Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter Scrub

Written by Jessie

Wintertime weather, compounded with hot indoor air, can drain vital moisture from our skin and cause irritations. Here is a simple recipe for a luscious body scrub you can make at home to help restore and retain the moisture in your skin through the winter season. 

Items needed:
Course sea salt 3-5cups
Carrier oil such as grapeseed or hemp (*amount will vary) 
Essential oil of your choice
Mixing bowl and spoon
Salt grinder or food processor
Small jar with lid
Step One: Grind Salt

Pour sea salt into processor and pulse until the salt is the coarseness you desire. Aim for a coarseness somewhere before kosher salt. Table salt would be too fine and may dissolve in the next step. (I used 5 cups of Bali Sea Salt for two small jars.)
When you have found your desired coarseness, pour the salt into a mixing bowl.
Step Two: Mix in Oil

Slowly stir in your oil a teaspoon at a time. There are no true measurements here so frequently testing the consistency with your fingers is key. You want the scrub to be dry enough to be scoopable but not crumbly, and just wet enough to leave a nice sheen of oily-goodness on your skin without being runny.  
*Note: If using saturated oil such as coconut, you will need to heat the oil to liquid form so it can be stirred into the salt. You will also need to use a tablespoon or so of unsaturated oil, such as grapeseed, to keep the mix from solidifying in the jar. 

Step Three: Add Aroma

This is where you can get really creative! 
Add your oil one or two drops at a time and stir. Give the scrub a full whiff before you add more. Essential oils go a long way and you want to avoid over infusing the salt. When you find the perfect aroma balance, scoop your scrub into the jar and seal the lid. 
Essential Oil Suggestions:
Grapefruit: Uplifiting
Lavender: Calming
Lemongrass: Balancing
Lemon: Energizing
Lime: Energizing
Ylang Ylang: Relaxing 
Patchouli: Balancing
Jasmine: Soothing
*Note: Essential oils have therapeutic qualities so I highly encourage you to do a bit of research in finding the best one. Always perform a spot test (one drop of EO to three drops carrier oil) on the inner side of your elbow to check for allergic reaction. Also, I refrain from using fragrance oils (different from essential oils) on my body as they are not 100% natural and can cause skin irritations.
Step Four: Enjoy!

Apply scrub to wet skin and use your hands or shower glove to lightly exfoliate. Always use before shaving and void using on the face. Pat skin dry with a towel. 
Feel luscious and hydrated and smell delectable! Scrub will keep for up to three months in a cool place. 
*Note: The oil from the scrub may make your shower or tub very slick. Be careful!
Happy scrubbing!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Seasonal Resolve

Written by Jonah Lisa

New Year’s Resolutions tend to get a bad wrap these days.  By the time we’ve got busy lives and kids and the thrill of a drunken night ringing in the New Year has long worn off, we’ve become cynical about making resolutions.  Most of us don’t even bother.  And if we do, we might do so with a sigh and half the feeling that resolutions are kind of silly.  Who really keeps them anyway? 

Let’s put that cynicism to bed for a minute and try to take back resolutions this year.  
After all there’s something really natural and incredibly useful about contemplating the past year and considering what we’d like to improve upon in our lives.  I’ve felt it strongly this year.  That sense of new beginning.  But I’m so culturally wired and the backlash is so strong that I still have that knee-jerk reaction against resolutions.  What gives?  I think I just need a paradigm shift.
I’ve spent some time noodling it and I think I’ve put my finger on follow-through being the problem.  While it’s great to look back and assess an entire year, thinking about the same goals for a year can be daunting.  Let’s be generous, most new year’s resolutions last until, what, March?  Well, instead of calling that a failure because we didn’t last the whole year, let’s just shorten the duration of the resolution and all it a success!   
Let’s focus on shorter-term, seasonal resolutions.  It’s a Win-Win!
We get to bask in that fabulous new start feeling, use the motivation of the calendar to make some changes and actually feel a sense of accomplishment by succeeding over 3 or 4 months.   Then we can reassess in March or April and make new resolutions right when the New Year motivation is waning and we’re starting to feel another natural beginning as Spring arrives!
For me those Spring resolutions will probably carry through summer, too and by September I’ll be feeling all different--ready to begin a school year and hunker down for the coming winter and change my focus yet again.  Time for new resolutions! 
This seasonal approach just feels way more organic to me and way less of a remedy for disappointment.  It also allows me to be more specific about the resolutions I set, which motivational experts will tell you is a key to success.  
Instead of being vague and saying I’m going to eat more healthy foods and exercise more--whatever that means--I can really target some specifics that feel right seasonally.  This year I’m resolving to cross-country ski more and learn to cook dried beans.  Doesn’t that feel way more doable?  In the spring I may aim for hiking to the top of some local mountains and drinking more green smoothies.  See what I mean?  
It’s really just a small mental shift but it takes resolutions back from “why bother” land and sets you up for success.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Healthy Herbal Chai

Written by Nicole

After the rush of the Holidays, I hope you’re all enjoying a quieter time and savoring the last of 2011. I know it can feel like a marathon—between social gatherings, shopping, cooking and staying up late to get it all done. With two small children, I also know that “burning the candle at both ends” will eventually lead to burn out. And when I start to rely on caffeine to get me through the day, I might feel energized in the moment, but I start to feel worn down and exhausted in the long run. 
With that in mind, I’d like to share a lovely herbal chai tea recipe to keep you warm and energized through the winter months—without caffeine. This blend contains Siberian ginseng to help the body adapt to stress, burdock root to help gently detox the liver, licorice to help balance the adrenals, Ginger with all of its amazing health benefits, and cinnamon and cardamom to warm you from the inside. Feel free to drink 3-4 cups each day for the best effects.

Healthy Herbal Chai Tea
3 teaspoons dried eleuthero (Siberian ginseng)
2 teaspoons dried burdock root
2 teaspoons licorice root
1 teaspoon dried ginger (or 2 tsp. fresh chopped ginger)
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
Simmer herbs in 1 quart of water for 20 minutes. Strain and discard herbs. Pour into a thermos or teapot to keep warm. Add milk and honey to taste. Tea will keep for two days in the refrigerator. 
This is a perfect tea to pack up and take on a winter hike with the family. You’ll enjoy the warming sensation as well as the health-promoting benefits this tea offers, leaving your body feeling nourished rather than drained in the long run.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Place Where We Live: Bioregional Vacationing

Written by Karen

In wintertime, sometimes we begin thinking about an escape to another place. Whether because of the hectic nature of holidays or the shorter amounts of daylight, a vacation is welcome downtime. It can also be some of the only “unplugged” time families have with each other. These days, however, it can also be first on the chopping block of the family budget. But it doesn’t have to be.

In our family, we love to take our vacations right here. I call it the bioregional vacation. It can be an extended time of up to a week (or longer) or just a day or two (Unplugged Sunday). Taking the time to really see your own place the way a tourist might see it is so satisfying. It takes a little planning to take a vacation in your own area since the temptations of work, meetings and everyday tasks can beckon, but it can easily be done. 

Tips for the local vacation:
• Travel to a nearby town or even somewhere in your own, but pack as if you are traveling far away. Do not bring a computer. Do not schedule any day-to-day tasks or meetings during that time.
• Tell colleagues or clients you are going on vacation and not to call unless it is an emergency.
• Do not go home until the vacation is over.
• Consider a house trade with local friends or enjoying a bed and breakfast that you have actually stopped by to inspect ahead of time. 
• Make a list of the places in the area that you would like to experience.
• Notice the prominent natural landmarks of your area. Here, it is the river. Often, my husband and son take a boat out on the river for the afternoon, giving me a much-loved break of alone time, creative time, or tea-time with a friend.
• Call a friend for tea or lunch out. So often we see a friend, say we’ll connect soon, and then never do. Use this time to enjoy your friends along with your family!
• Spend time at a local farm; kids love this. Take a tour, wander around the farm, and stop for produce at the end. You could even volunteer on a work day.

Local vacations offer some special things that faraway vacations do not. 
• Friends can come along with you. One year, during my birthday, we rented an off-the-grid forest retreat cabin for a week. It was located 30 minutes from home. Then we invited a few friends to stay a couple of days with us and celebrate.
• When you enjoy a specific activity or place, the experience is repeatable. No need to say, “We’ll have to come here again” and then never make it back.
• When your vacation ends, it is a short trip home. You can enjoy the entire last day, head out in the evening, stop for a leisurely dinner and then be home.
• No airline or rental car costs means saved money and a longer or more involved vacation. Especially for families with children, this can be huge.
• Kids grow up knowing their local landscape.

The place where we live.
The more we explore our local native area, the more we find to appreciate and love. Making it a vacation gives us an excuse to enjoy it without feeling like we should be doing something else. 
What began out of financial necessity has become rich and sustaining. My husband and I are tuned in to our local issues, largely because of our focused interactions with the landscape. We love and feel supported by our community.
We have stayed in: a yurt; a solar-powered mountaintop estate; an off-grid forest cabin and cottages near the beach to name a few. We enjoy a variety of parks and farms and even finally walked across the Golden Gate Bridge! 
Going deeper, finding more layers, and developing relationships, the place where we live becomes more than just a location; it feels like we really live here. And when winter comes, there is less restlessness, and a growing sense of anticipation for our area’s seasonal treasures and what else we might discover here. 

Where would you go if you were to vacation in your own place? 

With whom would you spend the time?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Remember Blue Laws?

Written by Jonah Lisa

Back when most of us were children, blue laws were in effect throughout the country to preserve Sunday as a day of worship and rest.  
Isn’t that quaint?  

In some areas, all stores would be closed but other places had arcane rules that allowed for the purchase of certain items but not others.  I recall the famous example used when Blue Laws were being dismantled of being able to buy a hammer, but not nails.  Or was it the other way around?  And even after blue laws were repealed, you still couldn’t buy alcohol in many places on Sunday because, well you shouldn’t be drinking on a Sunday anyway!  You should be in church!
But us liberty-minded Americans, we bristled at the idea of commerce being dictated by religious beliefs.  We didn’t like being told what we should and shouldn’t be doing on a Sunday.  I’ll hammer and nail things if I want to, damnit!  And even as a kid, I completely agreed.  So down came the silly blue laws and the people cheered.  YAY!  
And then they went to Piggly Wiggly for a soda pop.  And some nails.  
As the years passed more and more stores were open on Sundays until there was really no difference between Sunday and any other day of the week.  As an adult I got used to the idea that I could buy and do pretty much whatever I wanted to on any day of the week.   Ah, the freedom!  I never thought much about those old blue laws again.  They were just silly rules that got in our way.  
Flash forward 30 or so years later when I moved from New York (the city that never sleeps) to a small, rural, mountain town in far eastern Idaho.  And low and behold, all the stores were closed on Sundays.  
Grocery store?  CLOSED.  Drug store?  CLOSED.  Liquor Store?  DEFINITELY CLOSED.  The only things open on a Sunday were church and the ski hill.  
You gotta have priorities.  
At first, I was shocked.  I’d lived in Dallas, New York and Los Angeles.  I didn’t know this went on anywhere except for Israel, where everything is closed on Saturday, and Muslim countries during Ramadan!  I understood the reason.  Half of the population of my new home belong to the LDS church and no business run by an LDS member wanted to ask people to come in and work on a Sunday.  That’s a day to be with family, and yes, to go to church.  
But for some reason--maybe because I’d just moved from the hustle and bustle of The Big City, or maybe because I’d matured, or maybe because I was broke--I really didn’t mind.  And I started noticing something interesting.  Not many of the tree-hugging, progressive “move-in’s” that you’d expect to balk at a religion-based mandate seemed to mind either.  Everyone was A-OK with it. 
Sure, it took some getting used to.  You have to plan ahead a little.  But for very different reasons the people of this valley all seem to agree.  There’s nothing wrong with having one measly day of the week when you aren’t being tempted to consume.  Even more so this time of year!
It slows down the pace of life.  It alleviates the expectation of getting just as much done on Sunday as any other day.  It removes lots of self imposed expectations.  It means business owners and retail workers can get out and enjoy the day, too.  And sure, go to church if they want to, or head up to the ski hill, or take a hike, or just stay home and maybe even unplug.  Whether for religious reasons or not, it IS wonderful to set aside a day for rest, relaxation, or renewal in whatever form that takes for you.
And hey, if you find that you really need an egg or a cup of sugar?  Well, that’s what neighbors are for.
We have another, even more a-typical, kind of blue law here in the mountains as well.  On any given day, after a heavy snowfall, you may walk up to a shop or restaurant and find the door locked tight and a sign swinging in the window that simply reads:  
Like the Sunday store closures, I’ve learned to embrace and appreciate Powder Days.  In my opinion, we’d be a happier, healthier society if we all took more of them.