that regulate the ingredients in skincare industry and companies do not have to show that their ingredients are safe before they launch their products to the market. What we put on our skin is absorbed by the body and applying unnatural and unsafe skincare products may pose health risks including skin irritations, allergies, and even in utero exposure in newborn babies. Thanks to EWG's Skin Deep website that rates many different brands of beauty products independently, we can now look for their safety ratings before we make our purchase. And the best option for skincare? Go as natural and as simple as possible. You will know exactly what you put on your skin. I believe God has provided us with everything we need to live healthy. We just have to find what they are.

If you missed our series on skincare, here are all the links: 

Nourishing Your Skin Naturally

Choosing Cosmetic Products

Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare Products

How to Choose Skincare Products

Healing A Persistent Skin Rash Using Jojoba Oil

Getting Rid of Blackheads Naturally and Effectively

Green Living Workshops in Singapore and Simple Skincare Recipes From Our Kitchen

Recipes for A Youthful Skin

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Recipes For a Youthful Skin

This month at Pasture Living, we are doing a series on how to take care of our skin naturally. The skin is the body’s largest organ and it absorbs everything we put on it directly into the body’s bloodstream; bypassing the organs that would filter out harmful ingredients. This is why it is so important to know what we put on our skin.

Now that we know how the basics of nourishing our skin naturally, let's take a step further and enjoy a few simple recipes that we can make at home to tone our skin as well as to slow down the skin aging and wrinkle formation.

Toning the Skin

After you cleanse your face, especially using steam to unclog pores, such as in oil cleansing method, you need toners to tighten pores and control the oil, and gets the skin ready to absorb nutrients from other skincare products such as moisturizers. It is especially beneficial for those with oily skin. Witch hazel and cucumbers are both astringents that tone our skin. 

Slowing Down Skin Aging and Wrinkle Formation

As we get older and as we are constantly exposed to sun damage and harsh chemicals in skin care products, our skin loses the ability to produce antioxidants that are important to reduce oxidative stress and slow down the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals cause collagen to break down, which impair the skin's ability to heal, thus premature aging, formation of wrinkles, etc. That said, it is important to consume food rich in antioxidants as well as applying them topically. 

Green Tea Toner: Green tea is wonderful as toners as it has astringent and anti-inflammatory properties, and it is high in antioxidants, which helps to slow down the signs of aging. Brew green tea, let it steep, and then refrigerate it for a cooling and refreshing toner.

Honey Mask: Honey has anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties that is not only nourishing for our skin. Click here for ways to use honey to make scrubs, moisturizing packs, and lotions. 

Brightening the Skin

Milk powders

Fruit Acids Masks: You may have heard of Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA), an ingredient found in many whitening and anti-aging or wrinkle creams. They are natural acids found in fruits and milk that loosen the bond between the dead skin cells and the skin, promotes the growth of new skin cells and collagen production, as well as helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and scars over time. Dead cells make our skin dull as it can't breathe and absorb nutrients effectively. The lactic acid in milk is an AHA and fruits such as pineapple and papaya are also rich in AHA. They make excellent face mask to exfoliate, unclog pores, improve, and brighten the skin, making our skin fresh and healthy. Simply use the fruit juice or make a paste of milk powder and apply onto your clean face, leave it for five to ten minutes or so to let the acids work its magic, and wash off with water. 

Ground Coffee and Milk Scrub: Ground coffee exfoliates the skin as well as remove excess water from skin tissues. Milk contains lactic acid that helps to get rid of dead skin cells, which improves the appearance of your skin. This is one of my favorite scrubs! I make equal parts of ground coffee and milk powder, put it in a glass container in my bathroom, mix it with a bit of water, and scrub away. Wash off with water.

What is your favorite recipe to pamper your skin?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Green Living Workshops in Singapore and Simple Skincare Recipes From Our Kitchen

This month at Pasture Living, we are doing a series on how to take care of our skin naturallyThe skin is the body’s largest organ and it absorbs everything we put on it directly into the body’s bloodstream; bypassing the organs that would filter out harmful ingredients. This is why it is so important to know what we put on our skin.

I came across Green Living about two months ago and was really excited about what it does. They share simple tips and tricks on how to live greener and healthier lives. I came to know the founders of Green Living (Militza Maury, who is the author of Little Green Dot blog, a guide on the best ideas, brands, and places to living an eco-friendly lifestyle, and Delphinia Tam-Lower, who is part of the family behind Four Cow Farm, a range of all-natural baby skincare products) when I attended their natural skincare workshop. They shared so many valuable insights about what goes on in our skincare, how to read skincare labels, and why we want to avoid conventional skincare products. Many of the ingredients that we put on our skin on a daily basis comes from petroleum origin, believe it or not, including baby oil, which we put on our babies from the day they are born (yikes!).

Skincare workshop hosted by Green Living

With Militza and Del

One of the biggest lessons I remembered from that workshop is that expensive skincare products do not mean they are good for us. It's likely we are only paying for the brands. Maybe some brands are better than others, but unless we know exactly all the ingredients that make up the products, we are at risk of exposing the largest organ of our body, our skin, with harmful and even toxic chemicals that are possible causes for allergies, eczema and skin irritations, headaches and migraines (from synthetic fragrances), etc. I believe God has given us everything we need to live healthily in nature. We can take care of our body by avoiding eating processed food or using synthetic chemicals. They are not only bad for our body, but also to our environment. The way they are manufactured produce waste that won't decompost anytime soon and even releases toxic chemicals into the ground soils and water, which then affects crops and wildlife and it comes back right back at us when we consume them.

You will be amazed how many things in our kitchen cabinet can be used for our skincare routines. They are not only economical, but also very effective. Here are some examples to start you off with:

Baking soda: It serves as a mild abrasive that is gentle enough to polish your whole body, sloughing off dead skin cells, blackheads and other impurities, and leaving your skin smooth and shiny!

Coffee powder: Coffee powder pulls out excess water from the body, that's why it's used in many eye and cellulite creams. 

Milk powder: The lactic acid in milk is a good exfoliant that improves skin's texture by moisturizing, removing dead skin cells, and promoting collagen growth. It's the reason lactic acid is often used in wrinkle and line reducer creams.

Oatmeal Scrub (ground oatmeal and water)

Oatmeal: Ground oatmeal is a nice and gentle way to scrub and exfoliate the skin, leaving it soft and fresh.

You can simply mix any of the above ingredients with water or natural liquid soaps and apply to your skin.

If you like to learn more about tips and tricks for greener and healthier lives, don't forget to sign up to Green Living facebook page. They host workshops on skincare and nutrition from time to time if you are interested to join. Militza and Del are very knowledgeable in this area. They are energetic and explain things in a clear and simple way. You will leave the workshop inspired, with recipes in your hands to start you off on a healthy journey. You will be impressed!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Four Cow Farm Product Reviews and a Giveaway!

This month at Pasture Living, we are doing a series on how to take care of our skin naturally. The skin is the body’s largest organ and it absorbs everything we put on it directly into the body’s bloodstream; bypassing the organs that would filter out harmful ingredients. This is why it is so important to know what we put on our skin.

I believe in nourishing our skin naturally for healthy skin, avoiding toxic chemicals that are in so many skincare products, and going with natural skincare products and cosmetics as much as I can. I'm not 100% there yet in my natural skincare routine but I'm taking one step at a time and replacing my old skincare products with natural ones. These past two months I had a chance to try out skincare products from Four Cow Farm, a company that produces 100% all-natural baby products in their own farm. Here are my reviews of their products.

Calendula Remedy

I love that this salve contains jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is one of the best natural oils to moisturize the skin and it is the only oil that has helped with Elin's eczema on her elbow. Calendula is well known for its anti-septic, anti-inflammatory, and soothing properties and the combination of the two is just the perfect recipe to sooth and heal irritated skin. I've been applying this cream to moiturize the skin around the eczema and although it's not yet completely healed, it is not as dry and flaky as before. I like that it is in the form of a salve so it is easy to bring around without worrying that I may spill the oil. You can use this to sooth eczema, skin inflammation, diaper rash, and as a nipple cream.

Tea Tree Remedy

Tea tree is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial in nature. Many uses this to treat bruises, cuts, and insect bites. Combined with the moisturizing macadamia oil and anti-inflammatory castor oil, this mess-free salve makes it handy to have in my purse all the time (especially with toddlers running around). This is one of the my favorites as it has helped heal Elin's (way too many) bug bites faster.

Baby Lotion

This lotion is a blend of two gentle oils: sweet almond and apricot kernel, of which are cold pressed, retaining all its natural fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants. It is wonderful for daily moisturizing for all skin types, including the face. I love how the lotion is absorbed quickly into the skin without leaving a sticky residue. It does contain potassium sorbate, which is a preservative used to preserve food. They (Four Cow Farm) assure me that where they need to use preservatives, they do so very carefully and in the smallest amounts and they definitely avoid all preservatives that have worrying side effects such as phenoxyethanol, parabens, methylchloroisothiazolinone, benzyl alcohol and any form of alcohol. You will find that their products don't have long shelf life, unlike many conventional skincare products you find in the supermarket, because they use very little preservatives.

Baby Oil

This chamomile and rosemary infused oil is brilliant for those who have very dry skin. It is made from a combination of cold pressed apricot kernel, macadamia, and sweet almond oil which makes it a calming, soothing, and moisturizing oil to nourish the skin. The oil blend is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin A, D, and E which makes an excellent moisturizer for the face and body, and can also be used as a massage oil and to sooth skin affected by cradle cap. When I came back from a two-week hiking trip in the desert of Israel, my skin, especially my hands, became so dry and uncomfortably itchy due to the dry weather and sun exposure almost all day long. I applied this oil regularly after I came back for two weeks straight and it has helped moisturize and heal my skin. I love how the oil is easily absorbed in my skin without leaving an oily residue. I really have come to love the the mild scent of natural ingredients and this is one of my favorites of Four Cow Farm products! When applying the oil, warm it up in your hands first as that helps it to penetrate the skin.

Baby Wash

Ahhh.. Lots of foam from your liquid soap, that makes our skin so clean! Right? No, you will not find that with this baby wash. Consumers are used to the idea that more foams equals better and clean, but the reality is that foam-boosters such as sodium lauryl sulfate is considered a harsh chemical and not one that we want to put on our babies! This echinacea-infused olive oil wash is very gentle and excellent for washing the face, hair, and body. It takes a little getting used to as it doesn't foam up as much, but I love knowing that it doesn't contain any harmful chemicals. It also smells wonderfully natural. Synthetic fragrances give me massive headaches. It's one of the things I love about Four Cow Farm products, they don't use any synthetic ingredients in their products. This wash is also fully biodegradable, so it is very friendly to our environment.

Nappy Cream

This cream is made using zinc oxide, castor oil which has anti-inflammatory properties, moisturizing sunflower seed oil, soy lecithin (non-GMO), which is a natural antioxidant and works as an emulsifier. It has a consistency of a sunscreen lotion, which is easy to apply on the skin. The antibacterial and antioxidant properties of zinc oxide coats and protects the skin against wetness. This is an excellent, all-natural nappy cream that is safe to use, especially on delicate parts of babies' skin.

I highly recommend Four Cow Farm if you are looking for natural skincare products:

- I love that Four Cow Farm is a family-owned business and all their products are handcrafted in their own farm. It gives assurance that their products are produced with care and it is easy to get in touch with them when customers have questions. They are very responsive and knowledgeable about their products.

- I am extremely happy to know that all their oils are extra virgin, cold-pressed oils. That means they are not treated with heat or chemicals, but are literally pressed cold from the fruit. This ensures that all the natural fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants are retained in the oils.

- I love the scent and consistency of the above products. They smell naturally lovely and easy to apply.

- Cost. Compared to other natural and organic products, their prices are reasonable and comparable. You get what you pay for. And the good thing about Four Cow Farm products is that a little goes a long way and so a bottle lasts long.

- They are environmentally-friendly!

Thanks to Four Cow Farm, three lucky winners will get to try their products. To enter:

1. "Like" Pasture Living Facebook page, if you have not already.

3. Share this giveaway on your Facebook wall, tag Pasture Living and a friend.

4. Write a comment below why you would like to win Four Cow Farm products, the age of your children, and your email address. If you are uncomfortable with providing your email address publicly, drop me a message through Pasture Living Facebook page.

This giveaway is open only to Singapore residents and will end on 29 November 2013 Singapore time. The winners will be contacted via email.

A special discount for those of you who want to purchase Four Cow Farm products, use coupon code "maleny10" between today and next Friday, 29 November, for a 10% discount when you shop through their online store.

Disclaimer: Four Cow Farm sponsored the above products for reviews, but all opinions are my own.