Be the change you want to see in the world ~ ~ Gandhi Photo by Courtney Paige
Spirituality & Community

Human Nature ~ From the Ground Up

Keep an eye out for road blocks ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
Keep an eye out for roadblocks ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

 

“No boy dreams of growing up without a dad, dropping out of school, doing drugs or going to prison, yet millions do,” Boys to Men USA.

The number of US urban fatherless children is astounding – 43%. And, a mere 1% of the 43%  have a relationship with their father. According to Journey Men – a male mentoring nonprofit organization located in Asheville, North Carolina – that number translates into a staggering 24.7 million children.

A profound phrase Frederick Douglass said echoes in every humanitarian’s ears across the nation from Asheville to Santa Rosa, “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Be the change you want to see in the world ~ ~ Gandhi Photo by Courtney Paige
Be the change you want to see in the world ~ ~ Gandhi
Photo by Courtney Paige

Truth in that statement resonates for Boys to Men North Bay pioneer Shannon Leach because he has never known his own father. Boys to Men is a mentoring organization that offers young men a safe environment to share their stories with their peers. Not having a relationship with your father creates an inner struggle difficult to overcome on your own. 

Eight years ago the Sierra School of Sonoma County in Bennett Valley, a for-profit organization, offered Shannon a job as a landscaping mentor teaching troubled kids about gardening. Shannon said, “I learned very quickly how I was able to connect with the kids in a real way. Not only did I experience gratification, but the kid’s gratitude exceeded my expectations. Their eagerness to learn was evident, and I saw the benefits immediately.”

Mentors bridge the gap ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
Mentors bridge the gap ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

From that moment forward he became hooked on bonding with kids who are hungry for a human connection. Shannon said, “During my time as a landscaper and gardener, I saw the benefits of taking care of the earth in a healthy organic way. However, I look back now and realize despite my spiritual connection with the land, I felt a void. I actually felt vain growing flowers for privileged people.”

By the end of the day he felt linked to the land yet, at the same time, he felt disconnected with human nature. “Eventually,” Shannon said, “I realized a kinship with the soil wasn’t enough. I felt compelled to connect with my community in a more meaningful way.”

The road less traveled ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
The path less traveled ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

Shannon’s experience through the Sierra School opened the door for him to work first hand with troubled teens from organizations like Valley of the Moon, juvenile hall and even wealthy family kids who may have some type of dysfunction in the home.

Misfortune can strengthen a person’s fortitude if they are guided down the right path, which is the case with Shannon shepherding Boys to Men North Bay. His own fatherless experience, a spiritual connection with the land and a need to help others find emotional strength is the guiding force for his humanitarian endeavor.

Good guidance = good kids ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
Good guidance = good kids ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

Shannon’s epiphany transpired when he signed up for a Boys to Men Right of Passage camp mentorship program in southern Oregon last fall. In all cultures, there is some type of Right of Passage that initiates young men into manhood. The primary goal is to teach young men to become open-hearted, vulnerable and loving.

The Toltecs – a pre-Aztec civilization say their warriors shed the biggest tears and cry the loudest cries. This ancient Mesoamerican culture believed the last thing a warrior should be afraid of is his own emotions.

When asked if Shannon cried during the Right of Passage camping trip in southern Oregon he said, “Yes, actually, I cried, maybe I cried more than I should have, but that’s what it’s all about – getting in touch with your emotions in order to find out who you are.” The Right of Passage experience helps set these boys on a fresh path.

After Shannon’s emotional journey as a staff camp mentor with Boys to Men, he felt compelled to join a local Sonoma County chapter. With a little research, he found Boys to Men didn’t have a Sonoma County branch.

This realization inspired Shannon to launch the first Boys to Men in the North Bay. The project is currently plowing full speed ahead.

The path of least resistance isn't always the most prudent ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
The path of least resistance isn’t always the most prudent ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

The program’s intention is to first create peer counseling groups within schools directed by mentors who are trained to facilitate the Boys to Men curriculum.

Over the last nine months, Shannon has orchestrated a dynamic team who is working closely with Boys to Men USA, Chairman, Michael Bonahan and Boys to Men Bay Area, Executive Director, Stephan Hermann to create autonomy for the North Bay branch. The Boys to Men leaders understand the North Bay is a progressive large geographical area and want to give Shannon’s team the open space they need to create a program that suits the community. This freedom allows the program flexibility to incorporate elements like meditation, yoga and the LGBTQ community. Boys to Men North Bay’s design is to be inclusive. Graciously, Bonahan and Hermann have given Shannon’s team the green light. 

Shannon said, “I am creating an army of volunteers for outreach programs who will connect with, I hope, every junior high and high school in the North Bay. If we can get key county schools on board, I feel they will create the pathway needed to get the ball rolling in our region.”

When asked how Shannon plans to facilitate community outreach and organization awareness he said, “You’d be surprised at how many people get involved with this type of mentoring. During the Right of Passage weekends, there is a higher ratio of volunteers to kids. The number ratio alone reflects a commitment to the kids. The kids feel this energy and thrive with it. Most of the young men who participate in the Boys to Men Right of Passage program go on to become mentors themselves.”

Teach a boy to fish and a man will eat for a lifetime ~ Photo by Courtney Paige
Teach a boy to fish, and a man will eat for a lifetime ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

Shannon’s team is currently in the process of setting up the groundwork for the program’s fiscal sponsorship. The plan is to have weekly meetings with peer groups. Shannon feels meeting on a weekly basis gives kids a place to check in and refuel. When more than a week passes by, emotions get stuffed, so this type of regularity helps the kids open up.

Serendipity isn’t just for lucky people, it can happen on all levels and in unexplainable ways. All it takes is for someone like Shannon Leach to plant the seed and nurture the being.

Would you like to become a Boys to Men mentor? Find out how you can get involved with Boys to Men North Bay on their Facebook Fanpage here.

~ by Courtney Paige

**Disclosure: Boys to Men Bay Area is supported by Boys to Men USA and the Stupski Foundation**

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Amy's Wicked Slush - Photo by Courtney Paige
Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

Hot spot & cold treats – Meet Wicked Slush

Wicked Slush luscious flavors find your fancy – Photo by Courtney Paige

Prompted by an article recently written by Heather Irwin in Sonoma County’s revered Bite Club column, I felt compelled to check out a playfully mischievous new establishment in Healdsburg.

A county touted for its amazing farm to table cuisine, we are rarely privy to other American State culinary specialties. Yes, our region is ladened with Thai, Mexican and Chinese food, but really, these cuisines are the product of other countries.

Amy's Wicked Slush - Photo by Courtney Paige
Amy’s Wicked Slush – Photo by Courtney Paige

That’s why Amy’s Wicked Boston Slush is the perfect storm to wet your whistle here in Sonoma County. Seriously, when Wicked’s magical umami melts in your mouth, it leaves you craving more. With at least 20 daily flavors to choose from, you’ll already be planning your next visit the moment you step away from the pickup counter.

Wicked Slush Mango & Sour Watermelon - Photo by Courtney Paige
Wicked Slush Mango & Sour Watermelon – Photo by Courtney Paige

Wicked Slush sets the bar high for other local tasty treats to compete. Before long, it will be a Sonoma County icon, and we’ll wonder how we ever lived without it.

A serendipitous melding of shaved ice, sorbet and an Icee, this classic original Boston slush pucker’s your lips and twinges your jaws. The texture is so luscious, you’re almost compelled to chew it.

Wicked Slush Peanut Butter Soft Serve dipped in Butterscotch – Photo by Courtney Paige

I’ve already patronized the place twice within one week. Once to find out what all the buzz is about, and then, of course, to treat my daughter. I like the sweets, and she likes the tarts. Wicked curates all the taste senses seamlessly. During the second visit with my daughter, we were lucky enough to meet Amy. She’s genuinely a nice person.

My daughter was curiously checking out the coffee urns while waiting in line when Amy approached us & asked if we needed anything at all. She was friendly, kind, personable and authentic. Characteristics we’re all grateful for these days.

Wicked Slush boasts pops of color & flavor – Photo by Courtney Paige

As summer approaches, the days get longer, hair gets lighter, skin gets darker, water gets warmer, drinks are colder, music gets louder, and now thanks to Amy, slush gets wicked.

Savor and enjoy!

-Courtney Paige

Delight your senses with Tea & Trumphets local artisan teas.
Food & Wine, Home & Garden, Spirituality & Community

Farmer in the dell

Tea & Trumpets carry a beautiful bouquet of assorted teas. Photo by Courtney Paige
Tea & Trumpets carry a beautiful bouquet of assorted teas.                                                                                                                                                          Photo by Courtney Paige

For European countries like France, Italy, England and Germany, farmer’s markets aren’t a novelty, they’re an essential part of daily life. Europeans don’t stockpile their groceries in huge refrigerators or store massive amounts of toilet paper from Costco.

The primary reason is that Europeans don’t have the storage space for bulk shopping. Your first reaction may be to think they’re less fortunate. On the contrary, they’re better off by default for several reasons. I list five here, coupled with my favorite local Sonoma County farmer’s markets you won’t want to miss.

Mark Bowden sharing the favs. Photo by Courtney Paige
Mark Bowden, Tea & Trumpets owner, shares the favs. www.teatrumpets.com                                                                                                                       Photo by Courtney Paige

1. Less Waste

Shopping daily or even twice a week wastes less food. Buying in bulk harbors a false sense of security and isn’t advantageous. Admit it, we’ve all done it. We’ve all thrown food away because we didn’t eat it fast enough.

~According to a survey conducted by the American Chemistry Council, the average American household throws out $640 of food each year.~

2. Save Money

A 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics report concluded the average American household spent $4,015 on groceries in 2015, resulting in 16% waste due to spoiled goods. At first glance, this percentage may seem insignificant. However, when considered collectively, this number equates to a whopping 80 billion tons of waste each year.

Fresh berries & cherries ripe for the picking. Photo by Courtney Paige
Fresh berries & cherries ripe for the picking.                                                                                                                                                                                        Photo by Courtney Paige

3. Healthier Lifestyle

Produce consumed from farmer’s markets is more nutritious simply because nonlocal produce travel thousands of miles and takes at least a week to reach its retail destination. This journey doesn’t even include shelf time in the supermarket. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutritional value within three days. So in order for bulk import farmers to compensate for lag time, crops are harvested early. Local produce harvested during prime picking time reaps the most nutritious bounty. Produce nutrients are optimal when consumed within the first week of harvest.

~The Institute of Food Research reports that fresh vegetables traveling long distances lose up to 45 percent of their nutritional value between being picked and landing in a supermarket.~

    4. Reduces carbon footprint

Supporting local farmer’s markets equates to fewer food miles by reducing emissions from transport vehicles, including airplanes, ships, and trucks. Conventional food distribution uses more fuel and emits more carbon dioxide than local and regional systems. Local food systems, on the other hand, rely on a geographically desirable network of small family farms. Most are sustainably operated translating into minimized pesticide use, no-till compositing agriculture practices, minimized transport to consumers, and virtually no packaging.

~A comparison between locally grown and conventionally grown produce found locally grown produce travels about 50 miles to reach the consumer’s table half a day from harvest, while conventionally grown produce travels 1,500 miles and reaches the table 13 days past harvest.~

Strawberry fields forever or at least when in season. Photo by Courtney Paige
Strawberry fields forever or at least when in they’re in season.                                                                                                                                                       Photo by Courtney Paige

Indeed it’s awesome to have access to mangos, strawberries or blackberries all-year-round. The truth is though, not only do we cheat our bodies of essential nutrients lost during travel time, buying produce from across the world is a detriment to our local farmers. If we buy produce from a different hemisphere we are starving our bodies of essential nutrition and taking money from the pockets of our local communities.

~According to the USDA, since 2006, farmers markets have grown by 180 percent, regional food hubs by 288 percent, and school district participation in farm-to-school programs by 430 percent.~

5. Discover your local culinary treasures

However important reasons one through four are, I’m most passionate about number five because it’s what feeds my soul. I love strolling through transformed makeshift markets shaded with little treasure canopy kiosks. While eclectic aromas ignite my inspiration, each little-shaded tent creates curiosity and offers something new to discover.  

Plus, chatting with local artisans create a community connection like no other. This weekend, during a visit to our local farmer’s market at the Veteran’s Market in Santa Rosa, my daughter and I came across fantastic finds featured in the article photos.

Delight your senses with Tea & Trumphets local artisan teas.
Delight your senses with Tea & Trumpets local artisan teas. http://www.teatrumpets.com                                                                                                                  Photo by Courtney Paige

 

The Hue De Laroque Family Farm www.hdlfarm.com Photo by Courtney Paige
The Hue De Laroque Family Farm www.hdlfarm.com                                                                                                                                                                        Photo by Courtney Paige

When you get to know your farmer, you get to know your food. Heigh ho the derry-o the farmer in the dell. And remember, don’t let the cheese stand alone.

  1. Glen Ellen Farmers’ Market
  2. Healdsburg Farmers ‘Market
  3. Rohnert Park Farmers’ Market 
  4. Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market- Veteran’s Memorial Center 
  5. Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market – Wells Fargo Center
  6. Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market
  7. Sonoma Plaza Farmers’ Market
  8. Sebastopol Farmers’ Market
  9. Windsor Farmers’ Market
  10. Living Drinks Photo by Courtney PaigeLiving Drinks – Photo by Courtney Paige
Beauty & Fashion, Health & Fitness

Hair Matters 101 – Healthy hair lifestyle

Maintaining healthy luxurious hair is similar to maintaining a fit and healthy body. Results don’t happen overnight and it’s not a hair diet – it’s a lifestyle.

My clients find my salon through Google, Yelp, Styleseat and word of mouth. Most are searching for a stylist to manage their mane and nurse their hair back to health. Ailments range from poor nutrition (internally and/or externally), poor care and commonly, over processing.

In my last post, I discussed internal nutrition. Ingesting nutrients, like Biotin (B7), B-Complex, Omega-3’s, and ample amounts of protein are essential to long-term healthy hair. In this post, I condense a 30-minute consultation into a 7-minute read. I offer the same advice I share with my new clients during their first visit.

Let’s say this is your hair (or something similar). It’s long with split ends & over processed, but you don’t want to chop it off because your 20-year high school reunion is fast approaching. Or a classic case, you are getting married within a year – your hair is long, with split ends and neglected from using bad products. It’s also damaged from heat tools and over styling.

Before and After Taken One Year Apart – Photo by Courtney Paige

Don’t panic, in most cases nursing your hair back to health won’t take a year. Each situation calls for its own evaluation and everyone is different. Set realistic goals for optimal hair satisfaction. And yes, there are times you must chop it off and start fresh. Alas, I offer the following regime before doing anything drastic.

Experiencing noticeable effects from adjusting internal nutrients can take up to 3 months. There are however very important external hair habits you can implement right away.

13 Hot Tips to Healthier Hair

Brush 

  • Brush before you wash. Detangle hair so it isn’t stretched to its limit when wet. A boar hair brush is the ultimate. Prices vary. High end – Mason Pearson $100 or the more reasonably priced Cricket $14 – pictured here. Benefits: Natural scalp oils coat mid and end strands.

    Cricket Boar Hair Brush - Photo by Courtney Paige
    Cricket Boar Hair Brush $14Photo by Courtney Paige

Wash

  • Product matters. Check your product ingredients just like you do food labels. Sulfates are not your friend. Sulfates are a detergent, an ingredient used to create suds. An effective metaphor is – if you’ve ever used kitchen soap to wash a car, you see streaks. Detergent eats paint on cars – just think what it does to your hair. Get off the sulfates ladies! Davines is one of my favorite sulfate-free, paraben-free, and cruelty-free shampoo lines. 
  • Wash only your scalp and hair at roots. When using sulfate free shampoos, use a nickel size amount with a bit water in the palm. Emulsify. If hair isn’t suds’ing up, simply add a bit of water to your scalp. Don’t wash ends, only roots. Naturally, soap runs down the hair’s shaft when rinsing. Use hot water to wash well and rinse shampoo. Benefits: Hot water opens hair cuticles -this cleans excess oil & dirt while leaving hair cuticles open for the conditioner to set.

    Davines Minu Shampoo $26 (8.5 fl oz) for Color Treated or Processed Hair – Photo by Courtney Paige

Condition

  • Use a quarter size amount of conditioner. Apply primarily on mid-strands and ends. Avoid conditioning roots. Let set while doing other shower duties. Rinse hair with cool water. Benefit: cool water closes hair cuticles locking in moisture and conditioning nutrients. Closed cuticles reflect light, manage frizz and create shine. If roots feel dry or you feel you must put ‘some’ conditioner at the roots – only use water diluted conditioner.
  • Do not towel dry hair. Unless you want volume or frizz, towel drying creates friction on fragile cuticles. It also damages hair, making it prone to breakage. Simply twist hair up in a towel to absorb excess water.

    Malibu Miracle Repair $5 (per pack) for Damaged Hair – Photo by Courtney Paige

Pre-Styling Products

  • Product Matters. Two key pre-styling products I prescribe that will nurse your hair back to health are a milk and an oil. Even if you have fine hair, these products give your outer strands the nourishment they need.

Pre-styling products: Marrakesh Leave-in Detangler $16 & Marrakesh Oil $24Photo by Courtney Paige

Comb

  • Comb pre-styling products through hair with a Wet Comb. The one pictured here is my fav.
  • Marrakesh Leave-In Treatment & Detangler – apply all over to damp hair. Apply to ends first. One spritz at the roots. My favorite comes in a mist bottle.
  • Marrakesh Oil – apply after leave-in treatment, mid-strands to ends before blow drying. Then once to ends after styling.

    Wet Comb $8Photo by Courtney Paige

Dry

  • I can’t stress enough how important this next step is – it’s so important that if you do all the previous steps religiously, but don’t implement this next step, all your efforts will be for nothing.
  • Tools – using the proper tools for your hair is just as important as using the right tools to build a house.
  • Blowdryer – invest in a bio-ionic blow dryer with a cool button. A good one will last you 10 years. A bio-ionic blow dryer dries hair from the inside out. This way, you aren’t cooking your hair on the outside while trying to penetrate heat to the inside core.

Style

  • Stylist Brush – a bio-ionic styling brush is the same concept as the bio-ionic blowdryer. The key is heat dry hair up to 90%. Finish with a round brush by starting style with heat and end with the cool button activated. Most of my clients are surprised to learn the “set” in wash, style & set is the cooling down process. Hair’s ability to maintain its style depends on how well the set is implemented.

    This client followed the 13 Hot Tips to Healthier HairPhoto by Courtney Paige

Good internal and external hair habits are connected. One without the other will defeat your efforts. It’s important to know that healthy hair is a lifestyle. Be good to your body. Be good to yourself. Be good to your hair.

~Courtney Paige

Beauty & Fashion, Health & Fitness

Hair Matters

Travel and lifestyle writing is a passion of mine, but what some of you may not know about me is, I moonlight as a hairstylist. Or, is it the other way around – a hairstylist moonlighting as a writer? However you look at it, I love both! Interestingly, doing hair gives me insight into so many people’s lives which helps to keep my finger on the pulse.

My clients offer inspiration, ideas and information which helps me to understand this mysterious world of ours. Since beginning the blog, I’ve primarily written about travel, food and wine, but today we are going to switch gears.

My goal for the blog’s beauty and fashion category is to share my written words with followers as if you’re sitting in my chair getting your hair coiffed.

So with that said, I’ll get straight to the point. Hair matters. Hair matters because it can be the difference between a good or bad day. A good hair day elevates our self confidence. It also reflects the health of our body, internally and externally.

Before and after are one year apart. Photo by Courtney Paige

As much as some of us would like to deny that fact, it’s true. The health of our hair is a direct indication of how well we take care of ourselves regarding nutrition, stress and our mental wellbeing.

What influences healthy hair growth? There are actually multiple factors that can have an impact on the health of your hair and hair growth. Unhealthy hair or hair loss can be related to several reasons: over processed hair, stress, poor nutrition, genetics, surgery, pregnancy, poor maintenance and/or over styling with heat tools.

This post focuses on internal nutrition. Believe it or not, the scientific study of nutrition and how it affects our health has only come to light within the last century. Even more unbelievable is how scientific studies have only recently began to realize the relationship between hair and nutrition.

It seems as though common sense would guide us to realize the health of our body goes hand in hand with the health of our hair. However, people generally believe they are stuck with the hair they were born with, and in some cases, yes, this is true. In many cases though, simply changing a few poor habits can set you on the right course.

Beginning in the early twentieth century, scientists determined protein, good fats and healthy carbohydrates are essential for a well-conditioned body.

And, only recently have scientific studies established hair thrives with a plentiful supply of specific nutrients from certain types of vitamins and minerals. For example, Biotin and Omega-3 fatty fish oils immensely improves the health of hair and nails. Biotin is simply a form of vitamin B7. Biotin and Omega-3 fatty fish oils are available at most drug stores, including Trader Joes and Whole Foods.

If your diet lacks these specific nutrients, as a professional cosmetologist, my suggestion is to take the recommended dose of Biotin along with a multi-B-complex and an Omega-3. If you have extenuating circumstances, consult your doctor first before beginning any new supplement regime.

Note: best to take Biotin and a B-complex in the morning with a small breakfast, as taking vitamins on an empty stomach is no bueno! Also, keep in mind Biotin and B-complex vitamins give you an energy boost – bonus! So you may want to adjust your caffeine intake.

Of course, beauty is only skin deep, but healthy hair begins from within, so why not start now?

This blog post focuses on internal nutrition for your hair, so next week we’ll discuss how you can make simple changes in your daily routine for the external health of your hair. Why? Because hair matters and the matters of hair is quite complex.

Feel free to comment or contact me through any of my social media outlets (located in the blog’s top menu) if you have questions or need guidance with your hair.

-Courtney Paige

Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

Cultured Burbs

Sonoma County is a quaint sleepy community with seemingly more vineyards than people. At first glance, things may appear a tad western here, but given a closer look, Sonoma County lights up the senses.

Nine incorporated cities sprinkle the county and each has an incredibly charming square or downtown. Except for Santa Rosa. For decades, Santa Rosa has lacked in comparison to its quaint neighbor towns, until now.

With the new controversial downtown square complete, the rightful county seat just may have a chance to shine. After all, there’s more to Santa Rosa than the Old Courthouse Square. So giddy-up! Here’s some inspiration for local day tripping.

Set a goal of three wineries max. St. FrancisLandmark, and Chateau St. Jean are the most convenient and stunning local wineries. All are located in Sonoma Valley on Hwy 12 east. Check with the California Welcome Center in Railroad Square – they offer locals buy-one-get-one-free tasting at select wineries.

St.Francis Winery – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

St. Francis Winery Courtyard – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

Landmark Winery – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

Landmark Winery Courtyard – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

Chateau St. Jean Winery – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

Chateau St. Jean Winery Cabana – Photo by Courtney Paige

 

Plan in advance and reserve a massage between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm at Me Spa. A luxurious day spa located in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village. Their zero-gravity chairs are divine. The perfect way to wipe away worries…if only for a moment.

Darling Gifts at Me Spa – Photo by Courtney Paige

Make reservations at Monti’s for 7:30 pm – giving ample time to refresh from the spa and wander around the darling outdoor shopping village. Keeping with a serene atmosphere, Monti’s offers tranquil outdoor dining. Small plates with fantastic wine pairings are the usual.  Alas, Monti’s is located just steps away from Me Spa.

Monti’s at Montgomery Village – Photo by Courtney Paige

Santa Rosa’s new Old Courthouse Square is merely a moment away and is currently celebrating a renaissance revival. The new square is rapidly creating an eclectic hustle and bustle. With over 40 sycamore trees, bundles of redwoods and embedded benches dolloped around the square, it’s the perfect place for stargazing.

La Rosa on the Square – Photo by Courtney Paige

Let your hair down with one last stop at La Rosa’s esoteric upstairs bar for a nightcap. The rare brick mission style outdoor porch and dining area never disappoint. All bartenders are consistent with each well-crafted cocktail. The margarita menu is my favorite. It’s no wonder they call La Rosa bartenders mixologists. DJs spin urban beats that make you want to get up and shake off your dinner…and the extra wine you consumed throughout the day.

La Rosa on Fourth – Great Happy Hour – Photo by Courtney Paige

Savor a county seat experience right here in urban-farm central. It’s right here in our own backyard. New restaurants and bars with outdoor seating and live music are popping up like little gems all over town.

Cheers ~

Savor Life and Enjoy!

by Courtney Paige

Home & Garden, Spirituality & Community

Whittling water worries

In 2015, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on more than $1 billion in spending for water projects.

Hundreds of millions of those dollars are allocated for long-term projects associated with flood control, desalination, water recycling, and conservation.

Gov. Brown’s water fund measure is one piece of a much larger effort to help those most impacted by the drought and prepare the state for an uncertain future, Brown said during a press conference in spring 2015.

However, State Water Resources Control Board authorities said Californians have fallen short of Brown’s goal of reducing water use by 20 percent.

One particular project currently in the water works is Southern California’s plan for desalination by turning 50 million gallons of the Pacific Ocean into potable water per day. The plant opened in December of 2015 as the first in the state to tap an ocean for drinking water. More than a dozen other plants in California are in the planning stages.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Schwab via Huffington Post

Even though Governor Brown is working to prevent another water shortage on a large scale, there are profound practices we can put into place as individuals in order to conserve. The question you may ask yourself as you read this article is, “Why would I need to conserve if California is currently enjoying a water surplus?”

The answer is quite simple, with an exponentially growing population, if we use more than mother nature replenishes, we’ll be right back where we started – sucking our resources dry to the bone.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Rolff via Huffington Post

If you typically shy away from math you may actually be surprised at how easy it is to discover your rainfall collection potential. You can find the formula equation at the end of this blog post. I personally shy away from math and numbers, so I was astonished by how easy it is to solve the puzzle. Mapping out the measurements, researching the source of rainfall in your area, and solving the equation can actually be fun.

I’m a huge fan of water harvesting. The entire process is fascinating. I admire other countries such as Australia that promote water harvesting in cities like Melbourne that started collecting water out of a major need due to an extended 10-year drought.

If you rent, you may not have control over implementing a water harvesting system, though you may be inspired after reviewing the Harvesting Rainwater website. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could recreate communities with solar rooftops and water collection systems?

Graphic courtesy of Harvesting Rainwater

The Harvesting Rainwater website gave me insight into how the simplest implementations can affect the amount of water saved by redirecting its flow to where it’s needed most. The website shows how slow water percolation positively affects soil, foliage and subsequently conservation.

If I had a water harvesting system, I would have been able to collect over 5,000 gallons of water so far this year. How much could you collect in a year? Feel free to share your potential.

With the possibility of having a few thousand gallons of water per year, it’s an astounding amount of water to me. If I had this option, I would use my harvested water for watering plants, doing laundry, cleaning and bathroom use.

Limitations associated with harvesting water within your geographical area may apply. Attempting to harvest water in a Mediterranean climate, for instance, has its advantages and disadvantages. An advantage would be that they can use water harvested in the rainy season for the non-rainy seasons.

However, this means the water must go through long stretches of stagnation and would need to be filtered, or it may collect mosquitos and bugs. Another disadvantage is in most cases a Mediterranean climate may not produce enough water even during the rainy season to sustain the residents’ needs throughout the year.

Photo courtesy of Home Depot Niagara Conservation Shower head only $6.99

California is approaching its dry season, yet, this is a great time to begin conserving. Starting now with simple summer plans can include changing your shower head to a water efficient spout and installing a low-flow toilet. Not only will these two simple adjustments conserve water, but you will immediately save money on your water bill. And in most areas, your county offers a rebate with proof of conservation installation. 

If you’re interested in discovering your rainwater collection potential take a look at this quick and easy formula.

Determine your collection area in gallons of water:

* Rooftop Collection Area (sq. ft) x Rainfall (inches so far this year) / 12 (in/ft) = Cubic Feet of Water/Year

* Convert to gallons of water:

* Multiply your Cubic Feet of Water/ year (answer above) x 7.43 (gallons/cubic foot) = Total Gallons/Year.

* For example, a 500 sq. ft roof that gets 36 cubic feet in one total year has the potential to collect 1,500 Cubic Feet or 11,145 Gallons of water that year.

~by Courtney Paige

Food & Wine

Technology chomps at the bit

America’s eating habits are changing as fast as technology changes while gourmet meal delivery has people taking a byte out of traditional meal planning.

We’ve come a long way since ‘Super Size Me’ hit the mainstream and created a cultural culinary shift with how we view nutrition as a nation.

People are trading their microwave instant dinners and quick on-the-go pre-made Whole Foods meals for gourmet, organic, home delivery meals. Quick, frozen food dinners are taking a backseat to fresh ingredient service meal companies like GobbleSun Basket, Blue Apronand Hello Fresh.

Families are busier than ever, so the need for effortless meals hasn’t changed. What has changed though, is the demand for fresh healthy ingredients. The anxiety that accompanies planning healthy meals weighs heavily on the average person’s mind. Thinking of new original recipes is a constant challenge – especially if you are cooking for more than one person.

From New York to San Francisco, gourmet innovative fresh meal services have taken the stress out of dinner planning for millions of Americans across the nation. Many people describe the experience like it’s a weekly Christmas gift. Each delivery includes a fancy recipe brochure for each meal with step-by-step instructions and cute little-labeled ingredient bottles.

My friend Catherine likes Gobble. She said her husband – who never cooked in the past – now has dinner waiting when she arrives home from work. As an added bonus, he tries to match the meal to the brochure picture. She said, “He’s often spot on, and, if this gets him excited in the kitchen, I’m all for it.”

Photo courtesy of Gobble www.gooble.com

Yet, home meal delivery isn’t for everyone. Susan, another friend of mine said with Blue Apron, she feels as though she can easily gather the ingredients and craft recipes herself. For Susan, all the packaging is a waste, and the concept is pointless.

My neighbor Jennifer however, loves the convenience! She’s a single mom with a demanding job and little time. She settled on Hello Fresh, and said, “It’s the best innovation in the world.” Jennifer thinks the best part of using the service is the amount of time she saves by not schlepping to the grocery store for obscure ingredients. An added perk; recreate your favorite meals from the reusable glossy recipe brochure. The icing on the cake; she’s saving money due to less waste from over buying or rotting food.

Photo courtesy of Hello Fresh – www.hellofresh.com

Organic gourmet dinner delivery isn’t a fad. It’s just beginning to simmer. For instance, Blue Apronlocated in New York, is one of the largest & fastest growing food technology companies. Proving this point, they recently purchased Niman Ranch, a local Bolinas cattle company that has been supplying high-end restaurants with grass-fed beef for decades.

I’m tempted to try Blue Apron. I liked their support of a local farmer concept. They’re implementing programs that operate more like a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) than a technology gourmet food delivery system. The fact that they purchased Niman Ranch is an incredible accomplishment and shows their commitment to quality products. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the original owner of Niman Ranch will stay on with Blue Apron as a quality control consultant.

Photo courtesy of Blue Apron www.blueapron.com

Sun Basket is a Northern California local company, but they had too many comments on their review page reporting bad customer service. For example, once they have your credit card reviewers say, you’re locked in, and no one responds to email inquiries.

Photo courtesy of Sun Basket www.sunbasket.com

After all my research, and despite Blue Apron’s accolades, my family decided on Hello Fresh. The reason is, Hello Fresh allows customers to refine menus to more than just vegetarian, organic or pescatarian. Hello Fresh seems to have the most options with the most flexibility. Prices on all services average around $60 a week for six meals. That’s about $10 for a gourmet meal you don’t have to shop for; count me in!

Photo courtesy of Hello Fresh – A weekly surprise

Our first delivery should arrive within ten days, so look for an update on our journey joining millions of Americans in this new food phenomena.

~by Courtney Paige

Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure

Discover the day tripper in you

Do you know there are thousands of free views in the city of San Francisco, and driving a car isn’t the best way to take advantage of the region’s stunning natural beauty? Discover the day tripper in you, and follow us from Sonoma County to San Francisco.

With Sonoma County’s SMART train on the brink of passenger service, a day trip to the city without getting in your car will soon be a reality. Granted this day trip has multiple legs, but isn’t life all about the journey? And who doesn’t like a good set of legs?

Curious to see if a roundtrip venture from Sonoma County to San Francisco could be accomplished in one day without getting in a car, I felt compelled to try. One snag though, the train’s passenger service has been delayed until summer. So, I enlisted an adventurous travel companion and simply drove to the ferry determined not to let logistics get in the way.

Weekend parking is free at the Larkspur Ferry, so we convinced ourselves that perk will make up for the lack of train service. Another benefit Larkspur Ferry offers is the Clipper card – big savings! After jetting across the bay in a quick 35 minute boat ride, we fawn over majestic Coit Tower as the ferry floats into port.

Moments later, we disembarked at San Francisco’s famous Embarcadero ferry building and hit the city of San Francisco on foot with a general idea of our plans but no major commitments. 

The key to navigating the city is to equip yourself with good walking shoes, wear layers and plan the day in little spurts. For this day trip we incorporated intervals of floating, walking, eating, drinking and viewing.

Check out the video to get a more intimate visual on our trip. Enjoy!

We settled on massages at Hotel Vitale Spa located on the Embarcadero – a hop, skip and a jump away. Actually, it’s literally across the street from the ferry building. Even though this hotel caters to tourists, it’s a secret spot for locals who get chilled to the bone with the city’s moist cold weather.

The concierge at Hotel Vitale mentioned a bottomless champagne brunch at La Fusion located on the quaint European alley, Belden Place. An option one can’t refuse. This alley is a treasure trove of quint awning covered restaurants with cozy outdoor heaters.

Next we hopped the trolley for a mere $2 and jetted down to Museum of Modern Art on 3rd Street. MOMA is celebrating their one year multi-million dollar renovation at the end of April with a fancy soiree.

As much as we loved the rooftop massages and outdoor rose petal hot baths at the Vitale Spa, the piece de resistance on this day trip was the Conservatory of Flowers.

Located a few miles west of downtown, the Conservatory of Flowers links Haight-Ashbury and Golden Gate Park. With public transportation as our new BFF we rolled with the flow and stepped off the Muni into another world.

At the pinnacle of Golden Gate Park’s panhandle sits the Conservatory of Flowers. It’s the perfect place to warm up & snuggle on a cold foggy day. Inside, the atmosphere is surprisingly tropical – a sheer contrast to the cool gray city’s urban mecca.

Inspiration is everywhere, so get moving! The world is waiting.

~ Courtney Paige

Home & Garden

More blooms for your bucks

Spring blooms aren’t always about budding flowers. Get the best bang for your buck by cultivating indigenous drought resistant plants that offer vibrant color year-round. My clients often ask, “How do you plan your garden; where should I start?”

Planning a garden can be a daunting task. It was for me in the past. I had a brown thumb until I gained loads of knowledge through trial and error.

Succulents are full of life ~ Photo by Courtney Paige

As with any topic these days, gardening information is endless, so I share three tips to start.

1 ~ Create a balanced mix of annuals and perennials so you aren’t committed to start from scratch each year. Make a mental note of which plants thrive.  This simple habit will increase your bloom real estate each year.

2 ~ Watch your garden closely over the course of several days (or several seasons) to assess which areas are shaded or sunny.

3 ~ Take the time to get to know your plant’s watering needs.

All three points are vital, yet number three is essential. If you envision a dazzling garden,  you’ll need to assess your lifestyle. Do you travel, do you forget to water, do you live in a dry arid area, do you live in a foggy moist area or somewhere in-between?

With the basic three observation steps in place it’s time to commit and purchase your flowers. Deciding which plants to grow is a tad overwhelming. There are so many choices. Again, where to start?

Pansies & Petunias at Home Depot – Photo by Courtney Paige

Consider succulents. People tend to think succulents are fragile and difficult to grow. Actually, the opposite is true. You may be surprised to know most succulents thrive in full sun. A drought resistant beauty, perfect for California’s hot and arid weather. Cold and foggy mornings keep succulents happy & cozy. They also thrive in shallow dirt or sand which makes them easy to replant. 

Soft vibrant color year round – Photo by Courtney Paige

Succulents tend to be a bit pricey $$. So if your neighbor happens to have some, don’t be shy, ask for clippings as if you’re asking to borrow sugar.  Luckily, succulents are perennials and prolific. Here’s a link to Amazon, where the prices are reasonable if you have Prime and don’t have to pay for shipping. Otherwise, Home Depot is another option – unless you have a good neighbor. 

If your goal is to create a low maintenance garden, succulents are a perfect choice. You’ll plant them once and enjoy their beauty year after year, unlike annuals, which need yearly replanting.

Iceland Poppies & Marigolds at Home Depot- Photo by Courtney Paige

Blogged while listening to Sheryl Crow Soak Up The Sun and U2 Beautiful Day

~ Courtney Paige