...because home doesn't happen overnight.

This winter has been brutal. Most of you already know this from first-hand experience. We’re in the midwest and have had record snowfall and cold temps. Part of our bedtime routine with the kids is sharing something we’re thankful for and every night this winter I’ve been thankful for shelter from the cold and snow. So many people don’t have basic necessities (shelter, coats, warm meals, etc.) during winter and I think it’s something easily taken for granted. I try to remind my kids how lucky we are to have a roof over heads, all decorating aside.

On a lighter note, I thought it might be helpful to share a few of my favorite winter essentials (non-shelter related) today. You know, since there’s a polar vortex right outside my door. Also, can I just say that persons in southern California should not be permitted to do winter essential roundups? That’s just ridiculous. But maybe Canadians feel the same way about midwesterners??

Anyway, here are six things that made this winter a tad more tolerable for me.

winter essentials

1 – organic, unrefined coconut oil I switched from regular body lotion to coconut oil last winter and I have nothing but good things to report. I picked up a jar at a local health food store and keep it in my bathroom vanity. I rub one to two teaspoonful into my skin right after showering to lock in moisture for days. My husband and kids use it as well. The oil is solid at room temp but melts to the touch. It might seem expensive but the nearly empty jar pictured here is the original jar I purchased last year. It’s lasted me that long! A little really goes a long way. I use it in the summer, too, but in the winter it is a godsend. Bonus: you can cook with it!

2 – easy-to-maintain houseplants In Ohio, everything goes dormant and turns brown for the winter but I need greenery around me. To me, houseplants are signs of life and warmer things to come. They purify indoor air and, since we spend most of our time inside during cold & flu season, they help to keep us healthy. I’ve been known to have a black thumb but I’ve had luck keeping jade and snake plants alive throughout winter.

3 – honest dryer cloths It’s so dry here in the winter that static cling is inevitable. I find it sooooo annoying. Typically, I don’t use dryer sheets but this winter I’ve had to. The static is that bad. I’m a big fan of The Honest Co. (This isn’t sponsored, btw.) I buy their products with my own money and usually receive an order from them every other month. You can easily customize your personal ship date by clicking a box online – no phone calls necessary. For the past few months, I’ve been ordering these dryer sheets. They are wet, plant-based cloths with no artificial fragrances or animal fats. Each sheet can be used twice. And best of all, they work!

4 – vitamin D3 About one month into winter, I wasn’t feeling like myself. I was drained – emotionally and physically. On a hunch (I’m a pharmacist by trade although I’m not practicing at this time), I picked up a bottle of vitamin D tablets at the grocery store to see if they would help. You guys, I noticed a difference within 24 hours of taking my first dose! I had more energy and felt more like myself. This might be a little TMI but…the vitamin D also helped regulate my out-of-whack menstrual cycle, too. My vitamins are a cheap-y version because I wanted to see if they made a difference before I invested in something pricier. When my current bottle is empty, I’m upgrading to a higher quality, organic softgel. FYI – Check with your physician regarding vitamin D deficiency and dosing.

5 – fekkai advanced brilliant glossing conditioner By far, the best conditioner I’ve ever used. Back to the static cling that drives me insane in the winter…it affects my hair, too. But when I use this conditioner, BAM!, no staticky flyaways. I use it year round and it’s worth every penny. One bottle usually lasts me a year (I use it once or twice a week on the bottom half of my hair after shampooing) so, like the coconut oil, a little goes a long way. Pssst – I tried using the coconut oil as a conditioner since I read it was great for hair but it was a total flop. Using a little resulted in oily hair for days.

6 – C.O. bigelow night balm Dry, cracked lips are no joke but I’m prone to them during winter months. My sister gifted me this balm for Christmas after raving about it. She was right. It’s the bomb. I apply just a little before bed every night and it’s enough to keep my lips supple for 24 hours.

I’d love to hear about your winter essentials! This list is mostly health and beauty related but a glass of red wine in the evenings always helps take the chill off for me, too. Mmmm…warm fuzzies.

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

57 Comments

27.February.2014

My favorite health and beauty product is ASEA. It works from inside out and it can also be sprayed on the skin. It’s great for those fine lines, dry skin, sunburn, heat burns, nails, you name it!

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replied on February 27th, 2014

PS Coconut oil is my second favorite. I buy Organic Virgin Coconut Oil for body/ skin health and cooking.

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replied on February 28th, 2014

This is the first I’ve heard of ASEA. Fascinating!

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27.February.2014

During Winter months, I slather on Argan oil (from Mountain Rose Herbs) and then continue with my other moisturizer as usual. A bottle is quite expensive but I am hoping I can use it all before its two year shelf life is up. I also use Aquaphor on my lips. A humidifier and hot tea. Lots and lots of hot herbal tea.

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I’m right there with you on 1 and 4! I can’t live without either!

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27.February.2014

I’ve heard good things about coconut oil, but so far have not used it (the closest I’ve come is Burt’s Bees Coconut Foot Balm, and I LOVE IT). I am wondering, since I’ve heard people do this, if anyone has used it as a face lotion? I have more of the oily-dry skin combo (lucky, right?) and wonder if this would be helpful or if it would make my breakouts worse…?

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replied on February 27th, 2014

Love, love coconut oil for my face. I make my own face cleanser (with avocado oil) and my own toner then dab coconut oil on those fine lines and lips. Love it! After I cleanse I spray ASEA on my face and let it dry first before toner and coconut oil. I am almost 54 yrs old and people tell me I look 35 – some say I haven’t changed since high school (but their eyesight isn’t what it used to be, I suppose!).

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replied on February 27th, 2014

I have oily skin on my face and am prone to breakouts so I haven’t tried it on my face just because I don’t need the added moisture.

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replied on February 28th, 2014

I started using coconut oil on my skin a few months ago. Like Dana, my skin tends to be oily and breakout in the T-zone, so I was hesitant about over-oiling myself. But — it is amazing! It seems to have really re-balanced my skin — my skin is clear, much less oily, and I never get breakouts. Apparently oil cleansing is becoming quite popular! BUT – I also cut all refined sugar out of my diet, and that seems to have coincided with my improved skin. It’s hard to know for sure what is making the difference, but there certainly hasn’t been any downside to the coconut oil. It’s worth a shot!

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replied on February 28th, 2014

I love the oil cleansing method. I make my own facial cleanser with avocado oil. You are right – it does balance the oils in your skin. Cleansers that strip makes the skin produce more oil and the skin feels oilier, but when you cleanse with a natural oil the skin balances, because it’s not trying to replace what’s been stripped away. I moisturize with coconut oil. Coconut oil is antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal…Super good!

replied on February 28th, 2014

Okay, great! Maybe I’ll try it on my face.

replied on February 28th, 2014

When you start an oil cleansing method it may cause skin to break out a little or feel a little not-so-good, but stick with it, because that is just your skin detoxing. It’s so worth it. After a week or so you will have very smooth skin and you will be amazed at how soft it will be.

replied on March 1st, 2014

I have normal skin and use it on my face every day. I don’t put a lot on, and by the time I’m done lotioning/oiling the rest of my body, it’s kind of absorbed into my face. Sometimes, I leave it on for awhile, and if there’s excess, I’ll dab it off. I love the stuff. But do we not have to keep coconut oil in the fridge? I’ve kept mine there and it’s so hard and difficult to use.

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27.February.2014

Curious – what shampoo do you prefer? Fekkai as well? I’m looking for better hair products – will give this conditioner a try. Thanks!

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replied on February 27th, 2014

My entire family uses The Honest Co. shampoo + body wash on our hair. It’s great! Plus, two bottles in one!!!

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27.February.2014

Hey – Was wondering you and your husband are still using the Turkish bath towel (?) things? Was wondering if they worth the investment.

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replied on February 27th, 2014

Still using them! We do have a pile of terrycloth towels in the linen closet for guests. Eventually, I’d like to have ALL Turkish towels.

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27.February.2014

I am going to buy some coconut oil!! I love your list!

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27.February.2014

Hot Booties!
http://www.amazon.com/Hot-Booties-Foot-Warmers-Pink/dp/B0089AID3E

They seem ridiculous, but they are the only thing that keeps my feet warm some nights. They are also great to put in your bed to warm it up!

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27.February.2014

i love coconut oil. i’ve been using it for my face, body and hair. it feels and smells so good. i’ve also tried incorporating it into my diet. coconut oil is supposed to be insanely healthy for you too.

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27.February.2014

I have very oily hair that I MUST wash daily, but in the winter it is super flaky. I use coconut oil about once a month – leave on for a few hours and then wash out (usually needs shampooed twice). It does not leave my hair oily after. It makes it so smooth and fixes my flaky scalp. Try it like this!

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27.February.2014

Using a humidifier helps with the static which is a result of the dryness from the cold.

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27.February.2014

Here’s another option for dryer static cling….Wool dryer balls. They’re great because they’re a one time purchase and can be reused over and over again.

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27.February.2014

I have read good things about coconut oil for awhile, but always worried I’d feel like a giant greaseball after applying. After reading the comments, it seems like everyone loves it. I definitely plan on buying a jar!

We moved from Illinois to Florida in January and thankfully missed the brunt of snowfall. I think it will be a couple of years before I even think of missing the cold! Stay warm, friend!

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27.February.2014

I am one of those people now living in sunny, balmy,San Diego. I’ve lived in NY and OR though, so I am well acquainted with winter. It sucks.

I STILL use a mattress warmer here in SD-no need for heat at all once the bed is warmed up and the down comforter is in place. In OR, it was a necessity and then some. It’s not an electric blanket, so it warms from underneath. It’s great for anyone who has aches/pains/etc too.

Vinegar in the rinse cycle takes care of static and helps break down any soap reside left behind.

Moroccan Oil is the best thing I have ever used on my hair. EVER. Worth ever penny, IMHO.

Vitamin D should be mandatory for anyone living above the Mason-Dixon.

Yesterday we went to the local plant nursery and I had an out of body moment while I shopped for vegetables and plants to garden with now. In FEBRUARY! Wish we could have moved here sooner, LOL.

Stay warm.

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Although I’m coming out of my rut, I’d really like to try to vitamin D! I know that vitamins aren’t regulated and some can even contain different amounts of the vitamin. What do you consider an affordable and good quality brand?

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replied on February 28th, 2014

For vitamins, you generally get what you pay for but sometimes the inexpensive stuff is still enough to make a difference!

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27.February.2014

Super list Dana. I live in Cleveland so thoughts I’d chime in. I discovered thieves oil this winter and bought it in a spray. The legend goes back to the plague when thieves used this combination of essential oils to protect themselves from the illness and looted homes of the sick and dying. When they were finally caught they were given leniency in return for sharing their concoction! It smells amazing! At a lecture given by Toby Cosgrove of the Cleveland Clinic he talked about vitamin D deficiency. He said that the Cleveland Clinic spending several thousands of dollars a year testing employees for vitamin D deficiency. When he came on board he said, “This is Cleveland! Everyone is vitamin D deficient… Stop testing and give them all a supplement!” Thus saving thousands of dollars a year. Since hearing this we use vitamin d drops that have a slight citrus flavor. My kids love them…they ask for a little bit of sunshine every morning.

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27.February.2014

We live in south western Ontario so are about a 2 hour drive from Detroit, so I know you guys are getting the same Polar Vortex that we are. Right now my indoor weather station reads that it is currently -15 degrees Celsius outside not including a windchill!! I think that’s like 5 F. Brrr!!

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27.February.2014

I just moved to Cincinnati from San Francisco in October, and wow. Wow.

WOW.

Before that my husband and I were living in Ft. Lauderdale. This is my first winter in almost fifteen years. I am literally going to go out and buy everything on that list. And by “go out” I mean “order on Amazon Prime from in front of my fireplace.” With the possible exception of the dryer sheets. I just switched to Woolsies, and a sampler essential oils to put on them came today – I’m actually excited to put a couple towels through on low tonight to test those out.

I like that you included the plants – I’ve cheered up a *little* since I put some chives and scallions in little mason jars in the entryway. They’re green, and I can see them from my office. It helps. But ugh – for like, all of January I could not be enticed out of bed. Didn’t want. And my husband’s fingers are splitting open. Like, spontaneously. I have a rose-scented beeswax balm I use on my hands, but it’s a tough sell to convince him to use that >.<

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replied on February 28th, 2014

Welcome to Ohio ;)

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28.February.2014

I love Honest Co. too! Interesting about coconut oil. I have been going through lotions left and right this winter. Some are definitely better than others but I am still dry.

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28.February.2014

As a Canadian, I assure you I appreciate this list of essentials! A small change in routine may be just what I need to get through the rest of this loooong winter. I appreciate the Vitamin D reminder, too.

If I may make a suggestion to those poor souls new to winter: talk to your outdoorsy friends and buy whatever they’re wearing. I used to think a sweater and a cheap winter coat would be just fine, but then I learned the wonders of layering and staggeringly expensive winter coats. Now I am less impressed by my friends who enjoy hiking for days in the winter and I am unfazed even when it gets down below -30C! (Ok, maybe I am a little fazed. I don’t actually WANT to go outside. But it’s bearable, truly).

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28.February.2014

Oh man, I received coconut oil as a gift from my sister this Christmas (I complained about spending the money on it myself haha) and was preparing to use it in my hair, but maybe I won’t! Oily hair for days sounds like NO fun. I found this round-up super interesting and helpful though. I am always a big fan of when my favorite bloggers let us in on things like this :)

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28.February.2014

Like this list a lot. My sister and I have very thin hair and she recommended coconut oil for winter dryness, too. But she told me to put it in and let it sit for 15 minutes BEFORE my shower, then wash it out. I’ve been doing it for weeks now, and I love the results. Doesn’t weigh down my thin hair at all or look oily, if you wash it all out and just let it do its thing for a few minutes before the shower. Hope that helps!

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28.February.2014

Love the list! Coconut oil really can be used for everything (including on lips!) and some people use it as a facial cleanser because the oil actually is a better oily face cleanser without starting the drying out/overproduction of oil cycle that can lead to pimples. Quick question, is there no Trader Joes in Ohio? I get my jar of organic coconut oil there, I think it’s about $3.99 for a 16 oz jar.

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replied on February 28th, 2014

We have a Trader Joe’s and I love it! I bought my first jar of coconut oil from Earth Fare just because that’s where I happened to be shopping that day. I will definitely have to check out Trader Joe’s soon because my original jar is almost empty.

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replied on February 28th, 2014

I’m right there with you on coconut oil! Trader Joe’s is the only place I buy mine from now. The quality is great and the price is unbeatable. Definitely check it out. And I have been using it on my face for almost a year now, and my skin has never been better. I typically have combination skin.

I just picked up a mini purple & green bromeliad just because I needed a little dose of green in the house. Not sure how long it will last, but it’ll make me feel better in the meantime.

And I agree with you. I just began taking D3 at the suggestion of my doctor, and it is pretty amazing!

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28.February.2014

I’m usually not a big commenter on blogs, web sites, etc., but I can’t let go of the coconut oil discussion, lol! I use coconut oil for body, skin, hair, lips and face (it’s antimicrobial and antibacterial so it actually prevents breakouts). A little goes a long way and it absorbs nicely. I use the oil cleansing method – just Google or go on Pinterest to find plenty of info…For cooking – sautéing, baking – even put a tsp in coffee instead of cream. We use it on my daughter’s dog for itchy places and have started giving her 1 1/2tsp a day to eat. She is getting a really shiny coat now. We ditched her special expensive dog food from the vet and started cooking fresh food for her – improvement after just 2 days after months of going round and round with steroids and antibiotics! We also make treats for her – coconut oil, PB and oatmeal; mix and form into balls.
I order coconut oil from iherb.com
Healthy Origins, Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, 54 oz for $23.95
Go here…http://www.iherb.com?rcode=PAV069 for $5 off first order (sometimes it comes up $10 off).

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replied on February 28th, 2014

Lol, Sandy! I’m excited to try the coconut oil! I have also used http://www.iherb.com for purchasing vitamin d3 and other vitamins and have been really impressed with their company. The delivery always comes super fast.

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28.February.2014

As a CA girl, you’re right, we have no business listing out winter essentials list…

What winter? I mean we just had our first real rain in over a year in Southern CA. Hoping for more this Spring!

Sending you some sunshine today :)

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replied on February 28th, 2014

Send me all the sunshine you want!

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28.February.2014

Congratulations on an impressive 2nd place to popular Emily Henderson on AT’s Homies. You should be proud of yourself, your blog, and the changes you’ve been making all around. You’ve come a long way from the pharmacy counter! (p.s. I ordered the coconut oil and conditioner. :) )

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replied on February 28th, 2014

Aw, thanks. Second place doesn’t feel all that bad considering first place was won by one of my favorite designers!!

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28.February.2014

I also love coconut oil, and I find that D3 is a great help during our long Canadian winters. My other must-have? Carrot juice! One of my girlfriends is vegan, and has the most amazing glow. Her secret is a glass of fresh carrot juice every morning. It’s amazing! It gives you that perfect sun-kissed glow that we feel so desperate for mid-January. Stick to one small glass a day though, because those who have kids know, you can over-do it ;)

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28.February.2014

Voted for ya! My hands are as dry as can be, so I don’t think I’ll dish out on the lotion I’ve been using! Dude I want to know more pharmacist insider info!

Nicole B.

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28.February.2014

I second the Argan oil recommendation. A sales rep. at Sephora talked me into it and sent me home with a sample, dangerous!! I was back in a week to buy an entire bottle. It is pricey, but my skin and hair have never felt or looked better. She also said (like some of the comments) that oil “cuts” oil, so individuals with oily skin actually benefit from using natural oils on their skin.
I have been reading that coconut oil is a cheaper and comparable alternative to Argan oil, so when my bottle is out, I’m going to do a little experimenting. All these comments on coconut oil are encouraging. Great list!

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replied on February 28th, 2014

I use straight Argan oil, purchased at iherb.com. Rub a little on your palms to calm hair fly aways. I use it on my skin much the same way I use the coconut oil.
And by the way, coconut oil is great for restoring moisture to furniture. My daughter and I are in the process of restoring good quality patio furniture (Eucalyptus wood, I think). A good cleaning with soap and water, a light sanding, 2 coats of coconut oil and a final coat of paste wax – it’s turning out beautiful.
I bet coconut oil would be great for wicker!

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replied on February 28th, 2014

Whoa! And there’s the segueway into home decor!

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01.March.2014

Second all the comments about coconut oil, except I’m not wild about putting it on my face. D3 is essential for health in my opinion. I live in Alabama, and D from the sun is available year-round. I use an app called D Minder that lets me know the exact times that D is available based upon my location. For example, today D is available from 8:49-2:59 and there is a UV index of 5 right now. That means I can spend 10-15 minutes in a tank top and shorts on my deck and get 500 iu’s a minute (or I can wear less and get more iu’s) The app beeps to let you know when you need to get out of the sun or burn. I’ve been doing this for a year and a half; I feel great, and it has completely cured psoriasis in my toenails that plagued me for about a year!

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replied on March 2nd, 2014

Ahhhhhh, to be able to sit on my deck in shorts and a tank top…so envious!! The app sounds pretty cool, too. Thanks for sharing.

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01.March.2014

Great post! This winter has been brutal in New England too! I got addicted to Burt’s Bees carrot cream years ago when I worked on fishing boats in the winter. Love the stuff! And we go through tons of coconut oil and Aquaphor.

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03.March.2014

I so tried to get on board with coconut oil, but it’s been so cold here in Chicago that it’s still rock solid by the end of my shower. I have been supplementing my diet with a bit of coconut oil, avocados, and an omega 3 supplement. All are helpful with dry skin and have actually done wonders for my dry winter eyes. My dermatologist recommended CeraVe for my face, and despite all my acne fears, it’s turned out to be a pimple-free flake eraser.

I also swear by my Patagonia Capilene baselayers, Bogs riding boots, Camelbak Eddy water bottle, mini car snow shovel, and B-complex supplement. Polar vortex, be damned! If this is a preview of winters to come, I’m seriously considering hibernation in a down onesie.

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replied on March 3rd, 2014

Down onesie! Haha. You should totally invent that.

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05.March.2014

I am Canadian and I approve this message ;) Most of these (or similar) products are essential for making it through winter on Prince Edward Island as well!!

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05.March.2014

Love your blog and beautiful home!! Great list! Thanks for sharing. How many IU’s of D3 are you taking each day? I’m in S.C. and weather has been yuck! Thinking I could benefit from this.

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06.March.2014

I use coconut oil as a hair oil but I never thought to use it as a body oil. I’ll give it a try.

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