As I approach 50, I’m focused on taking care of myself now more than ever. From lowering stress levels and making sleeping a priority to leading a healthier, more active lifestyle, I aim to feel my best in every way. Incorporating good nutrition and regular exercise into my daily life are essential to a healthy lifestyle so I am embracing both these days and quite enjoying it, surprisingly!

Today I want to share a few healthy eating ideas I learned about by taking the Clean Eating Chef Series at Ramekins Culinary School. I also want to tell you about my new home gym!

Clean Eating Chef Series

The Clean Eating Chef Series included three evening classes, meeting once a week. The series was divided into breakfast, lunch and dinner categories.

The class was taught by Chef Hollie Greene and Mary Sheila Gonnella. Chef Hollie is founder of Joyfoodly. She is a cooking instructor, Wellness in the Schools consultant, and a Professional Expert for the California Healthy Kids Initiative. Chef Hollie’s website is chock full of healthy recipes and lots of food prep and cooking tips, many of which are shown in short videos.

Mary Sheila Gonnella of Occidental Nutrition is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and Educator who focuses her practice on helping people suffering from problems relating to high blood sugar. She also incorporates Ayurveda into her nutrition consulting and is an expert in fermentation.

The class was designed as part demonstration and part hands-on instruction.

For the demonstration portions of the class, students could easily watch Chef Hollie and Mary Sheila at work on overhead tv screens.

We were each given a packet with all the information and recipes we would be learning about that evening, as well as a work station and apron for the hands-on portion of the series which included prepping, cooking on portable stove tops and eating! It was quite fun!

Healthy Meal Ideas

The three classes were packed full with information and recipes. We made a lot of food each night. For the breakfast class, we focused on dishes that would not raise blood sugar, satiate your appetite, give you energy, nutrition and sustenance and taste great!

The first dish we prepared was Breakfast Pho. Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) is a Vietnamese broth-based soup. Mary Sheila and Chef Hollie showed us how to make our own Immunity Broth – either in a pressure cooker or a crock pot – using chicken bones, spices, seaweed, and vegetables. Once the broth was cooked in their pressure cookers and drained off, we each had a bowl. We chose what ingredients to add to our Breakfast Pho. Hard-boiled eggs, black rice and Russian kale were just a few of the foods we could add.

The Breakfast Pho was tasty and comforting and full of nutrients.

We also made Avocado Bowls. We started with a halved avocado then picked the foods we wanted to top it with from an array of choices that included walnuts, sauerkraut, roasted Delicata squash, Gomasio (sesame seeds and dried seaweed) and a seed mixture. I now have this dish for breakfast – usually just the avocado, sauerkraut and Gomasio – at least three mornings a week.

One of my favorite segments of the class was learning about Ayurvedic spices from Mary Sheila. She talked to us about our Dosha, the three Ayurvedic body types: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each body type is helped by certain spices. Mary Sheila created spice blends for each Dosha that we could select and take home. Based on the descriptions, I think I am Pitta. I took the Pitta blend home and sprinkle it on my meals from time to time.

Another fun hands-on dish we made is Nori Hand Rolls. The finished dish looked somewhat complicated to me, but they were incredibly easy to make!

We were given a bamboo rolling mat, nori (dried seaweed sheets), a plate of prepared veggies and tofu, some small bowls of aioli and pesto that we made in class earlier, and nutritional yeast. Chef Hollie showed us where to place the food items – as you can see from the photo – then how to roll up the Nori into hand-held rolls. I’ve already made these at home a couple of times. They are fun to make as appetizers for guests or even with your guests.

Chef Hollie also showed us how to properly cook chicken breasts on the stove She then turned the cooked chicken breasts into a delicious chicken salad she loaded into roasted Delicato squash halves. So tasty and satisfying. I was stuffed!

The series included how to make sauerkraut too. Mary Sheila teaches her clients and students about the digestive properties of  fermented foods. It’s fascinating!

I have not made my own sauerkraut at home yet, though it really is so simple. The most important part of preparing sauerkraut for fermentation is mashing it up. It needs to be almost liquified. This takes time, patience and muscle. Maybe I will incorporate it into a future workout!

There were so many other dishes we learned how to make in this series. I wish I could tell you about all of them!

If you’re in the Bay Area, consider taking one or more of the classes Chef Hollie and Mary Sheila will be offering this summer:

“Easy Weeknight Farmer’s Market Dishes” is a hands-on class on June 1st taught by Chef Hollie Greene

“Shopping + Cooking Smart for Back to School Meals” is also with Chef Hollie Greene and hands-on on August 3rd.

“Fermentation 101” is taught by Mary Shiela and is hands-on. This class is on July 6th.

Also visit each of their websites for more information (Joyfoodly and Occidental Nutrition) and the Ramekins class calendar for even more fun and delicious classes.

My New Home Gym

Late last year, my husband asked me almost every day what I wanted for Christmas. I kept telling him I have everything I need and not to worry. But gift-giving is something we all enjoy and I knew he wouldn’t agree to a gift-free holiday season.

I thought about it and one day I told him I wanted a treadmill. And that I wanted to put it in our formal dining room. I thought for sure he wouldn’t want to give up an entire room in our home just so I could have a treadmill, but he surprised me and said it was a great idea. I was elated!

I shopped around online, read reviews, checked measurements, cost-compared and finally found one I liked: the Sole F80 Treadmill. I could not be happier with my Christmas gift!

I have spent countless years trying to implement a consistent exercise routine that I actually enjoy, and now it’s finally happened. The treadmill arrived on December 18th. Since that day, I have used it between 3 and 6 times per week for no less than 30 minutes at a time. I made an agreement with myself when it arrived that I will never spend less than 1/2 hour on it, once I hop on, and I will use it at least three days per week. Right now I am using it three times per week for one hour. I walked/ran 12 miles last week!

I bought a shelf that straps into the treadmill dashboard. It holds an iPad and even my laptop so I can watch Netflix and read blogs.

Since we sacrificed an entire room in our house for the treadmill, I figured we may as well make it a full home gym! I bought a BOSU Pro Balance Trainer that I use for balancing, crunches and lunges. A foam roller for stretching my back and rolling on my IT band. And I brought the old recumbent bike and my free weights in from the garage.

I also bought a weight bench. I knew I needed one when I was doing bicep curls while sitting on our coffee table!

For the last couple of months, my hormonal issues have subsided (yay, no more hot flashes!), I sleep better, have more strength my lower body and I feel clear-headed on most days. I am also less cranky and my emotions are steadier.

Eating well and exercising really do affect your wellbeing and it doesn’t take years to feel and see the results. I am grateful to have these tools and valuable knowledge to help me continue to improve my health and overall wellbeing.


Disclosure: The Clean Eating Chef Series class at Ramekins was complimentary. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always. 


I hope you had a lovely last weekend of May. Can you believe it’s June already? Summer will officially arrive in a matter of weeks.

For the first time in a long time, neither my husband, Bill, nor I had any weekend plans. Surprisingly Bill asked if I wanted to take a hike…as in exercise. We are both terrible about exercising regularly and admit that we simply don’t make it a priority.

To make things worse, we both spend an excessive amount of time sitting in front of the computer everyday as part of our jobs. It scares me to think about our inactivity and the effects that is having on our health. I nag both of us to work out but so far that is doing nothing. So why the sudden change?

A few days ago, Bill went out for Chinese food with his father. When Bill cracked open his fortune cookie, this was inside.


He saved it and brought it home to show me. After all the persistent nagging I have done, and this is what gets him motivated to exercise? Hey, whatever works! If it gets us both off our butts, I am all for it. We call it “Fortune Cookie Inspiration” and so far it’s working!

First we went on a 3-mile hike in Sonoma Valley Regional Park.


The trail leads to Sonoma Developmental Center which has an animal farm – sort of a rescue facility and petting zoo in one – where you can visit farm animals ranging from goats to donkeys to doves.


This cute potbelly pig is their newest addition. She (or he?) was left on the side of a road, abandoned. Some kind-hearted person found her and eventually she landed herself a new home at Eldridge Farm. Dallas has a great big play area with lots of toys and plenty of farm animal friends – like chickens and bunny rabbits – to keep her company. When we approached her pen, she came running – or more like waddling – up to us, tail wagging.


Getting the chance to visit Dallas and the other animals is motivation to hike! I want to go back and see her again this week.


The next morning, Bill proposed we go hiking again (this fortune cookie thing is really working!). We hiked 6 hilly miles in Annadel State Park, near our home. It was a gorgeous hike – beautiful forests, scenic vistas, and cool temperatures.


When we got home, I was so fatigued. I crawled into bed and slept for two hours! I never take naps so this was a bit of a surprise and another sign telling me I need to spend more time exercising and less time on my rear end.

Bill and I have decided to take on a personal exercise challenge for the month of June. Nothing crazy, just enough of a commitment to make it doable and still create change (and hopefully a habit). We will track our walks with an exercise tracking app (Map My Run).

And to improve upper body strength, we will either do 20 pushups (minimum) or a 90-second plank hold every day during the month of June, even on vacation. I believe it’s always better to partner up with someone when fitness is involved and I am delighted – and relieved – Bill has decided to do this along with me.

It’s funny how something so small and trivial as a fortune cookie can make such and impact.

Have you been inspired by unexpected things to make changes?

Care to join us in our June exercise challenge?

I’m off to do my push-ups!

But first a couple of reminders:

Today is the last day to get your submission in for How I Wear My: Spring Jacket. Send your photo to [email protected] by the end of the day today (June 1) and don’t forget to include a description of your look. For more details on HIWM, visit the How I Wear My page. The post goes live Wednesday morning, June 3rd!

How I Wear My Badge

The Rich Life shop is up and running! Sandee and I would like to thank you for all your kind messages and for your support on our Facebook page.


New product lines are being added this week! Be sure to check back. And don’t forget to use the discount code THERICHLIFE20 to take 20% off your first purchase.

Make it a rich day!