When you grow, you gotta leave some things behind

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Learning new things and finding new interests is good. Great, in fact. They stimulate the brain and keep us young.

It can be a little sad when you realize that something that used to make you happy isn’t doing it for you anymore. But it’s also exciting, because (unless you are depressed) it’s a sign that you’ve grown. Moved on. Found new things to make you happy.

Take shopping. Please. Shopping used to be a big deal for me. I considered myself a black belt. Retail therapy as a reward for meeting a goal. Wandering the aisles at Target as a way to decompress. Researching the season’s new trends and finding them at the best possible price. Memorizing the locations of bathrooms in my favorite malls. Victory was finding that perfect striped top or casual sandal, on sale, in my size. It fulfilled a primal hunter-gatherer need in my psyche.

But lately shopping isn’t as exciting for me. Not for clothes, not for housewares, not for makeup – not even (gasp) for shoes.

With one exception. My hunter-gatherer tendencies are now funneled in to healthier living. Which includes, I realize as I write this, shopping for health-related products.

But the shopping for health stuff isn’t really the same. It’s a means to an end – getting healthier – and not an activity in and of itself. Though I do know where the bathrooms are in many of my favorite health food stores, and a sale is still a win.

Growth is good. There are tradeoffs, to be sure, but it’s totally worth it.

What are you leaving behind as you take on new interests?

xoxo,
Sondra

* Image courtesy of njaj / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Unspoken Needs

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Wanna hear something weird? There’s a company that makes fake coffee out of herbs, grains, fruits, and nuts. Kind of like people used to drink during wars.

Wanna hear something even weirder? I like it!

I didn’t know this was a thing, and I certainly didn’t go looking for it. I profoundly love the smell and taste of coffee, but I can’t handle the acid and caffeine. Even decaf coffee makes me jittery. A decaf espresso after dinner will keep me up until 1:30 AM.

But how I love the smell! Given a choice between meeting up at a coffee shop or a tea shop, I will usually pick a coffee shop. Just for the vicarious thrill.

Back at Expo West I met the rep for TeeChia. They are riding the oatmeal-hybrid trend with an oatmeal/chia seed breakfast line that looks pretty good. They sent me some samples to write about, and I’ll get to that eventually. But the surprise at the bottom of the box was samples of Teeccino, “America’s #1 coffee alternative”.

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Two of the flavors are gluten free—Dandelion Dark Roast and Dandelion Caramel Nut. I’ve tried them both. And dang it, they fill a hole in my heart that I didn’t even know was there.

Trust me when I say I that I was not swayed by getting a few free teabags in the mail. Don’t get me wrong, being taken seriously as a blogger by a food company was pretty cool. Career affirming. Ego inflating. But I’m not going to sell my integrity down the river quite that cheaply. Now if someone wants to send me a Tesla… But I digress.

The Dandelion Dark Roast was a little strong. It satisfied my coffee jones, but I didn’t fall in love. But the Dandelion Caramel Nut is another story entirely. Smooth, sweet, buttery tasting, with a roasted undertone. Really satisfying. I want to drink this all the time.

Dandelion tea was a big trend at the Expo. All the major tea houses are doing it. Dandelion is detoxifying and provides a nice, dark, full bodied tea without the caffeine. But this was far better than the others. It’s got carob, chicory, dandelion, dates, almonds, figs, and “natural caramel nut flavor”. I’m not quite sure about that last one, but everything else in it is organic so I’ll let it slide.

They sent a bunch of other, non-dandelion based flavors to try, but unfortunately they all contain barley, which contains gluten, so I’m going to pass on them. Local friends—they’re up for grabs! You know you want to!

Scratch that itch you didn’t even know you had! Enjoy coffee, without the coffee.

xoxo,
Sondra

Diary of a Health Coaching Student, Q2

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Finding Balance

For the last three weeks I’ve been struggling to find my footing. Between work, school, and building Curvy Chick as a business, I’m a bit off kilter. A week after passing my Q2 exam with a gratifying score of 97, I rejoined the workforce with a full-time contract role at Microsoft, and held my first nutrition workshop as a health coach.

The challenge is to not to let myself get wrapped up in the drama and politics of the workplace, and instead just to get my job done well and get out each day with energy to handle the rest of my life.

My schoolwork has been a surprising source of inspiration. It may take me until the weekend to get to it, but when I do there’s usually at least one speaker that really resonates with me. Especially the psychology sessions.

I’ve always been leery of self-help. Growing up watching Saturday Night Live, Stuart Smalley defined my outlook with his catch phrase “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” Snarky Despair.com, those clever spoofs on Successories affirmations, put the final nail in the coffin.

So I was skeptical of some of my school’s speakers. People like Harville Hendrix make their living reassuring people, well, that they are good enough, smart enough, and that people will like them – if they just do “x”. Listen more. Trust in themselves. Practice self-care. All reasonable things. I just wasn’t raised to believe that if you think good thoughts, good things will happen. But week after week that’s what I am being told. And doggone it, I am starting to believe it.

Giving in and letting those good vibes wash over me is surprisingly therapeutic. More therapeutic than years of therapy. And a heck of a lot cheaper.

So don’t despair. Whatever you are going through, you can handle it. Because, like Stuart said, “you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!”

xoxo,
Sondra

Image courtesy of lkunl / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In which i shamelessly promote the Flying Apron Cafe…

March FA newsletter banner

As you may have gathered I’m super excited about my partnership with the Flying Apron Café in Redmond, WA! Their March newsletter is out, check it out — there’s a coupon for goodies for you local folks, and my article on Gluten Free Living for all y’all.

Flying Apron’s book club is tomorrow night, March 27, 7-8 pm — we’re reading Vegan for Life. Next month’s book is Wheat Belly, April 24th. Hope to see you there some time!

xoxo,
Sondra

Sunburn—a Cautionary Tale with a Silver Lining

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A few weeks ago I spent a glorious day in the California sun in a black V-neck t-shirt and my creamy white skin. And no sunscreen. I got swept up in the warmth after weeks of Seattle chill and rain and I forgot all about it. Rookie mistake. So of course I got burnt.

Of course I didn’t have aloe or heavy moisturizers with me. But I was on my way to the Natural Products Expo the next day, so I figured someone would have something useful. It would be embarrassing to show up at a conference where I’m passing myself off as a health expert who clearly does not practice what she preaches. But I decided to play the pity card and look for a great burn cream.

In the meantime I had a secret weapon – Lavender essential oil. Since I started selling doTerra essential oils I always carry a variety of sample bottles. Peppermint for headaches and achy muscles. Lemon for infections. Lavender for anxiety and – little known fact – burns! It’s a great help for cooking burns. Rub a little on the burn immediately and the pain goes away quickly, and if I keep rubbing it on for a few days the burn mark disappears completely.

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So that night I slathered Lavender oil all over my face and neck. It did help with the pain, but I was still bright as a cherry. I followed it with my usual moisturizer, but that wasn’t nearly enough. I was both dry and oily in the morning. But—and here’s the big win—very little pain! The Lavender oil had sucked out the heat, or something. So while I looked like a hot mess, I didn’t feel like one. Winning! And after my shower, some of the red came off on my white hotel towel. So the Lavender was clearly helping.

I slathered on more Lavender oil and then carefully applied the BB lotion with sunscreen that I should have worn the day before–and every day, until I die—and headed off to the show. Well, after a beach detour. I mean, how often am I in California in March?
Eventually I made it to the Natural Products Expo and hooked up with my friend Katie at Love Grown foods. She gave me the lay of the land, heading me off in search of skin care booths.

I was right about playing the sympathy card. I had strategically covered my cleavage, but my neck and face were on full display so there was no hiding my shame. Even before I spoke up, staffers were quick to point out their sunscreen offerings. But no one had anything for burns. I could see the lightbulbs going on over their heads, so next year that could be the new trend. You heard it here first!  But for now I seemed out of luck. Until one nice lady thought about it, and sent me to a competitor in another part of the show floor to ask about Kukui oil. She’d heard it was a Hawaiian oil that was good for sunburns. I figured if it was good enough for people who lived in endless sun on a tropical island, it was good enough for me.

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Kukui oil, also known as Candlenut, was a godsend. A staffer took pity on me and gave me an entire bottle from Life-Flo. I went right into the bathroom and applied some on my neck and chest, and I could feel my skin saying “Ahhhhhhhh.” That night I slathered both the Lavender oil and the Kukui oil all over, including my hands, feet, arms and legs, and in the morning I felt like a whole new person. Still a red person, mind you. It didn’t go away over night. But my skin felt soft, the oils had entirely absorbed, and I looked more sun-kissed than sun victim. I used both oils morning and night for around three days, and by then my skin was close enough to normal to start using my usual products again.

But the funny thing is, I didn’t want to. The Kukui oil is really beautifying – I have a healthier glow than I’ve had in years, and my skin is really soft. So I’ve adjusted my skin care regime to include Kukui oil at night, and sometimes before my shower in the morning. Better nourished skin is allowing all of my products to work better.

I guess that’s the silver lining!

xoxo,

Sondra

Chocolate Cinnamon Coconut Chia Pudding

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Last summer I got into chia pudding in a big way. I’d just discovered that chia seeds are food, not just pets, and started adding them into smoothies and sprinkling them on salads. Chia seeds are high in protein, fiber, and Omega 3’s, and don’t need to be ground before using. What’s not to love?

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My obsession started with a pumpkin chia pudding recipe on The Naked Avocado and snowballed from there. Her pudding is super easy–no cooking!–and delicious. I made it every week through the fall, until pumpkin season was over. Leaving me with a hole in my repertoire. And perhaps my heart. After using up all of my canned pumpkin, I moved on to other squashes and even tried using sweet potatoes. I tried fruit, and applesauce, and cinnamon. It just wasn’t the same. But then it hit me – chocolate!

Two great tastes that taste great together. Well, ok, one great taste, and another that'll soak it up.

Two great tastes that taste great together. Well, ok, one great taste, and another that’ll soak it up.

I’ve been on a no-sugar kick, which makes desserts a bit of a no-no. Anything I can make that’s chocolaty and sugar-free is a big win. And I had scaled back on my Chocolate Coconut Tahini Balls because of all the fat, so this was an even bigger win.

If you haven’t tried it, chia pudding is a little like tapioca in consistency. Which isn’t a great comparison, because I hate tapioca. I promise this is better. Chia seeds are small and black, smaller than sesame seeds. When you soak them in coconut milk, or any other liquid, they swell into fat black drops. Cool! Science! Then just add any sweet flavors that strike your fancy. The chia is neutral, it’ll pick up the coconut and other flavors. In fact, Chia Pod has productized chia pudding, so look for Chia Pods in natural markets near you. But my recipe is better. 😉

Chocolate Cinnamon Coconut Chia Pudding (gluten/diary/sugar free + vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 1 + ¼ cup light coconut milk, divided*
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 2 Tbsp raw cacao
  • ½ Tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ Tsp Stevia

Instructions:

  1. Stir chia seeds into 1 cup coconut milk in a bowl or sealable container.
  2. Cover and store in refrigerator overnight or at least 4 hours.
  3. Open container and stir – consistency should be pudding-like. If too thick, stir in additional ¼ cup coconut milk.
  4. Stir in raw cacao, cinnamon, and stevia. Taste, and adjust to your liking.
  5. Enjoy!

xoxo,
Sondra

*”Divided” means you’ll use the 1 cup and ¼ cup coconut milk at separate points in the recipe

Need a pick me up? Iced green tea might do the trick

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This morning*, as I sipped my little paper cup of iced green tea after my Chinese herbal reflexology foot massage,  I was reminded of the most lovely drink I sampled at Natural Products Expo West. Iced Rose Green Tea from Teas’ Teas. Which, in turn, reminded me of my trip to Japan, still one of the highlights of my career in business class.

I can’t go a day without green tea. I drink it every day in its natural, warm form. The way God intended. Or whoever’s up there. But I rarely think to have it iced. Only at coffee shops, for some odd reason. Everywhere else I am satisfied with iced black tea, which I never drink warm. Too much caffeine. Makes me jittery. Especially at night. A few glasses of iced black tea at dinner or out for girls night** and I am up until all hours.

But as I wandered the aisles of Natural Products Expo West – or Expo West, as it’s known in the food biz — a little overwhelmed, tired, and thirsty from all those sugary natural power bar samples, the Teas’ Teas booth was an oasis of calm. Smiling ladies served generous sample cups of a variety of iced green teas. Their big push was around the new matcha green tea latte, which I didn’t sample because of the milk.

But when I tried the unsweetened green and rose green teas, I was transported back to Tokyo a few summers ago. Iced green tea was everywhere – markets, soda machines, newsstands. It was as popular as coconut water in New York and L.A.

I especially liked the rose green tea. It’s a surprising taste sensation. Rose doesn’t have flavor but it has a smell, and despite all of our taste buds, taste is mainly about smell. So, while I know it’s all in my head, the rose green tea tasted better than the plain green. Prettier. Happier. Sunnier.

Next time you’re in the market take a look for this stuff, and enjoy a little pick-me-up on a hot day.

xoxo,
Sondra

*To be honest, it was more like afternoon.
** Par-tay! I am a wild one these days.

Like a kid in a candy store

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As if I needed more evidence that natural wellness was the field for me, here I am at Natural Products Expo West — a giant love-fest filled with natural foods, home and beauty products. Every other booth has something new and amazing, next to existing favorites like Tom’s, Dr. Bonner’s, and Love Grown. My day 1 sample haul was phenomenal. You’ll be hearing about the cool stuff I’m bringing home in a new product reviews section of this blog soon.

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My favorite new thing so far is Kukui (pronounced ku-Coo-ee — fun to say!) oil. I have a wicked sunburn from my day at Legoland. Now that I’m a Seattleite I forget about sun protection. I asked about sun burn care at every skin care booth, and most staffers just looked apologetic. But one nice lady sent me to another booth to ask about this Hawaiian oil, traditionally used for sun burn care. Another nice lady gave me a full bottle after seeing the burns on my neck and face. Talk about kindness! I’ll be reviewing Life-Flo’s Kukui Oil very soon, but I can already tell you after marinating in it for one night, it’s a thumb’s up.

Here’s to another fun day exploring!

Xoxo,
Sondra

Where do vegans get their protein?

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During the course of my health coach training I’ve experimented with what feels like a million different dietary theories – Raw, Atkins, Hunter-Gatherer, Vegan, Blood Type, Mediterranean, South Beach, Zone, Macrobiotic, and Slow Food, to name a few.

By far the one I was most nervous about, in a “will I have enough to eat?” sort of way, was going vegan.

I was concerned about more than feeling full – I also had no idea where I was going to get my protein without partaking of our planet’s adorably delicious fish and animals.

My school’s blog provided some useful guidance, vegan classmates were generous with recommendations, and the internets provided the rest. Did you know there are a plethora of vegan foodie blogs? Though a startling number of the recipes are for desserts. We all know what happened to the last gal who suggested that we subsist on cake! Luckily there are real-food recipes as well. Thug Kitchen, Bunny Kitchen, The Sweet Life, Kris Carr, and This Rawsome Vegan Life are some of my favorites.

My favorite gluten-free bakery and café, Flying Apron, is also vegan, and their lovely menu was a nice start. Salads, soups, and gluten-free vegan pizzas, pot pies, and lasagna were all filling and made this seem doable.

So that took care of “will I have enough to eat?” Those recipes would more than cover three meals a meal, and snacks are easy – almonds, green juice, cut up veggies with hummus, a piece of fruit.

Which freed me up for my next anxiety. What about my daily nutritional requirements? Where is my protein supposed to come from?

Beans, seeds and grains provide a ton of protein!

It turns out the whole-food vegan world is chock full of protein, mainly in the form of beans, nuts, seeds, and grains. These little powerhouses contain all of the protein, fiber, and fat you need, and when combined with a rotating selection of fresh vegetables and fruit, ensure a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Notice I say “whole-food vegan world.” Many vegans get a portion of their protein from soy products including tofu, soy milk, tempeh, soy yogurt, and soy-based faux meats. I’ve worked hard to reduce the amount of processed foods in my diet, so that seemed like backwards progress. It’s a personal choice. Manufactured foods usually have more sugar, sodium, and unexpected chemicals than you’d think, and the processing removes nutrients, so you can end up just as unhealthy on a vegan diet as your average American. Which kinda defeats the purpose, at least for me.

Ok, so I figured out where to find protein on a vegan diet – but how much did I need? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended dietary allowances for protein intake by age group. According to the CDC, adults need between 46- 56 grams of protein a day, small children from 12-19 grams, tweens around 24 grams, and teenagers from 46-52 grams of protein a day.** As an adult female who’s neither an athlete nor pregnant, my target is 46 grams.

Which is great, but how does an adult woman get 46 grams of protein a day from beans, nuts, seeds, and grains? After reviewing the nutritional information for everything vegan in my pantry, here’s a roundup:

  • ½ cup of cooked black beans:    7 grams*
  • ½ cup cooked lentils has:           9 grams*
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds:                     6 grams*
  • ¼ cup of almonds:                      6 grams*
  • 2 Tbsp flax seeds:                      3 grams*
  • ½ cup of uncooked quinoa:        12 grams*
  • 2 cups vegetable broth:              2 grams*

(* Estimates based on the packages at hand.)

Add these up and you’re more or less covered.

What can you do with these goodies? Make black bean patties from the beans, quinoa, and flax seeds (play around with this recipe); sprinkle the chia seeds into your daily smoothie; make a quickie warming soup with the veggie broth and lentils; and enjoy the almonds as a mid-day snack.

And there you go – your vegan protein needs are met! Deliciously!

xoxo,
Sondra

** You can find a lot more information about the recommended daily allowances of protein, and a handy chart, on the CDC web site.

Magical Misunderstood Garlic

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This week I came down with the stomach virus that’s going around Seattle. Despite living as healthily as I can manage, I still interact with people and germs, and I still get sick. I just don’t get sick for as long as I used to. And whenever I’m sick, I turn to garlic.

Yes, garlic. This is not a typo. Since the dawn of time – or at least literature – garlic has been considered a cure-all. It’s been claimed to help in resisting colds and flu, the Plague, and even vampires. Many people in other countries still rely on garlic as a health supplement.

I used to travel a lot for business. And between all the indulgent eating and the germs on planes and shaking a lot of hands, I would usually get sick. One time, when I got a cold in Torino, Italy, my local contact advised I eat a clove of garlic. Every day. He said he did it, and never got sick.

At the time I hadn’t bought into natural wellness. Or food allergies. Or the understanding that everything we put in our mouths effects our entire bodies. So I ignored his advice. Laughed about it, in fact. “What a quaint Italian custom,” I thought, arrogantly.

What I didn’t realize is that I was just following the current medicinal thinking, which has evolved over time.

A Short History of Medicine.

Doctor, I have an ear ache!
2000BC Here, eat this root.
AD 1000 That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.
AD 1850 That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.
AD 1940 That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.
AD 1985 That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.
AD 2000 That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.
Author unknown. Reprinted from Herbal Supplement Resource

Over the last few years my thinking has evolved to include a more holistic look at medicine. Why shut out any option, right?

And I’ve come to appreciate garlic in all of its forms—raw, roasted, stir fried, minced, pressed, or eaten whole. Especially when I’m not feeling well. It turns out that raw garlic has the most medicinal value. And raw garlic that’s been minced or crushed has even more goodness than the whole clove, because you get more of the juices interacting with your bodily fluids*.

Juicy raw garlic from a garlic press.

Juicy raw garlic from a garlic press.

Raw garlic also results in most people’s top two complaints about garlic. That smell, and the burning.

That burning sensation in your mouth? That’s the garlic killing off bacteria and eating the sugars and yeast that accumulate on your tongue. Eat some once in a blue moon and it’ll always burn. But eat a little every day, as my Italian friend suggested, and over time the burning will give way to enjoyment of the juicy, spicy taste.

Which leaves us with garlic breath. Garlic, or at least its smell, has an unwarranted bad rap. In a world totally aligned with health, not to mention yumminess, romance-seekers would be attracted to anyone who smelled like garlic. Personally I’ve come to love it. Who doesn’t love garlic fries, garlic bread, and olive oil with crushed garlic? You can’t get the taste without the smell. You could take garlic supplements, but they are neither as delicious nor as effective as the raw stuff. So let’s not discriminate! Next time you meet someone who smells of garlic, congratulate them on their good choices!

Let’s declare a garlic revolution!

xoxo,
Sondra

*A character in one of my favorite movies, a cult classic, was obsessed with bodily fluids. In fact, he started a nuclear war. Guess who? For the record, that’s not the kind of revolution I’m suggesting. 🙂