Monday, December 15, 2014

5 Holiday Party Survival Tips That Don't Involve Booze

Holiday parties are awesome. (If catching up with friends over a smorgasbord of cookies is wrong, then I don't wanna be right.) Still, big social situations can be awkward at times. Reaching for a drink as social lubricant can become almost a reflex. Unfortunately, it's not the healthiest choice and it's pretty sad to have to rely on alcohol to talk to people. Plus, I don't know about you, but alcohol has made me say some pretty strange things and made me make out with even stranger people. Not good party etiquette.

I'm actually kinda shy by nature so when I stopped drinking I totally had to teach myself to be outgoing without booze. Here are some tips and tricks I use to make new friends.

If you only do one thing, do this. Who doesn't want to get to know a person who is smiling? Happy people are just more attractive/compelling. If you don't feel like smiling, smile anyway. Studies show that smiling can actually make you happier. Also, sharing a smile with someone is an easy way to help him or her feel happier.

Be curious.
Ask people high mileage questions about themselves. High mileage questions are questions that can't be answered with "Yes", "No," or any other single word. A good, and obvious, opening one is "How do you know [the host]?" But don't stop there. When you're a little deeper into conversation try asking: "What are you looking forward to in 2015?"

I've noticed that people really appreciate being listened to. (It's a rare treat!). Asking questions beyond the standard "What do you do?" (which sometimes sounds like "How good are you?" and "Are you worth talking to?") is a great way to make a meaningful connection with someone. It also creates the opportunity to learn something. There are lots of great HMQ in this book, which is technically for coaches, but I sprinkle these in conversation when I'm not coaching too.

Monday, December 8, 2014

4 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress as a Family with Grokker

The holiday season is fast approaching! There are so many things I love about the holidays; relaxing, spending time with loved ones, and eating foods I've eaten since I was a kid. But one inevitable part of the holidays that I don’t like? The stress! To help alleviate holiday stress, I came up with a few ideas to do with my family to help manage holiday stress and balance our bodies and minds.

(This is a guest post by Mark Luskus, courtesy of Grokker, a website offering 1000s of premium yoga, meditation, fitness, and cooking video classes taught by experts along with a community of people passionate about wellness. More info about Grokker, including a special offer, in the footer of this post.)

It's so important to take time with your family to just play! Whether you're building a snowman or playing a board game, the act of playing will help you manage holiday stress.

Carve time out this holiday season for exercise.
It's important to get out of the house and be active as exercise is one of the most powerful ways to reduce stress. Remember to breathe in fresh air and get your heartbeat up – activities with the family can be anything that get you moving! A walk outside, a family bike ride, or even a low-intensity workout like this flexibility and agility workout from Grokker Expert Angelo Dela Cruz.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Kale Coconut Chocolate Chip Courage Cookies Recipe (Vegan + Gluten-Free)

I over did it with kale on Thanksgiving. Our T-Day menu included kale fritatta for brunch and a kale salad for dinner.  During the bestover weekend that followed, I probably ate kale at least 8 times.

Days later, looking at the sad remains of a fresh bunch of kale from our farmer's market, I was certain that there was nothing I'd like to eat less than that kale. However, I felt a little guilty about the prospect of letting it waste.

Then I remembered Sarah invited me to participate in The Seasonal Diet's online holiday cookie exchange, another thing I was feeling guilty about because I really wanted to do it but I was so afraid that my cookie recipe would be terrible. (I've never created a cookie recipe before. I also tend to burn cookies.) I feared I would somehow single-handedly destroy my friends' business and ruin my reputation.

After hearing myself out, I reasoned that that is totally improbable. I decided to confront my fears and get over feeling guilty by not continuing the things I was feeling guilty about-- wasting food and being a flake.

And thus the Kale Chocolate Chip Courage Cookie was born! This cookie is delicious for all the reasons sneaking kale into a chocolate smoothie is delicious. (After conceiving the recipe, I checked with Fifty Shades of Kale cookbook to see if kale and chocolate cookies was a real thing and sure enough it was in there. I think my cookie recipe is better, but it's nice to know this kind of treat is tasty to people besides myself and could make it into a published book.)

My husband, who doesn't like weird food combos said, "These are pretty good. You don't really taste the kale." Then continued stuffing his face. That means they're a winner!

These cookies are vegan and gluten-free. They're also free of processed sugar.

Read on for the recipe. I hope you'll find the courage to make these unexpected treats.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Most Common Toxic Chemicals in Personal Care and Cosmetic Products

Ever flip around a bottle of shampoo to read the ingredients? Usually it's just a jumble of words I can't even begin to imagine how to pronounce. Sometimes these hard to pronounce words are just the botanical name for something plant-based or the scientific name for something otherwise totally natural and safe.

Oftentimes these weird words are the names of some dangerous chemicals. Synthetic chemicals and some natural metals linked to cancers, reproductive illness, developmental difficulties, and other serious health issues are ingredients featured in the personal care and cosmetics products that line the shelves of drug stores, upscale department stores, and boutiques alike.

Hopefully, use of harmful chemicals in personal care and other household products will eventually be more regulated. Meanwhile, it's a good idea to check and see if the products you and your loved ones use are safe. I know it's overwhelming, especially because we live in a time when everything seems to give you cancer. Still, it's so important to be aware and do your best to avoid synthetic chemicals when possible.

Here's a list of 17 toxic chemicals to avoid in your personal care products.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How to Make Raw Energy Bars in a Vitamix

Looking for a healthier snack? These nutrient-dense bars are sweet but free of processed sugar. They’re also packed with plant-based protein, healthy fats (Omega 3 & 6), fiber, and antioxidants. Have a few to get an energy boost without a crash.*

DIY Raw Vegan Energy Balls or Bars Recipe
Tip of the hat to the talented Tommy Nicholas of Raw Blend on YouTube. I basically followed his recipe. Watch his video here. This recipe makes about two dozen bite-sized bars or balls.

You'll need:
  • 1 cup of your favorite nuts (I used cashews.)
  • 1 cup of your favorite dried fruit (I used raisins, which actually aren't my favorite but they are what I had in the house and were totally yummy in this recipe!)
  • ¼ cup flax seed meal
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoon raw cacao
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1 teaspoon powdered greens
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • about ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut for garnish

Monday, November 10, 2014

How to Make Natural & Vegan Lip Balm

Making natural lip balm is easy, economical, and fun! Here's a basic lip balm recipe (with a beeswax-free vegan adaptation) along with helpful tips for beginners and info on where to buy tubes and other supplies online.

Basic Lip Balm Recipe with Optional Vegan Adaptation
This recipe makes 9-10 tubes of lip balm. I've included info about how many parts of each ingredient to use so that you can easily halve or double the recipe.

You'll need:
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut, sunflower, olive, castor, almond &/or other carrier/liquid oil (3 parts)
  • 1 Tablespoon shea, cocoa, &/or mango butter/ solid oils (1 part)
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon grated beeswax (1 part beeswax)
  • To veganize, substitute beeswax for half as much plant-based wax, so use 1 Tablespoon candelilla wax or carnauba wax  (½ part vegan wax)
  • 10 to 20 drops of any combo essential oils (about 3 to 5 drops of eo per tablespoon of ingredients) 
  • 3 or 4 drops of Vitamin E oil, works as a preservative (optional, but recommended)
  • stovetop access, small pot, glass measuring cup, measuring spoons, mason jar lid or double boilersilicone spoon or spatula, and pot holder
  • empty lip balm tubes or small balm tins

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

20+ Yummy & Healthy Oatmeal Toppings

Oatmeal doesn't have to be boring! It doesn't have to be loaded with sugar or butter to make it palatable either.

Start with hearty steel cut oats (or gluten-free steel cut oats). They're firm and have a nice mouth feel. Because they are less processed, steel cut oats have a lower glycemic index than rolled oats. This means they take longer for your body to break down-- keeping you fuller longer-- and causing a slighter sugar spike than rolled oats, leading to less chance that you'll be reaching for a snack before lunch.

Both old fashioned rolled oat and steel cut oats are leaps and bounds better for you than instant oatmeal. And don't even get me started on that sugary crap in the paper packets. Yuck! You don't need that. You can make truly fancy oatmeal yourself with real nutrient dense ingredients.

Here are my favorite mix-ins for yummy oatmeal packed with plant-based protein, satisfying healthy fats, and filling fiber:

Warming spices like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg are perfect for a cold season breakfast. Sprinkle some in your oatmeal. These spices curb sugar cravings because they are sweet and because they enhance the sweetness of the natural sugars present in foods.

I find sprinkling a little sea salt on my cereal helps to bring out the sweetness of whatever sweet things are in there too.

Do you like chocolate? How about adding some cocoa powder (baking kind, not hot chocolate mix) or raw cacao for sugar-free chocolately goodness? Or how about stirring a few semi-sweet chocolate chips to your bowl of warm oatmeal? Yeah!


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