Happy National Meditation Month!

It’s a funny thing how quickly a practice can become a lifestyle. It’s only been about a year and a half since I started dabbling in meditation. It started slow, an audio recording here, a 21-day challenge there, the occasional moment of mental stillness during savasana after my yoga practice. Then, slowly, unconsciously, it became a regular habit.

In times of greater stress or emotional upset, I’ve found comfort in meditating multiple times a day, but mostly it’s just a 20 minute practice to calm my mind before bed. There are still the occasional moments that I lose track and forget how important tapping into that inner calm can be, that’s what this week’s video blog is all about:

Looking to start a meditation practice of your own? For this month only[Offer Extended Due to Continued Interest!], I’m offering specially priced Intro to Meditation coaching sessions!

Click below for details & to reserve your spot on the meditation pillow:

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries: Magical Moments and Improv Play

Magic Things Print on Etsy

Magic Things print on Etsy

There are some moments in life that just feel so perfect it’s unreal. Last night, as I was walking home from a day filled with friends, laughter, love, and great new experiences, I glanced up to see the first few snowflakes falling past the streetlights. Yes, it’s been a long winter and I’m a little sick of snow, but I could still appreciate the beauty of that moment. Then, just when I thought the evening couldn’t get anymore magical, a bunny hopped out of nowhere to lead me down the alley to my apartment. Perfection, right?

The sad thing is that there have been times in my life that I might have missed the magic of these moments. I have a tendency to live inside the labyrinth of my mind, forgetting to pay attention to the outside world. I overanalyze, over criticize, and just generally bring myself inward to the point that I sometimes forget to play and appreciate the simple things. So that’s my new motto: play more. I’ve been reminding myself of it every day and pursuing new interests that encourage it in the hopes that it will become a habit.

For instance, after avoiding it for nearly 5 years, I finally signed up for a Second City improv class. I’m a by the book, highly prepared, and planned out performer so the idea of doing improv has always terrified me to the core. Of course, I also know that some of the greatest opportunities for growth in life come from doing the that thing that scares you most. So a few weeks ago, I took a deep breath, made my payment, and tried not to throw up on my way to class. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was a lot of fun.

Since that first class, I’ve started attending a few improv jams and mixers around the city. I’m still such a newbie in this world that I love observing everything. One of my favorite characteristics about my new hobby is the lingo. When all is said and done and the evening is about to end, no one says “thanks for acting with me” or “it was great working with you,” instead they say “thanks for playing.” Because that’s exactly what improv is at it’s best: we’re just a bunch of kids getting together on the playground [or in some cases at The Playground] and playing pretend together.

Don't Forget to Play print on Society6

Don’t Forget to Play print on Society6

As for other areas of play in my life, I’ve made a point to break up the serious studies of my yoga teacher training [3 weeks left!] with a little project pose playtime.

Most of the inspiration for these poses have been found on instagram or in the challenge pose section of the Yoga Journal blog. It feels great to dare myself to grow in my practice as I photograph my progress along the way. If you’d like to follow along in my playtime, you can find me on instagram: @michelleshea.

And speaking of instagram, I’ve been posting a lot of photos of my new favorite cherry cheesecake smoothie lately so, as promised, here’s the recipe:

Life is Just a Glass of Cherry Cheesecake [inspired by Mind Body Green's recipe]

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 3.25.45 PM

Ingredients

2 tbsp raw cashews
2 tsp Sun is Shining powder [or a few handfuls of greens like spinach]
1 tsp maca powder [optional, but good for you!]
1/2 banana, frozen
a handful of cherries, frozen
a splash of vanilla
1/2 c So Delicious coconut milk [more or less for desired thickness]
1 tsp cacao nibs [optional]

First, place cashews, green powder [or greens], macs powder, and coconut milk in blender. Process on high until smooth.
Then, add in the remainder of the ingredients & process on medium until smooth.
Add more coconut milk as desired to assist in blending or to make a thinner smoothie.
Serve in your favorite pretty glass & top with cacao nibs for a chocolatey crunch.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Bites w/ Vegan BBQ Mayo

Even as a health coach with a pretty clean diet, sometimes a girl just need a little comfort food. It’s rare that I get to participate in a greasy bar-food binge…someone needs to make an entirely gluten-free & vegan bar and I’m there. So for now, I’ll settle on making delicious finger foods at home like these too-good-to-be-healthy sweet potato quinoa bites:

sweet potato quinoa bites

Tastes like a guilty pleasure, but loaded with healthy ingredients.

Ingredients [adapted from Hope for Healing's recipe]

For bites:
2 c cooked quinoa [2 c water or vegetable broth w/ 1 c quinoa]
2-3 small sweet potatoes, baked, skinned & mashed
1 c gluten free flour
1/2 c nutritional yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp each of paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, tumeric, cumin, sea salt and black pepper
2-3 green onion stalks, chopped

Prep Work:
Cook your quinoa by boiling 2 cups water or vegetable broth w/ 1 cup rinsed quinoa. Cook until liquid is absorbed.
Bake your sweet potatoes by poking a few holes in their skin with a fork & placing in the oven for 30-50 minutes, or until softened.
Remove skin from sweet potato & mash together in a large bowl.

In the bowl with your mashed sweet potatoes, add cooked quinoa, flour, nutritional yeast, olive oil, spices, & green onions. Stir until combined.
Using your hands or a rounded spoon, form your mixture into bite sized balls & place on a lined cookie sheet.
Bake @ 375 F for 30 minutes or until outer layer is crispy.

For dip combine:
2 parts vegan mayo
1 part BBQ sauce

Serve with BBQ mayo or your favorite dipping sauce. Enjoy.

There’s No Place Like Home: How to Smudge Your Apartment [and Your Cat] with Sage

white sage

I can’t remember the first time I heard talk of smudging to clear the stagnant energy from your home, but the second I did, I knew I wanted to take part. Smudging, or the practice of burning dried herbs and dispersing the smoke around your home, is done in several cultures and has become sort of a modern new age girl’s rite of passage. Every hip chick I know that owns tarot cards and meditates has smudged at least once. Opinions vary on how often you should clear the energy from your space, but it’s mentioned most in reference to moving into a new place. After all, it’s a great way to make your new apartment feel like your own AND because burning herbs smell pretty pleasant, it’s also a great way to get rid of any unwanted smells left behind by the previous tenant.

For my first smudging experience, I took the easy route and purchased a two pack of bundled herbs from Whole Foods. Yes, you can bundle your own, but since I’m a beginner I thought it best to go with a professional bundle, lest my own version fall apart mid-ceremony and ignite my bedspread or something.

After a little research in the library of Google, I’ve come to the conclusion that smudging is really what you make of it. You can say a prayer while smudging, use feathers to disperse the smoke, walk in a certain pattern around the room, or really you can just make it up as you go along. The important part is indulging in the ritual for whatever your purpose may be…and fire safety. Also very important.

For my ritual, I chose to move around the room in a clock-wise direction, partly because it was recommended online and partly because it’s simply the direction that made the most sense in the layout of my apartment.  Not having any feathers on hand [being vegan and all], I chose to do a combination of swirling my sage bundle through the air like a magic wand and gently fanning the smoke into corners I couldn’t reach. I found that I had to re-light my sage stick several times to make it all the way around the small room. You see, you don’t smudge with a full flame, but rather the burning embers that are left smoldering after you blow out the initial flame. These can cool off quickly, especially when you’re having a little too much fun doing the magic wand swirl. I made sure to give a little sage-love to the areas behind my clothes and in the corners of closets. That being said, I didn’t worry too much if I might have missed a few crevices here and there. Again, this ritual is what you make of it.

For my own little spin on things, I decided to focus special attention to certain feng shui areas of my home. If you’ve ever mentally laid a feng shui map over your apartment, you’ll see that every third region has a different claim to an area of your life like Love, Family, or Career. Generally these regions are used for decorating your home in certain colors or textures to create positive energy in your life, but I figured it couldn’t hurt if I did a little energy cleansing in the regions most important to me as well. I even smudged myself and my cat…who was unusually calm, but intrigued by the whole scenario.

zooey smudge

For more information on smudging your space, check out:

About.com – This article in their Feng Shui section was my main source on the how-to before getting started.
Miseducated.net – This lovely & straightforward article is by my friend Amber Renee. I actually had forgotten about it until after performing my ritual, but I love her step by step with included prayer.

And speaking of Miseducated.net, after an extended hiatus, my ask a healthy life stylist series is now back up & running! You can read my most recent advice on how to cut back on caffeine as well as submit any questions you might have by clicking Amber’s lovely graphic below:

caffeineaddiction

 

♥ & Light,
cropped-msw-logo.jpg

There’s No Place Like Home: A First Look at The Pink Apartment

There’s still a bit of decorating being done, but my little studio with pastel pink walls is slowly coming together…

pink apartment

After sharing space with someone else for several years, making little compromises along the way, it’s empowering to once again carve out my own niche: reestablishing the things that I love and reevaluating the things I no longer need.

My goal for my new home is to keep everything bright, open, & free of clutter, in the hopes that my inner world will mirror my outer space. <3

There’s No Place Like Home: Decorating The Green Suite

I’ve always had a thing for design: graphic, clothing, but especially interior.

As an introverted Cancer, my home is my oasis, my retreat from the world, but also a cozy place to play hostess to friends & family. Since I’m always decorating on a tight budget, my style doesn’t come off as polished as some, but over the years I’ve gotten better & better at pulling things together without breaking the bank. Currently, I’m in the process of decorating a new home and I’m dying to share it with you soon.

In the meantime, however, I’d like to take a look back on my last humble abode: the two bedroom apartment I shared with Nick aka my former flame, current best friend, & founder of The Green Suite.

When I moved in with Nick, his place was very bachelor pad: dark colors, a little disorganized, and minimal furniture. My goal in our redecorating project was to create a home where my vintage furniture wouldn’t feel too girly and our various collections [like my massive arsenal of DVD's] wouldn’t make things too crowded. Nick & I worked together quite well: what I lacked in hammer & nail skills, I made up for in design know how & visa versa. The finished products included bright blue walls, DVD housing made from re-claimed wood, & a bedroom bright enough to display the great light from our east-facing windows.

Our little Green Suite will always have a special place in my heart with lots of great memories, but as a new chapter of my life begins, I’m happy to have some new digs to compliment it. More on that soon.

 

//

[After photos taken by Aaron Ehinger Photography.]

To Keep Your Balance You Must Keep Moving

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you’re spending the first day of 2014 doing things that cause you joy. After all, the superstition says that whatever you do on the 1st of the year will set the tone for all the days that follow.

bicycle

For me, I want 2014 to be all about balance. These past few years I’ve developed some extreme habits and quirks that I’ve been slowly breaking down. I’m trying to be less dogmatic and extremist about my health & my relationships. There is good and bad in everything so we shouldn’t expect perfection from ourselves or those around us. It’s all about simply moving forward and finding the fun along the way.

My 1st started out with a little sesame tofu at an asian cafe near my apartment:

sesame tofu

Yum! But lots of soy & fried food [not to mention white rice], not the healthiest way to kick off 2014.

So for dessert, I whipped up a chocolate/cherry superfood smoothie:

chocolate cherry smoothie

Frozen cherries have become one of my favorite smoothie additions & of course they pair perfectly with chocolate.

Ingredients:

1 banana, frozen
5-6 sweet cherries, frozen
1 tsp cacao powder
1 tsp Sun Is Shining green superfood powder
1/2 tsp maca powder
1/4-1/3 can light coconut milk

Place all ingredients in blender & process until smooth. Add more coconut milk for a thinner texture, if desired.
Enjoy.

Happy 2014!

Almond Butter Oatmeal w/ “Caramelized” Bananas & Coconut Sprinkles

It’s getting cold outside in Chicago. Winter has reared it’s chilly head & won’t be leaving us again for months. Frankly, once the temperatures drop below 20 outside, the last thing I want to have for breakfast is an icy green smoothie. So instead, I’ve switched to oatmeal for my go-to morning meal.

Too bad my old favorite apple/cinnamon/date combo can get a little old when it becomes daily occurrence.

That’s why this weekend, I decided to mix things up a bit with almond butter, stove-top oats, and bananas sautéed in coconut oil. Top it all off with a few sprinklings of shredded coconut & I had a tropical-flavored breakfast with still plenty of warmth to send me out into the day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

almond butter oatmeal with caramelized bananas & coconut sprinkles

For more yummy food photos, follow me on Instagram @michelleshea.

Ingredients

2 c water
1 c gluten free rolled oats
a pinch of salt
1 ripe banana, sliced
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp almond butter
approx. 1 tsp unsweetened, shredded coconut

In a small to medium saucepan, bring 2 c of water & a pinch of salt to boil.
Add oats to water & reduce heat slightly to avoid boiling over. Let cook for 10-20 minutes.
In a medium skillet, heat coconut oil until melted & evenly distributed around pan.
Over medium heat, add banana slices to coconut oil & sauté until soft.
[Note: this is my lazy-girl's version of "caramelized" bananas, if you're looking for the real thing, drizzle some agave...or honey if you're bee-gan...on top of your bananas while they sauté.]
Once your oatmeal has cooked, add your almond butter & maple syrup while still over heat & stir until combined.
Place your cooked oats into a bowl, top with sautéed bananas & sprinkle your shredded coconut on top. Enjoy.

Relish Tray: Daiya’s Havarti-Style “Cheese” Wedge

relishverb. to delight in something that satisfies one’s tastes, inclinations, or desires.

daiya havarti

My name is Michelle & I am a Havarti-aholic. It all started several months ago when, upon release of Daiya’s wedge-style flavors, my friend Diva LaVida recommended that I try their Havarti flavor immediately because it was just that good. However, I rarely purchase vegan cheeses anymore. With so many great vegan restaurants in Chicago, I find that I can get my fill of cheesy flavors without adding it to my grocery list. Cut to last week when I decided to pick up a cheddar wedge as a gift for a recently dairy-free client. As I stood in the aisle at Whole Foods, cheddar in one hand, Daiya coupon in the the other, I decided now was as good of time as any to try this Havarti flavor for myself.

With no gluten-free crackers suitable for cheese at home, I opted to try my wedge on apple slices…and proceeded to devour half of the package in one sitting. Thankfully, my consumption has slowed down slightly [and I've learned to pre-arrange my slices on a plate to prevent mindless grazing from the package], but I still should buy stock in Daiya with as often as I’m purchasing this wedge. It’s amazing, guys! And for the most part, it’s pretty neutral on the nutrition scale. With a tapioca flour, palm oil & coconut base, it’s soy-free, gluten-free, & of course, dairy-free without too many unnecessary ingredients or preservatives. Overall, I feel okay about getting my apple a day with a side of this stuff…it’ll still keep the doctor away.

Want to go dairy-free, but you’re not quite sure how? As your health coach, I can help.
click here button

A Detox Drink for the Day After Halloween

For those of you without a calendar or access to the outside world, last night was Halloween. As an occasional actress and everyday costume fanatic, it’s one of my favorite holidays. For my boyfriend Nick, it is THE HOLIDAY of the year [I mean, come on, he teaches about zombie survival for a living]. Because of this, we tend to go all out: parties, candy, decorations, drinking games, festive food…you get the idea.

This year, we conspired together and decided to dress up as Margot & Richie Tenenbaum.

margot and richie halloween 2013 copy

“I think we’re just gonna have to be secretly in love with each other and leave it at that.”

I’d actually started planning my costume about a month before Halloween, but it became a whole lot more popular after this amazing sketch from last week’s SNL:

Our party was so much fun, it was hard to remain Margot-stoic for the camera all night. I broke character on more than one occasion.

margot and richie halloween

Notice the wooden finger on my right hand…Nick MADE that. He’s handy like that.

For our party guests, we prepared my favorite vegan chili & some pumpkin oatmeal cookies [with Enjoy Life chocolate chips added].

The chili was so delicious I ate about five bowls, along with several cookies & a taste of some vegan chai snickerdoodles made by Alicia of Big Vegan Affair [they weren't gluten-free, but I just had to try them]. Add to that a dirty martini, some Chicago Diner nachos and a few too many pieces of vegan halloween candy & I awoke this morning looking for a dietary re-set button.

So, in the spirit of recovering from your halloween cocktails & candy overdose, here’s a yummy day after halloween detox drink made with kale & carrots to kickstart your body’s cleansing. The fact that it’s festively orange is just a happy halloween accident.

day after halloween detox drink

Pink skeleton approved.

Ingredients [approx. 2 servings]

8 carrots
4 kale leaves
4 celery stalks
2 fuji apples
2 limes

Juice all ingredients together for a vitamin-rich, detoxifying cocktail that’s sweet with just a slight tang. For best results drink immediately & on an empty stomach.