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Bret S. Beall

Seasoned Living
A Quarterly Column
July-Sept 2005

by Bret S. Beall

Seasoned. Adj. 1: flavorful, zesty, interesting; 2: cured, tempered; 3: improved or enhanced via experience; 4: colloq: of or pertaining to the seasons.

. Noun. Maintaining life in a particular manner or style; vitality.

A Dash of This, A Dab of That:  A Recipe for Balanced Living

Given the theme of “living one’s life in balance,” I immediately thought of food and cooking (to be honest, almost everything makes me think of food and cooking, but that’s beside the point).   Mature, sophisticated cooking is about balancing the ingredients in a recipe, from procurement to presentation.  Similarly, mature, sophisticated living is about balancing the ingredients in our daily lives from morning to night.  Both can be easier said than done, so let me share some easy-to-follow tips that I use daily for my own balancing act.


My recipes always call for fresh produce whenever available; my biggest annoyance is overly processed foods, and the recipes that require their use.  However, fresh produce is seasonal, unless it’s been transported from another hemisphere at great environmental expense (fossil fuels used by the trucks, trains and other vehicles).  In order to transport produce such distances, they must be picked before their peak of ripeness, and therefore, before their peak of flavor.  This is why we have so much insipid food in our grocery stores (sadly, too many people don’t even realize their food is insipid!).  This is also why I like to cook with and eat seasonally and locally (and sustainably and organically) produced ingredients as much as possible, to get the maximum flavor with the lowest impact on the planet.  I was asked to do a cooking demo in July; the theme would be “Summer Salads.”  Once I started thinking about this, I realized that tomatoes are usually not in-season until the very end of July, so I asked my host if we could schedule for August.  Now the attendees will learn how to make a gorgeous, delicious heirloom tomato salad!

Patiently living in balance with the seasons and your environment will bring you the greatest rewards.  There is nothing as wonderful as tasting any fruit or vegetable freshly harvested at the peak of ripeness.  I remember my first locally grown baby arugula of this season … when I put a few leaves in my mouth right out of the bag, they were the best things I had ever tasted.  I hope to have the same reaction when I pop those first local plump tomatoes into my mouth, or a local organic blueberry, or any other taste treat.  Patience allows us to select what is best for us when it is available, and it allows us to truly appreciate what we have.

Patience is a requisite element for balanced, Seasoned Living®, because embracing patience allows us to live our tastiest, most flavorful life.  Learning that we cannot always have something NOW is a major requirement for personal growth on all levels.  Instant gratification isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!  Because I am always insisting, “everything happens for a reason,” I know that if something doesn’t manifest now, it must be because I don’t need it now, or because something even better is around the corner, or for some other reason that I am currently unable to discern.  My 20/20 hindsight has confirmed this phenomenon for me, so I no longer have any problem with patience, as it repeatedly “pays off.”  It will “pay off” for you, too!


Balance in a recipe comes from adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  No single ingredient should dominate.  If there is too much salt, the recipe is ruined.  If there is too much vinegar, the recipe sours.  If you have too little pepper, the recipe is bland or, even worse, monotonous and boring.  But, when the ingredients are assembled in a balanced combination, the result can be glorious.

One of my seasonal joys is visiting local farmers markets to get the very freshest ingredients.  The mere act of visiting a farmers market can be seen as a balancing act in many cases, because it is often less convenient to visit a farmers market than it is to visit the neighborhood grocery store.  That’s true for me; I can walk to several grocery stores, but I need to drive or take the bus to the organic farmers market.  I consider this act a treat, an opportunity to slow down and just smell the rapini.  I get a real thrill as I wander among the produce stalls, talking with my friends among the farmers and fellow shoppers, sampling various goods, and making my diverse selections.  I’ll confess one problem I have, though:  Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my stomach.  No, I don’t eat too much, but I do occasionally end up buying more delicious produce and other goods than I have time to prepare and eat.  Part of this is the notion of “stocking up” in order to balance the time it takes to go to the organic farmers market against the other tasks I have to do; though this makes sense on one level, it actually has faulty logic because the longer food has been removed from it source of nutrition (ground or parent plant), the more nutrition it loses.  This approach is further problematic because sometimes I just don’t use the food before it goes bad, rotting and decaying in my refrigerator or pantry, and I feel SO bad about that.  I hate to throw anything away, because it’s just not part of my earth-friendly philosophies.  I try to use more moderation when I buy ingredients.

So it is with life.  Too much of anything will create problems, and cause certain our lives to fester and deteriorate.  Too much work, and we don’t have time for other activities.  Too much play, and we waste our potential.  Too much smoking or drinking or worrying, and we will hurt our health.   But, if there is too little of something, we feel deprived.  If you are feeling deprived, ask yourself if it is because of some “real” absence, or if it is because of some unrealistic expectations on your part (example:  a client felt deprived because she didn’t have a plasma TV; I suggested she “get over it.”).  When we feel deprived, we rob ourselves of much of the joy of life because we are focusing on what we don’t have rather than what we do have.  Some people think they have to work and work in order to buy “things.”  One of my favorite (somewhat grim) quotes, and I don’t know who first said it, is “No one ever said on his or her deathbed that s/he wished s/he had spent more time at work.”  Remember, moderation in everything (and as someone always adds, “including moderation!”).


In cooking, adapting a recipe sometimes involves substitutions (it can also involve cooking time, temperature, proportions, etc).  Learning how to substitute one ingredient for another, given seasonal, financial or other constraints, is one of the hallmarks of good cooking.  Every month I provide the readers of my newsletter and recipe columns with individual recipes that have thousands of variations, so that they can adapt the recipes to their own needs and desires.

Similarly, mankind’s many Paths have thousands, no, millions, no, BILLIONS of variations.  Everyone’s Path is unique, and those that are most successful are those that are the most flexible, most adaptable, most able to “go with the Flow.”  My New Year’s resolution for 2005 was to “go with the Flow” better than I had done previously (which was pretty darned good).  Given how difficult the first half of 2005 was for me, I have to express constant gratitude for having resolved to not fight what cannot be fought!  By stopping my resistance, I became calmer, quieter, and more “open” to creative inspirations.  This how being adaptable and accepting of difficulty has helped me to become more balanced in my own life.  Years ago, I was considered rigid and “stuck” in my ways.  By becoming more flexible and adaptable, life became easier and more in balance.  I bet it could help YOUR balance.


One food e-newsletter to which I subscribed featured a series of recipes highlighted by the addition of vinegars and citrus juices (lime and lemon) to add a refreshing and invigorating zing to the dishes.  I thought, “Good for them!  Adding acids is one of the best things one can do for one’s diet.”  The following month the newsletter featured a series of recipes that eliminated acids because they purportedly caused fatigue and depression among other unhealthy conditions, and urged the adoption of an “alkaline” diet for greatest health.  This is a prime example of inconsistency (which is usually a sign that people don’t really understand what they are doing).  Not only is the advice to avoid acidic foods like vinegars and citrus juices just plain wrong from a nutritional and metabolic perspective (they help control weight!), but the key to good health is to eat a bit of everything, of varying pH, of varying flavor, of varying composition, to ensure maximum intake of diverse nutrients.  Having identified this inconsistency, I was able to further balance my life by realizing that this particular newsletter contained misinformation, so I went through and deleted all of those newsletters I had saved to read “someday,” and then cancelled my subscription.  By purging inconsistency, I’m more balanced, my life is simpler, and I’m a happier camper.


There’s another entire level to consider with the concept of consistency.  It reflects yet another quality and that is “honesty.”  I’m using “honesty” in the context of living and speaking in alignment with one’s personal values.   One example I’m thinking of is someone who purports to support local, sustainable, seasonal ingredients in her weekly recipe columns, but the list of ingredients is often anything but local, sustainable or seasonal.  I don’t mean to imply “dishonesty,” but this disconnect demonstrates that though she talks the talk, she doesn’t walk the walk.  She has “co-opted” these “local, sustainable, seasonal” buzzwords when they aren’t really part of her personal values, again suggesting that she really doesn’t understand what she is talking about.  That’s fine (well, it really isn’t, but never mind), but she is being dishonest with herself.  Like so many of us, she has jumped on a bandwagon without really considering how that Path works with her own Path.

Too many people are willing to sacrifice their “true selves” for the sake of corporate advancement, increased popularity, romance, or some other reason.  The moment we step away from our true Path, we can feel it in our bodies.  We “tighten” up.  We feel weary.  There is often a nagging voice in our minds saying, “Is this really what you want to do?”  Paying attention to these signs is a sure way to get back into balance. 

Much of this straying from our honest selves is about “ego.”  It’s about trying to impress others.  Like my example above, it’s easy to talk the talk, but it isn’t as easy to walk the walk.  Practice makes perfect (or at least moderately good), so practice walking your talk.  Practice being honest to yourself, and you will easily become honest with others.


Seasoned Living® is about mindful, intentional living.  Pay attention to the world around you, and think of the ramifications of your actions, preferably BEFORE you take them.  For example, it’s now summer, so that imposes limitations on the techniques I use to prepare the summer bounty.  I often explain to people that I don’t turn on the oven when the temperature rises above 75 degrees.  Then I hear, “Oh, you don’t have air conditioning?”  In truth, I don’t have AC in my kitchen, but that’s beside the point.  I then explain that it makes no sense to turn on the oven, and then use the AC to cool off.  It’s simply wasteful.  A colleague recently said, “You sure do have a lot of rules.”  They really aren’t rules.  They are simple guidelines for living my life in balance and harmony with the world around me.   By not using the oven when the temperature is hot, I 1) keep my home cooler, 2) I save money by not using gas to power the oven, 3) I save additional money by not having to run an air conditioner, 4) I save my health by not exposing myself to the dehydrating effects of air conditioning or the stultifying effects of a hot oven, 5) I reduce the impact on the earth by not using natural resources when I don’t need to, and 6) I’m often forced to be creative to come up with new recipes, which makes me feel good and helps my business.  So, by being aware of the variables surrounding oven use, and intentionally adhering to guidelines, I have maintained a balanced, consistent, mindful and comfortable lifestyle.

The Finished Dish 

Is a dish ever really finished?  I wish I could say, “Yes,” but being the creative cook that I am, I’m always tweaking and adjusting and adapting and changing and otherwise trying new variations and versions.  Some are successful while others are less so, but the process IS fun.

That’s also my take on life and living.  If our focus is the future, then essentially we are wishing away our lives.  If our focus is the past, then we never really enjoy life when it is happening.  If we can accept that life is a process that involves clear successes and less-clear successes, we can just relax a bit.  [Some call these “less-clear successes” “failures,” but since we can learn from them, they are SO important to a balanced life … can you imagine how boring it would be to be “clearly successful” all of the time?  Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about THAT!  I’ve come to embrace my less-clear successes (aka “failures”) when they routinely occur.]

I’m constantly experimenting, trying new things, testing myself, checking to make sure I’m in balance.  Sometimes I hit a new thing that enhances balance.  Occasionally I throw myself out of balance.  But, because I’m monitoring myself (just like constantly tasting a recipe as you are preparing it), I see when I’m out of balance, and I can return to the concepts I’ve outlined above to get myself back into balance.  I check my patience, my moderation, my adaptability, my consistency and my honesty, make sure they are all present in the “right” proportions, add a dash of one and a dab of another, and get back on my Path. 

Variety is the spice of life.  Life is a buffet … a smorgasbord … a tapas bar.  Sample a bit of everything.  Maintaining diversity in all aspects of your life will keep you happy and healthy.  But remember, that we are all works in progress.  Sometimes we, like a recipe, will get out of balance.  The key is knowing HOW to return a recipe or our lives, back to balance.   Enjoy your Path to Seasoned Living®.

© Copyright 2005 Bret S. Beall.  All Rights Reserved.


Lifestyle Management and Seasoned Living

Read Past "Seasoned Living" Columns:

April-June 2005 - "Trash and Treasure"

Jan-Mar 2005 - "Life Reflection: Looking Into Mirrors"

Bret S. Beall
Bret S. Beall, MS, PhD (Cand). As the CEO of GOD-DESS, I help people live fantastic lives with minimal time, effort or money. I have used my rigorous scientific training to synthesize psychology, sensory input, and logic, with global cuisine, décor, lifestyle concepts, indoor gardening and travel for each individual in an easy-to-understand, easy-to-create and easy-to-maintain style. For more information, please visit my website, www.god-dess.com, or call me at 773.508.9208, or email me at bret@god-dess.com.

Let’s start at the beginning, though. I was born in California’s San Francisco Bay area and lived there until I was seven. During this time, my family often took vacations to the seashore and to the redwood forests. There, I first felt the great interconnectedness of all life. At seven, I moved with my family to St. Louis, Missouri, where I continued my environmental interests (including growing houseplants). When I was twelve, we moved to the Ozarks of southern Missouri, where I lived on a farm and witnessed intimately the cycle of birth, life and death. We raised cattle, ducks, geese and rabbits, and I worked on our neighbor’s pig farm; we also grew a variety of produce and I first learned about preparing and preserving food. It was also at this time that I truly began acting on my interests in art, design and esthetics.

I did my undergraduate work in geology at the University of Missouri - Columbia, graduating with general honors and honors in geology; my coursework included a typical array of liberal arts courses (art, philosophy, history) along with the sciences (geology, physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology). By living in an off-campus efficiency, I learned the basics of simple cooking and living. After graduation, I went on to Masters and PhD work in evolutionary paleontology at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; my studies included geology, paleontology, biology, ecology and evolution, all presented within the framework of proper scientific methodology.

Ann Arbor has a terrific Farmer’s Market, which inspired me and helped me to act on my interest in ethnic cuisines and entertaining; this had to be done on a budget (given my graduate student salary) and efficiently (given my graduate student time requirements). I satisfied my artistic inclinations by doing extensive scientific illustration to accompany my original research. Teaching courses and speaking publicly at student seminars, at national and international meetings, and at various clubs and organizational meetings provided a level of excitement I had not experienced previously as I shared the information and data that I had collected. “Sharing” was the key, I realized, and this is when the seeds of GOD-DESS were planted.

I left Ann Arbor for Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History to accept a position as Curatorial Coordinator of Mazon Creek Paleontology. My long hours working on both museum responsibilities and my own research required living both time-efficiently and cost-effectively. In a very short period of time, I realized I did not want to spend the rest of my life within the academic world. I had already experienced a high level of international success, praise and recognition, for which I am grateful (including making it into the Guinness Book of World Records, and having Johnny Carson make a joke about my research on The Tonight Show). I eventually left the rarefied world of paleontology. This is when the seeds of GOD-DESS began to sprout and grow.

I spent the next decade in the field of not-for-profit healthcare association management, honing my skills in efficiency maximization, streamlining, prioritization, customer service, budgeting, organization, communication and simplification, and applying the rigors of my scientific training to the needs of my clients. My clients experienced extraordinary growth and profitability.

Although my salary was better than it was in academia, I still practiced my cost-efficient living, including preparing meals at home to eat at work. The hours were often very long, so time-effectiveness and efficiency-management continued to be important, if not vital. I traveled extensively in my various roles (including organizational representative, event organizer, executive manager, and lecturer); often, I tacked on vacation time to cost-effectively explore the various cities and regions that I was fortunate to visit, which further enhanced my travel planning skills. On my own time during this decade, GOD-DESS grew into a fledgling company, relying on the empiricism of my own experiences and my research.

After more than a decade of helping my clients experience almost 900% budgetary growth, 900% membership growth, 400% meeting attendance growth, and enhanced visibility that cannot be quantified, I knew it was time to become my own boss and devote myself 100% to GOD-DESS.

I believe we are always in the right place at the right time. Because of that belief, everything that I do, whether paleontology, or executive healthcare management, or lifestyle counseling, I do well, to the absolute best of my abilities. A lifetime of experience and research has now created GOD-DESS and everything it can do for you. I am grateful.





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