Thursday, August 1, 2013

Are you Selfish Enough?

"You have no idea how promising the world begins to look once you have decided to have it all for yourself.  And how much healthier your decisions are once they become entirely selfish."
-Anita Brookner

What does the word selfish mean to you?
How do you define it and where/who did you learn that definition from?

To me, the word selfish used to be so charged with shame and greed that I considered it one of the highest insults.  Growing up there was nothing worse my mother/father/teacher/friend could say to me than to call me selfish.  It still has a little spark left, but mostly I see selfishness as an important element to my wellbeing.  Literally putting myself first so that I can be the giver I love to be to others.

Most people have a very negative association with the word selfish.  Culturally, it's certainty not something to strive for, "I'm working hard to become more selfish".  Not something you hear everyday, right?

Let's examine what selfish really means and see if we can release some of the negative charge around the word to get a clearer picture of how it might relate to our wellbeing.

Selfish, as defined by the dictionary, is "devoted or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc. regardless of others."

There are certainty negative manifestations of being entirely devoted to one's own interests.  Words like egotistic, narcissistic, narrow-minded, and conceited come to mind.

But what would a positive definition of putting your needs first look like?

Maybe it would mean taking excellent care of your health and wellbeing.  Perhaps less social commitments and more bubble baths.  Or setting healthy boundaries and learning how to say no.  Caring for your body and your mental state first-before the needs of others like your family, friends, boss, etc-and then focusing on the needs of others.

What would it feel like to put yourself first?

What would it look like if your needs were met first before all your other commitments?

What would be different about your life now?

The reason I'm asking all these questions is because a common issue that comes up with my clients is making time for their own needs.  My clients tend to be loving, giving, incredible women who just want to be of service to others.  Many of my clients put their kids needs first or their bosses or their partners (or too many times all of the above) thinking that they are doing the right thing.

What they don't realize is how destructive this seemingly "good" way of thinking can be.  Because the side effect of never putting themselves first is almost always a grumpy, more pissed-off version of themselves.  This creates the perfect storm for binge eating, fights with partners and/or kids (beginning with "You don't appreciate me enough!"), weight gain, loss of sleep, and lots of stress.  Moving down the timeline, this behavior creates illness, fatigue, depression and more because the body is literally forcing them to slow down and put their own needs first.

Can you relate to any of these struggles?

And why is it important to you to be perceived as unselfish?

That's why I love asking this question, "Are you being selfish enough?".
When we put ourselves first, taking good care of our bodies, making time to relax by ourselves, and not worrying so much about the needs of others, a curious thing happens.  We become better givers.

Because we are healthier, happier, and our giving comes from a place of abundance not from duty or fear.

Think of an empty teacup on a saucer.  Most of us are trying to give from inside our own teacup and are running dangerously low.  When we put ourselves first and nourish from the inside out, we are so full we begin to overflow and can give from the saucer instead of inside the teacup.

So here's your homework for the month of August:
Find one way to be more selfish this month and practice it.

Some examples for inspiration: saying no to a social obligation you feel like you "should" go to, going on vacation and not inviting anyone, not sharing your dessert, calling in sick to work and getting a massage, not cleaning up after anyone except yourself, taking a nap instead of cleaning.

Explore what happens to you and those around you.
You might just be surprised at how good a healthy dose of selfishness can be for your health and happiness :)

Let me know how it goes-email me at or comment on the blog.

To Mindful Indulgence & Naps in the Hammock-



Friday, July 12, 2013

Favorites: Best Restaurants in Palo Alto & Los Gatos

The Mayfield in Palo Alto one of my favorites :)

Favorites.  Favorite implies familiarity, knowing your options and picking the one most suited to your preferences and fancies.  When moving to a new town or city you are immediately bereft of favorites.  Everything is new, complex, exciting. Suddenly you're holding open auditions for favorite hairstylists, parks, grocery stores, bookstores, coffee shops, bars, and restaurants.

Thanks to my frequent shuffles around the country and the globe in the past 8 years, I am very familiar with everything feeling unfamiliar.

For the first few months in a new place I feel like a frustrated mathematician constantly calculating the probability that my own preferences will match the many possible outcomes of trying something new.

It's all an attempt to avoid unpleasant situations and get the best experience for my money.
Often foolish and unfruitful, but because of the slight chance I might strike the gold pot of hairstylists/bookstores/restaurants I keep trying.

Online reviews-while seemingly helpful-only make matters worse.
I get lost in reading reviews, trying to figure out if the reviewer is knowledgable or just a fussy nuance.
Or are they even real?  Are the 386 five star reviews accurate or simply the work of an underpaid intern?

On my better days during transitions I can gracefully open myself up to new experiences without expectation and enjoy wherever I am and whatever I'm doing.

But too often I'm lost in the endless search to find the very best.
This perfectionist flaw is aggravated in my current hometown.

Striving for the best seems to be the mantra in the Bay Area.
Everyone wants the best body, the best job, the best car, the best house in the best school district with the best hypoallergenic dog to walk to the best park with best coffee from the best coffee shop sourced from  the best organic fair-trade coffee available.

No kidding.

This demand for the best coupled with frenzied energy of Silicon Valley and the endless array of businesses means that online review websites like Yelp, Urban Spoon, Google, and Angie's List are bloated cacophonies of opinionated Bay Area consumers.

Enter analysis paralysis.

I've found the best way to find a new favorite is to avoid the cyber noise.  Instead, do it the old fashion way-ask a local.  Shocking, I know, but it feeds two birds with one pie.  First, by asking a local what their favorite restaurant is or who their favorite hairstylist is you are connecting with a real person.  Potentially making a new friend or at the very least a friendly connection.  Secondly, they may be right.  In one conversation you can save many hours of researching and unsuccessful searching.

Speaking from experience, I can tell you it works.

Maybe my heavy reliance on the internet for favorites is generational.  Maybe this is lumped into the common sense bucket for everyone except from my generation and younger.  But even so, it's a helpful reminder to ask for help.

Even if you are a local, ask for favorites.  Every town and city is evolving and changing with new shops and restaurants shuffling the deck.

I started thinking about this post after a conversation with a like-minded women who recently moved to the area.  She told me horror story after humorous story of her failed attempts to try out local acupuncturists, yoga studios, and restaurants.  I listened carefully hearing my own mishaps reflected in each tale.  Afterward I sent her an email with my favorite salon and stylist and a lengthly list of my favorite restaurants in hopes of turning the tide of her frustration.  And because its the same favor many of my new friends first did for me.  Nothing revolutionary, just a simple way to extend the olive leaf to a "newcomer" as my fellow Tallahasseeans would say.

And with this I leave you with my carefully gleaned restaurant favorites from the two Bay Area towns I've lived/live in: Palo Alto and Los Gatos.  It's by no means a comprehensive list (the Bay Area is huge and I've only been here a year and a half), but its more like a sampling from two towns.

It seems ironic that after discrediting the Internet as a resource for sourcing new favorites I publish a list of my own, but its not meant as a replacement for real in-person advice.  More as a reference point to jump off of or to wet the palate of those traveling to the area.

Enjoy :)

Palo Alto-

*I love this place.  Super fresh, mostly local farm food expertly prepared to create simple, yet sophisticated dishes.  Sunday brunch is a little bit of a madhouse, so I would opt for lunch or dinner during the week.

If you like hummus you'll love this cafe.  Its a Palo Alto favorite and serves fresh mint tea, incredible hummus, and other small plates of Israeli magic.  There is almost always a line, so again I like to avoid peak times like Friday night and the weekend.

Started by an inspired ex-Google chef, this restaurant satisfies both the vegan health nut and steak-and-mash-potatoes foodie alike.  The dichotomy is literally represented on the menu with half of it being vegan and very veg-centric and the other half full of home-style goodness.  They don't take reservations, so there is always a wait, but there is a great bookshop next door, so it's worth it to me.

My boyfriend and I lived in Milan, Italy for a year and a half, so we are annoyingly picky when it comes to Italian food made in the States, but this restaurant really surprised us.  It was easy to get a walk-in reservation on a Friday night, our server was actually Italian and the food tasted exactly like all our favorites in Milan.  Buon Appetito!

A Palo Alto classic.  Famous for its outstanding Chinese food, Chef Chu's walls are peppered with celebrity photos and autographs.  The soups are huge and beautifully seasoned.  Lots of American-Chinese fried favorites like pot-stickers and crab puffs, but there are also excellent traditional dishes like the Mu Shu pork and the Peking duck.  It's not the healthiest choice, but it more than satisfies the craving for salty and savory Chinese food.

Near Palo Alto-

Speaking of Italian, this is our favorite.  Its actually in Redwood City, so its a bit of a drive, but the menu is outstanding and completely original.  You must try the Cauliflower-baked with almonds, currants, serno chili, and glazed with a hint of honey it will forever change how you think about this brassica veggie.  Other favorites include the Pork Meatballs (the best I've ever had, but don't tell my Italian great-grandmother) and the Sausage and Leek Pizza.  There is a big movie theater and a popular theatre (the Fox Theatre) nearby, so it makes for a prefect dinner and movie night.

Classic french food in the coziest of settings.  This charming little bistro is hidden from downtown and located just south of Palo Alto in Mountain View.  Its been around since 1989 which is old by Silicon Valley standards.  Its run by a  French husband and wife team with occasional help from a Maitre D and a server.  Its not fussy, but is truly authentic. The soft, relaxing atmosphere is a welcome contrast to the hustle and bustle of most Bay Area restaurants.

Los Gatos-

Really well-done Mexican food.  Authentic and locally sourced ingredients.  Nothing fancy, but they do have a fully bar if you want some top self tequila to go with your fish tacos ;)

Not sure if you're into steak, but if you are this is the place.  I feel like a lot of steakhouses rest on the name and the familiarity as an excuse to cut-coners and turn out mediocre dishes.  Not so with the Forbes Mill.  Every dish has just the right amount of classical steakhouse sophistication with a twist of Californian complexity.  Probably the priciest  on my list, but definitely the most decadent.

Yum.  This vietnamese restaurant is fresh, elegant, and delicious.  There tea is incredible, too.  I always feel light, satisfied and energetic after eating here.  The green papaya and peanut salad is a must.

Really good and inexpensive thai food.  The pad thai is outstanding and the portions are huge.  Plus the service is wonderful.  Best deal in the Bay Area if you ask me.  

Happy favorite hunting-



By the way, I'd love to hear your local favorites around the world or in the Bay Area!
Leave a comment below or email me at

Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to Find Your Signature Scent Naturally

"The only thing I wear to bed is a little blend of diethyl phthalate, galaxolide, limonene, and linalool."
-Marilyn Monroe
Ok, Marilyn Monroe never quite said that, but I bet you didn't know almost all commercial fragrances contain potentially toxic amounts of petrochemicals. Many designer blends are miniature cocktails of known cargenogentics, endocrine system disruptors and immune system destroyers.
Fear not dear friend.
If you are like me and love to celebrate scent, there are plenty of natural alternatives that not only smell good, but also make you feel better. Much like an expertly tailored suit or dress can make you feel divine, an individual scent to amplify your mood changes how you move through the world.
"Perfume, fundamentally, is the sexual attractant of flowers... squeezed from the reproductive glands of plants, perfume is the smell of creation, a sign dramatically delivered to our senses of the Earth's regenerative powers -- a message of hope and a message of pleasure." ~ Tom Robbins
Don't settle for massed-produced chemical water sold in pretty packaging. Seek out the purest quality and find the scent that fits your personality like a cashmere-lined glove.
The best way to find your own scent is to experiment with real essential oils and blends (not synthetics).
3 Tips on Sourcing a Natural Fragrance:
1) DIY.
With a few essential oils, a miniature glass bottle and a little knowledge you can create your very own signature scent. I am currently reading Mandy Aftel's Essence & Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume and highly recommend it if you are interested in crafting your own fragrance.
The beauty of pure essential oils is they fuse with your individual chemistry to create a unique scent. Unlike synthetics that typically overpower with static scents and smell almost identical on you as on your grandmother, essential oils blend in with your natural odor and change as your mood and energy levels change.
There is plenty of science to describe the technical underpinning of this alchemy, but its best to experiment first hand. You can start small and buy a tiny bit of pure rose oil or ylang ylang. Wear it for a day and see how it makes you feel, how it changes throughout your day, how it affects those around you.
2) Buy from small-batch perfumers.
You can usually find a local organic source for essential oil blends and fragrances at your farmer's market, natural foods store or eclectic boutique. You can also find plenty online at Etsy or a simple web search. This is where things get a little tricky because the term "natural" gets thrown around without any real definition, so do your research and ask questions.
I recently discovered Sarah Friend's enchanting fragrance collectionDrunken Wood. From her website:
"Drawing inspiration from medicine women, foreign lands, poetry and mythology, all scents are handcrafted in small batches, using the finest botanical raw materials she can get her hands on. Made from only essential oils (organic and sustainably gathered from wild plants, whenever possible), USDA-organic certified and pesticide-free jojoba oil, and vitamin E; you won't find a single synthetic chemical in any one of these scents."
I love the elegant earthiness of "My Black Velvet Heart" with dominant notes of opoponax, frankincense, jasmine, black pepper, and grapefruit.
Two super pure scents I would love to get my hands on, but haven't yet are Nadine Artemis's creations at Living Libations ($20 and up for 5 ml) and Elena Brower's personal blend at GIVESCENT ($46 for 5 ml).
3) Seek out the best and use sparingly.
Another option is to save all the money you would spend on 3 perfumes in a year for one high-end natural scent. If you are going to splurge, my favorite is the french company Creed.
Creed is the second oldest family-run fragrance house in the world. They have created personalized scents for some of history's most famous elite including King George III, Napoleon III's bride, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. The company is said to use only all natural ingredients from the finest sources around the world. Creed still hand-crafts all of their batches of perfume on their estate outside of Paris.
My favorite was a christmas present from my boyfriend "Love in White". Although it cost a pretty penny (around $250 for 2.5 oz), I wouldn't trade it for the entire fragrance department at any mall. To give you an idea of what it smells like (and begin to understand the language of scent), here is the official description:
  • Top note: Orange zest from southern Spain.
  • Middle notes: Young iridescent rice husk from Tonkin in the south Asian seas; iris from Egypt; white jasmine from the Italian coast; daffodils from the French Riviera; magnolia from the mountains of Guatemala; and Bulgarian rose.
  • Base notes: Vanilla from the island of Java; ambergris from Calabria; sandalwood from Mysore, India.
My own little perfume collection

If you just can't part with your Dior, no worries.
 There is no need to be a complete purist if you absolutely love your current scent. Just use it very sparingly and save it for special occasions (not every day to work). In the meantime, begin retraining your nose to the subtle and complex fragrances of organic scents.
And definitely take perfume breaks. Allow your own natural, light/earthy/salty complex blend of pheromones and skin to be your signature scent.
I promise you its 100% organic, pure and entirely you.

What do you think about finding a natural scent?

I'd love to hear from you in the comment section below!

To Scents & Sensibility-