Monthly Archives: November 2016

“Science and mindfulness complement each other in helping people to eat well and maintain their health and well-being.”  ~ Nhat Hanh

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I like this quote because it is timely for achieving balance between the impending holiday meals and otherwise “messy” schedules the holidays can often inflict on us.  Remember your goals, remember your focus.

How do you Spaghetti Squash?

This is an engagement post.  Please comment.

Personally, I love to make a roasted tomato-garlic-basil base with an arugula saute layered over pre-baked spaghetti squash.  Using this method, you can carve the squash out of the shell onto a plate or simply spoon out the sauce and arugula directly over 1/2 of the cooked squash and scoop it all out like it’s a big bowl itself.

A few other notables that have caught my eye;

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein by Little Bits Of –

Spaghetti Squash Black Bean Bowls by THE glowing FRIDGE –

Spaghetti Squash Hashbrowns by The Honour System –

“Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.” ~Dalai Lama

This last week has been trying in the US with the conclusion of a very difficult, discerning national election.  Sunday, we also received news of a major earthquake followed by tsunami in New Zealand.  It also seems as if, in the mess of things, Haiti has been nearly forgotten.  It’s safe to say people have been given a few reasons for stress and not all have taken the high road for a response.

The current Dalai Lama is one of the most influential world leaders to date.  Despite experiencing the aggressive take over of Tibet in his lifetime, he remained steadfast, peaceful, and true.  He has always continued to upheld the values of his community and stressed kindness for all people whether they be “insiders” or not.

For this week’s Motivational Monday, I think we need a stroke of his wisdom.  To me, he represents grace and, through action, defines compassion.  Although the reminder of one quote, may be small.  I hope it helps to calm and recenter some.

Open Letter to America

Dear America,

I would be lying if I did not express that I’m ticked off at you right now!  It’s not the specific outcome of the recent national election, it’s the fact that we have led to this point in the first place.  Despite never growing up in a time where I was told “you can’t vote”, I still felt helpless and crippled.  It seemed nearly impossible to express a “vote”, such an American right of passage.

Our political landscape is so broken that we allowed some of the ugliest representation of human behavior to be overlooked in order to move forward on some version of a new agenda.  Yes, we needed a disruptor.  This was apparent.  We did not need a grotesque, immoral display of political mud-slinging.  Not for this seat, not for our lead role.

We have been revealed in ways many of us never thought possible in this day in age.  After all, many leaders and communities have worked so hard up until this point to remove discrimination and fear from different race, class, or gender.  Yet, here it is, blatantly in front of our faces and significantly disappointing.  In addition, we are faced with countless versions of corruption, unhealthy bias, and even greater levels of fiscal irresponsibility.

When can we get over this?  When can we move on?  When can we cut the crap?  I’m ready to take those steps, are you?

There is a line from the non-fictional movie, We Are Marshall; “…from the ashes we rose”.  We are, for all intensive purposes, in our own version of ashes.  We have been forced to look more closely at the power of narcissism, the tout of the 1%ers, and underlying corruption within systems.

Yet, the variables do not define us all as Americans.  They show us that we need to do better.  We need to further understand big picture variables such as the widening income gap, the effect of rapid change with technology and related applications such as social media, and the dynamics of fear within our culture.  For some, they may build a wall either physically or figuratively.  If so, my guess is the bulk of us will tear the walls down.

It is time to “think globally, act locally” (Mahatma Gandhi).  It is time to own up to our spilled, broken, in fact, shattered bottle of milk and clean it up!

I feel a little lost in this maze and I know I’m not alone.  And so…  for now, without the most clear idea of what to do next, I have decided to reflect on a few of the “American sort of things” that make me smile and bring positive memory.  I hope you can enjoy a few or all of them.  In no particular order, a list of 20 is below;

  1. Iconic 80’s movies such as Goonies – o.k., I heard you say it out loud… I’ll say it with you, “Hey you guys….”
  2. The Great Lakes – such a fantastic design by nature, park me lake side with passing sail boats and I’m immediately calmed.
  3. Mason Jars – of course I love practical solutions, but can you think of something else more iconic?
  4. My 94 year old aunt, who despite humble upbringings, obtained her college degree!
  5. Country Music – this may not be every one’s cup of tea, but the story telling and life lessons can be really impactful. Although he’s an Aussie, Keith Urban’s “Where the Black Top Ends” …  where the grass, dirt, and the gravel all meet will always remind me of trips home.
  6. Indiana Basketball – is there anything like it? I mean, really?
  7. Fireworks and fire flies on the 4th of July.
  8. Madonna – she ruffled a few feathers in her day, but she pushed boundaries and proved to be wildly successful. She grew into a compassionate, artistic woman allowing fans to follow her along the way.
  9. The Florida-Alabama line – for us, our family definitely tried to save a little money via road trips. Although usually this was just to see grandma & grandad, occasionally it also met a trip to Disney.  As a child, this was undoubtedly equivalent to a major life accomplishment.  I’m sure for a parent, being able to take their children there may have been just that as well.
  10. NASA
  11. Railroad bridges – again, such an iconic imagery that never seems to get old.
  12. University towns – I grew up in one. I am 100% grateful for the racial and international diversity this exposed me to.
  13. Tornado alley – this may sound like an odd entry to the list, but growing up feeling like you might actually live through an Oz like moment was kind of a thrill.
  14. Team Spirit.
  15. Classic cars & crop planes.
  16. “Damn Yankees” – it came a little bit odd to me when someone called me a Yankee, but the more I thought about it, the less I minded. Although I am definitely not from the Northeast, I spent some time there.  The accents are incredible and the lessons I learned while living there have been lifelong.  After all, who doesn’t appreciate a good “jersey shore” style fist pump!
  17. Classic rock music – Bon Jovi, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Journey… where is the juke box?
  18. 911 responders.
  19. Baby animals – this is likely worldwide, but who doesn’t love photos of baby animals? I had to throw this one in there.
  20. Public Health & Prevention – I can think of no greater lessons than my unexpected journey into a Public Health degree has provided. Through this I met astoundingly honest, passionate people working for the greater good.  I have experienced extreme versions of kindness and have been aw-inspired by the level of thoughtfulness my colleagues and cohort are able to express.  The discipline taught me to dig deeper for root causes and broadened my awareness for political, community, socio-economic, and environmental landscapes.  Despite being the underdog, with an average of 4% total funding support, I gladly accept the perspective gained from this path.


Wellness Wednesday: “For the Love of…, Rake Leaves”

Ever look at the faces of people raking leaves on a nice Fall day???

I have noticed over the years, they are often smiling!  Although I can not tell you for certain why this is so, I think its likely a combination of variables; positive benefit of physical exercise, enjoying the season and outdoors, and overall feeling of accomplishment.

Personally, I don’t care for leaf blowers.  This may come hard for the Tim the Tool Man Taylor type, but taking the time to rake can be much more beautiful.  It’s peaceful, creates less dust, and is calming to perform.

How many calories you actually burn may have a broad range.  MyFitnessPal estimates 272/hour for a 150 lb person, while Livestrong suggests a range of 180-356/hour.

For fun, below are a few photos from my fall season so far;

2016 Holiday List!

2016 Holiday Suggestions

If you were following me in 2015, you may have seen my last holiday list.  The linked text will take you to the post.

This year, I have a few updates and new finds to share.  Similar to last year, my focus is primarily on small, locally oriented vendors with passion, personal connection, and value-focus to their product lines.  As you may already know, I’m a person driven by practices, so, of course, “eco-friendly” considerations are made.  I also share a few practical gift ideas that can help people in living their healthiest lives.

Give the Gift of Nutrition

Selfish plug here, but I am now a representative for the JuicePlus+ and TowerGarden company.  I am also a huge fan of recipe shares, food baskets, gifting a produce share, or simply sharing a significant dish.  Last year, I also recommended organic, non-GMO seeds.  It takes a little digging to find organic vendors (typically a “seed bank”), but many of them operate online.  I have used SeedsNow a handful of times, including for additions to wedding gift baskets.

Essential Oils

The applications for essential oils are immense; aromatherapy, medicinal, personal hygiene, and household cleaning, to name a few.  Good ones don’t come cheap, however.  If you are looking for a resourceful, yet indulgent gift, consider essential oils.  It takes a little research into quality standards, but you won’t regret the knowledge gained from exploring this path

I’m keeping this one on the list this year, only I’m providing a new suggestion for where to purchase.  I would highly recommend checking out Mountain Rose Herbs for their oils.  My mom introduced them to me and I have since found them reviewed by several health and wellness blogs.  They are consistently highly recommended.  Another small, local oriented company I recommended last year is Town & Anchor.  Their products will be finished formulas for a variety of body care needs.

***Bonus to Mountain Rose Herbs, they are also a great resource for bulk organic spices and offer a scaled shipping discount based on lbs ordered.


I still stand by this as a solid suggestion.  It can be very helpful for many people on your holiday list and is also a less expensive option which is ideal for shoppers on a budget.

Mason Jars – beyond traditional canning, there are so many uses for these.  They are great for storage, salad jars on the go, fermented foods, smoothies or lemon water, and personal care products.  Most craft stores sell lids with pumps for lotions or liquid soaps.  Even better, the price point is low.  With the versatility of these jars, the value is clear.  Plus, they come in a few different colors.  A ribbon or holiday trim can easily be tied around the lid for a simple, festive presentation.

Stackable Kitchen Storage – there are several options for this, but I have purchased from World Market.

Other Unique Home Goods & Finds

Do you know what a certified B corporation is?  I hope you do, but if not, I linked the text for further information.  The notion has been slower in progress in certain states, but is catching some momentum.  This year I found a cleaning product company, Meliora Cleaning Products, that is operating under this framework.  Environmental sensitivities are becoming a greater burden for the healthy livelihood of many people.  Therefore, having options such as this can really be helpful, especially if the recipient is under time crunches for making their own.

North Coast Organics, which I have under beauty and personal care is also a certified B-corporation.  Other well-known names that are B-corps include klean kanteen (what another great gift option), patagonia, seventh generation, King Arthur Flour, and The Honey Co.

The Sweet Side

There are a ton of sugar-sweetened products on the market, but only a few earn my vote.  Typically, I am looking for low sugar content (if any added sugars are used at all) and additive free, such as no gluten, dairy, or soy.  The reality is that good food products, especially those of specialty nature, often don’t come cheap.

People love to give chocolate at the holidays.  In my presentations, I tell patients/clients that I still eat chocolate…  only the good stuff!  There are two new chocolate finds in my arsenal.  1)  Taza Chocolate; I highly recommend their dark, stone ground options, particularly the jalapeno offering.  2)  tabal chocolate; which is small batch, organic, and fair-trade.  For them, my favorite was the Bolivia 70% Coffee, but none were bad, ha!

I also found a brand new honey company, Brood Honey, (which is a subsidiary of Worker B) that has a unique product for market…  honey aged in brewing barrels!  Currently they offer bourbon, cabernet, & tequila.  They then return the barrels to the brewers who can then use them for more interesting brews.  It’s a beautiful up-cycle usage of the barrels.  I would recommend the tequila.

If you are looking for wine, I have just started collecting a list of those that are eco- and sustainable in their practices.  I learned from a wine vendor that producers can do everything organic until the final step, which I think is adding the tannins, yet still cannot carry the USDA organic label. Although I’m still learning, it’s good to know that there is a spectrum of options.  I like the Boisset Collection because it embodies the eco-friendly practices, but also helps support people with financial reward through a distributor model.  Here is the link for one of the reps I know;

Finally, I came across an artisan tea company from the Southern U.S., Piper & Leaf Artisan Tea Co.  Why is this relevant???  They have figured out how to combine certain herbs and flowering plants, without additives, into combinations that taste very sweet.  Genius!  I cringe at the amount of refined white sugar that goes into southern sweet tea.  Now there is a solution.  Many of the brews I sampled were too sweet for me so I think for the southern sweet tea lover on your list, this is a health conscious option not to be ignored.  I did find the Chocola-tea and Summertime Chai, were o.k. for my liking.  They also offer limited time seasonal options.

Beauty, Personal Care, & Eco-friendly

The list of chemicals in traditional cosmetics is alarming and even more concerning is how “toxic” we are in industrialized countries.  Therefore, I keep these suggestions as staple suggestions as well!

Oxalis Apothecary – a new find for this year’s list.  Their underlying mission is to focus on “plant to body”.  Similar to “farm to table” in eating, they feel this brings the same notion to beauty care products.  I am also somewhat biased because the creator, Erin Wexstten, is from Southern Illinois.

Worker B – another new find who manages their own beehives and rely on organic practices.  Also, check out their Brood Honey line (under sweet side).

North Coast Organics – check them out of products such as deodorant and lip balms.  Promo code (which is hopefully still relevant) is 15OFF.

Beautycounter – sold through independent consultants, the products are developed to avoid approximately 1,500 chemicals that have either unsafe or inconclusive evidence of safety.  The company also takes a proactive approach educate consumers on cosmetic ingredients, not just sell product.  I was specifically touched by the back side of their business cards in which a “never list” of ingredients to avoid is printed.

Biba Lips – founded with a focus on glamour without less preferred ingredients, such as parabens, synthetics, or artificial fragrances.  “Biba” translates to a beautiful woman both inside and out.  The lip color line is beautifully crafted with botanicals centered on nourishing qualities and packaged in a gold-toned mirrored compact.

Bonnie – handcrafted in Chicago, Bonnie equals more than just lip balm.  The line includes facial masks, lotions & body serums, and natural perfumes.  Even better, the labeling is artistic and fully designed by the owner.  Hello stocking stuffer!

Smart Handbags

I still love PoCampo as an option and they have a few patterns this year.  These tactfully made bags are not just attractive and eye-catching, they are incredibly resourceful.  Tailored to incorporate our mobile device driven world with an on-the-go lifestyle, their designs are weather-proof and perfect for all commuter types; bike, transit, or car.

Spirits, Botanicals, Brews, & Accessories

Again, I caught up with the Strongwater folks this year.  I still love this as a viable option, especially if you want something a little nicer and crafty.  Certainly keep craft brewers and distilleries, preferably organic, on the list.  Another option I came across this year is The Bitter Housewife from Portland, Oregon.

Mom-made Fashions

This final entry is also a repeat from last year, but she is worth a duplicate plug!  Melissa, the mastermind behind Sew Like My Mom, offers a unique option especially for those on your list with young children.  From what started as a hobby making colorful patterned handbags, and synergistic to her life as a mother, she has grown her business from crafty, homemade designs to the development of her own line of children’s clothing patterns.

***Watch for her four adorable children in her images and product marketing.