simple pleasure of the week: the sky!

We recently wrote about stargazing as a simple pleasure but don't want to forget about the sky in general. How gorgeous is the sky?

At sunrise, at sunset, blue sky with white puffy clouds, the sky peeking through an umbrella of leaves

from your airplane window flying high above the clouds, looking down from above.

It's gorgeous. It's free. The sky is always there, during the day or during the night, to remind us how small and insignificant we are, and how small and insignificant 99% of our worries are in relation to the universe. 

I love the sky behind an ocean, the sunset on a warm humid night, and especially while on vacation, your work and your worries, temporarily left at home.

Just as we wrote about stargazing with a loved one, I now write about gazing at clouds while you lay upon grass or sand, your body warmed by the sun. This one is a simple pleasure that is always there, you just have to look up with mindfulness, with attention, with intention of appreciating that thing above us. 

my "no-diet" diet

As a yoga teacher and Health Educator I am regularly asked by my students what kind of diet I follow. I figure since it is asked in those settings, perhaps it is questioned by our readers as well. It is actually a more complicated question for me to answer. The yogic diet (or sattvic diet) suggests you eat a vegetarian diet full of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains light in nature that help clear the mind. They suggest you avoid meat, coffee, refined sugar, or excessively spicy, salty, or sour foods. More on this diet can be found here at Yoga Journal.

While I actually do follow this diet for the most part, I make daily exceptions. For one, I love a cup of coffee in the morning and have no plans to take this out of the morning ritual. My diet most closely resembles a pescetarian diet, where I do not eat meat but I do eat fish. With that being said I don't label myself as anything; vegetarian, pescetarian, vegan, gluten free, paleo, etc. My diet usually consists of vegetarian or vegan meals, but I do throw seafood into the mix once in a while. Sushi is my everything. With that in mind, I take ahimsa, the sanskrit word of non-violence and a large part of yogic philosophy, always into consideration. I try to do the least amount of harm to the environment and animals through my diet. I pay close attention to where my food comes from. I use the Monterey Bay Aquarium's seafood watch program to choose the best seafood choices. I buy most of my vegetables and fruit from JP Organics, a local CSA program, and my eggs from a local woman with a small farm. 

I eat what feels good to my body. I listen to my cravings, what I need, and have just that. I believe in all things in moderation and balance, meaning if I want the dessert I will have the dessert and then in turn choose a healthier, less sugar filled meal next time I eat. And above all, I do not go on diets! I did this once, it was the Atkins diet, about 10 years ago. While I did lose weight, it was not sustainable or satisfying. As soon as I went back to my normal eating patterns, the weight came back and then some. My metabolism had slowed and I ate substantially more of the foods I had been denying myself. It was a lesson I thankfully only had to learn once to leave a lasting impression. Besides, food is such an enjoyable part of life I don't want to miss out on through restrictions.

I recently read the book, French Women Don't Get Fat, which made me think of writing this post. It is a fabulous book (recommended to me by Ashley), not about dieting, but about living a healthier lifestyle in order to keep the body at an equilibrium and avoid putting on those extra pounds. Much of what the author discussed was similar to my viewpoint, and what I described above. She also brought up some great practices I need to incorporate more into my day to day, like drinking more water and walking more. A highly recommended read.

 

simple pleasure of the week: creating with nature

Remember when we were kids and used to play with mud, rocks, shells, sand, and branches? Remember when we built sandcastles, and drew on the concrete with chalk, built forts and made mud pies? What happened? There are so many ways to be creative and there's something extra special about using nature to create. Creating with nature reminds us to see the world in another way; that rocks can also be stacks of art, driftwood can create a symbol of peace or a make-believe house, dried seaweed becomes a grass skirt, and sand can transform into a king's castle. 

Next time you are out on a hike, or at the beach, look around at all of the natural mediums laying around, and create something just for the simple pleasure of doing it, or bring some objects home to use in a future art project. I'm planning on gathering some driftwood, leaves, and bird feathers for some of my future art therapy groups.

our favorite natural non-makeup beauty products

About a month ago we discussed the harmful effects of the toxins found in our favorite beauty and cleaning products. We put together a list of our favorite all natural makeup products. Today we are sharing our favorite non-makeup beauty items. These are all tried and true favorites. We always love hearing about your favorite all natural products. If you know of something not mentioned, please share!

Sarah's picks:

  • John Master's BARE Shampoo and Conditioner. I have tried so so many all natural shampoo and conditioners and this is my all time favorite. The conditioner leaves my hair so shiny and tangle free. What I enjoy doing is adding about 20 drops of tea tree oil to the shampoo and shaking it up to help prevent a dry or itchy scalp. 
  • Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap. My husband and I have been using this as body wash for years. We always make sure to bring some on trips as well, it really is that good. All natural, doesn't dry out your skin, a little goes a very long way, and in a worse case scenario I can use it as shampoo (it does dry out the hair a bit but gets the job done). Our favorite smell is peppermint, it wakes up the senses.
  • Jason Toothpaste. This is just really good toothpaste. I forget that it is all natural, because it works as well as anything I've used before. 
  • Andalou Naturals Hair Spray Age Defying. My favorite hair spray. Hands down. It adds lots of volume and hold without feeling crunchy. Plus it smells great. I purchase this at Whole Foods. 
  • 100% Pure Hydrating Hand Wash. Love this hand wash. We have one in the kitchen as well as in the bathrooms. Completely natural yet leaves my hands feeling super clean and not dried out at all. And a plus is how great they smell.
  • My DIY hair serum. I have posted quite a few DIYs on the blog that I use regularly but this one is my favorite. I use it every time I've washed my hair, after getting out of the shower. It smells incredible and leaves my hair so soft and manageable. A tiny bit goes a very long way so if you try this, keep that in mind!

Ashley's picks:

  • Jane Iredale Magic Mitt. A knitted micro-fiber cleansing cloth that removes makeup using only water. This really is like magic. No more makeup remover or extra products, I just gently massage the cloth on my skin and it removes all makeup.
  •  Dessert Essence Tea Tree Oil Deodorant. Ugh for some reason I've developed a sensitivity to many of the natural deodorants I used to love. This one doesn't give me a rash, and works as well as any other natural deodorant I've tried. 
  • Nature's Gate Creme de Mint Toothpaste. The hubby and I have been using this toothpaste for a couple of years and continually repurchase time after time. 
  • 100% Pure Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream. This stuff smells divine, de-puffs and moisturizes the under eye are. The tube also lasts a long time! Is there anything else you want in an under eye cream? Nope.
  • Shea Moisture Baby Healing Lotion. I found this stuff in the baby section and it's so good. Made with chamomile and argan oil, this lotion is thick and balmy and works really well for dry skin. It's super clean and smells lovely as well. 
  • The Honest Company Wipes. Another find from the baby section. I have a pack of these wipes in the glove compartment of my car, and one in my home for wiping up anything that needs wiping, cleaning my face, freshening smelly armpits (because natural deodorant sometimes needs freshening up). These are the best, and the best part is that I don't have to worry about harmful chemicals with these. Seriously, you need these in your life. 
  • Dr. Bronner's Organic Lip Balm. I love this lip balm. The 'Peppermint' and 'Naked' scents are my favorites. This is a really good, hydrating, soft formula that I've been using for a couple years now. I purchase mine from Whole Foods. 

All of these products are used daily by us, and we hope you love them as much as we do. Switching over to natural products doesn't have to be painful. An easy way to make the transition is to simply wait until you run out of something and then replace it by purchasing a natural version. Reference this list next time you are in need of a body care item. Hope it's helpful : )

simple pleasure of the week: stargazing

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When was the last time you stepped outside and just looked up into the sky? On a clear night, spending some time just laying on the ground looking up at the stars and identifying planets can be such an enjoyable, relaxing activity. No money is spent and so much can be gained. It can be a time to bond with a loved one, get more in touch with nature, become more mindful of our place on this planet, and learn a little something about the solar system. There are some fabulous apps out there too to help identify stars and planets. A favorite of ours is Sky Guide

Happy weekend!

I think it was the Buddha who said that all of our suffering derives from our attachments (e.g. to things, relationships, past identities, or abilities). How interesting to think that being deeply involved is separate from being attached, and that we can be both deeply involved in connecting with people and places, while remaining unattached. I think Ram Dass is simply referring to mindfulness when he urges us to be less attached, meaning that we should try to accept things as they are rather than fighting them. We often find ourselves in situation which aren't ideal, and our attachments to our expectations, to comfort, to what we wished the situation could be, leads to more suffering than if we could simply accept the things we cannot change. This quote about life is a bit like parents loving their children unconditionally, and allowing them to grow and change according to their truth, without attaching to who they used to be, or the parents' expectation of what they should become. This we can do in life; connecting, reflecting, appreciating, and loving deeply, while working to stay unattached to our own expectations of what life should be, accepting the things we cannot change, and allowing those we love to live freely as well. Happy Weekend : )

dragon fruit smoothie bowl

I've been obsessed with smoothies lately, either in a bowl or a glass.  Maybe it is the seasons changing and the warmer months approaching, but every morning I wake up craving one. These bowls wake up the senses. Between the bright pink color, the refreshing coldness as it goes down, and the sweet taste, just so enjoyable! This is a simple, healthy recipe full of fiber, protein, and good fats. Plus, it is vegan and gluten free. It will leave you feeling full and satisfied for hours. Feel free to mix it up too, try different toppings or switch out the fruit.

This recipe yields 1 serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 3 oz dragon fruit (pitaya), frozen
  • 2 oz cranberries, frozen
  • 1 cup almond milk (or dairy free milk of your choice)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 tsp maca powder (optional)
  • Coconut flakes, for topping
  • Granola, for topping. If you want to make your own, try our recipe.
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds, for topping*

Instructions:

  • Blend all ingredients. I use either a Vitamix or Magic Bullet, depending on how much I am making and which ingredients I throw in there. The Magic Bullet usually does the job just fine.
  • Add almond milk as needed until you get the right consistency.
  • Top with the coconut flakes, granola, and some of the hemp seeds.

*slivered almonds, fresh fruit, pumpkin, or sunflower seeds would be great alternatives to go on top.

simple pleasure of the week: a joyful pet

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Gosh is there anything better than watching a dog run along the beach full of pure joy, or jumping around to greet you as you arrive home? The jury is still out, but I'm pretty sure the answer is "nope". I always love walking down to our local beach to watch the dogs run around wildly and freely, and I'm pretty sure their joy is contagious because I've said time and time again, it's hard to be sad or upset when you are around a joyful pup. Pets remind you to be in the moment because that is how they live their lives. I have a friend who is father to two cats and if the 1,000 snapchats I've received of his cats are any indication of how much joy they bring him, I'd say those kitties are pretty much his favorite thing ever. You don't have to have a pet to enjoy this simple pleasure, as you can head down to your local dog park, beach, or visit an animal shelter to walk the dogs, or pet the cats as a volunteer. 

life resides in the grey, and everyone's path is unique

An interesting journey for me has been the broadening of my perspective on what is right and what is wrong in life. There really is no right or wrong. Yes, of course we have some basic rules to guide our lives (e.g. do no harm, thou shalt not kill, honesty, integrity, etc.), but hardly anything, if anything, is all right or all wrong. There are pros and cons to everything, and whether something is right or wrong typically depends on how those pros and cons interact with our own personal values. I am always wary when I hear someone claim their way is the "right way" to do something, eat, live life, raise children, etc. Everyone is different and unique, so it seems impossible to find anything that's right for all people under the sun. 

In retrospect, the way I grew up contradicted the idea that everything resides in a grey area. I learned there was right behavior and wrong behavior, and wrong behavior equals punishment. In school, I learned there was one right answer on a test, other answers equaled a grade reduction. So, naturally, learning that there are really no rights or wrongs was a revelation for me, and one topic of discussion I always bring up with my clients. I can't tell someone what decision is right for them, or how they should live their life, because what works for me may not work for them. We all carry with us our own history, values, personality, hopes, and dreams. Life choices must take all these aspects of ourselves into account. Hardly are our options ideal, and we are often faced with the burden to choose the better of two imperfect options. Always, our behaviors (even the bad ones) served us in some way, otherwise we would have never begun them. Often, our bad habits have ceased to serve us, and the cons outweigh the pros, we just fail to realize this. 

The point is,  nothing is all right or all wrong, all pro or all con. There are always pros and cons to everything, every behavior, every relationship, every situation, every choice. Often, when faced with a difficult choice, I make a mental or sometimes physical list of the pros and cons for each choice, and rank pros/cons according to my own values. This reflection allows me to decide if I need to change something, guides me when faced with a tough decision, and allows me to realize when my habits have ceased to serve and begun to hinder me. Black and white thinking has rarely served me in life, and when I take time to reflect on the pros and cons, I am reminded that life resides in the grey, and only  I can determine my own path.