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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Winners: THREE Great Gardening Books!

Thanks so much for your lovely comments and for entering to win the gardening books, everyone!

As promised, we have two winners…

Winner #1 is… Kiona!

Winner #2 is… deb g!

Congratulations, lovely ladies.  Please email me with your address!

Giveaway: THREE Great Gardening Books!

The folks at BetterWay Home Books have generously offered a giveaway for 2 sets of these 3 fabulous gardening books!  That means 2 of you will be the lucky winners of these 3 books.  Yay!

I Garden: Urban Style

The photos from this book are completely inspiring, and make me want to grow from every nook and cranny in my apartment.  If you’re growing in small spaces, or trying to get the most out of the space you have, or you want to give your garden a fun urban twist, this is the perfect book.

It covers all sorts of things in a very short amount of time:  lasagna gardening, companion planting, identifying your soil type, seed starting, creating a terrarium, guerrilla gardening, vermicomposting, and even planting to make your cat happy.  A really nice addition to a gardener’s library.

Composting Inside & Out

If you are at all like me, you might be a tad bit afraid of composting.  It’s a bit mythical, isn’t it?

This book does a great job of telling it to you in easy to understand terms.  It’s also the first composting book I’ve read that is written by a woman, which I really enjoy.  It’s written from a very conversational tone, covers indoor and outdoor composting (including worm bins), goes over all the equipment as well as how to test if it’s done.  I’m impressed.

Rx From the Garden:  101 Food Cures You Can Easily Grow

I have a dream to one day be able to have this scenario:

Good friends Angela and Alex are over for dinner, and Angela complains that she has had a headache all day.

“Oooh,” I say.  “Wait one minute!” I say as I disappear into the garden with some scissors.

Moments later I return with a handful of herbs, heat up some water, and 15 minutes later Angela is headache free and enjoying are home-cooked meal together.

It’s a dream for now, but I’m constantly looking for great tips and books to add to my future remedy garden (I’ve started planting a few herbs already).  This book is another piece to that puzzle.

It’s much more of a “how to” gardening book than I expected, given the title – the first half to shows all the different remedies (not just herbs – also vegetables and fruits!), and the second half gets you out in the garden with gardening basics.

Want To Win 3 Great Gardening Books?

Tell me so – leave your name in the comments!

If you want to leave an extra tidbit about your own garden (or future garden), that would make me happy – but it won’t adversely affect your chances of winning.

I’ll draw TWO winners on Sunday, May 15, at 6pm PST.

Both winners will receive all 3 books.  Good luck!!

Giveaway: Kitchen Herb Garden Seeds!

As I continue burning the midnight oil at my office… let’s have a giveaway!

Hometown Seeds has graciously offered a free Kitchen Herb Value Pack to the lucky winner. They are a sweet little family-owned company – their seeds come in hand-packed bags with planting instructions.  And the seeds smell amazing

So Get Your Free Herb Seeds!

The only catch:  you have to tell us what you’re going to do with the seeds in your comment.  You can say anything, it’s just more fun to learn a bit about you!

So, where will you plant them?  Or who will eat the lovely herbs?  Or what does your garden look like?  Anything you can think of – just a little tidbit!

I’ll draw a random winner on Sunday.  You have until 6pm April 10th to enter. Don’t forget to say a few words about your garden!!


(P.S. In case you’re curious, I don’t receive money from these reviews and giveaways.  Free seeds and books occasionally, but that’s about it!)

Winner: Clean Start!

Thanks for your patience, everyone. It was a long and wonderful day yesterday – my grandfather and Marion’s 100th Birthday Party.  More to come on that shortly.

In the meantime… the winner of the Clean Start giveaway is…

Abbey P!

Congratulations!  Please email me with your mailing address and it will soon be yours.  And Abbey, you and I will be going gluten free together.  In fact one in ten people have Celiac Disease so you’re not alone!

Our February Experiment: Yoga

January was the cleanse.  February was yoga.

Beginners Yoga

Matt and I enrolled in an introduction to yoga class a block away from our apartment.  I did a bit of research, but not a lot – basically I chose it based on the pictures, the quality of the website, and the location.  It’s only a month, and how can we go wrong with having a 2-minute walk to get there??

We entered the first class with bright new ecologically sound yoga mats and bags.  We stretched our necks and made ourselves as comfortable as we could even though we felt a wee bit awkward.

Soon the class filled the small room to capacity.  The room was abuzz.  The instructor shut the door.

And then he turned up the heat.

Oh!  Somehow I missed that it was hot yoga!!

The heat slowly entered my pores as we sat on the mats listening to the instructor.  A show of hands: how many have are experienced at yoga or are a teacher? 1/3 of the class raised their hands.  Been to yoga many times but at an intermediate level or it might have been a while? 1/3 of the class raised their hands (including me – but it has been a long while).  Just taking yoga for the first time? The final 1/3 of the class meekly raised their hands (including Matt).

So Introduction to Yoga is being attended by mostly tenured yogis and yoginis.  It was going to be a long, hard night.

Very quickly we learned we had signed up for Ashtanga yoga.  Particularly the style taught by Baron Baptiste (who did yoga at the age of 7).  The style called Power Yoga.  Oh boy!

It was grueling.  I have pretty bad shoulder issues so I was hoping to take it slow and ease into strength and flexibility.  But there was no easing into it…

Ashtanga is a particular style of vinyasa yoga that brings you through a sequence of 54 poses done in constant motion.  It’s not really made for beginners.

In the beginning couple of classes, it totally kicked our butts.  The instructors were great in breaking down the poses into smaller chunks, but it is still constant movement in a hot room for 75 minutes.  My muscles were sore after those first few classes!!

But slowly, it got easier.  Not easy, mind you, but easier.

Benefits

I’m already seeing the benefits of yoga, after 7 classes.  So much so that I actually miss class and yearn for it during the days between.

It’s not as hard as it was in the beginning, on a few short weeks ago.  It’s still hard, my shoulders still have a long way to go before downward facing dog is comfortable and the “relaxing break in the routine” that it’s supposed to be.

My muscles are stronger.  I’m more flexible.  I have better posture.  I am more aware of my breath (good for an asthmatic like me).  I am more relaxed.  And I feel more energetic.

Matt and I love coming home to eat dinner together after yoga class.  We both smile a lot, are completely relaxed, and really enjoy the evening together.

I never would have guessed it, but I actually enjoy hot yoga.  I sweat like heck (bring a towel and a water bottle), but I really love it.  We plan to buy monthly passes to the studio.

Review and Giveaway: Clean Start!

Cookbook Review

After reading my first few posts about the cleanse, the publicist for Clean Start contacted me and asked me to review Terry Walters’ new book.  It sounded wonderful from the description she provided, and I thought it would be the perfect book to follow up my Clean cleanse.

It’s fabulousReally fabulous.

It’s a beautiful cookbook full of recipes that are vegan, gluten free, and pretty darn simple.

Really, this is the perfect book to follow a cleanse, helping me take a short detox and turning it into a new lifestyle.  It is also a perfect book for those of you who are not quite ready for a full-on cleanse yet.  You know who you are!

The book walks through how to set up your pantry in terms of tools, foods, and spices.  It also lists the many personal benefits I’ve listed for moving toward a clean diet, as well as the environmental benefits.

In her own words, Terry Walters writes, “Clean Start is about enjoying healthy, delicious food every day.  It’s about having a relationship with food that’s not based on living up to somebody else’s ideal, or following a strict regimen. It’s simply about making healthy choices, one at a time, and doing the best that you can do.”

“Clean food is whole, minimally processed and close to the source for maximum nutrition.  This is the food that allows you to live a healthy life, and to accomplish what you want without the limitations that result from compromised nutrition and health.”

Organized by season, the recipes are accompanied by a small personal story as well as great photographs.  I just see a lot of you out there really loving this cookbook!

A Sample of Recipes

  1. Peach Gazpacho
  2. Polenta Pizza
  3. Shallot Fig Spread
  4. Deep Dish Greens with Millet Amaranth Crust
  5. Orange Chocolate Mousse

My mouth is watering just thinking about them!

This is Terry Walters’ second cookbook.  Her first book, Clean Food, was published in 2009.  Most of the recipes in that book are vegan as well.  You can read more about Walters on her website.

Book Giveaway!!

Ok, throw your name in the hat – you never know if you might be the winner of this fabulous book!

Leave your name in the comments before Sunday February 27 at 5pm, PST. Good luck!

I Bought A Juicer!! Breville Juicer Review

Oh yes, you’ve seen it.  I love it.  I love it.  I love it!

I’ve been asked by several of you all to write a bit about the juicer and why I purchased this one….

Quick Juicer Review

After spending hours researching online, I ended up buying the Breville 800 JEXL Juice Fountain Elite.  While it sounds like it’s from a sci-fi novel, it’s actually one of the least complicated juicers out there.  It’s a little pricey, but here’s why I bought it:

  1. The motor. It’s a hefty motor, and really that’s the most important part of the juicer!  When it gets a bit torqued, it should be just fine.
  2. The lack of bells and whistles. It’s the way I buy cars, appliances, and clothes – not too high maintenance, not too many bells and whistles – because it just adds to the number of things that can go wrong.  Just durable, reliable parts.
  3. It’s going to last for years. Plastic parts just break faster.  Time and time again we’ve proven this when we skimped on something.  And then it goes to a landfill and it’s stuck there forever.
  4. It can be recycled. Most of the parts are recyclable.
  5. It had excellent reviews. On Amazon, in the book I’ve been talking so much about, and by our friends.
  6. We trust Breville. We have other appliances from Breville that have lasted a long time and continue to work extremely reliably.
  7. It looks good on the counter. It sounds kind of superficial, but we want to have juice every day.  There is a barrier to doing that if we have to stow it away all the time.
  8. It’s dishwasher safe. Most juicers are dishwasher safe at this point, but these parts are much more durable than the crappy plastic one I had in college (the old one showed some dishwasher wear after a while).  Plus even though my old one could go in the dishwasher, it never got clean – carrots and tomatoes stained it for good.  This one sparkles.
  9. It’s sturdy and has high capacity. The feeder tube is big, centered, and holds a lot.  That means it’s easy to cut things in just a few pieces and feed it right in there.  And the cup holds a lot of liquid as well.  All these little things can become barriers to regular use if your juicer doesn’t have them.
  10. Martha loves it. Actually I didn’t find out until after I bought it, but apparently it’s often featured on her show as a “must have.”  Here’s a sample.

Do You Own A Juicer?

What kind?  Do you like it?