Animal-inspired New Year’s resolutions

I’m not really big on New Year’s resolutions, but I appreciate this idea of letting your animals guide you toward healthier, happier living. What better time than in January, when we’re all ready for a fresh start?

Here are five ways our beloved animal companions (especially dogs) can help us achieve our goals in 2015:

1. Live healthy every day: Walking your dog every single day (or even twice a day!) is an easy and fun way to add aerobic fitness to your routine without even realizing it. (Those of you with dogs know what I mean.) And if you’ve always wanted a dog but haven’t yet adopted one, a loyal and enthusiastic (albeit furry) walking partner could be just the motivational boost you’re looking for. In fact, according to the University of Western Australia, new dog owners walked an additional 48 minutes per week. For more on the amazing health benefits of walking your dog, check out this article.

2. Widen your social circle: Take your dog for regular walks around your neighborhood, and suddenly you meet neighbors you haven’t seen before. Take her to play on the beach or at a dog park, and you just might make new friends (and your dog can have a playdate, too). Let him join you when you travel, and you’ll discover dog-friendly gems like Carmel or Laguna Beach, California, which welcome leashed dogs in many hotels, stores and even some restaurants (on the patio).

3. Try new things: Whether it’s walking a new trail in the redwoods, biking, camping or even trying a fun water sport like kayaking or boating, most dogs are always up for adventure! Both of you will get to experience something new, and that alone can be super rejuvenating.

4. Advocate for animals: Sometimes it can be hard to find your voice or the time to really “live for” the causes and issues you believe in. Let your love for animals inspire you. If you witness cats, horses, dogs or other helpless creatures being neglected or mistreated (like stuck inside a hot car or in other terrible conditions), let the authorities know. If a specific area of concern interests you, such as the plight of feral cats or hoarding, find a local organization supporting that cause and see if their volunteer program is a good fit. You could even start a blog, use social media and fundraise to spread the word about the animal welfare issues you’re passionate about.

5. Give back a little bit more: You don’t need a lot of extra money to give back in small ways. “Shop for a Cause” programs like AmazonSmile, GoodSearch, iGive and Living Zoe let you shop for things you would buy anyway; they donate a percentage of the purchase back to the charity of your choice. Not sure which charity to choose? My favorite would have to be … the Shelter Animal Rescue Association, or SARA, which I founded with Leah D’Ambrosio to support animal Reiki programs at shelters and sanctuaries worldwide. You can find us on AmazonSmile, iGive and Living Zoe.

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

 

What’s your favorite cookbook?

Historically speaking, I never really enjoyed cooking (unless it was homemade chocolate-chip cookies!). But recently—since changing my diet to include mostly vegan and gluten-free meals—I haven’t really had a choice. I’ve been cooking vegetarian for so many years, but I always paired the veggies with pasta, cheese and breads. After going vegan and gluten-free, I wondered, could I survive on lettuce alone? And secondly, what was I going to eat, anyway?

A total rethinking of my go-to cookbooks was in order. So after much Googling, talking to friends and testing in my own home kitchen, I’ve settled upon my top three veg cookbooks. Here they are, plus four more I can’t wait to try!

1. Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi: Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurant in Notting Hill is my favorite place in London! That’s where I first discovered his mouthwatering vegetarian dishes, which taste as good as they look. His cookbook has helped me bring those wonderful flavor combinations back home to the States.

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2. Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution: Kris Carr is kind of my guru right now. I love her warmth, inspiring ideas and post-cancer attitude. Her cookbook has helped me to feel strong again in the kitchen and learn to cook the most amazing, healthy dishes. My faves from this book: Chickpea With Root Veggie Tangine, and the Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Burger. Her blog is also worth a look.

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3. Decadent Gluten-Free Baking: Delicious Gluten-, Egg- and Dairy-Free Treats and Sweets: I love my sweets. I do! So giving up wheat felt so utterly depressing … until I discovered this cookbook. Now I don’t even miss my old way of baking! I absolutely LOVE the Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies (except I substitute chocolate chips for the cranberries).

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Here are four more cookbooks I can’t wait to try; I’ve heard such amazing things about them:

1. Heart of the Plate

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2. The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen

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3. River Cottage Veg

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4. The French Market Cookbook

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What’s your favorite cookbook? I’m dying to know!

{P.S. A really beautiful vegan/veggie blog is 101 Cookbooks by foodie Heidi Swanson (she has a couple of healthy cookbooks, too, including this one.)}

 

The best teas (plus the #1 secret to a perfect cup)

Christmas Eve: a time for good tidings, togetherness and … tea. Yes, tea! Tea may seem an unusual holiday tradition, but for me, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a cozy night in with family and friends. And ever since ditching my daily hot chocolate for healthier tea a few years ago, I’ve become something of a tea enthusiast—and not just on holidays.

I basically drink tea all day long when it’s cold out. Even in the summer, I love my tea in the cool mornings and chilly evenings. In fact, the only thing I love as much as my chocolate is my tea!

My favorite teas come from two companies in particular. I love them not only because their mint and chamomile tea is the very BEST in my opinion (and I have tried many teas!), but also because they are both socially conscious, which I love.

Here are my picks for seven of the best, most truly delicious teas:

1. My favorite tea brand is Mighty Leaf. They are a great company, and I absolutely love their Organic Mint Melange in the a.m.

2. My second favorite from Mighty Leaf is Chamomile Citrus in the p.m.

3. Their Organic Green Dragon is a fave of my friends who like their teas caffeinated.

4. & 5. My second favorite brand is Numi. I just love their Moroccan Mint and their Chamomile Lemon. They do a lot of giving back; check this out—they are a cool company!

6. My caffeine-drinking friends swear by Numi’s Chinese Breakfast tea.

7. My favorite loose leaf tea is from Mountain Rose Herbs. Their Firefly Chai is super delicious, and it’s the only chai I’ve ever found that is caffeine-free.

When Leah D’Ambrosio (my SARA co-founder) and I return to London in August 2015 for SARA teacher training, we will be looking for some great places for afternoon tea. (These look like top contenders!) London is such a hot spot when it comes to tea. This was our absolute favorite tea place last time we visited. You can bet we’ll be visiting it again!

And now for the secret to a perfect cup: According to a study commissioned by Cravendale Milk, the most important ingredient is patience. Click here for their step-by-step instructions.

I would love to hear from you! What are some teas I simply MUST try?

Live sustainably, protect habitats

I was stunned recently to hear the following statistic: In order to survive, the United States will need 5.3 planet Earths if we continue using up natural resources at the rate we are now. In the UK, that number is 3.5 Earths, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

“Unless we change our lifestyle into a One Planet lifestyle, then we’re going to be in trouble,” says Richard Pope, who serves on the Expert Panel for environmental charity Bioregional‘s One Planet Living initiative and has 25 years’ experience in residential master plans, as well as 10 years’ experience in sustainable/green building. “Sooner or later, we’re going to run out of resources if we keep using them at the rate we are now.”

If any of you have taken my sister Kathleen’s animal Reiki classes at BrightHaven Healing Arts Center for Animals, you may have actually had the opportunity to meet Richard—he’s also the co-founder, with his wife, Gail, of the holistic hospice/sanctuary for animals in Sebastopol, California.

Bioregional is hoping to make sustainable living easy, attainable and attractive for everyone. They’re already starting: A 200-acre site in Rohnert Park, California, with 1,800 residential units and commercial space (including a business incubator for social and sustainable startups) is already underway. Richard is the development director for the site, called Sonoma Mountain Village. It’s also North America’s first fully certified One Planet Living Community—and has a waiting list 2,000 people long.

But what does One Planet Living actually mean? According to Bioregional, it means to live sustainably according to the following 10 guiding principles (born from a collaboration with WWF): zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, local and sustainable materials and food, sustainable water, culture and heritage, equity and fair trade, health and happiness, and natural habitats and wildlife.

Protecting wildlife

The issue of natural habitats and wildlife is particularly close to Kathleen’s heart and her work with Animal Reiki Source. And thankfully, Bioregional works hard to protect biodiversity. Under the guiding principles, if you harm a habitat by building a community, you have to regenerate that habitat and integrate it into the new environment. “It’s not just go in there and bulldoze the land,” says Richard.

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The ideal of One Planet Living sounds wonderful, but is it possible? “The inspiring thing is, once people have the opportunity to do it, they do it,” says Richard, adding that these communities are replicable. “If you say to someone, ‘You’ll have cheaper utility bills, your friends will love it, it’s within walking distance of your work and schools and restaurants, recreation, and you can save the world at the same time.’ Why wouldn’t you buy there?” These communities show it truly is possible to live in such a way that we only require one planet.

Businesses and communities can take a step in the right direction by following the 10 principles and getting certified by Bioregional. For individuals like the rest of us, a good start is to calculate your environmental footprint (Bioregional provides this handy calculator) and make changes accordingly—for instance, eat local, recycle, protect animals, walk or bike if possible, and cease the use of heavy insecticides. And if you’re a jet-setter, you can buy carbon offsets so that flight to London is slightly less damaging to the environment.

“There’s a change coming,” says Richard. “There’s going to be a great squeeze upwards in the next generation who demand to live in a lifestyle that doesn’t hurt the planet.” Just don’t expect the greening of America—and the world—to happen overnight. “I guess we’re the trailblazers,” he adds. “If we do this and show it’s successful, then everyone will start doing it.” One can only hope.

{P.S. 10 sustainable (and beautifully designed!) homes via Gizmag.}

Top 10 essentials for your carry-on bag

Dear friends, are you traveling anywhere fun this holiday season? While I’m staying close to home this month, I will be flying to Florida in the new year for my annual class at The C.A.R.E. Foundation. This year’s topic? “Mindfulness With Exotic Animals.” I can’t wait!

Of course, getting to Florida from San Francisco requires a pretty long plane flight. I fly a lot for business these days, so feeling relaxed in flight means packing a well-thought-out carry-on. For me, that means making sure I have the following 10 items, no matter what:

1. Sleep mask: Sometimes you just want to doze on the plane or tune out others around you. My go-to sleep mask is the Bucky 40 Blinks mask. It’s lightweight, super comfortable and designed so your lashes have room if you blink.

2. Remedies: I seem to get sick or worry that I’m getting sick half the time when I’m traveling. Oscillococcinum, Emergen-C or COLD-EEZE zinc lozenges give me a little peace of mind if I think I’m coming down with something. I also like to have some Advil on hand, just in case a headache strikes.

3. An awesome book you don’t want to put down: It’s sometimes hard to find the time to read, isn’t it? But when I’m on a flight, I feel I can finally fall into that book that’s been sitting on my nightstand for weeks. I highly recommend Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose if you haven’t read it yet.

4. Healthy snacks: Most airlines don’t sell snacks anymore—but if they do, they’re probably not healthy. So I like to bring a little stash to get me through to the other side. My go-to soy-free protein bar is from Vega One: Chocolate Coconut Cashew is the yummiest! Veggie sticks, nuts, dried fruit and granola are always good options, too. My absolute favorite granola is Love Crunch Dark Chocolate & Red Berries! But these days I’m eating my second favorite, as it’s gluten-free: Kind Oats & Honey Clusters With Toasted Coconut.

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5. My laptop: It’s got my favorite movies and music, and I’m set for hours. I just have to make sure the battery is fully charged.

6. Dramamine: Maybe it’s because I have such tiny ears, but I tend to get a bit woozy in planes. Rather than risk a motion-sickness headache, I just pop a Dramamine. Plus, it will help me get my nap in!

7. Tissues: You can’t predict when or why you will need a tissue, but you will. Bring a little travel pack with you or else you’ll be digging around the front seat pocket for that tiny square napkin you got with the drink service.

8. Lip balm: I don’t wear much makeup, but a dab of lip balm works wonders—especially in the ultra dry air inside the plane. My favorite is this one: Chocolate Whipstick by LUSH.

9. A bottle of water purchased after security: How many times has the drink service been delayed for one reason or another? I always bring my own now so I don’t panic or get parched while waiting for the turbulence (or an especially slow flight crew) to pass.

10. Gum: So you don’t have to wait until checking into your hotel room to feel minty clean.

Friends, what are your carry-on bag essentials?