Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Cooking as Therapy

December 11, 2018

In my last blog post, I included some photos of some dishes I made last weekend and I mentioned that cooking is therapy for me.  I think a lot of people can relate to cooking as therapy.  In this blog post, I will include some recipes for you.

Thai Shrimp Coconut Curry

What you should know about this dish is that I made up this recipe. I’ve made enough Thai dishes that I have a feel for which ingredients go well together in a Thai curry dish. I wonder if my friend Joon Joonwong from Bangkok will laugh when he sees my recipe! (He reads my blog!)  Many Thai dishes call for sugar. Instead of sugar, I use roasted sweet potatoes. They give the sweet taste without having to use processed sugar and by roasting them, they don’t completely melt in this dish. Instead, roasting the sweet potatoes gives the potatoes a firm texture.  Plus, sweet potatoes have good nutritional content and are healthy to eat:

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene). They are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. Additionally, they are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus.

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Peel and cube two sweet potatoes. Toss them in olive oil, crushed garlic (about 4 cloves of garlic), salt, and pepper and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about a half an hour or until they are cooked through.

Chop one yellow onion and saute it in coconut oil.  (I made the saute directly in my Le Creuset Cast Iron Pot, pictured above).

Slice one green pepper and add to the mix above and saute it.

Peel and slice about 6-8 large carrots.  When the onion is translucent and the green pepper softened, add carrots to the above mixture.

Meanwhile, add the contents of one can of coconut milk to the onion, pepper and carrot mixture.  The carrots will not yet be cooked through when you add the coconut milk.

Add two-three tablespoons of Green Curry Paste to the saute mixture and the coconut milk (Thai Kitchen brand is the one I used, see photo below). The paste has ginger in it and is very tasty.

When the sweet potatoes are roasted, add them to the mix.  At this time I also add salt and one tablespoon of sambal (use more if you like spicy!). Sambal is a Thai pepper paste which I buy in Pike Place Market, but is available at most stores in the Seattle area. The one I use is Huy Fong Foods Sambal Oelek Fresh Ground Chili Paste. It comes in an 8 oz bottle.

Add the juice of one lime.

Simmer the curry. Stir it often.  When the carrots are cooked (or soft), add shrimp. Use fresh shrimp or, if frozen, defrost first.  How much shrimp did I put in?  A lot!  At least 12-14 large shrimp. They were not in their shells, but still had tails on. Cook the shrimp 3 to 4 minutes. Doesn’t take long. Don’t over cook. Cooking time depends on the size of the shrimp.

Serve with brown Thai rice.

Vasiliki’s Greek Salad

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Lucky me! My friend Vasiliki has had me over for lunch a few times recently.  “Let me just put together a salad.” And voila, she puts together a salad so good that I have to reproduce it, again and again.  “Oh, it’s so easy. Everyone makes salads like this, don’t they?” She actually thinks everyone makes salads this delicious!

Add the following in a bowl (you can decide the amounts of most ingredients).

Feta Cheese (cubed)  You can buy really good feta cheese from Trader Joe’s.  Not sure where Vasiliki gets her feta. I’ll have to ask!

Cherry tomatoes (sliced in half  or Roma tomatoes if you prefer)

Celery (slice about 4-6 stalks very thin).  Don’t be shy. Use a lot of celery!Vasiliki strips the celery of the long threads before slicing them.  This completely alters the texture of the celery, leaving it crunchy but not stringy or hard to chew.

Green Onions/Scallions (5-8 scallions, chopped)

Black Olives (Vasiliki tosses them in whole and you have to spit out the pits as you eat!)

Capers

Garlic (Vasiliki uses garlic salt. I use a little freshly chopped garlic) Warning: Everyone will know you just had Vasiliki’s Greek Salad.

Dress the salad with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and oregano.

Mamma Gallo’s Spinach Balls

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This recipe is one of my favorites and makes a great appetizer! It’s healthy and a great way to eat your greens! I will include my mom’s original recipe and you will also see in my notes below that I have adapted it in many ways.

One of the biggest adaptations is that I only sometimes use spinach. Often, I use all sorts of Power Greens that I grow in my garden: kale, chard, mustard greens, collards are the ones I love most. I harvest the greens, steam them, cool them, squeeze out the excess fluid and replace them with the spinach in the recipe below.

Honestly, who needs polpette/meatballs when you can have these?

20 oz frozen spinach, chopped (Fran’s version: fresh spinach/power greens such as kale, chard, mustard greens, or collards steamed, cooled and squeezed of its excess liquid)
7 oz package of Herb Stuffing Mix (Fran’s version: about two cups of Italian seasoned bread crumbs)
3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 tsp garlic, finely minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 lb butter, melted (Fran’s version: I never use butter. Instead I use olive oil)

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Finely chop the greens. Saute the onions and add the garlic to the saute at the very end. Mix all ingredients together and make into walnut-sized balls.  Note: if mixture is too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If mixture is too dry, add one extra egg. It should be very easy to form firm balls Line a baking dish or cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the walnut-sized balls on the lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 F

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Winter Light

December 8, 2018

Clear skies, scant clouds, crispy cold days, and frosty nights lead me towards the essence of the Winter Solstice.  At the ocean side, under the comfort and warmth of my feather bed, I sleep with the window wide open, while Rick sleeps a fitful stint on the sofa, wracked with the facial nerve pain of shingles. I wake up to the churning of the waves several times during the night, wondering how he is tolerating lu fuocu di sant’Antoniu, the Fire of Saint Anthony, as shingles are called in Sicilian. The cold air and clear skies bring him no relief. I drift back to sleep, somewhat ashamed of my own comfortable and strong body as I dip into my dreams. I dream about my dad. I dream about my maternal grandmother. I dream they are with me, talking to me, giving me advice, guiding me lovingly. My dad stays close to me in my dreams, but my mother does not.  As in real life, my father’s presence looms large in my dreams.  I look into his green eyes, his dark sun-kissed North African-like skin, and I smell the scent of his skin. In my dreams.  I feel peace when he comes to sit beside me. My grandmother cracks me up with her worrisome looks and her fretting over matters that seem trivial to me.  My father’s calming presence overrides her worries.  If only I could make these dreams last forever.

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The sun comes up. The sun casts long winter shadows. I ask Rick to bundle up and go for a walk with me on the beach.  I am a planner. My mind is often at work.  Yoga keeps me present.  Yoga, teaching, meditation, reading, cooking, hiking, and writing all keep me in the present moment. And walking on the beach, a mere 34 degrees Fahrenheit with a stiff wind cutting into my white rain-and-wind-proof coat, shoves me into the present.  The coat makes me look billowy, but the coat keeps me warm, so it doesn’t matter, really.

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We go back home and Rick heads over to the comfort of his new friend, the sofa. He draws the blanket up to his neck and he sleeps fitfully. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome produces pain that is exhausting.  This could linger for six weeks.  A terrible virus that may have affected the hearing in his left ear.  Antibiotics and antivirals are the name of the game. Sleep heals. As he sleeps, I go out into the garden and harvest our healthy greens:  mustard greens, chard, kale, and collards.  I come in the house and I cook up a storm. Cooking is my therapy. The ocean house smells of heaven and ocean. I wonder if Rick dreams of Michelin-starred kitchens as I cook and create divinely tasting foods.

L1410076Below: A delicious Greek salad that my friend Vasiliki makes for me when I have lunch with her. I have memorized how she makes it and I make it now and think of longevity!

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I transform super-greens, fresh from the garden, into vegetables balls.  They are easy to pack for my lunches, easy to plop into the mouth!

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And back in Seattle, yesterday I went for a walk at Green Lake, my own front yard.  Throngs of people were walking, jogging, bundled up, and enjoying the winter light.

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Winter Beauty Berry (above)

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I went out with my Leica and captured a red maple leaf, hanging by a thread, glistening in the sun.

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I am certain my Maple Leaf was the last of its kind on earth.

MONTANA YOGA RETREAT:

Three spaces still open for Montana Walking Lightly Ranch Yoga and Snowshoeing Retreat, February 15-18, 2019 in Whitefish, Montana (fly to Kalispell and our shuttle will pick you up and take you to the ranch.  Shuttle included in the retreat fee. Snowshoes provided.). More INFORMATION

High on Montana

May 31, 2018

Our yoga retreat at Walking Lightly Ranch in Whitefish, Montana was better than I could have ever imagined. The weather was excellent, the ranch and accommodations beautiful, the vast property exquisite, the guided hikes almost perfect (perfect except for the damned surge of voracious mosquitoes on the first day because it had rained the night before our first hike), the optional on-site massages with Michelle Richards therapeutic and deeply relaxing, the yoga studio spacious, fully equipped, and pristine.

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Swings

The guided hikes fell into two groups. The group who chose to do the easier and shorter hike was led by Amanda.  I was not in this group, but had a twinge of regret when I heard that Amanda knows her wildflowers and was able to identify the array of flowers popping up here and there, dotting the landscape.  The second group chose to go on the more challenging hikes, the first hike being a climb to the ridge on the property where the views were breathtaking. My group was led by James on both days. Though he does not do plant identification, he was knowledgeable in other areas: landscape and geology, plus we learned so much about his interesting life. There were only four of us led by James on the first day hike and two of us on the second day.  On the second day’s hike, Zimmie and I selfishly felt it was a treat to have James all to ourselves on the hike!

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Our happy group participants came from Seattle, Vashon, Eugene (OR), Whitefish, and from the District of Columbia environs. We enjoyed nutritious, abundant, delicious vegetarian meals made by our on site chef, Michelle Berry.  One evening after dinner, Michelle, a very talented and knowledgeable nutritionist, plant-based chef, and beautiful mother of three came and sat with us, answering our questions about plant-based nutrition.  We learned so much from her as you will see below.

How much water should we drink per day?

Take your weight, divide it by two and that is the number of ounces you should drink in water per day.  Drinking green drinks or herbal teas do not count as your recommended water intake.  These are seen as medicinal (good), but do not replace your water needs.

Sole Water Link 

Please refer to the link above to read about sole water!  I am going to try it. It is a great way to make sure you are getting essential minerals into your diet.  It helps prevent muscle cramping. All you need is Himalayan Salt and Water to make the mixture.

Name some Protein Rich Plant-Based Foods (this list is not complete):

  • Bee Pollen with Almond Butter
  • Spirolina (add to your smoothie)
  • Sprouts
  • Hemp Seeds

Strategies to Detox/Cleanse:

  • oil pulling using coconut oil (how to and benefits) LINK
  • Body Brushing on skin that is not wet and later oil your skin before your shower  (See technique and how it is done)
  • Michelle mentioned that there are many kinds of detox.  Detox can include “emotional” detox as well as “screen” detox. Screen detox means moving away from your phone or your computer for a few hours or for a whole day at a time.
  • Colonics

Diet for people undergoing chemotherapy (these detox strategies can be used by anyone, even when not undergoing chemo):

  • Include chlorella in your diet (probably in a smoothie)
  • Eats lots of cilantro (sorry to those of you who do not like cilantro)
  • Better yet, if you do the following, it is one of the best ways to support and cleanse your body when undergoing chemo:  Eat Chlorella.  Wait one hour.  After one hour, eat Cilantro.  Do not eat the two together.  Do not change the order.  Wait one hour before eating the cilantro.
  • Eat a super low carb diet and a high vegetable fat diet (ketogenic diet).
  • Follow the detox ideas above.

What are some Calcium Rich Plant-Based Foods (this list is not complete):

  • Figs
  • Tahini
  • Broccoli
  • Garbanzo Beans
  • Green Leafy Vegetables (includes Kale)
  • Almonds

What are some Protein Rich Plant-Based Foods (list is not complete):

  • Edamame (soy beans)
  • Spirulina
  • Peanut Butter and other nut butters
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Spinach
  • Chia Seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chick peas
  • Kidney Beans
  • Black beans
  • Broccoli

Below: one of Michelle’s breakfast skillet dishes:

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Everyone we met on the ranch had a very gentle spirit and I am left to believe that those who are lucky enough to live in such a pure peaceful environment, take on a very grounded, peaceful, gentle, and content demeanor.

One evening before dinner, the manager of Walking Lightly Ranch, Dave, played music for us with his friend Lee. Dave plays guitar and Lee plays cello.  Put the two together and add vocals, lyrics from renown folk singers or lyrics written by Dave or Lee, and you have a delightful impromptu evening of pure joy!  The next day, Lee came to the yoga studio and played cello for one of our yoga sessions.  Wow!!

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We also had an inspirational Shared Reading one evening after dinner. Some of what was shared follows:

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

Rumi

 

Mary Oliver
In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go,
to let it go.

 

The Yoga Exercise by Floyd Skloot

Within a rushing stream of morning light

she stands still as a heron with one soul

held flush against the other inner thigh

and her long arms like bony wings folded

back so that when the motion of a breeze

passes through her body there is a deep

repose at its root and in an eye’s blink

she has become this gently swaying tree

stirring the wind of its breath while linked to ground by the slow flow of energy

that brings her limbs together now in prayer

and blessing for the peace she is finding there.

I already look forward to going back to Walking Lightly Ranch for another long weekend retreat. Not too early to sign up for February 2019.  Just let me know of your interest by commenting below and I’ll be in touch with you.

Feb 15-18, 2019 (3 nights) Yoga + Snow Shoeing (two guides: one for an easier shorter trail and another for more challenging longer trails offered on both days).

and further down the line…

May 22-25, 2020 (3 nights) Yoga + Hiking (just like this past one)

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I came back from Sicily and hit the ground running with teaching my weekly classes, leading the Vashon Yoga Retreat (a blog post yet to come!) and leading the Montana Yoga Retreat, doing workouts geared to get me in shape for a 5k Run for the Ovarian Cancer Fundraiser I am doing for my friend Lynn Fallows and for a duathlon I am doing with my nephew Chuck in Chicago in August (am I insane…a duathlon in August in Chicago??).  AND Jury Duty, on top of it all, these past two days.  I really wanted to be on the case as it appeared to be very interesting, but just got dismissed today.  A much needed quiet restful weekend at Ocean Shores awaits me this coming weekend.

OM SHANTI

Yoga and Hiking in Sicily

May 24, 2018

I will let the slideshow of the Yoga and Hiking in Sicily say it all!  The slideshow is set to the music of Carmen Consoli called Madre Terra, Mother Earth.  Carmen Consoli is from Catania, Sicily and has a soulful voice that is as rich as the Sicilian soil.  Turn up the volume!

I do want to mention that most everywhere we went has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The retreat was a complete success and, though I have been back only 10 days, I miss Sicily terribly.  I miss my group, the caretakers and cooks at the villa, and all the wonderful people I have met via my Sicily journeys.

Not too early to sign up for next year’s yoga retreats in Sicily. Contact me for more information:

Week I September 7-14, 2019 (Yoga + Cultural Outings, includes a visit to a ricotta farm, a day at a cooking school, two fabulous winery visits)

Week II  September 14-21, 2019 (Yoga + Hiking, includes one cooking course and a visit to a winery)

Wrapping Up The South India Tour

January 19, 2018

Already, we have parted ways with our first tour group and yesterday we left South India.  We are now back in smog-filled Delhi.  Most of the members of the North India and Rajasthan Tour arrived yesterday and we met up with most members of the group last night.  It takes a lot of energy to shift gears, but I know how incredible North India and Rajasthan are so I am also excited about these next two weeks.  We will all meet shortly for our first yoga session.  Theme of the first yoga session will be Post-Travel Openings and Grounding.

So before I fully enter this new phase of the overall trip, here are some photos and short comments on the photos to wrap up the South India trip.

We stayed on a houseboat in Aleppi on the backwaters of Kerala. The houseboat overnight stay was a very soothing experience.  It was so relaxing to float on the water and do yoga on the boat.  I had to be very creative with our space for our yoga sessions.  The first yoga session we had on the boat was Yin Yoga and we used the benches to do a form of Legs Up the Wall pose.  And, yes, at one point tea was served, along with banana fritters!  I mean, who does that?  Yin Yoga, Tea, and Banana Fritters on a houseboat in Kerala! We laughed so hard at the very reality of our experience!

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I’ve been eating papaya, watermelon, pineapple, and delicious mini-bananas daily. The fruit is delicious in India!

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Sunset on the backwaters of Kerala:

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Arvind, relaxing on the houseboat:

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We ended our South India tour in Kochi. Kochi (Cochin) is a wonderful city filled with much history. We visited “Jew Town”, an ancient Jewish settlement.  Sephardic Jews seeking refuge from Europe in 1492 were invited to settle here.  The community thrived, but in the late 40s, many left India and went back to live in the homeland in Israel.  Today, only 5 members of the Jewish community exist.  We visited the lovely synagogue, but were not allowed to take photos.

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Kelley with our local Kochi guide, Mary:

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We had an evening at Maria’s cooking school.  We cooked in the late afternoon and then we all had dinner together.  Later her husband, George, sang some Hindi songs for us.  It was lovely to experience their home and Maria’s wealth of knowledge about South Indian cooking. They live in a house that was built by the Portuguese 350 years ago!

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Maria’s hand ground spices and preparations for the many dishes we made together.

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Meal magic done on this one humble shining stove!  Amazing.  Maria offers cooking courses to many groups.  She is truly amazing and we had a wonderful last evening in South India together with her. She’s the real deal.  The Indian experience, whether South or North IS the real deal.

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Onward to North India!

The Chakra Rainbow

July 20, 2017

Last Saturday, MJ Conboy, of MJ’s Plant Smart Kitchen, and I offered an in-city yoga and cooking day retreat at a very modern and elegant condominium in the Belltown area of Seattle.

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The day could not have been more beautiful.  It was a day filled with pure sunshine and a slight breeze.  It was nice to start our gathering at 8:30am.  The casual half hour before the morning yoga session gave participants leisurely time to meet each other and to connect.

The morning yoga session was held out on the terrace.  I took the above photos during the yoga session. As we practiced yoga, I admired the herb garden.  Obviously, it was planted by loving hands.  And as we practiced yoga, we looked out over the trees that line 4th Avenue downtown Seattle.

Chakras were the theme of the day.  The word “chakra” means wheel in Sanskrit.  Ancient yogis felt specific energy vortices along the spine.  They felt this energy moved like a wheel spinning fast, producing energy.

The chakras are energy centers. There are specific yoga postures or categories of poses for each chakra.  I always find it fascinating that a given posture, or physical movement or stance,  can help bring the various energy centers into balance.  Each chakra has its own color, its own element, and an area of spiritual growth associated with it.   The colors of the chakras make a rainbow.

Root Chakra (Muladhara)

  • Red
  • Earth Energy
  • Represents cultivating stability, ability to thrive when one’s foundation is good, focus on shelter and sustenance, connection to earth, nature, and home.  Root chakra asks us to examine and work through our fears.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses that involve balance such as Tree, Eagle, and Half Moon.  Also included are pelvic tilts, bound angle, and child’s pose.

Pelvic Chakra (Svadhisthana)

  • Orange
  • Water Energy
  • Represents physical well-being and learning to honor the body by balancing nutritional needs, sleep, work, and pleasure. This chakra controls our emotional center and how we experience emotions.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses that are hip openers.  I included the following: pigeon, crescent moon, horse pose (stretch version), triangle, wide forward bends, seated forward bends, and uttanasana (forward bend with feet hip distance apart).

Navel or Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)

  • Yellow
  • Fire Energy
  • Represents internal, physical, emotional and spiritual strength. This chakra rules our sense of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem.  As this chakra comes into balance, we learn how to use our strengths in a very positive way.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses to help us grow strong, such as Warrior I, II, and III.  Also included are Horse Pose, Chair Pose, and Archer.  All abdominal strengthening poses are included such as Side Plank (all variations) and Boat Pose.

Heart Chakra (Anahata)

  • Green
  • Air Energy
  • Represents vitality and love, love that nourishes our spirits and this is unconditional and free.  This energy center helps us to become loving, kind, and generous.
  • Postures (Asanas) include all poses that open the chest, lungs, and shoulders.  Arching (backbending) and twists help to move energy into the heart center.

Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)

  • Light Blue or Turquoise
  • Air/Ether (Space) Energy
  • Represents communication, the ability to say what you mean to say, to speak truthfully, to speak one’s own words, to express oneself well.
  • Postures (Asanas) include doing the Shoulderstand Cycle, which includes Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), Plough, (Halasana), and Fish Pose (Matsyasana).

Brow Chakra (Ajna)

  • Indigo
  • Air/Ether (Space) Energy
  • Represents ability to perceive, to tap into one’s wisdom, to be perceptive and intuitive, to be mindful and aware.  The brow chakra helps us to see, know, and understand ourselves and the world we live in.
  • Postures (Asanas) include seated and guided meditative poses such as Shavasana or Seated Meditation.

Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)

  • Violet
  • Ether (or Cosmos) Energy
  • Represents the source of all healing, the highest attainable energy center.  The crown chakra represents tapping into one’s full potential, connecting to the soul’s longing for peace, love, and happiness.
  • Postures (Asanas) include inverted poses.  In a given chakra class, I work the inversions in before the final meditation portion of the session.  Inverted poses include Legs Up The Wall (Viparita karani asana), headstands, shoulderstands, and downward facing dog.

And of course, the food was as colorful as the Rainbow Chakras!  Below is a photo of a Green Glo Drink:

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MJ’s Green Glo Drink was made with the following ingredients:

  • Green Apples
  • Lemon
  • Ginger
  • Parsley
  • Spinach

A few photos from our outdoor terrace session (choice of sunshine or shade for all).

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Lunch included food preparation demo from MJ.  Below is a delicious and colorful Thai spring roll (dipping sauce was made from almond butter):

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And a Creamy (non dairy) Avocado Cucumber Zucchini Soup made in a blender and served at room temperature, topped with dill and pistachios:

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After lunch, we took a fun and brisk walk over to the Olympic Sculpture Park.  We all marveled at how beautiful this park is.  I always feel so proud that we have this fabulous park in Seattle:FullSizeRender 15

Words of wisdom, with love from Fran:

  • Do yoga and take time to sit still in meditation every day.  Even short bursts of yoga and meditation count!
  • Walk and walk some more and enjoy your environment (even in the city there are many green pockets).  Seek out green spaces and breathe in prana-charged air.
  • Include more plant-based foods into your diet.  Explore new greens, new vegetables, new recipes.  Respect your body and eat wholesome, nutritious foods.
  • Take a day of wellness for yourself.  You deserve it!

A photo of MJ and Fran (moi) in front of a Belltown Mural:

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Sicily 2017 Slideshow

May 13, 2017

Was it one week or two?

It was one hundred lifetimes lived in a single day.

Warm sun on my skin

Within days, my skin goes brown, my eyes grow bright.

A gentle breeze floats in from the sea.

I am surrounded by beauty

and smiles.

How will I ever go back home?

This ancient land clings to my feet, tugs at my heart.

I am trapped by an invisible seaweed netting.

Cherry tomatoes burst with flavor. The local markets display mounds of dried wild herbs and mountains of colorful fruits and vegetables, which will taste as beautiful as they look.

Every morning and evening, we practice yoga to the sound of birdsong

and to soft lapping of waves.

The fragrance of the zagara flower is intoxicating.

Orange blossoms perfume the wall-less outdoor yoga studio.

Mt. Etna lets out a steady stream of smoke, steam, and dreams.

Mongibello stands tall, shrouded in purple at sunset, pink at sunrise.

What do you call the blue of the Sicilian sky and sea?

Flamingos, not yet fully pink, are feeding at the marsh.

Are there words to describe such insane raw beauty?

At night, I wonder how my parents ever left?  I wonder if I  carry the scars of their pain?

Quarry stones, hewn perfectly, stand witness to ancient history and warm today’s cat.

With the click of my camera, I capture the wild red poppies growing in a field of yellow daisies and I offer the poppies’ perfection to my lost friend Adriana.

We do yoga in the ruins of the tuna fisheries.

I feel the solidity of ancient stone under my feet, the mass suffering of the giants of the sea, and the beauty of the moment.

I watch my friends, long-time friends and new ones, do yoga on this ancient island. I lead them in a yoga sequence and I feel  Madre Terra’s energy coursing through us all.

Mother Earth and the Sicilian Sun nourish our spirits.

I breathe and I am renewed.

Fran’s website: http://www.frangallo.com

Turn up your speakers and enjoy the slideshow below (about 8 minutes long):

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Alive in Modica

May 3, 2017

Once again…a few of my photos to share from this incredible trip.  I have slowed down in my photo taking.  I can’t compete with Rick, Gail, Monica, and Karen, who all take great photos!  They have a good eye and their cameras are so much nicer than mine is.  Compared to their cameras, my Leica seems to be a child’s toy.  Hopefully, I will get some of their photos from the yoga sessions and some of the group photos we have been taking to share with my readers.

Below: the town of Modica!  We had a cooking lesson with Chef Ninni Radicini at the cooking school, ate a wonderful lunch, and then went walking in the town of Modica with our fabuloso guide and friend, Giorgio Modica of Modica!

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On the way to Modica, I finally got the shot I wanted: fields of wildflowers at their peak of beauty.  Red poppies standout against yellow flowers

On the way to Modica, I finally got the shot I wanted: fields of wildflowers at their peak of beauty. Red poppies standout against yellow flowers

The tomato sauce used in the Pasta alla Norma

The tomato sauce used in the Pasta alla Norma

The base for the caponata..later the eggplant, vinegar, and sugar are added to make a very delicious side dish.

The base for the caponata..later the eggplant, vinegar, and sugar are added to make a very delicious side dish.

Cannoli shells

Cannoli shells

Filled with ricotta and ready to eat!

Filled with ricotta and ready to eat!

Espresso: You cannot get a bad cup of coffee in Sicily!

Perfect Cup of Espresso: You cannot get a bad cup of coffee in Sicily!

Perfect Setting for Yoga Practice

Perfect Setting for Yoga Practice

And Yes, we really do yoga, twice daily!

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Fran back bends over Lisa

Fran back bends over Lisa

Sicily for Adriana

April 27, 2017

I thought to post some of my best photos from the past two days.   This post is dedicated to my friend and co-worker from Seattle Athletic Club, Adriana Allison Brown, 34 years old, married to Aaron Brown and mother of two beautiful little girls.  She passed away two days ago on April 25, was hit by a vehicle as she was walking the crosswalk at Lenora and Western (Seattle) on her way to work at the Seattle Athletic Club as a personal fitness trainer.  I thought of Adriana all day these past two days.  She told me recently that she would like to come to Sicily one day.

I am heartbroken.

Adriana was as bright as the Sicilian Sun.

Adriana was as beautiful as the red poppies below.

Adriana “era buona comu lu pani“, a Sicilian expression which literally translates to Adriana “was as good as bread”  (see explanation below).

 

Yes, I got my poppy photo! Red is the dominant color for the poppies I have been seeing.

Yes, I got my poppy photo! Red is the dominant color for the poppies I have been seeing.

Bread (pane). For my dad, a meal without bread was not a meal at all. The highest compliment you can pay a person in old time Sicily was to say, "Era buonu comu lu pani" = He was as good as bread!

Bread (pane). For my dad, a meal without bread was not a meal at all.  Bread is the staff of life. The highest compliment you can pay a person in old time Sicily was to say of that person, “E buonu (buona) comu lu pani” = He/She is as good as bread!

Old tile detail

Old tile detail

Sweetness: potted geraniums

Sweetness: potted geraniums

Simple delicious ingredients for sauce alla Norma.

Simple delicious ingredients for Pasta alla Norma.

Sicilian Cat. Her name was Meow!

Sicilian Cat. His name was Meow!

Oranges kissed by the sun.

Oranges kissed by the sun.

Cheese at the Siracusa Market

Cheese at the Ortigia Market

One of the pupi (traditional puppet). There is a puppet theater in Ortigia.

And ancient pupi (traditional puppet). There is a puppet theater in Ortigia.

La Campagnia (The Sicilian Countryside)

April 25, 2017

We wake up to birdsong and sunshine.  We wake up to our beautiful villa.  We make jokes about staying here forever.  We breathe and take in the smell of orange blossoms, laurel in bloom, fragrant flowers that smell of jasmine.  We wake up to the great big Ionian Sea.  I do the sea a great injustice if I attempt to describe the water as a deep blue.  It is that and more.  The sky is the same.  Both sky and sea take on different colors at different times of the day.  We cannot take enough photos…of the sea, of the smoking mountain, of the great blue sky, of the food, of the sunrises and sunsets, of each other.  It seems nearly impossible to capture it all and it seems not to be enough to simply stand still and take it all in.  But, we do that too: we stand still, breathe in the Sicilian air, draw in the Sicilian sunlight, and open our hearts to this experience.

our villa

our villa

Yesterday we had two beautiful outdoor yoga sessions.  We worked on elongation of the spine and on creating space.  And then we discovered, in our yoga sessions, how lovely the lettini (pool chairs) are.   You will see below how comfortable it is to do our ending meditation with legs up the chair, a form of viparita karani (legs up the wall pose) along the poolside.  Everyone in the yoga group is relaxed, happy, peaceful.

Legs up the chair pose, shavasana Sicilian-style

Legs up the chair pose, shavasana Sicilian-style  (Woody and John!)

Hello Nora!

Hello Nora!

We drove to the countryside, passing the most beautiful green terraced fields, orange and lemon orchards, vineyards, and olive groves. Fields and fields of wildflowers grow brightly in the springtime in Sicily.  We passed cows, sheep, stone houses, and bright red poppies and purple thistles growing amid dainty yellow carpets of flowers I cannot name.

Wild Poppy

Wild Poppy

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Thistles

Thistles

And then a visit to an organic ricotta farm.  Yes, the real deal.  We were greeted by Maria, the ricotta and cheese maker, her sister Giovanna, and Maria’s husband, Nino.  Their walls were filled with photos of their four daughters and their families, of their daughter’s wedding photos.  We watched Maria make the ricotta.  It was amazing!  They cooked so much homemade food for us. We felt like stuffed birds at the end of the visit. They served us their homemade wine, their country bread (and they also had gluten-free and dairy-free to suit some dietary needs in our group), their homemade pasta and sauce, their various cheese made from their ten cows, their prosciutto (yes, we saw the little piglets oinking around), and so much more.

Maria makes the "tuma" for the various cheese.

Maria makes the “tuma” for the various cheese.

The cow's milk is boiling to make ricotta cheese

The cow’s milk is boiling to make ricotta cheese

Ginger helps with the stirring (we later did a "Stir the Ricotta Asana"

Ginger helps with the stirring (we later did a “Stir the Ricotta Asana”

Maria makes all this cheese and it is later sold at local grocery stores to to private clients who come to the house.

Maria makes all this cheese and it is later sold at local grocery stores to to private clients who come to the house.

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Nino

Nino

A Tavola!  The feast.

A Tavola! The feast.

When it came time to leave, Maria and Giovanna packed up bags and bags of food for us to take home.  There were 14 of us at the table, but our farmer hosts had cooked enough for the army of the Roman Empire.  They kept bringing out food.  I made the mistake of not telling my group that the first dish set out on the table was just the appetizer, that there was more to come.  Oops!  Rick delighted in having our group experience Sicilian hospitality, country-style, just as my relatives have done for him time and time again.  We now have enough ricotta to last us a month, though it is meant to be eaten right away.  We will share with our caretakers and driver.

Ricotta Farmers Maria and her husband of 45 years, Nino.

Ricotta Farmers Maria and her husband of 45 years, Nino.

Their adorable dog, Chico (sounds like Kee-Koh and means little something small and dear)

Their adorable dog, Chico (sounds like Kee-Koh and means little something small and dear)

At the end of our visit, Maria tenderly gave me a special mystery gift, all wrapped up in butcher paper.  “Here, Francesca.  This is just for you.  A little something made with love from our farm.  Take this home with you to America.”  Later, at the villa, I unwrapped the mystery gift and saw about a large hunk of prosciutto.  The real thing, crudo prosciutto, made from their own pigs, pigs lovingly raised from piglet-hood, fed on figs.  An extremely valuable chunk of meat, cured so perfectly that it can last 1-2 years.  I know the value because I know.  Of course, I will share with the group.  Even though I don’t eat prosciutto, I can still appreciate what it is.  Our unique ricotta experience was truly remarkable.

Our bus/van

Our bus/van

Sicilian Green Bean Salad

Sicilian Green Bean Salad with Capers (served last night at the villa)


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