Monday, December 24, 2012

The Hap, Happiest time of the year, Really?

This time of the year is difficult for me.  It is difficult for many people.  It has not always been so for me, in fact, quite the opposite.  My husband, Paul, loved Christmas.  Those who knew him might not ever guess that but it is true.  He liked the family & friend time. His dad & his girlfriend used to come stay with us for the holidays and we would go to Paul's family get togethers on Christmas day.  It was always so lovely.  I do miss it.  I don't think anyone but kids loved the whole Christmas tree thing, picking one out, decorating it, getting a new decoration each year like Paul did.  One year we could not afford to buy a tree and that was not ok with him so he found a way to get us one.  A local park was over run with invasive junipers and if you cut one down you could take it home for free.  So, out he went to get us a tree.  He chopped it down and drove it home.  Paul was not a tree chopping kind of guy.  It came complete with an empty bird's nest and lots of dripping sap which we quickly found out that I was very allergic to.   Paul had to do all of the decorating that year.  We had our tree.  When we lived in our tiny LA apartment and were broke he still bought a Christmas tree.  Needless to say I have lots of great Christmas tree ornaments but they have not been hung since he passed.  I still can't look at them.  I just want Christmas to be over and I want it to stay gone.
This morning my mother found out that her best friend was killed in a car accident last night.  This woman was over at my mom's delivering homemade cookies yesterday afternoon when I called.  You just never know what is going to happen.  Life moves forward and it does not care when it decides to take a turn.  It is another reminder that every moment of every day is precious. Live it that way!
A beautiful thing happened to my mom this afternoon though.  It is a long back story so I am going to try to sum it up.  After my dad passed on in February 2009 there was a cardinal would visit my yard throughout the year.  It would appear every time things were not going well and always when I would talk to my dad's spirit.  I began to believe that this red bird was my dad visiting me.  The morning of the day Paul passed on I was sitting outside crying and I asked him for any sign to let me know it was ok.  A red bird appeared to me and started singing and kept singing for a few hours.  I believe that was Paul.  He owed me a song.  He used to play guitar and sing to me almost every day.  We had talked about how he owed me a song the day before he died.  That same red bird was in my yard nonstop for weeks.  I saw red birds all over the city for months.  So I looked into it and there is a belief that when a person's spirit transitions and they want to visit someone in this world that they come back as birds.  I shared this with my mom and she started seeing red birds in her yard too especially during times that were difficult.  So we both believe that our red birds are our husbands or any loved one that is taking care of us from the other side.  Today, for the first time in months, she had two red birds at the bird feeder in her yard.  I asked my dad, my husband and my sister Sue to be with mom and give her peace.  When she called to tell me about the birds she sounded happy and said she knew that she was being taken care of and it would be ok.  This is our Christmas miracle and our gift!  This is more Christmas than anything I can think of at the moment.  It put a smile on my face and hers and that is no small task today.
Christmas is not about material stuff.  It is about the gifts we give and receive that have no monetary attachment.  We get them every day we just must be open to receiving them especially in the sad times.
This isn't a sappy sweet Christmas story.  It is a crazy, messy, real life Christmas story and that is ok.  Remember every moment is precious so cherish them and have a happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Respect your food respect yourself

I want to talk about food, surprised I am sure.  More to the point I want to talk about reverence for life and how I believe that relates to what & how we eat.    This is a big, broad topic that is controversial.

Food and water are our sources in this physical world.  Without them our bodies cannot function meaning you and I do not exist. The nutrients that we receive from what we eat keep us healthy and alive.  Depending on what we eat and what is in our food it also has the power to take us down.  It is a choice everyday, it is our choice.  Will we respect our bodies and feed them whole, healthy, real foods or crap being paraded as food?

Because we have lost the importance of food in the modern world we have also lost respect for it.
In doing so we have let go of respect for our bodies.  Here in the US we have abundant supplies of what passes for food.  There are fast food restaurants on just about every street cornor, grocery and convenience stores too.  Those isles are filled with stuff we feed our bodies, some of it is even fortified with micronutrients to make us feel better about eating it.  Our ancestors did not have these things and it wasn't that long ago that the grocery store was ours or our neighbor's backyard or field or the depending on our geographic location the nearest lake, river, ocean or woods.  The foods we harvested from these places were rich in natural nutrients that helped us live and would be passed onto us as we consumed them bringing the circle of life together.  Plant or animal it didn't/doesn't matter.  They had life, we took it and used it to sustain our own.  And in those times food was respected because our ancestors understood that without it they would get sick and die.  Native Americans had/have rituals of respect for the animals they killed thanking them for their sacrifice and the life that they are passing on to humans.  WHY don't we all have that practice everyday in our homes and communities?  I believe plant foods deserve the same.  I believe that we must treat the foods and water sources we consume as the sources that they are because without them we are no more. 
A bag of chips, a factory farmed piece of meat and a glass of soda are sources of illness so I am not asking you to thank them although that animal from the factory farm who gives us sick meat was forced there and made to live a desperate, tortured life by the very species that it will make sick .  The same type situation goes for the GMO foods and heavily sprayed, etc. crops. Our waters are polluted to the point that we put special filters on our faucets or buy special filtering pitchers just to be able to drink some form of pure water.  We have bastardized our sources of life and in so doing lost respect for them and for ourselves.
Eating should be a pleasurable experience that nurtures and nourishes yet many of us find shame, confusion and pain when we sit down to eat.  If we sit down to eat.  We can change this.  Give a damn about yourself and about your food sources.  Eat simple, real, whole foods that give life like fresh, local veggies, fruits,meats, fish and dairy.  Shop at your FARMER'S MARKETS, co-ops, local stores and if you do not have access to these request that your grocery store begin to carry some of these choices.  That might require a bit of research on your part but you are worth it and the gift that you will be providing to your community is priceless.  Eat with mindfulness that what you are putting into your mouth should be helping sustain health and wellness and it came from a life of its' own to help you do this.  Thank your food.  You don't have to do it out loud but try doing it and see how it changes your attitude while eating.
Reverence for life, all life, comes full circle just as disrespect does.  The responsibility and choice is ours.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Child's Joy

Last night I was sooooo inspired and filled with joy!  I didn't go listen to a guru speak or see some  natural wonder.  I spent time with good friends and their little girl.  I received the joy that comes from  a child's happy spirit.  She stole my heart again.  I hadn't seen her since she was a baby and now she is running around, talking, dancing, and being adorable.  The moment that got me on so many levels was when she was sitting on her dad's knee while he was playing guitar.  She wrapped her tiny fingers as much around the neck as she could and held them on the strings while he strummed the guitar.  She looked so proud helping her dad play a song.  It was the damn cutest thing I think I have ever seen. 
What I love about children is that they find joy in the simple things.  "They don't know any better" as some might put it.  They know better than most adults in my opinion.  Life is a wonder.  Think about how kids rattle their cribs and find any possible way they can to get out of bed in the morning.  Most adults moan and hit snooze because they want to stay in bed in the morning. Imagine what it is like to see things through a child's eyes.  Let's give it a go!  There is a world out there waiting for us to play and be curious.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sage advice for illness or loss

Today I am going to quote a piece of prose written by my husband in 2009, in the thick of the cancer journey.  It offers sage advice that I want to pass along from someone living with cancer to most anyone who has no idea how to handle a person with this or any serious diagnosis.

What I Need

Be Available.
Don't disappear.
Don't ask me how things are.
Just ask what is going on.
Don't say "If there is anything
you need, let me know."
because if you don't
have a cure, I don't think
you'll be able to deliver.

Paul Hakan

I want to say treat the person as a person not as a disease.  They have not changed but thier situation has.  They are still your brother, sister, friend, etc. and they still want to laugh, watch silly movies, gossip, play music, enjoy a meal, hang out just like before.  A few considerations might have to be made now but just be with them.

On a different note from me...It has been a 27 months since Paul left this physical world and it has been a journey to test every atom that makes me.  I have been broken, ripped apart, lost, grief stricken, strong, courageous beyond my own understanding, renewed, grateful, and, yes, happy again.
I want to quote one of my pieces of prose from 2009, in the thick of the cancer journey, that rings so true for my journey since July 2010, when Paul passed, to present.  Please share with anyone you know that has lost a spouse.

My Imagination Does Not Sleep

My imagination does not sleep.
I dream of the future, inserting
talked-about plans and new beginnings.
The past does not live in this place.

The sun rises here and only sets
over an ocean of deep blue,
its waves crashing, singing to me.

I can feel it in my soul
and picture it in my mind.
Tomorrow, next week, next year
is beautiful and happy.

I am the change that I want to see in our world.
I have painted us a masterpiece.

Keri Hakan

The past does not live in my new life but it damn sure influences it.  New beginnings have been scary, exciting and sparked my imagination for the dreams of my future along with the influence of my past experiences.  Those experiences made me who I am.  I did paint Paul and I a masterpiece and now it is mine, I own it in his honor.  Living my life "as if" everyday like I mean it honors us both.

These pieces of prose are published in an anthology of poetry of prose titled My Tree Called Life Writing & Living Through Serious Illness available through Turning Point in Kansas City.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn fun food

I have a yummy Autumn recipe.  Cinnamon and gingered sweet potatoes with apples and kale.

I played with a recipe from Rebecca Katz and her book The Cancer Fighting Kitchen and ended up with this easy gem.  I am really bad at keeping measurements and so I am guessing on them for the purpose of giving you the recipe.  Basically, I like to do things to taste if it seems safe and that is what I did with this recipe.

3 cups chopped sweet potatoes
1 chopped apple (a nice, crisp one)
1  tbs. fresh grated ginger
2 tbs. coconut oil
4 dinosaur kale leaves
ground cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
shaved walnuts
 1 cup water
maple syrup
sea salt
1/2 cup raisins

Chop the sweet potatoes and apple into small pieces kind of like matchstick size. Use a micro plane to grate the ginger root.  I usually do not waste the kale stems but in this dish I feel that just having the leaves is better texture wise.  Tear or cut the kale leaves to bite size.  Heat the coconut oil and add the ginger until it gets fragrant. This should not take long.  Add in the sweet potatoes, saute for a few minutes and add in the apple and kale leaves.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg . Stir and add half of the water.  Saute for a few minutes then taste to see if the potatoes are getting tender. Add more water as needed. Once they are pretty tender stir in the maple syrup to taste and raisins.  Add 2 or so pinches of sea salt.  When the potatoes are cooked through remove from heat and use a micro plane to shave 5 to 10 walnuts and sprinkle them on top.  That is it.  Simple and good!  Remember when cooking to taste you start adding in small amounts, you can always add but you can't subtract from a dish.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mind and Heart Are One

There are days that it feels right to just throw in the towel.  By this I mean times that feeling overwhelmed, stress, fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, self doubt, etc. seem to be all that is real in our reality.  This is ok!   Yes, I said it.  It is ok as long as we develop the capacity to not be pulled away by our suffering but rather to acknowledge it and take care of it.  Pushing it away or ignoring it will not help.  It will come back stronger and with a fierce bite.  We need to show it, ourselves, some love instead.  One way to do this is to trust in our own experience and become intimate with our suffering.  The key is to not drown in it.  Visit it for a bit and just be with it.  You have everything innate to be happy and so you have the capability to resolve and heal your suffering. 
It happens to all of us.  Even those of us who consistently wear rose colored glasses, identintify with the lyrics "you may say I'm a dreamer" and look for diamonds in the coal.  This past Monday I had one of these days and I just went with it.  This meant I cried for hours, literally.  That felt really good, honestly.  I went to my Sangha and felt instant renewal.  A fellow Sangha member needed some deep listening and I was able to provide that with a few words of encouragement.  During Dharma talk I shared my state and afterwards this person thanked me for giving him peace and ease even through my own pain.  That was really powerful.  His statement made a profound imprint on me.  The following evening I attended a Dharma talk given by 2 nuns and 2 monks from Deer Park Zen Buddhist Monastery in California and it was so amazing.  They addressed this very topic from the Zen Buddhist point of view which is what I am sharing in this blog.  That talk made me feel so grounded and powerful in my life.  One of the biggest points to me in our practice is that we need not seek from outside when everything we need is within us and recognizing that allows us to connect and inter- be with others and everything in our world like nothing else possibly could.   So as we help ourselves become a little more transparent we can help others do the same.  It starts with us and it ends with us.  We need to open our hearts to ourselves and to what others have to offer.  In so doing I believe that we can transform our suffering.  It sounds simple and in theory it is but in this reality it is not necessarily so because we are not used to being open and real with ourselves or others.  This world tells us to put on an act and don't show "weakness", vulnerabilities, happiness but just be "normal".  Normal isn't real or fun.  Let that "freak" flag fly.  I am not telling you to do stuff that will cause harm or trouble but rather to simply be as you are.  Try it on for size.  If you need to cry for hours, run around the block a few times or as my friend Linda likes to do dance naked around the cherry tree in her yard.  DO IT!  Linda's type of taking care might get you in some hot water  but I admit I tried it in my backyard after my husband died.  It felt good.  It was also about 10:30pm. 
Give yourself, all of yourself, some real attention! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cold Forbidden Rice Salad

The name is intriguing...Forbidden is not as naughty as its' name implies.  In fact it is good for you as some "naughty" things can be.  That is another topic entirely.
 Every Monday evening I have dinner with some of my friends from Sangha before we go to Sangha.  It is a potluck so they, often, are the taste testers of my kitchen experiments.  I do use recipes but I change them to make them my own.  I am usually successful as a result of my new found love of food and working with chefs for hours each week.  Last night I took a shot at a cold Forbidden Rice Salad and it was a hit.  The basic recipe comes from The Cancer Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz.  I use this book all of the time.  Forbidden Rice is purple which makes it fun and nutritious.  The purple color means it contains phytochemicals and antioxidants.  Normally this would be served warm and with a few added ingredients but today you are getting my recipe.  Give it a try.  It is simple.  That is a requirement in my kitchen.    I know that Whole Foods carries Forbidden Rice but I have not seen it in many other grocery stores.  Also, you need to soak the rice, preferably overnight as you should with most all grains.  Forbidden Rice has a soft, creamy texture when ready.

1 cup Forbidden Rice
2 cups water
3-4 small slices of fresh ginger
2 Star Anise pods
1 fresh lime, juiced
2 tbs. Brown Rice Vinegar
Approx. 1 tbs. freshly grated ginger (to your taste really)
4 Brazil nuts, grated
Raisins to your taste
Sea Salt

Bring the water to a boil and add the sliced ginger, star anise, sea salt and rice.  Lower the heat, cover and cook for approx. 30 minutes or until rice is tender.  Drain, picking out the star anise and ginger.
Juice the lime into a small bowl adding the rice vinegar and grated ginger.  Mix and drizzle over the rice.  Add raisins and grate the Brazil nuts over the top.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Rebecca's recipe calls for adding finely chopped cilantro, mint or basil and 2 tbs. of finely chopped red bell pepper.  I think that the mint and bell pepper would be fantastic minus the raisins. Also,finely chopped crisp apples with raisins would be lovely too.  I have not tried this, yet. 
Part of the joy of cooking is playing with flavor combinations and textures.  Buy a beautiful cookbook or raw foods prep. book and play, make those recipes your own.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Joy, pass it on

This week I found myself in several thought provoking, inspiring situations.  My Sangha (the Zen Buddhist group with whom I practice) is studying the Brahma-vihara or 4 immeasurable truths.  This week we focused on Joy.  Our facilitator led us in a practice that helped us realize and appreciate joy within ourselves and our ability to experience it for others.  We had chocolate and strawberries and our exercise was to take some and as we eat it really appreciate that we are capable of enjoying these things in all capacities and how we feel eating them.  We then ate a piece again while thinking of another person (s) that for any number of reasons are not able to experience these things and to do our best to find the joy and appreciation for them.  I found this to be such a simple yet powerful practice.  I especially appreciated this practice as a nutritionist because food encompasses so many emotions in peoples' lives.  Also because respect for our food, in general, has been lost.  There is a booth at the big Farmer's Market that I go to whose name is three words: Love, Joy, Food.  It strikes me every week when I see it.  I love it.  That concept speaks volumes.
So, I invite you to realize the joy in simple, everyday things.  Appreciate the fact that you have them or are able to do, see, taste, hear..experience them because it is probably not the case with everyone.  When you are eating an amazing meal from wholesome, nutritious foods take the time  to experience the joy in it.  When you are listening to music that speaks to you in some way take a moment to experience the joy that it brings you and pass it on.  Appreciation ignites joy and joy ignites happiness.  No matter what our situation there is something that makes us smile and gives us butterfly flutters.  Be joyful for that and share that joy.  Ignite and Inspire others.  We are all connected and we should all be joyful.  Imagine that world.  I do!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My Utopia

Every Saturday morning I visit my own Utopia.  The farmer's market at PSU in downtown Portland is my idea of perfection!  Today it was not overly crowded which was great.  The weather is near perfect!  The smells of farm fresh lavender, basil and breakfast from the several prepared or made to order food booths fill the air for blocks.  Music is everywhere.  Some of the music is sponsored by the market and the rest is people coming down with guitars, violins, banjos, etc. and just performing for us all.   Food and music are two of my favorite things so putting them together is a little piece of heaven to me.  There is an older man that recites poetry and a guy juggling bowling pins for the kids.

Today I spent $26.50 for unsprayed, local, seasonal, tomatoes (3 beefsteak),  1 bunch of  very fragrant basil,  2 ears of sweet corn,  1 small head of cauliflower, 1 pint of strawberries, 1 pint of Rainer cherries, a bunch of  beautiful purple dahlias, my breakfast and an iced tea.  I also watched a chef's demo titled "Meals that Heal" and was reminded that I make that same meal with a few variations and haven't prepared it since last year sometime.  It is now on the menu for this week.  She was making Spring Rolls with a hazelnut dipping sauce.  I have always made the sauce with almond butter but hazelnuts are local to Oregon so I will give them a go this time.
  The farmers are always friendly and eager to tell you about their practices in my experience. 
In one trip you can find farm fresh & pastured, eggs of several types, milk, cheese (cow & goat), butter, meats of all kinds, fish,  grains, veggies, herbs, fruits, mushrooms, flowers and much more.  I just want to take everyone I can there.  The appreciation for it all can't be understood any other way other than being on the farm.   Tomorrow I am visiting a lavender farm as part of Oregon's Lavender Festival this weekend.  I can't wait.
I encourage you to go visit your local farmer's markets.  It's good for you, the farmers and the environment.  Show yourself and your kids if you have them what a carrot pulled from the ground or a fresh egg really looks like.  I love seeing eggs that are green or bluish with a few pieces of hay stuck to them or a dusting of organic dirt on my greens.  These things make me smile.    Everyday we should find something that makes us smile!!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Marinated Tempeh

Tempeh is one of my favorite things to eat.  I used to be afraid of the stuff.  It looks funny, it smells a little funny and it is fermented????? I did not know what to do with it.  Then I got adventerous and started playing with it.  I really like Fakin Bacon tempeh from Light Life and no it tastes nothing like bacon but it has a great smokey flavor that is fantastic for Reubens or in place of bacon on a BLT. YUM!  I have adapted a blackened tempeh recipe from Ann Gentry's Real Food Daily cookbook that I LOVE!  I have taken it to a potluck and made it for lunch with a friend and it is always a hit.   I don't always go for the blackened effect and this recipe does not give you that. 

 Here is my adapted recipe for marinated tempeh.
I do not actually measure things out so these are rounded your taste is best!
I like Surata brand Organic Original Soy Tempeh.

1/3 cup unrefined coconut oil
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup tamari or shoyu
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbs. paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
fresh tyme to taste
fresh sage to taste (I like a lot of thyme and sage)
less than 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Cut a brick of tempeh into strips.  The above marinade mixture is good for about 12ounces of tempeh. 

Mix these ingredients in a bowl adding the tempeh pieces.  Push the pieces down into the marinade so that they are covered.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate over night turning the tempeh pieces a few times.  Preheat the oven to 350 and either put the tempeh pieces in a baking dish or on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 or so minutes. Enjoy!  Goes well with salads and soups or in a wrap. 

If I want this but have not planned for it I throw it all together (marinade & tempeh pieces) in a baking dish and cook it for 20 minutes turning the tempeh once or twice. 

Friday, June 22, 2012


A post or two ago I shared the story of the past several years of my life and the impact and influence they have had on my life as it is today.  I want to update that because I woke up today with a tremendous feeling of well being, connectedness and feeling like I know who I am and what I need.  I woke up HAPPY and GRATEFUL!  I had a fantastic day yesterday interacting, pretty randomly, with people. People I did not know.  It was great.  I love to talk and yesterday I met a person at the bus stop and another at a coffee shop that also, apparently, like to chat up strangers.  The older guy at the bus stop asked me if I was religious because I said "thank god" twice referring to a specific event.  I told him I was not religious and he looked me right in the eyes and said "Buddhist?" To this I smiled and responded yes actually I do practice  Buddhism.  He said he could tell.  Hmmmm, ok.  I took that as a compliment.  Then at the coffee shop before work I met a young woman who was very interesting.  We spoke about nutrition, one of my favorite topics, cooking, kids and food and our spiritual practices.  I am not to sure how we ended up discussing our practices but it was a lovely conversation.  She is Jewish by choice and we shared a few things that drew us to our practices.  Both of us said the same things...a feeling of connectedness with ourselves, other people and living beings and with whatever the source is inside of us.  I told her a phrase we use that I LOVE and that for me sums it all up beautifully;  "The Buddha in me honors the Buddha in you". 
Then I was off to work.  I have 2 "jobs".  I put the word jobs in quotes because I love doing these jobs.  I work at them, last night I was exhausted, but it is work I enjoy and feel satisfied doing.  I would not have imagined that at almost 40 years old with a college degree I would be doing what I am doing now for the pay I am receiving but, you know what, I love it, it makes me happy and I am learning.  How many people making making bigger bucks can say that about the jobs they go to 5 days a week, 8 or more hours per day????  I enjoy my work, my money, my life.  I do not stress out that it is not enough.  I live accordingly, and very well.  Things do not define me.  I want experiences not stuff.  I am not preaching that I do not long to posses certain material things.  I do and I will get them when I am supposed to.  I will not work for anything other than my well being and the well being of others.  That is what this life is about.   I do believe that when we keep an open mind, open heart and open eyes we do not have to do so much work to be happy and feel taken care of.  An open mind and open heart bring on amazing experiences, some good and some not so much but each with a lesson.  Today I am feeling fulfilled and grateful and I am so amazed to be saying this because in a few weeks it will be the 2 year mark of my husband's passing.  I miss him and think of him everyday, every minute of everyday.  I also realize that it is because of him that I have the life I have now and feel that this life is one I share with him always so I intend to make the most of the time I have left.  I have that written and hanging next to my bedroom door so that I can read that everyday as a reminder.    What makes you happy?  It needs to come from within first.  If you can make yourself smile then you can pass it on to others.  Give yourself and others that gift!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pizza, my way

I have yet to meet a person that does not like pizza.  I love it.  I especially love my pizzas.  They are pretty much the same except for variances in the crusts.  I do not make my own crusts.  I have never had luck making much from scratch that required a dough other than cookies.  So my pizzas are experiments with different things like pita rounds and organic ready made pizza doughs.  I have had great luck with both.  I tend to prefer thin crust so pita rounds are my favorite choice but if I am in a carb craving mood I buy a ready made pizza dough and essentially make, what I consider to be, pizza bread because I can never get it rolled out thin.

Choose your crust
spread with a tomato paste (preferably one with no added sugar like the Whole Foods 365 brand)
Sprinkle a generous amount of Oregano
chop 3-4 cloves garlic and spread them evenly
Slice a small yellow or red onion and lay the rings out (to taste)
crumble black olives(to taste)
Slice one large Roma tomato and lay the slices on top

Preheat your oven.  I like to line a round cookie sheet with natural parchment paper for the baking.  Easy clean up!
Bake per pizza dough instructions or for the pita rounds at 350 for about 15 minutes.
Slice and serve with Extra Virgin Olive Oil drizzled over the entire slice and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes.

I prefer this so much to adding cheese which you can do but give it a shot with the olive oil. 
Artichokes, mushrooms, pineapple, spinach, etc. make great additional toppings.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A new use for those too small jeans

So today I am going to write a nonserious post about something I did.  I have been gifted with many lessons and amazing experiences in the last week or so and I will share some of them but I am still processing and want to be able to collect my thoughts before I type them.  So today's funny is about exercise.  We need to do it to be healthy.  There are many schools of thought on just what this means.  I think it is all individual.  I am the furthest thing from a person dedicated to physical fitness.  I do make the effort to do something at least 30 minutes per day.  That usually means walking in my neighborhood or at a park.  Portland is great because there are many parks and there are hills and slopes everywhere.  Truthfully that last one is my antagonist but I have developed an appriciation for them.  Recently I have expanded out of most of my clothes?????? Beer, bread, coffee and being a female approaching 40 have everything to do with it but as you might guess I am not happy about it and do not want to buy new clothes in a bigger size.  I am determined to fit back into the clothes I wore last summer.  So this morning I jumped and squirmed into a pair of jeans that are a size ot two too small these days but I managed to get them on and buttoned.  I decided to take a walk in my neighborhood in these jeans even though I felt like I was packed into them.  So, off I strode and soon I was headed uphill.  I noticed that these jeans provided a bit of resistance for my thighs and hips and I laughed to myself thinking who needs those exercise bands when we can just pack ourselves into our low rider, 100% cotten jeans that are a size or two too small.  I might look a little frightening on the sidewalk but who cares.  It does take you a little longer to reach your destination though.  Baby Steps, they are the only possibility.
Good luck!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Twist on Waldorf Salad

Here is a great vegan recipe for Waldorf Salad.  It comes from Living Cuisine by Renee Loux Underkoffler.  This is a great dish for potluck's and picnics.   It meets my requirements of easy to prepare and healthy.   Just a reminder that I strongly encourage you to use organic ingredients or at least as much organic as you are able.   As for sweeteners I like all 3 lised in the recipe.  My honey is always raw (farmer's markets usually have some), I only use 100% pure maple syrup grade B because grade B hasn't been as processed and well if it isn't 100% pure maple syrup then it isn't anything more than liquified, crappy sugar.  A little of these goes a long way.  Dates are always great.

3 tbs. sesame tahini
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbs. raw honey, pure maple syrup or 2 pitted soft dates
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. dill
fresh water as needed

In a mini food processor or blender combine the tahini. lemon juice, garlic. oil, vinegar, your choice of sweetener (honey, syrup or dates), dill and sea salt.  Blend until smooth adding water as needed.  I have found that if you uses dates to sweeten this is best made in the mini food processor.  FYI you can pick one up for under $20 at Target.

1 apple, sliced
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 green onions, chopped to the top
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Simply chop your carrots, celery, green onion and apple.  I like to use the kitchen tool that slices and cores the apples and then chop the slices.  Toss these chopped ingredients with the raisins, walnuts and parsley.  Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and mix.  Serve & Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

My Inspiration

I know I have not been keeping up on my blog but I needed some time as I am settling into the new chapter of my life.  I am feeling great and I am ready to share my story with you and how I came my current lifestyle of positive, healthy eating and living.  I definitely have not always eaten well or taken care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually but once I implemented changes and stuck with them my life changed. 
It is not easy for me to share everything that I have been through.  I love talking just ask anybody that knows me but some of these details are painful.  It is through this pain and suffering that I have learned a lot about the woman that I am and am becoming.  These are the lessons that when they happened  seemed like tragic jokes from the source but I no longer see them as such. So, enough prefacing here you go.
In 2000 I was living with my husband then boyfriend & later fiance, Paul, in West Los Angeles.  I went to the beach everyday, loved my job and was working hard to get a promotion into a position that I really wanted.  I received a phone call from my father telling me that my oldest sister, Sue, a single mother, had cancer.  I did not know what to do or think so I went to the beach, stood in the ocean just up to my ankles and stared out to the horizon with tears streaming down my cheeks.  I remember taking a deep breathe of  gloriously, salty air and realizing that there was more to this life than what I knew and what I did know had just been rocked.  I went home and made a few phone calls.  One of them was to Sue.  She was upbeat and reassuring on the phone.  I trusted that because she was a nurse.  From that night on we made sure to speak on the phone at least once a week with the agreement that any changes in her condition warranted a phone call to me by somebody.  It was a strange time because she and I had never really been close.  There was an almost 25 year age difference between us. She had made it clear as I got older that she loved me and was proud of me.  Especially proud of the fact that I finished college, left my hometown and was making a life with a man that I adored and whom adored me.  Paul and I had gotten engaged and I was on track for that promotion.  As Paul and I planned our wedding and I prepared to get that new position at work there was a lot going on with her that I did not know.  Every time we spoke she sounded good, positive and never told me that things with her health were going downhill fast.  In 2000 the wedding plans were coming together, well, mostly the honeymoon plans were coming together.  We wanted a big honeymoon and tiny wedding.  My dress was purchased and I got the job.  I was on cloud nine.  The day I was offered the promotion and accepted it I received a call telling me how sick Sue was and that I really had to move back if I wanted to see her alive and that the family needed my help.  I was overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions and I was confused.  What do I do?  Paul came home and took one look at me and asked what was going on.  I did not want to tell him.  I had no idea what he would do when I said I had to move back.  We had both said we would never move back and we meant it.  We loved living in LA.  I did tell him and he held me and shed a few tears himself.  We talked about our options which I did not see any for myself.  After about 30 minutes he looked into my eyes and just said "ok".  So with that the decision was made.  I went to work the next day and had to turn down the promotion and gave my two weeks notice.  We left LA in July 2001 and headed back to our hometown in the midwest.  I was shocked when I saw my sister.  I had no real idea about what to expect but I was not prepared for what I was walking into.  She passed on in September 2001 just two months after we got back in town.  I was grateful for the time I was able to spend with her even though seeing her in the condition she was in will forever be a tragedy inprinted in my mind and heart.  I was grateful when she died.  It felt wrong in some ways to feel that way but it was because she was suffering so much that I was grateful for her freedom and for ours not having to deal with that everyday.  My family was in shock and we did not handle things as well as we could have but we had never dealt with death like this, so close.  I think we did the best we could at the time with what we knew.  In 2002 Paul and I bought a house and got married.  We were desperate to move back to the west coast but it just seemed out of reach for all kinds of reasons, lack of jobs, finances, etc.  We were stuck and trying to figure it all out.  I was still grieving but so happy to be marrying the man I loved dare I say the man of my dreams.  We had given up the wedding ideas and plans we had made to fit the fact that we were back in the midwest.  Everything was different and not as we had planned.  We were not satisfied or comfortable but we were managing or so we thought.  Paul enrolled in school for an IT program.  This did not make sense to me and I was not happy about it.  I asked him why and he told me he had to take care of me and since music was not paying off yet he felt like he had to go back to school.  He hated it, I hated it but he did it and graduated only to never land an IT job.  Some friends packed up and moved to Oregon.  They spoke about it highly and seemed to be doing well there so in 2005 we decided to visit.  LOVE happened that week.  We were like teenagers on an unchaperoned vacation.  We did not want to leave and agreed that it felt like home.  So with that in our hearts we decided we would move there and when we got back to the midwest we told our families and friends that we were moving to Oregon, got a real estate agent and picked a date to put the house on the market.  The month we had chosen became chaotic.  My father ended up in the hospital and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I am a daddy's girl.  My father was my hero.  This was a new nightmare and I had no idea what this meant.  I called our agent and postponed everythinging indefinately.  I was waiting for Paul to crack.  He did not at least not that I am aware of.  To love me meant loving my dad and luckily Paul and he did love each other.  My father's health was in limbo for several months.  I was scared to death for him.  He never seemed to take it seriously which was terrifying and assuring.  Eventually things seemed to level out for my dad and he was back to his over doing it, positive ways.  He was not the type to sit on the porch in a rocking chair and get old.  So we rang up the agent and set another date for February 2007.  I was busy making repairs around the house or having them done and we did a big repair project together which turned out to be fun.  I was getting sick though, a lot.  It was not unusual for me to get sinus infections several times a year.  That became my norm over the years along with headaches.  Headaches all of the time in varying degrees of severity.  I saw doctors and they gave me antibiotics which I hated.  It seemed different this time.  Sinus symptoms, check but the headaches were worse and constant.  So, I went to a few different specialists.  I have a deviated septum contributing to the sinus issues and many allergies too.  I started getting allergy shots weekly and had an open prescription for steroid nasal sprays.  What about the headaches I mean I was downing Tylenol like candy often with no relief.  Migraines, the only plausible diagnosis I thought.  So, I went off to the doctor and he agreed.  I left with a script for migraine meds.  I hated them.  I have never dropped acid but if it was like I imagined and what I had heard the migraine meds had a similar effect on me.  They seemed to help a little though.  In mid February I got one of these headaches and nothing offered relief for two weeks.  I finally had Paul take me to the ER for what I believed was a never ending migraine.  When I was seen that is what I told them and based on my symptoms they agreed.  I received some shot and was out for a few minutes but felt a little better so I was released.  We drove home and I felt sick to my stomach.  I went upstairs to bed.  I was miserable with pain.  I woke up the next morning in the same condition.  That evening we were back in the ER.  I received another shot for migraines and was released.  I remember feeling like I was drunk and ready to pass out in the parking lot.  I just wanted to go home.  The next series of events are what has been told to me as I have no recollection of them.  Paul got me home but thought it was odd that when I was trying to get in the car at the hospital I was reaching for the door handle several inches from the actual door.  I went right upstairs at home, I said to go to the bathroom, and after ten minutes Paul called my name but I did not answer.  He came upstairs to check on me and found me unconscious on the bathroom floor being watched over by our two cats.  He called some of my family and  911.  When the ambulance arrived they did not want to take me because they saw a bottle of Hydrocodone on my nightstand and assumed I had overdosed.  Paul told them to count the pills because I had not taken any of them.  They did take me along and that bottle of pills which were not seen again.  This time in the ER I went into convulsions and remained unconscious.  A scan of my brain was done and it showed a mass.  My family and friends were in the waiting room.  They were told that there was a mass in my brain and they did not know what it was yet.  It turned out to be a rare bacterial brain abscess.  There was no time to wait for the culture to return, surgery had to be performed to keep me alive.  And with that I had brain surgery.  It went well.  I was unconscious for days.  I will let you in on a fact about that.  An unconscious person can hear the things you say.  I do remember my friends talking about a little,furry animal from Africa and I knew they were talking about merekats so I blurted that word out but was still unconscious.  I guess they were not to freaked out because I was playing thumb wars with Paul too.  Anyway, I woke up several days later and the first things I saw were the bars of the hospital bed and through them my parents, Paul's mom and a few other family members.  I remember thinking where the hell am I and why are they all here staring at me.  I asked what was going on and was asked what was the last thing I remembered?  I was told what went on but it did not register.  I did not understand.  I saw mouths moving and heard sounds but it didn't make sense so I just laid there in the hospital bed.  I had no energy at all.  My body just felt heavy.  I just wanted Paul.  As the days passed people would come see me but I still did not understand what had happened or what was going on.  Paul always had a smile on his face and acted like it was all ok so I went with that.  The day finally arrived when I was a little more with it and I wanted to comb my hair.  I grabbed for the comb on the nightstand and realized that something was really wrong with my left side but I got it with my right hand.  I started combing my hair on the right side and a nurse walked in and scared the crap out of me by yelling at me to stop combing my hair.  She looked at me and told me that I was not able to do that.  I was totally confused.  She saw that and she said "you do not know what has happened to you do you?"  "No, I don't.  I would like someone to explain it."  She told me to put my right hand up to the the front right side of my head and asked me what I felt.  My hair was gone and there was something rough.  She told me that I had brain surgery and could not touch my head and then called for the doctor.  After several docs stopped in to talk to me I kinda got the picture.  I had brain surgery to remove an abscess, whatever that was, and it was deep in the brain so while the surgery was a success I would have stroke like symptoms that might not get better.  This meant no control of the left side of my body especially in my hand and foot and face.  Nerve damage causing the pins and needles feeling throughout and slurred speech.  Oh, yeah this also meant I could not walk or stand on my own.  What the F***!  I went to physical, occupational and speech therapy in the hospital for about three weeks.  I got stronger.  I was determined.  I had just turned 34 and we had plans to move to Oregon.  This was not going to get in the way.  When Paul was in my room with me I felt this way.  I still do not know how he held it together.  I asked him one day how he knew I was going to be ok and he smiled big and said, "I see it in your eyes everyday".  I believed him.  I did not want to let him down, let us down, so for him I pushed hard through everyday.  It was not easy.  It was extremely frustrating especially relearning to walk.  I was in the hospital for one month before I was released.  I suffered several set backs while I was there but my husband keep me believing that it was going to be ok.  We had to cancel putting the house up for sale, again.  I felt so guilty.  I had months and months of all three therapies as well as IV antibiotics and several other drugs, 41 in all.  I required assistance with everything.  Paul had to be a caregiver.  My young, talented husband was forced to take care of his wife as I were an old, disabled woman.  I felt such guilt and depression.  He never said or did anything to ignite these feelings, quite the opposite.  He was my husband and he was doing his job.  He was taking care of me and doing an amazing job.  It was not smooth sailing for, well, years but I did eventually recover.  I still deal with some "small" issues but nothing I can't manage.  So, as I am getting better something starts going on with Paul.  He had gained a significant amount of weight, we both had, after moving back to the midwest.  He was stressed at work, home too, even though he never said that, and he was having unbelievable back pain all of the time. A few other things started going wrong that were not things he had ever dealt with.  Then the day came when he was in unbearable pain.  So much so that he was crying.  This scared me because I had not really seen him cry like that before.  I took him to the ER.  Kidney stones were found but so was something else and we would need to follow up with our primary doc about it on Monday.  The appointment was already made.  I understood that this was serious.  The scans revealed lesions on the liver.  Paul was in so much pain that I do not think he really understood what was being presented.  Interestingly in the month or two leading up to this Paul had started doing power yoga again, being more physically active and eating a little less junk food.  He lost about 40 pounds.  He was pretty proud.   He passed the stone that weekend and we went to see our primary doctor Monday.  The lesions were suspicious and coupled with the back pain and recent weight loss it did not look good.  We had an appointment with a doctor upstairs.  I lost my breathe hearing that because I knew what offices were up there.  Oncology offices.  Paul had no idea and I knew that so I asked our doctor, a man I was very comfortable with, if these lesions could be tumors.  He took a breathe, straightened up and said it was very possible and that is why he was referring us to another doctor.  I looked at Paul and saw no reaction.  I think he was in shock.  We left his office and got on the elevator to go upstairs.  As the doors opened and the word Cancer was in front of us on the wall I wanted to throw up and Paul squeezed my hand, stopped and said "Keri, do I have cancer"?  I tried with every molecule in my body not cry at that moment and looked at him and said "I don't know".
Yes, he did have cancer and the liver tumors were not primaries meaning that the cancer had already spread from its' original site.  This was bad.  The next several weeks were chaotic with scans, biopsies, tests of all kinds in an attempted to locate the primary source of the cancer.  The oncologist during this time was cold.  She offered not one glimmer of hope or compassion. This was not the person we required.  We did get the final diagnosis and her prognosis.  It was stage IV adenocarcinoma of the pancreas with multiple mets to the liver.  He was given three to six months to live.  This prognosis was not communicated to him but handed to me as a computer printout by a nurse while I waited for him to get a blood draw.  I stuffed it in my purse and hid it at home.  I was not going to tell him that.  I did not want that in his mind.  We had a lot of work to do and he had to be strong and courageous.  We spent the next few weeks deciding our next steps.  Number one, get a new oncologist and a Naturopath.  Number two, change everything about how we eat and our lifestyle.  For perspective we ate out just about every night.  Neither of us ate breakfast.  Red Bull was his breakfast and a 32 ounce soda was mine.  Lunch was some kind of local fast food place or leftovers from dinner out the night before.  I did not know how to cook really. I joked that a kitchen was a waste of space in my home and that it did not matter what it was like.  I would later regret those words and thoughts.  I could make Mac n' Cheese with peas and tuna for him.  I was a vegetarian, an uneducated junk food vegetarian.  I also made pasta but that was it.  Fresh veggies and fruit, sometimes, all usually conventional because organic was  too expensive.  We drank, alot.  We loved our beer.  Paul more than me but I definitely held my own at the bar.   However, since my illness I had not had a drink.     Mentally we had lots to deal with.  Paul jumped into this right away and started confronting his demons.  He did it so remarkably that I almost did not know him.  He calmed down, was not as angry which was a side of himself that only a few people were aware existed, he was positive about everything.  He started taking T'ai Chi, Qi Gong and even  writing and painting classes with me.  We both got published from that class and our paintings are hanging in my apartment.  He began working on on his solo music project.  The one he never had time for previously.  He finished it in 2008 while in treatment.    We gave up excuses why not, said affirmations, found a spiritual path in the Zen Buddhist teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn and I learned to cook and shop for real, whole, organic foods.  We received a huge nutrition education and we experienced life changing/saving results.  We traveled, started skateboarding (me not so well), living our lives as we saw fit for us and being happier than ever.  Cancer sucks but you can change it.  It is just like with normal life; it is up to you, your responsibility.  You can follow the stereotype or you can say screw that and make your own template.  That is what we did and I am grateful every day that I open my eyes for the experiences that I have had because they have set me on my path and shown me my purpose.  They have put me in touch with myself and with the beauty of life even through suffering. 
In 2009 my father, Paul's maternal gandpa and a good friend of mine passed on and on July 7, 2010 Paul joined them.  It has been almost two years since he died and it stings just as much now as it did a year ago but my life is good.  He is free.  All of them are.  Their energies have been reborn as they completed the circle of life in the physical world. 
I could easily sink but that honors nobody including myself.  I share my story as one of inspiration.  You are stronger than you know.  It is true that you never know what tomorrow will bring so live fully today.  Take care of yourself, no excuses. When you fall push yourself back up.  Love deeply, Live like you mean it and damn it enjoy yourself!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Everyday Dharma

This week the Dharma talk we had at Sangha (the Buddhist community gathering one practices with) basically taught that we do not need to look to attain beauty, enlightenment, happiness, etc. because we already have these things.  We need to see them within ourselves and stop looking outward for what already exists inward.  I have heard these teachings before but this week they really spoke to me which tells me that I need to practice with them.  Since Paul died life has seemed like a tornado of sorts.   I have welcomed it many, many times as the distractions I need/needed to survive this physical world without him by my side.  I am moving forward and most days feel great and can honestly say that I am happy..most days but not all days.  The moments come and they hit hard.
I had one on my walk this morning.  Something triggered my memory into a bunch of things revolving around his last few months of life as we know it.  I was going over details and beating myself up for not recognizing certain physical things that seem so obvious if I look at a photo from that time.  How did I not see what was happening?  What was it that allowed us to continue to laugh, take that trip to the cabin, argue about directions and my driving abilities in the car on the way there, take our daily walks, and enjoy life while his body was shutting down?  I never lost my positivity that he was going to beat the cancer, we were going to beat it.  I realize now that in so many ways we already had beat it.  Our lives together those last few years were AMAZING!  We were happy despite what was possible because there were two possible outcomes and we were so intently focused on the positive one.  I can say this now, although it is difficult and there are tears streaming as I type, the outcome we got was/is a positive one.  Paul went through all kinds of HELL with cancer.  I did too as his wife who just wanted to fix him and take it all away.  He also WOKE UP to his life and lived it like many songs and poems say, there was no tomorrow.  I feel like we both did.  We were partners.  I am doing my best to live the same way but my partner is not here and that makes it hard.  I know I have what it takes to do it.  I don't know why I know it but as Paul would say "don't question the how".  So, I don't.   Well, I try not too anyway. 
Because of my beliefs I can see the positive in his death most days but not all days, yet.  His energy is free and that is a BEAUTIFUL thing. I was told by an energy healer that I see that he doesn't need me any more.  That was difficult to hear but I needed to hear it.  She also pointed out that I need me.   Yes, I recognize that I do and I recognize what a gift that is to be fully present for myself.  The Buddha teaches that we already have everything we need.  I just need to sit with that as does everyone. We need to see it in ourselves and be the channel for that wisdom.
So on my walk today I felt the need to take a different route and as I walked and the memmories and tears and questioning were getting overwhelming I turned a cornor and written on the sidewalk in green chalk it said "don't forget to be awesome today".  That made me smile and I thanked Paul and the universe for my walk.  It was my Dharma teaching for today

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Raw Chocolate Mousse

Perfect Chocolate Mousse
Living Cuisine by Renee Loux Underkoffler
1/2 cup pitted soft dates
3-4 tbs. maple syrup
1 tbs. cold-pressed coconut butter (optional)
1 1/2 tbs. non-alcohol vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups mashed avocado (about 3 med. avocados)
3/4 cup raw carob powder
4-6 tbs. cocoa powder (or additional carob powder)
Soak dates for 5-10 minutes to soften. Drain soak water and set aside. In a food processor blend the dates, maple syrup, coconut butter & vanilla until smooth. Add a few tbs. of the date soak water to aid in blending. Spoon in the avocado and blend until smooth adding more date soak water as needed. Spoon in the carob & cocoa powder and blend. Serve. It can be frozen to serve as an ice cream like dessert.
The coconut butter is optional but I always add it and I like to use an organic grade B real, pure maple syrup. This is great topped with pureed berries. ENJOY!!
Some of my favorite dessert recipes are from raw foods prep. books.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Eat your Vegetables

OK people I want you to get serious about your health. Spring is in full swing and summer is right around the cornor. Those farmer's markets are calling your names. These are just charming boothes but opportunities to choose fresh, local, seasonal and preferably organic foods. These are all very important to our health as well as to the health of our planet and the lively hood of those hardworking people growing these foods. Fresh picked local veggies and fruits, etc. offer more nutrients than those that were picked several days or weeks or longer ago that have to be trucked in. Same for meats.
I can think of no better way to spend my Saturday morning or whatever day and time than to go to the farmer's market and smell the fresh foods, see them, talk to the farmers, ranchers, etc. and eat. Well, if the market were across the street from the Pacific Ocean that for me would be paradise.
It is recommended that a person with cancer gets at least 5 servings of vegetables per day. I want us all to get that because prevention is key in this disease and all others. Let's not wait until we get sick to eat healthy. That kind of thinking is not a good idea. I know it seems like a pretty tall order to get five servings of veggies a day. I agree to an extent. The easiest way I know how to do this is to make homemade veggie juices. I just made one with carrots, beets, swiss chard and celery. I filled half a mason jar. I might not drink the entire thing today but it will be good tomorrow. The juicing took maybe 10 minutes. Every house should have a juicer. Of course you still want to eat the vegetables but making a few juices each week is a great, nutritious way to get those veggies into your diet. Juices are susceptible to oxidative damage and nutrient loss so making them at home and consuming them ASAP is definitely preferable to buying them in the stores. It is so easy to do and I know a few kids who love to help make them and come up with their own combinations to try. I find that if they get to participate they will at least try it.
I prefer vegetable juices to juices high in fruit. Fruit juices have high concentrations of sugars. Some Veggie juices do too like the one I made today. If you need to add sweetness to a veggie juice try a small green apple. This is what I do for green leafy vegetable juices. However, broccoli stems add sweetness. Cucumbers also cut the bitter in most veggie juices.
There are many types of juicers on the market. The most available and cheapest are centerfuge juicers. These use blades to extract juice and the motors tend to be located in close proximity to these blades allowing the juice to get slightly warmed from the heat the motor generates. Masticated juicers are a bit more of an investment and in my experience are a little more difficult to locate in stores. These juicers use a rotating agar to press the juice from the vegetables or fruit. I prefer this type of juicer. I love my Omega. I started with a Jack LaLane and went to a Breville but made the leap a few years back to the Omega. It all depends on how much you want to commit to doing this.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

New Beginnings

Tomorrow is Easter and to me that represents a sense of newness and starting over. Today, a dear friend whom is experiencing some life altering things asked me how I was feeling. It touched me deeply that she would ask but it did not surprise me. She and I are pretty connected.
It was interesting because today I experienced many things. I woke up to a bright blue, cloudless sky in Oregon. I had my Saturday breakfast at the farmer's market, one of my favorite things. I took a long walk and I listened to the last music cd my husband Paul bought for me. Then I took a deep breath and cried. It has been almost two years since he passed and my life got turned upside down and inside out. I am dealing with my new life the best why I can. I feel pretty happy and positive with everything right now. Honestly, most days I have no idea what I am doing. I find that this is ok because if I allow myself to trust in the fact that I am not in control and do not have to be because something/someone else is guiding me it all works out. Paul used to say "don't question the how" when I doubted something or did not understand how we could achieve something. I am living my life following his words and it is working. It is so hard to believe he has been physically gone for this long and that I haven't seen him in almost two years but everyday that becomes more and more real. My widow support group says the second year is the toughest because their being gone is reality as is the fact that we are moving forward in life without them. I feel this so deeply. Sometimes it is a stronger feeling than others. An example is that today I was reading my Nutrition sciences book for homework. As my head was about to explode with science I closed the book and thought how ironic it was that I, the one with a BA in English, was living in Portland now and studying to be a Holistic Nutritionist. The irony is that Paul was amazing with the sciences and math. He was a creative musician but he had a gift for the sciences. We both wanted to move here and make Portland our home and I have made mine, just me. I thought about that and said to myself it is about me now, this is what I am supposed to be doing and I am doing it. I am not to sure how but I am not questioning it. We survived my brain illness, we dealt with cancer amazingly and I am doing my best to deal with Paul's death and my new life. I am not questioning the how and I am trying hard to enjoy and make the most of the time I have left. I will celebrate new beginnings tomorrow. There might be a few tears shed but there will also be a smile on my face.
We all get lemons in life and it is up to us to make them into lemonade. My Buddhist practice teaches that we already have everything we need so own those lemons, let go of the idea of being in control, trust or have faith and make your lemonade. Happy Easter!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Today I am having a HUGE Ahha moment. For about a week I have not felt well physically. It has not been the usual and obvious winter flu kind of not feeling well but something different. Something deeper if that makes any sense. For a few days I thought I had it figured out, food sensitivities and detoxing. I still believe that these things are playing a role as I have been seriously playing around with my diet but they are not working alone. Emotionally I have been feeling all over the board and overwhelmed. HELLO, Miss studying Holistic nutrition and just now putting those things together. Sometimes it takes time to get into the practice especially on one's self. So I gave myself a good talking too and asked for all of the emotions associated with the overwhelming situations to come forward so I could acknowledge and release them. Talk about turning on the waterworks and feeling the need to throw up. It makes perfect sense. As I am trying to purge strong held emotions and memories I am manifesting that process physically and it is not pleasant. An example is that if I feel physically sick or have physical symptoms I turn them into a life threatening illness. A headache does not represent brain surgery and fatigue and digestive issues do not always mean cancer. You see in my past I had consistent, life disrupting headaches for a period of time that ended up being the result of a brain abscess. I had to have brain surgery and was the recipient of some lovely side effects. I almost did not make it and it was possible that I would not be a functioning person I was later told. This experience was a living nightmare but I am alive and a very functional person today. My late husband had backaches and weight gain followed by rapid weight loss. It turned out to be a stage IV cancer. Huh?!! Both situations were scary as hell and life changing in both good and bad ways. It is understandable why I associate not feeling well with serious illness but I have to retrain my brain that this is not always the case.
Our emotions do not just go away. Many times we stuff them away or ignore them as a way of dealing with them. But, where is away and since when did ignoring something do anything but allow it to continue or get out of control? I am not professing to be a great guru of emotional release by any stretch of the imagination. I am working on practicing it seriously though. I learned about it a few years ago through the books of Louise Hay and Dr. Bernie Segal as well as through Quantum Touch therapy. I recently rediscovered it after a long over due session of energy healing. This might all sound very woo woo but let's put some perspective on it. It is a very well documented and accepted fact that stress can cause and is a definite factor in many illnesses and we know that stress is an emotional response that triggers physiological actions. Our emotional and spiritual selves are very real and need to be given as much attention as our physical self. They are not different. They are parts of the whole which is us as human beings. Our well being is not just referring to our physical self. It requires the physical, emotional and spiritual in order to be complete. We require the health of these three aspects of our being in order to be healthy human beings. I am not going to assure you that to cure your headache, backache, etc. you need need to get right with yourself on an emotional and spiritual level but I am going to invite you to give that an honest try. It is not pleasant to bring up painful emotions or overwhelming questions about life but doing so allows you to acknowledge that at one time they were real, at one time, not necessarily now so holding on to them is not of any benefit to you. This is a process worth trying. A great resource I have found in emotional release is The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin.
So next time you get some time to yourself and decide to treat yourself to a spa day or a massage throw in some time for some emotional pampering as well and know that you are truly doing your body good.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Easy dinner

Here is an easy dinner for anyone to prepare. You will need a food processor but other than that these are easy, fuss-free recipes that will impress. They are also mostly gluten free. I will provide you with a completely gluten free option.

Leafy avocado rice paper rolls

1 package of rice paper, follow package directions for use
1-2 avocado depending on how many rolls you want to make, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced very thin, a mandolin slicer works best
2-4 carrots depending on how many rolls you want to make
3-4 leaves of green leafy or romaine lettuce cut into strips

lay your soaked rice paper out flat and position your avocado and then the rest of the veggies tightly in a row and roll following the directions on the package
It is a great option to get your veggies off of the salad bar (I like Whole Foods salad bar b/c it is mostly organic and labels everything so you will know). This way they are already cut and shredded for you but you will have to do the avocado yourself. I would add green cabbage if you chose to go this route.

Mock Peanut dipping sauce - from Raw Food Made easy by Jennifer Cornbleet

1/2 cup raw almond butter
1/4 cup water
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice (slice a lemon and twist the round part of a spoon into the flesh to help extract the juice)
2 tsp. pure grade b maple syrup (grade b is less refined)
2 tsp. tamari
1/2 tsp. crushed garlic (1 clove)
1/4 tsp. grated ginger
cayenne and sea salt to taste

Put all ingredients into the food processor and process until smooth

Toasted Sesame Soba Noodles w/ Baby Broccoli

1 package of Japanese Soba Noodles (real soba noodles are made from buckwheat and that is all. Read the package) Usually there will be 3 separate bundles per package. For 2 two bundles is usually enough
3-5 green onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
5-8 stalks broccoli, chopped including stems (this is to taste) You can use whatever veggies you like
Toasted sesame oil
Crushed red chili pepper flakes
1 tbs. unrefined coconut oil

Follow soba noodle package cooking directions. Add the coconut oil to the cooking water. They usually only need 4 minutes per bundle to cook.
Chop your green onions, garlic and broccoli. Again you can use any veggie you like and getting them already chopped or shredded from the salad bar is always an option to save time and waste if you know you probably will not eat the remainder before they go bad. When the noodles are done and on their serving dish top with veggies, garlic and tamari, sesame oil & pepper flakes to taste. Sliced almonds and avocado go well in this too. I like to sprinkle sesame seeds on top
before serving.

Perfect Chocolate Mousse - from Living Cuisine by Renee Loux Underkoffler

1/2 cup pitted, softened dates (to soften them just soak them in a bowl of water for a 10 minutes)
3-4 tbs. pure grade b maple syrup
1 tbs. cold pressed coconut butter (optional but I think it makes a world of difference to use it)
1 1/2 tbs. non-alcohol vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups mashed avocado (approx. 3 med. avocados)
3/4 cup raw carob powder
4-6 tbs. cocoa powder (or additional carob powder)

Drain the soak water from the dates and set it aside to use later. In the food processor put the coconut butter, dates, maple syrup and vanilla and blend till smooth. Spoon in the avocado and blend till smooth adding some of the date soak water if necessary. Spoon in the carob and cocoa powders until smooth. It will be thick like a mousse. Serve. You can freeze it for an ice cream like dessert too. I serve it with mixed berry puree made from strawberries and raspberries which can be purchased frozen and thawed in the fridge. Puree in the food processor or a blender.

If you need everything to be gluten free try using Coconut Aminos instead of Tamari. All of these ingredients should be easy to find at health food stores like Whole Foods.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Sweet Apple Treat

On Monday nights I go to my friend Linda's for soup dinner before heading off to our Sangha for meditation, dahrma discussions, etc. Soup night is a potluck. Tonight we are having spicy lentil soup. So I thought a nice chutney or compote would go well with dinner and provide a nice sweet balance to the spice. I have not ever made either of these things so I got out my recipe books and started searching. I settled on a compote that I would modify to fit the ingredients I had on hand. It is pretty tasty. It is also pretty high in sugars so if you are avoiding sugars this recipe is not for you.

4 medium Granny Smith apples. cored and chopped
the fresh juice from 2 small Meyer lemons
2 tbsp. real grade B Maple Syrup
1 tsp. raw honey
1/2 cup currents
cinnamon to taste ( I used about 1 1/2 tsp.)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and set the burner to medium heat. Stir often. Cook for about 15 minutes or until apples are soft and the liquid level raises a bit. As always, as Rebecca Katz tells us, do a taste test and adjust according to your taste.