self-care; well being
and becoming whole
self-care; well being
and becoming whole
Summer officially arrived last week and here in Oregon, it has arrived with true fire- fire of The Sun and fires in the forests. The Pacific Northwest has been hit with a once in a millennium "Heat Dome." With this show of nature's power we humans are certainly being put in our place. In this fiery time it feels like time to reach out and say hello following my long silence.
I hope those of you in The Pacific Northwest are safe in this intense heat wave and staying cool and well-hydrated. I have adjusted my time in nature to either the cool of the morning or late afternoon for dipping in the cold waters of Ashland Creek. I am so grateful for easy access to the shade and cool green of nature, especially in this heat wave.
Hand in hand with the extreme heat, the fires have begun, earlier than ever before, with smoke drifting across the border from Northern California. The presence of planes carrying a large cache of fire retardant on their underbelly are ever present in the sky. There has been ash on my car and on my outdoor furniture this past week. Living in The Rogue Valley, we all understand in real time that climate change is here. We are beginning a very early fire season, still carrying the trauma from The Almeda Fire last September, which on top of Covid, dug pretty deep into the group psyche of our community. I am already feeling the stress rising, feeling this extreme heat and looking out my closed windows at the smoky haze hovering over The Cascade Foothills.
The past 14 months since Covid began, has been quite a wild ride for all of us and the fires here have only exacerbated it. Though I have guided a handful of forest therapy walks in the past year, once we were well into The Pandemic and my work had come to a halt, I began learning much about stopping and slowing way down. It took a pandemic to stop me from the constant figuring of next steps; the doing and the planning. At the same time, I was also forced to change my pace to assist my very elderly parents, who depended on me during lock-down. Though it took time, I came to accept my inability to control what was happening outside of myself.
Now, over a year later, much has changed. We all have changed; our world has changed; I have changed. Amongst the Covid carnage; the fear and the death, this period has also brought many gifts. The biggest for me was the slowing down and the isolation which served as an enforced personal retreat. Personal retreat sounds pleasant so that may not adequately describe this past 14 months. It allowed me time to go deep within for self-growth and I didn't do it alone. Thanks to my family; my adult children and my parents, it became a time for serious digging deep into the ecosystem of my own patterns in family communication and relating; pulling myself out of the mud, like a Dragonfly discovering the light for the first time. I am more than grateful for my family members who helped either knowingly or simply through their presence or absence, to shine a bright light on dark and neglected places, pushing me toward a new level of understanding and way of being. I had no choice but to either do the deep painful work or lose myself as well as loved-ones. It has been a year of deep heartbreak in so many ways and as opposites work, also, a time of great healing, love, release, joy and gratitude. I am grateful to my adult children, my sister's and the many healers, teachers, nature and the plant allies who have all been a part of this transformative journey-and the work continues with each breath of each day.
I have discovered many gifts through this time and one of the big ones has been learning how to step back and stop the pushing, the expectations; the grasping and seeing life and circumstances as things that I can manipulate. I've learned to let go of expectations about the environment. I wonder if there will be enough water for my community; if the air will be breathable this summer or ever, and will our homes be safe from raging wildfires?- while keeping an emergency evacuation kit in my car. There are no longer any quick escapes and I feel how we are all in this together. When I think about planning a forest therapy walk and wonder how much smoke and heat we'll be dealing with, I then step back and feel into it and remind myself that now is the time for patience combined with listening to my inner guidance, informed by quiet, slow presence and holding space for myself and others. Patience and letting go is my new normal.
During this slow, deep and painful work, I have discovered a wonderful practice. I was led to it when I used the slow time during Covid to step up my self-care regimen to a few hours each day. This included Self-Reiki; Wim Hof breath work and ice water immersion; skin brushing; Celery juicing, Jin Jing Gong Qigong and forest bathing. This past February, in all of my doing regarding self-care, I discovered, "The Art of Non-Doing" through Yoga Nidra, an ancient practice, sometimes referred to as, "Yogic Sleep." A practice for deep rest, relaxation and calming the nervous system. Soon after, I found a nature-based branch of Yoga Nidra, called, EcoNIDRA™. I was delighted to find a form of Yoga I could practice lying in place, flat on my back, with no place to go and nothing to do for 45 minutes. My whole life has been so much about moving from one thing to the next. I was always stuck on this: stopping and resting meant I was not creating or producing something- proving my worthiness. Once I began attending remote EcoNIDRA sessions, guided by its founder, Kat Novotna, in The Netherlands, I was hooked, feeling a sense of wholeness that had been hard to come by since the beginning of The Pandemic. My sleep became deep and restful; brain fog cleared; creativity bloomed; anxiety lifted and I felt content to be still and linger in the silence for longer than usual. A new level of patience and feeling the world around me with a sense of spaciousness became my new normal. It's amazing what can happen in 45 facilitated minutes of "Non-Doing", journeying through your senses, your body and through The Earth.
This past April, I began a journey along with a beautiful cohort of, "Dragonflies", to become a Certified EcoNIDRA Teacher™. It felt like a perfect fit and complement to my work as a Forest Therapy guide. I am overjoyed and very grateful to announce that I am now a Certified EcoNIDRA Teacher. I've got my wings and am ready to fly far and wide introducing this slow, gentle practice for deep rest and relaxation. Following a vacation break this summer, I will be offering remote EcoNIDRA sessions through Zoom that you can access in the privacy of your home, as well as remote sessions through corporate wellness programs-even Netflix is now offering EcoNIDRA sessions for their employees worldwide. As well, I will be setting up to guide EcoNIDRA sessions in person through Yoga and Wellness Centers and am looking forward to offering one day and weekend EcoNIDRA/Forest Therapy Retreats as well as in collaboration with other healing and wellness practitioners who are interested in partnering with Wild Wellness Guide.
Please enjoy this complimentary EcoNIDRA Session.
Wishing you Peace, Rest and Wholeness,
Yesterday, following a beautiful afternoon of warm, winter forest bathing, I came home inspired to bake the big batch of Hamantaschen I had planned a couple days earlier when I prepared a batch of filling. These scrumptious triangular-shaped cookies, eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim, which coincides with the coming of spring and always with the full moon, during the Jewish month of Adar. Though Purim is considered by many a child-centered holiday with a focus on gift-giving, theater and mask-making, I think of it as being about taking off the masks that we grown-ups wear daily to present ourselves to the world. On the deepest level, I have found Purim to be about turning all I thought I knew and understood to be true, upside down, while gaining new eyes to see and touch life and our true inner selves. Before Covid, Purim was the time for the community to come together to have a wild party and take on a persona through costumes and reenacting in very humorous ways, the story of The Book of Esther. In a deeper sense, allowing more of one's true self to be seen. This year for me, it is a time for deep inner contemplation. There is much to this holiday, but I especially love the idea of Purim being a time when we remove our masks, together in community. Coincidentally, this is the only Jewish holiday which involves lots of alcohol.
My departed Rebbe and teacher, Rabbi Aryeh Hirscfield z'l, used to share the following Chasidic tale about Purim- "When The Messiah comes, the only holiday required to celebrate will be Purim!" He also shared that there is a linguistic connection between Yom Kippur -The Day of Atonement-the holiest Jewish holiday, also being called, "Yom HaKipurim". It gives me much to contemplate, how the holiest day of The Jewish calendar; a time for deep contemplation and fasting, is deeply connected with a holiday celebrated through wild, drunken revelry while reading The Book of Esther, remembering how The Jews of Persia were saved from destruction. It seems we humans spend most of our lives wearing our masks and if through Purim, we can possibly find our true selves; then it is truly sacred.
Here is the recipe for Hamantaschen. Traditionally they are filled with different types of filling-poppy seed, prune, apricot and sour cherry. The below recipe was adapted by my friend, Julia Plevin from, The Primal Palat. and now, I have added some of my own changes such as the filling recipe.
Makes 4.5 dozen (I used organic ingredients)
3 cups Blanched Almond Flour
1.5 cups Arrowroot Flour
1.5 tsp Salt
1/2-3/4 cup Maple Syrup
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup poppy seeds
1.5 cups pitted prunes (check to make sure there are no hidden pits)
1/2 cup ground almonds or walnuts
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
Grated Zest from an Orange
Make filling 1-2 days ahead,
In small- medium saucepan, combine poppy seed and prunes with approximately 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and lower heat and simmer until most liquid is absorbed (about 30-45 minutes based on when the liquid has absorbed.
Next, place the above mixture in either a powerful blender of a food processor and add all remaining ingredients. Blend until mixture is smooth and add a little more water if filling is too dry. It will also thicken up once chilled due to the action of the chia seed. Place in a covered container in the fridge until it's time to bake. You can play with this recipe and use other dried fruit if you like or additional flavorings.
Purim feels a lot like May Day when we gift others with May Baskets. On Purim, we bake Hamantaschen and share them with others in little gift baskets. Good Purim!
Today I bought some great pickling cukes and fresh dill at Ashland Food Co-op, having tried first at The Saturday Rogue Valley Grower's and Crafter's Market, where I am guessing farmer's will have their makings for pickles soon. The most difficult thing to find is fresh dill. Often there are piles of pickling cukes but no dill to be found. Gratefully, today I found both. With Covid still running rampant, it's a perfect time to get some immune-boosting lacto-fermented dill pickles or other veggies put up in your pantry.
"The consumption of fermented foods may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health. The extent to which traditional dietary items may mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress may be controlled, at least to some degree, by microbiota."
Lacto-fermented pickles are so simple to make and such a wonderful way to get a powerful hit of healthy probiotics for daily gut and immune health. When I'm eating pickles and raw fermented kraut, I feel my gut and immune system are getting the essential coverage they need for optimal good gut bacteria balance. The word out from my peeps in the field of Nutrition and Chinese Medicine is that, eating fermented food with each meal offers important support for our spleen, digestive and immune system. Though it is always essential to keep our immune system strong, during this time of Covid, it is especially important. I make raw fermented kraut throughout the year and am now so excited to have just put up 3 quarts of lacto-fermented dill pickles. Adding some lacto-fermented foods with each meal is an important self-care practice for not only nutritional/physical health, but also for emotional wellness. There is much evidence-based research correlating healthy gut bacteria to a healthy brain, body and immune system.
"Properly controlled fermentation may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, the ultimate value of which may be associated with mental health; furthermore, we also argue that the microbes (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) associated with fermented foods may also influence brain health via direct and indirect pathways."
According to a 2014 study in The Journal of Physiological Anthropology, "The consumption of fermented foods may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health. The extent to which traditional dietary items may mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress may be controlled, at least to some degree, by microbiota." The article states, "It is our contention that properly controlled fermentation may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, the ultimate value of which may be associated with mental health; furthermore, we also argue that the microbes (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) associated with fermented foods may also influence brain health via direct and indirect pathways." A great read on the gut-brain connection is the book, "Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain- for Life", by David Perlmutter, M.D.
So, enjoy these fabulous lacto-fermented, garlic dills. Here's the recipe and method.
Lacto-Fermented Dill Pickles
Makes 6-8 quart wide mouth canning jars
*I like to cut down the recipe and make 2-3 quart batches. This way you get fresher batches that don't over-ferment due to waiting months to eat them.
Brine for about 8 quarts- 9 Tablespoons sea salt or celtic salt to 4 quarts filtered water (mix together very well and remix just before pouring into filled jars- I use a blender)
2 large, folded *Grape Leaves per jar (tannins help keep pickles crisp)
Fresh flowering dill (buy a large bunch and divide between jars)
6 large cloves garlic per jar
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
5-7 small pickling cucumbers- or however many you need to fill canning jar.
Fold grape leaves into bottom of jars.
Place half the dill and some garlic on top of grape leaves.
Pack pickles into jars and add remaining dill and garlic as you pack.
After re-stirring brine, pour into filled jars, all the way to top.
Seal full jar with canning lid ( leave about 3/4 -1 inch to prevent explosion).
Place jar in a low-sided pan, tub or water proof container.
Cover jars with a large dish towel and place in dark cabinet. (55-75 degrees is good)
Let ferment for about 1-3 weeks at room temperature. If your space is warm, you may want to transfer the jars to fridge after only 1-2 weeks. Sample a pickle after one week. They will still continue to ferment in the fridge so judge by the climate of your home. The original method calls for leaving the jars to ferment at room temperature for several weeks but that can be too long unless you have a nice root cellar. Above 75 degrees will require refrigeration sooner than later. If you notice bubbles in the jar, get them into the fridge.
Be careful in opening the jars as they can be wildly fizzy.
* Note on grape leaves- tannins in grape leaves get extra concentrated with fermentation. If you are someone who gets migraine from tannins, simply do not use grape leaves and your pickles will still be awesome..
Yummy Happy Tummy,
This scrumptious cranberry conserve has been my holiday go to recipe for more than 20 years. It is tart, with just enough sweet from dried dates and maple syrup. Toasted pecans add a crunchy richness and the juice and rind of a fresh orange give some citrus kick. And, it is so simple to make.
In a 9"x13" Pyrex, blend together and cover with foil or a flat baking sheet, and place in preheated 350 degree oven, for 30 minutes:
Organic Cranberries -24 oz. (rinsed and drained)
1 cup water
Juice one organic orange (grate rind and save for step 2)
After 30 minutes remove from oven and with the back of a fork, smash cranberries.
(While cranberries bake, chop dates and toast pecans-about 10 minutes and chop)
Mix into Cranberries and then place back in oven, uncovered for 5 minutes:
Grated orange rind
2 cups, chopped; dried organic dates (easy to chop with a chef's knife)
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
Remove cranberries from oven and blend in 1.5 cups toasted, chopped, organic pecans.
Refrigerate and cover when cool
Serves about 25
Many Blessings and much gratitude, for every single one of you, Sari
Most of my readers know me as a passionate Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, Health Educator and Reiki Energy Healer. What many do not know is that I was a professional pastry chef and baker for over a decade in my early adulthood. I originally trained in a baking cooperative in Eugene, Oregon, apprenticing in the art of classical Viennese and French pastry baking. I learned from a group of rather eccentric Oregon hippies who were serious artists when it came to fine baking. We were The Fine Baking Company. In my time as a a baker, I helped design and set up several bakeries and pastry kitchens.
When I left baking to stay home and raise my young children, I found opportunities to make delectable creations for birthdays, anniversaries and a few weddings. As the years passed and I struggled with chronic asthma and allergies, I moved away from refined sugars, ditched all dairy and in the past several years became gluten-free.
Being gluten-free was initially difficult. I am allergic to corn and sorghum which is in many gluten free flour mixes. So, I never use pre-mixed gluten-free flours or eat gluten-free breads. Being gluten-free and dairy-free has been a great inspiration for me to come up with yummy and healthier alternatives to fine desserts. The below recipe for the quinoa torte is wonderful and no one would ever suspect they are not eating a cake made with flour or a rich chocolate ganache that is not made with heavy cream or butter.
I must admit something. My mother was one of the best pie bakers on the planet. I have been picking blackberries and wild black raspberries with my father since I was a young girl, growing up in Iowa. I learned the art of flaky pie crust from my mother; the real-deal flaky crust with no sugar sprinkled on top-ever. I love, love love the sensory experience of eating the perfect pie crust with the perfect fruit filling. I have experimented with gluten-free pie crusts. I tried one with sorghum and it was flaky, but being in the corn family, I couldn't handle it. I will admit that about once a year, I risk it and eat a small piece of pie made with gluten. I make it with white spelt flour and either monkfruit sweetener or coconut sugar. I invite my friends to share and I eat a slice. It may be blackberry in the summer or apple pie at Thanksgiving. I take Enzymetica Gluten Ease digestive enzymes with my pie to help me digest the gluten. I find it also helps to make sure I eat it with great love and gratitude. I say, "I take you in, as a blessing and in gratitude and allow you to come into my body and do the good works you are going to do." There is nothing more powerful then adding a little Mind-Body Medicine into everything you eat. Enjoy the two recipes below.
Chocolate Quinoa Torte (with Blackberries)
(Makes a 2-layer torte (you can also make 2 single layer cakes)
2 cups soft, cooked quinoa (approximately 3/4 cup dry quinoa will yield 2 cups cooked quinoa.)
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk (or preferred milk)
4 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 & 2/3 cup organic coconut sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chocolate Coconut Cream Ganache
2 (13.5 ounce) can of full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
2 cups dark chocolate chips (as dark a % as you like)
Blackberries for Decoration
1/2- 1 cup Fresh Blackberries
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two round cake pans (or a 9x13” pan) with parchment paper or oil and flour pans with gluten-free flour.
In a blender or food processor, combine the eggs, preferred milk and vanilla extract, and blend for ten seconds.
Add 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa along with the melted and cooled coconut oil and olive oil- blend until completely smooth, about thirty seconds to one minute.
Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl (cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt).
Refrigerate the coconut milk for several hours or overnight (in the coldest part of your refrigerator) so that the cream separates.
When ready, melt the chocolate in a sauce pan over low heat or in a stainless steel bowl over a double boiler. Take coconut milk from the fridge without shaking the can. Open and scoop out the solid parts with a spoon, placing them into the pot with the melted chocolate. Try to get as much of the thicker portions of solid coconut cream as possible. (Do not use the liquid) Melt the coconut cream and chocolate together until smooth and thick. Use a wire whisk to beat and thicken the ganache to a spreadable consistency. The Ganache thickens very quickly, but if it is too warm, you may briefly pace in fridge to cool and then get whipping it again until smooth and thick.
Transfer the cake layers to a surface for icing. They are fragile, so handle with care. Even if cake layers crack or break, no worries, just piece them together like a puzzle and all with congeal once iced. Ice top of first layer, then place on second layer and work your way icing down from top layer to sides of torte.
Frost the torte using a good, flat icing knife. Place blackberries on torte wherever your creativity takes you. Place torte in cool place until ready to serve or room temp is fine for several hours if it is not too hot.
Summer Blackberry Pie with Olive Oil Crust