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Fire Cider

Fire Cider

20141216_104347_2 When my BFF dropped off six perfect little empty bottles, I was inspired to utilize them as carriers for this season’s remedy gift for friends, neighbors and clients.  Since I had always wanted to try Fire Cider and had a month to go before the end of the year, I decided to make my first batch. I can now report from my own and recipients’ reviews – this is good stuff. Whether you take a swig straight from the bottle or put a teaspoon in hot water or cocktails, or add it to salad dressing, you will instantly register the delicious potency of this fine folk remedy.  It’s a perfect daily tonic for cold/flu season as it warms your insides up like an immune whisky.  It has all the requisite flavors (spicy, pungent, bitter, sour and sweet) for kicking pathogens like cold and dampness out of your body and stimulating blood circulation. I followed the recipe below from Mountain Rose Blog and also added astragulus root.  I did keep my batch in a dark cabinet, but, full disclosure, I did not shake it every day. I only shook it once. This kind of recipe is infinitely adjustable to tastes and variations based on whatever you have in your pantry.  The apple cider acts as a perservative so it does not have to be refrigerated.  After I strained out my first batch, I added more cider vinegar over my shredded roots and herbs so I could extract even more of their medicinal properties. With a dose of Fire Cider every day, I feel well armed this winter for keeping colds at bay. Ingredients 1/2 cup fresh grated organic ginger root 1/2 cup fresh grated organic horseradish root 1 medium organic onion, chopped 10 cloves of organic garlic, crushed or chopped 2 organic jalapeno peppers, chopped Zest and juice from 1 organic lemon Several sprigs of fresh organic rosemary or 2 tbsp of dried rosemary leaves 1 tbsp organic turmeric powder 1/4 tsp organic cayenne powder organic apple cider vinegar raw local honey to taste Directions Prepare all of your roots, fruits, and herbs and place them in a quart sized jar. If you’ve never grated fresh horseradish, be prepared for a powerful sinus opening experience! Use a piece of natural parchment paper under the lid to keep the vinegar from touching the metal, or a plastic lid if you have one. Shake well! Store in a dark, cool place for one month and remember to shake daily. After one month, use cheesecloth to strain out the pulp, pouring the vinegar into a clean jar. Be sure to squeeze as much of the liquid goodness as you can from the pulp while straining. Next, comes the honey! Add 1/4 cup of honey and stir until incorporated. Taste your cider and add another 1/4 cup until you reach the desired sweetness. Ingredient Variations These herbs and spices would make a wonderful addition to your Fire Cider creations: Thyme Rosehips Star Anise Schisandra Berries Astragalus Parsley Burdock Oregano Peppercorns Beet Root Powder Habanero Powder Bird’s Eye Chili Powder Whole Chili Peppers Fresh orange, grapefruit, lime juice and peels

Non-gluten Bread

Non-gluten Bread

IMG_1407The fall season is upon us, and naturally I crave heavier richer foods. Especially carbohydrates. Toast with butter, to be specific. But, here’s the thing – I try to limit carbohydrates, especially breads. How I satisfy my craving for bread is by making non-gluten bread recipes, even though I am not gluten intolerant. Because they are flourless and made of fermented grains, non-gluten breads offer more nutrients per calorie. If I’m going to eat bread, it has to satisfy my cravings and be worth its heft for my slower winter metabolism. Here are two non-gluten bread recipes I found that are simple, flavorful, and most importantly, unfussy. They are infinitely amenable to variations. I always add hemp seed and more salt, especially on the top of the loaf. This buckwheat bread is really simple, hearty and inexpensive: http://consciouscatering.ca/nama-bread/ This quinoa/millet bread, although more complex, has a sweet nutty flavor and when it is toasted the edges crisp up just right: http://www.wholeheartedeats.com/2014/02/the-unbelievable-bread_20.html

Eat Greens, Now.

Eat Greens, Now.

IMG_1051Boom! Daylight savings arrives and like clockwork I’m out in the garden with a shovel, turning over our fall cover crop.  Even though we’ve had plenty of overwintering crops in the garden, the disconsolateness of frequent rain and ugly muck became a barrier for entering our backyard plot of late. Today, in our designated sugar snap plot, I found squatters from last fall: handsome kohlrabi plants with not much of a root but flush with a plentitude of green blood nourishing leaves, pretty yin tonifying golden beets, large yang tonifying sweet parsnips and flowering dinosaur kale.  Before,  content letting them rest undisturbed, now I am ready to devour them – all, in the next week.  Craving large amounts of greens is my signal that spring has arrived. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is the season of the liver and gallbladder, which regulate a smooth flow of Qi.  However, after a winter of eating heavier meats and oil rich foods, these organs often get congested which can leave us feeling sluggish, irritable and depressed.  Eating slightly sour foods, high in chlorophyll like greens and sprouts, can cleanse the liver by releasing toxins and moving stagnant energy.  Increasing foods that are slightly bitter such as dark leafy greens, asparagus, radish leaves, dandelion and romaine lettuce can help with the heat and inflammation of springtime allergies.  Turnips and radishes can also help cleanse the blood by breaking up mucous. I love how garden cycles synch with seasonal and energetic shifts:  I need to get peas in the ground and I need to detoxify my liver.  By removing and eating the plants in the pea plot, I am waking up my own body for spring by nourishing and cleansing my blood, releasing stored up life-force, which in turn gives me not only space to plant my peas, but the energy and vision to begin a whole new garden season. There’s that earth-based biolgical motive, and then there’s the more superficial vain motive, which crops up every spring too. If I can lose a few pounds by  lightening up my diet and eating more greens then I can strut around in my skinny jeans, and that, naturally, feels real good too.

Zumba!

Zumba!

Today’s daily cure was Zumba! photoTomarra’s 50th birthday invitation read, Zumba, Bacon and Mimosas at the Rainier Beach Clubhouse.  She, a talented massage therapist, who moves the flesh, blood and lymph of her clients, would, of course, host an invigorating event. Recovering from a muscle spasm in my lower back, and having never tried Zumba, I was a little nervous about shaking my booty today, but I couldn’t pass up an invitation to celebrate this very intuitive and creative woman. At the beginning of the party, Tomarra tearfully paid tribute to the clubhouse, and spoke to her long held wish and now good fortune to be able to rent space since the clubhouse, historically a nexus for community activities, had become largely unavailable for rentals since 2005.  Because the Rainier Beach Community Club recently procured a lease from its current owners, the VFW, the building is now fulfilling the mission of its original owners, The Rainier Beach Women’s Club, who specified the building was to be used for activities, which would enhance the community. At 10:30AM, the music came on, and Zumba instructor, Paula Aio, started the dancing. Forward, back, side-to-side, hands and pelvis, up, down, our bodies squiggling in every direction.  Paula hooted like a mama bird, smiling and encouraging her fledgling awkward flock, to keep moving to the beat of the music.  And move, shout, and ululate we did, for a whole hour, occasionally stopping for a swig of water or to wipe off sweat.  It was more than a workout; it was a tribal turnout.  All of us, mostly women, mostly beginners, moved in time, together. Tomarra, sharing her love of Zumba with her community, gave the gift of her exuberant physical freedom, which inspired the rest of us to loosen up.  And that kind of repeated pelvic rotation and thrusts released my lower back from its muscular rut.  It was a blast. By the end of the party, after all the delicious breakfast food, it felt like it wasn’t only Tomarra’s birthday we were celebrating; it was the clubhouse’s birthday too.  The vitality and joy in our recently refinished hall is an initiating spark for many more community celebrations to follow.  As someone who served last year, and will again this year, as a trustee on the executive board of the Rainier Beach Community Club, I had the privilege of watching committed members of our community do the hard work of reattaching its core mission to the building that gave birth to it.  Happy, Happy Birthday!

Oil Pulling

Oil Pulling

When Delores, my utterly kind and professional dental hygienist, asks during my regular teeth cleaning appointments how often I’ve been flossing my teeth, I cannot lie.  It’s not that I’m incapable of lying, it’s that Delores is my across-the-street neighbor so she is privy to seeing debris stuck between my teeth on a regular basis.  She never shames me, but ever conscientious, she always, at every appointment, educates and reminds me to floss. To be totally honest, I’ve never been much of a flosser (except on the night before my teeth cleaning appointment) in spite of Delores’ very real concern about the inflammation under my 27th cusped and food trapping pockets between my back molars. My teeth started getting the attention they deserved when my trusted friend and advisor on all things Ayurvedic, Maurine, gave me the scoop on oil pulling for oral care. I incorporated it into my morning routine after Delores gave me the thumbs up. She personally had tried it with sesame oil and liked it, and saw good results in her patients. One of my favorite features of this method is that it is hands-free.  On an empty stomach in the morning, I dissolve one teaspoon of solid coconut oil in my mouth and then just swish it through my teeth for 10 -20 minutes while cleaning up the kitchen.  Grinding the coffee, swish, swish, swish; emptying the dishwasher, swish, swish, swish; sweeping the floor, swish, swish, swish.  Sometimes I have to remind myself to swish, which is kinda amazing since my mouth is bulging from the ever-increasing volume of saliva mixed with oil.  When that I’m done moment comes, I spit the pathogenic mixture into the trash, avoiding a solid mass of coconut oil from clogging up my pipes, then rinse and brush my teeth.  Smooth and glossy, my choppers feel very clean. High quality sesame, sunflower and olive oil can be used for oil pulling, however I prefer organic coconut oil.  A known anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and inhibitor of Streptococcus bacteria, coconut oil is an inexpensive gentle warrior against gum disease and tooth decay. It acts as a cleanser and detoxifier and has the added benefit of whitening teeth.  Systemic health issues related to inflammation like sinusitis, allergies, infections, arthritis, skin problems and pain can improve from oil pulling.  Since our mouths house billions of bacteria, germs, parasites and toxins, I love the notion of pulling and expelling these potentially harmful buggers. Desperately wanting my dental hygienist’s approval, I waited expectantly at my last dental cleaning appointment for Delores’ appraisal of my teeth and gums.  At last, after taking a very close look, she gave me kudos: a total lack of plaque on my teeth and reduced inflammation on my 27th cusped.  However, she reminded me that flossing is still beneficial for gum stimulation. All right. All right.      

Seed Swap

Seed Swap

  It’s the little things, the things that come in small packages, which often give me the most joy. IMG_0998Today, Upper Rainier Beach residents, Iris and Dave, organized the first Seed Swap, an informal neighborhood event. Located in their dining room, it was perfectly little. As I browsed the table filled with thoughtfully categorized vegetable varieties, I was smitten; it wasn’t just the seed varieties that got my attention, it was how they were packaged.  Iris and Dave with typed labels on small plastic bags, gave clear growing instructions; Kim brought seeds in small paper origami packages, complete with a numerical key on a separate piece of paper; others, including myself, simply put the name of the variety on a label and called it done.  Kristen and Don brought their seeds in little plastic tubes. I took a sampling of their Purple Driveway, an otherwise unidentified purple lettuce that, you guessed it, grew alongside their driveway. While some attendees perused the table making their selections, others exchanged gardening tips, lessons learned, and plans for their upcoming garden.  This kind of free exchange of information and resources, a little thing, an underground thing, has the potential, like in every seed, to nourish our whole community.

Laugh Medicine

Laugh Medicine

Tita2 Tita1jpegA few weeks ago, when I returned to work as an on-call interfaith chaplain at Harborview Medical Center, Tita, at the front information desk, exuberantly welcomed me back.  It had been three years since I last saw Tita yet her spirit shined as bright as ever. Some staff at Harborview practice medicine.  Tita is medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine understands a person’s shen or spirit as integral to health; when shen is strong, eyes are bright, radiating spiritual and emotional well-being. Tita, stationed at Harborview’s ground floor entrance, not only shares information and directions, she, a practitioner and leader of laugh yoga, also shares joy, love and compassion.  And, of course, laughter is thrown in for free. Tita described her daily self-cure practices to me: When I wake at 4:45 in the morning, I spend five minutes expressing my gratitude.  I say, “Thank you God for this new day, bless my day; it’s going to be a great day.”  I look at the sky and say, “Thank you for the beautiful day.”  When I take a shower, I laugh.  When I drive, I laugh.  When I am at work, I laugh. When I am in the bathroom, I laugh. You don’t have to have stress.  You don’t have to have other emotions.  You just have to celebrate life everyday. I can attest from personal experience, Tita’s methods work.  During my chaplain residency, I often joined Tita at Harborview’s weekly laughter club.  At first, I felt awkward and silly, forced even, as I participated in the goofy group exercises. Soon enough the awkward silly me was cutting loose, my goofball self laughed like the most practiced in the room.  Not hard, really. At the time, those weekly laugh-ins became a self-care practice; an antidote to daily grief and trauma exposure. We know laughter is an upper but beyond enhancing mood, there is also research showing laughter offers pain relief, immune cell activation, stress reduction, blood sugar regulation and blood pressure reduction. When I’m at Harborview, I inevitably gravitate towards the information desk and get in line for my daily dose of Tita. Join Tita at Harborview’s Laughter Club on Fridays at noon in the resource center.

Switching It Up

Switching It Up

This weekend, I did the unimaginable:  I switched sides of the bed with my husband. Traditionally, I sleep on the right side of the bed, he, on the left.  Every two years or so, it becomes evident, when neck, shoulder or arm pain arises, we’re both ready to make the switch.   It’s baffling why my sleep position can become as static as some books in my nightstand, especially since sleeping in the same position, night after night, year after year, will obviously impede blood circulation and compress nerves. Waking up to my habitual sleep patterns is so difficult because getting into bed grants me permission to drop all conscious self-monitoring, letting the unconscious autonomic nervous system do the work of restoration.   Yet sleep, that delicious still yin time, can be a silent minefield of somatic bombs waiting to detonate if I don’t pay attention to my body’s signals.  That slight tightness in my neck and that insistent ache in my elbow and upper arm, all on the right side, are the signals telling me it’s time to unpin myself from the bed. After changing sides of the bed, cleaning up every other part of our passive nocturnal den became an active imperative.  The dust under the bed: gone. The pillows that make us sniffle: gone. The previously read books and journals with no entries on my nightstand: gone. Last night, while comfortably left lying on the left side of the bed, I resisted yearnings to turn back to my old right sided ways.  I reflected on how the yin-yang symbol isn’t a mere philosophical abstraction, it is a how-to diagram from one of the most ancient instruction manuals, giving direction for turning the knob on our life experiences.  If we are stuck in chronic self-harming patterns, in pain or polarized – switch it up, be flexible, and make changes. This morning, waking up on the wrong side of the bed never felt so right (or, do I mean left?).  

Scream Therapy

Scream Therapy

Haunted House 10At KUBE 93fm’s Haunted House, we three not-so-brave souls, Margaret, Machelle and myself clung to each other as we made our way through the Georgetown Morgue, a wicked chamber of calculated terror.   When the first mutilated woman jumped out at me with no forewarning, I smacked her in the nose, which only made her rear up again like a ghastly living nightmare.  Continuing to walk through dark corridors, we found floors collapsing under our feet and threat at every turn. We took turns being in the lead, pushing through dead bodies bundled and hanging in plastic body bags only to have to squeeze through rubber cots with bloody body parts splayed everywhere.  We recoiled from blood–smeared morticians, crazy clowns and tragic characters like scary mothers with dead babies, sick people in wheelchairs and disgruntled crime victims.  The whole time, we screamed our lungs out – so much so that my sides hurt. The continuous raising and lowering of my diaphragm, the unchecked shrieking and laughing, the clutching to the friend in front of me–all of it felt wicked good.  At the end of our tour, when a zombie goon chased us with a running chainsaw into the November chill air, we had to catch our breath. For the next few minutes, we laughed, coughed, spluttered and spit.  Our lungs had a real workout. Who knew terror was such an excellent expectorant?  

Borgenola Raw Breakfast Recipe

Borgenola Raw Breakfast Recipe

IMG_0842 Borgenola, that’s the name of my new favorite raw breakfast.  It’s named after my trusted advisor, Danny Borgen, because it was his brainchild, but like all inventions with a good original formula, it evolved. Originally, Danny turned me on to his after workout snack/lunch, which was a combination of flax and pumpkin seeds.  As his nutritional trusted advisor, I subsequently recommended chia seeds to replace the flax and later hemp hearts. He, continuously fascinated by the science of food, added raw cacao nibs. Finally, after all this talk about his combo, I tried it, liking it enough to incorporate it as a breakfast food myself.  To his Borgenola, I added raw sunflower seeds.  The gelatinous chia mixed with crunchy sunflower, pumpkin and cacao nibs offers tasty granola-like textures.  Because of the high amount of protein in chia and hemp, it satisfies, not to mention stabilizes blood sugar levels, but it is light, unlike oatmeal or other grain based morning cereals. Both chia and hemp seeds are also high in essential fatty acids, which give them anti-inflammatory properties. Hemp contains all the amino acids which build protein and aide in developing lean body mass and muscular repair, making it an ideal after workout food.  As for the other seeds, sunflower most notably offers vitamin E, selenium and folate while pumpkin offers magnesium, zinc and manganese.  Cacao nibs, besides its desirable chocolate taste, also offers a significant yield of  magnesium, manganese and copper. All with more nutritional merit than mentioned in this post, these superfood seeds united feel so right mixed together.  Check out the nutritional data for yourself. Depending on the season, it can be eaten as a warm or cold meal. You can add fruit, jam or sweeteners, or not; chia, neutral in taste, harmonizes well with very little or no sweetener. It’s a clean, simple, high nutrient, non-allergenic, non-inflammatory, raw breakfast or snack that lends itself to infinite permutations.  Try it. IMG_0806

Borgenola Raw Breakfast Recipe

3 Tablespoons chia seed 1 cup water (hot or cold) 3 Tablespoons Hemp Hearts 1 Tablespoon raw pumpkins seeds 1 Tablespoon raw sunflower seeds 1 teaspoon raw cacao nibs

Optional

1 Tablespoon shredded coconut Berries, pear or apple slices 1 tsp. maple syrup, agave or honey or fruit jam Instructions: Add 1 cup heated or cold water to chia seeds and stir.  Wait 15 minutes until gelatinous.  Stir again and add remaining ingredients.