Sunday, May 22, 2016


This morning I went paddle boarding. Carrying my board along the path from our house to the water, carefully setting it down to float, stepping onto it's wide body, and pushing off away from the land has become a very spiritual practice for me. When I'm on my board life slows way, way down. The sound of the paddle dipping into the water is a lullaby for my soul. May awareness shifts from anxious thoughts and plans and lists to a place of right here, right now - being in this space of explosive life and meditative stillness.

Today, for whatever reason, I was shaken with the many creatures that call this small body of water home. As I watched the fish swim about, dashing from surprisingly shallow waters and into the deep, I was overcome by this sense of wanting to know their names. All of a sudden it was really, really important to acknowledge who they are.

The other day my daughters were dancing around in princess dresses singing about how beautiful they look. I watched on with expectation. I knew within moments my husband would come around the corner, lift them onto his lap, and ask them what their names mean.

"Sunshine." my eldest replied with a smile. "FLOWER!" yelled out my youngest. My husband nodded in agreement and then told each of them that they were created to bring warmth and kindness and beauty and compassion and color and light to this world. That there is far more to beauty than a dress or sparkles or shoes, although those are fun to explore. That what makes them beautiful is how they respond to injustice and hurt and fear. That their beauty goes far deeper than their skin. It begins in their hearts.

Naming things is an ancient art, one that has grown up with civilization. From our earliest roots, there's been something within us aching to know our name. Needing to understand our place and figure out where we fit in this great expanse of life.

As I paddled around the pond, guiding my board gently along side the reeds, I was aware that everything around me had a name, and with it's name came a place in this world.

I'm learning the more I observe, the deeper I walk into a place where it all matters. Everything has meaning. Watching fish has led me to acknowledge they have a name and existence as important as my own. Watching people has led me to believe we are not all that different. That we each have a name and a light within us and, at the very core, we all want to be seen, to matter, to find our place in the world.

As the wind picked up and rippled away my view, I looked off to the side and found a nest hovering precariously over the water. In it were 4 tiny eggs, white with brown spots. The mama bird hovered nearby, anxiously waiting my decision. Would I watch on quietly or choose to imprint on her life in an unkind way? Would I see first our commonality or respond with carelessness and apathy? Would I live into the meaning of my own name? River. Flowing water, bringing life.

I took one last glance, lifted my paddle, and thought to myself "You are important and good and kind and have a name.You have a place in this life and mine and it's my honor to see you."

Saturday, May 7, 2016


A few weeks ago I found myself at a 4-day anatomy training, away from my kids and traveling solo for the first time in just under nine years. I was all at once anxious and excited, terrified and electrified, wanting to jump all in and drive home as fast I could. It was a very visceral tension of opposites.

I cried when I got there, setting these emotions free and then promised myself to be as present as I could in every moment. There had been days prior to my trip when I fantasied about this time to myself. Time without dishes and laundry and whining and cleaning and the demands that come with having a family. I knew that if I longed for what I'd left at home I would miss my opportunity at what this space could offer and abuse such a beautiful gift.

So I sunk in, allowing my entire being to expand and grow and learn and be challenged.

A couple days in I wandered outside during lunch, found a grassy patch, and planted myself for an hour or so to enjoy the sun and food and quiet. I opened the book I'd been reading and a few paragraphs in realized something was walking across the page. The closer I looked, I noticed many somethings. Somehow I'd been reading the words but completely missed what was actually happening on the page.

I looked on as a tiny round bug made its way across the top of the binding while a yellow one walked up the side and a small ant zigzagged over the words. The more I watched, the more I got this sense that everywhere I looked there was life and wonder. These tiny little micro-balls of atoms were making a life for themselves in the same way that every other living, breathing, pulsing thing does. How did these things, no bigger than a grain of sand, survive? And yet here they were. They do. We do.

At once I was overcome with a sense that I could no longer separate these tiny creatures from myself. That somehow we were related and our survival depended on each other.

Awareness does this. Seeing changes things.

Sometimes I wonder if holy and worship, for me, are found less within a set of walls and more in my choices and responses and actions and the quiet spaces within the world. In the past my tendency would have been to smash these little bugs and move on.

But I really saw them.

For a few brief moments in the space of my life I watch them create their own. They worked and tended and searched and took in air.

For a few brief moments much of our lives looked the same.

These tiny insects were created, like me. To fulfill a purpose and have a place, like me. Were their lives any less precious or unique than my own? To irrevocably take this from something because it was on my book and in my way now seemed like a direct insult to the One who created us both.

Smashing was no longer an option.

That's the thing about life and relationship. This humble ecosystem of plants and bugs and bacteria and dirt that I had sprawled out upon existed in faith. Faith in my ability to see us all as one through eyes of kindness and respect and honor.

I think that's how we all survive - faith in the goodness of our neighbor. Faith that love might actually be a better way. Faith that small acts of kindness matter. That respect actually makes a difference. That the tiniest things of this world may actually be important.

I was annoyed by and even feared the bugs. And then I sat and watched them. Somehow I found myself lonely when they left.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

TUMERIC + GINGER LATTE with cardamom, vanilla, and reishi

This is a variation of the cardamom latte I've been really loving these days, this time using fresh ginger and turmeric as the base.

A little time-saving tip: 

Purchase a good amount of ginger and turmeric. If you buy organic you can simply rinse without removing peels. Cut into 1-inch pieces and mince, either by hand or using a food processor or Vitamix, according to manufacturer's instructions. Place a heaping tablespoon of either the minced turmeric and ginger combined or separate, into an ice cube tray or silicone mold and freeze until solid. Remove from mold and store in a glass Ball jar or other storage item of choice. I use these cubes for stir-fry, dahl, soups, tea, etc. It's really convenient to have at the ready!

Serves 3

1 T. ginger, minced
1 T. turmeric, minced
OR 2 cubes worth of ginger + turmeric combined and prepared as recommened above as "tip"
1 heaping tablespoon whole cardamom pods
1 piece of sliced, dried reishi mushroom
1 whole vanilla bean, cut in half
3 cups milk of choice [I love homemade tigernut milk, scroll down after clicking link for recipe]
1 - 3 T. honey, to taste

Combine ginger, turmeric, cardamom, reishi, and half of a vanilla bean in medium size saucepan. Add 6 cups of water. Bring water to boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer.

Simmer for 45 minutes or until liquid is reduced to half of its original quantity leaving approximately three cups.

Strain liquid, reserving pulp for another batch. Pour tea back into pot. Add milk and honey and slowly warm over low heat to just hot but not boiling. Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


I love to play around with different beauty recipes and rarely purchase many in the store. I've found making my own lotion, lip balm, sugar scrub, masks, salves, boo-boo drops, and bath salts to be unbelievably easy, many completed in thirty minutes or less, some taking only minutes to create. It's a fun activity for my kids to join in on, getting to immediately experience the sweetness of their labors.

The Environmental Working Group [EWG] has put together a fantastic database of cosmetics and other beauty and body products. It's worth searching the items you use most frequently - the safety implications of many can be shocking [even some of the "natural" ones]. If nothing else, it provides us the opportunity to be educated consumers. Check out EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

Purchasing the ingredients for this recipe is a small investment at first but will make many batches. The ingredients found here are repeated in many lotion and salve recipes as well. Store oils in a cool place to extend life and maintain quality. Below I have linked each ingredient to its description at Mountain Rose Herbs. You can purchase high quality ingredients there or find them on Vitacost and Thrive Market. Check out Return to the Garden's library under "Dive Deep / Herbal Medicine" for more resources on making your own beauty products.

This is the lip balm recipe I've landed on. Thick but light. Smooth. Rich. Velvet.

Makes approximately 11 tubes of chapstick

11 - 12 empty plastic lip balm tubes [you can purchase or reuse]
1/2 oz. beeswax, pastilles or chopped
1/2 oz. shea butter
1/2 oz. jojoba oil [appx. 2 tsp]
1/2 oz. coconut oil
1/4 oz. castor oil
1 tsp. vegetable glycerin
1/4 tsp. vitamin E oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil or essential oil of choice

Set up double boiler or create your own by filling a small pot one third of the way with water. Place a heat proof bowl on top.

Combine all ingredients, except peppermint essential oil, in bowl and bring water to boil over medium heat. Stir frequently.

Once completely melted, remove from heat and add essential oil stirring until completely integrated.

Use a spoon to carefully pour oil mixture into lip balm tubes or container of choice, filling to the top. Cool completely. Cap and wipe any excess lip balm off tube.

Store at room temperature for up to six months. Use as needed.

Monday, March 28, 2016


On my counter I have a cactus. It sits right in front of where I sit each morning for breakfast, six inches lower than plate level. This particular plant hasn't always held such a regal place in my kitchen. A couple days ago I uprooted it from a spot a bit tucked away, one I don't often have cause to pause at. Frequently I would forget to water it even the meager amount it requires. So here it sits, relocated and eager to be noticed.

There are actually two varieties of cactus in this pot. One that flowers at Christmas and one around Easter. The latter plant is covered in a ripple of buds that slowly open over the course of the day, revealing itself in fullness around noon. After a few hours of shameless display, it draws inward returning to bud and self.

This opening and closing is rhythmic. Cyclical.

A pattern I can expect to repeat each day until the flowers fall to the ground.

A couple days ago I posted this:

In the same way flowers are created to bloom only then revealing the full breadth of their beauty, we too are created to reveal our beauty to the world. The more I lean into the things that bring me life and joy and peace; the more I sink into being created fully enough; the more I open all of me to the world, trusting in it's goodness, the more I'm finding the world to be filled with a tangible pulse, a beat, a Spirit. There is fear. There is pain. Much of which I can't explain. But as I come back to beauty and peace, this is what the world consistently offers back to me.

As I continued to meditate, I began to see the pattern of the plant. What I find intriguing as I watch this plant each day, is how it so closely mirrors the natural patterns within my own being - this idea of outward and inward. In order for its flowers to continue to open, for it to continue to give its beauty to the world, this plant must draw in, close, seek rest and stillness. Carving out space for this rest, this inward movement towards the soul, has been the only way for me to seek with clarity the things that fill me up, bring me life and joy and peace. There is rest, there is stillness, there is silence and from this well we draw movement and creativity and life.

Sometimes it takes moving things around, clearing the dust, bringing things out of corners and into light for us to see.

I almost missed it.

I almost missed the insights this plant had to offer, offers still. I nearly rushed passed it's rhythmic movements and holy pulses.

But I didn't. The discipline of cleaning, of clearing the literal dust, caused me to notice and change. And that's what this inward journey takes. It takes discipline, courage, and faith. It requires saying no to many things and yes to a few. It demands I put away the to-do list, silence the phone, turn off the computer and be present.

It asks me to stare at a plant. To do nothing but watch.

May you shuffle and move and poke around the things that need it. May you draw inward in the same way you give outward. May you seek the pulse that binds everything together as one and immerse yourself in this work of creativity and peace - for you. For all.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

CARDAMOM LATTE with ginger, vanilla bean, and reishi

There are times when I'm called to the kitchen less for the creativity of it but more out of a primal desire for something my body desperately needs in that moment. Not in a surface "I'm craving sugar but that's probably covering up a deeper need" sort of way.

This desire is deep and earthy - flowing from a bodily wisdom I have yet to fully understand.

Over time I've learned to pay close attention to this call and surrender to the part of me governed by ancient wisdom. It's been interesting within the context of recipe creation. There's an undeniable inner intuition that drives what I take from the cupboard and add to the pot. In these moments, brain follows visceral.

I call it meditation.

It's less about the recipe and more about the sacred within the daily. It's not unlike waking on a cool summer morning to the sparkle of sunrise wrapped in a dance with mist on the calm of the water outside my window. The world is alive with enchantment and possibility within the dew and earth and air.

It's tangible, physical, earthy magic.

Sometimes I have the wherewithal to write down what my hands are doing. This is one such time and I'm so excited to share it with you. Move slow, feel what your body is doing while you create. Lean over the pot and take in the changing aroma. Feel the steam on your face. Notice what this does in your body. If you have the sudden urge to add something, do it! Follow this beautiful intelligence we each have within the muscle and bone and blood and organs of our body.

Sip mindfully, with loving intention, and smile. Invite a little magic.

Medicinal Note: If you're familiar with Ayurvedic medicine, this tea is excellent for balancing vata and kapha dosha types. It's grounding and gently warming; acts on the spleen, lung, stomach, and large intestine; improves the circulation of chi [life force]; and works to dispel mucus, cold, dampness, and phelgm. The recipe came to me on a very windy, cool spring [vata aggravating] day. Cardamom is such a wonderful whole-body tonic. In addition, reishi mushroom is fantastic for boosting the immune system.

Serves 3

Note: all herbs dried and cut or whole.

6 c. water
4 T. whole cardamom pods
2 T. fennel seed [optional]
2 tsp. cut ginger
1 whole vanilla bean, cut in half [reserve other half for use at another time]
1 slice reishi mushroom
3 c. tigernut milk or milk of choice
2 - 3 T. pure, raw honey [to taste, orange blossom honey is wonderful]

In a medium size saucepan combine water, cardamom, fennel, ginger, half the vanilla bean, and reishi mushroom. Bring to boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to to simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until liquid is reduced to half [approximately 3 cups].

Meanwhile, place milk and honey in a small saucepan. Heat on low until milk is very warm but not boiling, stirring occasionally.

Pour reduced tea through fine mesh strainer into three large mugs [approximately 1 cup of tea in each mug]. Divide the warmed milk between the mugs [approximately 1 cup of milk in each mug].

Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for 24 - 48 hours to serve at a later time.

These herbs aren't necessarily inexpensive so you can reserve the cooked herbs to use a second time. Tea will be less intense so either reduce water or add a few more herbs.

Friday, February 26, 2016

CHLOROPHYLL: the green giant

Chloro-what??! If you rewind back to the days of desk sitting and page turning, you might be able to dig up this vaguely familiar word in the recess of your mind. Think elementary science class. Maybe something? If you're seeing green, you're on the right track.

Simplified, chlorophyll is the pigment that makes plants green and is vital in said plants ability to absorb energy from light, also know as photosynthesis.

I'll spare you the science lesson and get to why this is important, why you might care.

There has been much hype surrounding green veggies in the recent years. What's not new is why much of the hype is actually legit. Vegetables are nature's gift to us - a tasty package of many of the nutrients we need to survive. In addition, fresh, green veggies and herbs are full of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is said to aid the body in cleansing and detoxifying its cells [of which our bodies are made up of]. A clean, healthy cell has a better chance of optimally utilizing nutrients.

Of course, the best way to get chlorophyll is through fresh vegetables, but in the winter green is scarce. I've found taking chlorophyll in liquid form to be a nice stand-in rather than paying the high price for fresh greens flown in from various continents. In combination with the frozen veggies tucked in my freezer, chlorophyll helps nourish my body throughout the long winter months.

I want to be very clear that I'm not suggesting chlorophyll as the magic cure to prevent illness and I'm certainly not saying replace fresh green vegetables with chlorophyll. Illness happens even to the healthiest eaters, especially when said eaters have children in school. Green vegetables and herbs contain so many more nutrients in addition to chlorophyll and it would be a foolish substitution for the green stuff direct from the ground. I am suggesting that green, in liquid form, can aid a body in ridding the stuff that needs to go and strengthening the systems that could use it in months that come up empty in green.

As always, please research for yourself before giving chlorophyll a try and if you have specific health concerns or illness, consult a well-trained physician of natural medicine or your doctor prior to use.