This last week was the week of thanks, for many. Among many other gratitudes, I’m thankful to have found my own definition of balance in my personal off-kilter world. I’m also grateful to have been asked to delve into the myriad offerings of GaiamTV, from yoga and meditation to inspirational films and the science of health.

My body has been thanking me recently for the serenity and much-needed stretching I’ve been enjoying by reintroducing yoga to my me-mix. I’m excited to be back on board with some feel-good practices, and I’ll share with you my discoveries…and my ponderings.

A significant theme for Gaiam has been the #BalancedYou campaign, which you can follow on Twitter and Facebook, and follow MyYogaOnline. You can find your own groove.


Of course I’m a water element. I’m a pisces and I love the sea.

What is balance?

In science, it can be very precise. If something teetering on a tip veers even the teensiest bit in one direction, it plummets to an extreme side, or even falls.

In life, I think balance is more an art. And it’s very personal. I once struggled with finding balance. I’ve had a Pandora charm bracelet for many years, with one charm symbolizing harmony or balance. And right next to it, I added a hen charm to represent Henny Penny, the frazzled chicken. It was my tongue-in-cheek recognition of my goal for “balance” juxtaposed with my workaholic reality of …well, pretty much chaos.

Somewhere in my off-kilter-ness and requisite growth period, I decided that seeking perfect balance, where my pendulum points at exact zero, was no longer realistic, and more importantly, no longer necessary. I’m perfectly content now with a bit of swing in my step, and my pendulum. It fits me. Being just a bit off. ;) And I’ve come to love those around me in a similar semi-balanced state. What is normal, anyway, right?

For me now, balance has a loose definition. I have grown to accept the fact that it’s not an exact point to achieve, but more a fluid movement around a healthy happy condition. And I’m digging it. And those practices I enjoy in the pursuit of semi-balance – like hiking, travel, laughing, blogging, snapshotography, beach walks, working, loving – are welcome distractions and indulgences, rather than fiercely sought necessities.

My theory is that if I strive to hit peak balance, then I’m living on a perpetual tipping point. And so being a bit out of balance has become my personal place of balance and acceptance.  And this program I’m embracing is called #BalancedYou – so it’s very name implies a practice of finding your own balance.

So much of a happy life, for me, has been about letting go. And then it comes back to you – in abundance. Those things you pursued eagerly and frenetically.

How do you find balance in your life? Do you utilize websites like Gaiam to give you ideas and resources for whole health? Do you change it up to keep your interest, or do you stick with the same tried and true rituals?

Feel free to reply here in the comments or @ me on Twitter @SuuperG or on Facebook.

Until next time…

Namaste n’ shizzle :)

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Reflecting at the Museo Enzo Ferrari – beautiful design, of course!


An added bonus on a food foray in Italy is the setting.  The Italians must have studied our films and been inspired to plant cypress trees in rows and geraniums in clay pots under trellises of grape vines.


Sunlit grapes



Bricks and grapes at Antica Corte Pallavicina



Flowers in a window


Collage of La Stoppa Winery and vineyards, Emilia Romagna, Italy

Don’t kill me when I disclose that I was invited to the region of acknowledged culinary supremacy in Italy called Emilia-Romagna to sample, savor and share their edible incredibles.  Each region has their own celebrated style of preparing dishes we’ve all come to know and love.  But many specialties and ingredients hail from small corners and quadrants of Italy that have micro-climates ideal for curing ham, for instance, while too moist for the roots of an olive tree to take hold. Thank goodness for efficient methods of transportation!


Peddaling the pumpkin cart


A Maserati – one of a collection – on display at the Enzo Ferrari Museum, celebrating 100 years of Maserati.


A fisherman and his bicycle, Cervia, Italy

Whisked straight to La Stoppa winery directly from the jet-lagged airport in Bologna, I had no complaints wine-ding down with tastings of regional reds accompanied by classic salamis, Parma hams and prosciutto crudo, and a sweet dessert wine I ended up packing home in my suitcase.


The one that won. From La Stoppa Winery.


What would be a common setting, mixed salumi and robust red wines, La Stoppa, Emilia Romagna, Italy

Food. Is it just a combination of ingredients, thrown together carelessly? In my kitchen it can be!  In the case of an Italian’s kitchen, it is an art form, cultivated and curated for centuries, alongside – and perhaps with as much passion as – the other products of this country; frescoes, sculpture, music, automotive excellence, handbags…


Furla handbags competing with the reflection of the Basilica di San Petronio in Bologna


The famous – and one-time scandalous – Neptune fountain in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore


Painted ceiling of Torrechiara Castle, outside of Parma, Italy

I learned so much in my week of wonderful food-ing. And it has only enhanced my appreciation for the senses experienced by my pleased palate when, for instance, I taste a 27-month aged culatello (the filet mignon of hams) from a specially raised white pig, or slowly savor a 36-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano, allowing my tongue to detect the remnant rennet granules…


Culatello plate at the celebrated Antica Corte Pallavicina, Italy


Copious coppa. Another memorable meat from Emilia Romagna.

The particular hunk of cheese I stuffed into my suitcase alongside my wine came from the coveted red cows and contained Pope-blessed salt from Cervia. (Yes, really)


Wheel O’ Cheese – Parmigiano Reggiano, to be exact. The King Cheese :)

I’m much more a food aficionado than a wine connoisseur, but far be it from me to cover my wine glass, refusing the prized wines of the region, so artfully paired with our meals and samplings…Wait, which one was the Trebbiolo again?  We enjoyed, reds, dry, sparkling, deep, light whites, pinks and even a magenta. ;) Another common sight during our Italian excursion…


White with our first course, of course at Osteria del Gran Fritto, Cesenatico Milano Marittima, Italy


Me, cuddling up to a bottle in an unswerving rainstorm, Parma, Italy


Magical magenta wine. Was the camera inebriated? :)

We covered a lot of ground…



Just a wonderful walkway in Bologna

There were cooking classes…


Beth and BB cooking it up in the kitchen of a traditional Cesarine of Bologna


Cooking in master Chef Massimo Spigaroli’s kitchen at Antica Corte Pallavicina in the Po River lowlands, Emilia-Romagna, Italy



BB and Laurel in the home of the Cesarine of Bologna, teaching us some cooking skills!


Expert chef presentations and tasting of their creations…



Chef creating a masterpiece at Terrazza Bartolini in Milano Marittima, Italy



A fabulous fish dish prepared before our dazzled eyes at Terrazza Bartolini, Milano-Marittima


The piadina lady at the salt festival in Cervia


Proud chefs at Terrazza Bartolini, Milano Marittimo, Italy


There were delightful detours…


The umbrella brigade, Night of 100 Chefs, Parma, Italy


The museum of boats in the Da Vinci canals of Cesenatico, Italy.

And happy surprises…


Comedic vendor passionately selling us his Crema Enorotica (I’ll let you translate the tag line) :)



A happy groom and his side cart bride in the quaint seaside town of Cesenatico

It ain’t just about the food

I’m so glad I added several days to linger in Italy at the end of my food tour, visiting friends, slowing down, stuttering in my own Italiamerican when ordering or asking directions.  For me, the food of a region cannot be separated from the other offerings of the locale; the people, the history, the culture.  They weave together and hopefully create a tapestry, rather than a velvet wall hanging. ;)


Me and Deb under-umbrella giggling and feasting at the Night of 100 Chefs in Parma


Our fearless guide Simona and the warm company of our La Stoppa winery hostess, Francesca

Especially in Italy, the food experience includes long dinners, copious amounts of wine, deep discussions and often hearty laughter along with the hearty meal. (Deb and Tara, you know of which I speak!)


Chef Gino and dazzling wife BB in a moment of merriment at the magical dinner of 1000 people in Parma, Italy

I raise a toast to the people I meet along the way, and who this time, enhanced my enjoyment of the amazing food and beautiful sights of of Emilia Romagna.


A happy stroll on the beach with BB in Milano-Marittima…wait, when is a beach walk NOT happy? ;)

We experienced so many amazing and delectable moments, I’ll be posting them in chapters; like maybe cheese, salt, balsamico and/or prosciutto.  I hope you’ll stay tuned – and keep your bib on!


Sensational seafood-infused risotto at Osteria Del Gran Fritto in Milano Marittima. Scrape your plates, people!

A special thank you mille to The Emilia Romagna Region Tourist Board for the pleasure of touring and tasting in their rich region of temptations and traditionsI was invited as a guest to experience the diverse food specialties of the region, and my opinions expressed here are my own.

All photos by Gina Stark, except where I’m in them!..well, sometimes, it’s a self-snapped selfie. :) Captured on my iPhone 5S

You may also enjoy: ‘The Sweetest Dolce of My Vita’ – Bologna, Italy

and Beautiful Bologna – Part I in Photos & Beautiful Bologna – Part II in Photos

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by Gina "SuuperG" Stark October 8, 2013 Twitter

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