Sunday, 20 January 2013

Week Three Intentions: Rest Easy

I always think it's funny when people say they need to be more self-disciplined, because I have a problem on the opposite end of the spectrum. As mentioned last week, learning to chill out is kind of my continuous education. I'm an uptight Seattleite and I'm stressed out because I have SO MUCH I WANT TO DO -- there's just not enough time in the day. And I want all those things I do to be amazing. What a burden.

This week my goal was to push into something very against my grain: Let go and enjoy. But shouldn't I be working harder? Shouldn't I be more productive? What about my dairy intake?! Aghhhh...

The reality is that I'm a very ambitious person with a lot I want to accomplish. But the counter-intuitive thing is that I can't accomplish much if I'm stressed out, over-stretched, and paralyzed by everything I have to do. The best, healthiest thing to do is to learn how to prioritize and do what's most important (and what has the biggest impact), to get my ducks all in a row, and then let go. Enjoy down time. Do things just for the pure enjoyment. So crazy.

This week I:
  • carried on with my morning breathing exercise on the way into work each day
  • when I felt stressed at work, took a quick time out and breathed (it works, I swear)
  • did yoga twice
  • got really into oatmeal (so good with cinnamon and rice milk in winter!)
  • implemented some sweet productivity methods
I'm reading two great books about stress-free productivity right now. Both essentially say that you've got to find a system that works, and then maintain it. Then once you've "closed the loop" on a task or project, your mind is free to rest when the time comes. I'm listening to Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen on audiobook in the morning (after breathing time) and also reading What To Do When There's Too Much To Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes A Day by Laura Stack. Both are very worthwhile. 

I take solace in "rest easy" because it doesn't mean "chill out and be irresponsible." It encompasses a preparedness that allows rest and the wisdom to know that the weight of the world does not sit on me. 

This coming week I'm going to continue to focus on developing stress-free productivity skills and further look into stress management techniques. You'd think I'm super stressed, wouldn't you? I'm actually not right now, but I know that in general I am kind of tense person. And I want to take this down time to put good practices into place so that when things do get busy, I'm cool, calm, and collected.

Do you have any good stress management techniques I should try out? I'm all ears. 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Week Two Intentions: Clear Out, Chill Out

This past week I set my intention -- I intended to declutter. The result was that I decluttered and then some. Due to packing my belongings and hauling them across both Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the last decade, I don't own a ton of stuff. Also, I have a husband who loves throwing things out, so my house is tidy most of the time thanks to his pacesetting. But due to personal (though minor) hoarding tendencies, I will always be a naturalized minimalist. A little bit of clutter somehow comforts me, but I still appreciate a clean home. I just don't get a kick out of being the one to do it like some people seem to.

Like running, I don't enjoy decluttering, but I like the feeling after it's done. This week I wanted to do a bit of new year's cleaning to start off on the right foot and maybe even motivate me to carry on like this. Here was my plan:
  • Monday: attack the desk and living room table (aka what I actually use for a desk)
  • Tuesday: nothing as my friend was in town from the UK! hooray!
  • Wednesday: go through the closet and make a pile of anything I don't love
  • Thursday: clear out my beauty drawer
  • Friday: drawers in dresser and bedside table
  • Saturday: all my papers (!)
I also wanted to start the practice (however unrelated to clutter) of morning breathing exercises, since stress management is an overarching theme I'm always working on. So for the first ten minutes of my commute, instead of turning on any radio or audio book, I cranked up the ol' respiratory system. I breathed in through my nose for about five seconds, then out through my nose for the same amount of time. It sounds so simple, but it's really amazing what can happen when you get a little oxygen flowing through your body. I honestly bounced into work.

(Get a load of my morning green juice below.)

I was successful in a good hearty clear out, that's for sure. I took in some beauty products to work to give away and filled two bags with clothes I no longer love. And I did get the living room surfaces nice and cleared. But as I was clearing out I realized that the breathing thing was just as important to me, if not more.

I can be pretty militant when it comes to time management and productivity and self-improvement. Self-discipline comes really easy to me. Chilling out and learning how to deal with stress is not so innate. Setting aside breathing time in the morning helps me in my ongoing process of learning to let go of trying to make sure everything in my life is on time and on point, and trust that what needs to happen, will. Letting go and taking action will always be in tension with one another, but I'm an activist in no danger of sloth, so this is the direction I need to lean into for the sake of sanity.

The next few weeks (months, years?!) I want to continue to focus on how to be productive and goal-driven and a contributing member of society, without being stressed out. I hate stress, but also slip into it easily. I think I'll keep up the morning breathing, and this next week I'm going to focus on further de-stressing through some new time and project management technique. Woo hoo. It's going to be a wild one for sure. 

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A Year of Intentions: Week One

Oh yes, the new year is here and in full effect. In Seattle we started 2013 with three consecutive days of blue skies, which should satisfy us for a few months. With such an auspicious start I'm hoping this is going to be a good year.

With the turn from December to January comes resolutions! Now, I know there are a lot of new years resolutions haters out there. Not me. As a continual improvement and goal-setting junkie, this time of year is an endorphin high.

Perhaps I'm riding that high right now, but I'm thinking about waking this blog up to chronicle (at least for myself) my goal-setting (and achieving!) progress. This November I read Happier and Home and Making Ideas Happen simultaneously, and that combo was deadly from a goal-setting perspective.

In Happier at Home, type-A former lawyer Gretchen Rubin walks us through her school year of setting intentions to improve her home life. It wasn't in shambles, but there's always room for improvement, isn't there? I was inspired by her unapologetic, meticulous approach to personal transformation, and the way she chose a focus area for each month, with tangible goals to help her improve on that theme.

In Making Ideas Happen, author Scott Belsky, outlines a project management approach to life, work, and personal organization. He's got this wild folder system that I snapped right up. Basically, each area of your life warrants it's own project folder, broken down into an action list, a backburner ideas list, and references (which are kept inside). I immediately fused his concepts with the Happier at Home ones, jotted down my project ideas, and busted out the manilla envelopes to get at it.

I don't have a full outline for the year, but I have decided that my theme for January is reset. And the first week my focus is health.

Last year I did a hard-core month of health resetting (I highlighted my top tips here). January is usually a great time to to regain control of my body and start the year as I mean to go on. This whole month I'm going off dairy (going partial vegan last year was one of the best things I've ever done for my health), sugar, alcohol, and processed food, and getting out of some lazy food and coffee habits. For this past week I also decided to go on gentle cleanse to kick start things.

This week my health intentions included the following:

  • January 1: no coffee, chocolate (!), sugar, dairy, etc. 
  • January 2 - 4: same as above, plus... 
    • make homemade lemon, ginger, and cayenne pepper tea to drink on the way to work (also to keep hands warm in the mason jar)
    • start the day with a fresh-squeezed green juice at PCC, spend some time focusing my mind for the day, and do 15 minutes of writing
    • sip warm water throughout the day (apparently good for cleansing), sometimes I mix things up by adding apple cider vinegar (which my colleague informed me tastes horrific, but I like)
    • mid-morning snack is a glowing green smoothie
    • afternoon pick me up is the almond berry energy smoothie (based on this recipe)
    • teeccino with cinnamon and almond milk (best & only coffee substitute)
    • Firefly Kitchens Ruby Red Sauerkraut for a snack (great for digestion thanks to all those probiotics)
    • clean, plant-based dinner
As I sip my first coffee of the year I am happy to conclude success on this cleanse! Though my brain was a bit fuzzy on Wednesday going back to work -- due to the four day weekend and caffeine withdrawals -- I pushed through. I am a healthy eater overall, but even I can get lazy, start drinking more coffee than I need, bingeing on frozen chocolate chips in the evenings when I'm stressed, or just eating the same thing over and over again (roasted cauliflower got plenty of air time on my dinner table in 2012). Doing this "gentle cleanse"was a great reminder of what is possible with my health. 

Even though I definitely have extremist tendencies with goal-setting and food (and so forth), I'm still all about scheduling in splurges. Like, tonight Dan and I going out to dinner and I fully intend not to order kale juice or anything with nutritional yeast or raw cashew nut butter. After this week I'm back on the coffee (because it makes my life better), and I cannot wait to get my mitts on a bar of chocolate as a weekend treat. The aim is to not let these treats become the norm. 

So, well done week one. I'm still deciding what my focus will be for next week (so many options, I'm stressing out!). But expect a full report at the end of next week. 

Are you setting any intentions for the year? 

Sunday, 2 September 2012


Quiet please. My blog is taking a bit of a nap.

A "nap" might be an understatement for a six-month hiatus, but he was really tired. I mean, he's been going for it internationally since 2007.

Anyway, I'm not sure what's going to happen with this blog, but I feel good (great) about leaving it dormant for a wee bit longer.

If you've stumbled here, feel free to poke around some of my favorite posts from the past:
Or, head on over to The Chalkboard to see some more of my recent writing.

When this little guy wakes up, I'll be sure to let you know.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

It's early...

I've been waking up at 5.30 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays these past few weeks. It is by choice, though I may not have been of sound mind when choosing that choice. A pre-dawn boot-camp Groupon sounded positively invigorating when I signed up in January. And it is... once I can get out of bed and into the dark, wet Seattle mornings to the Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Association building.

When I wake up I tell myself, "Don't think, Alisha." Auto-pilot is the best way to get myself there.

After totally working the squats for an hour I do feel awesome, as anticipated. I signed up for this punishment not only for the physical benefits, but also just to remind myself that, not only can I wake up at 5.30 am to work-out, I am capable of quite a bit more. Starting my morning like this helps me to focus and get the momentum going for the rest of the day.

I'm totally into morning rituals to give me a bit of rhythm. These days, my ritual/ get-out-of-bed bribe is listening to my audio version of The Help in the car on the way to boot camp. (Audio is a great way to read The Help by the way. Those voice actors are something else!). It's so good I often find myself doing several loops around the neighborhood before parking to hear what's going to happen next.

When I wasn't doing morning work-outs, I started my day like this...
It's an immunity tea that really wakes the body up. The cayenne gives that little extra kick. (Be careful not to inhale any surface cayenne while drinking, now that is a kick.) While sipping I write my morning pages and set my intentions for the day. Sometimes I read for 20 minutes, just because. Then I drink drip coffee to off-set the immunity tea -- we can't be perfect.

I love having rituals to help me get going and stop me from reinventing the wheel every morning when faced with a new day. Even though I've been waking up and getting on with things successfully for three decades, it's always a bit of a shock to get started, isn't it? Rituals ease me right in...

What are your morning rituals?

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Raw, vegan AND happy? All at once?!

Welcome back!

That's what my blog said when I logged on today. This five month blog sabbatical has certainly been restful, but I was encouraged to restart the ol' engine today as I'm kind of overflowing with information.

 {Image from The Chalkboard Mag. Recognize that handwriting? That's right.}

At the end of 2011 I decided to kick off the new year with a month of intentional eating, or whatever the socially correct term for diet/ detox/ cleanse may be. I like the word reset, which I stole from Sarah Fae over at the incredible Addicted to Veggies website.

After just one too many peppermint crinkle cookies over the holidays I was ready to reset my health.

I read a lot of health and nutrition books but there was one that captivated my attention last year called The Beauty Detox Solution. I didn't become obsessed with it because of a desire to become even more beautiful, but more for the detox solution part. The author, Kimberly Snyder, packed that book with all sorts of good practice for healthy digestion and eating for cleansing, and she presented it all in a way that resonated with me.

Talking about digestion makes for fascinating conversation, but not the type you engage in as ice breaker material at a party. But this year one of my goals was to focus on gut health. Not only the literal gut and caring for my colon and surrounding digestive organs, but also my intuitive gut, and learning how to listen to it better.

I think this focus on gut health may have been a great example of me listening to my gut to be honest. For some reason I just became fascinated with digestion, and as I began the "reset" my grandmother was  diagnosed with abdominal cancer -- a complete shock to everyone. By the time they found the cancer it was spread all throughout her GI and abdominal organs, she was give ten days to live and she passed away on January 18 during one of the biggest snowstorms we've seen in a awhile. Cancer has taken another wonderful woman (who lived a long and rich life though -- my grandma was almost 90 years old). While I mourn and celebrate a life, I can also say my digestive vigilance has been strengthened.

This month, even with clearly a lot going on, I dug right in. Consider me reset. I feel healthy and empowered to make good, veggie-centric choices. I'm not going to become a hard-core vegan but I am definitely going to lay off the dairy from now on.

Last week, when a friend said they were about to start a Beauty Detox Solution-inspired plan I wrote down some of the key things I've learned along the way. I thought I'd capture them and share with anyone else as interested as I am in this plant-based, whole food, raw, vegan diet.

Here's what I did and what I learned:
  •  Week 1: Elimination Giving up my favorite toxins (coffee, chocolate and alcohol) nearly killed me, but it felt great to remind my body who was in control. Because herbal tea is no substitute for coffee, I was ecstatic to discover a formidable substitute called Teeccino. You can get it in tea bag or ground-up format, it's caffeine free and, with a bit of cinnamon and almond milk, is as good a replacement for coffee that you'll find.  
  • Throughout the month I focused on these basic tenets: 
    • Attempt to eat raw until dinner 
    • Vegan throughout (since I'm veggie anyway the main sacrifice was the dairy, though I'm surprised how quickly I got used to it. It helps when you start thinking about milk and cheese as "cow mucus", a term vegans seems to love. )
    • Start each day with a glowing green smoothie. Yes, it's green and an unorthodox breakfast choice, but I have converted a fair few omnivores to this amazing drink (see below). 

    • Weeks 2 & 3:Sustain  My original plan was to do some juice fasting in this second week, but life got a bit hectic and, listening to my body, I realized this wasn't the best time for it. As someone prone to extremism, though I loved the challenge of a mostly raw, vegan month, I knew that my long-term health was more important than winning a short-term health challenge. I wanted to try some new recipes, supplements and methods to build my heath portfolio and see what things worked for me. Also important to me, in addition to a squeaky clean colon, is quality of life. Stressing about food and deprivation isn't worth it, so giving myself grace through scheduled in splurge meals helped get me through. In week 2 I reintroduced coffee and dark chocolate (70%), but only every other day to give my body a break. (Baby steps.)
    • My average day looked like this:
      • Wake up to hot water with sliced ginger, a load of lemon and a dash of cayenne pepper
      • Probiotics: I used New Chapter and was happy with them. Want to check out Dr. Ohhira's (apparently the best, not cheap though). Heard that Garden of Life and Mega Foods are also good brands. Probiotics are good for grooming your helpful intestinal flora.
      • Glowing Green Smoothie! (love adding herbs such as basil, cilantro or mint. Ginger is also great; I use two apples instead of a pear, sprouts are good in it too. Love kale in the winter as a spinach sub.)
      • Some quiet time to set my intentions and remind myself what I'm doing. It's kind of a prayer/ meditation/ quiet time. At the beginning of the week I did some meal planning as well to make sure I had a general plan. Having a plan is essential.
      • Lunch: tried lots of Kimberly Snyder's recipes from the BDS. Lots of big, veggie-laden salads with yummy homemade dressings, some raw soups and, when really hungry, some avocado toast with Ezekial 29 sprouted bread. (Using coconut oil instead of butter is amazing. The toast isn't raw but we can only do so much.)
      • Snack: some fruit, kombucha (Love the GT brand gingerade flavor -- this stuff is amazing and full of probiotics, you can load up at Whole Foods or PCC; the cherry chia was also fun); raw almonds; a frozen banana smoothie with cinnamon/ almond milk/ splash of vanilla extract may rock your world. A good snack for when you need an energy boost is chia seeds soaked in almond milk with a bit of cinnamon/ sliced banana. I really like the taste!
      • Dinner: tried lots of new recipes, roasted or steamed veg with dressing, quinoa, salad. Basically just loaded as many vegetables into my body as possible with homemade dressings. Added 1-2 TBSP ground flaxseed. Great nutty taste and Spectrum is a good brand. Tried making the Probiotic & Enzyme salad but the Firefly Kitchen brand is much tastier. I love their kimchi and their Ruby Red Saurkraut is good too. This stuff is not cheap though ($6-10, depending on the type you get).
      • Before bed: detox tea (Traditional Medicinals or Yogi tea, or just plain Mint tea); magnesium supplements. Just started taking the Mag07 supplements that Kimberly recommends (supposed to filled your gut with oxygen and clear you right out!) but the jury is still out on these.  
    {Photo by}
      • Other tips:
        • Raw apple cider vinegar is supposed to be good for digestion. Braggs is a good brand. I've been putting a splash into hot water and sipping on that and it's surprisingly good.
        • Nutritional yeast is great for flavoring. You can use in dressings or sprinkle on food like parmasan. I bought some in the bulk section of my local supermarket, but again Braggs is a good brand to buy in a container.
        • I've been drinking tons of almond milk and am planning to try making some in the coming weeks. Raw almonds are always great to have on hand for when you hit an energy slump. 
        • I've found that the whole principle of light to heavy eating really works for me. Also, I try and eat my carbs for lunch and proteins for dinner and try my hand at food combining where possible. This can be a pain so I just keep it in the back of my mind. In BDS Kimberly goes into more detail about why it's good to think about food combining, and though I'd always been opposed (so much hassle) she makes some good points and I find it really works.
        • I highly recommend scheduled-in splurges so all this change doesn't seem oppressive. I think quality of life and not stressing about food is really important for digestion (and general happiness) so I'm not out to kill myself. 
        • is a great place to buy natural food items. Cheap and no shipping costs, plus you can choose some free samples with each order. First time buyers can use my voucher code (VUF744) for $5 off.
        • Favorite recipes:
          • Carrot-ginger dressing a la Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop (I LOVE this!)
          • Liquid Gold Elixir dressing from Natalia Rose. (Note: I use 1/2 cup lemon juice, olive oil, skipped the bee pollen and chili powder and cut the garlic in half. You can totally make it to taste. This is amazing over steamed veg and quinoa.) 
          • I'm always experimenting with a new combo of tahini, miso paste, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and tamari (just because nama shoyu/ raw soy sauce is like $10 a bottle) for dressings. Just a few tablespoons of tahini &/ or miso with the juice of a lemon and some water is always a treat. I am, in fairness, naturally inclined toward Asian-flavored foods.
          • Beauty Detox Solution recipes: love the oil-free basil lover's dressing (tastes like pesto), the raw teriyaki sauce is good and the red pepper soup I made several times.
        • Other resources: I find that reading about healthy eating during a reset is helpful. So much of our food choices are down to planning and motivation, so keeping the motivation levels high is important. 
          • Books: Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder; Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr; Clean by Alejandro Junger; Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose
          • Blogs: Linda Wagner; Kimberly Snyder (worth signing up to her newsletter); Addicted to Veggies (tons of raw, vegan recipes); Spinach & Yoga; The Chalkboard Mag (overall wellness features)
          • Videos: Forks Over Knives (what my husband calls vegan propoganda); Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (haven't seen but comes highly recommended), Crazy Sexy Cancer (haven't seen, just heard about).

            Hope there are a few morsels of wellness you can pick out and use for yourself!

        Sunday, 28 August 2011

        Fallow blog

        I've been pretty poor at tending my blog this summer.  Even after all the excitement over the new title, I just deflated. I used to be incredibly consistent, staying up late to post at least once per week. I knew that consistency is key and I knew that I needed to be building my platform if I ever want to get published. I knew that sometimes you have to work through a lack of inspiration and get 'er done.

        But in this season, despite all these things about blogging that I know, it's felt right to let it go a bit.

        At first I thought I was simply being unmotivated, but recently a word came to me for how I feel: fallow. 

        Fallow means left unsown for a season in order to restore fertility.

        My e-creativity needs that, no matter how many rules of blogging this fallowness breaks. I'm such a rebel.

        I'm not sure how long this fallow thing will last, I just thought I'd put it out there so you'd know that I'm not being lazy, just seasonal. See you whenever the sowing season starts up next!

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