Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stepping Back, Creating Clarity

Sometimes I think my favorite part about going away is coming back. Call me crazy, I know. But *clarity* just feels so good... Vacations, holidays, retreats, road trips, breaks, sabbaticals, weekend getaways, stay-cations. All are opportunities to step back from the day-to-day flow, stories and stresses, to get fresh perspective and clarity.

Stepping Back --> Perspectice --> Clear Views & Clarity

July has been my step-back month. I spent 10 days in Italy and then 4 more days on a road trip to Washington state for a camping music festival. Travel creates white space: for thinking and reflecting, and, perhaps more importantly, for not thinking or doing anything at all, for just being present with where you are and what you're doing.

Whenever I take any sort of break, I always find that I return to my regular life flow with more clarity about what IS flowing and what isn't feeling so good.

Going back in, I ask myself:
  • What am I looking forward to, and what am I dreading?
  • What feels exciting and expansive, and what feels heavy and constrictive? (The body doesn't lie.)
  • What's working well and serving my visions and goals, and what's distracting me or getting in the way? 
  • What do I want to do differently, and how can I set myself up for success?

I promise, even if you don't think about work or your life at all while you're away, you'll discover that even just a few minutes of reflection (I love doing written "brain dumps" during airplanes or car rides) will bring the clarity right to the surface. They key is that stepping back disengages you emotionally from the stress, energy, stories and tensions that might otherwise keep you in their wraps. So take advantage of the situation!

Here's my tried-and-true secret tip for ultimate clarity:

Always carve yourself a few extra days to re-integrate from your breaks. Put your vacation email auto-responder up a few days before you leave AND leave it up a few days after. Tell everyone you'll be back a couple of days after you actually get back. This will give you the space and time you need to rest, reset, reflect and re-enter your daily flow feeling rejuvenated, calm and clear.

What is the most powerful part about stepping back from daily life for you?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sexy Silky Summery Skin

Summer is when we get the chance to bare our skin. But showing skin, well... it puts you out there.
There are a lot of elements that get the best of our skin and leave us with sunburn, breakouts, irritation and dry spots. If your skin is sensitive like mine, travel and greasy sunscreen can bring out the worst on your skin, for all to see. Talk about a confidence downer :(

Taking care of my skin and my body is a priority for me during the summer especially. I'm looking out for UV rays and toxic chemicals (in sunscreens, lotions and bug sprays) that will damage and prematurely age my skin. No, thank you!

If I don't take care of myself, I know I won't be able to feel comfortable in my own skin. After my trip to Italy last summer, it took me months of intensive care to get my skin back to normal. I've come a long way since then...

Here I am again this year, in Tuscany, Italy, baring it all and showing you my favorite skin-care products that I take with me into the sun and heat to keep my skin sexy and silky.

My favorite sexy, silky summery skin products:
  1. Water - bring your water bottle with you and drink up. The body doesn't lie: clear, light-colored urine means you're hydrated. Water is the best way to keep your energy high and your digestion smooth too!
  2. Sunscreen - look for paraben-free and toxin-free varieties... I often buy sunscreen marketed for babies because it is much less toxic than the stuff they try to market to adults. Or if you're going super natural - check out this Sun Worshipper's Dream sunscreen by EdibleGoddess!
  3.  Lip balm - bonus if you get some with SPF protection!
  4. Coconut oil - did you know your skin loves oil? Yes way. I used to think I had hopelessly oily skin and hair until I learned that it was oily because I was constantly stripping all of its natural oils with harsh soaps and shampoos. Now I feed my skin oil directly (yes, on my face too!) and it's never been softer. Coconut is just one choice, I also love almond oil, which I find absorbs more readily, grape seed oil for my face, when I want something even lighter, and olive oil or a mixed salve for dry skin areas.
  5. Tea tree oil - has antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic qualities when applied topically, and can be used to treat blemishes, acne, and athlete's foot. Apply to your face after washing to remedy breakouts and to your feet before bed, if you've been walking around public pool areas. It's a very powerful oil, you only need a 5% solution for it to be effective, so I often mix a drop with a carrier oil (like coconut) to apply. I learned (the hard way), that it's actually not the best insect repellent... here's a better source on natural ways to keep the bugs at bay.
  6. Sun hat and protective clothing - better than sunscreen, and with the right fabric, will keep you cool and dry. I opt for natural fibers (like cotton and linen) over synthetic, which tend to harbor bacteria and smells over time.
Do share with us!

What do you like to use to take care of your summer skin? What are your favorite products and recipes for natural, healthy, sexy skin care?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Creating What I Want: An Epic Italian Experience

Do you shut down at the idea of planning? But then feel bummed when things don't go or turn out the way you really wanted them to?

Traveling is a time for planning. Not over-planning, stuffing your schedule, or being rigid, that's when it's easy to want to shut down, or to feel like there's no time to actually relax (this applies to everyday living and planning too, by the way). I used to never want to plan or set up any kind of expectations for myself, for fear that I'd then be disappointed. The catch-22 is that I often ended up disappointed because there were things I did want to do or experience that I hadn't allowed myself to even admit to myself.

The kind of planning I'm suggesting supports the experience you want to have. So you simply need to know and declare what you want. "Planning" can simply mean: getting clear about your intentions, how you want to show up, and what you want to experience.

Last week I wrote a Living Vision for my upcoming trip to Italy. I included:
  • how I want to feel: relaxed, spontaneous, sensual, gracious, savoring, refreshed
  • what I want to do: wake up early, write, read, go out for long, luxurious dinners, taste wine, bond and create memories with my family
  • how I want taking care of myself to keep my energy strong and centered: yoga on the cool marble floors of the villa, healthy green smoothies for breakfast
  • my intention to eat whatever I want: feasting my senses, while honoring my body and without stuffing my belly!
A Living Vision is an imagined script for what you ultimately desire to experience, in all it's juicy details. In our day-to-day, writing is how we declare our commitments, make official requests, and create contracts with others and ourselves. A Living Vision is a kind of request and declaration of intent to the universe. This exercise is one of the fundamental pieces of Tara Marino's (Elegant Femme) process for manifesting the life you desire. And it works.

I created my ultimate Italian experience in writing... and it sounds like a pretty glorious vacation! I know from previous travel and last year's trip that there are pieces I need to put into place to help myself step into this reality. I want to pack certain books, journals, clothes, tea and snacks so that I can have the choices and tools I want to create the experience I desire.

Will everything play out perfectly as I want? No guarantees, but by setting my intention and getting clear about what I want, I ensure that I will show up with state of mind, preparations and intentions to create "this or something better for the highest good of all concerned." (Thank you to Tara again!)

What are you looking forward to in your life that you'd like to set an intention and declare your desires for? Share it with us below: What are your intentions? What would you like to experience?

Friday, July 5, 2013

How to FEAST full-out

You love eating, right? And it's the summer season of picnics and parties and potlucks, where huge quantities of food often show up, often in celebratory airs. These gatherings can be a lot of fun, but they don't always lay easy on the conscience.

It's easy to give ourselves the excuse that we're at a party, and decide it's permissible and socially acceptable to go crazy with the food and drink. I think we've all been there and know where that leads: to an evening - or days - of bloating and guilt.

What if feasting was no longer about quantity? I looked the word up, curious. I found that "feast" describes a gathering of richness, abundance, sumptuousness (quality, fineness), agreeableness, and celebration.

Yes, huge quantities of food do tend to be associated with a lot of those words, but when I think about my favorite feasts, I didn't love it because I ate a ton, I loved it because what I was eating was so delectable, special, carefully prepared. The foods lit me up. We can choose our own experience, right?

Sensory feasts!

I'm about to take off for Italy. Before that I have two potluck parties to attend. So feasting... has been on my mind. But I am clear: I don't want to stuff or gorge myself like I used to. Overdoing it in quantity makes me feel heavy, gross, guilty, lethargic. I want to bring all my senses to the table. I want to feel activated, alive, satisfied, fun, free and light.

My favorite ways to have a sensory feast:
  • Don't hold back and arrive to the party starving, trust me on this: your midday snack will be worth it
  • Look first for the beauty in the food and presentation, I ask about it, I investigate it, touch it
  • Enjoy the aromas and smells of my food before I take the first bite
  • Eat slowly, like an explorer of new things (something I love about food: even if it's a food you know, chances are good you've never had this particular recipe, made by this particular person)
  • Use tiny utensils to remind me of the flavor in even the smallest bites
  • Stay aware of my fullness level, how my body is feeling as I take in each bite, stopping at 80% full
  • Eat exactly what I want to eat, with as much attention as possible
  • Get rid of my plate and grab a refreshing glass of water with lemon to walk around with
  • Turn my attention to connecting with the lovely people around me, feasting on the beauty of their eyes and getting curious about their lives, I listen
Here's one of my all-time favorite clips from What About Bob? of Bill Murray's character having a real sensory feast, eating exactly what he wants, how he wants...

 ... and please don't stop that!

What sounds like the most fun way to have a sensory feast to you? Are there other ways you like to slow down and take it all in? Please share! I love new things to try...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

2 Summer Recipes - My Faves for the 4th of July!

Collard Green Wraps

1 bunch collard greens
prepared stuffers
(see below) 

1. Wash and cut the stems off 1 bunch of collard greens, at the base of the leaves.

2. Steam or blanch the collards whole, for 2-3 minutes, and set aside to cool.

3. Grate or finely chop any ingredients you'd like to stuff inside (or get out those leftovers, cold or warm!). Grain salads are great stuffers.

4. Place in middle of collard leaves and wrap up like a burrito, tucking in the ends. My method: tuck one edge over stuffing and pull in snug, fold in each edge, snapping the stem inward, then roll tightly, serving seam-side down. Serve with sauce for dipping, or add sauce inside.

Ideas for the inside:
- Carrots and beets
- Cucumbers
- Sprouts
- Avocado
- Shredded cabbage
- Beans or hummus
- Brown rice or other cooked whole grain
- Turkey or other prepared meat

- Tofu or tempeh stir-fry
- Nuts or nut butters
- Ginger

Saucey ideas:
- Balsamic vinaigrette
- Honey mustard dressing
- Spicy orange peanut sauce
- Green goddess dressing
- Wasabi ginger sauce
- Garlic tahini dill yogurt sauce
- Hot sauce & guacamole & salsa

Why I love this recipe:
- great way to get in more greens
- delicious, creative makeover for leftovers
- packs well for lunch and picnics

Once you have the steamed leaves, save what you don't use in a container in the fridge for wrap meals later in the week - breakfast, lunch or dinner! I often stuff mine with leftover sauteed veggies and rice for lunch the next day. Easy and yum.

Here's my favorite salad for the inside... or to bring to 4th of July parties to make sure I have something healthy, hearty and vegetable-full to satisfy me. Feel free to add any other cooked (grilled? mmm...) or raw veggies!

Quinoa Corn Salad with Basil
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 ears of corn, kernels cut from cob (I like it raw!)
1 large tomato or 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1⁄2 cup finely diced red onion
1 cup tightly packed basil leaves, chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
juice from 1-2 lemons
salt and pepper to taste

Easy peasy: Combine all in a large mixing bowl and season to taste.

What kind of healthy are you bringing??  Knowledge is empowerment. Share your recipes with us below!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Why Cook?

Here I am at Whole Foods leading "So You Want to CRAVE Your Greens"!

As I was getting ready, I asked myself, so... why do I cook? What's in it for me? Here's what I shared at the class...

1. Cooking my own food lets me be in charge: I know what and how much is going into my food and what and how much is going into my body. Quality control, baby.

2. Cooking gives me more choice and flexibility: I don't have to settle for the funky chemicals and ingredients in the store, I don't have to just choose from what's on the shelves. If I want something different, specific or unique, I know I can make it for myself, and most of the time I can make it better ;)

3. Cooking is creative release and expression: It's painting with flavors, colors and textures, mixing, playing, pairing, curating, arranging. It's an expression of love for myself and those I feed. It's an experiment.

4. Cooking wakes me up to my six senses in the present moment: I am active. I am listening to the pan sizzle, I am touching big succulent leaves, I am tasting fresh basil, I am inhaling the aromas of garlic, I am delighting at the symmetry of sliced zucchini, I am trusting my intuition... it's not quite done yet!

Here is a piece of Michael Pollan's "Why Cook?" from his new book Cooked... this stuff gets me revved up...

Leave a comment and tell us below:
Why do you cook? Or, why do you want to cook? What's in it for you?