Touched by Grace

For clarification, Grace is a massage therapist and all touching was done in a professional, therapeutic manner.  I first met Grace a year ago.  She is a talented yoga instructor that is very anatomy focused.  During yoga sessions, she will make the slightest correction to your form and the pose either becomes stupidly simple or infinitely more difficult.  She knows the body!  In conversations after yoga class, I found out that Grace is also a licensed massage therapist and specializes in deep tissue work with a holistic body approach.  Ever since the amazing, deep tissue work that I received from Scott Dolly at RUNGA 2016 in Costa Rica, I’ve been looking for someone good in Chicago.  Viola, here is Grace!
I have a high tolerance for pain and a low tolerance for being tickled.  Seriously, I almost convulse when someone tickles my feet.  It makes me squirmy just thinking about it!  She remarked, that she sees laughter and pain sensations as being very similar and there is probably some pain in there somewhere.  “We will find it”, she said.  Oh boy, I thought.  Then she mentioned that she likes to see immediate results.  Ok, I like that!  Let’s get going!
The set up isn’t anything like a spa massage.  The massage table is in middle of the yoga studio. You remain fully clothed for mobility.  There are no essential oils or soothing meditation sounds.  It is just you, the table, Grace and Grace’s knowledge of how the body works. Less is definitely more, in this case!  It starts with a quick chat about the process and reassurance that the session is just about you.  I wanted the session to focus on my tight hamstrings and hips.  I am in my car most of the day, going appointment to appointment and sitting for hours in traffic.  All that sitting takes a physical toll over time and makes my body too tight to do some yoga poses properly.  It’s way beyond just stretching to get lose, hence the session with Grace. Especially after a long Chicago Winter, it’s time to loosen things back up.
To start, Grace has you lay there and do a body self assessment.  How do you feel, does one side of your body feel differently than the other, what sensations are you feeling right now, etc.  For me, the right side of my body felt noticeably heavier.  No pain or anything.  Well, except for my “texting thumb”.  I could hear Rene in my head, “Be sure to tell Grace about your thumb or I will.”  So, I made a quick mention of my thumb and moved on.  Grace then proceeded to muscle test in order to determine which areas to work on.  I’d lift my leg from the table, she would put some resistance on my shin, then have me make an ‘ahhhh’ sound or lift an arm and make a fist.  If my leg went down, she explained that the issue was really in my shoulder or in my jaw or in my neck.  It is all tied together in a line down the body, she explained.  When we started, I could only raise my legs 75-80 degrees from the table and my hips were equally challenged.  At the end of the session, I had 90+ degree range in my legs and my hips were noticeably more open and loose. Some firsts for me, I received a deep jaw massage, an interesting diaphragm massage and a psoas muscle release.  Oh yes, there was also a bonus deep thumb massage, that resulted in a couple of curious pops but felt great.  During the final body self assessment, everything felt perfectly even, lighter and balanced out. It was only a 60 min session and I felt like I ran a marathon.  I was seriously knocked out the rest of the day.  Two naps and a full nights sleep later, I feel like a new man.  I already scheduled a session for next month.  Perhaps a full lotus pose in my future??
RUNGA 2016
RUNGA 2016
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The Gong Show

This weekend we went to our 2nd gong bath.  It was at one of the studios we attend regularly, Tejas Yoga Studio in Chicago’s south loop.  For those not familiar with a gong bath, it is a meditative experience where you lie still on your mat (just like savasana) and listen to the sound of gongs.  Often times, there are other instruments/ sounds mixed in and at its high point, it is very loud.  It’s much more musical than you would think, almost like a concert.  You’re welcome to use any props to make your experience most comfortable as you are laying still for quite a while (this one was about an hour and fifteen minutes).

My first gong bath experience was also at Tejas with the same gong facilitator.  But, my two experiences were very different.  During the first one, I felt I was in a very meditative state – you know that feeling you get in a deep savasana where you are pretty much out of it?  At points I was sure I was levitating and, during peak moments, I saw waves of colors swirling over and around me.  I know this sounds a bit woo-woo, but just think of it like a weird, deep dream.  During the second one, this past weekend, I mainly felt anxious during it.  No colors, no floating off the floor.  I felt really nervous during the first part and I just couldn’t relax and concentrate on my breath.  After a while, frustration crept in and I was aware of any cough, sneeze, or movement from others nearby.  The time still went by quickly, but when it was over, I just thought “huh – that was weird” instead of feeling light and rested like I did with the first one.

Chuck and I recapped our experiences on the ride home and they were very similar.  We wondered why we both felt anxious with this one and blamed each other for putting off negative energy as the cause.  But, really, there are probably a variety of reasons.  Maybe a bunch of people in the room did have negative energy affecting it? It was a Friday night right after work.  Our position in the room?  Expectations from the first time? We did an hour of gentle yoga prior to the going bath that we didn’t do last time – maybe that contributed? Time of year? It is cold AF right now.  Political climate and our current “leader” maybe adds a new level of universal stress?

Chuck mentioned his experience to James (one of Teja’s owners) at yoga today to see how his experience compared with ours. James said he had to sit up at one point into a seated position because of the intensity of the gongs, but overall he had a positive experience.  I think that just like yoga, each person’s experience is going to be different based on you – with some level of influence from your environment (in this case, the immediate room that day).  Nonetheless, it’s a really unique and cool meditative experience to try – we’ll see what the next one brings!

Gong Bath-1

 

Caveman Couture (aka my love of Stitch Fix)

I am always looking for ways to add convenience to my life.  Since I spend more time cleaning, prepping and cooking paleo meals, I have less time to spend on other things.  I use an organic delivery service, a pre-made paleo food service and have found many gadgets that enable efficiency.  So, I thought I’d apply this to one of my favorite past times, retail shopping.

I started using Stitch Fix at the end of May 2014 and I’ve been receiving fixes every month since.  For anyone not familiar, Stitch Fix is a personal styling service that shops for you and sends 5 items of clothing and/ or accessories to your door.  You can choose to have them sent automatically every 2-3 weeks, every month or every other month or you can manage them manually.  You start by filling out a pretty robust style profile on their website so they get an idea of what you like to wear as well as your sizing.  You can update this profile at any time.  You are charged a $20 styling fee each fix which gets credited to the cost of anything you keep in your fix.  If you keep nothing, you are out $20.  If you keep everything, there is an additional 25% discount on the whole order.  Whatever you don’t keep, you send back in their prepaid envelope.  On average, I’ve been keeping about two to three items per fix.

It took a couple fixes for me to warm up to the service, but now I really look forward to receiving that box!  I wouldn’t expect to love everything every time or always expect perfect fits.  However, I usually find a few items in each fix that either nail my style or introduce something I normally wouldn’t have chosen.  You can write personal notes to your stylist if you’re looking for something specific and refer them to pins on your Pinterest boards for examples.  If you find a stylist that you really love, you can request to have them again on future fixes.  I have done that for the past few orders and continue to request her.  She really gets me 🙂

I’m going to start documenting my fixes on this blog because I’ve found this service to be really fun and I want to share them!  I’ll take pictures of everything I receive and let you know what I keep or send back.  Since I didn’t capture every item in my fix up until now, I’ll just provide a picture summary of the last 9 months.  Let me know what you think!  If you decide to try it out for yourself, you can use my referral link.  I really appreciate it!

Some items that I have sent back:

StitchFixSentBackCollage2
A few examples of items that I have not kept

Some items that I have kept:

StitchFixKeptCollage
A few examples of items that I loved

Stay tuned for Fix #10 that just arrived this week (it might be my favorite one thus far!)

Happy Shopping!

RPM Steak – Paleo Date Night Review

I’ve mentioned previously that we don’t go out to eat all that often anymore.  It’s difficult to find restaurants with gluten free, paleo options that we trust.  This weekend, though, we had an amazing dining experience at RPM Steak right here in Chicago.  Winner, winner, grass fed meat dinner!

RPM Steak has been quite the hot spot since it opened last year.  Co owners Bill and Guiliana Rancic have created a beautiful dining venue in the heart of River North that is attracting foodies, celebrities and even President Obama who dined there last October.  If you want to get a table on a weekend, you can expect to wait months for a reservation.  On a whim, I searched on open table Saturday afternoon. An 8:30pm table for 2 popped up  – WHAT?!  Before I knew it, we were dressed in our finest impromptu date night attire and an uber taxi was whisking us up Dearborn.

The restaurant itself is beautiful.  It’s has an open concept, but the darker colors and wood tones keep it comfortable, yet swanky.  If you’ve been to RPM Italian, it’s almost the inverse of their bright white, but just as sleek.  They were running slightly behind, so we headed to the four-sided open bar. There are booths that flank three sides and people sitting and standing about 2 rows deep all around the bar.  It was crowded, but does that matter when you’re there to be IN the scene?  I didn’t think so.  We ordered a glass each of the Sonoma County, CA Complicated Chardonnay to start.  The bar area started to thin out a tiny bit when our table was ready around 9pm.

Find the Hidden Red Shoe - It's Good Luck!
Find the Hidden Red Shoe – It’s Good Luck!

We sat down and were presented with the gluten free menus (which I requested in the reservation). There is really not that much difference with the regular menu as their gluten free menu is huge and impressive.  We were then greeted by our AMAZING server, Chrissy (or Krissy?  sorry!) who told us she is Celiac and we can rest assured that they take gluten free seriously.  Chrissy then sent over one of their five sommeliers to help us navigate the extremely extensive wine list.  Once that order of business was complete, we turned our attention back to the dinner menu.  We decided on:

Appetizers

  • Oysters:  Sourced from the west coast – you get 6 for $18.  These were some of the best oysters I’ve had.  They come topped with a very light sort of ceviche relish that included jalapeno, cucumber, lemon and lime juice.  I would go back and just order these with a glass of champs!
  • Thick cut bacon:  Chrissy told us this dish is life changing and she was right.  It had a nice sweet maple glaze and in a way, it reminded me of french toast – it was that thick!
RPM Thick Cut Maple Bacon
Apps from Heaven

 

Main Course

  • 20 oz. Grass Fed Bone in Ribeye (sourced from Slagel Farms):  Even though there is a bone in it, this steak is HUGE!  I thought Chuck would definitely be bringing some home, but he powered through and ate the whole thing.  I had a bite and it was seasoned perfectly and very juicy.  He also ordered the butter and bone marrow sauce to complement it.
  • 8 oz. Grass Fed Bison Filet (sourced from High Plains):  I expect bison to be leaner than other meats and it was, but was still full of flavor and tender.  This was a generous, thick cut portion and as much as I wanted to finish it, I did have to give Chuck my last few bites (which he ate on top of his 20 oz. without a problem 🙂 )

Sides

  • Hen of the Woods Mushrooms:  You don’t often see these on a menu and they are Chuck’s favorite mushroom, so we had to get them.  They had a delicious woody flavor, as you’d expect, and were just divine.  The serving dish didn’t move far from Chuck’s setting and I had to strategically grab some while he was busy chewing.
  • Roasted Cauliflower:  Sounds boring, but it’s one of our staple, cruciferous vegetables.  This was like no cauli I’ve had before.  The roasted florets were very soft and came in a very light tomato type of sauce with lime.  Sounds odd, but it worked really well.

RPM Steak hit it out of the park for us on all counts:  food (with bonafide paleo options), service and ambience.  It is also a bonus that it is part of the Lettuce Entertain You group of restaurants.  We had some gift cards that we were able to use which softens the blow when the check comes.  It is spendy, but it is worth checking out.  Don’t forget to request Chrissy as your server – she is the best! Thank you RPM Steak for an awesome date night!

Holiday Wrap Up

Despite contrary sentiments I noticed on Facebook, I was quite sad to see the end of 2014.  For us it was a great year – one of strength, stability, growth and success.  Perhaps most importantly, we felt healthy and strong, committed and comfortable with our paleo lifestyle.  On the flip side, we’re looking forward to carrying this into 2015 and making this year just as great.

The holidays were the perfect time for us to unwind, relax and hang out with family and friends.  There’s not much that can compete with sleeping in, mom’s (paleo) cookies and dad’s fresh squeezed oj 🙂  Did we keep it paleo through all the parties and travel? Duh, totes. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite things and what we ate.

Santa knows us pretty well.  These are a few of the awesome gifts we think you should know about:

  • Mala Beads: These are beautiful, handcrafted pieces.  I got the Strengthening Agate Mala for its ability to ground and balance emotion as well as its healing properties
  • Mascara: This is my go to mascara that is gluten free
  • Salad Spinner: This has saved me loads of time in the lettuce washing department
  • Cast Iron Skillet: We’ve literally used this every day since we got it
  • Smart Wool Socks: Amazing, comfortable and feet don’t get sweaty or cold.  We also love the Defeet brand.

As for food, we don’t travel light.  We ordered groceries ahead of time from www.doortodoororganics.com and www.freshpicks.com.  We packed the car with the food, a box of our spices and even a crockpot.  Here’s what we feasted on:

  • Christmas Eve: Paleo Chili from Against All Grain cookbook.
  • Christmas Day: Eggs*, Bacon, Avocado and Fed and Fit’s Blueberry Scones.*  Grass Fed Pot Roast, Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies and Paleo Pumpkin Pie.  For the pie, I used this crust and this filling.
  • The next 2 days were spent in Peoria, where we ate leftover scones, more avocados, salads and veggies. We also had a new pot of Chili and some Grass Fed Italian Beef (Thanks Dave!)  We went out to eat one night where we ordered burgers with no buns and a side salad.  Chuck also finished off the rest of our cookies on the drive down when I fell asleep!  We had some backup larabars, renola and almond butter if we needed it.

*I have a sensitivity to eggs so I don’t eat them.  My accommodating mom made the scones by substituting one banana for the egg and they turned out amazing!

We hope you had a wonderful holiday as well.  Happy New Year!!

New Years Day
New Years Day Selfie at the University Club of Chicago

 

A Great Big (Paleo) World

I am a huge advocate and follower of Dr. Terry Wahls. Her story of beating progressive MS using paleo principles and functional medicine is nothing short of amazing. I follow the Wahls Protocol and credit that for my MS recovery and maintenance. Of course I follow (actually, stalk) her every move on social media. A couple weeks ago on Facebook, Dr. Wahls posted about Chad Vaccarino from the band A Great Big World.* Chad had just told his story about how great he is doing following the Wahls Protocol since having been diagnosed with MS in 2007. Everyones story is unique and yet there are parallels among those of us on this healing journey. I thought Chad told his story so well, and I immediately felt connected with him. I looked up his band’s website and couldn’t believe they were playing a show, right here in Chicago that Friday night!* I bought tickets and let Chuck know that we were going. Then, I spent the next two days listening to their album, Is There Anybody Out There, during my work commute. I had heard their hit song “Say Something” before and always liked it.* It turns out the rest of their album is totally amazeballs, too. The music is really happy and upbeat. And the lyrics have a great message that I really connect with. By the time Friday night came around, I was so excited to see these guys perform! I was in touch with their band manager* who said Chad would be happy to meet up with me! So, we watched their awesome performance at House of Blues and then got to meet them backstage after the show! I must first mention that they are incredibly talented musicians and it was one of the most fun and energetic concerts I’ve been to. Chad and Ian both have amazing voices. Chad also plays a pink trumpet, Ian completely wails on the keyboard and the whole band wears really cool pants :-).

Nobody Rocks a Pink Trumpet Like Chad
Nobody Rocks a Pink Trumpet Like Chad

When we got backstage, I introduced myself to Chad and we hugged like we had been friends forever. We traded stories, talked about how awesome Dr. Wahls is and how amazing it is that a lifestyle change is simply life-saving. We met Ian, who is an equally super-cool person. It’s easy to see why these guys are successful and are having so much fun. They are completely down to earth, sincere and inspiring people. I can’t thank Chad enough for inviting us backstage, taking the time to talk with me and sharing his story with the world. (shout out here to Gary their manager for coordinating all that!)

Chad and Rene
Chad and Rene

We can’t wait to see you guys again! Thanks for making us feel like rock stars and reminding us that we’re all connected in this Great Big World.

*You’ll notice I have asterisks throughout this blog. I have been reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and his theory is that when you are on your right path, living life simply but fully, without ego and with mindfulness, then coincidences happen. I couldn’t help but think about this through last week’s events. Oh yeah, be sure to check out Chad’s video below.  It is inspirational and well worth a watch.

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