A Very Afghan Christmas

Two of my sisters live in New York City and Los Angeles, so once a year, we try to get together for a family portrait. This year, I decided it would be a good idea to have everyone wear traditional Afghan clothes for our pictures, since the red and green colors of Afghan clothes compliment the holiday season nicely. Plus it’s always nice to celebrate your diversity – wearing traditional clothes on Christmas celebrates both cultures. I had the idea last minute on Christmas Day, and within a couple hours, I was able to not only assemble the family together, but also get everyone to go along with the theme! The behind-the-scenes banter of this shoot deserved its own video since after a few minutes, the kids started to get antsy, and the babies kept spitting up their milk on their grandparents. The lighting isn’t perfect or professional quality, but I’m happy with the final results!

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Our family! My sister Zohra sadly couldn’t make it for the shoot since it was so last minute :(. From left to right: my niece Iman in a black/silver Afghan dress, my nephew Amir wearing a striped silk “chapan”, my nephew Cameron wearing a silk eggplant colored scarf, my brother-in-law Jalil wearing a wool Afghan hat, my husband Kaiser wearing a silk Afghan scarf, my nephew Omar wearing a black cotton embroidered top with a wool hat, my niece Sophia in a red Afghan dress, my sister Mariam in a green/silver/purple/pink embroidered traditional Afghan dress, my sons Nik & Zaki wearing a red/black embroidered Afghan top, my father in a black 2pc. cotton top/tumban, my daughter Rumi in a red/green Afghan dress, my mom with a wool scarf, and my sister Alina wearing a red chapan and tribal Uzbek hat.

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I’m joining the pic in a black Afghan dress with red & green embroidery

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Thank you to my friend Mariam Wardak for gifting me with the Afghan dress and Afghan baby clothes for my kids!

Rumi’s Retro Inspired Knits & Prints

Today, it’s too cold to do anything outdoors, and since we are stuck inside, I thought, “Why not make it a fun day and play dress up – what 4-year-old doesn’t love that”? Even though she has the sniffles today, Rumi was up for getting dolled up. I like to mix and match prints, colors, fabrics and textures. I pulled from her closet a lamb print purple knit sweater, a black/white tweed skirt, navy blue tights, gold sequined ballet slippers, and a white/gold polka dot headband. Rumi added the final touch herself: a gold beaded necklace she had in her room. The touches of gold are perfect for the holidays.

I curled her hair to give the look a retro vibe, and added some organic cream blush to her cheeks. I look forward to her seeing these pictures when she’s older.

Head to toe look: Gymboree

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Make-up In A Minute: My Routine

These days between managing the FLOW salons and my baby twins/daughter, I don’t have a lot of time to spend on make-up, and if I do – whether it’s for a meeting, going to FLOW, running errands – it has to be quick. But for this video, I show you one of my make-up routines (except I don’t usually contour my fae daily) – from start to finish including moisturizing, shadow, liner, mascara, brow fill-in, foundation, light contouring/highlighting, and lipstick. Except I know how busy YOU are, and don’t want to sit through 20 minutes of seeing me apply it. SO, here it is: my make-up in a minute!

PS: most of the make-up that I am applying here is organic or natural based.

2nd VLOG: Samira’s Style – Shopping in NYC

Hi! Just posted a NEW video (see link below) from ‘Samira Styles, a new vlog where I will be covering fashion/style, beauty, organic make-up, before-afters, my lifestyle, running a business, travel, DIY, and more! It’s a follow-up to last week’s video, and in this one, I show you what I purchased at Buffalo Exchange. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a resale boutique that carries designer labels for amazing prices. My favorite one is in Willamsburg NYC, and I’m happy to share my recent purchases with you all. I will wear them in a future vlog or post as pics on the blog!

I designed the NEW logo for Samira Styles, and also taught myself video editing on IMovie! This is the FIRST video I’ve edited this way, so excuse the lighting, some of the choppy editing (such as my head being cut off in the beginning!). I’m excited because I was searching for a theme song to the vlog, and found that Azar Swan ‘s “OVER” is the perfect one! I look super tired in this video since I haven’t slept like a normal person in months, but hope you like it (and bc I was so tired, didn’t spell Swan right at the end of the video-oops)! Please subscribe to my YouTube channel, and follow me on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter (@samiraatash.com)!

Organic Baby Formula: U.S. vs. Europe (My Experience)

Ok, so this isn’t a post about nursing vs. formula being better. With Rumi, I nursed her exclusively for 19 months. I thought I would do the same for my twin boys but have experienced some unexpected challenges with doing so (including the fact that they are voracious eaters!) so I need to supplement with formula. I have spent some time researching the best organic baby formulas in the US ( organic is a better choice than conventional formulas that have genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs), milk from cows that were likely treated with antibiotics or artificial growth hormones, and oils that were processed with the use of neurotoxic solvents like hexane.).

I’m not a medical doctor nor am I giving medical advice and I’m not getting paid by any company to write this. This is the information I have found on my journey that I think could be useful to other parents! It’s a long post, but I think the information can be useful. During my research, I was shocked to learn that in the US there are only 3 manufacturers of organic baby formula, and they are owned by pharmaceutical companies (connect the dots)…. and what they put in the formulas isn’t pretty. Given all this appalling information, I realized that the infant formula lobbyists in the US make it hard for European organic formula brands to come on the market here (the European Union is much stricter about what goes into foods – why wouldn’t they be? Since the government covers healthcare, wouldn’t they want a healthier population? Things that make you go hmmm, right?)

I have chosen the one organic formula brand that, in my opinion, is the best: HIPP Organic baby formula. It’s a German formula manufactured in the UK. I have found it on Amazon (they come in various stages for your baby). The only issue is that it could take 2-4 weeks to ship. I ordered it a few months ago and it took over a month because US Customs held the order from coming in (and even opened some of the boxes!!). I reported this to Amazon, they gave me a refund , but I had to use organic US formula during the wait which made my twins gassy, sick and even smelly (one of them smelled like cat litter, I kid you not!) And when I tried to re-order the HIPP from Amazon, I was surprised that they no longer had the Stage 1 formula in stock! I had to order it at a higher price from a company on EBay, and am waiting for it’s arrival.

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After starting them on the US formula, one of my babies also broke out with excema on this face and legs. In a panic, I also ordered another brand from the Netherlands called Kabrita Gold (infant stage) which is a goat based formula. Goat milk closely mirrors the milk of humans the most. It’s a good formula (doesn’t smell or clump up) except it does have syrups in it but it’s a better option than anything on the market here. This has arrived and my babies are loving it. They sell the toddler formula on diapers.com and I was able to get the infant stage on a site called SuperFoodsUK. It’s not cheap but I would rather pay a bit more for a high quality organic formula that won’t make my babies sick and cut out other things in life I can live without.

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I will continue to order HIPP until the US formula industry is not controlled by lobbyists and pharmaceutical companies, who in my opinion, have a stake in making our kids sicker….

THREE U.S. ORGANIC BABY FORMULA MANUFACTURERS

1) One manufacturer is PBM Nutritionals, owned by Perrigo, the world’s largest manufacturer of private label (store-brand) over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. PBM makes organic formula for its own Vermont Organics and Bright Beginnings brands. It also manufacturers organic formula for Hain Celestial’s Earth’s Best brand, Whole Foods Market’s 365 Organic brand, and Walmart’s Parent’s Choice brand.

2) Similac Organic is manufactured by Abbott Laboratories. Abbott, a major manufacturer of pharmaceuticals in the U.S., introduced Similac Organic in 2006.

3) Finally, Baby’s Only Organic is developed and marketed by Nature’s One. Nature’s One markets Baby’s Only Organic formula as a “toddler formula” rather than an infant formula (according to the company, this is done to encourage breastfeeding until age 1). Its products meet the same nutritional standards that the FDA sets forth for infant formula.

INGREDIENTS IN MOST U.S. ORGANIC BABY FORMULAS

These companies are trying to mimic human milk but are adding:

1) sweeteners (mostly corn based) instead of organic lactose sugar (The European Union banned sugar-sweetened infant formula in 2009, due to concerns with rising rates of childhood obesity and the possibility that overly sweet formula might lead to overfeeding)

2) Palm oil which creates soaps in your baby’s gut! Since palmitic acid from palm oil is not absorbed properly, it means overall fat absorption is lower in babies given formula with palm oil. Bone mass is significantly lower in babies given formula containing palm oil, perhaps because the calcium in the baby’s intestines turns into “soap” rather than reaching the baby’s growing bones. And the “soapiness” in the intestines also leads to hard stools. Sadly I have found that most organic baby formulas, including Hipp and Kabrita, list palm oil in their ingredients 🙁

3) Synthetic DHA & ARA. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, and ARA is an omega-6 fatty acid. Both are naturally found in human milk, and DHA is a component of brain and eye tissue. But the DHA and ARA added to most brands of infant formula are extracted from factory-produced C. Cohnii and M. Alpina—specific strains of algae and fungus that have never been part of the human diet, let alone the diet of infants. When the C. Cohnii and M. Alpina oils first appeared in infant formula, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received dozens of reports from physicians and parents who noticed diarrhea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal distress in infants given formula with these oils—symptoms that disappeared when the infant was switched to the exact same formula without these additives. When the USDA received legal complaints against the unapproved use of C. Cohnii and M. Alpina oils, a Washington lobbyist with the powerful law firm of Covington and Burling convinced USDA officials to open a loophole in the organic standards, which would allow the formula manufacturers to add the unapproved ingredients without facing enforcement action. While the USDA has since admitted that this was inappropriate, the agency has failed to take enforcement action and continues to bow to pressure from the infant formula industry. Kabrita lists DHA and ARA on its packaging, but after reading the ingredients, I did not see C. Cohnii and M. Alpina listed.

4) Carageenan. The US food industry, including the infant formula industry, has responded for decades by claiming that carrageenan is safe. It is prohibited in infant formula—conventional and organic—in the European Union. Carrageenan contributes no nutritional value or flavor to formula, or other food, but is added to stabilize ready-to-feed formula. Adding carrageenan means parents or caregivers do not have to shake the product before feeding it to the baby. The alternative is to put a “shake well” label on the bottle.

5) Synthetic Preservatives & Nutrients (two synthetic preservatives: ascorbyl palmitate and beta-carotene. Synthetic nutrients: lutein, lycopene, nucleotides, taurine, l-carnitine and l-methionine.)

Samira’s Style: My First Vlog

I am going to start a new vlog called “Samira’s Style” which will cover fashion, design, beauty tips, make-overs, DIY, mommyhood & lifestyle. Here is my first video!