Inspired by a mutual passion for health and wellness, the founders of The Hale Life and The Hope Experience come together to host restorative retreats on the South Shore and beyond.
By Dave Kindy
Photography by Julia Cumes
It was a trying time for Melissa Smith. Her mother had passed away from lung cancer in 2015 and she was missing that connection with the woman who had sustained her since birth – emotionally, physically and gastronomically.
“My mother was my world,” Smith recalls. “It was tough watching life being pulled away from her. Mom was an amazing Italian cook. She would fill a stockpot, and cook it slow and low.”
As she mourned her loss, Smith found solace and comfort by cooking, just as her mother taught her. The Hanover native began preparing simple, healthy meals she learned as a young girl – made with natural, wholesome ingredients and simmered with care and devotion. “I just started cooking,” says Smith. “It was home-cooked food, made with love. I began to realize how food can heal.”
One of the savory meals Smith kept returning to was bone broth. She made it time and time again, using an old family recipe of quality beef bones, fresh vegetables and just the right amount of seasoning. She began serving it to her daughter Avery, then 3, and her husband Chris Honen, who had a history of digestive problems and noticed a difference in the way he felt almost immediately.
“He wasn’t having the issues he had before,” says Smith. “Chris said to me, ‘If I’m feeling this much better, let’s bring this to others.’”
The Magic of Bone Broth
And so, The HALE Life began. Each week, the entrepreneurial couple cooks up gallons of the nutritious broth, which is sold at farmer’s markets in Hingham, Braintree, Kingston, Cohasset, Simpson Spring in Easton and Boston. Smith works a corporate job by day but spends her weekends at the farmer’s markets to bring homemade, wholesome broth to grateful customers.
“I’ve had so many people thank me for the bone broth,” she says. “We hear great stories from customers going through chemotherapy or recovering after giving birth. It’s perfect for hydration and contains so many trace minerals and nutrients. It’s ideal for wellness and gut health.”
Smith’s uncle, her mother’s brother, is another person who praises the bone broth. He claims it has helped with his arthritis, making it possible to go up and down stairs in less pain. Uncle Peter also paid her the highest compliment about her cooking.
“I was reluctant to let my family try it,” Smith says. “I was afraid that it wouldn’t measure up to the traditional standard. But he tasted it and said, ‘Oh, my God! This is just like grandma’s.’ There were tears in his eyes.”
The secret is in the sauce, as they say. All of the broth ingredients are fresh and are sourced from trusted local farmers. The beef bones come from organically raised cows that eat only grass. The vegetables and spices are all organic. Even the sea salt is local, sourced from Duxbury Saltworks. “We also use water from Simpson Spring in Easton,” Smith says. “It’s 100 percent natural spring water from a local source.”
The broth is prepared in small batches to ensure quality. It simmers for hours, until the rich, restorative goodness is steeped into each cup.
“There’s magic in the jiggle,” says Smith, referring to how the bone broth congeals when it cools. “It’s full of amino acids, which are known for their anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.”
The broth is fresh-frozen and then sealed in special packaging for sale at farmer’s markets or through their subscription service. While Smith originally did all of the cooking, her husband now handles that assignment. Honen, who has worked in food service for years, was laid off earlier this year because of the pandemic and quickly stepped into the cooking role. Smith makes sure he follows the family recipe exactly. Honen was also able to ramp up home deliveries.
Each package of bone broth bears The HALE Life logo and the words of their motto—Restore. Recover. Replenish.—which define their greater mission.
Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Melissa Smith uses The Hale Life Bone Broth as a nutritious base in this hearty soup.
- 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into bite-size florets
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 4 cups (blocks) Hale Bone Broth (heated)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
- Scant ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup coconut cream
- Fine sea salt from Duxbury Saltworks and ground pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- Chives and/or green onions, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- On the baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until lightly coated in oil. Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the cauliflower is tender and caramelized on the edges, 25 to 35 minutes, tossing halfway through.
- In a Dutch oven or soup pot, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and turning translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the Hale Bone Broth.
- Transfer the cauliflower to the pot and increase the heat to medium-high to bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes to give the flavors time to meld.
- Once the soup is done cooking, add coconut cream and remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Then, carefully transfer the hot soup to a blender, working in batches if necessary. Add the butter and blend until smooth (omit butter if you prefer dairy-free). Add the coconut aminos and nutmeg and blend again. Sprinkle with salt, to taste. Finally, garnish with green onion or chives.
Retreats that Restore and Renew
Knowing that Smith had a passion for nutrition and wellness, Julie Armstrong, a fitness instructor and founder of The Hope Experience, proposed a collaborative wellness venture. Armstrong, who hosts online workout groups featuring live and recorded strength training, conditioning, yoga and guided meditation, was aiming to hold restorative retreats and she saw The Hale Life mission as a perfect complement to her own services.
It wasn’t long before the two women launched Hope + HALE and began hosting women’s empowerment retreats at local venues like Alice’s House in Humarock (see sidebar) and also out of state. The retreats focus on fitness, mindfulness and healthy eating--which of course includes bone broth--as a means of healing the body and soul. Participants leave behind the stress of daily duties of home, family and work so that they can focus on what they need to do to strengthen themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“We want women to know that they are not alone,” says Armstrong. “This is an opportunity to connect with other women so they can share their journeys and get stronger together. Nobody needs to feel alone. Our workshops are all about women helping women.”
“We attract all kinds of women to the sessions, including teachers, stay-at-home moms, nurses and first responders,” says Smith. “They all want to learn about how to be healthier.”
While the coronavirus pandemic did prevent the women from hosting one of their planned retreats in Savannah, Georgia, they were able to hold the event virtually and it was a huge success. Smith and Armstrong are looking forward to holding more Hope & HALE events in 2021, inspiring women to shed bad habits, negative energy and self-doubt and help them feel relaxed and renewed.
Serving The Community
Smith and Honen are working to take their business to the next level. They plan to get a wholesale license and aim to start selling their delicious, nutritious product at supermarkets like Whole Foods and Roche Brothers.
“I think there is a bigger opportunity for us,” she says. “There is more we could be doing. Our bone broth packs in so many nutrients that fuel your body and are so good for your health--it’s given me such an awareness of what good food can do for you.”
Momma would be proud.
For more information about The HALE Life, visit thehalelife.com To learn more about The Hope Experience, go to hopeexperiencefitness.com and to learn more about Hope & HALE retreats, visit hopeandhale.com.
Janet Gibson, founder and director of Alice’s House
The Mission of Alice’s House
Alice Feeney was one of those people who knew just what to say and do when someone was in crisis. She welcomed everyone into her Humarock home – a 100-year-old cottage on the beach – and made it a safe spot to soothe shaky souls.
After Alice passed away, her friend Janet Gibson knew she had to turn the home into a place where others could find solace and relief. Today, Alice’s House continues that tradition under the auspices of Janet Gibson. After Alice died in 1997, her friend created a nonprofit organization to purchase the house and turn it into a seaside retreat for spiritual and emotional healing.
“If I had to describe this place in two words I would say it is a healing house,” says Gibson, the president of Alice’s House. “Our mission is to provide a space by the sea for people to catch their breath and recover from the challenges they are facing in life, whether it is grief, illness or something else.”
The nonprofit conducts no programs; it simply offers the house on a donation basis to individuals and groups, like the Hope Experience, that want to find peace and tranquility. “There is a healing energy in this house,” says Gibson. “When people come here, they see the ocean and they know this is a space to heal.”
Gibson has persevered in her efforts to keep Alice’s House as a source of renewal – even in the face of disaster. In 2012, a fire burned the home to the ground. Gibson had to raise $750,000 to rebuild the home so that the mission of Alice’s House could continue.
“I didn’t know how I was going to raise that much money, but the community came together and helped me,” says Gibson. “We raised the money and reopened in 2017.” The new home is beautiful inside and out and is in great demand as a retreat for wellness and recovery programs.
“We are so busy,” says Gibson. “There is a need for a place like this, where people can heal emotionally, physically and spiritually. We have a legacy as a welcoming space. That all comes from Alice, who was so welcoming to people who needed support.”
For more information on Alice’s House, visit aliceshouse.org.