“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.” ~Henry Beecher

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Memories and Lessons

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog with an interview from my Uncle Don where he told a wonderful, funny story that reminded him about the goodness in people.

During part of the interview, he talked about the people that held the most memories within him and which ones provided the most influence throughout his life. You can watch him discuss it here:

One major influence on his life from an early age was his family. He had 5 siblings that all had different personalities and points of view and this, he recalls, gave him a wide variety of ideas and relationship dynamics from which to learn.

He talked about his time with his family on the farm and how the kids would always be scattered outside, in the woods or the in barn exploring.

The other day, he told me that between the 6 of them, they were always able to generate some sort of mischief : ) One day, they found their father’s chewing tobacco behind the barn. After forgetting that they were not supposed to swallow it, they all walked into the house with green faces to appeal to their mother, then proceeded to get sick to their stomachs! I guess it wasn’t funny at the time, but it was a cute story.

Other major influence were people that taught him lessons that he needed to learn, like a young man whom he looked up to that disciplined him for the way he treated the man’s mother. You can hear about his reaction in the video.

Who else stuck out in my Uncle’s mind? A man who was as strong as an ox and worked on construction sites as a hod carrier, who handed the masons containers of mortar as they were laying bricks. Yet, underneath that tremendous strength was a very kind, generous, and grateful man who always offered to help the people around him.

We all have those memories and people that stay in our hearts and minds forever. What and who are some of yours?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chocolate Bliss - Part 3

If you read Chocolate Bliss - Part 1 and Part 2, you met some talented chocolatiers and saw some beautiful and delicious (trust me on that one!) chocolates. One of the highlights of the 2010 Chocolate Show in NYC for me, was a demo by Jacques Torres. Over the course of 45 minutes, he showed the audience how to mold a Christmas tree, make and assemble the branches, and garnish it with pretty gift boxes with ribbon. Out of what? Why, chocolate, of course!!

The process of creating something so pretty would be reason enough to watch the show; however, Jacques’ sense of humor gave us plenty to laugh about! For example, he tells us a funny story, breaks the refrigerator, and jokes much of the time. That doesn't stop something spectacular from unfolding, though. In the video below, you’ll get to see the fun and watch talent in action as Jacques and his team skillfully create their Christmas “chocolates”.

As I put this video together, I realized that there were also some important lessons to be learned here about making chocolate trees and about life:

1. Start small, then as you build your confidence and skill level, move onto something bigger. In other words, don’t attempt to build a 10-foot-tall tree out of chocolate the first try. Start with a 12-inch model and once you’ve mastered that, aim higher.

2. Have fun with what you do! This is so important in life and was one thing that stood out the most for me while watching the show. Jacques and his team were clearly having fun! Then again, what’s not to like about working with 30 pounds of chocolate? : )

3. It all about the techniques. Jacques made it a point to tell us that he was teaching us techniques. It wasn’t just about the tree and gifts. It was about the tools and methods he used to make the molds and carry out the assembly. After leaving there, the only thing that would prevent us from creating something spectacular out of chocolate (if we so wanted) would be the limits of our imagination. So delete the word fail from your vocabulary and go for it!

4. You can't go wrong when you create something beautiful–for the sake of beauty itself. It brings joy to people, and that is something worth expressing your talents for.

I hope you enjoy the show. I surely did!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chocolate Bliss - Part 2

As promised in Chocolate Bliss Part 1, this post is entirely devoted to three chocolatiers who work either with 100% raw cacao beans or a combination of raw and roasted chocolate.

As a budding holistic health coach, I was very excited to discover this world at the NYC Chocolate Show. Why? The chocolate is organic and minimally processed, ensuring that the abundant profile of nutrients is preserved. They use minimal amounts of unrefined, all natural sweeteners, so that the chocolate is not too sweet. In addition, the products feature health-promoting herbs, fruits, nuts, and other superfoods that not only taste fantastic with chocolate, they turn it into something medicinal!

As a side note, I’ve come to the conclusion that chocolate goes with just about everything, because there wasn’t a combination that I didn’t like at the show or anywhere else for that matter!

Who doesn’t love a piece of dark chocolate at the end of a nice meal or when they’re feeling blue? Now just imagine how much more that bite of deliciousness can accomplish when it’s surrounded by more health-promoting goodness!!

In the video above, you will meet Jennifer Love, a co-founder of NibMor Chocolate and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), where I am currently studying. Their bars are raw, organic, gluten- and dairy-free.

They also have a line of hot-chocolate mixes, including one that is sweetened with maple, a personal favorite of mine, and another blend that combines several beneficial spices, including cloves, cinnamon, and fennel. If you like your salsa medium, you’ll enjoy this cup of chocolate!

Antidote Chocolate, founded by Red Thalhammer, combines 50% raw with 50% mildly-roasted cacao beans in their 84% organic, vegan and gluten, dairy- and soy-free bars. They are also infused with moringa, a superfood I was originally introduced to in Rwanda, which is actually given to patients with HIV and has also been cultivated and used medicinally in India for thousands of years to treat over 300 ailments!

The bars are designed to empower the inner goddess in us all (!) and combines flavors like ginger and goldenberry, red hibiscus and berry, almond and pepper, and one of my favorites: lavender and sea salt.

The third super chocolate I discovered at the show was Gnosis Chocolate. The company was founded by Vanessa Barg, also an IIN graduate. It features cholesterol, gluten, dairy, and soy-free products that are also made without the use of refined sugars.

In addition, Vanessa takes her passion for superfoods to the extreme in her products. The company produces a raw, organic, hot chocolate mix that’s sweetened with palm nectar from coconut trees and includes a potent mixture of foods/herbs, and spices, including maca root, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and dong quai.

Gnosis chocolate bars are hand-made and laced with blue-green algae, which is actually a source of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid important for healthy brain function. They have several delicious varieties, including Coconut Almond, Fleur de Sel, Cool Peppermint, and Superchoc, which is blended with a powerful mix of raspberries, goji berries, reishi mushrooms, maca root, and acai.

If you’re interested in exploring the world of raw cacao and getting a dose of “healthy!”, I encourage you to try the delicious creations of NibMor, Antidote, and Gnosis Chocolate.

Here’s to our Health!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chocolate Bliss - Part 1

Less than one month ago I posted a blog about a visit to the Chocolate Springs Café in Lenox, MA where I interviewed the owner, Joshua Needleman. It’s a place you absolutely want to experience if you’re ever in the Berkshires.

Little did I know that I would soon be writing about chocolate again. Twist my arm! But seriously, when I discovered that the Chocolate Show was being held in New York City last week, I jumped at the opportunity to attend. This was the show’s 13th year and the first time for me.

So after my early morning Bikram yoga class, I boarded a train for NYC then sprinted down to W 18th Street to the Metropolitan Pavilion. My chocolate nirvana began before I even walked in the door with a sample of Callebaut callets that were a mixture of white and dark chocolate. From there, it just got better.

Just inside, we were greeted by some chocolate goddesses–mannequins dressed in the chocolate line from the fashion show on opening night. The beauty of chocolate is that whatever you can dream, you can do it with chocolate! This was evident by the stylish, elegant, and sometimes outrageous creations that were modeled here.

On to the tasting! There were over 60 chocolatiers that showcased their products and I tasted a wide array of treats including dark chocolate bonbons from Jacques Torres Chocolates, dark chocolate covered orange peel from Valrhona’s (a favorite chocolate of mine for baking), and Guido Gobino’s Crema Spalmabile Cacao, a rich, spreadable blend of chocolate and hazelnuts from the Piedmont region of Italy. Heaven on a spoon!

Then there were the Belgian toffees and dark or milk chocolates paired with nuts or filled with fruit or caramel crèmes. Once more, the dark chocolate and hazelnuts from Galler caught my eye and tastebuds. Toffee Taboo from Sendall Chocolates was a crunchy layering of toffee-coated almonds and cashews on Callebaut chocolate with white chocolate drizzled on top. Every bite was worth the indulgence!

If you love peanut butter, then you would have loved Jer’s Peanut Butter Bars and their pretty confections. Jer himself told me the story of how his company came to be. He left his corporate job to follow his bliss and has become a huge success! You can hear Jer describe his journey in the video above. It’s inspiring stories like these that continually remind me that we should all have the courage to chase our dreams! How can we possibly be anything but successful when we’re doing what we love??

Please stay tuned for Chocolate Bliss – Part 2, which is devoted to raw chocolate. You’ll meet three chocolatiers who use either 100% raw chocolate or a blend of raw and roasted cacao beans, together with spices, herbs, and superfoods. These products are right up there with broccoli and kale!

If you’re crafty and love Christmas, you’ll love Chocolate Bliss – Part 3, which features Jacques Torres and his team demonstrating how to make a Christmas tree and gifts (complete with pretty chocolate ribbon!) out of chocolate! He’s funny and entertaining.

Have you had enough chocolate yet? Of course not!! : ) xo Peace

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Faith in Good People

Love to drive by the runway to see the planes come in!

I’ve mentioned this before on my blog, but over the last several months, I’ve spent a lot of time with my dear Uncle Don who’s been recovering from illness. During that time, we’ve talked A LOT. About how he’s been feeling, health, diet, his experiences growing up and while working on the railroad, current events, books that we’ve read, or interesting articles. He’s an avid reader and loves National Geographic and always fills me in on interesting environmental or wildlife stories.

He also has the most vivid and event-driven dreams and has an uncanny ability to remember them in acute detail. I’ve heard many of them and believe that some would qualify as screenplays for sci-fi movies.

So, after all this time and with all of these wonderful memories, I decided it would be nice to have him share some of his wisdom with everyone. The other day, I sat down with him in front of my video camera and recorded close to 50 minutes of conversation and insights into what he feels makes a good life and what, in his 82 years of life, stands out the most as having an impact on him. I will be posting what he had to say in shorter segments.

In this first video below, he tells a sweet and sometimes funny story about a trip he made out West. In the end, when he thinks back on the experience, and the relationships he developed along the way, however brief, he draws an inspiring and heartwarming conclusion. I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Take off the Mask and Show Your Beauty Behind it

Yesterday, for Halloween, my daughter came over with the kids for dinner and then trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. After we ate, everyone put on their costumes and got ready to head out. But when the time came to leave, our 4-year-old didn’t want to go. He was afraid–mostly of the scary masks. So I stayed in with him to pass out treats while the others went out into the neighborhood. But if kids rang the doorbell wearing masks, he wouldn’t go near the door.

I thought about this after. Why is he so afraid of masks? Yes, some of them are scary and most are not very becoming, but he knows they’re not real; he knows there’s someone behind them and he knows that they can be taken off. And then I thought about the fact that he’s 4 years old and maybe he doesn’t really understand what’s not real. He doesn’t know yet how to be anything but authentic. He hasn’t yet reached the age where many of us put the mask on and leave it there. That point in our lives where we start to believe that we have to be a certain way to please everyone and to be accepted. How many of us are in this boat and as a result, unhappy, unfulfilled, and scared behind the mask?

I believe that most of us truly want to see, hear and feel what is real. We may not always like what we get, but at least we know where we stand. Real is a far more profound teacher than fake or phony. We can better tap into and understand our own authenticity if those around us are expressing their true selves and we can, in turn, help others to do the same. And when we understand exactly who we are, we can better grow into the people we want to be. And this is what true beauty is all about.

So can we all take off our masks and store them for Halloween? Hope so…