Simple Pleasure-Farmers Markets

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The farmer’s market is something that I look forward to every week. It has not only become a simple pleasure, but also a necessity for me; something that I rely on for procuring my weekly fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers. When you are gluten free and vegetarian, vegetables are a necessity! Reading “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan was the catalyst that began my diet transformation. In this book, he argues that how we eat determines, not only our health, but also how we want the world to be. The typical American eats at least 3 times/day and is therefore spending money on food at least 3 times per day, per person, on average. How we buy our food matters and the fact that we spend money on food daily gives us an enormous amount of power in determining how we want our food produced. The increase of gluten free options and organic selections are evidence that consumers have power to change the system and selection of food available. Michael Pollan explains that every dollar we spend as consumers counts a a vote for how we want the world to be. The more we spend money on organic produce, the more the industry will put into producing food organically. Simple supply and demand. The more we support local, organic farmers, the more likely these farmers are to stay in business. What we spend our money on matters!

Michael Pollan also argues that transparency is crucial in transforming the food industry. In a standard supermarket, the farmer is left out of the interaction, and thus transparency is impossible. Accountability is also much less likely to be present in the interaction between you and the corporate grocery store. However, when you take the middle man out and have a real face-to-face interaction with the farmer who grew the produce you’re buying, you can ask questions like “do you use pesticides on your produce” “how do I cook this squash”, “how do I know when a peach is ripe” “what is this odd looking edible plant” (because you will surely see produce at a farmer’s market that you’ve never seen in a grocery store before. You are able to give your money directly to the person/farm that grew your produce and they are able to put a face to their customers, increasing the farmer’s sense of accountability. At a farmers market, suddenly, food gets personal. It becomes an aesthetic, sensory, personal experience. You are able to smell the produce, speak to, and ask questions of the farmers, listen to the local blue grass band that plays live during the market, and give your money to the person who actually grows your produce. It’s romantic, idealistic, and reconnects you with the process of buying food for you and your family. This process is something that our culture has become disconnected with.

Matt and I have built relationships with some of the farmers. We have our favorite stands/farms and often, vendors will remember if we’ve missed the week before. We have learned how to cook new produce like acorn squash and how to tell if a peach is ripe thanks to the farmers sharing their knowledge with us. Also, it’s just a great place to get kick-ass deals! We can buy organic produce for half of what it would cost us at Whole Foods and have a good time while doing it. The produce is local, and therefore seasonal, picked when at its peak, and very high-quality. I couldn’t imagine buying my flowers anywhere else, and I feel good knowing that I am spending my money supporting a philosophy that I believe in! Often the markets will include ready-made food stands from local restaurants, or coffee. I love to get a bag of kettle corn for dessert or a cup of coffee at the morning markets.

Life is a process, so you may as well enjoy every part you can. My simple pleasure for the week is the farmers market because it allows me to get great deals, make my dollar stand for something that I believe in, and enjoy the process of buying fruit, herbs, veggies and flowers for the week.

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Heirloom Tomato and Basil Salad

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This salad is wonderfully simple and therefore must be made with high-quality ingredients. The heirloom tomatoes must be ripe. The olive oil must be extra virgin. The salt must be coarse kosher or sea, and the basil must be fresh. The good news is that this salad is soo simple. I made this for dinner tonight solo as Matt has a standing Tuesday night tradition to do dinner with a specific friend. For one serving (this was my entire meal) I used two large heirloom tomatoes and a handful of basil.

Ingredients:

heirloom tomatoes (2/person if an entire meal, less if using as an appetizer)

1 bunch of basil

extra virgen olive oil

coarse sea or kosher salt

Directions: Remove the stem and slice the tomatoes into thin rounds. Arrange around the plate to your personal aesthetic (I chose to use yellow and red heirlooms and to alternate them for visual interest when plating). Next, chiffonade the basil. This is key as basil can bruise easily and therefore must be cut properly. If you don’t know how to chiffonade check out this short youtube video. Finally sprinkle the ribbons of basil atop the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle with salt. Done. So easy, but this is really a delicious combo! One thing that I love about this salad is how beautiful it looks on a plate. I also love how simple it is! When I was in Italy, the food was amazing, and amazingly simple. The key with simple food is that you must use high quality ingredients and therefore simple cooking is really just a celebration of the ingredients you choose to use. If you haven’t had a fresh, organic heirloom tomato, you must! These tomatoes are NOTHING like the tomatoes you buy at Safeway. They are bursting with flavor, sweet, and very special. They are also one of the most beautiful pieces of produce at the farmer’s market when they are in season and I believe that we eat, with our eyes! Take advantage of this season to try one as soon as possible (if you have a local farmer’s market, that’s the place you want to go to get these beauts). This recipe is especially wonderful paired with a glass of red or white wine.       Enjoy : )

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Happy Weekend!

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Sometimes gratitude can be a bitch!  There have been many times in life when my outlook was negative, for example why me? I don’t deserve this? But looking back, the main thing that propelled me to rise above those feelings was gratitude. How can it be? It can be so hard sometimes to really appreciate the moment when it seems like everything around you is terrible. But when you truly become grateful for the moment and what you have  it completely unlocks the door for more greatness to come in. Gratitude unlocks hope. That has been my case every time. It does take quite a bit of effort at times but gratitude will take you to places far beyond your imagination. In my case, gratitude has taught me to appreciate the small things. I have a tendency to keep my eye on the prize and think when I “get there” that’s what’s going to make me happy, but the case has been completely the opposite. The things that blow my mind have been the smallest and seemingly most insignificant, a butterfly on the lawn, a good cup of coffee or a walk to farmers market. It has opened me up to many things that have been there all along but for some reason I’ve only been able to see them when I reached a certain level of appreciation. This life is short and for me when I’m felling appreciative about all of the things that have happened in my life, it kind of all makes sense. So if your life’s seems like a mess, be grateful, give it some time, and I’m sure you’ll see how the pieces start to fall into place.

Simple Pleasure-Loving Where You Live

Pacific Grove, Ca

Pacific Grove, Ca

Matt and I met in Santa Barbara, Ca when I was in college and he was in a band. After I graduated and Matt left his band, we moved to Santa Cruz, Ca (my hometown), however when we visited the Monterey Peninsula, we really fell in love with the area. We both felt connected, in some way, to the area and drove the 45 minutes almost every weekend to spend a day there. The more we discovered about the area, the more we loved it, and we felt like we had finally found a town/place that we loved in a similar way to the way we loved each other. It was unconditional, always growing, and felt natural. I’ve read a quote by Oprah where she described the way she felt when she first visited Chicago. She said she felt like she had gown roots and maybe that’s what happened to Matt and I when we visited Carmel and Pacific Grove. We finally moved to Pacific Grove, Ca in August almost one year ago and I feel like we continue to build our community here. It’s wonderful to walk half a block and have the view pictured above.

In “The Geography Of Bliss”, Eric Weiner explains that “The late British-born philosopher Alan Watts, in one of his wonderful lectures on eastern philosophy, used this analogy: “If I draw a circle, most people, when asked what I have drawn, will say I have drawn a circle or a disc, or a ball. Very few people will say I’ve drawn a hole in the wall, because most people think of the inside first, rather than thinking of the outside. But actually these two sides go together–you cannot have what is ‘in here’ unless you have what is out there.’ ”
In other words, where we are is vital to who we are.” 

Where we are is vital to who we are. We can not separate ourselves from where we live and we are constantly interconnected with our environment exchanging, simultaneously, information and energy. Matt and I found that we are slightly different people, living here, in a place that we love. We reach out to others, we are friendlier, happier. We feel motivated to build a social community around ourselves rather than isolate from the rest of the world. We feel comfortable, natural, like we belong, like we have grown roots. When you find the right person to spend your life with, you can be happy doing nothing with that person. That is the way we feel about the Monterey Peninsula. We are happy doing nothing here. I mean we are happy doing something as well but we don’t NEED to have something specific to do. It is a full day just to go for a walk with Matt along the beach or go out for coffee, or window shop in Carmel. Of course, just like specific people fit or don’t fit, specific places resonate with specific people. Not everyone would love this area like we do, but what is important is to find the right place for you. It is possible to have a soul-mate home. Eric Weiner says that the easiest way to determine where your true home is, is to ask yourself where you want to die. Matt has always said “I could die here” when we visit Carmel, and so I feel like that may be our true home, the place where we will raise children, and build a home, a life. But to end this point, my simple pleasure of the week is that I love where I live!

 

Happy Weekend!

ImageThis is a quote from the book “The Geography of Bliss” by Eric Weiner which is an amazing book (I’ve actually been thinking of reading it a 2nd time)! I believe that certain things are by-products of larger issues. When I was trained in motivational interviewing I learned that resistance from a client is a by-product of the relationship between you and that client, therefore you must change the relationship in some way (e.g. the way you relate to your client) if you want to diminish their resistance. I’ve heard that weight, and the way that we eat, is also a by-product. In Geneen Roth’s book Women Food and God” I believe she stated something like ” the way you relate to food is the way that you relate to life”. She found that her “weight issue” wasn’t really about weight, but rather the way that she related to life. Her weight was simply a symptom to something greater.  I believe that happiness is also one of these by-products, something that we can’t focus on specifically, but that is simply a symptom of something greater. I believe that if we live our lives well, happiness will come naturally and that if we aren’t happy, we must look at what might be in our lives that is bringing us down instead of up. I also recognize that our culture places such an emphasis on happiness. We take pills, accumulate material goods, take vacations, go to therapy, all in the pursuit of happiness, and yet I do believe that Eric Weiner had it right when he said that happiness was a ghost, a shadow, that you can’t really chase it. You must live your life well, fill it with love, gratitude, passion, honesty, and meaning, and then, perhaps happiness will be a lovely side-effect of your life well-lived.

Top 5 Reasons to eat Kale

Kale

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1. Kale is very high in iron. Kale has more iron per calorie than beef. When you don’t have enough iron you can become lethargic. Also anemia can become a problem when you have an iron deficiency, which makes it harder for your body to fight off illness and disease.

2. Kale is high in fiber, low in calorie and has no fat!  A cup of kale has only 34 calories. The fiber content is great for helping with digestion and it’s also filled with many vitamins and nutrients.

3. Kale is high in vitamin K. Vitamin K is essential for optimal health. It can help stave off blood clotting, keep your bones healthy and helps prevent various forms of cancers.

4. Kale promotes healthier nails and skin. Kale is filled with healthy omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids that help your skin glow and nails grow strong. Who doesn’t want healthy glowing skin?

 5. Kale’s also an anti-inflammatory. If you have arthritis or stiff joints kale can help provide relief from the aches and pains. It is also know to be beneficial for autoimmune disorders as well.

Happy Weekend!

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In the book “Peter Pan”, Peter also says that the moment one doubts their ability to fly is the moment that they cease to be able to. The original Peter Pan is such a good book with so many good quotes and it’s really a story about fear, imagination, wonder, and the way society grows older. Children have so much faith and imagination, and many people lose this as they grow older. Imagination and faith give you wings. They are the wings that take you to places outside of the box and allow one to achieve great things….maybe even miracles. For to have faith is to have wings… Happy weekend!

Simple Pleasure- Fresh Flowers!

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From top left clockwise: A single stem placed on our kitchen table, star gazer lilies left on a long stem low and next to our fireplace, on our coffee table in a drinking glass used as a vase

So, I’m thinking that this topic will be a weekly post: whatever is my main simple pleasure for the week ( could be a song, food product, experience, etc). This week I wanted to post about fresh flowers in the home. You can buy flowers really inexpensively at the farmer’s market. I paid $3 and $4 for the bunches featured in this picture and they usually last about 2 weeks. I love fresh flowers and you can separate the stems into single glasses ( I love using stemless wine glasses for displaying a single stem) and place them around your house (on your kitchen table, coffee table, bathroom counter, nightstand, etc.) In The Botany of Desire” Michael Pollan explains how our love of flowers shows how beauty plays an important role in our lives (I mean the tulip was responsible for the crash of the Dutch economic market). This book was also made into a documentary which I found fascinating and it’s available on Netflix instant play. I also feel like fresh flowers just add that special touch to a home and show that someone has taken the time to display something that serves no other purpose but to add beauty, and make a home feel more loved. Flowers= simple, beautiful, cheap, and my simple pleasure for the week : )

How You Get There Depends on Where You Are At The Present.

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I used to be a real hard ass, a ball buster with some self-righteousness thrown in the mix. I was always a nice person, but I was definitely more opinionated and sure that I was living the “right” way with the “right” values. I couldn’t comprehend that someone could want different things in life than I, and that both of us could be right. I put a lot of thought into what the meaning of life was, what truly makes a person happy, and so, of course, I knew what everyone was doing wrong.

Then I watched “Enlighten Up”-Available on Netflix instant. This was back when my definition of practicing yoga included popping in Mandy Ingber’s 30-minute Yogalosophy DVD and following along in my living room while Matt watched on in amusement. (This is actually an awesome DVD, not at all cheesy, and Mandy is Jennifer Anniston’s yoga teacher so the 30-minute workout is great, but yoga is so much more to me now). I didn’t know what Bikram yoga was at the time, I didn’t know it was common for people to have an emotional release from/during yoga and begin crying in class, and of course, I didn’t understand how someone could strongly believe that yoga can change a person’s life. The documentary’s filmmaker was a devout practitioner of yoga, and believed that yoga would change anybody’s life so she picked an average Joe, who’s name is actually Nick, and who was probably in his late 20’s, early 30’s and made him practice yoga almost everyday for a year. During the film, Nick is not a spiritual guy at all. He doesn’t believe in God, he doesn’t believe in yoga as a spiritual practice, and he only believes what science can prove (the filmmaker actually got pretty frustrated with him throughout the documentary which makde for some amusing arguments caught on camera).

In the end, Nick visited a yoga guru in India and asked him a series of questions one of them being something that goes like “why are there so many different types of yoga, and I don’t really believe in God, so, how will yoga help me to be spiritual?” The guru then asked Nick “How did you get here?” Nick answers and the guru responds by telling him that he could have arrived by bus. He could have arrived on foot. He could have taken a taxi or a bicycle, but he still would have arrived at the same place. What mattered was who and where he was in the present. The guru said that “this is the same with all life”. There are many different ways to get to the same place but you have to decide which is the right one for you. Some people love to drive, others love to bike, or walk, or run. Some people need many children to be happy, others may be the happiest with none. Some people feel complete with the idea that there is no God, others seek refuge in a church, or temple, and some feel God (whatever God means to the individual) when they are practicing yoga, or climbing a mountain. What matters is who you are, and where you are coming from figuratively, or literally : ) . This is also why there are so many different types of yoga…..because each one fits a different need, and if you don’t like one type, you may like another. I, personally, don’t feel quite satisfied by gentle hatha yoga, I need something more intense, like Bikram, but others may feel drawn to the gentle. There is no ultimate “right” or “wrong” way to do things, or to achieve happiness. When you see someone living differently, and it makes you feel insecure about your own life, remember that you can get there by bus, or by train, on foot, or on donkey. What matters is who you are, and where you are at present.

Happy Weekend!

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Most people go through life without intention, without the sense of a deeper purpose, disconnected. I think we can all change that if we focus our attention on who we are, what we want from life and what type of people we want to be. A good place to start is identifying what your values are, and if you hold these values because they truly resonate with you or because you were taught that you should have these values. Once you identify the values that feel true to your soul, try to identify how you can live a life that honors these values. When you feel connected to yourself and to the life that you are living, everything will become more vivid and you will feel more alive. You can live with intention and cease being a falling leaf. Happy weekend.