Fall Detox: 21 Day Whole Food Challenge

Summer seems to be blazing on as usual in California despite the onset of Autumn throughout the world. The tireless heat & bright sunshine seems to almost convince us that winter isn’t coming this year. But it will, of course. Daylight savings time actually ends on November 2nd this year. That means we have 7 weeks left to get outside & enjoy the lighted evenings. Hikes. Bike rides. Beach sunsets. Once time changes most of us will trade these outdoor activities in for cozy nights at home, cuddled under grandma’s afghan, sipping hot licorice-mint tea & reading Outlander sequels (no, just me?). The point is seize the day – literally. Get outside & cherish this beautiful time of year.

As the season changes, I like to embrace the transition with a bit of a cleanse. A fresh start. This comes at the perfect time as I have just returned from a vacation filled with over-indulgences (like eating every piece of Scottish caramel shortbread I laid eyes on) & I could use an immune booster as I am recovering from a nasty cold. With a couple supportive team mates (my brave husband & competitive office mate), tomorrow – Monday 9/15 – launches our 21 day primal challenge.

primal laws

I love Mark’s Daily Apple & his 21 day challenge – this will be the third or fourth time I have completed it. However, the goal is to get back to the basics:

  1. Eat whole foods (with lots of raw veggies!)
  2. Get active throughout the daily routine. 
  3. Practice mindfulness.
  4. Sleep well.
  5. Play in the sunshine as much as possible!

1. Eat Whole Foods – Menu for the next three weeks:

Breakfast: Chia bowls (variations of this one from Oh She Glows) OR coconut oil fried eggs (eaten over sauteed vegetables with salsa & avocado)

Lunch: Salads, salads, salads! I love red cabbage & carrot salads lately. Lot of tiny chopped veggies with olive oil & balsamic. Roast chicken on top. More avocado.

Dinner: Lamb, fish, beef, chicken. Either baked, barbecued, pan fried, slow-cooked, shredded, or as burgers eaten on portobellas. On top of (or next to) lots of veggies.

Snacks: Mixed nuts. Fruit (berries are best as low-glycemic).Teas. Kombucha. Beef jerky. *After the first few days of missing the carbs, this high fat (the good kind!) & protein diet keeps me full easily & I rarely get hungry between meals.

AVOID: grains, legumes, sugar, processed foods, packaged items, dairy & alcohol

2. Get active throughout the daily routine. 

Take the stairs. Park farther away from the office. Commute by bicycle 1-3 times per week. Utilize a stand-up work station for a least 5 hours & take 3 walking breaks during the workday. Walk to the grocery store – or anywhere within a mile of home. Try this 90 days of action workout plan & see how many friends, family & co-workers you can get to join in!

3. Practice mindfulness.

Begin & end the day with yoga – even just a couple poses. Practice headstand daily (today is day #144 of my #headstand365 challenge). Meditate twice a day. Slow down. Stop & think (ie: be less reactive, pull over to look at cell phone, etc…).

4Sleep well.

Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night. Drop lavender essential oil on pillow case to calm the body & mind. Use blackout curtains. Natural alarm clock (slowly brightens like the sunrise). Keep cell phones outside of bedroom at night.

5. Play in the sunshine as much as possible!

Get outdoors first thing in the morning (water plants, take a walk) & after work (hike with friends, walk on the beach). Plan group activities, games, picnics & beach days on the weekend. Spend as much time in good company & in the great outdoors as possible! Oh, & go barefoot. Ahhhh – toes in the damp grass – what a feeling!

picnic

Love & Castles: Going back in time on a Scotland Roadtrip

“But just then, for that fraction of time, it seems as though all things are possible. You can look across the limitations of your own life, and see that they are really nothing. In that moment when time stops, it is as though you know you could undertake any venture, complete it and come back to yourself, to find the world unchanged, and everything just as you left it a moment before. And it’s as though…” He hesitated for a moment, carefully choosing words. “As though, knowing that everything is possible, suddenly nothing is necessary.”
― Jamie Fraser in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander

Have you ever felt this feeling? Peace in your heart, mind & body. All of a sudden, there is no trace of fears or worry. No desired outcomes are too remote, or too urgent. All that matters is the love & presence in the current moment. I have found this during quiet meditation, during connection with loved ones & nature, and upon waking from a rejuvenating sleep.

Scottish Highlands – August 2014

The quote above is my favorite, from the book Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, as it serves as a beautiful reminder to believe in the limitlessness of the universe (& of love) while cherishing the present moment of now.

Beyond loving this quote, I couldn’t put the book down & gobbled the 850 pages up despite being a fairly slow reader. Motivated to get reading by my Thirty before 30 challenge, the timing of reading this couldn’t have been better! I bought the book over a year ago on a friend’s recommendation (although it turns out she had never heard of it & actually recommended the book Outliers), and I thought what better time to finally read it then while traveling in Scotland – as this is where the adventure unfolds!

Not only am I a sucker for a great love story (which this is), but the vivid tales of life in Scotland over 250 years ago came alive in the cobblestone streets, ancient Castle ruins, Lochs & mountains as we ventured through the Scottish countryside. I am not sure if it was finally visiting Scotland in the blue skied summertime (okay, not always blue, but bluer than the grey winter skies we usually travel under), the electrifying green blankets of the hills & pastures, or perhaps just connecting with the well written stories of the people who walked this same ground so many years ago. Enveloped by the magic of Scotland’s Highlands, I could feel the joys & hardship of early and modern generations simultaneously – kind of like the main character in the book Claire. The spirit of Scotland-both ancient & strong- is heavy in the air. The people’s courage & kind hearts shine through their thick accents.

This “Sassenach” taking a moment for peace & play with yoga on the castle grounds above Loch Ness, Scotland.

This isn’t meant to be a book review (although I highly recommend you take this adventure back in time!), just a reflection on the vast beauty & mystery that exists in our world & in humanity – independent of time. I breathed in the crisp mountain air & then relished in the warmth of humidity as Scotland’s weather continuously morphed around us. I journeyed through history reading Outlander while exploring the lands previously divided & defended by the clans. Then I went to the cities, reconnected with family & modern Scottish folk.

The question & struggle for independence still laces life in Scotland. Large signs posted in town stating “Yes” versus “No, thanks”, heated debates on tv & in private. The Scottish people will answer the question about independence by vote on September 18th. I look forward to seeing the outcome & how Scotland will shape history for future generations.

Gratitude Challenge: 100 Happy Days

It’s Monday again. I feel pretty accomplished for a Monday. But maybe that’s because I have a shorter work week than usual. Or maybe because I kept this past weekend free to get things done & relax after a busy week before. Whatever the case may be, I am grateful.

Speaking of grateful… I just finished my most recent gratitude challenge: 100 Happy Days. Being happy doesn’t have to mean every day is perfect or void of hardships. For me, it means living an authentic life, actively engaging & enjoying the process while accepting there will be good days & bad ones. Hard times & joyous times. Understanding that for all the achievements, connections & belly laughs, there will also be frustrations, losses & tears. This challenge was about being mindful & grateful. Choosing one thing every day that brings joy & taking a photo of it. Using that moment (& that photo) to bring focus on something that was good in the day. We are healthier & happier when we show appreciation & savor our experiences. When we focus on the positive in our day (& in our our lives) we attract more of that to us (learn more about the Law of Attraction by watching The Secret – I highly recommend it!)

I could go on (& on) about gratitude and will definitely have future posts on the topic. But right now, I just want to share some of my photos from the last 100 Happy Days…

Happy Day 1: Run or Dye – We laughed, exercised & turned into “Team Smurfs”

Happy Day 1

Happy Day 2: Silver Linings – Car broke down & I got to practice headstand!! Plus so many people stopped to check on us that I couldn’t help but be thankful for all the love in humanity!

Happy Day 2

Happy Day 12: Wednesday Hikes – Connecting with nature & the strong, beautiful women in my life!

Happy Day 12

Happy Day 16: A Perfect Day – outdoors, live music, great friends, & playful innocence of children

Happy Day 16

Happy Day 21: Beach Day – blessed to live on the coast & have this amazing woman as my mother!

Happy Day 21

Happy Day 43: Outdoor Yoga – fresh air & shared energy

Happy Day 43

Happy Day 58: Farmer’s Market Blossoms – simple pleasure in this gift from natureHappy Day 58

Happy Day 62: Hiking in Lake Tahoe – mountain air, endurance & shared adventure

Happy Day 62

Happy Day 87: Mug of Love – Feeling connected to the grandma I never met when I discovered my hand-me-down mug was once hers over 45 years ago!

Happy Day 87

Happy Day 91: Birthday Skyping – technology can be wonderful for reducing distanceHappy Day 91

(Check out the 100 Happy Days Website for more details & consider taking the challenge)

What are your favorite gratitude practices?

DIY: Body Butter Recipe

The day has finally come – I made body butter! After months of using coconut oil, olive oil & even raw shea (warmed between the palms) to moisturize, I just cannot go back to store bought lotion or creams. The purity, hydration & richness my skin absorbs from pure ingredients cannot be matched. Here is the recipe…

Soothing Lavender Body Butter (Makes 8-10 ounces)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Shea Butter 
  • 1/2 cup Cocoa Butter
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 cup fractionated coconut oil (FCO) – I used half FCO & half EVOO
  • certified therapeutic grade essential oils – I used 5 drops Sandlewood, 5 drops Frankincense, 10 drops Orange & 10 drops Lavender 
  • double boiler – I use a quart size mason jar in a pot of hot water & have only broken one glass jar so far!
  • electric hand mixer
  • two 4 ounce containers (glass or highest quality plastics)

Directions:

  1. Boil a couple of inches water in a pot on the stove.
  2. Add all ingredients except essential oils to mason jar & place in the hot water.
  3. Stir with a wooden skewer (or Popsicle stick) until melted – takes about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat for 5 minutes before adding essential oils of your choice.
  5. Cool in the refrigerator overnight (or until it sets).
  6. Beat on increasing speeds for about 5 minutes (until whipped light & fluffy).
  7. Transfer to containers *note you can chill & re-whip the body butter if it ever loses the desired consistency due to hot weather

1-3: Add butters/oils & melt together

5-6: Whip until light & fluffy

Reminder: Citrus oils can cause photosensitivity & it is recommended you only apply to the skin 12 hours before sun exposure (ie: before bed).

FAM: Fertility Awareness Method

“Whether you say you can’t or you can, you’re right.”
― Walt Disney

I have been feeling empowered lately. Empowered to make some tough, positive changes in my life. Set goals for the future (see my 30 before Thirty post & set your own milestone goals with me!). And listen more carefully to my inner voice.

On that note – I would like to share a resource that I feel so lucky to have been given and recommend that all woman read (& men can educate themselves too!). The book is called Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler. I also just came across the TCOYF website which is a great starting point if you have not yet heard of this book or the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).

As someone who is passionate about wellness, woman’s health, preventative care and all things natural & good for us, I keep wondering how I never heard of the FAM method of birth control before. I have studied health in college, watched countless documentaries, spoken in depth with women of many different generations, researched and educated myself over the last decade. Did I really never hear about this? Or perhaps I didn’t find it relevant at the time?

Whatever the case may be – I am so grateful to have learned about this book. It is written with honesty & simplicity. It teaches us, as women, to understand our bodies & take a proactive approach to fertility, birth control & family planning. I am more in tune with my body & now have tools to take a more proactive approach to reproductive health. It teaches & talks candidly about anatomy, the reproductive cycle, reading fertility signs, using fertility awareness for birth control or pregnancy achievement, gynecological health, sexuality, relationships, babies, menopause, & self-esteem.

I hope you check it out & find it as life changing as I have! Thank you Toni!!

Another year older. And grateful.

bdayWow – 29 years. Seems so long. And so short. All at once. Old or young, one thing is for sure, I have a lot of love in my life. I feel so very blessed & want to take a moment to reflect on this beautiful birthday weekend & all the gratitude I feel for the people in my life.

My birthday weekend (yes, I celebrated for three days instead of one) has served as a powerful reminder of who I am. Specifically what I value & look for in relationships: connection, trust, & mutual understanding. I chose to spend my birthday (weekend) doing things I love and having so many people show up & show me love has left me feeling understood, appreciated & so very grateful.

I sort of think I am too old for gifts. But then, are we ever too old for anything? Nah! I was surprised & grateful for all the gifts I received this year and they were a fun reflection of who I am & the relationships I have with the people I love.

  • Fresh, colorful flowers
  • handmade: card, jewelry, food (BBQ, salads, dips, sweets, treats & a fruit platter aka “fruit loot”), drinks, a hoop (yes, a hula hoop), purse
  • farm fresh local cuisine
  • vino & mittens (wine & fashion are fun b/c choosing these myself can be work!!)
  • framed photograph
  • beach, picnic & play with the best company
  • scratchers – I’m feeling lucky!!
  • reflexology/massage (ok, that one may have been a “happy birthday to me” gift)
  • vintage style glassware
  • journal – a place to set goals, self-reflect & express gratitude
  • upcoming dates & travel (I guess I’ll be celebrating longer after all!)
  • cooked & cleaned for all weekend – ahh 🙂
  • lots of hugs, laughs & love

I love receiving & giving gifts that are useful, edible, experiences & a true reflection of a person &/or relationship. I definitely feel that my friends & family understand who I am. And feeling understood, appreciated & connected is the real gift. Thank you to everyone who has showered me with love this weekend & always – I am truly blessed & thankful.

What do you look for when giving or appreciate when receiving a gift?

End of an Era: Thirty before 30

Twenty-nine years ago today, I was born into this magnificent world. Thanks mom & dad. Today, I still feel pretty young. My parents had four children by my age & that fact makes me feel old. And definitely in awe of the difference between individuals – and generations.  But the beauty of it is that we are all here to live our own truth. That is why this is my favorite quote right now:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

In a world that is too often filled with unnecessary stress, too little time & lots of distractions, it is important to prioritize loving & nurturing our authentic self. Coming up to my birthday, I have been thinking a lot about all the things I have wanted to do, put on my someday “to-do” lists & stashed away as potential “bucket list” achievements. Turns out that now is still the time to follow the heart. With a smidge of planning & commitment, we can tackle the challenges & gain the experiences we seek all while basking in this amazing time called now.

So, with exactly 1 year left on this wild ride called “twenties”, here is my “Thirty before 30” List. Bring on this year of perseverance, growth & fun!

Thirty before 30

  1. Dine on the finest local cuisine: eat at all my “Restaurants to Try” (20 restaurants)
  2. Be in Nature: go on a backpacking trip (3 days)
  3. Read: all the books on my “Read List” (10 books)
  4. Learn: a new skill
  5. Create: my vision board
  6. Detox: 30 consecutive sugar-free days
  7. SUP Challenge: headstand on a paddle board
  8. Add more Music: sing & play 3 songs on the guitar
  9. Wild & crazy: skydive with Phoenix
  10. Indulge: eat at one of Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurants
  11. Laugh a lot: be in the audience for the Ellen Show
  12. Downtime: watch my entire “Movies” list (15 movies)
  13. Build strength: bust out 3 pull-ups in a row
  14. Self-care: get 1 massage every month
  15. Spread the love: surprise someone in a big way
  16. Give: volunteer at a community event or fundraiser
  17. Write: blog for 1 year (at least 1 post per week)
  18. Reconnect: sleep under the stars
  19. Meditation: Complete 24 hours of silence
  20. Unplug: turn off all electronics for an entire weekend
  21. Fan time: attend a professional sporting event
  22. Donate: give blood 3x
  23. Be an athlete: participate in the SLO Triathlon
  24. Face a Fear: do something that scares me
  25. Eat like a cavewoman: eat the Paleo Diet for 21 days
  26. Dance outdoors: attend Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
  27. Connect: invite someone new on a coffee date
  28. Donate: select 1 item to give every day for a month
  29. Greet the Day: watch the sunrise at the top of an early morning hike
  30. Pay it forward: random act of kindness for a stranger

BONUS: Play in the rain!!

How do you stay true to your authentic self a midst the bustle of daily life & passing of time?

Summertime Chili Verde Chili: crockpot style

What better way to beat this heat than a steaming bowl of spicy chili? Okay, I’ll just let you know now. My cooking is as eclectic as the rest of my lifestyle – wardrobe, home décor, hobbies, music – I am all over the map. I like to think of myself as well-rounded. It is the middle of the summer & I suppose I should be eating salads & keeping things light. Well… chili sounded good. Actually my dear friend & co-worker inspired this recipe when I was drooling over her lunch instead of enjoying my own!

If it is too weird, or too hot, feel free to wait a few months for cooler weather before trying it! However, I recommend whipping it up in the morning for an easy mid-week dinner. Plus, the leftovers will keep your lunches simple & healthy!

I could barely wait to eat long enough to take a quick photo!!

Chili Verde Chili Recipe Prep Time: 20 minutes; Cook Time: 8 hours; Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 small yellow onions – chopped
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • dash chili powder, dried garlic
  • 8oz coconut milk
  • 4 small green chilies – picked from my patio garden & chopped
  • 8 oz homemade chicken broth
  • 1 15 oz can white beans
  • 4-5 oz Salsa Verde – I used Trade José’s brand
  • 2-4 tsp ground cumin – to taste
  • 1/4 t paprika
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • salt & pepper – to taste
  • 1 T arrowroot powder
  • Optional Toppings: Greek yogurt, avocado, &/or cheese (Pepper Jack or Parmesan are extra tasty!)

Note: I strive to use organic/pesticide-free, free range, & local ingredients whenever possible 🙂

Directions

  1. Chop onions & place in bottom of the crockpot.
  2. Heat olive oil (or coconut oil) & brown chicken adding chili powder, dried garlic, salt & pepper to taste. Add garlic to hot pan for 30 seconds. Add to crockpot.
  3. Add coconut milk, green chilies, chicken broth, beans, salsa & spices to crock pot.
  4. Stir, cover & turn crockpot on low for 8 hours.
  5. Remove chicken & shred with a fork.
  6. Stir arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) into the chili to thicken slightly.
  7. Add shredded chicken back in.
  8. Scoop into bowl & add toppings of your choice! Enjoy!!

First Bite… after smelling it cooking all day! Yum!

If you try this & experiment with other ingredients please comment & share!!

Lemon: Nature’s Cleanser

Lemons. Just the name can get the mouth watering! I’m lucky to live in a place where lemon trees brighten every neighborhood. A fresh slice squeezed in a glass of ice water or over a filet of barbecued salmon. Yum! Or lemonade on a hot summer’s day. As children we passed the summertime selling lemonade to the golfers that passed by our house. I usually got bored & left to play while my brother raked in all the quarters! Picking fresh fruit continues to bring joy to the children (& adults) in our family.

Lemon Essential Oil is also easy to use & reasonably priced. Benefits of using lemon include clearing toxins from the air, uplifting mood, energizing, cleansing & aiding digestion (ever heard the recommendation to drink lemon water every morning?).

Lemon is the perfect tool to have on hand when that deep cleaning mood strikes because it cleanses stubborn grime while energizing & uplifting the cleaner in the process! Here are a few favorite tricks for cleaning with lemon essential oil:

  1. Clothing Stains: Dab directly on stain & wash as recommended. *Easily removed stains that were probably a couple years old on a white dress I hadn’t worn in years! 
  2. Bathtub: Apply a few drops and sprinkle with baking soda. Scrub with a brush or cloth to easily remove soap, dirt & hard water build-up from tub and faucet. *also like to use lemongrass essential oil for my tub – both work wonders & smell amazing! 
  3. Freshen Towels: Add a drop or two to the washing machine to brighten whites & rid towels of mildew smell (when left wet in the washing machine too long!).
  4. Easy Counter Spray: Add 10 drops to spray bottle & fill water. Spray & wipe. *Please note that essential oils should be kept in glass. Some recipes are diluted  enough to recommend an alternative container – but glass is the preferred choice.
  5. Removing sticky substances: Apply directly to sticker residue, gum or tar to remove the gunk! *Remember citrus oils can melt plastics so be careful what surfaces you choose to clean!!
  6. Purify the Air: Put a few drops in a diffuser or make a simple room freshening spray by adding to water in a glass spray bottle. A good friend just made me this one that I love using in the kitchen & bathroom!
What are your favorite cleaning tips or uses for lemons or lemon essential oil?

Homemade Hand Cleanser: a Summertime essential!

Nothing says summer like a day spent playing at the State Fair! Growing up with the Fair coming to town every summer, fond memories include eating giant slices of overpriced pizza, begging carnies to let us stay on again for a free ride, spinning round & upside down until our tummies hurt, splashing in the demo pools for relief from the triple digit heat, & screaming with joy when the concert performers walked to the side of the stage that faced our nose-bleed, bleacher seats.

Going back to the Fair of my childhood yesterday brought back the freedom only felt by a new teen – out of school for summer & only one mission: fun! We adults could benefit from recreating these simpler & more playful times! While the hypnotist show, I once loved, no longer comes to our fair, the new favorite is Mutton Busting. Has anyone seen this? Brave little people (under age 6) ride sheep, rodeo-style, with the goal of holding on for six seconds. It is a little shocking to see them fall, faces in the dirt, for the first time – but it sure does draw a crowd. I’m not here to discuss ethics of rodeo or other Fair activities – but it all makes for great people-watching!

Being at the fair also reminds me how much I dislike public bathrooms & port-a-potties! Summer activities like camping, fairs & festivals bring the inevitable long lines & shared germs. To combat environmental threats & keep hands soft, I carry homemade hand cleanser. Here is the recipe…

Hand Cleanser Recipe 

Ingredients:

  • 5 T aloe vera gel
  • 4 T water
  • 1/4 t vitamin E oil
  • 8 drops certified therapeutic grade essential oils (protective blend)
  • 5 oz squeeze container

Directions:

1. Mix 5 tablespoons aloe vera gel & 1/4 teaspoon vitamin E oil.

2. Add 8-10 drops essential oil.

3. Stir in about 4 tablespoons water to achieve desired consistency.

4. Pour mixture into squeeze container using measuring cup or funnel. I chose five 1 oz containers to share with friends.

5. Squeeze small amount on hands & rub until dry.

That’s it – easy! This recipe cleanses without chemicals or drying the skin. Enjoy!