Why? Perfectly Imperfect Produce!

There’s nothing I love more than when a person not only recognizes a problem, but comes up with an innovative solution. That’s exactly what Ashley Weingart did when she launched Perfectly Imperfect Produce.

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Ashley’s family has been in the produce business for four generations. Ashley saw that the industry had a lot of food waste due to buyers’ shifts in demand or desire for “perfection” in the product.

Perfectly Imperfect Produce rescues produce that would otherwise go to waste, but is perfectly good for consumption. The items are unique in size, shape, or color, as well as those considered surplus crops.

Not only does Perfectly Imperfect Produce help to reduce food waste, they also help improve access to healthy food. For every box purchased, a donation of produce is made to local food pantries through the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland.

We got to hear about Perfectly Imperfect Produce’s mission, as well as taste some of their delicious produce last night at Prep Kitchen CLE, which is a gorgeous space that is available for rent for meetings, social gatherings, and the like.

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Aubrey of That’s What She Eats, who works with Perfectly Imperfect Produce to create recipes with their produce, created some delicious nibbles: sweet potato slices, roasted cauliflower, curry hummus, and butternut squash mac.

We also got to fill our own box of Perfectly Imperfect Produce, with items like apples, pears, ginger root, squash, and mango.

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You can get in on your own Perfectly Imperfect Produce box with various options, such as organic, all fruit, and all veggie. You can also pick your size and frequency of delivery. Yes, I said delivery. All this great produce is delivered right to your door! Click here to see your options and order.

Perfectly Imperfect Produce is available in Cleveland and Columbus. Rescue some produce and do something good for you, for the food industry, and for those in need!

***Disclosure: I was invited by Perfectly Imperfect Produce to attend a complimentary influencer event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? HaylieStory in Motion!

Awhile ago, I met up with Haylie from HaylieStory and Zak from Zak Films to film a City Surge video all about Cleveland.

From the West Side Market, to East 4th Street, to Playhouse Square, we checked out some of the best that Cleveland has to offer.

I tried to pick places that really highlighted the culture, food, and people that make Cleveland so awesome!

And now, I’m so excited to share the final product with you.

For more awesome City Surge videos, along with thoughts on travel, life, and fun, follow along with #HaylieStory! Thanks to Haylie and Zak for spending such a fun day with me around Cleveland!

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Why? Yoga Roots Fall Challenge!

Over the last month, I took part in the “Get Rooted” Fall Challenge at Yoga Roots. I always enjoy these challenges as a fun opportunity to take some different classes and win some cool prizes.

For some reason, I went all in on this particular challenge and decided to take 30 straight days of classes. So, here is what I learned from taking 30 yoga classes in 30 days:

1.I feel great! And I felt great throughout the entire challenge. The consistency of the practice really worked for my body. And even the vinyasa classes had enough chance for restorative poses and stretching that I never felt overwhelmed or overly tired.

2. Which leads me to: Consistency is the key in a yoga practice. I’m not saying you have to go every day for 30 days. But yoga is a practice and the more consistent you are, the more you will grow your practice.

3. Yoga is about more than just the poses, it’s about the breath. I found myself coming back to my breath more and more in my daily life because it was so ingrained from practicing so often. It helped me be less stressed and find moments of peace in my day. There were also times when I lost the breath in my everyday life and the only place I could reset and find catharsis was on my mat.

4. Yoga practice is also about community. I made more friends at the studio from seeing each other so regularly and I deepened my connections with the amazing teachers there, too. And since it’s Yoga Roots Teacher Appreciation Week, I’ll just say a big thanks to my teachers in this challenge: Katie, Aimee, Julz, Jennie, Tamsin, Justine, Cat, Heather, and Sharon!

5. I am stronger and more capable than I thought was. And I’m pretty sure I’m stronger and more capable than when I started. I wasn’t sure I could accomplish this challenge and I am so proud that I did.

6. The doing of the thing is the thing. The prizes were great and I will be enjoying my hoodie and water bottle and t-shirt for some time, but the point of the Fall Challenge was to do it, to grow and strengthen both my asana practice and my connection to the Yoga Roots community. That’s the real prize.

Have you ever done any fitness challenges? What did you learn from them?

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Why? It’s Not too Late to Get Heart Healthy!

As I’ve shared before, my family has a history of heart disease. This spring, seven weeks before he passed away, my grandfather suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered. Having seen firsthand the impact that heart disease and stroke can have, I am even more committed to staying heart healthy and doing what I can to counteract the hand that genetics has dealt me.

But even knowing what I know about my need to be heart healthy, there are days when I feel like I’ve missed the boat or like I’m  not doing enough. Here’s the thing, though: you can start today and start small toward making changes to improve your heart health. Whether it’s improving your eating habits, becoming more physically active, or quitting smoking, it’s not too late for you to make positive changes that will impact your heart health.

Speaking of it not being too late, the Cleveland Heart Walk takes place tomorrow, Saturday, September 22. You can still register to walk and take literal steps toward a healthier future for both yourself and those affected by heart disease and stroke.

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There are so many parts to the Cleveland Heart Walk, with so many ways to improve your heart health:

7am – Sunrise Yoga from GrooveRyde and Barre from Pure Barre

8am – Healthy for Good Festival

8:45am and 9:30am – Spin Ride by CycleBar

10am – 1 mile and 3 mile walks

My biggest message to you is to start today to improve your heart health. It’s not too late, not only to register for the Cleveland Heart Walk, but also to make positive changes in your life!

***Disclosure: I am a social media ambassador for the Cleveland American Heart Association. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Force of Habit!

One of my favorite things about the yoga community in Cleveland is the multi-talented the teachers who make it up. Tamsin Astor, who teaches at Yoga Roots, holds a PhD in cognitive neuroscience, as well as her RYT500 yoga teacher certification.

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Tamsin just released a book called “Force of Habit: Unleash Your Power by Developing Great Habits.” The book blends Tamsin’s scientific background with yoga, Ayurveda, and meditation principles to help you cultivate habits that serve you.

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The book’s foundation is tools to build good habits – sleeping, eating, exercising, and working on your relationships with yourself and others. From everything to sleep patterns to healthy eating, Tamsin addresses ways that modern life makes us stressed, tired, and unhappy.

But rather than suggesting we flee to a desert island, Tamsin suggests ways to improve our habits within the construct of our modern life. With lots of practical tips on sleep schedules (they’re not just for Jeffrey apparently), meditation, recipes, and even journal pages and prompts, the book is filled with helpful, easy-to-implement takeaways.

The book is also peppered with quotes from philosophers and authors, letting you know that these ideas aren’t really all that new. But Tamsin presents the ideas in her book in a fun, playful, accessible way (much like her yoga classes, by the way.) Her goal is to help you find your overarching “why,” so that you can cultivate habits that support it.

I’m someone who struggles to keep it all balance (we all do, right?) and would love to find ways to reduce my stress and not just by throwing out the baby with the bathwater. “Force of Habit” is a fabulous way to incorporate some of the yoga philosophies beyond the mat and cultivate healthier, less stressful habits.

“Force of Habit” is currently on sale online and Tamsin teaches regularly at Yoga Roots, so check her out both in her book and on the mat!

***Disclosure: I was asked to review Force of Habit and received a complimentary copy of the book. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Bomba the Brave!

I’m on a kick this week with people who use their fame as a springboard for doing something meaningful for the community at large (see here.) Recently, I had the chance to chat with Denise Dufala, a longtime Cleveland reporter and anchor.

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Denise has authored a children’s book called “Bomba the Brave,” which is not only adorable, but also has a great message for children as young as preschool.

When Bomba Zarowski (a Cleveland name if there ever was one and the actual name of Denise’s nephew’s stuffed bunny) goes to school, he discovers he needs glasses and is teased by the other bunnies. But with the help of a kind bunny and Bomba’s own sweet spirit, all the bunnies learn an important lesson about bullying and how to stand up for what’s right.

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Denise told me that the book is inspired by a story that she wrote in first grade, when Mrs. Fish (Matt Fish of Melt’s mom) instructed her students to create their own story. Young Denise wrote a story about a bunny with glasses that evolved into the playful, helpful story book of today. As the daughter of a first grade teacher, I love where her inspiration came from!

Denise said that covering news stories about bullying prompted her to want to make a difference in this area. She wrote “Bomba the Brave” with the help of child psychologists and bullying experts, who made sure that the book’s anti-bullying message was clear and properly directed.

Denise also partnered with Values in Action to make “Bomba the Brave” a reality and spread it’s message of acceptance, friendship, and courage.

As a mom, I worry about Jeffrey facing bullying as he progresses in school and want him to understand both how to respond to bullying and also the impact that being the bully can have on others. “Bomba the Brave” was age-appropriate for Jeffrey and a great way to introduce the concept, while still holding his interest with cute characters and fun songs.

“Bomba the Brave” is currently available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books a Million. This is a great way to teach your kids important lessons about bullying, while also supporting a local notable who is doing her part to better our community.

***Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of “Bomba the Brave.” As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? VNTG Home!

You know I love promoting local businesses, especially those with unique concepts, fabulous products, and female owners. So, I hit the trifecta with VNTG Home!

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Megan Featherston, Founder and CEO of VNTG Home, created VNTG Home with the idea of bringing together people looking to downsize their homes with young buyers looking for fabulous home furnishings on a budget.

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VNTG Home offers everything from packing services to staging homes to consignment to help those looking to liquidate or downsize.

And for the buyers, you can upcycle VNTG Home furniture with a huge selection of fabrics and paints.

VNTG Home is a wonderland of options, from furniture to artwork to dishware and beyond.

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I fell in love with some of the brightly colored chairs and couches! What gorgeous upcycling!

VNTG Home gives new life to furniture and housewares, along with making amazing home décor affordable and accessible. What a great concept and stunning execution!

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You can shop and upcycle right on the VNTG Home website or take a wander around their beautiful showroom! Make your home creative and beautiful with VNTG Home!

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Why? Engage Cleveland Next Generation of Women!

Yesterday, I spent my afternoon learning, laughing, and being inspired by some amazing Cleveland women at the Engage Cleveland Next Generation of Women event. It was the inaugural year for this event, held at FirstEnergy Stadium, which brought together young female professionals to listen to women who have risen to great heights in their careers and had plenty of wisdom to share.

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The format for the speakers varied between presentations and interview-style conversations, which allowed the speakers to really play to their speaking strengths and share their messages effectively.

We heard from Lisa Zone, Managing Director at Dix & Eaton on “What do you want to be known for? How to create your personal brand and sell yourself.” Lisa shared a great mix of personal experience, as well as practical advice on how to create that elusive personal brand.

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My favorite line from Lisa’s presentation was when she said, “If you’re trying to be all things to all people, you’ll end up being nothing to everyone.” It’s so true and definitely something I find myself struggling with balancing in my own life. But a powerful and succinct personal brand can help you make choices that keep you from trying to be all things to all people.

Next we heard from Micki Byrnes, President & General Manager of WKYC Channel 3 Cleveland, who spoke on “Critical and uncomfortable conversations: how to negotiate and broach tough topics.” Micki’s blend of humor, honesty, and awareness of how the workplace has evolved for women was really refreshing! Her empowering message of, “You go in and get what you want. Own it. You’re good at what you do.” definitely got the audience fired up!

Amy Shannon, President of Pinnacle Leadership Solutions, gave a hands-on, interactive talk on “Voicing your wants and needs: Learn how to sell yourself, speak up and ask for what you need.”

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An important part of voicing your wants and needs is using more assertive and direct vocabulary and removing hedges, apologies, and disclaimers. We all got to practice this skill with our tablemates and it’s harder than you would think, but Amy gave us good tips to make these language changes a lasting habit.

Teresa Metcalf Beasley, a Partner at Calfee, Halter & Griswold talked about what was my most anticipated topic: “There’s only 24 hours in a day: How to prioritize your personal, civic, and professional responsibilities.” Teresa spoke about her many responsibilities at work, at home, and in the community and gave helpful tips on how to balance them, including the permission to walk away (gracefully) from opportunities that are no longer serving you.

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Kirsten Ellenbogen, President & CEO of the Great Lakes Science Center, spoke about “Decide like no one is watching: How to effectively make decisions to navigate your career and personal life.” Kirsten, like many of the speakers, addressed the importance of understanding not only your own decision-making style, but the styles of those around you, in order to communicate effectively and reach meaningful consensus.

Finally, Kim Manigault, EVP and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at KeyBank talked on another topic I was very excited to hear: “Finding your tribe: How to find your people to help you thrive and grow.” Similar to Lisa’s message, Kim discussed trying to be everything to everyone, saying, “We put so much pressure on ourselves to be everything to everyone and then don’t hold anyone accountable to be anything for us.”

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Kim stressed the importance of being open to everyone, but also willing to prioritize those relationships with people who not only you respect, but respect you in return. And as you can probably tell from the picture, Kim was quite engaging in her presentation!

It was truly a great afternoon of learning from women who have come so far in their careers and are engaged and invested in the Cleveland community. It was also a great chance to meet other young professionals looking to be the “next generation of women” influencing Cleveland.

Engage Cleveland puts on events throughout the year and their signature Cleveland Young Professionals Week, with over 30 events in one week, is happening June 23-30, with everything from fitness to learning to networking to community service. If you want to get engaged in Cleveland, check it out!

***Disclosure: I was asked to be a media partner for the Next Generation of Women Event. In exchange, I received a complimentary ticket to the event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Make-a-Wish Big Wish Gala!

Last night, Matthew and I attended the Make-a-Wish Big Wish Gala at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown.

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As we enjoyed the cocktail hour, we perused amazing silent auction items, all framed by incredible views of Cleveland. There were some unique and fun auction items, including a pet photo shoot with Greg Murray, a fireworks package from Phantom Fireworks called the “Grounds for Divorce,” and tickets to “Hamilton: An American Musical” from Playhouse Square.

Matthew and I always love participating in the wine pull at charity events. I liked that this wine pull gave you a hint at which type of wine you would get (red tissue paper for red, white tissue paper for white, or red and white combined for rose).

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After cocktails and auction shopping, it was time to head in for dinner. We enjoyed chicken, risotto, and desserts that were as tasty as they were adorable.

During dinner, we had the chance to hear stories from families whose child had a wish granted, as well as from Doctor Anup Patel, Section Chief of Pediatric Neurology and Director of the Complex Epilepsy Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, who has seen the tangible medical difference that having a wish granted can make in a child’s physical well-being.

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It was truly amazing to hear from families who have endured so much stress and fear over their child’s health speak about what it means to be able to take a break from the tension and enjoy moments together as a family.

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I also got to reconnect with a high school classmate, Megan, who is one of the incredible people working at Make-a-Wish to make children’s wishes come true every day!

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Wishes come in all shapes and sizes, from trips to Disney World or Hawaii to a day at the salon to getting a computer or playset to meeting the Pope, which actually happened for local Wish Kid Leonora and her family. Wishes are as unique as the child who wishes them. What is consistent about every wish is that it means the world to that child and their family.

Currently, Make-a-Wish is only able to grant one out of every two eligible wishes, which is why the Big Wish Gala, which raised over $500,000 last night, is so critical. Make-a-Wish wants to be able to grant more wishes and help even more children not only have a special day, but create lifetime memories and see medical improvement.

If you want to get involved through volunteering or donating to Make-a-Wish, click here for more information on how you can make wishes come true, too.

***Disclosure: I was asked by Make-a-Wish to help promote the Big Wish Gala. In exchange, I received two complimentary tickets to the event. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Ajoyo Almondmilk Giveaway!

When making changes in my life, particularly in the health and wellness area, I’ve found that the best and most lasting changes come when I start small. Making sweeping changes often doesn’t last and leads to burnout. But starting small allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment and steadily build lasting healthy habits.

When I was in law school, after being overweight for most of my life, I decided to join Weight Watchers and not only lose weight, but change my eating habits for good.

Gradually, I lost 80 pounds and reached my goal weight. But the weight kept coming off and I found myself fixated on becoming thinner and thinner, to the point of unhealthiness in the opposite direction. One morning, when I passed out in my apartment’s elevator on my to work out, I realized that simply being thin was not serving my overall health.

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As I slowly returned toward my healthy original goal weight (and then worked to get myself back there again after having Jeffrey), I learned that the lowest number does not always make you the healthiest person.

I learned that choosing foods based on real, natural, good-for-you ingredients, rather than the lowest calorie and fat counts, would lead to better and more sustainable food choices. Artificial sweeteners and fat-free cheese might give you the momentary illusion of making a healthy choice, but long-term health comes from choosing all-natural foods that are also good for you.

I learned that exercising should not be something I do to punish my body, but rather to celebrate its abilities and maintain its strength.

I don’t take any of these lessons lightly. They are hard learned and definitely still a work in progress. But that’s just my point. Healthy choices for your body and your mind don’t happen overnight. This has been a 15 year process so far for me.

Sometimes you just need to start small. Set an attainable goal and work toward it, knowing that it’s part of a larger plan for overall health.

The folks at Ajoyo Almondmilk , part of the Ohio-based Smith Foods, understand the importance of starting small. From their website, “We begin with a seed. We are born from the soil. That’s why we believe connecting with nature has the power to better connect us with ourselves. From seed to soul. So, let’s drink in the good stuff the way Mother Nature intended, while also taking other small steps towards becoming the healthiest, happiest souls on Earth.”

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For me, Ajoyo is a great way to continue achieving my goal of incorporating more all-natural foods that not only taste good, but are good for me and my family. I still struggle with breaking old habits of choosing solely based on calorie and fat counts, rather than also caring about what’s in my food. So, this is a small way I can help to break that habit, by incorporating a product that is both healthy and natural.

Ajoyo’s natural almond milk comes in original, original unsweetened, vanilla, vanilla unsweetened, and chocolate. Ajoyo has a ton of great recipes to get you started incorporating almond milk into your own “Start Small” healthy goal. I can’t wait to whip up this Summer Strawberry Vinaigrette! And we’ve loved incorporating Ajoyo into morning Vitamix smoothies!

Ajoyo would like to give you the chance to try their almond milk for yourself. The winner will receive coupons good for four free half-gallons of Ajoyo.

Here’s how to enter: just follow @ajoyobrand on Instagram and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following. A simple way to start small!

The giveaway will close on Wednesday, April 18 at 11:59pm and the winner will be notified the following day. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was asked to help promote Ajoyo Almondmilk. In exchange, I received coupons good for four free half-gallons of Ajoyo Almondmilk. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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