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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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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.

An Easier Detox: The Elimination Diet

There have been a lot of comments and emails here lately about not quite being ready for a full-on cleanse.  I understand completely, as it does take some time, preparation, and diligence to do it well.  So I thought I’d share the Elimination Diet with you all.

Before embarking on the Clean cleanse, Matt and I began with a week of the Elimination Diet.  During that week, we gradually weaned ourselves off caffeine, and eliminated the foods most likely to create body inflammation and/or allergic responses.

The Results After One Week

The caffeine withdrawal headaches weren’t great, but also not nearly as bad as I thought.  I think it makes a big difference to eliminate refined sugar and starches at the same time, so you don’t have sugar highs and lows.  Plus at the end I was no longer dependent on caffeine, which is liberating!

I felt cleaner, my skin was softer, any blemishes I had disappeared, I lost a couple pounds, and I was lighter on my feet.  Sort of a detox-lite.  Not a full-on cleanse (which is life-changing) but really, really good.

I encourage you to try it for a week and see how you feel.  Everyone I know who has done this with diligence has said they felt better afterward.

Foods That Create Inflammation & Toxic Responses

Now that I’ve observed the results of de-inflaming my body, I can see the puffiness in other people.  Inflammation makes you look a little bloated, and not quite healthy – it’s particularly easy to see in the face.  And while I found that the puffiness didn’t correlate to weight, it most definitely correlated to clothes sizes and the difference I saw in the mirror.

The seven foods that create the majority of our body inflammation and other toxic responses:

  1. Dairy
  2. Wheat, barley and rye (the gluten grains – even if you’re not allergic, you may find you have symptoms)
  3. Refined sugar
  4. Eggs
  5. Soy
  6. Corn
  7. Red meat

Some sources put the nightshade family in this category as well (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, tomatillos).  That might be just one too many to eliminate for some of us.

Four-Day Rotation

According to my Naturopath and Clean, even after the Elimination Diet you should try to eat these foods only once every four days.  This allows your body to recover (ie detox) from the foods so that inflammation doesn’t build up.  For all you gardeners out there, I think of this as crop rotation.

I know that is a hard list for most of us to avoid, but I encourage you to see how the food affects your body for just one week.  Then continue for another couple weeks if you like it.  And if not, at least it was an interesting study!

Foods To Eat

I’m not a nutritionist, as you know.  No claims to be so!  The following list was compiled using several resources, but is taken mostly from Clean.  I have a copy of this list in my wallet that I pull out when I’m grocery shopping (I’m sorry the following list is so long – I can’t create a table here).

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Coconut
  • Figs (these are high in sugar so not too many)
  • Huckleberries
  • Kiwi
  • Kumquat
  • Loganberries
  • Mangoes
  • Melons
  • Mulberries
  • Nectarines
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Raspberries

Vegetables

  • Artichoke
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Beet & beet greens
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Celery root (celeriac)
  • Chives
  • Cucumber
  • Dandelion greens
  • Endive
  • Jicama
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms: all
  • Onions
  • Pak choi
  • Okra
  • Red leaf chicory
  • Sea vegetables/seaweed (kelp, dulse, hijiki, arame, wakame)
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach
  • Sprouts
  • Squash (winter & summer)
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnip
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini

Legumes

  • Lentils: brown, red, green, yellow, French
  • Split peas
  • Chickpeas
  • All beans, except soy (edamame)

Grains, Pasta & Cereals

  • Amaranth
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Teff
  • Buckwheat
  • Rice: brown, red, black (forbidden rice), wild
  • Puffed brown rice
  • Puffed millet
  • Brown rice pasta
  • 100% Buckwheat noodles
  • Kelp noodles
  • Flours: brown rice, teff, millet, tapioca, amaranth, garbanzo bean, coconut, chestnut, sorghum

Nuts & Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Flax seeds
  • Hazelnuts (filberts)
  • Pecans
  • Poppy seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Hemp seeds

Oils

Use unrefined, extra virgin, non-gmo, organic, & cold-pressed oils.

  • Almond
  • Flax seed
  • Coconut (best for cooking at high temperatures)
  • Olive
  • Pumpkin
  • Safflower
  • Sesame
  • Sunflower
  • Walnut
  • Hazelnut
  • Truffle

Milk Substitutes

  • Almond milk (unsweetened)
  • Hemp milk (unsweetened)
  • Hazelnut milk (unsweetened)
  • Coconut milk or water
  • Rice (whole grain, brown rice) – least optimal due to its being more processed and higher in sugar

Beverages

  • Teas: herbal, white, rooibos, green, yerba mate
  • Kombucha
  • Mineral water
  • Spring water
  • Fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juice – made with only fruits and vegetables listed above

Sweeteners

  • Whole fruit sweeteners (dates, eg)
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Stevia
  • Xylitol
  • Agave – not the preferred choice, but okay in moderation

Meat

  • Free-range chicken, turkey, duck
  • Lamb
  • Buffalo
  • Wild game: venison, quail, pheasant, rabbit
  • Cold water ocean fish: wild pacific salmon, ocean char, cod, halibut, haddock, sole, pollack, tuna, stripped bass
  • Water-packed canned tuna (without added soy protein)
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies

Spices, Condiments

  • Most spices are ok if they don’t contain the 7 foods to avoid above
  • Mustard (made with apple cider vinegar)
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Miso
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Tarragon vinegar
  • Ume plum vinegar

Make sure to eat a balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables!

Reintroduce Foods Gradually

If you do this for at least three weeks (the minimum time required to completely remove foods from your system), you will also have some the reintroduction benefits of a cleanse.  That means you can slowly – one by one – reintroduce the 7 potentially toxic foods to see how your body reacts to them.

Briefly, you should eat each food in its purist form (not mixed with anything else if possible), preferably 3 distinct times in one day.  For example, corn tortillas or chips to test corn, a slice of whole wheat bread to test gluten.  Then wait 2 days and record in a journal anything different physically or emotionally.  After 2 days, move to the next one on the list.

 

What Are Your Favorite Blogs?

As you know, I took a bit of a (LONG) blogging break.  I’m so happy to see so many of you returning – it has been making me smile to see your names, and to meet so many new readers!

So, since I’ve been away and many of you have not, I’d love to know if you’ve found any fabulous blogs out there while I was gone. What are your favorites?? Old or new – I’d love to know about them.

Green blogs, sustainability blogs, frugal blogs, simple and happy living blogs… Try to keep it somewhere in the neighborhood of the things we discuss here, but anything thereabouts works for me.

Go for it – list away!!

Please don’t be shy – I love your voices!

Sites Mentioned So Far…

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!

On My Grandfather's 100th Birthday

One of the reasons we moved back to Seattle was to spend time with my grandfather.  He’s a remarkable man, having lived through the entire 20th century.  Amazing the changes he’s viewed during his lifetime.  He has watched the local trolleys and trains be built, be torn down, and finally be built again.  He has witnessed the advent of the radio, the car, the television, the computer….

Last night he was curious about my iPhone, “What do you call it? eye-phone??”

We spent about an hour looking at different apps, the internet, and all the information – and socializing – now available at your fingertips.  He was awestruck, but surprisingly un-phased.

While he marveled, he also pondered.  How has this changed society?  What do kids do in school – do they use these during classes?  Can they cheat this way?  And what is it like now that you don’t have to spend so long researching and learning?

He was delighted to see the newspaper article about him (from the front page of the Seattle Times the other day) – he beamed as he showed Marion their picture.  Almost like a child on Christmas, he smiled, “What else can it find out?”

We learned there are 455,000 centenarians in the world, 70,490 in the US.  But we couldn’t find how many centenarian couples there are.  We all guessed far fewer (maybe not even enough to measure?).

When we finally finished gawking at the iPhone and the internet, and he had the proper phraseology to slip it into conversation with his buddies tomorrow, we chatted about some other interesting things.

My grandfather’s wife – who he married when he was 87 years old – was a spitfire when they married.  “Smart as a whip” he says.  She had the most beautiful blue eyes – piercing.  She was adventurous and spunky.

Over the years she has slowly endured macular degeneration, severe hearing loss, and Alzheimer’s.  My grandfather told me something last night that I’ve never heard him utter before.  I always felt bad for him.  While his mind and eyesight are pretty near perfect still, his conversations with Marion are simple and I swear there is a bit of loneliness I sense from him at times.  He longs for conversation when he sees me.

But he told me it has been an extremely interesting journey.  He has learned a lot from being with her, watching the changes someone you know so well go through as she loses her sense of sight and hearing.  It’s a pretty large amount of sensory deprivation.

It sounds morbid writing it, but that’s not what he was saying at all.  He marveled.  I got the sense that it actually kept his own brain active and learning, as he adapted and changed his interactions and lifestyle to help her.

She is doing much, much better than others in the retirement community who have similar diseases.  She is more aware, smiles and laughs more, is much more active, and still enjoys life.  I told him, “you know that’s largely because of you, right?”  He stopped talking for a moment, let that sink in, and then beamed again.

What a fabulous man.  This month he is being honored by the Kiwanis Club for being the oldest member, by the fire department for his service during the Depression, by the retirement community for being the oldest couple, and by the local paper for just living to be 100 years old.

Nothing stops him.  I wonder sometimes how much that has to do with growing up during the Depression and having to survive no matter what.  Two full-time jobs during the Depression, then job to job and career to career as he grew as a man and desired to learn more… He was a fireman, a banker, worked at a grocery store, owned a hardware store, and had several other careers…  And that’s just for work.  He also was very active in the Millionnaire’s Club, the Kiwanis Club, a camp for disabled children, and many other charities over the years.

He still does his own accounting.  He has made 2 wives very happy in their old age.  He brings light to the retirement community announcing baseball scores at breakfast and being an active member of different groups.  He attends all the family gatherings he can (my extended family has a multitude of birthday parties, weddings, and other celebrations).  He rides out illnesses and comes out almost better on the other side – bronchitis cracks a rib, and he complains less and recovers faster than I probably would!

What is his secret?  Well, take your pick.  In the past he’s told me it was that he was always happy with what he was doing.  Last night, he said it was “because of her.”

Singing Happy Birthday to Each Other

Urban Homesteading

For those of you who have somehow avoided the controversy until now, the Dervaes family has trademarked the term “Urban Homesteading.”   I don’t know exactly what their intentions were for doing so – it may have started innocently as a way to protect the term from more insidious corporations, it may have been an honest belief that they coined the term and made it what it is, or it may have been for some other reason entirely.

The Dervaes are very press savvy.  Full disclosure – back when I was in film school, I featured them in one of my thesis films about peak oil and climate change.  I don’t want to violate any of the trust they put in me by revealing their innerworkings behind the scenes.  So suffice it to say that it was clear to me that they have ambition and understand how the press can help them get where they want to go.

Trying (it seems twice) to trademark urban homesteading is something that they probably knew would make many fans more loyal, turn a few away, but in general give them some additional press to spread their word.  I’m sure they had no idea how much press – actually I imagine they probably view it as a misstep now, but I don’t know.

But whatever the reasons they did it, it has divided us.  Again.

We have a multitude of very real, very severe planetary problems around us.  Yet we are fighting about a terminology, fighting about owning a thing that isn’t really a thing at all – just utterances in air and ink.  Instead of uniting against much worse things out there: Congress that never passing much in the way of planetary protection, oil drilling in Alaska, butterflies and birds that are going extinct, terribly unpredictable weather around the world this season, wars that never cease, world poverty that is devastating whole cultures….

Don’t get me wrong – I think the Dervaes did make a mistake in taking a seriously bold step to trademark a lifestyle that so many people are proud of.  I will use the term urban homesteading – along with permaculture, biodynamic, four square gardening, simple life, local living, and so on – because I believe it is more important for us to unite around such terms. These define our movement, the movement we have built together over many years.  We are all in this together, hoping to impact the world in a positive way, as our predecessors did in the 70s, the 40s, and all those before them.

Let’s not lose sight all the many important reasons to harness our anger before it’s too late – before the planet changes irreversibly, our lives change irreparably, our children don’t have the same planet to grow up in.

Dervaes family, you know I respect you all for what you have done.  I hope you, too, can see this controversy is leading us off our important track together.  I wish you the best in making a decision that is good for the planet, good for the movement, and good for us all.

And for the rest of us, if this is really making you angry, ok – put your anger there.  But reserve a bit of your anger for something bigger than all of us.  Today, consider putting an equal amount of anger toward helping an important planetary cause that you really believe in.

It took me 45 minutes to write this post today.  I will spend 45 minutes signing petitions, calling Congress, and finding other ways to inspire positive social change.