Simplify Your Skincare: Double Cleansing with Botanic Organic [GIVEAWAY]

How do you choose your skincare products?

In the sea of choices on the shelves at Ulta or even Walgreens, where do you begin? How do you know what will work for you, what could irritate, what could trigger a breakout, what could be too drying, too oily, what could be the magic elixir? This is a challenging question even for those with perfect skin. And if you have skin problems like I did growing up, then you’ve also seen the sea of products at the aesthetician’s office AND the dermatologist’s office. Could these expensive potions be the answer to your troubles? What about all the choices at a natural store like Whole Foods? Their Whole Body section displays hundreds of products you won’t find at any beauty supply or pharmacy. The possibilities are endless — and overwhelming!

Botanic Organic Skincare

A New Challenge

As someone who’s struggled with my skin for the larger part of my life, I can safely say I’ve tried just about everything at all of those places I mentioned in hopes of curing my acne. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on products and treatments, and in the end my solution was to heal my skin from the inside out

Once I cleared my acne, I had a whole new conundrum in the beauty aisle. What products should I choose to actually nourish my skin now that I can focus on something other than clearing the acne? Did I really have sensitive skin, or had it just been so inflamed for so long that I had to choose products to accommodate that? What will help with the scarring? With the sun spots? What will smooth out the few remaining rough patches and keep my skin supple and hydrated? 

I was back to square one with way too many choices, but I knew one thing for sure. I wanted my next skincare products to be super clean and organic with simple, nourishing ingredients. Most natural foods advocates live by this advice: “Don’t eat anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce.” In living by that rule for food and skincare, I take it one step further.

Don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put in your mouth.

Our skin is our biggest organ. It protects us from the outside world, but it also absorbs what we slather onto it. When we expose our skin to lotions and potions, we’re inviting all of those ingredients to seep in. Doesn’t it make sense that we should want the best for our bodies and our skin? 

Simplify by Going Natural

My first step was to pare down to the bare minimum. For about a year, I used a gentle vitamin C foaming cleanser, raw honey, witch hazel, and coconut oil. It was a fine regimen, but I found that the honey got messy and sticky when I didn’t use it in the shower, and sometimes the coconut oil got a bit greasy, which made me want to skip it in the mornings, leaving my skin a bit tight from the cleanser. For a while I tried oil cleansing with the coconut oil. It works great for removing eye makeup, but I found myself using twice as many face towels (and I already use a lot!), and I just got tired of doing it after a while. I wasn’t dissatisfied with my skincare regimen, but I wasn’t raving about it either. Now I’m ready to rave.

Botanic Organic Skincare

Botanic Organic: So Clean You Could Eat It

These seemingly simple products found me more than I found them, it seems. I was invited to a San Francisco women’s entrepreneur event in February, and Nancy Newsom had a table there where she was peddling her thoughtfully packaged skincare wares. We got to talking, and when I mentioned my blog, she offered me a few free samples to try. A week into using them, I knew I’d found my new favorite skincare line and purchased full-sized products so I wouldn’t miss a day.

Nancy has created products that fit my needs perfectly, but it turns out, that’s by design. Here’s a quote from Nancy: 

Based on the theory that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, the organic compounds found in raw, plant-based ingredients create amazingly complex whole foods for skin. They are as beneficial in helping balance young, blemish prone skin as they are in nourishing and repairing mature, environmentally damaged skin.

Botanic Organic’s skin care philosophy is to calm the skin using anti-inflammatory, nutrient rich, plant-based ingredients that will gently coax your skin back into balance. With your skin back in balance, it can continue its natural process of self-healing. It’s pretty incredible to witness how the same ingredients can help seemingly very different skin conditions. 

Double Cleansing

The two products I’m sharing with you today are the Tangerine and Lemon Facial Cleansing Oil and the Honey & Licorice Daily Cleansing Grains. Using the double cleansing method with these two products has revolutionized my evening routine, and the effects on my skin are obvious not only to me but to the people who see me every day.

Botanic Organic Skincare

The cleansing grains double as an exfoliator/cleanser but are gentle enough to use every day — and they include the benefits of honey without the mess. Licorice is great for calming inflammation and evening out skin tone — something my skin surely needs after years of abuse and sun damage. You can also use the grains as a mask, which I do in my morning shower. I pour a little pile of grains into the palm of my hand, add a few drops of water, mix into a paste, and massage into my face. Instead of rinsing right away, I do my whole shower routine with the grains on my face, and then rinse them off before I get out. It’s a perfect system!

The one thing I’d change about the packaging would be to add some sort of plastic barrier to slow the grains down when you pour them into your hand. With the big opening, you run the risk of dumping out too much, and once it’s wet, you really should use it right away. 

The cleansing oil has really been a game changer for me though. It’s a fantastic makeup remover, but it also feels deeply nourishing when I massage it into my skin. When I’ve oil cleansed in the past with coconut oil or even olive oil, I’ve always felt a little grimy afterwards, but this rinses off cleanly while leaving enough moisture behind to still feel soft and hydrated. I love it. 

Botanic Organic Discount AND Giveaway!

In fact, I love these products so much I want to share the wealth! To receive a 20% discount on all your purchases through the end of April, sign up for my newsletter and get a coupon right in your inbox once you confirm your email! Everyone who’s already subscribed will receive an email with the coupon code TODAY, so be on the lookout!

Nancy at Botanic Organic has also agreed to raffle off 2 sets of these glorious products in their largest sizes (a $39 value)!! All you have to do is give us your first-born child. Just kidding! We just want you to spread the love through social media. Check out the Rafflecopter below to learn how to enter to win.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE RAFFLE! FOR SOME REASON RAFFLECOPTER AND WORDPRESS AREN’T GETTING ALONG

Everyone who enters will also receive a coupon for 20% off on all your purchases at Botanic Organic through April 30, 2015 via email.

The Dish on Muffin Revolution [Interview]

Meandering through the aisles of Whole Foods Market recently, I was THRILLED to see a Muffin Revolution demo happening in the freezer section. I’ve been trying to replicate my favorite muffin of theirs for quite some time, and this was my chance to beg them to share their secrets.

What’s Muffin Revolution, you ask? It’s an East Bay homespun muffin-making bonanza that changes everything you’ve ever thought about a muffin! I’ve been on board with these delicious, nutritious treats from the jump — the ladies who started Muffin Revolution are members of my climbing gym, and that’s where the muffins got their start. The first time I saw them, I may or may not have yelled “BRILLIANT!” at the top of my lungs … no one can be sure. The climbing gym can be a loud place after all.

Muffin-Obsessed

I’ve gone through phases of eating an MR muffin 3 or 4 times a week, grabbing one on my way out the door of the gym to save for breakfast the next morning (or more frequently two muffins if I knew the one intended for breakfast wasn’t going to make it all the way home). The gym brilliantly allows us to just charge muffins to our account, which makes it much easier to grab and go as you’re leaving. I love these muffins because they’re more than just a sweet treat. They’re a meal in a muffin. I can eat one for breakfast and not need anything til lunch. They’re made almost exclusively with paleo-friendly ingredients, so they’re a snack you can feel good about eating. It was no surprise to me at all when I learned that the cofounders were both professionally trained holistic chefs. These are not your average muffins.

Muffin Revolution

When I realized my favorite muffins had become so popular that they were gracing the aisles of the Whole Foods freezer section, I literally jumped with joy! It always makes me so happy to see products I love doing so well. 

Enthralled in a conversation about our mutual Italian heritage and passion for making nutrient-dense meals, co-founder Marirose Piciucco and I decided that we should sit down and talk for an official CWB muffin exclusive. She invited me to the Muffin Revolution kitchen (YES PLEASE!), showed me the AMAZING walk-in oven (they call it the Hansel and Gretel), and gave me the low-down on her budding business. As we talked, Christy Kovacs (co-founder) and Allyson, an intern from Bauman College’s Holistic Chef program came in to start the day’s work. Christy chimed in midway through, so you’ll hear from her too.  

Background: The Seeds of a Muffin Revolution

CWB: You went to Bauman College and got your Holistic Chef Certification. Can you tell me how what you learned there has influenced your decisions in muffin design? 

MP:  If it weren’t for Bauman, we probably wouldn’t have come up with the paleo muffins. Every bite should count, and it should taste good – grain-free, gluten-free doesn’t have to “taste healthy.” We really focus on nutrient density in our products, but we didn’t start out all paleo.

Christy and I met at Bauman. We had similar cooking styles and were drawn to partner in the kitchen. When we graduated, we taught cooking classes. Our focus was nutrient density, social issues, and environmental issues – especially in teaching kids. “Here’s an animal on your plate. Where did it come from and how did it get here?” We weren’t bakers when we started, we were chefs. 

Christy (left) and Marirose (right) met in Holistic Chef school at Bauman College

Christy (left) and Marirose (right) met in Holistic Chef school at Bauman College

CWB: How did you go from chefs to bakers? 

MP: We were at the climbing gym when we came up with the idea. We thought “Wouldn’t it be great to have a product to eat at the gym that was more satisfying than a bar? Something portable?” We wanted to feed hikers, climbers, outdoors-people. We started with the idea of a savory muffin – better than a sandwich, more satisfying than a bar, and you can throw it in a backpack and go. We really meshed the cooking and the baking by starting out with something savory.

We started in my home kitchen, where we were teaching cooking classes, and brought them to the gym so our friends could try them. After a while, the gym manager offered to let us start selling them there. The grain-free paleo muffin started about a year after we launched the brand at the gym. We tested at farmers markets and found that people really enjoyed the different flavors. The paleo muffins appealed to a bigger audience than the savory ones did – gluten-free, grain-free, but familiar. As the paleo muffins became more popular, we phased out the savory muffins. 

From Hobby to Business

CBW: What was the turning point for Muffin Revolution? I mean, when did it blossom from a hobby into a business idea?

MP: That’s a good question. I’d say once we got our 4th account and started getting Yelp reviews, it started to feel real. Someone set up a Yelp page for us – we didn’t even set it up ourselves. Christy? What would you say?

Christy: I think it was when we started working with Whole Foods that we went from “test-mode” to “business-mode.”

CWB: Yes, tell me about the process with Whole Foods, and congratulations on that! So exciting!

MP: We had never had dreamed of grocery stores, but when we were in a shared muffin revolutioncommercial kitchen, we found out about the Next Entrepreneur Conference, put on by Whole Foods. We applied. Weeks and weeks past, but we were eventually invited to come.

They asked us to do a mock-up of how we’d sell in a grocery store — we had no idea — but Christy’s also an artist. She came up with a mock-up. We went and bought just four clam shells and set up examples. This thing was at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland – it was a HUGE event, we hadn’t realized what we signed up for. Every contact we could possibly want was in this room with us, regional buyers, distributors, it was amazing. It hadn’t even occurred to us in our wildest dreams that Whole Foods would’ve been a possibility for us. The head of grocery came by and told us that they had 600 applications and they only accepted 30!

CWB: Wow!! That must have felt pretty good! 

MP: I thought, “Do we get to scream now or later?!” It was so exciting. The head of frozen foods came by and said he could see our muffins in frozen and in the bakery section, so he called the bakery guy over. We watched them discuss how our product would fit on the Whole Foods shelves — it was surreal! They were especially excited about the paleo muffin we brought with us. A couple of weeks later, we set up a meeting with Brad the frozen foods guy. After that meeting, we got in the elevator and just started screaming!!

CWB: So it was time to ramp up then!

muffin revolution

Christy (right) and Bauman Intern Allyson (left) preparing the raw ingredients for some Yam Good muffins

MP: Absolutely. We thought, “How do we go from working in my kitchen and this shared space to finding our own, dedicated gluten-free space?” The founder of Berkeley Kitchens [Jonah Hendrickson] offered us his last open space, and we really had to make a decision about sinking a lot of money into this business. We needed the capacity to grow, so we put our own money into it. We bought all the equipment in our kitchen ourselves. 

Christy: [Jonah] was really careful in his application process – he told us he wanted companies that could be the “next Cliff bar.” This kitchen model is unique, because there are all these individual kitchens with all our own needs and special equipment. We couldn’t be a certified gluten-free space til we moved here.

CWB: So this was a major piece of the puzzle then — being certified gluten-free is huge. And the rest is history?

MP: Ha, no. It’s been a long journey. Whole Foods really walked us through the process of getting up and running with them. They were so helpful, offering wholesale vendor connections, showing us the ropes. We realized this wasn’t just something we could sell at cafés and gyms, this was something that could be really big. There really are no grain-free paleo options at grocery stores right now.

Advice for an Aspiring Entrepreneur

CWB: What advice would you give a home chef looking to replicate your business model with a food project of her own?

Christy: What was helpful for us starting out was, we just kind of became the “muffin ladies.” Marirose was friends with everyone at the gym, and we brought samples all the time. We just let the world know, “Hey, this is what we’re doing,” and the connections just came. We were always at the gym, so it just made sense to start it there.

MP: For me, it’s realizing that you have to take that leap of faith and take a risk on yourself. Have faith in your product. If people are telling you over and over that they love what you’re doing, then you’re doing something right. There’s a point in a small business where you have to take risks. You have to take a risk on yourself and have faith in your product. muffin revolution

And do what you know – even though paleo wasn’t what we knew, we knew nutrient-density. We knew we wanted to use excellent ingredients. We knew the culture of an active person and the kind of thing they might want as a snack. It would make no sense for the two of us to make mint candy. We aren’t mint candy people. 

Christy: There were a lot of discouraging times in our journey. We walked up and down the street by the gym and asked people to try our muffins and every single person said no. So many discouraging days at the farmers market, and it’s such hard work. We’d work for 4 hours to make 24 muffins and then go deliver, and it was really hard. Just never give up.

MP: Having a business partner really helps, because you can tag team. When one person is getting down, the other can lift her up. It’s really hard to do alone. When we’re down, we remind ourselves that there was a time when we were only making 24 muffins.

Not only having your own business, but having a food business, sometimes the obstacles feel insurmountable. Our product requires a lot of expensive ingredients. As a small business, we’re just getting to the point where we can start ordering things in pallets, but the raw materials we use are pricey. When almonds get more expensive, it really affects us.

And the Berkeley permitting process was a nightmare. I always joke (but I’m serious!!) that you need a degree, a license, and a suit to represent someone on death row, but to make a muffin in Berkeley?? By the time everything was done, inspections completed, it was February of last year.

Now it’s exciting because we have cafés calling us asking if they can offer our muffins. At this point, we’re selling at 6 Whole Foods, 4 Andronicos, 2 Berkeley Bowls, and Alameda Natural Grocery. And we’ve done all of this without financial backing. That’s our next step. 

Like Muffin Revolution on Facebook

Favorites and Passions

CWB: What’s your favorite muffin?

MP: Right now my favorite paleo muffin is the vegan 24 Carrot Gold. We make that one as a cake with cream cheese frosting for folks sometimes. Grain-free, it has to be the Home for the Holidays. Every time I eat it, I just think, “Man that’s a good muffin!” I love the Hulk too. I really don’t eat the muffins all that much anymore, but there’s just something about the spirulina in the Hulk. It also has banana, date, and yerba mate. It just makes me happy.

CWB: Let’s talk about Home for the Holidays. I’m obsessed with this muffin – I’ve made multiple attempts at replicating it at home, and I’ve come close but it’s never as good as yours. What’s your secret?

MP: It’s the only one with cane sugar in it. We keep toying with the idea of changing the sugar source to make it paleo, but people just love it so much we don’t want to change it. We’re probably going to roll that one out next in the grocery stores, that and the 24 Carrot Gold.

muffin revolution

Home for the Holidays – a muffin that just might change your life

CWB: In my cursory research (a Google search of your name), I found that you worked with kids in the kitchen. Is that still happening?

MP: It’s done for now. We loved it while it lasted. Our cooking classes were really different because we wanted to draw attention not only to the cooking aspect and creativity of it, but the political, social justice, and environmental implications of the foods we eat. We really wanted to get that message across to kids.

We never cooked with kids like they were kids. I don’t think we give kids enough credit. Especially having them in the kitchen, having them involved in the process – if they own it, they’ll eat it. Kids think they don’t like something, but if they make it themselves, they’ll eat it. I’d have one say, “I don’t like beans,” so we’d put him in charge of the beans, and at the end he’d say, “I still don’t like beans, only these.” And then we send them home with the recipe.

The kids are the gateway to the family – if they’ll eat it, the family will eat it. Suddenly the whole family is eating better. I still love talking about it, I still love it. My son was part of it, and he’s 16 now. He still cooks and he can do so much in the kitchen on his own. Hopefully we’ve raised a group of kids who can do that and understand why we don’t eat things like mango every day – because it travels a long way, for example.

muffin revolution

CWB: Ok, I love your muffins, and I could talk about food all day long, but what about climbing? How’d you get started climbing and do you have time for it anymore now that MR has taken off?

MP: I had joined the gym just to work out, and after a while I eventually got up the nerve to start climbing. I had been working a lot on getting out of my comfort zone, and this was one such instance. Christy joined right after, and we began climbing together. We still do climb, Christy more than me these days as I hurt my back (not climbing or in the kitchen). I still climb, just not as often as before. 

CWB: I’d love to hear about some of your other passions. Christy, you mentioned you were an artist? 

Christy: Yep! I weave photographs together on a large-scale. My website’s not so great right now, but I show my work at Vessel Gallery in Oakland on 25th Street. The end product is pretty big — I hand cut everything, and it takes me about 40 hours to finish each piece.

CWB: And you designed the Muffin Revolution logo? Tell me how it came to be.

muffin revolutionChristy: The concept for the logo came to us when we were sitting in Marirose’s kitchen having martinis one night. We were talking about our company name — we had started with “Eat Wisely” and we realized that it really didn’t say anything about our product. We got ourselves worked up about what we were doing with our muffins, that we were changing the way people would think about muffins — we were revolutionizing the muffin. And at the same time we said, “It’s a MUFFIN REVOLUTION!” And the brand was born. 

We knew we wanted a socialist fist, but that’s kind of a cliché image — it’s used so much. The fist is also kind of a violent symbol, and we wanted a nurturing message, not a violent one. We wanted it to be loving, so I made the hands the shape of a heart. And in the word “Revolution,” we made “love” spelled backwards in red. It’s also the first few letters of the word “evolve,” which we liked as part of our messaging. The tagline “Rise up!’ is kind of a double entendre: muffins rise, but we’re starting a revolution too. 

CWB: And you Marirose? You mentioned something about a non-profit in the Congo when we were planning our meeting time. What’s your non-profit called and what’s it all about?

MP: It’s called The Ring Project. The idea came to me in the middle of the night in the midst of my divorce. I thought, “How can I make something positive out of this?” I came from an asylum background — I was an immigration lawyer in my past life — and this work is a big passion of mine.

I decided to start a non-profit where divorced women could donate their diamond rings to help women in the Congo. The idea is to work in the system that’s already there. We don’t want to create something new that might not work for the Congolese people.  They know best. One idea is to send interested women to law school so they can help seek justice for other women in their community.

Verunga, a documentary about a national park in the Congo and its importance to the community, really illustrates some of the problems there – it was just up for an Oscar. We’re going to partner with a group that provides assistance to the widows and kids of fallen park rangers. We’re hoping to develop a program to teach the widows skills to help them support themselves. Down the road, when we’re able to do it, we’re going to contribute part of the proceeds of a future Muffin Revolution project (paleo granola) to the nonprofit. 

A Day Well-Spent

Marirose and Christy sent me home with a belly full of muffins and a freezer bag full of “reject muffins,” which I gleefully accepted. Some were too big to sell, some too small, all are going into my belly. Well, maybe I’ll share some with Loren. Maybe. I will proclaim now that I know what kind of birthday cake I want next year! Let it be known! 

2015-03-27 08.29.43

I have to say that talking with these women was so inspiring. To see something go from a tiny operation selling at my gym to the freezer aisle of Whole Foods and to get a behind-the-scenes look at how it all came to pass was an awesome opportunity. I can’t wait to see these muffins sweep the nation, and I can’t wait for Muffin Revolution paleo granola to come to market either! 

CWB readers in the SF Bay Area can count their lucky stars today, because Marirose and Christy have agreed to give us a discount code for their muffins on Good Eggs. 

muffin revolution

Oh, and one more thing! Oakland Museum is celebrating Women’s History Month. In partnership with Whole Foods, Muffin Revolution is one of 5 women-owned food businesses participating in a Makers & Tasters event there TONIGHT, 6-8pm. There is also Off The Grid going on outside the museum.

My First Voloom [Product Review]

Ok, so what I’m about to share with you is really my second Voloom.

My first Voloom was at BlogHer14 right on the trade show floor. I walked up to this booth where a woman was using what looked like an 80’s style crimper on the under layers of another woman’s hair. When she was done, she unclipped the top layers and let them fall over the areas she was working on. The result? Volume. And lots of it. The crimper contraption was called Voloom, and it wasn’t actually crimping. The hot iron on the inside actually looked like a waffle iron. Applying it to the undersides of the hair was like creating an instant “tease” affect. But no tangles. Oh, and no product. NONE. Zero sticky, greasy, cakey, smelly product. None. I was intrigued.

Here’s what my hair looked like after my first Voloom

voloom

This was the work of someone else standing over me clipping my hair up and working on the under sides. Essentially, this is what it looks like to ‘get it done.’ My task in this review was to be able to do it myself! In a weird stroke of luck, I happened to receive my free Voloom three days before a scheduled cut and color. After nailing it with my long hair, I tried to Voloom again with my much MUCH shorter hair, and I’d say that while it was slightly less successful, it wasn’t bad. You can be the judge I guess.

voloom product review

My Voloomed hair pre-haircut

 

voloom product review

post-haircut Voloom. You be the judge. Not terrible, maybe a little too short to use in the back

Why am I reviewing a Beauty Product?

That’s a great question. After all, this is a health and wellbeing blog. It’s about what’s on the inside that counts, right? Yes, of course what’s on the inside counts, but it works both ways, doesn’t it? Doesn’t how you feel on the inside get reflected on the outside? And isn’t the opposite also true? If you look and feel beautiful in your skin (and hair in this case), doesn’t that just put a little extra pep in your step? I’ll circle back to the inside/outside thing in a second.

First, let me tell you about my typical hair habits.

WARNING: This is honest, full disclosure. If you think this is gross, I don’t care.

I don’t like to wash my hair every day. Or every other day. And I go to the gym basically every day. In a typical week, I’ll wash my hair on a Friday night, spend Saturday and Sunday gardening, hiking, climbing, or some combination, go to work on Monday, to TRX and climbing on Monday night, and THEN wash my hair again. Tuesdays, I usually climb, Wednesdays, I TRX and climb, and Thursday is just so darn close to Friday… you get the idea. I don’t like to wash my hair every day for a few reasons. 

  1. It dries out my hair and strips it of the natural oils that keep it healthy (and this is true for everyone whether you think I’m gross or not).
  2. I’m lazy.
  3. I don’t have time to wash and dry it every day.
  4. I could make time, but I prefer to sleep. Or do anything else really.

Because I don’t like to wash my hair every day, I try to avoid putting any product in it that could make it dirty more quickly, or more importantly, combine with my sweat and roll down my face to cause a potential acne explosion. Since I cured my acne earlier this year, the fragility of the state of my face has dramatically decreased, but I’m still careful not to add any unnecessary variables to the situation. I’m not always great about removing my makeup before a workout, but if I can avoid sweating hair product into my eyes or down my cheeks, I will. And I do. 

So back that question: Why am I reviewing a beauty product? 

Because this beauty product is PERFECT for the Active, Clean-Living Woman!

Did Voloom ask me to say that? No. Did they give me a free Voloom so I could review it? Yes. That’s where it ends. I could structure this however I wanted to. And that’s how I feel. This thing is rad. It took me 5 minutes or less to Voloom my own hair. Because I was going to work and not to a wedding or fancy party, I didn’t shoot for the stars to achieve maximum volume. I achieved an every day look that lasted through my TRX and climbing night on Monday. I worked out once and went another full day after that with my Voloomed hair before having it washed yesterday at my hair appointment. It was awesome!

One more time: ZERO teasing or backcombing. ZERO hair product.

(No promises here, but I’m crossing my fingers that the folks at Voloom will provide me with a discount code for my newsletter subscribers who want to pick one up. I put the question in but haven’t gotten an answer back just yet, and I wanted to get this review out before the Thanksgiving holiday.)

Another thing

Hair products can have some funky ingredients in them that you don’t want absorbing into your skin and coursing through your body. Remember that whole idea of not putting anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put into your mouth? This styling iron removes the need for one more product on your shelf that could potentially cause your body or skin some upset. 

I’m going to bring my Voloom home to Texas for the holidays and make my mom try it. She’s the queen of tease in Big-Hair Texas Land. When I told her about this product, she said, “I don’t have time for that.” I plan to bust right through that myth with a personalized demonstration, because this thing is not only going to save her serious time, it will prevent all that damaging teasing/back-combing too! 

Voloom product review

Yes, this is actually my mom. And Yes, this is actually what she does to her hair before she goes out. She chills it out a bit before entering the world, but not by much! Don’t you think she could use a Voloom?

So there you have it. That’s my review for Voloom. I love this product.

Garden of Life Raw Fit Review and GIVEAWAY!

Hi again. I have to be honest that I was disappointed in the turnout for last week’s Garden of Life Raw Meal giveaway, but I think it was my fault. It was my first time using the Rafflecopter widget, and I think my big mistake was making the time to enter too short. SO, this week, we’re giving away what’s left of the Raw Meal AND the Raw Fit, which I’m reviewing today.

Garden of Life Raw Fit Review Raffle GiveawayGarden of Life Raw Fit

As you know from last week’s review of Raw Meal, I am not a big “supplement person,” but I’m happy to share that the Garden of Life protein powders are a rare exception. This particular product is designed to assist in a weight management plan and can replace one to two meals per day. It’s low in sugar, high in fiber and protein, and it contains the famously touted green coffee bean extract that’s been all the rage these days for assistance in weight loss. The active ingredient in green coffee bean extract is called chlorogenic acid, and it’s claimed to aid in weight loss by altering how the body responds to sugar. 

Full disclosure:

After all the press about Dr. Oz endorsing green coffee bean extract and then finding out the study he advertised had some inaccurate information, I was hesitant to review this product. I checked out the information on WebMD about green coffee beans, and it didn’t really give me much more confidence about its effectiveness, but it did say that it was considered a safe additive. In other words, they aren’t as sure as they once were that it’s a miracle weight loss aid, but it’s likely not harmful to try it out. That made me feel more confident in recommending Raw Fit based on the other ingredients in the product that are more established to aid in weight management. The jury might still be out on green coffee, but there’s no question about the remaining ingredients in Raw Fit. There is no such thing as a miracle in weight loss. Without proper diet and exercise, it simply won’t happen.

Garden of Life actually offers a plan to supplement this product and maximize results, which you can check out here. <—

Ingredients

Garden of Life Raw Fit Review Raffle GiveawayChromium and Cinnamon are both clinically proven to promote healthy blood sugar levels and fat loss, and both are included in Raw Fit, which I love. I’ve personally recommended both of these supplements to a number of clients over the years, especially those who have metabolic syndrome or diabetes.

Digestive Aids – both enzymes and probiotics are included in this formula to promote healthy digestion. The more efficient your digestion, the better your ability to absorb nutrients and ultimately lose weight. Enzymes aid in digestion at the beginning of the process in the mouth and stomach. They break down the food you eat into constituents small enough for your intestines to handle. The healthy bacteria in the large intestine finish the job by aiding in absorption of the remaining nutrients in the foods you eat. Adding beneficial bacteria (probiotics) into the system through food and supplements can help maintain the balance of bacteria in the colon. 

Stress Management with Ashwagandha – I’ve learned repeatedly over the last few years that people don’t like hearing about the relationship between stress and weight. Unfortunately, it’s undeniable that stress affects our physiology, and does indeed create a barrier to weight loss, especially middle body weight. Cortisol, a key stress hormone (which is necessary in small amounts), is partially responsible for that difficulty. Ashwagandha, an ayurvedic herb, is included in Raw Fit as a holistic approach to alleviate stress and regulate cortisol levels in the body.

How I Made My Raw Fit

I used the Marley Coffee Raw Fit for my taste test, and I found that it was at its best with almond milk and 1/2 a banana. Because of the extremely low sugar content of Raw Fit, I was ok with adding the banana, but depending on how strict you want to be or how ambitious your weight loss goals and timeline are will depend on whether or not you want to add it to your own. 

1 scoop + 10-12 oz of almond milk (a little more than they recommend) + 1/2 banana

GIVEAWAY!! Enter the Raffle Below for Your FREE Jar of Raw Fit or Raw Meal!

Ok folks, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for! This raffle is for BOTH the Raw Meal AND the Raw Fit. Let’s get this party started!

You have until Halloween day to get your entries in, so tell your friends, spread the word, take advantage of all your chances to win, and get excited!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


 FTC DISCLOSURE: This is a sponsored product review post, which means I received this product for free in exchange for this post and may be compensated for my work. All opinions are my own. I offer full transparency in all product and business reviews and only recommend products I actually use.

GIVEAWAY!! Garden of Life Raw Meal [Product Review]

GOL-RawMealChoc

I’m so excited to be doing my first official product review and giveaway with Garden of Life! I met some Garden of Life reps at this year’s BlogHer conference in San Jose, and I learned about their very generous product review program. In exchange for a little PR from bloggers, Garden of Life shares full-sized samples with the writers AND the readers! I’m stoked to be giving this stuff away to you! Stay tuned, because a few more giveaways are in the works!

Background: My Past Life in Retail

Before I launch into this review, I wanted to share that I used to pedal these products (and many others) as the Supplement Buyer and Specialist at Whole Foods Market back on the East Coast. In that role, I was in charge of choosing what went on the shelves and how they were displayed. Part of my responsibility in selling all the products in the Whole Body department was to actually know what I was talking about when customers asked me questions. We were lucky to have vendors from so many supplement companies come and tell us about their products and why it might be beneficial to include them in a healthy lifestyle plan. In truth, these little vendor sessions are the reason I’m doing what I’m doing today. I was inspired.

All this is to say that I have learned about and tried a number of Garden of Life products over the years, and I understand where they sit in comparison to competitors on the shelves of natural food stores. I recognize that these products are not cheap, and I assure you that there’s a reason for that. Garden of Life offers high quality, organic, sprouted (when possible) whole food dietary supplements. They emphasize improved bioavailability of all the ingredients in their products and push for the biggest “bang for the buck” whenever possible, cramming in as many phytonutrients and boosters as they can.

Food vs Supplements

I’ll be the first to say that I’m more of a “food eater” than a “powder mixer” or “pill-popper,” so when Garden of Life offered these product reviews to me, I was hesitant. I hope that knowing I rarely take supplements will actually bolster your opinion of the products I review — if I’m going to bother reviewing them, it’s because I think they’re worth using. Take that for what it’s worth. 🙂

garden of life raw meal

When you have a look at the ingredients panel of most Garden of Life products, you’ll likely notice things that aren’t included in your typical bottle of vitamins or vat of protein powder. You’ll see sprouted grains, beans, and seeds, sea vegetables, green powders and juices, enzymes and probiotics. Basically, you’ll see things that you might buy in the bulk section of your grocery store condensed into supplement form. I like that. I think that supplements like these can play two potential roles in a person’s life.

  1. Training Wheels: If you’re just starting out on a new healthy lifestyle plan and need to on-ramp, so to speak, supplementing could be a good idea. They can help you bridge the gap between your old way of life and your slowly improving lifestyle.
  2. Next-level Booster: If you’re feeling like you’ve made all the changes you can make and are doing the very best you can with your diet and lifestyle but still feel like you need a boost (whether it’s a boost for fat loss, energy, muscle gain, digestive support, immune support, etc), then taking a few supplements could do the trick here as well. 

Typical Protein Powders

There are 2 main reasons  I don’t tend to use protein powders all that much.

  1. Flavor
  2. Quality

Flavor

I don’t like to advocate that people force themselves to stomach nasty products in the name of health. I believe that enjoying what you’re eating and doing is an integral part of being healthy, and I choose to live that way. Most protein powders taste chalky or chemical-y, or just gross to me, so I don’t use them. I do have a few favorites (check out my online store to see some of them), and I’ve just added a new favorite to the list with this Raw Meal product.

Quality

Supplements are just like food when it comes to quality, in that where and how the ingredients are sourced will impact how your body responds to them.

  • Organic ingredients in supplements are superior to conventional ones for the same reason organic foods are superior.
  • If you’re dairy-intolerant, whey won’t work for you.
  • If you have digestive or hormonal challenges, you probably shouldn’t be consuming massive amounts of soy.
  • If you’re trying to avoid GMOs, then you probably shouldn’t be consuming whey or soy, because chances are those cows were fed GMO corn and the vast majority of soy grown in this country is of the GMO variety.
  • How thoroughly these ingredients are processed makes a a great deal of difference in how they affect your system (just like with processed foods). 
  • Protein isolates (the most common ingredient in most protein powders) are taken out of the context of their whole food constituents and can sometimes create digestive upset or put stress on the liver and kidneys.

Raw Meal

Garden of Life Raw Meal

click picture to enlarge

This product contains zero whey, zero soy, and zero protein isolate. Rather, the proteins are sourced from sprouted grains, beans, and seeds. Also included are enzymes and probiotics to support the digestive process along the way. This product really is a “meal” in that regard, and I love that about it. I chose to review the chocolate one so that I wouldn’t be tempted to turn it into the base of a smoothie, my typical use for protein powders.

As for flavor, my review is a little more nuanced. If I’m going to use a protein powder, I literally NEVER mix it exclusively with water. Every time I’ve tasted a protein powder mixed with water, I’ve found it completely disgusting. This is just me, but it’s an absolutely across-the-board truth for me, even with my very favorite protein powder of all time. Because I was doing this review however, I decided to try it a few different ways, including the way the product indicates — with water. Gross. I wasn’t surprised. 

Then I tried it with unsweetened plain almond milk, and it made a world of difference. I could drink it like that for sure!

My final addition was 1/2 a banana (with a “meal” serving.Use 1/4 a banana for the “snack” serving). This was delicious! Granted, adding a bit of banana does add some sugar and calories to your drink, but a chocolate banana version of this Raw Meal was absolutely the way to go.

Delicious!

And it was thick and creamy too, which can sometimes feel more filling than a thin, liquidy drink. If you think it’s too thick with the banana, add a bit more almond milk or maybe even a little water to thin it out some.  

I drank a “snack” serving of the Raw Meal this morning, had a muffin around 10 am, and wasn’t hungry for lunch until about 1pm. I’d say that’s a pretty good fill and would imagine that a full “meal” serving would keep me full well-past 10am. 

So there you have it folks. My first Garden of Life product review! What’d you think?

Do you want to try Raw Meal for yourself?

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am giving away some Raw Meal to my readers, and I couldn’t be more excited about it! You could be one of the 5 lucky winners of a FREE full-sized jar of Raw Meal! Simply enter to win with this awesome little raffle tool below! The more entries you have, the better your chances of winning!

If you win, I’ll contact you directly to find out where to ship your winnings!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Reconnecting with Nature: Finding Fulfillment

This time of year, it can feel like torture to stay inside all day while the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. (Right now I’m fantasizing about the trip up to Tuolomne Meadows that will commence the moment I leave work today!) While I try to spend at least a little bit of time outside during the work day, sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough, leaving me with a disjointed feeling and finding it hard to fall asleep at night.

With weather as beautiful as it’s been the last couple of months, I spend as much weekend time as possible outside to make up for what I miss during the week, either working in the garden, hiking with the dog, or climbing rocks in the wilderness.

We tried to make the last two of those things happen over the 4th of July weekend, but it was so incredibly hot, we traded rock climbing for swimming in the Cosumnes River in El Dorado National Forest and could only take the dog for a brief late afternoon hike in South Lake Tahoe.

reconnecting with nature

Dexter got lots of compliments on her Ruffpack.

Reconnecting with Nature

Ordinarily, I’d be disappointed to reach the base of a rock and not actually climb it, but I have to say that last weekend’s forced relaxation by the river was a really wonderful reminder that relaxing, still, easy adventures are just as important for my psyche as dangling from a rope 100 feet in the air.

I LOVE being near and swimming in natural bodies of water. Jumping off the rocks into Lake Travis in Pace Bend Park outside of Austin, TX is my absolute favorite memory from my college years, and it’s been hard to replicate that special feeling of being all alone in the water since moving to California. I’ve spent time swimming in lakes and rivers and going to the beach, don’t get me wrong, but none of it has been as private as it was back at Pace Bend. Until last weekend.

Thanks to a long-time Californian friend, we had the perfect camping spot right on the river, secluded, breezy, beautiful, quiet, relaxing. I will not be telling you where it is (partially because it’s too hard to explain but mostly because I don’t want to advertise it), but you can find your own spot just like it all along the complex river systems in the El Dorado Forest. It was breath-takingly pristine.

reconnecting with nature

Finding Fulfillment

I know I talk a lot about food on this blog, and that’s because food is one of my favorite things ever, but my mission has always been to intersect food, fulfillment, and creativity to manifest wellbeing. Yes, I love food, and you’ll be getting LOTS more food posts because exploring food DOES fulfill me, but today I’m talking about that second feature: FULFILLMENT.

What is fulfillment for you?

I suppose that’s the million dollar question. If there were a universal answer, no one would need therapy (or this blog for that matter).

Maybe you don’t care at all about the story I just shared because you hate swimming and you hate bugs, and that picture of the river does nothing for you. That’s fine. (I don’t get it, but that’s fine!) But do you have an analog that makes you feel like an actual human on an actual planet experiencing genuine connection, joy and fulfillment?

Is that a question of spirituality? Maybe. For me, being outside and reconnecting with nature is about as spiritual of an experience as there can be.

I won’t pretend to know what fulfills each of you, but do yourself a favor and consider reconnecting with nature. There’s evidence out there that sleeping on the ground under the stars, rising and setting with the sun, and putting your bare feet on the ground can help regulate your circadian rhythm, ground and center you, boost your immune system, and improve your mood. It’s worth a shot.

Now get out there and enjoy your weekend!

reconnecting with nature

OK maybe I needed to climb one little rock while I was there too. : )

FED UP – Who’s Sleeping with the Enemy Now?

FED UP

The heavy hitters knock it out of the park in this newly released movie about the seedy relationship between the government and Big Food. In the trailer alone, we see Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Robert Lustig, Gary Taubes, and Michael Pollan, all at the forefront of food activism in this country. They all agree: the misinformation propagated by mainstream medicine (Registered Dietitians), the CDC and Big Food needs to be corrected.

A calorie is NOT a calorie.

A sugar calorie does not operate in the body as a broccoli or steak calorie would. Where we get our nutrients matters for our health, and Big Food will do anything and everything in their power to prevent legislation against their toxic products. New York Times Columnist Mark Bittman goes as far as comparing junk food companies today to the tobacco companies of the 1980’s.

What do Julia Roberts, the CDC, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have in common?

They’re all sleeping with the enemy. I’m not a Registered Dietitian, but I work with quite a few. I spoke with them before posting this piece and they have some opinions of their own about the relationship between Big Food and major associations for dietitians. Their opinions range from outrage to dismay — one even said that after attending a CDA event last year, she boycotted all events this year and expressed her concerns to the folks in charge. Another shared her frustration with the complicated marriage between big money and policy advocacy for patients (conversation for another time). Still another holds onto hope that eventually RDs won’t need these large associations, and a lack of membership will shift the conversation to what’s right instead of what’s profitable.

All this is to say that what I’m about to share with you does NOT represent ALL Registered Dietitians.

I was extremely disturbed upon reading a recent article from Mother Jones about the disheartening partnerships taking place between Big Food and the major associations with which Registered Dietitians affiliate themselves.

Just so we’re all on the same page, the associations included are:

  • California Dietetic Association (CDA)

    • Vision: Optimize the state of California’s health through food and nutrition.
  • School Nutrition Association (SNA)
    • Mission: SNA is a national organization of school nutrition professionals committed to advancing the quality of school meal programs through education and advocacy.
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)
    • Mission: Empowering members to be the nation’s food and nutrition leaders
    • Vision: Optimizing the nation’s health through food and nutrition

(all Mission and Vision statement copied and pasted verbatim from the respective websites.)

The largest annual meeting for the RD profession took place earlier this month in Pomona, CA, and the primary sponsor for the event was none other than McDonald’s.


According to the MJ reporter, McDonald’s food was the ONLY lunch option for the attendees, much to their dismay. Other sponsors, panelists, and speakers included representatives from the beef lobby, the corn lobby, PepsiCo, Nestle, Nabisco, Boston Market, Sizzler, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Hershey, and the list goes on and on.

What do the missions and visions of these companies have in common with those of the three associations listed above? (Hint: NOTHING.) I’m not going to list them all here, as I assume if you’re reading this, you have access to google, but I’ll take a short snippet from the PepsiCo mission:

“Our mission is to be the world’s premier consumer products company focused on convenient foods and beverages.”

On what planet should this company have a seat at the table with folks who profess to “optimize the nation’s health” and “advanc[e] the quality of school lunches?” Is there a more unapologetically obvious conflict of interest here?

The most egregious offense coming from this event is the claim that these members are fair and unbiased. The Corn Refiner’s Association sponsored a presentation claiming the absolute safety of high fructose corn syrup, that it shouldn’t be singled out as a cause for increased obesity in children (this, despite scientific evidence to the contrary).

Context Clues: A Look Back

fed up

Let’s join Michael Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, and take a look at a well-kept secret in the history of convenience food. In 1999, CEOs from some of the major players listed above (also included were Nabisco, General Mills, Proctor and Gamble and Mars) met at a secret meeting in Minneapolis to discuss … drum roll please … their role in the rising childhood obesity statistics. Let me remind you this was 1999, and the numbers since then have skyrocketed.

Spoiler alert! They agreed to take care of themselves and their own pockets.

Have these corporations had a change of heart? Are they suddenly less interested in the success of their toxic products than in the health and wellbeing of our nation’s children? Is there any substantial evidence that they’re genuinely interested in engaging in real solutions to the obesity epidemic in this country? No, there’s not.

The Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken from McDonald’s doesn’t count as a health food, by even the loosest of standards. Sorry guys.

Solutions

As I said last week, the personal becomes political when it comes to something as obviously corrupt as partnerships between Big Food, Big Government, and the associations of Registered Dietitians. Educating yourself on the reality of what’s going on at this level will help you untangle the wealth of misinformation out there. Make informed decisions for your own health and that of your family at the grocery store by keeping it simple.

  1. Stay on the outer perimeter where there are the fewest labels to decipher (produce, meat and fish counters, dairy and eggs, bulk section)
  2. Avoid anything with a label making a health claim
  3. Choose products with no added sugar
  4. Choose local and organic where possible

Check out FED UP wherever it’s playing in your area, and VOTE WITH YOUR FORK.

 

Wild Goat Bistro in Petaluma

Adding to my list of favorite things this week is a sweet little restaurant in downtown Petaluma, CA called Wild Goat Bistro. You can get a healthy dinner (that accommodates special diets!) here for a reasonable price. It will feel home-cooked with a fine-dining flare.

wildgoat

Nestled right near the water, this tiny restaurant feels like a cross between a European bakery/bistro and your grandmother’s kitchen. We felt right at home walking in and being seated immediately at a cozy table against an exposed stone wall.

My parents were visiting for the weekend, and on our way home from a trip to the wine country, we stopped in for an early dinner. I was drawn to their “menu of honest food that uses local fresh ingredients in a variety of culinary traditions,” (quoted from the website) along with quite a few gluten-free offerings (including dessert!).

Feeling indecisive and wanting to try as much as possible, my mom and I decided to share a few small plates.

nuttygoat2

We started with the Nutty Goat – a delicious pistachio and fruit-encrusted ball of goat cheese, accompanied by gluten-free crostini and a black currant compote. My dad was so excited when he saw it that he dug in before I could get a clean shot off.

Cast Iron Seafood

Next we had the Beans and Greens, the Cast Iron Seafood, and the Polenta Pot Pie. I loved all three, but the polenta was especially satisfying (I didn’t get a good picture of it, but rest-assured, it was delicious).

When I saw that the polenta included mozzarella cheese, I was imagining a baked polenta-crusted pizza totally covered in cheese (and the stomach ache that would have accompanied it), but my mom really wanted to try it, so we went for it anyway. I’m so glad we did! The amount of cheese was exactly right, not over the top at all; the perfect balance of polenta and vegetables, and very modest with the tomato sauce as well. I appreciated this dish a lot, because I love polenta so much and am often disappointed when the flavor is drowned out by too much sauciness.

My mom raved over the Beans and Greens and couldn’t wait to get to the grocery store after dinner for ingredients to try to replicate it at home (I suppose the cooking gene runs in my Sicilian family…). The dish featured mustard greens and large white and red heirloom beans simmered in a white wine broth.

The men at the table went for the meatball sub, and both gave it two thumbs up.

I really hope I can get back to Petaluma before they change their menu, as we didn’t get to try the Slow Pork dish or any of their scrumptious-sounding desserts, which I’m super curious about.

The service was great, we were there early enough that we didn’t have to wait for a table, and the food experience was phenomenal. I would recommend putting Wild Goat Bistro on your list of restaurants to try if you find yourself in the area. Local, home-grown, California cuisine with a touch of Italy and a nod to the gluten-free folks among us. What more could you ask for?

Starting a Garden with Heirloom Seeds at Petaluma Seed Bank

Last spring, I built my first planter box, filling it with seedlings from my local nursery. I planted curly kale, celery, bush beans, asparagus, red chard, and strawberries. It was so much fun to watch the plants grow and change, and lucky for me, there aren’t huge numbers of pests in my backyard to ruin the good time. I literally had no idea what I was doing, beyond putting dirt in the box and planting the little guys; I just went for it!

the proud little garden helper dug in the dirt with me for our first garden project

the proud little garden helper dug in the dirt with me for our first vegetable project

Almost a year later, having planted many new seedlings and enjoyed the harvest from every corner of my back yard, I’d say I’ve learned a lot (including that kale can grow REALLY tall and look like a mini-tree in the planter box, and bush beans should not go behind them in their shade). We’ve had some ups and downs in our garden, but for the most part, it feels good to know that I am capable of growing at least some of my own food!

That being said, there’s one thing that’s still very much intimidating — starting from seed!

As a very sweet and thoughtful housewarming gift last year, some good friends gave me an herb planter and some seed packets — tarragon, thyme, sage, oregano, and basil. (Just for some perspective, before moving to California, I couldn’t keep a fern alive, much less start with a seed and grow it into something worthwhile. The thought of putting in the effort and failing is a very big hurdle for me to clear in my mind.)

I tried my very timid hand at all but the basil (just couldn’t pull the trigger on that one, so I threw the seeds into a smoothie). I started them indoors in little pots, and tried carefully not to over-water, as I’m wont to do. While the sage and oregano are doing great in my herb garden more than a year later, the tarragon and thyme have never reached usable volume, and in fact, I’ve presumed them dead more than once, only to see them return, still pathetic, still tiny, but alive.

I’ve read some great tips online about how to start vegetables from seed, but for some reason (read impatience, fear of failure, and too many directions), I have just had the hardest time attempting it for myself.

This weekend, I was finally convinced to take the plunge! My mother-in-law mentioned the Petaluma Seed Bank, suggesting that I stop by to see all the heirloom seeds they have for sale. I wasn’t going to buy anything, but she made it sound so neat that I wanted to check it out. When I walked in, I knew I wouldn’t be walking out empty-handed.

seedbank3

Here’s the view from the front door. Giant dried gourds are hanging from ceiling on the left.

The selection is overwhelming, and the building is amazing! (In the bathroom, they have a poster with at least 25 garlic varieties and their pictures. So cool!)

seedbank5

 

 

 

“We offer over 1,500 varieties of heirloom seeds, garlic, tools, books, and hundreds of local hand-made gifts and food items. Remember—everything we offer is pure, natural, and non-GMO!” (source)

The short story:

  • The building, which used to be the Sonoma County Bank, is a beautiful focal point of the downtown Petaluma area, and is the perfect spot for such a wonderful attraction
  • Any homestead or gardening magazine your imagination could ever dream up is right there on the rack when you first walk in (including RABBIT USA Magazine, which had an adorable front cover)
  • Any gardening tool, growing equipment, lighting, how-to guide, seasonal planting chart, or locally made sun hat your heart could fancy can be found inside these walls
  • Culinary herbal blends, seasoned salts, aromatic sugars, and infusions are waiting for you at the back of the store, ready to be added to your goodie bag
  • The staff is extremely knowledgeable about what should grow where, when, and how, and they’re happy to help a novice like me

seedbank1

After about 20 minutes of open-mouthed gawking and feeling totally overwhelmed with choices, I selected two varieties of cherry tomatoes, sugar pie pumpkins, delicata squash, giant celery root, and giant leeks (all heirloom). I also grabbed an indoor starter tray, and with trepidation, approached the counter with an arsenal of questions. The friendly woman behind the counter waited patiently as I wrote down every word she said, took a deep breath, and made my purchase.

I also scooped up this tasty culinary salt, as my interest was peaked after listening to a Salt Tasting Here and Now episode last week with Chef Kathy Gunst. I can’t wait to sprinkle it on something.

 

smoked salt2

This is going to be a very exciting experiment, and I anticipate I’ll learn quite a bit from it. I have to wait to plant some of what I purchased, as the last frost is estimated at April 15th this year, but the leeks and celery root are ready to go.

Stay tuned for updates as these little guys take off! And any lessons I learn along the way, you’ll be the first to know.

seedbank4

Your Turn:

Do you have a garden or interest in starting one? Have you ever planted a garden from seed? What tips do you have to share? Any thoughts on the best way to start? Share your thoughts below!

 

Pig and Pie

This is my first restaurant review!

When I launched this site, I knew I wanted business reviews to be part of it, but I’ve been waiting until something really amazing came along before adding in another category to this very broad site on how to create a sweet, rich life. Granted, Yelp already exists, but this new section is going to be different — more like a running log of restaurants, spas, tea houses, coffee shops, specialty stores, etc., that are aligned with my personal health and wellness philosophy. I won’t be doing any negative reviews here, just giving a shout out to cool places I find on my journey. And while I won’t be providing an interactive rating system (mostly because I don’t know how), comments on the reviews are definitely welcome if you’ve been to these places! And maybe one day I’ll figure out an interactive rating system too…

On Thursday last week, I had a meeting in the Mission District of San Francisco, so I decided to bring my laptop with me and spend the afternoon working in a nice, quiet coffee shop. My meeting was at SF General Hospital, and the walk from 24th St. BART was so full of choices that I was struggling to make a decision.

I stopped to look at a few menus and, realizing that I was hungry for lunch, revised my search from coffee shop to lunch spot, hoping I could find a place to eat with wi-fi. Almost immediately after making that switch this door appeared in front of me.

PigandPie1

Pig and Pie — I love both of those things! The enticing name and cute chalk board menu above the register drew me in — I had to at least see what this place was about, and I’m so very glad I did. (And yes, they do have wi-fi.)

As I approached the counter, I noticed a sign next to the register that indicated that the animals served here were pasture-raised on family farms in Texas, eating the foods they were meant to eat and getting plenty of sunlight.

Score! I made the easy decision to stay for lunch (and the rest of the work day actually).

Next, to decide what to eat…this was a tough call. Check out this amazing menu! I can’t wait to get back here to try the brunch.

PigandPiemenu

I settled on the Allspice Pork Shoulder with brown sugar maple bacon baked beans and frilly mustard greens. I was expecting cooked, southern-style greens, but what came out with the other two gems was a delicate salad of lacy baby mustards with a very light dressing. All three elements of the dish were delicious. The pork was perfectly tender but still plump, and the beans were sweet but not too sweet. Perfect!

PigandPieBraisedPorkShoulder

And the woman who took my order was very sweet too. I was there literally all afternoon and no one bothered me or asked me if I wanted to spend more money for staying there all that time. It was peaceful and awesome.

The two parts of the menu I missed out on for this first trip to Pig and Pie were the beer and the dessert. Mid-day beer and pie just didn’t seem right with all the work I had to do, so I promised myself another visit sometime soon. Check out this drink menu.

PigandPiebeer

I’m especially curious about the Squid Ink India Black Ale and the Nautilus Hibiscus Saison.

All the pies are home-made with the option of ice cream for an additional $2. If memory serves, the day I went, they had apple pie, a grape crisp, and pecan pie. As a Texan, I like to think I know a little something about pecan pie, so I plan on going back for that too. I assume that the pies aren’t gluten-free, although I didn’t ask, but I’m perfectly willing to scrape the filling out of a pecan pie — in fact I think I did it twice in Texas on my last visit.

As an East Bay dweller, I hesitate to go to SF by myself unless I can BART, as the traffic and parking challenges tend to be more than I’m willing to deal with. This restaurant is a 5 to 10 minute walk from 24th St. BART, right on 24th St, and worth every minute of the commute. I was there at lunch, and it wasn’t busy, but with food this good, I imagine the dinner crowd is much larger. Definitely check this place out!