Banishing the blues on a grey day: Time for a shot of color

Winter is coming, and with it more grey days. Sometimes, the morning fog stays all day, and drizzle turns to rain.

To keep my mood from turning grey, I have lots of choices. For example, I can: go to the gym, hunker down with a cup of tea and a good book, or infuse my world with some color. Yesterday, I chose color. I pulled out my stash of yarn and played. Ostensibly looking for a new project to begin, I immersed myself in a veritable rainbow of possibilities and let my mind wander. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. This was fun!

In my office/studio, yarn fills several wicker baskets and a couple of storage bins. Yarn spills over into other areas of the house, lurking under the dining table and creeping onto the couch near the TV. My favorite fibers are within arm’s reach of my desk. Here are skeins of baby alpaca, wool, and even a little hand-spun – organized by color. Some are souvenirs of vacations; others were purchased on outings to local yarn shops.

Since I finished two knitting projects while away, I need a new one — or three — to begin. I like having several creations in the works at any given time. That way, one always fits the bill. A simple scarf is great for knitting group, where conversation is center stage and knitting is the backdrop. More intricate designs are better for knitting solo, when I can give more attention to the instructions.

After pouring over patterns and consulting my friends, I settled on a quick & easy vest using 2 strands of bulky wool; it will go fast. This is as close to instant gratification as knitting gets.

I also chose a simple cardigan that will take a little longer to make; for this one, the yarn – a variegated wool-cashmere blend – will be the star.

What about you?

What do you do to banish the blues on a grey day? How do you infuse color and texture?

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Swim Strong

Last Sunday, October 2, was a big day. Mills College hosted the Swim A Mile event for the Women’s Cancer Resource Center (WCRC). The LiveStrong foundation promoted “Wear Yellow Day,” commemorating Lance Armstrong’s 15-year anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer. And, I celebrated my birthday.

Before the swim, sporting my LiveStrong shirt, "Hope."

Nearly 600 swimmers participated in the 2-day Swim A Mile event, raising more than $340,000 for WCRC. My sister, Anney, and her husband, Scott, swam a mile apiece.

Last leg of my 5/8 mile swim, feeling tired.

I swam 22 laps – approximately 5/8 of a mile – a “personal best” for me.

Finished! Great way to celebrate by helping WCRC.

Thanks to our generous donors, our team — Swim Strong — contributed $900.
WCRC provides free essential services to women with any kind of cancer, including information, education, and support services. On November 15, I will teach a wellness workshop for WCRC, Continued Healing: Everyday Stress Reduction.

Click here to watch a short video of the 2011 Swim A Mile event, courtesy of Oakland North.

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On the path: Reflections on life’s journey

Can you believe it’s September already? What happened to all the things I planned to accomplish in 2011? (Gulp.) I had better get busy… or not.

When I take stock, I am reasonably pleased with how the year is going. Too often in the past, I was very single-minded, laser-focused on the task at hand. This year, I am more balanced. I am letting go of perfectionism. There are times when “good enough” is, frankly, good enough. I would rather look back and remember that I spent the weekend with my husband and granddaughters than holed up in my office researching and writing.

My mantra this year is “move-play-laugh.” Essentially, I want to have more FUN in life; and, I am.  Today is a Chamber-of-Commerce-picture-perfect-day in Sonoma. Bruce and I went for a hike this morning on Angel’s Flight trail in Bartholomew Park.

The park is adjacent to Bartholomew Park and Buena Vista wineries.

The redwoods towered overhead.

Getting my heart-rate up and flexing my muscles felt good. Tiny frogs jumped, ker-plop, into Benicia’s Lake near the summit.

The trail stretched out in front of us, inviting us onward and upward.

There’s nothing like a hike on a warm summer’s day! I always finish a hike feeling better than when I started — less stressed, more content, and grateful — for everything. It’s nice to know that I am on the right path.

Did you make New Year’s Resolutions this year? How are you doing?

What are your favorite ways to decompress?

Please comment below.

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Alameda Backyard Growers: Building community through gardening

Amazing things happen when people work together.

Alameda Backyard Growers is putting the community back into urban gardening. With programs like “grow some, keep some and give some away” and fruit gleaning, local residents are harvesting fruit and vegetables for those in need and for themselves.

What started with a great idea and 30 participants has grown into a grassroots group of 250 vegetable growers and fruit pickers. Since April 2011, Alameda Backyard Growers have donated more than 500 pounds of freshly picked produce to the Alameda Food Bank.

To learn more about “building community, one veggie at a time,” check out their website.

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What’s in Your Shopping Cart? Healthy shopping at a big box store.

It’s easy to find healthy food at the farmer’s market or produce stand. Especially this time of year, an abundance of local, fresh fruits and vegetables are available for reasonable prices. But, what if you’re shopping at a big box store like Costco? What are some of the healthier choices you can make? (Note: this is not an endorsement for any one retailer.)

In the nutrition world, we talk about “good, better and best” choices. Grass-fed beef, sustainably raised without antibiotics or growth hormones, would be a “best” choice. You won’t find this at Costco. However, if you shop carefully, you will find some good choices for protein, such as:

  • Fresh Wild Pacific Rockfish: $5.99/lb*
  • Fresh Wild Sockeye Salmon: $7.99/lb*
  • 3 lbs Frozen Wild Mahi Mahi: $19.99 ($6.66/lb)*
  • 2-pack – 12 oz each: Rosie Organic Grilled Chicken Strips: $12.99

*These varieties of wild-caught fish are on the Seafood Watch list of “good” options.

Also, Costco is an excellent source for staples, such as rice, quinoa and beans. Quantities are huge; so, consider sharing with a friend:

  • 12 lbs Organic Lundberg Farms Brown Rice: $11.99
  • 4 lbs Organic TruRoots Quinoa: $9.69
  • 3 lbs Organic TruRoots Sprouted Bean Medley: $9.79

Plus, you can get great deals on hummus, extra virgin olive oil, steel cut oats, almond butter, etc.

In terms of fruits and vegetables, organic, sustainably grown, seasonal, local produce would be a “best” choice. For the most part, I avoid buying produce from a big box store – even if it’s organic – because, usually, it was picked before it ripened and then shipped many miles. Thus, it has fewer nutrients and creates a higher carbon footprint.

Once in awhile, I can’t resist a huge container of blueberries for only $6.99 – an okay choice. Blueberries are on the Dirty Dozen list; it would be far wiser to buy organic ones. Happy Shopping!

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Celebrating Sisters

One of my sisters is having a significant birthday this week. (Yes, 39 again.) We are gathering to celebrate. Hot tubs, massages and champagne will be involved. I am so looking forward to the “girlfriend time” together.

My sisters -- "the redheads" -- and me (Greenwich, CT)

A wise woman once said, “Sisters are there, no matter how much time and how many miles are between you.” That’s certainly true for me. When I had the first of several surgeries a few years ago, one sister and her husband kept me laughing through pre-op; I never had a chance to get nervous. The other sister and her husband are joining me in a charity swim; their presence will help me keep going – both through training and the big event. Both sisters are just a phone call away.

The latest generation of sisters -- my granddaughters (Alameda, CA)

When I watch my grandchildren together, I see the same closeness that I remember from my childhood.

Lately, I’ve become addicted – obsessed – with genealogy. There’s something about searching for clues and fitting together the pieces of the family puzzle that keeps me engaged. I like knowing who my sisters are across the generations.

Sisters from a bygone era -- my husband's grandmother (right) and 4 of her 5 sisters (St. Paul, MN)

So, what does this have to do with envisioning health? People who have strong social connections – family, friends, etc. – are happier and live longer.

How do you and your sisters (or friends) support each other to be healthy?

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For the love of gardening: Weeding as meditation

The sun is shining and the sweet scent of star jasmine wafts through the window. My garden is calling me to come out and play. “Weed me,” it whispers. For the moment, I am stuck inside at the computer.

I inherited my love of gardening from my mother. She says she was a pioneer woman in a previous life. When I was young, she rototilled and built stone walls. I remember the delicious vegetables we ate for supper, picked moments before from the garden in the backyard.

Like my mom, I enjoy working in the dirt. This is my kind of exercise, sweating and all. I feel a deep satisfaction when I use my pickaxe and spade to dig holes and plant baby plants. However, until recently, I was none too fond of weeding. Gradually, I’ve changed my mind.

I’m learning to embrace weeding as a form of meditation. I take a bucket, squat down and pull weeds until the bucket is full. It’s my time – time away from my other responsibilities. It’s time to just be. It’s an opportunity to connect with the earth, to breathe, to think. It’s creative time. If only I could look at washing dishes or vacuuming as a form of meditation… On second thought, I’d better not; I wouldn’t want to give my husband a heart attack.

What about you?
Do you, like me, enjoy moving meditation? Or do you prefer sitting quietly and focusing on your breath?  What is your practice?

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