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Beauty & Wellness

The RuraList: 3 Natural Ways To Keep The Bugs At Bay

By Lisa Green

Now that we’re deep into summer, the accessory de rigueur is, of course, some sort of tick and mosquito repellent. Many of the major commercial brands contain the chemical DEET, and while the EPA says that “the normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population, including children,” there are some of us who’d prefer a more natural approach to keeping the creepy crawlies away.

In the past several years, a handful of women in the RI region have developed their own formulations of tick and insect repellent. What they all have in common — aside from some of the same ingredients in their formulae — is their reason for coming up with their own product. Mainly, they wanted a product for themselves or family members (including pets) that didn’t include DEET. And to do so, they all engaged in thorough research to find a naturally based combination of essential oils and herbs that would work as well as the commercial products claim. (Note: Some of these products also work for dogs and horses, but not for cats, who are too sensitive for essential oils.)

We’re not Consumer Reports, so we can’t say definitively that any of these products work as well as touted. So we’ll echo the EPA’s disclaimer: “Any products listed are for informational purposes only. Inclusion of a product listed/referenced is not an endorsement.”

But we hear good things about these products. They don’t make you feel as if you’re inhaling carcinogens when you apply them. They smell pretty nice. And, wouldn’t you rather use a repellent that’s good both for humans and our local entrepreneurs?

Mighty No Bitey

Terri See had been making her own bug spray for over a decade, and noticed that when she used DEET she had trouble breathing.

Mighty No Bitey ingredients list.

“I did lots of research and read studies on natural oils and came up with this formula,” she says. “It’s plant-based and non-GMO. I never imagined I’d be making it for the public. But friends and friends of friends asked for it. Within three months I had a contract with HomeDepot.com.”

There’s a secret to how things are combined, and what their bases are, but See says that one of her secrets is the freshness of the ingredients. There are varying grades of essential oils, and See insists she uses only the best. Created in Great Barrington, Mass., Mighty No Bitey is available at markets and shops including Guido’s, Big Y stores, Valley Variety, Red Lion Inn and Monterey General Store. See’s newest account is Sierra Trading Post; Mighty No Bitey will be going into the catalog and all of its stores.

Fun fact: Mighty No Bitey was included in last year’s Golden Globes gift bag. You can see some celebrities posing with their bottles here.

Things That Work

DEET-Free Insect Repellent comes out of Things That Work, a Pittsfield, Mass. based home business created by Lisa Billotta.

“I started making things just for family, to go cleaner and greener,” Lisa says. “It worked so well, we started sharing our products around. I ended up making this a business, and offering it to the community.”

Things That Work offers products for the home (laundry detergent and surface cleaner) and body (room sprays, fluoride-free tooth powder, deodorant sticks and sprays, non-aerosol hairspray).

The DEET-Free Insect Repellent is made with herbs and oils with repellent properties. Billotta uses the Vinegar of the Four Thieves as a base. A concoction used in medieval days, it’s said to have been used to prevent the spread of the black death. (A Google search brings up some pretty fascinating facts and tales.)

“I feel it’s the most powerful way to start,” Billotta says. “I steep it for months before adding the essential oils.”

Billotta sells the DEET-Free Insect Repellent at the Lenox and Pittsfield farmers markets, the Berkshire Botanical Gardens, Charles H. Baldwin & Sons, Egremont Country Club, Jacob’s Pillow and Tanglewood, and some general stores, as well as on the website.

I’m Not Gonna Get Ticked

DeFriest and her older daughter, Olivia.

For Tonya DeFriest, selling her product is really an extension of her passion to educate the public about the dangers of ticks and the diseases they carry. That passion was borne of a battle in the past year to get her very ill 11-year-old daughter Natalie correctly diagnosed. After months of testing, it was determined she had Lyme disease, and she is still struggling to recover.

A licensed esthetician who worked at Canyon Ranch for 10 years, DeFriest pulled out her books about essential oils and just this past spring created I’m Not Gonna Get Ticked in her Lenox home. The product also repels mosquitoes.

Considering that there are several other all-natural, DEET-free products on the market, and her ingredients (distilled water, witch hazel, rose geranium oil, lemongrass essential oil) are similar to the others, what really makes this DEET-free repellent different?

“Love,” says DeFriest without a beat.

“It wasn’t my plan to spend my summer at farmers markets,” she says. “But my goal is to get as much awareness brought to the tick-borne disease epidemic as I possibly can. A tick can change your life.”

The business is so new that there aren’t any distribution outlets yet, other than the farmers markets where DeFriest is exhibiting, and the website. But she invites people to contact her directly, at imnotgonnagetticked@gmail.com or (413) 834-0011. One dollar of every purchase of the 16-ounce bottle is donated to the LymeLight Foundation, which provides grants to enable eligible children and young adults with Lyme disease to receive proper treatment and medication.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/25/17 at 07:16 PM • Permalink

Hudson River Exchange Brings Take Care Fair To The Market

Anyone who’s attended a craft fair in our region knows that there are legions of artisans producing exceptional work. One of the major showcases each year is the Hudson River Exchange’s Summer Market, coming up this weekend. While the formula will be the same — a gathering of makers, collectors, farmers, musicians and food vendors at the Hudson Riverfront Park, the Exchange has made a few tweaks and additions.

This year, they’ve expanded to include a day devoted to wellness, with the Take Care Fair on Sunday, June 25. “We wanted to move the Market to Friday evening and Saturday, instead of Saturday and Sunday, so we had Sunday open,” says Kate Moore, co-founder of the organization.

In stepped Stella Fay Metzner, a Reiki master, certified eating psychology coach and fashion stylist who moved from the city to East Chatham two years ago. She knew a large group of wellness practitioners in the region — and knew there were many more — who needed help with promotion and marketing. Having been part of wellness fairs in the past, she had a good idea of what not to do, and by all accounts she’s doing it the right way — producing a showcase of about 80 practitioners of, and supportive services for, physical, mental and spiritual health.

Fairgoers can expect to find acupuncturists, massage therapists, personal trainers, nutrition coaches and practitioners of modalities new (or, perhaps ancient) to the scene. There will also be opportunities to experience a mini Reiki session, a yoga class or a healing sound bath, and many other demonstrations and activities. Speakers will give presentations on a wealth of subjects, including financial well being, working with the pelvic bowl, and demystifying mushrooms.

“Everyone feels burned out,” Moore says. She’s talking about the makers, who nevertheless are determined to make their businesses thrive, but she could be talking about all of us. The Take Care Fair is coming not a moment too soon.

Hudson River Exchange Summer Market and Take Care Fair
Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, Hudson, NY
Summer Market: Friday, June 23 from 4–9 p.m. & Saturday, June 24 from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Take Care Fair: Sunday, June 25 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Free admission.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/19/17 at 09:51 AM • Permalink

Tea And Self Care Brew In 90 Minutes At ExtraSpecialTeas

By Lisa Green

As a celebrity health coach, Karlee Fain has gone on tour with some star performers. But you don’t have to be a celebrity to get the benefit of her years as a life coach, yoga instructor, certified holistic health practitioner and author. On Tuesday, May 9, the Great Barrington-based Fain will lead an interactive workshop, “The Daily Thrive Practice: Nourishment for Driven Women,” hosted by ExtraSpecialTeas.

“Self care” is at the heart of this workshop, and, really, what her company, Every Body Thrive, is all about. At the ExtraSpecialTeas session, Fain will help participants unleash their best career and life opportunities by elevating their use of these habits.

Fain learned about self-care the hard way. While still in college, she simply pushed herself to an unhealthy degree (“I was rewarded for a long time for working really hard,” she says) and her body just shut down, leaving her with chronic, severe migraines and depression. Realizing there had to be another way to achieve success, she went on a journey and educated herself on various holistic practices, one of which was practicing Kripalu yoga.

Fain didn’t intend to become a celebrity health coach when she came to Kripalu for a yoga teacher training in 2006. She fell in love with the people in the region, moved to the Berkshires and built a successful yoga practice. As her business started to grow, she got calls from people — performers with some big names — who wanted her to travel with them. She left the Berkshires and worked with some of the most popular musicians, athletes and TV personalities in the world, teaching them how to achieve more by taking better care of themselves. Music label brass would call her up and say they were going to lose millions if their client didn’t practice healthier behaviors.

She was with them 24/7 (“them” being Lil Wayne, Drake and gangsta rapper types — a funny mix for a country girl at heart), and lived on their tour bus or at their hotels. “I’d oversee their health needs, making sure they were eating well, doing yoga and practicing mindfulness techniques with them,” she says. “I’d also monitor their health needs. Some of them had medical conditions requiring them to take special care of themselves in order to operate at peak performance.”

But after a while, that pace wasn’t so good for Fain herself; with Miami as her home base for five years, she was averaging just two days home each month. Fortunately, her business allowed her to hire a team of coaches to do much of the celebrity road trips, and she returned to the Berkshires. At her home in Great Barrington, she’s able to maintain her coaching practices and continue as an instructor at Kripalu, where she’ll be co-leading a three-day workshop, “Negotiating a Graceful Transition” in June with psychologist Maria Sirois. She also teaches classes at Lifeworks Studio in GB, a Sweat & Sculpt Sisterhood and Thrive Tribe Yoga for both men and women.

Working with A-listers, Fain has seen an oxymoron firsthand in the driven people she’s worked with: The hard work that got them where they are was what was preventing them from going further. At the workshop on the 9th, Fain will address how to thrive in the new economy not by doing more, or working harder, but by elevating your self-care habits and cultivating fulfillment.

“We’re entering a new era, politically and economically,” Fain says. “We know we’ll need to function on all cylinders in order to sustain this new paradigm. I can suggest ways to succeed in work and life by cultivating thrive practices so we can do our best professional work, and still have a life.”

The workshop is only 90 minutes long, perfect for the busy woman looking for a some guidance. The $25 tax-deductible donation will go to support the therapeutic vocational day program at ExtraSpecialTeas, which employs young adults with mental and developmental disabilities. The workshop will also include tea and gluten-free baked goods made by the ExtraSpecial teahouse servers.

“It’s not just about feeling good anymore,” Fain says. “It’s about making that a part of a business strategy.”

The Daily Thrive Practice: Nourishment for Driven Women
with Karlee Fain at ExtraSpecialTeas

2 Elm Street, Great Barrington, MA
5:30-7 p.m.
$25 tax-deductible donation
Reservations necessary. See event website or call (802) 355-7939.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/23/17 at 02:29 PM • Permalink

Clearing The Clutter From Your Mind And Home

By Lisa Green

If “home clearing” sounds a little woo-woo to you, it is… and it isn’t. The concept of decluttering your home is that by getting your house in order, you’ll make space for yourself, both physically and metaphorically. It’s the topic of an upcoming workshop presented by the Hudson River Exchange, “1-Day Decluttering: Clear Your Home, Clear Your Head,” on Saturday, April 29 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Hudson, New York.

The Hudson River Exchange, which works with makers and collectors to advance their business, began offering workshops about two years ago. “We wanted to give people bite-sized workshops to hone up on business skills,” says Kate Moore, the Exchange’s cofounder. “You have to wear a lot of hats when you own your own business. These workshops just take a few hours. Lately, everyone has been feeling like they’re getting burnt out, and self care has been a big conversation.”

Moore was fortunate to meet Sarah Coffey, former editorial director of West Elm and a former editor at Apartment Therapy, who recently moved to Hudson. Learning of Coffey’s work as a home clearer, Moore invited her to enlighten both entrepreneurs and the rest of us on self care through home care.

Photo: Will Holloway

“Home clearing is a mindful approach to organizing and cleaning,” Coffey explains. “By making your house a place you’d love to be, you’re doing something for yourself. It’s taking time to think through what you want to focus on.”

The workshop, open to the public, will offer an introduction to home clearing and how to invite new energy into your life. “The process of decluttering starts with picking one small area that represents what you want to do in your life,” says Coffey. Even an object as quotidian as a purse can be symbolic of what you’re carrying around and what gives or takes energy from you every day.

Coffey will also discuss “green” cleaning techniques, using essential oils to make cleaning supplies. Participants will leave with a toolkit of tips for practicing the process at home.

Don’t think you have to be a minimalist to get the most out of home clearing. No matter what your level of neatness, the workshop will help you practice self compassion through decluttering, cleaning and everyday rituals.

“When you feel stuck in your life, home clearing can be a good way to get some energy going,” Coffey says.

1-Day Decluttering: Clear Your Home, Clear Your Head
presented by Hudson River Exchange

Saturday, April 29 from 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Place tbd (will be in Hudson)
(518) 821-5283

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/18/17 at 12:17 PM • Permalink

The RuraList: 5 Boffo Bath And Beauty Products To Try

Welcome to Rural Intelligence’s newest feature, The RuraList. I promise you we’re not turning into Buzzfeed (although if anyone wants to fund our venture a la Buzzfeed’s, please speak to my publisher). But we’ve found that there is always more to tell you each week, even if some of the news is a matter of quick lists or rundowns of things we think you’d like to know about. So here’s our first RuraList — and if you have any great finds of your own, please fill us in! —Lisa Green,    editor@ruralintelligence.com

1. Organic Orchid Facial Oil by Herbivore Botanicals It’s flying off the shelves at J. Seitz in New Preston, Conn. “Anyone who buys this product is hooked!” says Amanda Seitz, who admits her own skin has never looked better since she started using it. Part of the shop’s extensive line of sustainable, wild-crafted apothecary products, the floral oil is a blend of orchid extract, jasmine and camellia flower oils that feed the skin with beneficial vitamins and fatty acids to protect against premature aging.  In fact, it says “Youth Preserving Facial Oil” right there on the bottle. We’ll take two. $24 - $65.

2. Jane Iredale Mystikol Powdered Eyeliner Fresh off the assembly line of new products from the Great Barrington, Mass.–based Jane Iredale Cosmetics, Mystikol has already gotten raves from Real Simple, Town & Country and O magazines. The fine-tipped brush is built right into the cap. Just dip the brush into the powdery/creamy, water-resistant liner and draw a tight line (cat-eye, too) or smudge it for a smokey eye. We love the packaging and its billing “sexy with staying power” doesn’t hurt, either. $24.

3. Periwinkles Bath Fizzies Periwinkles at Rhinebeck was started by a mother-daughter team who sold their homemade bath and body products at craft fairs. Now they’ve got a shop, but still continue to hand craft a large line of aromatherapy bath treats. The biggest seller: bath fizzies imbued with essential oils that “bubble like an Alka-Seltzer feels,” releasing softness and fragrance. Beach Dunes and Pink Sangria are among the many scents that sound particularly dreamy right about now. $3.75 each.

4. FACE Stockholm Lipsticks How lucky are we that the only two FACE Stockholm retail locations are situated right here in our region? And what was that old saw about buying a new lipstick when you need a pick-me-up? Ebba Long, head of communication at the Hudson store (the other is in Rhinebeck) suggests two new lipstick shades from the new 35 Collection created in celebration of FACE Stockholm’s 35th anniversary. The Honey shade is a cream lipstick; the Sand shade is a matte, and both are available in the stores and online. $22

5. Dr. Hauschka Clarifying Day Oil Winter Sun & Summer Moon in Rhinebeck is the kind of sweet-smelling clothing-jewelry-gifts shop you can get lost in for hours (trust me). But I wasn’t aware until now that there is a certified Dr. Hauschka esthetician on premises. “Of course I love all the Dr. Haushka products,” says Lindsay Morgan, “but the Clarifying Day Oil is one of those magical oils that works for anything.” Although it’s marketed as a daytime treatment for acne and oily skin, Morgan uses it to treat everything from eczema to psoriasis and rosacea. If you’ve never used Dr. Hauschka products before, this is a good one to start with. $45.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/30/17 at 08:26 PM • Permalink

Nature Treatment: A Prescription For Vitamin N(ature)

By Lisa Green

It’s easy to revel in the arts, food culture, real estate and all the other treasures the Rural Intelligence region offers us. But if there’s one element that trips us up, it’s the fact that when it comes to healthcare, we’re recipients of “rural” medicine. To those who have moved here from cities with some of the best medical facilities in the world, that can be a hard pill to swallow.

Eric Krawczyk

On the other hand, could there be any more perfect place in the entire country (okay, so we’re prejudiced, but hear us out) to embrace the Park RX movement? It’s a national organization of health practitioners advancing the use of parks and public lands to improve health and wellness. Think walks, hikes, campfires and “bathing” in the forest.

A local practitioner is pulling from that concept to bring a similar program here. Eric Krawczyk’s Nature Treatment is a program in collaboration with healthcare providers, land managers and community partners that offers a natural alternative to medicine.

“In my line of work over the decades, I’ve seen the benefits of time outside playing, hiking, enjoying nature — something our county has a lot of,” says Krawczyk, a licensed mental health counselor and certified Forest Therapy Guide in Great Barrington, Mass. Having moved here from Colorado three years ago, he found the area a challenging environment for our healthcare system.

“We get the least resources from the state, and our primary care doctors really struggle to meet the needs of the community,” he says. Nature Treatment is an initiative to collaborate with healthcare providers to prescribe nature as a healing modality.

“It’s not a replacement for our healthcare system, but it can be a preventive option,” says Krawczyk, who specializes in “nature-based therapy” and often meets with his clients at outdoor offices around South Berkshire County.

Krawczyk started pulling Nature Treatment together last summer, and has assembled a team of like-minded physicians and other health practitioners as “park prescribers.” In October, he began scheduling “Hikes with Healers” on the third Saturday of the month to introduce the concept. Each outing features a different provider in the community who supports spending time in nature. There are also forest therapy walks, longer sessions that “allows nature to be the therapist,” he says. “We meet with the participants afterwards to talk through the experience.” For the forest therapy walks, Krawczyk hopes to partner with employers and employee wellness programs.

And yes, he says, some insurance programs do cover the cost of a park prescription. There is hard science behind the benefits of “Vitamin N.” (The Nature Treatment website provides a list of 100 reasons to hike, with links to studies and articles for each item.) In Japan, shinrin-yoku is the practice of “forest bathing” — immersing oneself in the atmosphere of the forest for relaxation and health care. The Washington Post declared forest bathing the latest stress-reducing trend in the U.S.

“You’re getting vitamin D, clean air, more oxygen. It’s experiential and movement based, and a way to ease the symptoms of nature deficit disorder.”

Each Nature Treatment program is an evolution of the Park RX idea. “I see my role as being a local health ranger,” Krawczyk says. “We don’t administer medication; instead, we introduce a client or group to a particular park. My goal is to train providers and practitioners to refer clients to this network of options.”

Krawczyk is a certified Forest Therapy Guide from the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, which will be holding a Forest Therapy Guide Training at Ramblewild in Lanesborough, Mass. this summer.

Getting the buy-in from both other practitioners and land managers may be the most challenging part. Fortunately, Krawzcyk has Mark Pettus, MD on his side. Director of medical education, wellness and population health at Berkshire Health Systems, the internist and nephrologist has been a champion of Nature Treatment from the get-go. Krawczyk calls him the top guy for wellness and prevention in the area. Krawczyk has also been meeting with land managers to build a relationship and get some informal support for Nature Treatment’s programs.

Interested in seeing if Nature Treatment would work for you? Join the walk on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon at Beartown State Forest, where nutritionist Deb Phillips will offer a guided tour around the Benedict Pond Loop.

Like the poster says, taking care of your health can start with a walk in the park. And the Rural Intelligence region is just the place for that.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/30/17 at 10:23 AM • Permalink

How Berkshire Running Center Became Leader Of The Pack

By Lisa Green

Runners, like any other athletes, are used to pushing themselves. In 2011, when master runners Kent and Shiobbean Lemme opened the Berkshire Running Center in Pittsfield, Mass., their goal was to become the Grand Central Station for runners in the Berkshires. Just five years later — in record time, it seems to me — they didn’t just make it to the finish line: they blew right past it. Their “tribe” of runners has grown, and they’re growing with it.

What began as a retail operation in a corner of Berkshire Nautilus became a training and coaching center, and producer of most of the 25 road races in the Berkshires each year. The BRC also serves as official timer for many others. With a nearly daily schedule of trainings and classes, and new running products joining the store’s inventory, it had outgrown its cramped first space.

In November, the center moved to larger quarters on Depot Street, off of Pittsfield’s main drag. In this new inviting space, with multiple windows, brick walls and hardwood floors (designed by Great Barrington interior designer William Caligari), there’s room for a fitness studio for cardio strength classes, 16 brand-new Keiser indoor cycles, changing rooms and cubbies. Kent and Shiobbean teach the RunFit Cardio Strength and the indoor cycling classes. (And if you don’t think they get a crowd for the 5:30 a.m. class, you don’t know serious runners.)

Ramblefest training run.

“There were little groups of runners spread all over the Berkshires,” Kent says, “but we needed a an outlet where we could run together and play together.” And they were just the couple to make that happen.

“We knew that Kent’s elite status brought validity to a running store,” says Shiobbean, a Pittsfield native. “Anyone would ask him which shoes to buy. I already had my personal training business.”

Shiobbean has completed 16 marathons and qualified three times for the Boston Marathon. She’s also been the outdoor sports guide at Canyon Ranch for more than 20 years. Kent, who was the superintendent at Taconic Golf Course for almost two decades, has won races ranging from one mile to marathons, and just last fall bested the Ironman category in the Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon (he turned in the sixth fastest time overall in the field of 417 teams and individuals). In his late forties, he’s still setting personal records.

So they built the center, and runners did come. The Lemmes sought a way to expand their Grand Central Station vision. “We said, ‘what works?’” Kent explains. “Trainings work. Races work. And it’s better to have people race here, locally, so people don’t have to travel or spend their money somewhere else.”

They’re particularly proud of the Steel Rail Half Marathon (“our baby,” Shiobbean calls it), an annual race held in May that starts at the Berkshire Mall and follows the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail into Adams. It sold out in the first year, and the two started a training program based around it. Now there are specific trainings for many other races, plus group and personal training classes, and the Lemme Run Program, a six-week “how to run” session for beginners of any age.

“We feel strongly about giving back to the community,” says Shiobbean. Over the years, BRC has donated more than $33,000 to the Department of Conservation and Recreation from sponsor donations that will go to the maintenance and repair of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.

The couple have taken their expertise outside of the store, too. Kent coaches track and field at Taconic High School. Realizing that there was no middle school running program in Pittsfield, the Lemmes started one at Herberg Middle School. They hold free clinics for the Josh Billings and organize Saturday group runs that anyone can join, at no charge. Recently, they’ve begun partnering with local restaurants; on Wednesday evenings, runners meet at Hotel on North, go for a sprint and gather together at the bar for drinks and camaraderie. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Runners gather for the Jingle Bell Run.

In the beginning, Shiobbean says, they had to figure out how many pairs of shoes they needed to sell each day to keep the business going. They’ve obviously figured that out, but what they’ve really done is create a community. The secret sauce is the couple’s warmth, generosity of spirit and, of course, knowledge. The Lemmes seem to know everyone in the tribe by name (and each person’s backstory, too). Have any questions about the mechanics of running? Kent’s your man. Shiobbean, an Amy Schumer lookalike (and just as funny, minus the blue talk) greets everyone with a hug, and mixes standup comedy with motivation for both mind and body.

And while runners take their sport seriously, the Lemmes aren’t above being a little goofy. Witness the Jingle Bell Run — this year they ran through a snowstorm dressed as Santas and elves — or the Dash and Splash on The Common, where runners sprint through sprinklers. They know that motivation in the form of awards ceremonies, or beer and pizza, after a race series is just as important as mentoring and encouragement. “We want everyone to be successful,” Kent says.

Now that they’ve made it to five years, there’s a new five-year plan in the works. They’d like, in time, to expand the space and become a larger fitness venue. But whatever they offer, it’ll be done so under Kent’s rubric: Stay healthy, stay injury free, stay motivated.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/09/17 at 03:55 PM • Permalink

A Smooth Transition: Power In A Glass

By Nichole Dupont

Before you head down the smoothie hole, you need to set an intention. You can’t just toss a bunch of greens, ice cream, and a banana in a Breville and hit “smoothie.” Actually, you could do this, but what’s your motivation?

Smoothies can have seriously amazing benefits. In fact, they are a nearly $9 billion industry according to Bill Schmick, investment advisor and “Smoothie King” at Berkshire Money Management. Depending on the ingredients, a smoothie can be a breakfast boost, it can boost your immune system, it can provide you with really essential vitamins and nutrients that your diet might be lacking.

And you get be part of the smoothie club. 

Whatever your motive, it’s good to have a go-to smoothie. Every morning after I slam back a necessary cup of coffee (my herbalist is reading this and probably raging right now “you don’t need the coffee, Nichole”), I make my liquid breakfast, which I sip with a straw or scoop with a spoon depending on its thickness. It is a means to an end. I am a very active woman. I lift, I train, I box, I grapple, I don’t eat meat, I am lactose intolerant — you get the point. Needless to say, my smoothie, or ‘first breakfast’ as us weirdo gym people call it, is absolutely critical to my life. My recipe is pretty simple:

Nichole’s First Breakfast

Half bag of organic frozen berries (I love strawberries, but a mix is cool, just know that if blackberries or raspberries are present, you’re going to be pounding seeds.)
One tablespoon of coconut oil (It can be hard in the winter, so the tiny chunks will be in the smoothie, don’t fight it.)
About ¼ cup of water (breaks up the frozen fruit)
One banana, cut into 1” slices
One scoop of Green Vibrance powder
1 tablespoon of peanut butter (optional, but I get desperate protein pangs)

Put everything in your blender and hit “smoothie” setting until smooth. It will be very dark green and a little bit textured.

Now that I’ve given you my secret recipe, you’re probably wondering what Green Vibrance is. It is a concentrated super food — in powder form — that is packed with plant-based nutrients, probiotics, and antioxidants. Vibrant Health, the CT-based company that produces Green Vibrance, contains a whole line of powders and supplements. They also have great smoothie recipes for gut health, post-workout, and detoxing.

Edwin Castro, my high-octane MMA/Muay Thai instructor for Eduardo Ferrugem BJJ and Self Defense, is a die-fan of Green Vibrance. Edwin has annoying amounts of energy, so that’s how I know the stuff is working for him. He starts his day with a Green Vibrance concoction that he qualifies by saying, “FYI, it doesn’t taste good.”  For him, it is a means to an end.

Edwin’s Green Concoction

One cup of brewed green tea
One tablespoon collagen powder
A tablespoon of Green Vibrance
Juice from half a lemon
Two fruits of your choice (optional, but apples, pears, bananas, you get the point)
If you’re using the fruit you will have to put the ingredients in a blender. If you prefer a warm tea “beverage” then just steep the tea and add the powders and lemon to the tea. And stir vigorously. And drink it with some…speed. It is not the kind of tea you languish over.

Maybe you are more of a traditionalist, and want a good ol’ fashioned breakfast smoothie with no unfamiliar ingredients. There are plenty of reliable recipes to choose from. The Winter Warming Smoothie, courtesy of the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, is a basic bevvy with everything you have probably come to expect from a smoothie, including bananas, frozen blueberries, and a handful of greens. What makes this one a favorite for me is that it includes coconut milk and cinnamon. As a side note, you cannot go wrong adding cinnamon to most smoothie recipes.

A more daring, but equally tasty combo comes from the Kripalu Center for Yoga Health (they have great recipes online and also, I have their cookbook and pretty much live by it). Their signature breakfast smoothie is high in fiber and Omega-3 and is a great start to the day. It includes apples, hemp protein, and almond butter.

I am almost as attracted to the color of a smoothie as I am to its benefits, especially if it isn’t some ungodly blackish green (which seems almost inevitable). Guido’s Fresh Marketplace has a great Black as Night smoothie that includes my favorite fruit; cherries. In addition to those (frozen and pitted, of course), the BaN also provides a conduit for probiotics by way of vanilla yogurt, and Omega-3 fatty acid-packed flaxseeds.

If you’re feeling incredibly brave, and really, really like eggs, there is a raw “nog” recipe that my insanely fit and witty trainer suggests. Teddy Pryjma is a raw diet fellow (that includes meat and nearly everything else) and often our early morning TRX sessions begin with me apologizing for my coffee breath and the smoothie seeds in my teeth and him apologizing for smelling like raw fish.

Teddy’s Raw Nog Recipe

Six raw eggs
A tablespoon of raw honey
One cup of raw milk
Pinch of salt
Dash of cinnamon, dash of nutmeg (optional)
Put all of the ingredients in the blender and pretend it’s Christmas.

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Posted by Nichole on 01/09/17 at 01:11 PM • Permalink

A Disruptive Tour Rolls Into The Berkshires

By Shawn Hartley Hancock

What if everything you know about aging is wrong?

It’s a provocative question that’s been asked loudly and publicly for the last few decades by Dr. Bill Thomas, a gerontologist and longevity expert. Thomas is on a mission to change the way we age and the way we think about age, and he’s making lots of noise in the process.
 
Thomas will bring his multi-media Age of Disruption Tour to Pittsfield, Mass. on May 17, to explain his philosophy and bring people together to address some of the questions many of us would rather ignore, or disavow. Part rock-and-roll-style bus tour, part old-fashioned barnstorming lecture series (in the vein of a Chautauqua program), Thomas and his crew — musicians, bartenders, drummers for the drum circle, and a host of community leaders — will take over the Colonial Theatre for a day-long, four-part event intended to focus attention on aging as well as give voice to people living with forgetfulness and cognitive change. 

No one wants to think about getting older. Or, heaven forbid, getting old.  If you listen to Bill Thomas, however, aging is not only inevitable, it’s a noble process that we need to honor. “Our aging and mortality are cornerstones of our humanity,” he says. “We are all elders in the making.”

The Berkshires, in particular, have a fast-growing population of older adults – already, 21 percent of the population here is over 65. Thomas is committed to making positive change where it relates to aging. In addition to new attitudes and norms, he wants American society to change its entire approach, which includes taking a cold look at our structure and practices around aging, how we can create new opportunities and engage in more research, review community policies and support and enable care-givers in new and transformative ways.

“Our life cycle has changed over the last 60 years,” says Celeste Roeller Harp, program manager for Age-Friendly Berkshires, a county-wide nonprofit responsible for bringing Thomas to our region. The Age-Friendly movement was created by the World Health Organization and AARP and is funded in Massachusetts by Tufts Health Plan Foundation. Harp is in the Berkshires on a two-year grant-funded mission to study how every community in the Berkshires can improve its approach to aging. 

Laura Kittross of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and Celeste Roeller Harp accepting a statewide award for Age Friendly Berkshires.

“Baby boomers in particular are outliving their parents by decades and decades,” she says. “Why should the later stages of life be lonely and isolating? Life doesn’t end with your first gray hair. We’re taking a hard look at how to improve our communities for the very young and the very old. That starts with getting people civically engaged. More affluent people tend to stay engaged as they age, but people down the social ladder often tend to get isolated later in life. My hope is that people with mobility issues, the sort of older person who hasn’t left the house in years, will come to the program at the Colonial.”

The tour isn’t a sit-and-listen kind of event, either. In fact, Dr. Thomas and his crew arrive in a rock ‘n’ roll bus. The Age of Disruption Tour begins with an engaging workshop on dementia at 2:30 p.m. intended for caregivers. At 5 p.m., The Lobby Experience, a free event dedicated to community building, features food, a live band and a host of community resources. (There’s also a lunch event and continuing education workshops for CNA workers and nurses.)

The curtain for the main event, Life’s Most Dangerous Game, open at 7 p.m., with Thomas orchestrating. This mixed-media show starts with a light-hearted look at our culture’s perspective on normal aging — Thomas says it’s crazy — and then asks “what if?” Thomas covers all the bases, from life-extension quackery to caregiver stress, always returning to a call to action: what if we all lived in a world that saw aging not as a process of decline but rather as the entrée to life’s most dangerous game? “Aging can be re-imagined as a vivid and enlivening process that presents us with extraordinary risks and rewards,” he says.

Thomas says we deny the reality of our own aging (hair dye, anyone?), and coins a new term — elderhood — for those decades past normal adulthood, when our career and economic power start to diminish. Thomas wants to be its ambassador. “If you’re willing to outgrow adulthood, your life can still be real, rich, deep and meaningful. We need to deflate adulthood and use our hearts, minds and considerable skills to re-design our last decades.” 

Some portions of the event are free and open to the public; others require tickets.

Age of Disruption Tour
Tuesday, May 17 at 7 p.m.
Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
$15
Purchase tickets here or call Celeste Harp: (413) 442-0907.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/10/16 at 09:43 AM • Permalink

A Trip To Serenity With A Moroccanoil Treatment

By Lisa Green

Angelina Jolie, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez all use Moroccanoil products, but I didn’t know that when I saw the Moroccanoil exfoliation treatment offered by Lotus Salon & Spa in Pittsfield, Mass. Maybe it’s because I’m itching to go to Morocco, but the name of the product, I admit, reeled me in.

Moroccanoil is the beauty industry sensation that began with the original hair treatment. Its main ingredient is argan oil, which is made from the kernels of argan tree fruit that grows almost exclusively in Morocco. (The company is actually headquartered in Israel.) Argan oil contains a high content of antioxidants, essential fatty acids and vitamin E, and is used to hydrate and moisturize hair and skin. The Moroccanoil line has been extended to include body care products, and the breadth of the line is impressive; almost an entire wall at Lotus is devoted to the pretty (mostly) blue packages.

But back to my appointment with the Moroccanoil Body Buff exfoliating body smoother, which promised to polish away dead skin cells, leaving my skin feeling soft and renewed.

“It’s not just therapy for your skin,” says licensed massage therapist Shaunna Magner, explaining that the body treatments are recommended on a seasonal basis, optimally after a winter of dry skin challenges or following perhaps too much sun in the summer. Many women come in after they’ve had a baby or a hospital stay. Think of it like shedding an old skin. “You feel like you’ve literally got that experience behind you and now not just your skin but your whole self feels revitalized.”

I’d had no baby or hospital stay, but I had just finished putting out the weekly Rural Intelligence issue and felt justified in treating myself to an hour of renewal. So that’s how I found my way to one of the tranquil spa rooms and in the capable hands of Magner. 

If you’ve ever tried sugar or salt scrubs, you know they can be, well, a bit rough. “Sugar and salt molecular structures are square, and can tear your skin,” says Magner. “But the Fleur D’Oranger Body Buff uses orange peels whose molecular structures are round, so they are kinder to your skin and are more easily absorbed.” (Clients can also opt for the Fleur de Rose, infused with round-structured rose petals, which is even gentler than the Fleur d’Oranger, but not as effective if you need a fair amount of sloughing, says Magner.)

I’m not a huge fan of massages (too much pressure to relax), but this was different (better). The Body Buff, which has a faint and lovely orange blossom scent, is first massaged into the back, arms, legs and chest. I always love having my back gently scratched, and that’s what the application felt like: just enough pressure and grain to energize the skin. Warm towels come next, to wipe off the scrub, and then another rubdown follows, this time with the Intense Hydrating Treatment. At the end of the session, Magner gave me a report on the condition of my elbows, knees and feet, but there was no pressure to buy any products.

I wish I could say I emerged from the treatment looking like Jennifer Lopez. Alas, Moroccanoil isn’t that powerful. But it did smooth out my “problem spots,” as well as leave me with a desire to return after I put the next issue to bed.

Lotus, which is a Moroccanoil-approved partner salon (the company inspected the property and has provided trainings for the stylists and technicians), also offers a Moroccanoil Ultimate Experience, which includes a full massage. All of the spa services include a complimentary infra-red sauna treatment.

Moroccanoil Exfoliation Treatment, $105
Moroccanoil Ultimate Experience, $145

Lotus Salon & Spa
740 Williams St., Pittsfield, MA
(413) 344-4429

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/05/16 at 12:44 PM • Permalink