There's an epidemic of sleeplessness in our culture that comes from too much cortisol and other hormones, ridiculous amounts of sugar in our diets, too much stress, too many screens and multitudes of things constantly clamoring for our attention. I have been an insomniac for over 20 years and as a result I've become an expert in some great ways to kick insomnia to the curb.
Last month I got to perform in a local community theater production of Guys and Dolls. Performing in musical theater again had been on my "wish" list for about 25 years and I am so freaking glad that I got to do it! Musical theater was a big part of my identity when I was younger. I was in everything from Bye Bye Birdie to Oliver and I loved singing and performing. Up until my sophomore year at college I was often in plays until I got way too cool and spent all my free time listening to music, dying my hair black, wearing armloads of silver bangle bracelets, going to clubs at 11:00 pm to hear bands and obsessing over cute British bass players- but that's a story for some other blog post…
While I absolutely love to cook and spend a lot of time tinkering with recipes and ideas in the kitchen, I have never been much of a baker. In part this is because baking is more of a science. Back in the day, when I tried things like baking bread but I always seemed to kill the yeast and when I made layer cakes they usually came out uneven and messy. But a larger reason for my not baking was if I baked something then I would eat it - and keep eating it. Cookies and sweet treats have always been a weakness for me. There was always the "bake and release" option but I didn't love baking enough to do it in my spare time so mostly I didn't bake.
When life is extra busy you want something warm, flavorful and comforting on deck, this Green Chicken Curry totally fits the bill. It comes together on no time and it's easily as good as anything you would order from your local Thai place. Once you've made it a couple of times it becomes a real no-brainer and as long as you have the basic ingredients on hand it can be on the table sooner than if you had it delivered.
A couple of years ago, with the big 5-0 on my horizon, I found myself in a bit of a meltdown. On paper my life was pretty awesome. I was married to a great guy, had 2 healthy, reasonably well-adjusted teenagers, I was living in an old craftsman house in a city that I loved and working from home with hours that I chose myself. I was healthy, had an active social calendar and regular trips to NY & LA. But as I got closer to that big birthday I started feeling lost. 50 sounded so BIG. So old. So middle aged. It was doing my head in.
No mater what your beliefs are, it's impossible to avoid seeing that this country is in the middle of some crazier than usual bullsh*t. It's really easy to get sucked into a sinkhole of anxiety, frustration and anger, and while sometimes those feelings can ultimately inspire action and change, they need to be balanced with some radical self-care or they will burn you out.
I don't know about you, but I am wrestling with keeping my shit together right now. I'll be going along, managing just fine, and then I will see or hear something that will send me spinning down a rabbit hole and running towards anything that will numb me out, like a bottomless bag of chocolate chips or endless hours of playing Hearts on my phone. I have nothing against chocolate or playing games on my phone but regularly numbing out to avoid reality is not a good long-term plan. So I decided to make a list of things I can do to balance the numbing and the upcoming right-wing agenda.
As you may already know, I am a big fan of a well-placed "f-bomb" and I'm fairly unapologetic about it. But there are words that I've become much more careful about using and they may not be what you think. Here's a list of the top 3 "bad words" that I try to avoid:
2016 was difficult in so many ways. For me it started with the death of David Bowie and went downhill from there. My husband was unemployed for 6 months, I gained around 15 lbs (hello menopause), I have teenagers (enough said), the election wrung me out, and then, like many of you, things came to an unimaginable, screeching smackdown in early November. This whole year it felt like the hits just kept coming. But despite these indisputable challenges, the year has also been full of wins. There have been goals met and shout-outs from the Universe that have been wonderful and deserve acknowledgement.
In getting back to the business of living my life these past couple of weeks, the practice of gratitude has been a very effective tool for moving out of the fear of an unknown future and into the present moment where all things are possible. So, in the spirit of giving thanks, I'd like to share with you my current gratitude list.
Lots of people have asked me for the hummus recipes from my Yes, this! Wellness retreat last weekend so here they are. Hummus is one of those things that is super simple to make and way more yummy when you make it yourself. It's also not an exact science: taste after you blend in your food processor or blender and then tweak accordingly.
I just returned home from leading my first Wellness retreat out on the Oregon coast and it was so much fun! My friend and co-facilitator, Dr. Louise Rose, and I taught our retreaters all kinds of cool stuff from TRE™ and reflexology with essential oils to how to reduce chronic inflammation in your body and in your mind (aka "stinkin' thinkin'"). There were foot baths and sauna time and journaling exercises and lots more, and it was all pretty wonderful but one of the things we loved the most was feeding everyone. Louse and I have a long history of geeking out over preparing delicious food with healthy ingredients and sharing inspirations and recipes so cooking for our retreat was a no-brainer.
I may have said this before, but I have a big crush on winter squash, and pumpkin is no exception. Pumpkin Spice lattes have too much sugar for me (sorry to be a buzzkill but a 16oz #PSL has a whopping 50g!) so I make other arrangements to get my pumpkin spice on. This is my recipe for Pumpkin Spice granola and it is the bomb! It's grain-free so a little goes a long way. It's great sprinkled on Greek yogurt, in a little bowl with the milk of your choice or in a bag as a snack. It's healthy, delicious and tastes like fall.
People often comment on the name of my business, Audacious Wellness, maybe because audacious is one of those words that can mean several different things. Personally, I love the idea of audacity when making life choices. Women I admire from Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Sanger to Alice Waters and Debbie Harry, have all been considered bold, daring and gutsy, or in other words, audacious, for going against the so-called grain to ultimately change perceptions and create new norms.
I've been going through some stressful things of late and haven't been paying as much attention as I normally do to the way I've been eating. As a result I've gained a few pounds, my clothes are tight and I'm generally dragging. It made me think about what I'm feeling (or avoiding feeling) when I don't eat mindfully. It made me question what I am really hungry for right now.
The weather is starting to change and fall is in the air. It's my favorite time of year. I have always been a "fall" cook, meaning I like to make soups, stews, and pretty much anything that involves a butternut squash. But my favorite by far is soup. There's nothing more comforting and delicious than a bowl of soup when the weather starts to get a little cooler.
It's the middle of August and the middle of an "extreme heat warning" here in Seattle. Super hot summers are a relatively new thing in this town so lots of old houses like mine do not have central AC. It's usually right around now that I start daydreaming about the cooler temps of fall and that fresh-start, back-to-school feeling I love. So, in the spirit of September's approach, I put together 5 easy ways to get ready for fall that I think you will love - even though they do not include having a pumpkin spice latte!
One of the cornerstones of my beliefs as a Wellness Coach is that ultimately we are what we eat. Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine" and I wholeheartedly agree. A key component of aging healthfully and beautifully is learning to pay closer attention to what we put into our bodies. There are so many diseases and maladies that can be turned around and even altogether avoided by what we eat. Even some common side effects of peri-menopause! Pills mostly treat symptoms but the food that you eat can make actual changes. But I digress…
Here's a fun fact about turning 50 (or 43 or 47 or any age after 40 really…): stuff you have done all your life can suddenly stop working the way it always has. That's right - you think you've got something wired and just like that it either explodes or just starts fizzling out. Then you're like, "WTF? I'm waking up at 3 AM? I've always slept a solid 8 hours a night", or " Hello? I've gained 10 pounds and I have not done one single thing different in the past 6 months." Welcome to the wonderful world of aging and perimenopause.
A long time ago I read somewhere that it was better to buy carrots in a bunch with their tops attached because it meant that the carrots were fresher and tastier. I have been doing this for years and have usually send the carrot tops into the compost or trash bin when I get home. But then a couple of months ago I stumbled on a recipe for pesto made with carrot tops that sounded great. It stuck in my mind, so yesterday when I pulled a bunch of carrots out of my garden I decided that it was time to give it a try.
It's almost July 1 - which means that 2016 is halfway to done. Crazy, right?! I am regularly amazed at how fast time seems to roll by these days vs. when I was younger. It probably has something to do with the fact that when we're young we are way more present than we are as adults… but I digress.
What I really want to talk about is goals.
I didn't start my love affair with vegetables until I was nearly 30 years old but I have definitely made up for lost time. Since then I have not met a vegetable I didn't like (with the exception of raw onions and the occasional green pepper).
Here in the 'personal growth' sector I see quotes and aphorisms floating around all the time. I like them because they can be great reminders and perspective shakers. Depending on the day or the time that I see them, they help me navigate my way around life's little speed bumps, nudge me to check in with myself or simply remind me how grateful I am or how awesome it is to be alive in the world. Even though I am a coach and I teach people all kinds of tricks for staying present and shifting their thoughts, those quotes can be good self-coaching tools for me.
As a coach I am always looking for good metaphors to help make sense of things we humans keep tripping over or bumping into. One of my favorites comes courtesy of the airline industry. We all know that in case of an emergency, we need to secure our own oxygen masks before we try and help others. If we can't breathe then we are useless to everyone - including ourselves. This is a great metaphor for real life! Daily living in the 21st century can feel relentless and stressful and often keeps our adrenals running as if we are in a constant state of emergency.
It's been my experience that sometimes when we set goals to lose weight or improve our health, life tends gets in the way. We have a stressful day (or three), a few nights of insomnia (*raising my hand), or some other diversion, we get derailed and then it feels impossible to get back on track. Typically what motivates us is in the first place is wanting to go down a few pants sizes or lose those jiggly arms, but I've come to believe that the clearer we are on what motivates us, the better the odds are of turning our goals into lifestyle changes.
People have their own preferences about how they like to stay informed on news and current events. My mom likes the evening news and makes a point of turning on NBC with Lester Holt every night at 6:30 PM. My husband checks his favorite blogs while he has his coffee and rarely misses a chance to watch Meet The Press on Sunday mornings. I listen to NPR when I'm cooking dinner and often use that time to check in with the world and see what's up.
You know it's spring when asparagus starts showing its pretty little tips in the front and center of the produce section. I didn't discover this delicious vegetable until well into my twenties, so I make up for lost time every time it's in season.
Winter has pretty much wrapped up here in Seattle. We have crocuses, daffodils and the beginning of cherry blossoms happening all over town, the days are getting longer and asparagus is starting to pop up in the market. There is also an abundance of damp and chilly evenings, which means it is perfect weather for shepherd's pie.
Unless you have been deep in a coma for the last 20 years you know that making healthy choices about how and what you eat is of paramount importance to living a healthier life. But damn if there isn't an overload of products, advertising and conflicting information out there!
For years after I moved to the west coast and began to adapt a more healthy lifestyle, I have been accused by my east coast family and friends as becoming a "crunchy granola" type. So, in the spirit of all things crunchy I give you the best recipe I have found for real-life, delicious, crunchy granola.