26 January 2014

Whole Resolution: Overall Wellness

We have reached the fourth and final guest interview for the Whole Resolution wellness series. If you missed the previous interviews, you can find them here: Week 1 (Skin Care), Week 2 (Mind, Consciousness, and Thought), Week 3 (Yoga & Ayurveda). This has been a very rewarding process interviewing these women, drawing inspiration, listening, and learning. And this final interview is no exception. 

Meet Maria

The wonderful thing about traveling is you never know who you will meet along the way. My husband and I traveled to Spain this summer and had the privilege of staying at a beautiful B&B called Erlexte in Laguardia, the heart of the Rioja wine country. Meeting the owner of Erlexte, Maria, was one of those unexpected connections that we feel incredibly lucky to have made.

I am not sure I have words to describe the exact impression she made on me. Maybe it was because she reminded me of my grandmother in her petite physical stature, but more importantly in her attitude, energy, and disposition (which is hard to do because I proudly put my grandmother up on a pedestal). Maria has a beautiful spirit, infectious energy, and an assertiveness that really struck a chord with me. She is sharp and determined while maintaining a calm and gentle way. She is a woman who knows how to make the most out of life regardless of what is thrown at her, and this I believe is the key to contentment and happiness. Her balanced, intuitive outlook and desire to seek out and prioritize her own well-being was apparent in the way she presents herself and the daily schedule she keeps which, among other things you will hear about in the interview, involves tending to bees that produce some very delicious honey. (We are still slowly savoring her honey!)

I hope you can see now why I could not pass up this interview opportunity to draw from her wisdom. She epitomizes a person whose complete being and lifestyle captures the essence of overall wellness, of whole nourishment.

Maria gave up time for this interview from her winter holiday in southern Spain. I have included the original interview in Spanish as well as the translated version. So whatever version you feel most comfortable reading, I hope you find inspiration from her story.

Also check out Maria’s B&B (http://www.erletxe.com/Welcome.html) and beautiful pictures of Laguardia and its history (http://www.erletxe.com/Town.html). And if you ever find yourself in Laguardia, do not pass up the opportunity to stay with Maria at Erlexte. You will be most warmly received.

Photo Credit: Erlexte B&B
Translated Q&A

History & B&B

Maria, can you tell us about your background? Is your family from Laguardia?

I am a senior, a widow since 5 years ago. I launched this B&B endeavor with my husband almost 20 years ago in Laguardia (Rioja Alavesa) after we left my husband’s company that manufactured mini “do -it-yourself” tools in a small fishing village near San Sebastian.

What does “Erlexte” mean? Why did you decide to turn your house into a business?

"Erletxe" erle = bee and etxe = house (in Basque etxe = hive). We started the B&B because we built a house that was too big for two people, and as young retirees almost 20 years ago, doing something to “stay active” was a positive decision for us. The B&B had closed for a 4 year period while attended to my husband’s illness. It reopened five years ago, a step my brothers encouraged.

As I experienced first-hand, you are a wonderful host: attentive, generous and proactive. You take pride in taking care of your guests.

How does your priority for your own health affect how you take care of your guests?

There has a been an interesting shift since the second opening,  as we now have the excellent help of two wonderful ladies, Nicoleta and Cara. Their support and my continued health have allowed me to give personal attention to guests. Taking time for my own activities also supports my health. These include yoga, Zen meditation, and “bees”!!!! Meditation, which I have practiced for 30 years, helps my attitude towards life, yoga benefits my health, and the bees are a delight to enjoy.

What advice would you give to young women for leading a successful and fulfilling life, like you have?

An important aspect for women, and for young people in general, is that they live in the “here and now” or “in the present” for as much of the time as possible, given this makes us realize what we are thinking, feeling, and doing. Plan well for activities in the future, but live here in “the present”. 

Another aspect is “to accept” what comes, good or bad, without rejecting it. Rejection causes more suffering than if you had accepted it. We live in an ever-changing world and life.

You are an incredibly proactive and vivacious woman. You make your own honey, attend silent retreats, and do yoga all while running your B&B.

How do you make time on a daily basis for your own wellness?

Life at Erletxe is simple: I meditate when I get up, then I eat breakfast and attend to the guests. In the afternoon, I welcome guests when they arrive, respond to e-mails, practice yoga with a blind “master” or go for walks.

Is there a favorite meal or snack you find especially nourishing? 

Photo Credit: Gambas and Grits
For the area of food and cuisine, La Rioja is an exquisite location. Beyond grape cultivation for wine, there are many excellent vegetables and fruit: artichokes, asparagus, chard, borage, tomatoes, apricots, peaches, pears, plums, and more. But the king of La Rioja is the red pepper which has a niche market each for its 10 to 12 varieties. They are available from mid- September to November, so we buy them all then. We grill them, clean and bottle them, or put them in plastic bags to freeze.

A simple and popular recipe is “Piquillo” stuffed peppers (these are the small to medium sized, sweet red ones); you can buy them jarred or frozen and defrost them. Meanwhile prepare a filling of veal, cut into somewhat thick chunks, and fill the peppers pushing down with a “stick” so the filling does not come out. Then cook onion and carrot together with a little flour and beef broth, and crush it a little to make a sauce. Pour the sauce over the peppers, and then cook together for about 10 minutes.

The good thing about this recipe is that instead of meat the filling can be substituted; sometimes we use fish or leftovers from the previous day.

Photo Credit: Martha Stewart
Original Q&A

Historia  y Casa Rural

María, ¿Nos cuentas de su historia? ¿Es de Laguardia su familia?

 Soy una persona mayor, viuda hace 5 años, que comenzó con mi marido la experiencia de la casa rural hace casi 20 años en Laguardia ( Rioja Alavesa) después de haber dejado ambos la empresa de mi marido, donde se fabricaba mini herramientas para “do-it-yourself”, en un pueblo pesquero cerca de San Sebastian.

¿Qué significa “Erlexte”? ¿Por qué tomó la decisión de convertir la casa en un negocio?

“Erletxe” erle=abeja y etxe=casa en vasco = colmena; el comienzo de la casa rural fue debido a que se construyó una casa demasiado grande para dos personas y que  jubilados prematuros con edad de seguir activos fue una decisión positiva para los dos hace casi 20 años. La casa se cerró durante 4 años para las atenciones que requería la enfemedad del marido y se volvió a abrir hace 5 años animada por los hermanos.

Al ver de primer mano, usted es un gran anfitrión: atenta, generosa y proactiva. Usted toma orgullo en cuidar sus huéspedes.

¿Cómo se aplican los principios de la salud integral que usted sigue en su vida personal a la hospitalidad de los huéspedes?

Esta segunda etapa está resultando interesante, pues permite una atención personal a los huéspedes con el acompañamiento de Nicoleta y Amaia, dos chicas excelentes. También el cuidado personal  con diferentes actividades que ayudan a la salud como el yoga, la meditación Zen y “las abejas”!!!!!
La meditación, que la practico desde hace 30 años,  ayuda a la actitud ante la vida, el yoga a la salud y las abejas a disfrutarlas…

 ¿Qué consejo le daría a las mujeres jóvenes para llevar una vida exitosa y satisfactoria, como usted la tiene?

Un aspecto importante para las mujeres, sobre todo jóvenes, es que se viva “aquí” y “ahora”, es decir en el presente el mayor tiempo posible, pues nos hace darnos cuenta de lo que pensamos, sentimos, hacemos y como lo hacemos; se planifican las actividades a futuro, pero se vive el “presente“.
Otro aspecto es  “aceptar“ lo que llegue, bueno o malo, sin rechazarlo, el rechazo produce más sufrimiento que la aceptación, vivimos en un mundo/vida transitoria.

 Bienestar Personal

Usted es una mujer increíblemente dinámica y vivaz. Usted hace su propia miel, asiste a retiros de silencio, y practica yoga... todo mientras que gestiona la casa rural!
¿Por la vida cotidiana, cómo crea Ud. tiempo en su día para si mismo?

La vida en Erletxe es sencilla: al levantarme meditación, desayuno y atención a los huéspedes. Por la tarde, recibirlos cuando lleguen, responder los emails y practicar yoga con un “maestro” ciego o dar paseos.

¿Hay una comida favorita suya, la cual Ud. encuentra especialmente nutritiva?

En lo tocante a alimentación La Rioja es una zona muy selecta : se cultivan verduras y frutas excelentes, aparte de la uva para elaborar el vino. Alcachofas, espárragos, cardo, borraja, tomates, etc. , albaricoques, melocotones, peras, ciruelas etc. Pero el rey de La Rioja es el pimiento rojo con un mercado especial para sus 10-12 variedades, desde mediados de septiembre a noviembre, donde compramos; luego asamos, limpiamos para seguido embotar o ponerlos en bolsas de plástico para congelar.

Una receta sencilla y popular son los pimientos del “Piquillo” rellenos ( son los rojos medianos-pequeños que tienen un pico en la punta): se sacan del bote o se descongelan;  mientras tanto se prepara una beisamel  de carne de ternera un poco espesa y se rellenan los pimientos sujetándolos con un “ palillo” para que no escape la beisamel. Se prepara una salsa de cebolla, zanahoria , un poco de harina y caldo de carne, se tritura y se le añade por encima a los pimientos para que cuezan juntos unos 10 minutos.

Lo bueno de esta receta,  que en vez de carne se puede hacer la beisamel con cualquier pescado o “sobrantes” que nos hayan quedado  del dia anterior.

Plaque at one of the medieval gate entrances into the walled city of Laguardia:
"Peace to those who arrive, Health to those who live here, and Happiness to those who depart"

Does Maria's adivice of living in "the present" resonate with you? Whether it's Piquillo or another pepper, do you make stuffed peppers at home? I will be sharing my version next week, so stay tuned! 

And until then, thank you for following this wellness series. I hope it gave a motivating boost for the new year and serves as a resource to return to throughout the year. And a deeply grateful, heartfelt thank you to my guests: Milena, Tammy, Laura, and Maria. You are truly special women, and I am lucky to know each of you. Thank you for the work you do everyday to provide whole nourishment!!

19 January 2014

Whole Resolution: Yoga & Ayurveda

I cannot believe we are already in the third week of the Whole Resolution wellness series. I hope you are enjoying reading the guest interviews and are finding little nuggets of inspiration for living a more holistically nourished life that you can carry with you throughout your week. I know I am!

This series is designed to offer a new component to the whole nourishment puzzle each week so that by the end of the month the combined guest perspectives will have painted a vision of whole wellness. For those of you who have been following along, I apologize for being repetitive. But if you missed the first two weeks of fabulous guest interviews, please check them out here: Week 1 with Milena and Week 2 with Tammy. 

Meet Laura

Photo credit: Monique Feil 
Laura is the co-founder of the Deep Yoga School of Healing Arts along with her husband Bhava Ram, a certified Ayurvedic Healing Practitioner, and the founder of the Institute of Feminine Wisdom, a service organization that advocates women's empowerment. She is such an accomplished woman that it is difficult to relay in words the positive impact she has made on others’ lives. She harnesses years of experience practicing and teaching yoga and living by the principles of Ayurvedic nutrition and healing for her and her family’s well-being but also with the purpose of helping others in a way that is best summarized on her website, VedaWise:
Healing and Wholeness in Body, Mind and Soul through the Sacred Sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda. "Self-affirming, loving, enlightening, exciting self discoveries..."

I am fortunate to have met Laura through the food blogging world. Check out her lovely blog, Food: A Love Story, at http://food-alovestory.com/. Her delicious recipes highlight the healing nature of whole, plant-based foods and her insights about nourishment from food and beyond are one of a kind. But what really drew me in is her genuine, grounded, calming presence and clarity of purpose that shines through in each post which I think is a testament of how she lives her life. I am honored Laura is a part of this wellness series. Through her graceful ease with words she shares her knowledge of, experiences in, and passion for making yoga and Ayurveda accessible in our day-to-day lives to help us achieve optimal strength and vitality. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading Laura’s words of wisdom and insights as much I have. 

Ayurveda is not a food system or trend. It is not Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw, Paleo or any system per se. Ayurveda is a science that recognizes each individual is unique and has unique needs. Vegan may work for one person, but not for another. The same is true for Raw, or Paleo, or any nutritional approach. What’s best is what’s best for you. Ayurveda helps you determine that. (Photo Credit: Shannon Hope Jones, Food- A Love Story/Photo Caption Credit: Food -A Love Story)


First let's start with your work in Ayurveda and your personal perspective of this ancient science of healing.

What is your take on Ayurveda? Do you have a particular emphasis on certain areas?

Katie, this is such a big question: probably the reason it has taken me so long to respond with these answers. How to say in a few words "what is my take” on Ayurveda, the oldest and most comprehensive medicine in the world? In a word though, it means balance. In a phrase, Ayurveda is the science of life, of longevity, of living well.

Ayurveda reminds us at the profoundest level that there is this extraordinary nature everywhere around and inside of you seeking to support you in every moment. Align with that power and you have optimal health, optimal flow, optimal ease, greater vitality, sense of purpose, inspired creativity, grace and peace.

I wrote a fuller “take” on Ayurveda here, http://food-alovestory.com/ayurveda/

On your blog, "Food: A Love Story”, Ayurveda guides the way you cook and think about food.

What is the connection between Ayurveda and food?

Ayurveda says that if you eat right you will have no use for medicine, but that if you do not eat right, medicine will be of no use. In other words, we are made up of the molecules, the elements, the tastes, the energy and the intelligence that is in our food. Food not only converts to become your living tissue, it nourishes your brain, your heart, your mind, your emotions. Ayurveda is many things - pharmacology, internal medicine, psychology, energy anatomy, rejuvenation therapies, etc. - but its heart is in the kitchen. Your health depends on the choices you make, and the food you choose to eat day after day absolutely determines the quality of your life.

A little more specifically, Ayurveda says that we are made up of the five elements of nature: space, air, fire, water, earth. The food we eat delivers to us nature’s intelligence through the six tastes: Sweet, salty, sour, pungent, astringent and bitter. Each taste compromises two of the five elements to support those same elements within us. For instance, the sweet taste (rice, milk, sweet potato, e.g.) is made up of earth and water. The pungent taste (garlic, onion, jalapeno) is fire and air. Bitter (kale, aloe, turmeric) is air and space. So in any meal we need all six tastes in order to feed all five elements that make up our mind and bodies. Still, depending on your consititution, circumstances, current health, and the season, you may want to favorite certain "tastes." As an example, in summer when it is hot, we want to eat cooling foods. Sweet, astringent and bitter, with their elements of earth, water, air and space respectively, are cooling. Foods for summer then are rice and greens, or vegetable pasta, big, raw salads, and always light on the seasoning. While in winter, we need warmer foods so we increase our pungent foods and add more spices to our dishes.

You’ve always impressed me Katie with your intuitive knowing of these Ayurvedic principles when it comes to cooking. I like your recipes because, knowingly or not, you consistently include all six tastes, demonstrating that when you have all six tastes in any dish you have delicious flavor and resounding whole body nourishment.

One example is your delicious Miso Sweet Potato soup (http://wholenourishment.blogspot.ch/2013/10/miso-sweet-potato-soup.html) where, added to the obviously sweet taste of the sweet potato, you include miso/sour and salty, harissa/pungent, beans and pumpkin seeds/sweet and astringent, and turmeric/bitter. That is why something so simple can be so addictively good. Your body knows what it needs and when it gets it, especially in our overfed, undernourished cultures, it echoes with a YES that delights your whole being.

How do you introduce Ayurveda to newcomers seeking a deeper, more balanced connection in mind, body, and spirit?

Ayurveda’s first principle is that every person is a unique individual. Everyone has a unique path, and a unique set of circumstances. Start with compassion. Begin by listening. Honor yourself. Recognize that you are worthy, good, wise. You are nature, too, and you have all nature’s intelligence and healing power inside of you. Take a breath. Feel how good that feels. That is medicine.

From there, create a victory for yourself by taking one simple step towards health. Once you feel successful, you are empowered and ready to open yourself more fully to the wondrous world around you. Observe nature’s beauty, taste her bounty, touch her magnificence, listen to her song. Look for miracles. Then remember: that same force is inside of you.

You are also a certified yoga instructor.

Did it come naturally transitioning from a personal yoga practice to guiding and instructing others in their yoga practice?

Yes, because I had been practicing already for many years, and really just wanted to share the value, the gifts, the transformative power of Yoga with others. When you offer yourself in service, you surrender to something larger than yourself. Then, when mistakes arise, they are just reminders that even if we can reach up and touch the heels of Heaven, we are still so adorably human. We laugh, we sometimes get silly, we shake it off. That personalizes the practice, and helps people connect. So it is fun, and it is a way for me to stay present, engaged, in service, grateful. Above all, there is nothing more exquisite than being a witness to a devoted Yogi deep in practice. It is absolutely sacred, and profoundly humbling.

What are the misconceptions of yoga you have seen through your experience?

That Yoga is Asana.
Asana is an aspect of Yoga, but Yoga is so much more than Asana.

Yoga is union. It is a path and a reality. It is oneness. It is a way out of darkness. It is the light in your heart. It is a connection to your divine self. It is sacred remembrance. It is life, existence, breath and peace, the stars and the night sky, a bright sun, this green earth, our blue oceans, and finally once and for all, knowing that you are that. When asked by a devotee, Who am I?, the ancient sage slowly waved his hand all around and replied, "Tat Tvam Asi.” You are that. You are everything, and everything is in you. That may sound poetic, but quantum science now proves it to be true. Best of all, your own experience will validate it.

Are there any recommendations you would offer for taking yoga from occasional participation to a life-long practice?

Do it every day, as soon as you wake up. Do one round of sun salutations, or pick your favorite pose and hold that for ten breaths with concentrated attention on your breathing. Start small. 1 minute is better than none. But do it every day. Consistency is the key that turns Yoga from ordinary to extraordinary. The Yoga Sutras call this "Abhyasa & Vairagya,” stating that consistent action with non-attachment to the outcome will give you success in practice.

You give so much back to help others in your work.

Do you ever reach points of overload, and how do you make a point to recharge at home?

I am very happy in silence, nature and the "solace of open spaces.” But I feel I am alive to be of service. I feel this deep need to help lift people up, to show each beautiful human being the face of god: their own face in the mirror of Heaven. So I am always on the balancing point of those two contradictory, but also complimentary, drives. And clarity of purpose, gratitude, daily meditation, cuddles with my husband, and epsom salt baths help!

Winter is here. Is there a favorite meal or snack you always look forward to, that you find especially nourishing in the cold months?

One thing I love on winter afternoons is a cup of steaming Rooibus Chai. It is sweet, soothing, winter warmth. I haven’t tried it yet, but I love that you posted a recipe for it:
As for meals, we always start with fresh ingredients, but in the winter we usually cook up a dish and season with digestive spices like ginger, mustard, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, basil. That usually means soups, stews, or veggie sautés, garnished with raw greens chopped, pureed or steamed. I love a good curry and recently posted one of my favorites to my blog: http://food-alovestory.com/2014/01/17/fish-mollee/.

Photo Credit: Food:A Love Story
This "Detox Lentil Stew” was a hit recently at a large family gathering, and continues to be one of my favorites, http://food-alovestory.com/2013/01/14/1-day-winter-detox/

If I am having people over, I might serve something like a curried pumpkin ravioli in the winter, (http://food-alovestory.com/2012/11/27/curried-pumpkin-ravioli/ ), but if I’m on my own and wanting some TLC, I’m more likely to make these yam fries,

Photo Credit: Food:A Love Story
That is another thing about Ayurveda: Oka Satmya is a term suggesting that foods you were raised on may have a health value for you, even if they aren’t healthy for everybody. In fact, one Ayurvedic master teacher famously said, "The best food to eat is the food your mother makes you,” reminding us that food is an expression of love, and love is one of the most powerful medicines of all.

That is one of the many reasons I called my blog Food-A Love Story!

Finally, Katie, I’d like to thank you for your beautiful blog. You inspire us with your creativity. You keep us healthy with your recipes. You keep us warm with your caring heart. You are a gem. I am so glad we’ve connected.

Do you practice yoga or follow Ayurveda principles? If so, what impact have they made on your personal well-being? What do you think of Laura's recipes? I made the detox lentil stew and loved it -  it's also great for a  quick but satisfying weeknight dinner. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

12 January 2014

Whole Resolution: Mind, Consciousness, and Thought

Welcome back to the Whole Resolution wellness series where I interview inspiring women in the wellness field! They share knowledge and offer simple ways for improving our well-being in everyday life so that by the end of the month these combined perspectives will have painted a vision of whole wellness and equipped us with tools to use as we focus on the ‘whole self’ in 2014.

And a quick note to all of you reading and following along. This is a truly special series with very special guests. Your interest in and support of whole nourishment inspired me to create this series. So a big thank you to all you for following and helping to make this possible!

If you missed the first interview of the series, you will definitely want to go back to last week and read my interview with Milena, the woman behind Just the Goods, an all-natural Canadian-based skincare line.

And get ready because this week Tammy is helping us feel empowered to effectively manage our thoughts and emotions so that we can create the life we want!

Meet Tammy

Tammy is a British expat living in St. Gallen, Switzerland. She runs a private practice as a Three Principles practitioner (more on that later) where she offers coaching and consulting services in person and by phone/Skype for parents looking to overcome stress and anxiety in their relationship with their children. You can learn more about her business, Furey Coaching, on her website (http://fureycoaching.com/) or follow her blog (http://fureycoaching.com/blog).

Tammy and I met soon after I moved to St. Gallen, and we instantly bonded over lively conversation where we discovered common views in holistic living and natural foods. Through our friendship, I have seen first-hand that the principles Tammy uses to guide her coaching practice also guide her personal life. She has a calm, centered presence and brings emotional intelligence and compassionate, witty, expansive perspectives that have enriched so many of our conversations.

My mom was right (of course!), our minds are very powerful. And Tammy equips her clients, readers of her blog, and really anyone open enough to listen with an understanding and awareness of how we react to situations and tools for tweaking our reactions to obtain a more peaceful and stress-free environment with ourselves and our loves ones. I am beyond delighted Tammy is participating in this wellness series because whether you have children or not her stories, musings, and insights are invaluable for understanding the true source of our stress, fears, and anxieties and for learning how to achieve a healthier emotional state of being.

Please treat yourself today to some peaceful, uninterrupted “you” time where you can relax and enjoy reading my interview with Tammy.


You cite "Three Principles" that guide your work as a parenting coach: Mind, Consciousness, and Thought.

Can you briefly explain what these mean and how they apply in your work?

The 3 Principles are a way of understanding how we create the life we live, with all its stresses, strains, anxieties and even meltdowns! Moment by moment Thoughts go through our minds, it is a simple fact of living! Our Consciousness (others may call this “awareness” or simply that we are alive and know that we are alive) takes these thoughts and gives us a full experience of that Thought. “Mind” is our connection to the ‘greater mind’ of the world, to each other, and ultimately a greater power that many refer to as God.

One of my favorite analogies is this:
Imagine that you are sitting in a movie theatre. “Thoughts” are the reel of movie film. “Consciousness” is the movie projector that projects the movie onto the screen for us to enjoy. Or not enjoy! “Mind” is the power cable that plugs into the electricity to make everything work. Will our thinking create the experience of a comedy or a tragedy? Have you ever scared yourself with your own thinking? I bet that you have; and more times than you may be aware of.

How do these help improve the health and well-being of your clients’ lives?

If your Consciousness is creating all of your experiences based on your own Thinking, there are profound implications. It means that we are all living from the inside out, NOT the outside in. The outside world has no power to make us feel good or bad, happy, stressed or depressed. We are the creators of our worlds. Clients who catch even a glimpse of this understanding find that once they understand where their health and wellbeing comes from (themselves) they finally can experience the changes they have been chasing for so long.

Though you work specifically with parents, these Principles seem relevant to anyone who is working on their consciousness and thought patterns towards improving their emotional wellness and relationships.
How do you see emotional and relationship health contributing to whole wellness?

Yes, it is everything! The secret though is that we always have emotional health; we just think our way out of it. Once we see the role of thought, we are free.

I have clients who are experiencing difficult relationships, either with their partners, children or both! As long as they believe that their emotional health is the responsibly of another they will continue to experience the rollercoaster of emotional health. They will try to change the other person and take personally all comments and behaviors that the other person displays. Everyone is trapped in their thinking, and this includes our partners and children. They are innocently believing what they think and acting accordingly.

How do you make time during the week for your own wellness?  

Oh healer, heal thyself! I can only laugh at myself! When I get caught up in my thinking, I really start to believe that my circumstances are causing my stress, and I try to make changes to lower my stress levels. Then I wake up and realize it is my thinking (again!) that I have innocently believed that is causing my stress, not the outside world. When I realize this, I need less and less time to be attentive towards my own wellbeing, as this is my natural state.

Aspirations easily fall to the wayside as the realities of our home life and work life bring a steady stream of unforeseen challenges.

What tactics help a person improve emotional health, in spite of facing real challenges?

Remember that no-one has the power to “make” you feel bad. This goes for challenges as well. What most of my clients used to do, when seeing a challenge in their lives, is to create a story about what that challenge would mean for their lives. They would then believe this story, embellish it, and watch their emotional health go downhill.

With an understanding of the Principles, they can see that the stress is not coming from the challenge, but the story that they have created about the challenge. They don’t need to make a “better” story, or a more “positive” story, they see straight through the stories to the reality of life. It is then clients discover that their very nature IS emotional health; it’s simply that their thinking was clouding this.

How do you find that meals play a role in refreshing wellness during the day?

No amount of thinking is going to get me out of trouble when my blood sugar heads south and I try to bite everyone’s head off! For me, keeping an even keel with food contributes towards my well-being. In the past, I have used my thinking about my food to beat myself with (“oooh! That was a bad thing to eat!”), but now I try to let it go and look forward to the next delicious meal.

Is there a favorite meal or snack you find especially nourishing?

When I was a teenager, I was touring the Universities in England that interested me. There was a tiny little whole food restaurant I stumbled upon in an ancient Victoria shopping arcade. I was given a little wooden bowl and it was filled with brown rice, with cottage cheese on top, with a generous sprinkle of roasted chopped nuts. It has been my go-to comfort food ever since, and MUST be served in a tiny, gorgeous bowl. Now that is a thought that makes me hungry! Where’s my bowl?

How do you manage your stress and anxiety? Tammy explained how our thoughts affect our health and well-being…..did this resonate with you?  What do you think of this brown rice bowl? Leave your thoughts and questions for us in the comments below!

05 January 2014

Whole Resolution: Skin Care

Photo courtesy of zedge.net

The time has finally come to reveal the big surprise! Thank you for being patient. For the month of January I have organized a wellness series called Whole Resolution. Let me explain.

I named the blog “Whole Nourishment” to represent two concepts important to me. One is the nourishing effects of eating whole foods. The other is whole wellness: the idea that true nourishment is holistic in nature - an integrated, dynamic state of wellness in mind, body, and spirit.

I was recently talking to a friend about how our wellness is a life-long practice. Balance in a healthy mind, body, and spirit will inevitably ebb and flow. But giving attention to seek wellness as a way of being, a way of living and a state of mind can be constant. And what better aspiration for a new year than making time to focus on our whole self, that is, on whole wellness? If we take this as a foundation, attention to specific dimensions are an outgrowth rather than a “one shot” resolution to diet, join a gym, and so forth. We all know how often these well-intentioned panaceas fizzle out.

To give inspiration towards this goal, I am sharing my interviews with four women in the wellness field who I find incredibly inspiring. These women dedicate their careers to improving the well-being in their own lives and in others, each bringing a different but vital perspective to approaching wellness. They will share knowledge and offer simple ways for improving our well-being in everyday life. By the end of the month, these combined perspectives will have painted a vision of whole wellness and equipped us with tools to use as we focus on the ‘whole self’ in 2014.

Meet Milena
Our first guest is Milena, the remarkably passionate and talented woman behind Just the Goods, an all-natural Canadian-based skincare line. (Check out her website at http://shop.justthegoods.net/.) Milena’s concern for and thoughtfulness about the health of our bodies and the environment shines through in her commitment to create practical, approachable, and effective products that, as she puts it, “offers an alternative to reliance on petroleum and other unhealthy chemicals, wasteful packaging, and corporate ownership.”

In creating her skin care products, Milena seeks to build a bridge between natural and affordable. Her products are handmade to order by herself, use 100% vegetable and mineral-based ingredients, and are not tested on animals.  As a committed user of her products and having gained insight into how Milena prioritizes the health and well-being of her customers from e-mail conversations with her over the years, I can confidently say there is not another skin care line out there today that I would trust using more than Just the Goods. Milena has a wealth of knowledge about caring for our skin and she has generously agreed to share her thoughts with us. So I hope you can find a few minutes to sit back and enjoy reading Milena’s interview. 


You invent, test, and hand make your products to order. This is such a unique and personal touch! Let's talk more about your work and what it means to you.

What is behind the name "Just the Goods" and what does the transformation from hobby to a glowing company signify to you?

Thank you, Katie! The name Just the Goods seeks to highlight that my range of skin care products contain natural ingredients from the earth, never synthetics produced by petrochemical companies. The name Just the Goods also hopes to indicate that my choice of ingredients have long standing recognition in personal care – I don't reach for trendy extracts and other botanicals because I find that many of them are expensive simply due to their novelty factor. Just the Goods furthermore seeks to reflect that it is concerned with delivering quality products without the bells and whistles of fancy packaging or other branding gimmicks. Being both practical and consistent matters a great deal to what I do. 

How do you strive to not only produce and deliver, but to improve the health and well-being of your customers?

I am not a medical doctor, so I can only convey that which I've read and observed in my own life, and the lives of others as they've chosen to share their experiences with me. But with that being said, there is increasing evidence that petrochemical-based toxins are responsible for substantial harm to our bodies and ecosystem. By sharing information about this – particularly the excellent research compiled by organizations such as The Environmental Working Group and Women's Voices for the Earth in the US, and the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence in Canada – I hope to contribute to growing dialogue about the negative profit motives of large companies that want to maintain their right to continue selling harmful chemicals. I also hope to present positive alternatives beyond safe ingredients, since I'm also very concerned about how the beauty industry hurts us through the presentation of unrealistic standards. 

Now let’s talk about the natural ingredients behind your wonderful products.

Why is it important to use all natural, non-toxic skin care products?

In so far as our bodies are concerned, our skin is our largest organ and, although it does a great job of maintaining a barrier between what is inside versus outside of our bodies, it is permeable and anything we apply to the surface of our bodies is going to be absorbed and thus circulated elsewhere. We wouldn't dream of eating petroleum, or formaldehyde, or mercury, so why apply it to our skin?  

The second consideration is that anything we apply to our bodies also ends up returning to the earth. The most evident example of this is when shampoo, soap suds, or shaving cream rinses down the drain. Unfinished bottles of toxic products also end up in landfill sites, where it can leak into soil. So indeed, choosing healthier products isn't only something we can do for ourselves, but those around us, as well =-)

How does a natural, sustainable approach to skin-care contribute to our wellness?

As one element in a larger approach, healthier skin care options reduce our risk of exposure to toxic chemicals, and helps us reduce the amount of chemicals entering our water stream, landfills, etc. Having a healthier body and environmental surroundings means a better chance to living well because we can feel better, have better access to fresh water, and a better food supply. I describe this as only one piece in a larger approach because we still have to contend with problems such as the privatization of water and chemical farming. All the same, while some concerns are very large and require collective intervention by activists and governments, we can still control what we bring into our homes, so even small changes add up.

What are the first steps you suggest taking for anyone looking to adopt a more natural skin care routine?

For me, the first step was to stop buying anything with petroleum and/or mineral oil in it. But, as I began to educate myself, I learned that ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate, cocamide DEA, parabens, and the vague term “fragrance” or “parfum” were also harmful. The Cosmetics Database – a resource compiled and maintained by Environmental Working Group (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/) – continues to be a fantastic place for me to learn about what is safe, and what isn't, in skin care. I recommended it to everyone! The scientific naming of ingredients (i.e. the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients aka “INCI”) can sometimes make avoiding harmful chemicals seem complicated, but this database allows you to enter any ingredient and learn all about based on a ranking scale from 0 – 10, where 0 – 2 is considered safe.

All Just the Goods products have achieved a ranking of 0 – 2. Upon using the database, it is troubling to discover how many self-proclaimed natural brands are either not signers of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, or worse, making products in the 3 – 10 range and calling them “natural”.

Finally, a few words about wellness in your own life.

What is the most important part of your skin care routine that you never short change?

I have oily/combination skin that has difficulty exfoliating naturally, so I'm prone to plugged/impacted sebaceous glands that turn into hard red and swelling bumps on my face, especially in my t-zone. To prevent them from appearing, I exfoliate daily with my moisturizing face wash for oily/combination skin and I tone twice a day – at night after washing, and in the morning before rinsing. I won't deny that there are times I've come home so late that I just fell into bed without washing my face, and I've definitely paid the price for this, ha! And so, even if I'm really, really tried, I make sure I put that extra few minutes into going to bed with a fresh, clean face so my skin can breathe properly while I sleep =-)

How do you make time during the week for your own wellness?

This is a great question, as it is something I'm still learning how to do. For as long as I can remember, I've always juggled far too many responsibilities at once. This type of over-activity (which I can now admit is actually some variety of workaholism), became normalized in university. For example, for almost one year I worked full-time hours in a  high responsibility administrative position while beginning a Masters degree on a part-time basis, and while working on self-directed projects to kick start my career in the arts, *and* while maintaining an array of volunteer positions with various committees... and it never occurred to me that it was too much. This behaviour only grew worse as a I started working in my [original] field on a contract-basis – keeping irons in the fire was always necessary to ensure a steady stream of activity and thus income. Even this time last year I was juggling 4 large projects in two completely disconnected areas and the negative consequences on my body/health were apparent, but I ignored them, only making things worse. However, there is good news! As of this past September, I've decided to make a huge change and direct all of my work energy toward Just the Goods, hopefully leaving me better available for volunteering in my community... which I care about deeply and want to keep doing =-)

So, the short answer to that question is that I'm learning to be more selective about my projects and prioritize rest because it is essential to good health and the only way to do a better job at the things that matter most.

Is there a favorite meal or snack that you find especially nourishing for your body and skin?

I won't deny that I love chocolate, which has antioxidants that can actually be great for skin if we're talking about high quality cacao without processed/refined sugars, or added oils. However, since that's a bit too obvious, I'm happy to share another favourite...

I work with accuracy to the millilitre and/or gram in the lab, but in the kitchen I like to improvise. Nothing ever comes out the same twice, and I'm okay with that ;-) A  combination of items I enjoy in particular is pink grapefruit, cucumber, and cilantro.  Sometimes I toss those items into my food processor to make a chunky raw compote, but its also yummy as a savoury salsa with a bit of lime juice, pink Himalayan salt and freshly cracked, or well blended with a bit of agave syrup then frozen to make a crunchy granita. 

I took the liberty of making Milena's grapefruit salsa, and it was delicious! I cut the pieces in chunks (for the sake of the photo) but she suggests throwing it in the food processor and making it into a chunky compote. Yum!
Grapefruit contains numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Vitamin C, antioxidants, and bioflavanoids stimulate the production of collagen to help skin maintain elasticity and smoothness while potassium and retinol (from beta carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A) helps to renew damaged skin. Potassium also helps to manage dry skin from the inside out and can contribute to reduced hair loss. Vitamin C, which is more concentrated in grapefruit than any other type of citrus, also helps to boost immunity and strengthen connective tissue, two additional factors essential to the growth of healthy, shiny hair.  In skin care products, grapefruit can reduce inflammation and help to prevent acne.

Cucumber is a great source of potassium which, as mentioned above, supports healthy skin and hair. Their vitamin C content also helps boost collagen and elastin, as does the presence of lutein and zeaxanthin.  Ascorbic acid and caffeic acid can reduce water retention, and thus puffiness (i.e. the famous cucumber on eyelids trick), but this is also helpful for treating sunburn and windburn. Cucumber is furthermore said to help fade scars, but I've not noticed this personally.

Cilantro contains various nutrients that offer anti-septic and anti-fungal benefits, making it useful to soothe dermatitis/eczema. It also helpful to those with oily skin and can help keep skin clear of blackheads. It contains a fair amount of Vitamin A, which maintains healthy mucus membranes and skin, and vitamin c, which as described earlier helps skin maintain elasticity and softness. Most interestingly, due to high levels of chlorophyll, it is a natural deodorant that helps flush toxins from the liver, kidneys and digestive tract.

Thanks so much for these questions! I truly appreciate your interest in Just the Goods and I'm honoured to be a featured guest on your fantastic blog!! Thank you =-)

To get the week and new year off to a healthy and balanced start I am sharing Milena's delicious grapefruit compote on Mark's blog, Cookin' With Luv, for his Made With Love Monday series.  I have provided suggested proportions from Milena's instructions below.

Grapefruit-Cucumber Compote
Serves 2-3

Notes: Directions below are for a chunky compote. Milena says it can also be made into a wonderful savoury salsa with a bit of lime juice added, or well blended with a bit of agave syrup, then frozen to make a crunchy granita.

2 pink grapefruits, sectioned
1/2 long English cucumber
1/2 bunch cilantro, or to taste
Pink Himalayan salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Add grapefruit, cucumber sections, and cilantro to a food processor and pulse into a chunky compote. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Made with Love Mondays,
hosted by Javelin Warrior