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Spring Picking

Terry Chi

By Terry Chi

The growth of early spring blooms, sprouts, and swells into abundance in late spring and early summer, bringing copious amounts of fresh fruits and veggies to our tables. You might notice a difference in the amount and variety of produce coloring the aisles of your local grocery stores and farmers markets. Apples and oranges are no longer the only fruit available—they are joined by nectarines, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and others. A lovely array of vegetables also enters the scene, opening up the door to exciting summer salads and a diverse range of vegetable dishes, from a summer squash salad to stuffed gypsy peppers.

To help you prepare healthy in-season fare for your family and friends alike, we spoke with the head chef at Oakland’s Boot and Shoe Service about what you might enjoy this season. A weathered wood haven for early morning risers and afternoon lunching locals, this café restaurant is one of the growing number of eating establishments that are dedicated to using fresh, local, organic ingredients to make dishes that change with the seasons. Started by the owner of Pizzaiolo and former kitchen aide at Chez Panisse, Charlie Hallowell, Boot and Shoe has a similar, if not the same goal as both those restaurants —to take ingredients from the community and transform them into delicious fare for the community.

Drawing from the Slow Food Movement,  the people at Boot and Shoe Service strive to follow the Slow Food mission to, “counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.” This mission does not have to be confined to the restaurant world—each and every one of us can apply the philosophy of the Slow Food Movement to our own lives and eating habits. Taking time to make a meal and then sit down and enjoy it makes a great difference in the quality of our lives. Whether we enjoy food by ourselves or in the company of those we love, we should appreciate what nourishes us. By eating local, organic foods, we help to protect both our health and the health of the environment by reducing our carbon footprint and avoiding the chemicals in pesticides that are harmful to our bodies. In order to live deliberately, we must eat deliberately.

Note: ‘Slow food’ does not have to mean hours of cooking. A healthy slow food meal can be as simple as ripping up some organic kale and tossing it with pine nuts, lemon juice, and olive oil for a refreshingly simple salad. With some help from the head chef at Boot and Shoe Service, Marc Baltes, we’ve put together a list of food and easy recipes that we love and that you may want to try this May: 

Asparagus Harvested from March until June, depending on geographical location, these tasty spears are wonderful steamed, boiled, or sautéed. Available in white or green, asparagus stalks vary in width, but you may be surprised to find that the thickness does not correlate directly with their tenderness. The asparagus’ tenderness depends on how the plant is grown and how soon it is eaten after it has been harvested. They are wonderful steamed, boiled, or sautéed. Marc Baltes recommends serving them roasted or grilled with mustard vinaigrette, hard cooked eggs and bits of pancetta.

Rhubarb Known for its tart taste, this sour stalk acts as a great pairing to sweet fruits like strawberries and cherries. Put it in a pie, make it into a jam, or turn it into chutney. For the freshest rhubarb, look for heavy crisp stalks with shiny skin.  


Via TheKitchen

Via TheKitchen

Cherries Cherry blossoms turn to cherry fruit at the end of spring, which means you can enjoy these sweet, antioxidant and melatonin-rich treats at the beginning of summer. While sweet cherries, like Bing or Rainier, can be found from May to August, sour cherries have a much shorter season, and are only available for a week or two, usually during the middle of June in warmer locations and as late as July and August in colder areas. Have a pit-spitting contest for fun!

Mint This herb starts to thrive in the spring and adds a refreshing taste to fruit or veggie salads and iced drinks or cocktails. At Boot and Shoe, Baltes tosses whole leaves of mint with arugula, drizzling it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to make a simple, but delightful salad that goes great with their buttery avocado toast and marinated beets. He also recommends adding some feta to the salad for a little extra richness.

Nettles Rich in iron, these dark leafy greens can be found at farmers’ markets sold by foragers and farmers. In some regions, they may be growing as "weeds" in gardens. Purée them into a soup or make a sun tea by plunging them into hot water and letting them sit in the sun while their nutrients seep into the water. According to Baltes, you can also wilt them quickly in a hot pan, squeeze out the water, chop them up coarsely, and mix them into beaten eggs for a bright green frittata.