Afternoon in D.C.

Nov. 28th. 2015 – Today, we decided to take a last minute outing to DC. We heard about a place called City Center and thought it would be a good place to check out since we have a couple out of town guests here for Thanksgiving (my mom-in-law who came down from NYC and cousin from Germany). We met up near Chinatown and walked through the Center. The name “City Center” sounds so grand but it’s much smaller than I thought, but cute nevertheless. It’s a block or two of high end stores on the bottom level of new apartments and offices. Rumi enjoyed the water installation and huge reindeer which is sculpted out of twigs!

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I like walking through a city during the holidays and taking in the sights and sounds. We stopped by the Smithsonian art museum.
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Rumi, cousin Zara and me

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Sister Mariam, Zara and Rumi

The museum shop had the most beautiful peacock Christmas tree displayed. I love holiday decor – it makes me feel happy!

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Inside the museum there is a large indoor seating area that felt tropical yet holiday at the same time. It was nice to sit down and rest after chasing the boys.
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The twins didn’t enjoy the the old man paintings on the walls at the portrait museum – they cried upon seeing them- but they had a great time prancing through the water feature in the cafe. Thankfully, I brought a change of clothes!
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After the museum, we grabbed a cup of coffee, walked around a bit and then headed home. It was unusually warm in DC so it was a perfect day to enjoy the city!

Sunflower Day – Goodbye Summer

On the last weekend before summer unofficially ends, we decided to take a Sunday drive to a sunflower field – our last hurrah. Nestled in between beautiful vineyards and rolling hills is a breathtaking farm filled with flowers you can pick and take home for about a buck per stem. Most of the sunflowers were past their peak – wilted and sadly looking downwards (as if knowing that summer is over) – yet many who were still gazing happily at the sun enjoying the last warm days of the season. The weather was unusually perfect. The only imperfect moments were that I stubbed my toe on a tree stump in the fields (who asked me to wear open-toed sandals!) and that towards the end, Nik and Zaki were super cranky. But the rest of the afternoon was dreamy. We picked up some French cheese, baguettes, sandwiches, and fruit and enjoyed a picnic under the trees. It sort of felt like we were in a European countryside for a moment. Afterwards, we took the kids into the flower fields. The boys were a bit scared of the huge sunflowers at first, but quickly warmed up to them. It was a beautiful afternoon of picking flowers, blowing bubbles, picnicing and feeling the warm sun. A day that Rumi said was the “best day ever”. It’s moments like these that I cherish with my children. Goodbye Summer….

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Beach Style

We just spent one week at Bethany Beach with a few of our friends and their children. We rented a beautiful home that has been featured in several magazines – it was so serene and only a few steps from the beach. I planned on taking more pictures but things were more hectic than I thought  (going to the beach with two little one year olds was a lot harder than we anticipated – packing all the gear felt like a move!)

I love a bohemian, relaxed, colorful look at the beach. I’m not about to wear a bikini (never liked to!), and love vibrant cover ups, hats and big glasses. Here are some of the looks I wore:

I found this cute red embroidered caftan at Marshalls! Not even sure what brand it is and don’t even care – it’s so comfy and I adore the embroidery. it was the perfect beach cover up. I paired it with a striped straw hat, oversized glasses and a handmade turquoise necklace I picked up from a jeweler at a flea market years ago:
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Feeding the boys snacks on the beach:
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On the boardwalk carousel in BCBG:
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I’m loving these silk print pants lately. I wear them a lot! I also picked up these Steve Madden gladiator sandals on sale and wore them the entire time:
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In a TIBI terrycloth beach cover-up:
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Waterfront Stroll & Style

My sign is Cancer – a water sign. I’ve always been drawn to water and a nautical lifestyle – I love everything about it -except seafood. When I’m near water, I feel calm and at peace (like most people). I especially love being around boats/docks and look forward to a day when we can enjoy a lifestyle that includes lots of boating : ). I had a meeting in Old Town, Alexandria, so it was the perfect opportunity to get some work done and enjoy the afternoon with family – strolling on the waterfront, eating ice cream and stopping by a bath shop that sold the cutest hand crafted soaps and bath bombs. The twins ate their first bites of ice cream and litte Rumi enjoyed running through the park and buying her first “Candy Cane” bath bomb.

I’m wearing a green/white print dress with brown cork heel sandals and a large apple red vintage clutch I purchased from a flea market years ago. I like the patchwork print and the billowy cut on the dress especially.

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Samira Kids

My Twin Boys Turn 1: HAPPY BIRTHDAY NIK & ZAKI!!

THE TWINS ARE 1 TODAY!! When I first held them both in my arms one year ago today, I was overwhelmed with love and fear. I didn’t know how we would handle two babies at once, especially while running two salons, but here I am looking back at the year and wondering where time went, and realizing that I’m stronger than I gave myself credit for. The days have been long, but the year short. I couldn’t have survived this year without the support of my family – especially my husband and mom – and my sisters who love my children like their own. As happy as I feel that they are 1 today, and are growing up healthy and happy, part of me feels sadness that the infant/baby stage is over and I can’t hold on to time – and all the moments I felt would last forever have turned into flashes of moments in my mind. I don’t want to forget them, so my gift to them is this video I put together that captures some of their first year major milestones with each other, and their big sis Rumi, so that the flashes of memories that may fade can stay with them – and us- forever, as they grow older. I share with you NIK & ZAKI’S 1st YEAR – HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY SMUSHIES!!

Tea Time!!

My family are avid drinkers, as are so many from Eastern cultures. As far back as I can remember, tea (chai) has been the cornerstone of our meals and gatherings, especially as an offering for guests.  I don’t recall a day where tea wasn’t part of the daily conversation when around the family.   A few years ago, my sisters and I were planning on opening a tea house in NYC. As part of planning for the business, I went to a huge Las Vegas tea convention and became certified in tea!  I learned about the different types of tea, how to steep it for maximum flavor, how tea is harvested, and how the tea market is growing, especially in the States.  We didn’t open the chai house for  a variety of reasons but I’ve been trying to incorporate tea as an offering at FLOW Blow Dry & Beauty Bar. In fact, I am going to expand the selection of teas and offer clients a selection of tea, presented in a bamboo tea box.   I’ve been drinking coffee lately, and while it gives me that temporary boost I need throughout the day, I don’t like the side effects such as my moods crashing, headaches and bloating. So the past few days, I’ve turned back to the comfort of tea and have chosen a tea that is relaxing and healthy.  Here’s to tea time!

 

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I love this little tea pot. You can place a tea bag or loose tea inside the netting and steep some delicious tea for one or two!

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Living Organically – Resolutions

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The past 7 months have been about sleepless nights, a constant barrage of poopy diapers, business admin tasks/numbers, hormones, and a host of issues that come with managing it all. On my organic lifestyle journey, I have made the following positive steps the past few years:

– Introduced organic/natural hair & beauty products at FLOW Blow Dry & Beauty Bar to thousands of clients
– Changed my beauty routine & products to include organic/natural products
– Became a certified make-up artist, and created a make-up kit filled with organic/natural products
– Started NOVA Organic Lifestyle Facebook group
– Purchased organic formula for the babies (read about it HERE)
– Making all baby food at home myself
– Launched this blog to share my journey

Where I need to improve on is:

– Eating more organically and buying locally from farmer’s markets (for myself and my family)- grow a backyard garden
– Working out again and starting yoga
– Take daily vitamins
– Change all products at home (including cleaning) to organic & natural – eliminate toxins and chemicals from my life
– Meditation/prayers
– Get in tune with nature (walking/hiking/biking)
– Living in the moment
– Getting rid of “stuff” in my life that I have accumulated – boxes and boxes of clothes and things I no longer need by selling and donating
– Shopping less & recycling more – less consumption in life

These are my late resolutions for the year – let’s see how I do! I will be sharing the journey here!

Love and light,

Samira

My Happier & Organic Lifestyle Journey: Beauty, Fashion, Make-up, Food

The past few years, I moved from NYC to DC area, opened up two salons, had twin boys, am raising our 4-year-old girl, and juggling a mountain of tasks while trying to maintain my sanity lol. I’m on a journey to live a happier, healthier lifestyle – and to do it in style! Here’s a new Samira Styles video where I talk about my journey and where I would like to take it this year and beyond:

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.)

Fall Family Photo Shoot

I had the pleasure of meeting Northern VA photographer Maria Shakir at FLOW Blow Dry & Beauty Bar Ashburn’s Grand Opening party where she took pictures of the event. After viewing her portfolio, I saw that she does great work with family portraits. Since I haven’t had time to take professional pictures of the twins when they were born (whereas with Rumi I took several), I thought it would be a great idea to do an outdoor Fall photo shoot.  We picked a day in October at a historic park in Leesburg, VA.  We got very lucky that day. The weather was as perfect as it was ever going to get in this area!  I dressed up my kiddos in knits to celebrate the season. For the boys, I chose a cream, gray, navy blue and chocolate brown color story. For Rumi, I kept it similar but added in pops of color with the embroidery in her boots and her knit hat. I wore a Lucky Brand embroidered sweater coat that reminds me a lot of my own fashion line.

When we arrived (a bit late unfortunately because it’s not always easy to get three kids ready!), Maria was ready and waiting. She brought several “props” for the shoot including a wagon, basket, and blankets. We ended up using our own blankets but did put the boys in her basket which ended up looking really cute.  It was hard to get the boys to laugh as they usually do because they were so enchanted by what was around them such as the trees, leaves and sky. Rumi had a good time at the shoot, and my favorite picture of her is the one where she is kicking up the leaves in her purple hat.

I loved this photo shoot, even though our car battery died when we left (thank God for a good Samaritan who showed up and helped us!).  I highly recommend hiring Maria for any photo shoot. She uses a nice camera, is patient, and knows how to capture someone’s personality in the right lighting.

OFFER: She is so kind to give me a special offer to share with my friends and family. If you mention my name, she will give you a session for only $95 as well as 15 digital images instead of 10! Offer is good through November 2014.  Make sure to mention my name to get the discount!  Here is her website: http://mshakirphotography.com/ and her email: mshakirphotography1@gmail.com

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