Archive for the ‘heatlh’ Category

Silverswords and Moonlight

January 23, 2019

I’ve been back from Maui for almost two weeks now.  My last blog post had a slideshow that didn’t post properly in everyone’s inbox.  Some got it, some didn’t!  The mysterious glitch produced an advertisement for skin tags!  What a disaster!  I will try to include the slideshow again at the end of this blog post. If instead of tropical paradise, you see an advertisement for skin tags, moles, warts, or men’s underwear, simply ignore.

One of the aspects I love about writing is that blogging and/or writing is a learning experience for me.  When I see unusual flora, for example, I can do a little research and share what I learn with you, my readers!  Below are four learning encounters I experienced in Maui.

SILVERSWORD

Haleakala Silversword (or ‘ahinahina as is their Hawaiian name) is an endemic plant.  It is found nowhere else in the world other than on the slopes of Haleakala on Maui.  It grows on volcanic soil and puts out a strong taproot so it can withstand high winds. The panel at the Halekala National Park had this to say about it:

Despite harsh conditions, ‘ahinahina can live up to fifty years. It flowers only once in a lifetime, then dies.  Its seeds, as many as 50,000 in a single flower stalk, dry out and are dispersed by the wind.

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The Haleakala Silversword relies on the native yellow-faced bee for cross pollination.  Alien yellow jackets and Argentine ants are preying on the pollinators, threatening the long-term survival of the ‘ahinahina.

The information panel at the park listed the exotic and gorgeous silversword as an “endangered” plant, but on line I read that the plant is “vulnerable”.  There is a world of difference between “endangered” and “vulnerable” when referring to the continuing existence of a plant or animal species. I hope what I read on line is true and that the information panel at Haleakala Crater is in need of being updated! Either way, there is a risk of losing this plant forever. If protected, I hope this plant can make a strong comeback and survive!

Apparently, once upon a time, Haleakala’s volcanic mountain sides were covered in silverswords.  A long ago traveler to the Haleakala Crater, Isabella Bird, wrote the following stunning-but-simple description of what she saw in 1890:

We came upon thousands of silverswords, their cold, frosted silver gleam making the hillside look like winter or moonlight.

This is from an information panel from Haleakala National Park:

‘Ahinahina is believed to have evolved from a California tarweed that arrived here (Maui) millions of years ago, perhaps hitchhiking on a bird.

When I think back on my experience of Haleakala, I still see the glimmer of the silverswords, its succulent spikes shining like pieces of aluminum foil reflecting sunlight.

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PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVERS

BIRDS!!  With the Hawaiian Islands being the most isolated land in the world, the closest neighboring land mass being 2467 miles away in California, it is astonishing to think that Pacific Golden Plovers fly past California, all the way to Alaska. In fact, Pacific Golden Plovers make an annual migration back and forth from Hawaii to Alaska.  That is a nonstop bird flight of 2,982.5 miles one way! I am clueless as to how the Pacific Golden Plover can make such a migration without stopping to rest, eat, or drink.  I kept thinking about them while on the flight back to Seattle.

Plovers are ideal subjects for this kind of research because they return to the same wintering territories every year, so scientists know exactly where to go to find a particular individual. “They’re so strongly site-faithful that we can predict where they will be with almost 100 per cent accuracy,” explains Johnson. “If they’re alive, it’s almost certain they will come back to the same place.”

On their spring flight northwards, the birds averaged 63 kilometers per hour and covered around 4800 kilometers in about three days. They made the return trip in around four days.

Plovers are well-known as fast flyers, and in this study some birds reached incredible speeds, presumably with the wind behind them – for example, the ground speeds of three individuals ranged from 167 to an exceptional 185 kilometers per hour.

A few facts about these Super-Birds:
  • The Pacific Golden Plover eats molluscs, insects, worms, crustaceans, lizards and is known to eat birds‘ eggs and small fish.
  • Breeding: The Pacific Golden Plover breeds in Alaska in June and July. The breeding habitat of Pacific golden plover is the Arctic tundra from northernmost Asia into western Alaska.
  • It nests on the ground in a dry open area.
  • A beautiful shorebird, the Pacific Golden-Plover breeds in western Alaska and Siberia and winters on islands across the Pacific Ocean, through southeast Asia, to northeastern Africa. It is uncommon in North America and is found breeding in Alaska and migrating/wintering in small numbers along the Pacific Coast.

EDDIE PU

Next I have the story of a native Hawaiian from Maui called Eddie Pu.  He was a legend on Maui and he often said of himself,  “I’m just a simple Hawaiian.”  This made me think of the Dalai Lama, who says in a similar fashion, “I am just a simple monk.”  Simple, but extraordinary!

“I wake each morning before sunrise and meditate to thank the land, to thank my ancestors for what they have given us.” -Eddie Pu

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(above: Jack on the Eddie Pu Trail)

I first learned who Eddie Pu was as we walked along a portion of the Eddie Pu Trail.  He was a park ranger, lifeguard for over twenty years, a man who meditated every morning and connected to the land and to his ancestors. It is said that when he was young, he had a dream in which his ancestors came to him and asked him to walk the ancient sacred trail that circumnavigates the island of Maui.  This trail is 211 miles long. It is the original shoreline trail used by the ancient people of Maui. It is overgrown and winds around the coast and is also known as the King’s Trail or the King’s Highway.  I was very impressed to hear that Kelley met him once and her parents knew him.  Eddie Pu passed away or, more aptly put, returned to his ancestors in 2012.

Eddie Pu was a legend, and earned the nickname, The Walking Man of Maui.

He was hired in 1972 as one of the first park rangers at ‘Ohe‘o Gulch, a series of pools and falls now part of Haleakala National Park. Over the years, he saved many lives, including those of the Saudi ambassador and his wife and son, who were swept out to sea. Pu dove into the waves and rescued them one by one, though he ended up in the hospital for several days. Later, the “simple Hawaiian” was flown to Washington to be thanked in person by President Ford. In the decades Pu stood guard at ‘Ohe‘o Gulch, where flash floods in the mountains catch seaside bathers unawares, no one drowned. Since he retired, seven people have died.

Imagine Eddie Pu walking on the strenuous trails in the hot sun, passing coves, black beaches, and sharp lava formations on his solo annual pilgrimage. I imagine him communing with the off-shore humpback whales and sea turtles from the trail.  I wonder what kind of shoes he wore?  And how did he survive the 211 mile solo annual spiritual trek with just a bag of dried fruit?  Where did he sleep? I wonder if locals took him in for the night? What an honor it would be to open up one’s home to this living link of the ancient Hawaiian culture.

Pu always walks the nearly 200 miles alone. “A spiritual walk to heal my soul,” he explains, and his secret route changes from year to year.

I really like the following camera story:

Pu has come across sacred ruins and even human remains. “I bring no camera, draw no map—these things must be left there and not disturbed,” he says. He tells a story about how on his first two trips, all the film he shot came out black. After the second trip, he dreamed he must go to the island of Moloka‘i. A young girl met him at the airport and said, “You follow me. My great-grandmother is waiting for you.” They came to a home where an old woman sat on a porch chair, rocking and laughing.

“Eddie Pu, you should throw away your camera,” the old woman said, still roaring in mirth. “Your film will never come out. Your mind, that is where you must store pictures, so our ancestors will not be disturbed.”

The following was written about Eddie Pu in 2005, when he was still alive. I was not surprised when I found out that Mr. Pu and I share the same birthday:

It is hard to guess Eddie Pu’s age. His long gray hair is pulled neatly back and kept in place by a ti-leaf headband to ward off headaches. In a few weeks, he tells me, he would set off with a towel, a walking stick, and a bag of dried fruit to do what he has done nearly every birthday for more than 25 years: Walk around Maui. On November 25, he turned 75.

SEA BURIAL

After a long walk one morning, we saw two long traditional Hawaiian canoes out at sea, moving quickly in tandem towards the beach. The canoes were decorated with large green leaves.  The rowers, both men and women, wore traditional sarongs and had wreaths wrapped around their heads. As they made their way from the sea towards the sandy beach, a large group of locals had gathered to welcome the rowers.

When we arrived at the site where they had pulled ashore, I introduced myself to one of the rowers and asked him as politely as I could about the ceremony taking place.  He was so kind.  He shook my hand and explained that a dear friend had “gone back to her ancestors” and that this was a traditional Hawaiian sea burial.  My guess would be that the deceased was a Harley rider because most people gathered on the beach wore their Harley leathers and chaps.  There were children standing near their parents and people were holding hands and hugging, comforting one another.  I fear that Stacey, for that was the name of the deceased woman, was most likely a young or middle aged woman who lost her life in a motorcycle accident.

Then the chanting started.  The leader would say a stanza of prayer in Hawaiian, ending the prayer stanza with Hui Hou Stacey.  When he said Hui Hou Stacey, the group of grievers would say it aloud in unison with the prayer leader.  It was so beautiful.  And like magic, calling out Hui Hou Stacey seemed to calm the masses.  I later learned that A Hui Hou means “Until We Meet Again”.

Until we meet again, Stacey.

I refused to take photos.  All the tourists on the beach gathered around the grievers and were clicking away.  I am sure it would have been fine to take a photo or two, but I was so moved by the ceremony and I just wanted to pray for this unknown Hawaiian woman whose community of loved ones had so deeply moved my heart.

After the prayers, all the grievers and the traditionally clad rowers carried the two large sea-going canoes out to sea.  I couldn’t believe I was an accidental participant in this sea burial.  I watched transfixed as the Hawaiian pallbearers carried the two canoes out to sea, canoes carrying the ashes of their loved one.  Then the grievers stood in the sea, as the waves lapped up around their legs, they silently watched the canoes swiftly row out to the sea.  Once far from shore, the rowing stopped. The canoes rocked in stillness.  People from ashore solemnly witnessed Stacey’s ashes returning to the sea.  The rower I spoke to at the start of the ceremony had told me, “She loved the sea and she will return to the sea today”.

Read more about Hawaiian sea burials.

VIDEO (3 minutes long)

Below is my three minute video from Maui.  The video is set to a song called Kolonahe, meaning From the Gentle Wind, by the artists Ku’i Lei Awapuhi  (vocals) and  Keola Beamer.  Thanks to Kelley for introducing me to this song! The song carries the rhythm of the island. It’s very soothing. Turn up your speakers!  If all else fails: click here to see the video

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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

Gratitude to Mother Earth

November 22, 2018

Prayer for the Great Family

(after a Mohawk Prayer)

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day–
and to her soil: rich, rare, and sweet

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in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing light-changing leaf
and fine root-hairs; standing still through wind
and rain; their dance is in the flowing spiral grain

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in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and the silent
Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
clear spirit breeze

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
freedoms and ways; who share with us their milk;
self-complete, brave, and aware

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
holding or releasing; streaming through all
our bodies salty seas

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in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through
trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
bears and snakes sleep–he who wakes us–

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in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
who holds billions of stars–and goes yet beyond that–
beyond all powers, and thoughts
and yet is within us–
Grandfather Space.
The Mind is his Wife

so be it.

-Gary Snyder

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A short note about the Mohawk People:

The Mohawk Indians were farming people. Mohawk women planted crops of corn, beans, and squash and harvested wild berries and herbs. Mohawk men hunted for deer and elk and fished in the rivers. Traditional Mohawk foods included cornbread, soups, and stews, which they cooked on stone hearths.

And a short description of Gary Snyder:

Snyder’s writing focuses on environmental concerns and Zen Buddhism. He is an environmental activist who is known for his simple, clear style, as well as his first-person descriptions of his experiences in the natural world. In 1975, his collection Turtle Island was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Gary Snyder is an American man of letters. Perhaps best known as a poet, he is also an essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist. He has been described as the “poet laureate of Deep Ecology“. Snyder is a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the American Book Award.

Lastly, here is a definition of Deep Ecology:

Deep Ecology is a holistic approach to facing world problems that brings together thinking, feeling, spirituality and action. It involves moving beyond the individualism of Western culture towards also seeing ourselves as part of the earth.

Happy Thanksgiving!

There is a place…

June 2, 2018

There is a place….

where magic happens.  It’s not far from Seattle, just a short ferry ride away on Vashon Island. For a few years now, I’ve offered day retreats at what I will call a “secret garden”.  I’m not allowed to say on social media where this place is because it is a private property, but those of you lucky enough to have been at one of my yoga day retreats there will know exactly where it is.

The photos from this blog post are from a yoga day retreat I offered at this site two weeks ago.  I am afraid that this may have been my last retreat offered at this enchanted site as there are some changes taking place on the property.  I am not to talk about the situation.  Just like Jury Duty!  Being cryptic is not my style, but there you have it!

What I can say is that two weeks ago a group of 14 lucky yogis got to breathe in the emerald forest air, see a bit of Indonesia in the Pacific Northwest, walk among ancient stones imported from Asia, eat organic, locally-sourced food infused with love and tenderly prepared by Karen Biondo of La Biondo Farm on Vashon.  Together, we meditated in an ancient temple, shared some beautiful imagery we observed during our stay on the property, images we continue to carry in our hearts, did yoga in an authentic antique Chinese tea merchant’s house, and shared meals and warm conversations.  New friendships blossomed and old friendships deepened.  It’s the kind of gathering every yogi dreams of.

I will always have a deep gratitude and respect for David Smith, who visualized this lush paradise and created this Indonesian-Meets-Pacific Northwest haven at his home on Vashon. David was a delicate gentle soul. When he passed away, he left this precious legacy behind.  The current caretakers of the property have done a marvelous job of keeping this place vibrant and ever more beautiful when I didn’t think that was possible. I can’t believe we have been lucky enough to practice yoga on this property.  I will continue to search out another treasured place to host my next day retreats on Vashon.  Wish me luck and if you have any leads for future Vashon sites, let me know.

Chillin’ before our meditation session inside this temple:

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Summer
Summertime brings joy
The sun warms us outside in
Nature calls us out

Beach Walk
Nature opens eyes
While great blue Herons hunt fish
Water sparkles wet

Poems by Milo Minnis: fellow yoga instructor, yoga day retreat participant, poet, student of Judith Lasater, visionary, beautiful human being

Serene: photo of statue below taken by Skye McNeill (Surface Designer, Illustrator, Photographer, Graphic Designer extraordinaire! visit Skye’s website)

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“As yoga teachers, our job is to mirror back the inherent goodness and inner wisdom of our students. But first, we have to find it in ourselves.”  – Judith Hanson Lasater

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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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lounging

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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paintbrush

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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.

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Dentro L’Etna

May 10, 2018

Sicily Yoga and Hiking Retreat is in full-swing and there is no time to blog…will post these photos of our exhilarating trek up Etna.  Climbing Etna was tough, but we did it!  It is one of those bucket-list activities that we dream of doing.  Yes, we did it!  We were accompanied by our trekking guide, Federico, plus a volcano specialist, the vulcanist Amilcare, and we also invited Darwin to come with us.  At one point, the vulcanist Amilcare shouted, “Siamo DENTRO l’Etna! (We are INSIDE Etna!) and my skin was covered in goosebumps by the very fact of it. I looked around me! There we were inside this great mountain, on the cinder slopes, looking down at Etna’s massive crater.

It was incredible!  It was a high that I have never felt before. Stay tuned for next year’s Sicily Retreats September 2019.  (only one of those weeks will be focused on yoga and hiking and we will be sure to trek Etna!)

Below is our group at the start of our trek up the mountain. We look so fresh and excited in anticipation of our adventure.  At this point, Amilcare explained to us that Etna is a woman, a mother, one who deserves our respect.  He told us that we were about to enter her sacred territory and that we should approach the mountain with reverence for Mother Earth, Etna, Gaia.

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Fantastic Federico of Step Siracusa Trekking and our volcano specialist, Amilcare:

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Dramatic cloud formations:

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Sweeping views:

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Mountain-Man Vulcanist Amilcare:

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Clouds clear so we can see Mt Etna’s peak:L1400879

Dentro Etna:

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Mounds of new growth on Etna’s lava fields:

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One of our Hale and Hearty Yogis:L1400885

Looks like a lunar landscape.  We practically floated and flew down these ashen slopes, boots full of ash.L1400897

Rick, my Mountain-Man:

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Us, the little specks on the mountain:

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Storm (Hice Storm)

April 10, 2018

It was a stormy blustery weekend at the coast, tempestuous, complete with sideways ice-cold rain and hailstones. Rick’s impromptu spoonerism created a great new word, a noun, an appropriate description of what was falling from the sky: “hice”, a mixture of hail and ice. And the new word stuck just as the hail stones were sticking to the deck, the cars, and to all exterior surfaces outside our ocean home. The rain continued to come in angles. The rain came in sheets. The angles changed direction and it was all so unpredictable. Looking out the window at the forest surrounding our house, the scene looked slightly unbearable, very exciting, and utterly chaotic as gusts of wind deeply bent the branches of the swaying trees.

If you love storms, there is no better place to be than in Ocean Shores, Washington.

I had my Women’s Spiritual Group out at the coast last weekend.  We did yoga and meditated. We laughed. We stared into each others eyes (yes, really! and it moved me to tears). We drew and read from a deck of Inspiration Cards and talked about our lives and our dreams. Sometimes, we discovered, our lives and our dreams intersect in beautiful ways. We told stories and read tarot cards. We shared books, wonderful meals, conversations.  We munched on popcorn and stayed warm by the wood stove.

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Carpe Diem! Seize the Day! This was one of the message cards that was randomly picked out of the deck of Inspiration Cards.

And we were inspired. We decided to take action.

“Let’s go out!”

Cabin fever is a type of illness and there is only one cure for it. The cure for cabin fever is to go out into the elements. Never mind if the gusts of wind were coming in at 26-36 miles per hour (strongest gust was clocked in at 56mph), never mind that we could hear the roaring surf from inside the house with all windows shut tight.. going out IS the remedy for cabin fever.

Out we went, braving the storm. We bundled up in our rainproof gear and decided to drive out to the jetty. The roads were isolated. Even the deer and the birds were in hiding.

We were surprised to see a line up of cars, engines idling, dotting the parking area near the jetty. People in the cars sat staring at the enormous waves crashing over the jetty. The jetty parking lot had become an impromptu outdoor drive-in theater, the waves the movie, the popcorn missing!

Parkas, anoraks, rainproof jackets zipped up, hats on, hoods pulled up, ears covered, rubber boots on, gloves and mittens on hands, we fought the winds and walked toward the jetty and onto the beach. Was it really April 7th? As we staggered forward, I wondered what the Pacific Ocean has in common with the word “pacific”. We walked, keeping a safe distance from the sneaker-waves and the blasting waves hitting the jetty. We watched the waves as the people in the cars watched us. I felt as if we had walked into their movie. We walked against the wind, holding on to each other. I felt a rare gratitude for every pound of my weight!

On the way back to the car, we were hit by a force of tiny icy crystal-like hail.  Bling Bling Bling on our faces. A Pelting Facial?  So, there was a silver lining! We laughed at the thought of it.

Tiny crystal-like hail stones pelted our faces. It was an exfoliation, pore-tightening, toning, firming, softening, wrinkle reducing, collagen-building, blood circulating, oxygen increasing,  deep cleansing, detoxifying, muscle-relaxing, lymphatic drainage-inducing, puffiness-around-the-eyes-reducing, complexion clearing, a slowing down of the onset of wrinkles, a cure for a sagging face, a skin cell renewal speed-up process, de-stressing, hydrating, moisturizing, absorption-increasing, nourishing, skin-breathing, rejuvenating Pelting Facial!

We came back to the house, placed our rain soaked clothing in the dryer, put on dry clothing, sat by the blazing wood stove, sipped tea, and marveled at each other’s rosy cheeks and bright youthful faces.  We had fun thinking of all the benefits of the Pelting Facial.  There was a steep price to pay for it, but it was quite worth the adventure.

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P.S. I had fun writing this blog entry.  I hope you had fun reading it.  Pelting Facial: highly recommended, at your risk, of course.

P.S.S. No one would dare take out a cell phone or camera in the storm, so no photos were taken of the storm proper and so no photos of it in this blog post. Descriptions will have to do!

Spicin’ It in Kerala

January 16, 2018

Written yesterday:

Yesterday we went to the Spice Plantation. Our guide was so informative. We walked around and he showed us the various spice plants. He taught us remedies and recipes to make the most of the spice’s healing properties. He also identified birds, which were flying overhead, hanging out in the trees, and singing boisterously. At one point, an elephant strolled by. The elephant was a working elephant and was giving tourists a ride. Our guide explained that Kerala elephants have working rights. Only female elephants (male elephants go into musk and can be dangerous and aggressive) can be employed for tourism and their work hours are limited. In the past, the elephants were used for logging. Today no hard labor is allowed at all.

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Below is what our knowledgeable guide taught us during the spice plantation tour:

PEPPER grows on a vine and is native to Kerala. The vine can grow up any tree. The tiny clusters of pepper corns are green. I learned that red, black, white, and green pepper corns are all from the same vine. If you leave them on the vine long enough, they turn red and various shades. White pepper has the skin removed and tastes very mild. Most of the spiciness of the pepper corn is in the skin.

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One of the most interesting aspects of the pepper plant is that the pollinating agent is rain drops! Vasco da Gama brought the pepper plant back to Portugal with him and became a rich man! In his day, pepper was knows as Black Gold!

Cold and Sore Throat Remedy: Place 5-6 pepper corns, dry ginger, and basil leaves in a pot of water. Boil. Strain and add powdered coffee.

GINGER is related to cardamom and turmeric. All three are indigenous to Kerala. The Spice Plantation can easily be organic because, in general, insects do not eat spice plants. The only problem the plantation experiences is with the monkeys. Monkeys like to eat cardamom because it is sweet. They do not eat ginger or turmeric.

NUTMEG grows up high on trees. However, there is no need to climb trees to get the nuts because when they are mature, the nuts fall to the ground. The skin of the nut is red, is called mace, and is used in cooking in India. Nutmeg is the actual nut free of the red skin (mace). Many parts of the nut and tree are used. The shell of the nutmeg is pickled and the leaf is boiled in water and is used to reduce cholesterol.

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In order to grow nutmeg, both male and female plants are needed. Males can live within 3 miles of the female tree and pollination still occurs! The pollinating agent is wind.

Sleeping Remedy: 1 or 2 pinches nutmeg powder with milk. You are advised not to drink this more than 2x per week because too much nutmeg hurts memory power.

Reduce Cholesterol: Boil the leaf of nutmeg in water and drink as a tea. The leaf does not affect memory so you can drink as much of this tea as you like.

CLOVES grow on a tree. Our guide warned us that when you buy cloves, they should be brown and not black. Black indicates that they are dried out and have lost their oils. Clove should be oily. Clove is good for toothaches, but can damage enamel. Clove helps rid the smell of mildew. It has a shelf life of 6-7 years if stored properly. Clove powder only has a shelf life of 6 months.

Protect yourself from mosquitoes: Stick three cloves into a lemon or lime sliced in two and place as many of these clove studded lemons in your room or near your body to chase away mosquitoes.

CINNAMON tree has to be 15 years old before its bark can be peeled. After peeling the bark, it takes the cinnamon tree six months for its bark to grow back. The dried leaves of the cinnamon tree are used in biryani rice.

And yes, the tree smells like cinnamon!

cinnamon tree and bark:

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Cinnamon helps reduce high blood pressure and, when used in the winter, it helps keep you warm.

Below is a recipe/ way to use cinnamon to reduce fat. More than once, we asked our guide to repeat the recipe below…just to make sure we got it right.

Reduce Fat: Add half teaspoon cinnamon and half teaspoon ginger powder to one tablespoon of honey. That’s it. Don’t dilute it. Eat this every morning before breakfast for one month and, according to our spice specialist guide, you will see results in one month.

TURMERIC We also saw turmeric bulbs. The guide called them bulbs, but they looked like tubers to me. It is great for killing bacteria, for memory power, and in Ayurveda medicine, it is used medicinally to treat skin cancer.

Turmeric powder mixed with sandalwood and water, made into a paste and applied to the face is great for skin brightening and evening out irregular skin pigmentation and spots. This mixture also helps clear pimples and blackheads. In both cases, apply it as a facial masque, let it dry, the wash it off.

Fresh turmeric is used medicinally and dried is used as a food and spice. We learned that ginger is the complete opposite Fresh ginger is used for food and spice while dried ginger is used medicinally.

Seeing our great interest in weight loss remedies, our guide gave us the following additional ideas:

  • one or two pieces of 70% dark chocolate eaten daily every morning will help you lose weight ( of course we saw the cacao plant on the plantation).
  • Take a cup of warm water and add black pepper powder plus a few drops of lime or lemon juice. This is great for burning fat.
  • Take 2 or 3 tablespoons of cumin seeds and soak overnight. In the morning, discard the water and eat the soaked seeds. Do this daily for 20 days and you will see results.

We also saw allspice ( it comes from a leaf of the allspice tree), henna leaves used for hand design patterns here in India and hair color. Henna is always red in color though the leaves are green. We saw Indian borage, coffee plants, papaya (great for digestion) and banana trees, pineapple plants and jackfruit trees with their enormous fruit.

The list goes on and on. The variety of spice and fruit grown on the plantation was overwhelming.

The most expensive spice in the world is SAFFRON.

Number Two is VANILLA, the fragrant flower of a vine. Vanilla is native to Madagascar and grows beautifully in Kerala. Its pollinator is the hummingbird.

The world’s third most expensive spice is Kerala’s indigenous CARDAMOM. It needs high altitude and is pollinated by bees. Cardamom is used medicinally for diabetes and it reduces high blood pressure and lowers cholesterol.

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FRAN GALLO | YOGA INSTRUCTOR
SEATTLE | OCEAN SHORES
http://www.frangallo.com

Chiseled Town

January 10, 2018

We have been in Mamallapuram, also known as Mahaballipuram, for the past two heavenly days. With much reluctance we have to move on today. This going to another city brings a slight amount of dread (why must we leave the comfortable known, this elegant seaside hotel, the gentle breeze, the happy flocks of friendly South Indians?). However, moving on also invites an element of excitement because the India experience is one grand surprise after another. Just when we think nothing can surpass a given meal or a given temple or a given historical site, we are served up another unimaginable delight!

By Indian standards Mahaballipuram is a small town with a population of 8000 people. Back in 2001, my first visit here, the town was a quiet gem and, as I walked around, all I could hear was the consistent pleasant clink-clink-clink of stone masons and sculptors chiseling and chipping away at slabs of local granite. The sculptors’s hut-studios lined the streets and the artists magically rendered rock into statues of Ganesha and Shiva. Clearly, it seemed the chiseling artist’s job is to release the trapped bulls, monkeys, tortoises, and deities from the stones.

Today the town is bustling with masses of pilgrims visiting the temples and other holy sites of this town, but it is still charming as ever. Below are photos and descriptions of this wonderful town with its UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Monolithic Stone Temples carved from the existing granite. These 1,400 year old stone-sculpted temples are on the shore and vulnerable to tsunamis and rising sea levels.

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The temple is surrounded by many bulls. The sculpted bulls were all found in the sea and you can see how eroded they are. The details of the faces are missing in these bulls. No one knows how old they are ( they pre-date this 1,400 year-old temple), exactly how many temples have been washed out or taken over by the sea, or what other treasures remain buried at sea.

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Our lively guide for the day, Stalin. Presumably, his parents were communists and gave him this name.

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Arjuna’s Penance below. Here, my fellow Catholic- raised readers, penance refers to “meditation”, a profound meditation Arjuna took on to seek wisdom and answers to difficult questions ( perhaps I can write more in this later). This incredible bas relief is carved into the immense live stone wall.

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Beautiful little girl

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My yoga Challenge continues I’m on day 46! Only 10 more days to go.

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And, always a delight to lead my fellow yogis in yoga practice  yesterday, we had “International Yoga Day”. The lifeguard joined us, as did a French woman and a very lovely Irani-British woman.

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Krishna’s Butterball. Krishna loves butter so this extraordinary rock, sitting seemingly precariously on the side of a steep hill, is named with Krishna in mind. Scientists cannot explain how the boulder got there.

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In Love with Autumn

October 30, 2017

I’ve been taking many walks, marveling at the fall colors and the dazzling sunshine or the morning fog that casts a mood to the day.  I keep thinking to myself this is the best autumn ever, the leaf colors more vibrant than what I’ve seen in the past.  Then, today, I went through autumn photos I have taken this year and from years past.  I have come to the conclusion that every autumn is beautiful even though I want to say this year is the best.

I took the photos below at Green Lake yesterday:

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As I walk around admiring the colors of the season, the special slant of the sun’s rays, and the fresh smell in the air, so particular to this time of year, I can’t help thinking about the coming of the shorter, darker days, the long cold nights and days approaching, and the imminent days of endless rain in Seattle.  And so I cling to the drops of sunshine, the cool air that feels so good on my skin, and the richness of the colors of the leaves.

There’s so much beauty as the trees shed their leaves.  I bring out my fall and winter clothing, pull out my sweaters which, once again, look and feel brand new.  The weight of the fabrics and the coziness of a simple scarf wrapped loosely around my neck give me comfort that no other season’s clothing offers.

Below are other favorite autumn photos I have taken, some recent, some from a few years ago. I have also included two poems found on line that speak to the season.

Even if the first photo below has the electric wire in it, I still like how the trees appear torched by the sun.

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I like the images in this rhyming poem:

Autumn’s Majesty

© Patricia L. Cisco

Sun with his artistic touch,
streaks skies of blue with rosy blush,
trimming Oak and Maple too,
crimson reds with yellow hue.

Birch and Hemlock, purple and gold,
apples, pumpkins bright and bold,
burns by day and cools by night,
cloaking trees in fiery might.

Wispy winds and tumbling leaves,
cypress scents within the breeze,
starry eves and harvest moon,
sets the stage for crickets’ tune.

As spiders spin their tapestry
and crickets sing in symphony,
their final song of destiny,
it’s clear for all the world to see,
Autumn’s vibrant majesty!

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Below: “spider’s tapestry”  I took the next three photos by shooting up at the sun through the spider web.
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Yes, selfies:
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Sing To Me, Autumn

© Patricia L. Cisco

Sing to me, Autumn, with the rustle of your leaves.
Breathe on me your spicy scents that flow within your breeze.

Dance with me, Autumn, your waltz that bends the boughs of trees.
Now tell me all the secrets you’ve whispered to the seas.

Sleep with me, Autumn, beneath your starlit skies.
Let your yellow harvest moon shimmer in our eyes.

Kiss me, Autumn, with your enchanting spellbound ways
That changes all you touch into crimson golden days.

Love me, Autumn, and behold this love so true
That I’ll be waiting faithfully each year to be with you.

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