Posts tagged ‘joy’

February 28, 2014

I’ve Got to Get Away!

this way out

Hi, Friends! It’s Brooke here. Is busyness overtaking your life? Are you constantly weary and running on empty? We all have so much to juggle that we barely have time to breathe. If you can get away on a vacation, sweet! But what if your schedule or your wallet is a bit pinched? You don’t need a whole week away at a 5-star resort to get some peace in your life, though it would be a great start! Here’s my personal plan for getting away, if only for a little while.

1. Nature

Happy, hot, and muggy in Mexico!

Happy, hot, and muggy in Mexico!

Go where the wild things are. Go where you can take a deep breath and actually smell the air. Find the wind, search the wide open sky, find some water, or surround yourself with your favorite kind of plant therapy. To a nature-starved soul trapped in the city, even the greenhouse at Home Depot is warm, loamy, and vibrant. I could never articulate why my soul resonated so deeply with watching a fire burning in my fireplace or standing on the deck of a cruise ship, gazing at the horizon as the wind whipped my hair and the waves  broke below me. Then I found Martha Beck’s description of the soothing power of nature in The Joy Diet: “If your body is tired, seek out some fluidly moving part of nature: a fireplace, a river, a field of wind-blown wheat, a thundering surf. Watching and listening to the patterned disorder of the universe is one of the deep soul’s favorite pastimes.” Lovely . . .

2. Loved Ones

My sister, Paige, and I--love her so!!

My sister, Paige, and I–love her so!!

Find the person or people you love the most and just marinate in the happiness they bring you. You don’t have to do anything or go anywhere, unless doing so will bring you joy. My heart bubbles over in the presence of loved ones—it is therapy like none other for the craziness in my life. When I’m with people I treasure, I love to linger and no amount of time is ever enough. You know the quote, “Parting is such sweet sorrow . . .”? Absolutely true!

3. Animals

animal collage

Seek out some animal friends ASAP! If you love creatures like I do, there’s nothing that makes me more deliriously happy than petting an animal. Some people go crazy for (human) babies—for me, it’s animals. If I can’t touch a creature, I’m begrudgingly content just to watch them. My favorite hotel in Miami, The Biltmore, is famous for its two beautiful, old-fashioned finch aviaries. These cages are in the lobby, are home to at least 20 finches, and are the first things you see when you step into this glorious hotel. If you’ve not heard the sounds finches make, the tiny chirps are soft, constant, and sweet. I could watch and listen to those winged charmers for hours—so very soothing.

4. Free Time

If you are a spontaneous sort like me, having time unplanned is a precious thing. Having an end point at the end of a stretch of time (even for something fun) makes me feel boxed in and anxious. So, on a recent trip to see my sister and her family, we found ourselves momentarily without plans and it was heavenly. When you keep time unmarked by expectation, 1) you can relax and simply be and 2) you leave room for unexpected joys. We enjoyed our free time by visiting, chilling out, reading, and then lucky for me—a puppy play date happened! See, you never know what will happen when you relax your grip on life! 🙂

5. Joy Reading

A few of my favorite things . . .

A few of my favorite things . . .

This seems to be an obvious choice, but for hyper-achieving, busy people, setting down whatever instructional, educational thing you doing can be the first step to getting away for a bit. I’m always studying or preparing for something, and of course there’s never enough time in the day to do everything. So, when I need to escape, I pick up my favorite books that make me laugh and am transported.

This list is my go-to plan for escaping for a little while and regaining some sanity and joy. What do you do to find some peace in your life? I’d love to know! Find me at Brooke@healthyhousewives.com.

May your weekend be blessed and filled with joy,

Brooke

February 3, 2014

Life Is a Feast

Do you need a little happy in your life? If you do, you can borrow some of mine for a bit—but only until you find your own. I found this talisman of my joy (at least the beginnings of it) at Office Max—who knew?!? Check out my Happy Kitchen Board below:

Just makes me smile!

Just makes me smile!

My Happy Kitchen Board makes me grin whenever I see it. It’s a bright, beautiful representation of my spirit settled happily in my kitchen, the center of our home. It also serves as a visual shortcut to my own brand of happiness, reminding me to stop and savor when I run too ragged and forget. Now I want you to zero in on that rabbit near the flower pot: “Life is a feast.”

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Love this little guy.

There’s so much power packed into that tiny phrase!  Life should be savored, shouldn’t it? With joyful abundance and possibilities unbounded, conjuring up gifts freely shared. Recently, I was blessed with an actual feast for both the body and the spirit–double win! In case you don’t know, I work at a magnificent retirement community, Juliette Fowler Communities, and one of the sweetest parts of my day is Morning Devotions.

Dear friends: Amp and Ruth, and their helper, Tracy

Now, how many people can say that they begin their workday in a place overflowing with love and respect, spending time with treasured friends, sharing coffee and treats, and exchanging stories of how God moves in their lives? Not many! The group of residents and staff members that gather for this morning time together are very dear to me. I swear I’m doused in love and happiness by the time we say goodbye.

Sweet ladies: Hazel, Wanda, and Carolyn

Last Thursday, however, was extra special. My sweet friend and Director of Life Enrichment (the most perfectly named department I know) Marti Miller planned a bountiful, healthy spread for our residents. A quick trip to Whole Foods later, and we were set. Here’s what we enjoyed:

211

  • Fresh mandarin oranges
  • Iced mocha (made with almond milk, coffee, and natural cocoa)
  • Activia yogurt
  • Fresh papaya and mango
  • Fresh green juice
  • Cranberry juice with natural ginger ale
  • Hail Merry macaroons
Two of my very favorite people: Marti Miller and Deborah Armstrong

Two of my very favorite people: Marti Miller and Deborah Armstrong

The food was excellent, and the company even better. That delicious morning meal with my friends was a perfect reminder for all of us to keep enjoying this glorious feast of life. Have a super week!

Bon appétit, and God bless!

Brooke

December 23, 2013

Happy and Safe Howlidays!

 Christmas brown lab asleep

Hi, there! This is Brooke, your pet-loving gal here. The holidays are here, and you are probably up to your eyebrows in things left to do, cookies to bake, and cards to send—I know I am! Here are some tips on keeping your cherished pets safe and happy during this festive season.

Christmas Trees

This is an example of a bad kitteh!

This is an example of a bad kitteh!

  1. Make sure to anchor your trees from adventurous kitties that climb and dogs with crazily wagging tails—you don’t want all your hard work “decking” the tree to come crashing down in the middle of your eggnog!
  2. If you have a live tree, keep your animals from drinking the tree water, which may be full of pesticides as well as bacteria from the stagnant water. Ingestion of these nasty things can cause diarrhea, nausea, and upset stomach.
  3. Regardless of whether your tree is real or artificial, be sure to clean up the dropped needles often. Curious pets will eat those needles faster than you can say “No, don’t—!“ They are toxic and will cause vomiting, even if fake (trust me on this L).
  4. Do not leave pets unattended with the Christmas tree, if possible. A fully decorated tree comes stocked with all kinds of dangerous “toys”:
  • Hot light strands can burn or electrocute dogs or cats, which have a tendency to chew on things. Keep light strands secured and covered or away from the lower levels of the tree.
  • Be sure to put glass or metal ornaments higher up on the tree, and watch for broken ornaments with sharp hooks or attachments—little paws can easily step on these items.
  • Tinsel may be beautiful, but it’s a big no-no, especially for cat households. Cats will ALWAYS find stringy, dangly items, and tinsel (along with other strings or wires) can be ingested and can get tangled in the stomach or intestines, leading to scary emergency surgery or even death if not caught in time. No thank you!!

Holiday Plants

Many plants that make our houses cherry and bright this time of year are bad news for our furry family members. For a more extensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants, check out this link from the ASPCA: http://www.aspca.org/Pet-care/poison-control/Plants. If you suspect your pet has gotten into anything suspicious, whether plant, food, or otherwise, be sure to call your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic IMMEDIATELY. You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year: (888) 426-4435.

Common Holiday Plants Your Pets Should Avoid

  1. Lilies: deadly to cats, can cause kidney failure
  2. Mistletoe (especially the berries): highly toxic, causes upset stomach and potentially fatal heart problems
  3. Holly: causes nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy
  4. Poinsettias: not as toxic as often thought, these should still be avoided as they can upset pets’ digestive system
  5. Amaryllis: causes diarrhea and vomiting
  6. Certain species of ivy, namely English ivy: can be extremely harmful if ingested

Forbidden Food and Drinks

Christmas cat and dog eating

We all know that your animal friends are very skilled at watching you pitifully as you shove another yummy treat in your mouth. Their doleful eyes entreat you to share a bit of delicious food with them. Don’t do it!! You can show your pets that you love them in so many healthier ways.

  • Be sure and feed your pets before dinner or party guests arrive—that way, Spot will have a full tummy and be less likely to beg for scraps from your guests. Also, give your animals some special treats made just for them when they have been good (or just because), and politely ask your guests to avoid passing along tasty morsels to your pets.
  • This shouldn’t even need to be mentioned, but be sure to keep the dogs and cats (and any other small creatures) in your house out of the booze and smokes. Even accidental ingestion of alcohol or nicotine by a curious pet can be deadly, so if your party is getting very merry—be careful!!

Some foods that can be harmful to your furry friends are:

  • Turkey skin and gravy: can cause pancreatitis
  • Onions and onion powder: can destroy red blood cells, causing anemia
  • Chocolate: can damage the nervous system and urinary tract as well as the heart muscle; can be deadly
  • Grapes and raisins: grapes, especially, can cause kidney failure (who knew?)
  • Bones, especially poultry bones: can tear or block the intestinal tract; these injuries can be fatal
  • Not a food but food items: strings that are used in turkeys or roast, as well as the little  “pop-up” thermometers; discarded aluminum foil; food and fixings garbage—make sure to keep these items picked up and thrown away, with garbage sealed tightly

Joy to the Animals

Sweetness!

Sweetness!

We can absolutely include our furry or feathered family members in the holiday festivities—we just have to be smart pet parents. Stuff your pets’ stockings with worry-free toys, like rubber dog toys, indestructible Kongs filled with special treats, durable rope “bones”, size-appropriate balls, catnip mice, interactive krinkle mats, and colorful lanyards with bells and mirrors for your favorite bird.

Ok, you guys. Get to jingling those bells, and stay warm!

Blessings, Brooke

December 2, 2013

Enjoy the Holiday Rush

kiss me now

Now, this is my kind of holiday spirit 😉

Hi, Everyone! All stressed out and nowhere to run? I hear ya! This time of year invites not only merriment and reflection but lots of obligations absent the other 11 months of the year. Decorating the house, shopping without breaking the bank, crafting and baking (if you’re so inclined), vowing that THIS year you won’t wait until the last minute to do everything . . . all the while, the calendar is shrinking relentlessly down to zero hour. Then there’s the anxiety over sending Christmas cards—you could choose not to send them this year, but then you risk the icky feeling of being quietly dropped from your friends’ card lists. So, your list of to-do’s is long but necessary. Here are a few tips to help you cope:

is this you

Don’t let this be you . . .

1. Plan Ahead: This one’s a big challenge for me, but it saves a lot of headaches and heart palpitations down the road. Decorate your house early in the season so you can 1) enjoy being surrounded by holiday cheer and 2) focus on other tasks as the season ramps up. If you’re shopping for loved ones’ lists, do like the stores do and barely let the gratitude of Thanksgiving sink in before jumping into The Holidays. Take advantage of sales early in the month, and if you want to avoid having to fight your way through crowded lines even for a latte, do some gift getting during the weekdays. Not possible for everyone, I know, but have you seen those women who seem to have everything done, presents wrapped (nicely), and treats baked for their children’s friends’ families before the first full weekend in December? That’s how they do it! Oh, and they may have made a little deal with the Dark One—I’m just speculating.

2. Savor the Season: This is my favorite part about the holiday season—enjoying it, even as I mow through my lengthy list. When we pull all the decorations and tree down from the attic, I love to put on our favorite Christmas CDs (Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and Harry Connick, Jr.’s When My Heart Finds Christmas—I love you!). Preferably I also have a delicious iced Gingerbread Latte from Starbucks as my companion. You know that song from Mary Poppins—“A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down”? I’m a big believer in that phrase when I’m doing anything onerous or involved (for example, cleaning out my closet . . . again). Just give yourself a little sparkle to help enjoy the task at hand—it’s always worked wonders for me. Also, despite the lack of checkmarks on your to-do list, take time out to drive around and look at the lights on your neighbors’ houses, or sit down and watch your favorite holiday movies as a family. Do the things that bring cheer and joy to you and your loved ones—make those cute, little bread loafs that you always dream of doing over the holidays. Go root through your winter clothes and find your favorite comfy sweater to nestle up in, even if you have to crank up the AC, like we have to do in Texas J

3. Be Good to Yourself:  This one obviously involves bits of the previous paragraph, but sometimes we are the ones that get forgotten in the mad rush of December. Taking care of yourself is more than just pampering. You are the lynchpin to your family’s progress through their lives and this season. If you run yourself ragged, then everyone’s in trouble! Be reasonable in your expectations of yourself. Learn to say “No” politely to some requests for your time and assistance—trust me, this will change your life. Just because someone wants you to something doesn’t mean you are beholden to. And it doesn’t mean you are a bad person or don’t like the requestor. It just means that you have a limited amount of time, and you need to spend it in the way that fills you up and keeps you marginally socially acceptable (and not a hermit). Say “Yes” when you can cheerfully help out, and be gracious but direct when replying “No.” You will feel so much better when you can do this. Also, despite occasional obstacles, keep up with your healthy eating and exercise. Exercise especially is a powerful stress buster that improves your mood, relaxes your crazy mind, brings more restful sleep, and keeps your body healthy and happy. It will serve you very well this season, as will mindful eating. If you keep yourself fueled throughout each day with high-quality food (lean protein, whole grains, veggies, fruit, and LOTS of water), you will not only feel amazing but also be able to cope more easily with holiday party temptations. If you’ve been on track with your nutrition, then you (and not the double chocolate cheesecake at your work party) will be in control. Go on, have a little piece! Mama needs some chocolately cheer too!

Enjoy the season, ok? It’s going to go fast!

XOXO, Brooke

chocolate cheesecake

September 9, 2013

Find Your Happy Place

both joy

Hello, Friends! It’s Brooke, here. Where’s your happy place? You do have one, don’t you? If not, you are missing out. As far as these lovely places go, they can be locations you can actually visit, or they can be exotic locales conjured up in your mind’s eye. While both types have their uses, today we are concerning ourselves with the places that you can access easily at almost any moment.  Why? Because sometimes life just calls for a quick and powerful reset, and your brain is just too overrun to get away on its own. In these instances, it’s best to simply transport yourself to the place where you can relax and let your mind catch up later.

Follow the Clues

clue

But how can you find these places of solace and escape? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • When was the last time I was really happy? Where was I?
  • What activities make me lose track of time?
  • If I could go anywhere in my entire city, where would I go and what would I do?
  • What makes my heart happy?
  • When I’ve reached the end of my tether, what would make me feel cared for?

Scour your memories for all the times and places when you were alone and content. Part of caring for your spirit is finding ways to be joyful and complete without needing others to fill a void for you. Also, your loved ones’ version of happy may be entirely different from yours. Your job is to find your glow first and share with those in your life after.

glow

You’re on the Right Track!

Remember, everyone has a different set of hallmarks they use to identify their happy places. Maybe a little boutique smells just like your favorite friend’s house growing up; maybe a painting studio lets you be wildly creative and unbound, unlike your day job. In case you’re stuck, take a peek at my top 3 places currently:

1. Barnes & Noble: smells like coffee, cinnamon scones, and new books—also, I love hanging out with my dad there, and I adore getting lost (and not being missed) exploring whatever my heart desires . . . today

2. Cosmic Café: vegetarian/vegan Indian restaurant: the food is delicious, the vibe is very spiritual and peaceful, and no beloved animals were sacrificed in the making of this nourishment

3. Exall Lake: lovely and peaceful neighborhood lake, surrounded by trees, beautiful homes, and away from the hustle and bustle of Dallas traffic; inspires me and allows me to think and ponder

You Will Know It When You Feel It

heart flutter

Here are some markers that will help you recognize you have found some happy places:

  • It makes your heart flutter happily.
  • Being there is supremely relaxing.
  • Your true self can roam unfettered by expectations of normal life.
  • Your brain can finally shut off the cacophony of b.s. it spouts incessantly as you are lost in the moment.
  • You are thinking about or focusing on only 1 thing—and it feels great!
  • You feel calm because you are in the present moment, not hampered by the past or fretting about the future.

Come to think of it, these markers are some of the very same ones you can use to identify your true calling and find your bliss. No wonder they make you feel happy!

Go to Your Happy Places as Often as Possible

beach heart

Self-explanatory, really! Keep these places tucked away in your subconscious and pull them out regularly, especially when you are feeling stressed, fried, heartbroken, or just plain out of joie de vive. As long as they make your soul sing, you’ve found your little corner of bliss!

Happy hunting, Brooke

August 26, 2013

The Fine Art of Getting Things Done

I get stuff done

Do you have trouble getting things done? I sure do! Some tasks I do just fine with, like scheduled appointments, work deadlines, and most daily minutiae. But that closet that needs to be cleaned out? Purging and reorganizing the files in my office? Cleaning out our dusty, spidery garage? Things that sound only slightly less fun than a root canal–those are the chores I put off. In fact, sometimes I put them off for so long that I become blind to their incessant, nagging existence (at least that’s what it seems like). But the psychological weight of clutter and Things To Do keeps my spirit weighed down and trapped, unable to truly enjoy the present because so much of my inner self is taken up with anxiety from these unfinished tasks.

So, when I find an opportunity to tackle these annoying stealers of joy, I usually have to get creative before I can get things done. Why I can’t just make a list and then power through it, I don’t know. I’m just wired differently. If you are list-challenged like me or if you want some new ideas on how to tackle the next big project, check out my favorite tricks:

1. What Hurts the Most? Relieve the Pressure

stress

When my to-do list is truly epic and things are so out of control that I become almost catatonic with it all, I stop and ask myself, What hurts the most? This is not physical pain I’m referring to, although if this type of pain is on the Crazy List, then of course it demands your attention. Out of the babble of chores, obligations, and distractions pulling at you, which pulls the hardest? Which must be done first out of them all? What is the most upsetting? Find THAT one, and ask yourself, What could I do about this task that would relieve the pressure? How could I breathe easier? What is one step I can take towards finishing this thing? Then do it immediately.

2. Change Your Scenery

This is one of my favorite ways to jumpstart creativity or just get some fresh air into a project that’s become stale. This trick is especially helpful if your task involves pondering, brainstorming, or other mental participation. You may not be able to get rid of your task, but you can try to put a different backdrop behind it. Years ago when I worked from home, I would often move to different locations around the house to help me slog through hundreds of pages that needed editing. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I would move outside or even to my favorite coffee shop, although this was always complicated by my need for a quiet stiller than the grave in order to work.

3. Bring a Little Magic

Mary Poppins was right!

Mary Poppins was right!

Do you remember this line from the Mary Poppins song: “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down . . .”? This maxim is a wonderful addition to your mental-health arsenal. I rely heavily on it when I have boring household chores to tend to. I find something that would add some joy and brightness to the often mundane tasks of washing dishes, sorting laundry, or even cleaning out the bathroom cabinets. You can do almost anything if you bring a little magic to it. Make a ceremony of time with your loved ones, just because. Combine your bummer activity with your favorite place (e.g., do your weekly budget at Starbucks).

iced coffee

My two secret weapons for coping with these dreary duties are 1) my favorite drink, usually involving caffeine, and 2) audio books. My favorite: Agatha Christie murder mysteries! Her books on tape (and CDs) have been my companions for many years, and I will cherish them forever. Even if your task is festive and fun (say, decorating for the holidays), adding some well-loved music and something to sip on makes everything cheerier.

4. Race the Clock

race the clock

When you find yourself in the midst of a chore and your motivation is grinding to a halt, race the clock! Kids love to race—against each other, against time, really anything. So can you. A little adrenaline goes a long way. Figure out a tight time limit, one that will put the squeeze on you. Then challenge yourself to finish XYZ before time’s up. It may sound childish, but hey, who cares? You’re the only one watching, and if it works, it works. Maybe you have a pile of laundry fresh from the dryer, and you are feeling lazy. If the TV is on, make a game of finishing your folding before the next commercial break. Whatever it is, find a slightly uncomfortable boundary of time to be done by, and GO!

These are just a few tricks that help me get through my to-do’s with minimal muss and fuss. Do you have some great ways you get your rear in gear? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Have a great (and perhaps productive) rest of the day!

Cheers, Brooke

July 29, 2013

The Joy of Exercise

I choose joy

Happy Monday! It’s Brooke here. Have you ever thought about exercise as a joy? What about when you were a kid, before physical activity became Something You Had to Do? Do you remember how carefree you felt running around with the wind in your hair and the grass beneath your toes, even if your knees were skinned? Gosh, I miss that feeling!

The Good Old Days

When I was little and time stretched beyond infinity, I rejoiced in playing in the yard, swimming, and biking around my neighborhood at every opportunity. For a few preteen years, I also played soccer, mainly because I loved being with my friends on the team. But as a shy, once-timid girl, the thought of meeting a ball coming at me full throttle and me battling with another person for possession was mortifying for me. I can hear my dad (our coach)’s voice yelling “Hustle, Brooke, hustle!” to no avail. The other fly in the ointment was my being made to run a lot in the blazing Texas sun, so I’m pretty much done with running, thanks.

NoRunning

For many years, I had no perception of how important physical activity was, outside of the requisite school-mandated P.E. classes. Fortunately for those around me, I was sprung from these classes before people could truly appreciate how uncoordinated I was. In 6th grade, we were required to choose our path going forward for the next year—band, choir, or athletics. The totality of our future experience would spin out in different ways according to what we chose. Even friendships would flourish or diminish by the simple fact of sharing (or not sharing) the same physical space with a population of kids every day for the next 6 years. So, for that span of time, my exercise was no more strenuous than trying to dance/twirl or march/stand at attention as a majorette in the marching band.

Time to Play

When I arrived at college, I had to choose (again) mandatory P.E. classes. So, I decided to take all the “sports” I’d always wanted to try. I blissfully took several semesters of ballet, feeling like a graceful swan and a thrilled little girl at the same time. I even signed up for fencing—very challenging. Apparently, coordination is important there as well. But I liked the metal bra cups that the girls had to wear inside their uniform (instant curves!). Then I found archery. . .  True love!

archery target

This makes my heart skip a beat . . . look at all those 10’s!

Archery was the start of everything wonderful for me at school. I found my adored friend, Suzy, in this class. And I stumbled upon my joy when Suzy and I joined the archery team. This group became my family at A&M—that tends to happen when you see each other day in and day out for hours. Not only is archery a beautiful sport of precision and focus, but the gear is really neat too! I’ll share more shooting adventures in a future post, but my point here is that I found something that made me happy. And you should too!

Exercise is joyful when you find an activity that feels like play instead of dread. You don’t have to do 100 sit-ups or lock yourself in a gym to exercise. It’s a big world out there! If you feel confined in your life or so stressed out that you can’t breathe, go run until you forget all that stuff. Feel the need to punch something? There’s always kickboxing, karate, or MMA. Have you always wanted to try burlesque dance? Then go for it! Think of an activity involving some bodily movement that would make you feel carefree and energized. No judging, no recitals (please!), and it’s totally ok if you mess up. Just find your joy!

XO, Brooke

Joy in action!

Joy in action!

July 1, 2013

Mediterranean Delight

Greece-Slide1-Santorini

Santorini, the land of legends and beautiful calendar pictures

Hi, everyone! Brooke here. When you think of the Mediterranean, do you think of warm ocean breezes and rocky cliffs overlooking seas of deep azure blue? Or do you imagine scenes of vibrant and joyful living with friends and family, ala Meryl Streep in Mama Mia? When I imagine what Greece must be like, all of these pictures crowd into my head! Once I calm down from the breathtaking vistas like the one above, I of course think of the delicious Greek food. Not only is it tasty, but it’s good for your heart. The traditional Mediterranean diet is renowned the world over for its wholesome simplicity and multitude of health benefits. For the past 50 years, health experts have been correlating the dietary habits of the people in Greece and Crete (specifically) with an increased life span and a virtual lack of chronic disease. That’s amazing! Now think about the current relationship of the average American diet to health and wellness in this country—depressing and frightening! But if we take a closer look at the classic Mediterranean diet, we can understand why it’s now considered a “gold standard” when it comes to a heart-healthy lifestyle.

healthy heart plate

The USDA’s Food Pyramid shares many similar recommendations with the traditional Greek diet—for good reason. A diet rich in plant foods, unsaturated fat, and a moderate amount of animal protein has been shown to reduce the risks of many chronic and lifestyle-related diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s the kicker—nutrition is only part of the solution. The Greek model of healthy living combines regular physical activity with dining leisurely on whole foods. This combination is the key to managing weight and minimizing the risk of disease. Let’s examine why this diet has become synonymous with good health and vitality.

greek salad and EVOO

The foundation of this diet is a virtual cornucopia of whole, plant-based foods such as leafy greens, fruits, beans, nuts, potatoes, seeds, and whole grains. As you know, these foods are abundant in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and healthy carbohydrates. Did you know that the typical Greek diet might include 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day? Wow! Another daily staple are grains—breads made from wheat, barley, cracked grains, and other seeds, as well as polenta (cornmeal), potatoes, couscous, and brown rice. Unsaturated fats such as nuts and olive oil, especially extra-virgin olive oil (instead of butter or margarine), are common. Fish and poultry are the main lean proteins and are eaten only about 2-3 times a week (red meat is occasionally enjoyed a few times a month). Dairy products like eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt are consumed only moderately. For you wine lovers out there, here you go . . . a small amount of red wine is often served with both lunch and dinner. Dates, nuts, and berries are the desserts of choice, while those decadent delights like baklava and revani (a moist, sweet lemon cake) are reserved for special treats.

revani

Revani, a sweet treat

As you can see, Mediterranean cuisine can be wonderful for your heart, waistline, and even your spirit. I love trying new and wonderful foods that I didn’t grow up enjoying. One of my favorite sayings is “Life is a feast,” which means life should be tasted and breathed and savored joyfully. If you can’t fling yourself onto a departing plane anytime soon, you can still have adventures of a culinary kind close to home. Next time you dine out, go Greek! Keep in mind, just like any place in the modern world, Greece has its share of decadent, fatty foods and dishes full of cheese and salt. Just keep in mind the whole, unprocessed foods mentioned above, and you’ll be fine. Here are some healthy and not-so-healthy choices to keep in mind when you go adventuring at your local Greek cafe.

Healthy and tasty . . . perfect anytime!

  • Hummus with whole-wheat pita or veggies
  • Dolmades
  • Horiatiki salata
  • Couscous
  • Souvflaki
  • Stifado stew
  • Tzatziki (sauce)
  • Kakavia
  • Grilled/roasted fish with steamed vegetables

 

Is this your cheat meal? Well, then, ok . . .

  • Falafel
  • Baklava (this makes me sad . . . I LOVE baklava!)
  • Gyro
  • Spanakopita
  • Avegolemono (sauce)
  • Saganaki
  • Mousaka
  • Anything made with phyllo

 

Kali orexi, or “happy eating”!

XO, Brooke

KaliOrexi

June 10, 2013

Dimensions of Wellness

wellness

Hello, Friends! It’s Brooke, here. What does wellness mean to you? Does it mean that you are thriving and growing? Or does it simply mean that the nasty stomach bug going around the office managed to miss you . . . this time? According to the World Health Organization, wellness is not simply the absence of disease, but a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.

Living a healthy lifestyle means making choices that support your overall well-being. This term “well-being” feels very broad to me. We often limit our perception of a healthy life to only the physical aspects, but we are so much more than just our bodies. The following dimensions of wellness allow us to examine various aspects of our lives and see what’s working and what needs more attention. Some of the ways to improve your personal wellness will be very familiar to you, whereas others may spark some new ideas.

Dimensions of Wellness

  • Physical
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Vocational

Physical wellness means taking personal responsibility for your own health as well as striving to incorporate positive behaviors into your life each day.

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods
  • Exercise daily
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Drink lots of water
  • Practice safe sex
  • Stay current on health screenings
  • Stop smoking
  • Consume alcohol in moderation (if at all)

Intellectual wellness is thinking creatively and logically to understand yourself and others as well as expanding your knowledge and skills through activities and resources.

  • Learn a foreign language (and then travel abroad to practice!)
  • Visit a zoo or science museum
  • Learn to appreciate art
  • Read anything your heart desires
  • Challenge yourself by taking a class
  • Seek out people who stimulate your mind
  • Immerse yourself in a subject that fascinates you

Spiritual wellness involves finding meaning and purpose in your life. Spiritual wellness also encourages you to develop and examine ethics and personal values, which may or may not be based on religion.

  • Allow yourself and others the freedom to be themselves, without judgment or agenda
  • Engage fully in your life
  • Discover (and protect) the parts of yourself you value
  • Search your motivations and goals
  • Explore what spirituality means to you
  • Honor sacredness in nature and in your life

Emotional wellness is the ability to accept your feelings about yourself, assess your strengths and limitations, cope with stress, and function autonomously in the world.

  • Accept your strengths and improve on your weaknesses
  • Give and receive encouragement and support when you need it
  • Listen to your heart and your feelings
  • Manage and minimize the stress in your life
  • Learn the fine art of time management
  • Seek out the things that light your fire
  • Strive for peace and happiness

Social wellness involves the creation and maintenance of healthy relationships within your family, friends, and community.

  • Communicate directly when you need something
  • Spend time with your loved ones
  • Collect new friends and treasure your old friends
  • Find a group or activity that gives you purpose
  • Nurture your relationships, despite the busyness of everyday life
  • Contribute your time or gifts to the community
  • Expect positivity and love—I promise you’ll get it back

Vocational wellness involves discovering personal and occupational interests that are meaningful as well as setting goals and recognizing abilities that enrich your life.

  • Explore new interests or long-forgotten passions
  • Imagine yourself in a career(s) that makes you feel alive
  • Spend time brainstorming and setting goals
  • Ponder how you can best use your gifts and skills
  • Get acquainted with what makes you special and then figure out how to share those things
  • Strive to be of good cheer and consciously bring positivity to those you work with

These dimensions are interrelated in such a way that one affects the others, positively as well as negatively. Balance in all areas of wellness is the key to fulfilling personal potential. I know we focus on living a vital, healthy life by caring for our bodies, but you and I both know that we are the sum of all of our parts, beautiful and flawed, together or falling apart. When we care for our outsides as well as our insides, we will see wonderful things rippling through all parts of our life. I hope you will begin each day by choosing to own your health and taking steps each day to live radiantly well.

May you have a gloriously happy week,

Brooke

yoga

May 22, 2013

Coffee Chats and Simple Facts

Morning-Routine

Stretching is best when muscles are warm, so consider jogging or jumping in place to wake up and get blood flowing to muscles.

morning-routine1 MorningRoutineCards1You know the drill… alarm goes off, you hit the snooze. Alarm goes off again, and you realize you’re ten minutes late and start brainstorming up-dos to compliment the “casual, professional outfit” you’re now putting together in your head. You run upstairs and start doing jumping jacks before you’re even completely awake. It doesn’t matter though–jumping actually masks the pounding in your head. After a set of fifty, you stop, grab a drink of water–rather chug as much as you can, not realizing the depth of your thirst. Okay, you’re awake. After you select your “upbeat” playlist, you hit the weights for today’s workout. An hour later, you’re in the shower, trying to not get your hair any wetter than it is. You justify not shaving because you’re wearing leggings today (part of the casual professional look you’ve designed in your head.) You complete a few deep breaths and realize today’s a pretty busy day. All good–you got your workout in, you feel stronger, and you can do everything! I love that feeling post-workout shower.

After packaging yourself into a sassy, just put together, yet stylish attire and putting the last hair pin into your up-do (just as the YouTube tutorial instructs,) you check your iPhone calendar to see what’s on tap for the day. A few meetings, a few errands, and a few reports needed by dinner time, which will be spent entertaining clients, so you better eat a snack before hand, so you don’t overindulged. This is truly the snapshot of the type of morning which usually fills my work-week. I’ve heard folklore about women waking up to quiet time, a reading nook of their home, and to a ceramic coffee mug full of a fine Cinnamon roast. Who are these women? I’d love to meet one some day. Meanwhile, a congested trail of thought continues to run through my mind as my Doberman jumps onto my lap to plant a wet one on my face. I can’t be mad. Besides my step-children, my fur-babies ( a word I swore I’d never use which taught me I should never again swear) are my only children. Unconditional love runs rampant among my Doberman, Maximus, and my Dachshund, Samson.
I immediately begin talking to my pups as I rub out the paw marks on my leggings and reapply my powder, and gloss. We have several songs we sing in the morning, but I’ll spare you for now, as I have another point to make with this blog. As I serve breakfast to the pups and to myself, I jot down notes for my day and sing one of our jingles. After we complete our morning routine, it’s time for me to trade my “pup-mom” hat in for my “business-woman” driving glasses. And I’m off to my first meeting of the day. Fast-forward five hours later, I’m “meeting fatigued” and returning to my home office for some reporting, blogging, and editing before sprucing up for the evening’s dinner. Alas, I am greeted by the most-grateful and loving pups that ever lived. I’m “guilted” into playing with them outside for a bit, ignoring my phone, emails, and followup items. Once we give adequate attention to each other, I hit the keyboard to close out my day and become entertaining again. The evening goes on without a hitch. Excellent conversation, new connections, amusing stories and ideas. Driving home, I start to replay the day, what I accomplished, and what will need to be tackled tomorrow.
As my head hits the pillow, I review my agenda book and see a note that is repeated several times throughout my agenda book. “Call Grandma Lucy.” I look over at the clock and it is 10:08 p.m. Grandma Lucy is a morning person, and probably half way into her second dream by now. Darn it. Another day lost, another conversation missed. I go to sleep, disappointed because I know I missed out. Grandma has the best stories. Her perspective is a refreshing change from the world my generation created, knows, and lives. She’s pretty funny too. She thinks everyone is too busy. “Too busy to talk on the phone,” she says. “I don’t like texting and emails. Oh but I do like that Facebook thing for the photos.”
On Tuesday morning, I woke up with a “thought hangover” about Grandma Lucy and my missed call. I decided to forgo my usual routine, grab a cup of coffee (in a ceramic mug) and dial Grandma’s number. She’s a morning person, and is probably up having her second cup of coffee at this point.
I drink my morning coffee out of a real, ceramic mug. It makes all the difference.

I drink my morning coffee out of a real, ceramic mug. It makes all the difference.

But what about my morning workout? My morning appointments? My obligations? They all got done… just a little later than usual. I brushed aside thoughts of being behind and late all day long, because I know I made Grandma Lucy’s day. I learned how attached to my routine I was, and it worried me a bit. It made me think about other missed opportunities I’ve had  because I was running through my day; hurried through my routine. My challenge for this summer is to implement: Summer of Daily Simplicity. A simple phone call. A simple cup of coffee. A simple hair-do. A simple kiss for my husband. A simple (and nourishing) breakfast. A simple prayer. The concept is that we overdo ourselves with schedule, routine, obligations, and eventual stress and health risks. With creativity and flexibility, I’ll get up earlier and slow down my morning routine . “But I have obligations, Lacey!” Indeed, and you can’t ignore obligations. But you can be creative, rearrange, and be kind to yourself when you don’t get it all done one day. If you just don’t see how, let’s chat. I have some suggestions. Be kind to yourself–you’re the only YOU we have. Grandma Lucy reminded me of that!
Consider what success looks like to you. Keep it simple and make it substantial.

Consider what success looks like to you. Keep it simple and make it substantial.