There’s a Miracle Cure in Your Pantry – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

August 28, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 24 – Apple Cider Vinegar

So, the excitement of celebrating the big 5-0 apparently took a toll on me. I developed a wicked summer cold – complete with major sinus congestion, headache and sore throat. I have not had one in years, so I’d forgotten how miserable they can be.

I was determined to find a natural remedy before resorting to drugs. My research led me to the wonders of organic, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV).

When my son and husband came home and found me bent over a large stockpot with a towel on my head, they did a double take – but only for a moment. They are used to my antics.


It turns out that breathing in the steam of ACV boiled in water works miracles for sinus congestion and, according to some, actually prevents infection. I also added a chopped raw onion to the brew, as some homeopaths praise onions’ anti-viral effects.

In addition, I put a teaspoon of ACV and a teaspoon of raw, local honey in tea and drank 3-4 cups per day. After practicing this regimen for two days, I was remarkably better. I will definitely do it again – supposedly it helps with seasonal allergies too.

ACV advocates go on and on about its additional health benefits – from aiding in digestion to clearing up problem skin. Proponents say it’s good for shinier hair, whiter teeth, lower blood pressure, weight loss and a plethora of additional ailments.

In addition, it’s supposed to be a great household cleaner for bathrooms, windows, dishes and more. Here’s a list of 50 ways to use it.

Suffice it say, I’ve joined the ranks of ACV supporters. And from a branding standpoint, I’m jealous. The market leader is a brand called Bragg. Their website has a folksy feel that isn’t very sophisticated, but I suppose it’s authentic. I am amazed at the number of brand advocates who can be found in a quick Google search. And talk about brand utility. I’ve never seen a product that is as widely revered for so many alternative uses.

What are some of your home remedies? Please share.


Surprise! – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

August 26, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 23 – embrace the unexpected.

So, the big milestone actually arrived. I’d been looking toward my 50th birthday with a mix of trepidation and enthusiasm since New Year’s. I publicly declared that I would do 50 healthy things this year, and I’m about halfway there.

The good news is that I survived the big day, and all is well. However, I learned a great lesson in the days leading up to it. Those of you who know me well understand that I am extremely inquisitive (okay more like downright nosy.) I like to blame it on my background as a journalist, but truth be told, I think it’s just ingrained in my personality. I’m also very scheduled (controlling?) in most aspects of my life. As such, I am very hard person to surprise. And frankly, spontaneity makes me a little anxious.

However, I had a feeling that my husband and kids would try to pull something over on me to celebrate my big birthday. Therefore, I’ve been on high alert for several weeks. My husband has been snatching up his phone to make sure I don’t read his texts and unexplainably hanging up on phone calls when I walk into the room.

We were scheduled to go out for drinks and dinner with another couple on the Friday night before the big day. Frankly, I was suspicious that these plans were a decoy. But then, my husband really threw a wrench into my suspicions by telling me to pack an overnight bag and be ready to leave by 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.

I was lamenting about my confusion to my mother, and she replied, “Just go with the flow on this. It will be good for you to not be in charge for once.” At first, I was a little miffed by her comment, but deep down, I knew she was right.

Granted, I juggle a very busy schedule between professional and personal responsibilities, so I need to be organized. But on the other hand, maybe being a little less structured could be good.

So what happened? Well, we did go to drinks with our friends as planned. However, when it was time to move to our table for dinner, things shifted. My husband, Randy, guided me into a different room where my extended family and very closest lifetime friends were waiting. Surprise! It was an amazing celebration that both touched and humbled me. It was better than anything I could have imagined — and believe me, I had imagined many possibilities.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

My key takeaway is that sometimes outcomes can be even better than expected if one just lets go a little and lets things unfold vs. trying to plan every move. I think it’s good advice for both healthy brands and healthy living.

It’s been a fun journey, and I look forward to more healthy activities between now and December 31.

Don’t Kill the Weeds – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

August 14, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 22 – eat some weeds.

We’ve already established that I eat a lot of vegetables and in particular, a lot of greens. My husband, Randy, has gone so far as to joke that if we had no food in the house, I could be happy just foraging around in the back yard.

This week, though, I tried a new veggie that stretched the limits even for me. When I picked up my weekly CSA bag from Gibbs Road Farm I found a little gem called purslane. Some describe it as an “Omega 3 Fatty Weed.”

Indeed, it looks like a weed. But apparently, purslane contains more omega 3 fatty acids than any other plant source: 8.5 mg for every gram of weight.  It has vitamin A, B, C and E — six times more E than spinach. It also has seven times more beta carotene than carrots. In addition, it boasts magnesium, calcium, potassium, folate, lithium, iron and is 2.5% protein. It’s even been found to prevent cell mutation, the potential start of cancer, and lower blood pressure. And you get all that for about 15 calories per three-ounce serving.

So how does this weed taste? I thought it was pretty good. I tossed it into a salad with quinoa, hummus, fresh tomatoes and fresh yellow squash. It added a mild crunch that was reminiscent of a cross between spinach and some kind of sprout.

Eating purslane was an interesting experiment in pushing the envelope even further in my already adventurous diet. And it was a great reminder that “one man’s weed in another man’s delicacy.” I’ll leave you on your own to ponder that advice for healthy brands and healthy living.

Play a Team Sport – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

July 29, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 21 – play a team sport.

As mentioned in previous posts, I recently returned from a two-week road trip. This post is the sixth and final in a series about lessons learned from the road.

The final destination and main event on our road trip was a weeklong baseball tournament – the Perfect Game 17 and Under World Wood Bat Association (WWBA) Championship. Perfect Game is one of the largest scouting organizations in amateur baseball and the host of events throughout the country. This particular tournament was huge, with about 300 teams competing.

The KCBarnstormers at the Perfect Game 17 and Under World Wood Bat Association (WWBA) Championship. All photos by Christi Patterson.

The KCBarnstormers. All photos by Christi Patterson.

My son, Griffin, and his teammates will be seniors in high school this fall. They all love baseball, and they all hope to play in college. This summer has been filled with a number of showcase tournaments that were well attended by college coaches looking for talent. The WWBA Championship was a great opportunity for the boys to strut their stuff. They played their hearts out – going 5-2 against some of the stiffest competition in the U.S. All of their parents and coaches were extremely proud of their efforts.

Griff baseball

Even more than the wins, though, I am proud of the young men they are becoming and the life lessons they are learning. Baseball is the ultimate metaphor for life. As the lyrics to an old Dire Straits song say, “some days you’re the bat; some days you’re the ball.”

Griffin’s coach, Karl Carswell, founder of the KCBarnstomers organization often tells the players that the “game will never love you back.”

However, he encourages them to give it their all anyway. In his words, Karl and his team have “formed a baseball environment where players, parents, and coaches have found common ground. We are all interested in the development and training of our players and coaches individually and collectively. When done properly, teams are built around players and coaches who push each other to be better everyday.”


This philosophy certainly benefits a baseball team, but I think it benefits brand teams as well. The best brands are built in an environment that stresses both individual and group achievement as well as continuous improvement. They’re also built by encouraging respectful debate on the way to finding common ground.

Karl also stresses the concept of being “a finisher” – the player who runs hard down the baseline every time, the player who makes the opposing pitcher uncomfortable by taking a good swing at every hittable pitch, the player who slides hard into every base every time, and the player who backs up the same base with maximum intensity every time for just one opportunity to make a great play.


“No one knew they were making a great play before it was made and when you decide not to try, you are deciding not to make a great play,” Karl says.

Indeed. Are you the person on your team who is performing like a finisher? Or are you the person who is stuck in your comfort zone, afraid to try a new idea because someone on your management team might think it’s too risky?


Like baseball players, many of the most successful brands didn’t know they were “making the great play” before it happened. They were just working with intensity at every viable opportunity.

It’s harder than ever for brands to stand out from their competition. But it’s certainly achievable if, as Karl says, you “flipping play your heart out, and separate yourself from the guys who won’t understand.

Finding Calm Amidst the Chaos – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

July 28, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 20 – finding calm amidst the chaos.

As mentioned in previous posts, I recently returned from a two-week road trip. This post is the fifth in a series about lessons learned from the road.

The final stop on our journey was Atlanta for a weeklong baseball tournament with my son, Griffin’s team. (More on that later in an upcoming post.) But suffice it to say that playing 7 games in 6 days against the toughest 17U teams in the country was somewhat of a grind. Most of our energy was spent making sure the boys were fed, hydrated, rested, motivated and punctual.

However, in the midst of all the activity, my husband, Randy, and I managed to find a great getaway one afternoon. Prior to this trip, we had never spent time in Atlanta outside of the airport. Its lush and hilly terrain was a pleasant surprise. We were even more surprised to learn that the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area runs right through one of the city’s northern suburbs.Julie and Randy

It was a beautiful oasis offering hiking, fishing and rafting. I had kind of a surreal feeling because I felt as though I was hiking in one of the many remote National Parks we have visited. Yet, a quick turn onto a busy road when we were finished was a stark reminder that we were actually right in the heart of a bustling city.Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

This impromptu break ended up being a highlight of our trip. It was a great reminder to stop and smell the proverbial roses even during intensely busy times. Just a quick couple of hours was enough to rejuvenate us for more baseball.

What do you do to reenergize yourself or your brand team during especially hectic times?

Expanding Your Fitness Horizons – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

July 25, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 19 – Expand your fitness horizons.

As mentioned in previous posts, I recently returned from a two-week road trip. This post is the fourth in a series about lessons learned from the road.

One of my biggest concerns about being on the road for so long was that I would get out of my normal exercise routine. I did get out of my “normal” routine, but that turned out to be a good thing. While visiting our daughter in Greensboro, AL, I was searching for a gym. As it happened, I needed to look no further than the local city park.

Thanks to Rural Studio, an off-campus, design-build program of Auburn University, I was able to work out in the beauty of nature on equipment more typically found inside a gym. The Lions Park project offered an excellent mix of cardio, strength and flexibility training.

Julie workout

Rural Studio gives architecture students a hands-on educational experience while assisting an underserved population in west Alabama’s Black Belt region. The Rural Studio philosophy suggests that everyone, rich or poor, deserves the benefit of good design. To fulfill this mission, the Studio focuses on community-oriented projects. It also focuses on “what should be built, rather than what can be built.”

This project certainly provided me with a fun workout. However, the whole time, my mind was actually preoccupied with thoughts about how our clients and all brands can learn valuable lessons from Rural Studio. First, it took a tried and true product, gym equipment, and put it into a whole new distribution channel, broadening access and expanding the target audience. Second, it took a relevant audience need and built what the market truly needed, not just what the company wanted to build. I wish I could take my clients here for a strategic planning session. This project is one of the best examples of “out of the box” thinking I have ever seen.

Randy workout


Eat More Pie – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

July 22, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 18 – Eat more pie.

As mentioned in previous posts, I recently returned from a two-week road trip. This post is the third in a series about lessons learned from the road.

With all of my recent rants about healthy eating, one might find it curious that I am recommending eating more pie as a health tip. I might be skeptical myself if I hadn’t experienced a magical place in Greensboro, AL, called the Pie Lab.

Pie Lab

Welcome to Pie Lab.

Pie Lab is much more than a typical restaurant. It’s a shop meant to build community. It’s founded on the idea that simple things, like delicious pie and good conversation, can bring people together and spread joy. Pie + Conversation = Ideas. Ideas + Design = Positive Change.

Pie Lab’s home, the small town of Greensboro in Hale County, AL, is a special community. A group of committed citizens, including Hale County native Chef Seaborn Whatley and his wife, Chef Kelley Whatley, owners of Pie Lab, are working tirelessly as catalysts for community development. Greensboro is also home to HERO, a group that runs several businesses focused on job training, affordable housing and economic development in a quest to end poverty in the Alabama Black Belt.

Chefs Kelley and Seaborn Whatley, owners of the Pie Lab.

Our daughter, Lyndall, works at HERO Bike in Greensboro. A stop to visit her was one of the highlights of our road trip. Kelley and Seaborn have essentially adopted Lyndall as a part of their family – which includes five adorable children and a menagerie of pets. I think Lyndall eats the majority of her meals courtesy of the Pie Lab duo. Their home has also become her go-to spot for laundry and just hanging out. Randy and I are so appreciative of the love and kindness they have shown our girl, as she is so far away from home.

In addition to pie, Pie Lab serves breakfast and lunch Tuesday – Sunday. Each day, it has a hot lunch entrée. We were fortunate to experience incredible homemade meatloaf and Cajun tetrazzini. It also features an array of homemade soups, salads and sandwiches. In addition, Pie Lab caters special events and hosts a monthly dinner with a different international theme each time. Check out Pie Lab on Facebook if you want to drool over the daily specials.

Chef Kelley hard at work.

Chef Kelley hard at work.

Pie Lab’s food rivals that of any fine dining restaurant in the world. But its mission of building community through conversation puts it far ahead of any restaurant I’ve experienced. And in terms of health, that philosophy trumps any amount of sugar and calories in my book. Global brands would be well advised to study the Pie Lab model. Its brand essence is as well defined as any I’ve seen. Pie Lab also has an exciting new line extension opening soon – the Pie Lab Creamery, which will feature Chef Kelley’s homemade ice cream. I may have to make a special trip back for that.

Coconut Cream

Coconut Cream



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