A Few of My Favorite Things

A Few of My Favorite Things

Why should Oprah get all the fun? 🙂

Slide1Remember when she would do her “favorite things show”? People would go crazy with excitement and sales for whatever she was sharing would sky-rocket. Well in this holiday season I wanted to share a few of my favorite things with you all.

When possible, what I’m sharing will be local to the San Francisco Bay Area (since that is where I live), organic, made by a small business, and/or environmentally or socially conscious. Some of these things might make good gifts or could be part of your self-care practice this month. Mostly these are things that I love and want to support by writing and sharing about them. And I think you’ll love them too!

I have chosen 21 of my favorite things which will also be posted on my Facebook page each day until December 21st, the date of the Winter Solstice where I live.

What are some of your favorite things?

1. Donate to a charity organization on #GivingTuesday (or any other day!): I’m going to start this list of “a few of my favorite things” with the act of giving. Many of us are blessed with abundance, and Giving Tuesday is a way to bring awareness in this busy holiday season to the importance of giving to charities, non-profits, and organizations or people we want to support. It can come in the form of a donation of time, talent or treasure. When we give and act generously, we not only support others but it also helps us appreciate what we have in our own lives even more. My husband and I regularly give to organizations we support and believe in, but this time of year is a great day to give a little more, if we can. Who do you like to support?

2. Essential oils: I love essential oils and use them every day. The brand I like to use is doTERRA but there are other great companies out there as well. If you are just starting with essential oils, lavender is a good place to start because it is very calming. Add a few drops to a bath or spray on yourself or your pillow before bed. Scents are a wonderful way to balance your mood as well–they can be calming, uplifting, grounding, or invigorating. If you like a pleasing scent in your home or office, quality essential oils are a much healthier option than artificial fragrances from other sprays, plug-ins, and candles that can actually contain endocrine disruptors. What are your favorite scents or essential oils and what do you use them for?

Oakland Floats3. Oakland Floats: I love to ‪float! Floatation tanks are described on the Oakland Floats website as, “lightless, almost soundproof tanks of warm saltwater. They remove external physical stimuli, creating a state of ‘sensory’ relaxation. Under these conditions your body has a chance to restore its natural powers of self regulation, while you simply lie back and relax.” If you’ve never floated in a sensory deprivation tank, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. For me, there is something amazing about having no noise, no light, no distraction, no sensory input for that hour. It’s a humbling experience. It’s also been shown to reduce cortisol rates (our stress response), help with pain, support quality sleep, open up creativity and so much more. If you want to read more about my experience floating, check out my story here. Where I love to float is Oakland Floats but if you live outside the Bay Area, there are floatation centers everywhere. Give it a try or give it as gift! Have you ever floated? What was your experience?

4. Oaktown Spice Shop: Spices! I love to cook and spices make a huge difference in how your food turns out.  Spices add not only delicious flavor, but also often have positive health benefits as well. One of my favorite places to get my dried spices is Oaktown Spice Shop. Their cinnamon is amazing and I just made their mole poblano last night over tempeh and grilled vegetables. Fantastic! Head over and check out all the wonderful spices they have! And if you don’t live in the area, you can order online. Some of my favorite spices that we use on a weekly basis are cinnamon, cajun, poultry seasoning, turmeric, and curry. And they really make a great gift! True story: about ten or fifteen years ago I asked for spices for Christmas and my stocking was filled with about 10 jars of spices! What are your favorite spices to cook with?

5. Broth: I love making broth, drinking broth and using broth in soups and stews. Here’s an easy recipe to make your own vegetable broth. Really warming and nourishing this time of year! Do you make your own broth?

spiral-zuchinni-noodles-Michelle-Dwyer-health-coach-nutrition6. Spiralizer: One of my favorite ‪‎kitchen gadgets‬ is my spiralizer! If you’ve never heard of a spiralizer, it basically makes “noodles” out of vegetables. You can spiralize lots of veggies like zucchini, sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternut squash, and beets. We do zucchini noodles often in our house. Easy, yummy, and nutritious and very satisfying for a noodle craving! This is the one I have. 

7. Crio Bru: This roasted cocoa is my favorite way to start the day. It is so delicious and full of antioxidants. I add a little coconut milk to mine but you can drink it plain. It’s not sweet like hot chocolate, but has this wonderful, rich, chocolate-y, roasty flavor. You can read more here! And I’m a lucky woman because my husband usually makes it for the two of us, and since he gets up before me, it’s all ready to go when I get out of bed. And it’s so easy to make–just add hot water to a French press and you are ready to go! 

8. Moving my body: I love moving my body, whether that means taking a walk, going for a hike, doing yoga or pilates, doing a few stretches, or lifting weights (which is good for your bones, ladies!). Read more on some of my favorite ways to move my body! What’s your favorite way to move your body? What are the benefits you notice?

9. Dancing at Hipline: To expand on the previous post, I want to share my FAVORITE way to move my body and that is dancing at Hipline, a dance studio in Oakland. For those of you who have never been, it can be hard to put into words the magic of this place, so I’ll let their mission statement do the talking: “Hipline exists to inspire and empower women through movement. We nurture community, health, and creativity through all aspects of our company.” I have been dancing at Hipline for over five years and I can honestly say that I ALWAYS look forward to going and I ALWAYS leave the class feeling better. It is an amazing community of women and I continue to meet so many inspiring people there. It’s a place to dance, to leave it all on the floor, to work out any frustrations or pent-up energy from the day, to be silly and fun and sexy just for yourself, and meet other beautiful souls doing the same. Want to give it try? I’d be happy to meet you there!

Check please group photo10. The restaurants encuentro and Millenium: Two of my favorite restaurants are Encuentro cafe and wine bar and Millennium Restaurant, both in Oakland. Oakland has an amazing food scene but I want to highlight these two fantastic restaurants for what they are doing to make plant-based eating delicious, beautiful, and a true celebratory experience. Some of you might know that I actually reviewed encuentro for the TV show Check, Please! Bay Area. You can see the video here or read my review here.

11. Homestead Apothecary is my favorite place to get loose herbs, tinctures, quality body care products, teas and other amazing plant products. If you have any interest in herbs, making your own tea or broth, self-care or just curiosity of what all those herbs actually do for your body, then seek out Nic at this lovely shop on Temescal Alley. 

IMG_186812. Coloring: I’m pretty happy to say I was a head of the current trend of adults coloring. I started doing it a while ago and quickly realized how relaxing and meditative it is for me. For me the key is letting go of perfectionism, of doing it “right” or concerning myself with the final product. I love the use of color and the focus it brings to my mind. This is my favorite coloring book author. Have you tried coloring? 

13. Bitchin’ Sauce: This yummy sauce is a recently discovered favorite of mine. It’s so yummy but also happens to be vegan, gluten-free, and tastes great on anything. You can use it as a dip, spread or sauce. Plus it comes in a bunch of flavors like chipotle, pesto, and bombay but I think I might like the original the best. If you see it in the stores, give it a try! 

14. Massage, acupuncture or reflexology: I strongly believe in investing in my health, and some excellent ways to support my body is to get body work done like massage, acupuncture and reflexology. I work closely with some amazing practitioners, so you would like a referral to an excellent person, please let me know and I’ll get you connected. I know a lot of places also offer gift certificates!

15. Kombucha: I know this fermented tea is not for everyone, but I think it is just delicious! I thought it was a little “weird” the first time I drank it (“Really, people are drinking vinegar?”) but I really appreciated the flavor more when I tried it again. Kombucha is not only tasty, but is also good for your digestion because it is full of probiotics (the “good” bacteria that make your digestion happy and in balance). You can try the different flavors out there; I just suggest getting one without too much added sugar. My favorite is GTs Multi-Green!

16. Tea: This one is one the most simple and wonderful pleasures in life! I drink tea just about every day. My usual favorites include many from Yogi Tea, Traditional Medicinals, Numi, Choice and Rishi. I love teas like Every Day Detox, Ginger, Roasted Dandelion, Egyptian Licorice, Chai Green, Throat Coat/Throat Comfort, Rooibos, Peppermint and so many others! What is your favorite cup of tea? 

17. Travel: This one is so close to my heart that it’s hard to put into words, but travel–the literal act of moving in space–is such an important part of my life and such a pleasurable one. I included it here on a holiday favorite things list because many people travel this time of year to see family. My husband and I are one of those who will travel, albeit not very far, to visit family this holiday season. Travel and experiences together can also be a great “present” to give each other. My husband and I have traveled to some amazing places together.  We got engaged in Scotland, went on our honeymoon to Puerto Rico, celebrated our fourth anniversary in Iceland, and have enjoyed many of our National Parks like Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Zion, and my favorite, the Grand Tetons. 


18. Sunset Magazine: This might seem like an odd thing to include, but honestly I get such a feeling of joy when a new Sunset magazine arrives. It’s one of the only magazine subscriptions we still get and I always get a tip, idea or suggestion from each issue. For example, this summer we went camping for five days at the lovely Mary Smith Campground in the Trinity-Shasta area of Northern California and we learned about this quiet, bird-filled, awesome campground from Sunset magazine. Whether it’s travel tips, restaurant suggestions, recipes or just beautiful gardens to admire, I’m always excited to look through this beautiful magazine (and again, I think this can make a great gift!).

FengShuiYourMindbookcover19. The book Feng Shui Your Mind: Four Easy Steps to Rapidly Transform Your Life by Jill Lebeau and Maureen Raytis: It cannot be said how much I love this book and how much it has changed my life. I was lucky enough to get a chance to read it and help edit it before it was published, and I was transformed just reading it. Now I have the honor and pleasure of taking the amazing principles of this book and applying them to the mind, body and spirit in a new project I am doing with one of the authors, Jill Lebeau. Jill and I have been meeting weekly for our “play dates” to create an amazing online program and e-course that we will be launching very soon. Stay tuned! But in the meantime, pick up this book now!

20. Oprah: I feel like I need to take a moment to pay homage to Oprah herself. Not only did she inspire this post, but she has inspired me in so many ways. From her support of literature and reading, to her focus on empowering girls and women around the world, to her Soul Sundays, meditation series and work with spiritual greats like Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra, Oprah has brought so much positivity to our world. She is the embodiment of abundance, grace and passion. To celebrate her, I’m going to share one of my favorite moments of the Oprah show. I love this video because for once a huge crowd did something really special for Oprah! This video still brings tears to my eyes! 

21. My family, friends and clients and colleagues: Honestly, all of these things really are some of my favorite pleasures in life, but the most important things in life are not actually things at all. They are the beautiful people in my life. They are the ones that make life beautiful and sweet. So I wanted to end with sharing about some of my favorite people: my husband for his love and support, my dad for always being there for me, my sister for sharing my life with me, my nephews for the joy and laughter they bring to my world, my god-children for the opportunities to love like a parent without the responsibilities of being one, my dear friends whom I rely on for fun, clarity, memories and happiness, my colleagues who support also are committed to bringing health, vitality and peace to the world, and my clients for this opportunity to share my passion and who allow me to be witness to their transformation. I am grateful for you all!

Happy Holidays to you all! Whether you are celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Three Kings, Boxing Day, the Winter Solstice, Yule, Christmas or any other holy day this year, I wish you the happiest of celebrations and a bright new year in 2016!

Move Your Body!

Move Your Body!

When I was younger I used to run around and play all day. We’d ride our bikes or play tag. I also played soccer from the time I was about seven and my family used to go skiing in the winter and swimming in the summer. I was a pretty active kid and moved my body without even having to think about it. I didn’t go “exercise” and I certainly didn’t think about burning calories or getting a beach body. After a few serious knee injuries and surgeries in high school, I decided to hang up my soccer cleats and for the first time ever I had to actually think about working out. I’d go to the gym or roller-blading (remember when we did that?!) or walking with friends. But it was suddenly something I had to schedule into my week or it didn’t happen.

Sound familiar?

Why is it that we take the fun and play out of movement when we get older? Why does “exercise” or a “workout” feel like something we have to do rather than something we want do? We know the importance of moving our body to our health and longevity. It helps regulate our metabolism, promotes better sleep, keeps our hormones and blood-sugar balanced, increases our ability to focus and concentrate, improves our mood, and increases our energy levels. But how about making it fun and easy again?

Here are a few of my favorite tips and suggestions when it come to moving your body:

Do something fun and that you look forward to doing. Moving your body is meant to be enjoyable!! If you are feeling like it is a “should” or a “have to” or another thing on your “to do” list, then maybe reconsider what you are doing for your movement. You are so much more likely to stick to a regular routine of moving your body if it is something you love to do!

Don’t like to run, no problem! Just walk. Walking is a great way to move the body, get some fresh air or see your neighborhood. You don’t need a treadmill to go for a walk, but if you have access to one, this can be a convenient option in the winter or very hot part of summer. Even if you don’t have time to go for a long walk, take a ten minute stroll at lunch time to get some fresh air and a break from your desk. Or park a bit farther away in the parking lot. These movements can really add up over the course of the day.

512px-Irene_yogaYoga: Again, you don’t have to pay high prices for a yoga class. Some people like going to yoga class for the community, the support and guidance of the instructor, and to get into a certain mindset. These are all good reasons to go to a studio to practice yoga. But don’t let access to a studio stop you from moving and stretching your body. There are a number of great DVDs out there (like this one from Rodney Yee that is a good place to start) or free online sources for yoga. Even just doing a few stretches on your own in the morning before you start your day, mid-day at the office, or right before bed can make a big difference.

If you have trouble with your feet: try swimming, “water running,” or water aerobics. I get it. I’ve had problems with my feet too (plus challenges with knees after three knee surgeries as a teenager). If your feet need a break, then find an activity that puts less pressure on them like water activities.

Go with a friend! Not only is it more fun to workout with a friend, but you are creating accountability. You are a lot less likely to cancel on a friend, plus it can be a great way to relieve stress and catch up with your bestie.

Lastly, here are a few of my favorite ways to move my body:

I love to walk and do so for at least 15 minutes almost every day. Some times it is just 15 minute walk to and from my office. Other times I walk for over an hour chatting with my friend or family on the phone. Other times I make a walking date with a friend and walk the lake near my house. Another good tip, if possible, is to do some of your errands while walking. Pick up that birthday card for your sister or drop that bill off at the post office. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a goal or purpose in your walking as well as a motivator. Best part about walking? It’s free, it’s convenient and it’s really enjoyable! I love being in my neighborhood, seeing the flowers change over the seasons, getting some fresh air and sunshine. I am lucky enough to live in a place where I can walk outside just about year round.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 5.51.22 PMI also love to dance. Did I grow up as a dancer? No. Do I sometimes have two left feet? Oh yes. But do I love to move my body to fun music anyway? Yes!!! My favorite place to shimmy and shake my body is called Hipline near my home in Oakland, California. Hipline is a really unique and special place created by two sisters, Samar and Gabriela. It’s an all-women, body-lovin’, empowering, fun community of incredible instructors and welcoming members of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. I always look forward to going to class and I always leave with a smile on my face. If you live in the area and want to check out Hipline, they have a free pass for first-timers. (And I promise, I’m promoting them because I love them and not because I get anything for it.) If you aren’t in the area, then I encourage you to find a dance class near you. Try a Zumba, salsa, hip-hop or African dance class and see how good your body feels! And you could always just have a dance party in your own house—put on some good music and dance with your kids, your partner or just yourself!

Lastly, I love to stretch my body. I have been doing some sort of yoga for almost 23 years. I’m not always consistent with my practice, and I certainly would not call myself a yogi. In fact, because of some of the challenges with my knees, I have to modify and adjust quite a bit in most classes (and I’m totally okay with that!). I think the key with taking a yoga class is finding the right fit. So if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Really. The personality, style and approach of the instructor can make a big difference. There are many different types of yoga that involve different poses, length of time in those poses, and even how vigorous the pace of the movements are. You might even want a different yoga class at different times of the day or week. I might be in the mood for something more rigorous in the morning but later in the week look for something more restorative and stress-reducing. If you are new to yoga, start slowly to avoid injury and remember it is not a competition!

So what are you doing to move your body? What do you like best about what you are currently doing? Would love to hear from you!