Monday, December 31, 2012

Bringing in the New Year

Are you ready to bring in the New Year?  What do you have planned?

When we were in Mexico for New Year a couple of years ago, we loved all their bringing-in-the-new-year traditions and have definitely adopted one...even if we are making a little change to it this year!

The idea is that when making a toast with champagne for the New Year, each person should have 12 grapes, one for each month of the new year, in order to attract good vibes throughout the coming year.  With each strike of the clock on the final seconds of the year, you have to eat a grape - one on each strike, with the wish that your hopes and dreams will come true.

The grapes can be little bunches for each person, but we liked the idea of putting them on a skewer and in the champagne. Our slight deviation this year, however, is that the other day I found some gooseberries for sale in Sonoma! I absolutely adore gooseberries and have only seen them on sale once before in the US! So I bought all they had and so we have our skewered gooseberries to bring in the new year, instead of skewered grapes!  Don't they look good!...and will look even better when the glasses are filled with champagne.

The other traditions we learned about are:

  • underwear!  The underwear you wear on the last night of the year must be new and given to you by someone else! The color should be red to attract love and passion, and yellow to attract money and success.  When we were in Mexico, we saw quite a bit of red AND yellow underwear for sale just before new year - so you can attract it all!!!
  • suitcases.  If you want to travel in the New Year, you should keep a couple of suitcases ready at the door of your house, stuffed with clothing.  In the first few minutes of the new year, take them out of your house and walk them as far as you can, to attract lots of trips in the new year.
  • lentils. Eat at least a tablespoon of lentils to attract wealth and prosperity in every way, and especially for a business.
  • broom. As the new year strikes, open the door and use a broom to sweep out the bad vibes and welcome the good vibes in.
  • coins. Have a lot of coins and money on hand that you can count when the clock strikes midnight, which will bring you a lot of wealth.  Some place it in their shoe to bring more prosperity!

So what are you wishing for in the New Year?  Do you need to send someone out quickly to buy you new underwear?

Whatever your hopes and dreams, enjoy making them come true.

Have fun bringing in the New Year and may 2013 be full of happiness, love, and good health.

PS. Not sure how the gooseberries will go with the champagne, to be honest!
Sunday, December 30, 2012

10,000 Steps

I've been doing 10,000 steps now for just over a year!  If you don't know, 10,000 steps is a walking program where your goal is to walk 10,000 steps every day.

Just about every day, I put on my fitbit to measure the number of steps I take, and get out there walking.

About 1/3 of the year in, I decided to change my goal from 10,000 steps a day to 70,000 steps a week.  I found that some days I just didn't have the time for 10,000 steps, yet could easily make up a few thousand on another day that week.  By changing to a weekly goal, I didn't feel bad when I didn't reach my daily goal, and in fact was motivated to make sure I kept up the weekly goal.

I've probably only forgotten to put on my fitbit about 7 times in the whole 12 - 13 months!  It has just become a habit.

I'm not as fanatical about it all now, but part of that is because I just generally walk more than I used to, so reaching 10,000 isn't so difficult.

You're never to young to start!!..and it helps if you stick out your tongue :-D

For example, on Christmas day, it was a horrid wet day but we spent most of the morning talking on the phone to our family in England.  As I spoke on the phone, I walked constantly around the house.  By the time I got off the phone and we had spoken to everyone, I'd walked more than 8,500 steps!

So I encourage you to give it a try.  If you are new to exercise or walking, start with just measuring on a pedometer how many steps you normally take, and then set your goal at a little higher than that that seems like a stretch.  After you reach that goal, stretch yourself further and set a harder target and continue in this fashion.

I think it's time for me to have a new goal......
Saturday, December 29, 2012

Truly scrumptious - Clove and raisin raw fudge

Gosh - I've had so many truly scrumptious delights this week...but one taste that will stay with me was a clove and raisin raw fudge that I made.

When I started out, I was not making fudge at all, so it was one of the recipes where a failure led to an even bigger success.

I was going to make some raw clove chocolate and added some of my new clove liqueur.  However the chocolate didn't quite set properly - I added 2 tablespoons of the liqueur and probably should have stopped at 1!!!

So I decided to gently re-melt the chocolate - again not going above 110F so it remains "raw" and full of nutrients and anti-oxidants....and I added a little bit of coconut cream and also a few of our own homegrown and dried raisins, and then let it set as fudge!

Yum!  The clove is a great strong flavor but not too overpowering and the raisins gave a nice change in texture.  It is rich.  One square is extremely satisfying.

I made it as part of a goodie bag for my friends, but luckily saved some for a bag for my hubby, so I got some of that!!

What was truly scrumptious in your holiday week?
Friday, December 28, 2012

Melted Snowman Dessert

I made some little melted snowmen in honor of it not snowing here!

I really like this recipe appeals to me in that you serve up a little jar.....

....... and then open it up to find the melted snowman inside

Get it? The two raisins are his eyes, his carrot nose and currants as his buttons....!

Of course you can be elegant and serve this in a shot glass instead

The dessert is a hazelnut cream.  It's rich and full of flavor - which is why you only need a small amount.

Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/8 cup coconut palm sugar
2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest
1 cup non dairy milk ( I used homemade hazelnut milk)
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 cinnamon stick
(Optional for snowman - 2 raisins, 3 currants, orange sprinkle or carrot triangle)

  1. Toast the hazelnuts in a 350F oven for approx 5 minutes until golden and fragrance.  Transfer them onto to a kitchen towel and rub them in the towel to remove most of their skin.  Let them cool.  (If serving in  a glass, finely chop 1/2 tablespoon for garnish).
  2. Place the remaining skinned hazelnuts, sugar, and lemon zest in a food processor until finely ground into a paste.
  3. Combine the hazelnut mixture with the milk, vanilla seeds, cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil the reduce the temperature and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it begins to thicken.  Remove the cinnamon stick.
  4. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.
  5. Pour into small jars and decorate or into shot glasses and sprinkle on chopped hazelnuts.  
  6. Can be served warm, room temperature or chilled.
Don't feel bad eating the snowman...he had melted anyhow ;-D
Thursday, December 27, 2012

Salt and Pepper Quinoa crackers

I made myself some yummy crackers this morning.  I used a recipe from Jennifer Katzinger's book "Gluten Free and Vegan Holiday".

I've made these salt and pepper quinoa crackers a few times and just love that salt and pepper flavor. I'm a big fan of pepper - but use very little salt so I reduced the amount of salt somewhat.

Don't you just love my salt and pepper bunnies!
It's very easy - just quinoa flour, coconut oil, water, baking soda, salt and pepper.

When it comes to rolling the dough out, Jennifer suggests cutting shapes and lifting them onto the baking sheet. However, I find the dough too soft for that. So I roll it straight onto parchment paper, cut to the size of the baking sheet. When rolled, I then cut into lengths, but don't move them.  They cook all together and come out perfect every time.

Here's the recipe.

I also made some lentil pate to go with them. I'll share that with you soon.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Put aside our differences

Good old Charlie Brown!
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

I wish you all a very merry Christmas.  May you find peace, love, health and joy.

Monday, December 24, 2012

White Christmas

My favorite Christmas song:

I'm off down to Grace cathedral in San Francisco to sing the service there now.  Shame we don't get to do this one - with reindeer!!! But some lovely other music instead. If you are in the city, do join us this evening.

And a Happy Christmas to you all.  Have a wonderful day.
Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Dancing Policeman

I just read about Tony, the dancing policeman in Providence, Rhode Island.

As he directs traffic, he adds a few dance movements into this job!  Initially, he thought it might not go down well with his boss, but so many people phoned into the police station and said how much they loved seeing him, that he became quite the Xmas attraction!

Truth be known, Tony is no longer a policeman, however he became so popular in Providence and people missed him when he left, so the Police department now offer him a 10 day contract each Christmas time to come and direct the traffic!  He's been coming back for his 10 days of dancing for the past 10 years!

He says it takes some chiropractic work to keep him going - but he loves it!!!  Here's his little wiggle!
 Hope Christmas makes you feel like dancing too!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A pocketful of pecans

Harvesting continues....since October we've gone from grapes, to figs, to persimmons.....sort of missed the guavas when we were olives and today, to a pocketful of pecans.

Yes, our pecan tree is still small so we both picked a pocketful. There were 17 in all!

Yeah. 17 pecans!  They now "cure" - i.e. dry - for 2 weeks before we open them up and see the goodies inside.

And did you know...pecans are the most nutritious nut with amazing antioxidant content.  I always thought walnuts were healthier than pecans...hmmm....our little tree better get growing! 

Check out this little video from and see if you know how to rank nuts.

"What's next to harvest?", I hear you ask.... Citrus. Our citrus harvest is in mid flow...more on that another day.
Thursday, December 20, 2012

Imagine a hug

Give yourself permission to just take a couple of minutes with this blog post.

Sit down comfortably and take some deep breaths.

Breathe in for 4............1...........2...........3.............4

And breathe out for 4 ...............1.............2............3...............4

Take the time to do this for a few breaths...........

Now picture yourself receiving hug from your loved one.  Imagine their arms around you.....the hug lasts more than a second so give yourself time to imagine this as a real hug would be from your loved one.  Your bodies close, arms around each other, ....that feeling of safety and love.....

Next picture yourself being hugged by one of your parents.  Imagine how that feels.  How long does it last?  Are they long hugs?  Think about the different emotions that come to mind.  How your body fits that of your parent.  All those years of knowing each other....

What about the hug from a little child....maybe your child, or grandchild, or your friends little kids.....maybe you are bending down so they can reach around your neck...or you have lifted them their head goes on your shoulder...those sweet little arms trying to encircle you.

And what about a hug with a dear friend. How does that feel.  Picture that in your mind now.

Or hugging your favorite pet, be it a dog, cat, bird.......

Just think about how those hugs feel.  Each hug we imagined, felt different from the previous one.  The person makes a difference, even in our imagination.

I hope by taking a couple of minutes, you can see that just imaging receiving a hug can be pretty powerful.  Emotional and physiological changes occur. A hug can make us feel loved, supported, safe, touched - just when it is in our heads.

So hug imagery is something to remember.  I have many clients and friends who, because of going through chemotherapy, have been told not to hug anyone for fear of getting an infection from someone.  People miss these hugs.  But they don't have to.  They can use hug-imagery instead.  Next time you meet someone who can't hug, both close your eyes and imagine that hug.  It will still mean something to that person - and you -  and they will feel they have been hugged.

And if you can't be there to give someone a hug, send them this blog post and help them to imagine the hug you are sending them. Maybe they live far away, maybe they just need your hug today.  Suggest they take one minute and imagine a hug.  It can do wonders!

And as you finish reading this, close your eyes and imagine me giving you a big hug, right now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shining Light

We spent Christmas and New Year in Mexico a couple of years ago, in San Miguel de Allende.  We had a wonderful time there with family.  While we were there, we bought some colorful stars as decorations.  We just put them up at home this year for the first time.  They bring such brightness and joy to the room.

So today, I want to spread some shining light and send brightness and joy to all those who aren't doing well this Christmas season, especially to:

  • all the families and friends affected by the CT deaths
  • my family and friends who are in hospital at the moment - Uncle Dave and Diane - and their loved ones trying to support them
  • our friends overcoming or going through illness
  • our friends in anguish and sadness
  • and to all those that need our love and support right now

When I drove home last night, the moon was a crescent shaped smile. I couldn't stop looking at it - a shining smile to light the world.

Spread some light today. We could all do with some.
Monday, December 17, 2012

Pay it forward - a little bit of love


Let's make this the season of kindness - a time to love and care for each other.
Saturday, December 15, 2012


Friday, December 14, 2012

Bookclub Xmas luncheon

It was our book club Xmas luncheon today.

Always a lovely day :-D

We choose our books for next year and what month we want to host, we have a Yankee swap where we each give a book, and then we have a yummy potluck lunch together with champagne and wine.

I took dessert and made a sugar free, dairy free and gluten free lemon cheesecake.  I was wondering this morning how to decorate it, so I decided on making some raw sugar free chocolate to go on top.  I had a lovely Christmas tree and reindeer chocolate transfer sheet so I put half of the raw chocolate on the sheet, then broke it into large piece and placed on the cheesecake.

This time I used "sweet freedom" as the sweetener for the chocolate.  It is a brand I bought in England. It is a natural sweetener made from apples and grapes. It worked wonderfully with the chocolate and was much easier to combine than the sticky coconut nectar. I'll be using it again!  If you live in England - give it a try.  It's great.

The rest of the chocolate I made my favorite strawberry and pink peppercorn flavor in little triangles.

It was a lovely day and I'm looking forward to all our book choices for next year.

Do you have any books you plan on reading next year?
Thursday, December 13, 2012

Food as Medicine Group

In my "food as medicine" groups this week - Tuesday and Thursday - we discussed the effects of sugar in our diet, sugar substitutions, insulin resistance, diabetes, glycemic index, glycemic load etc.

(Gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, grain free) walnut roulade with pomegranates
For the cooking part of the class we learned how to bake desserts with low glycemic load foods, for those special occasions when we have treats.  Even when desserts are made healthier, they are still foods you shouldn't eat every day...but when an occasion arises, it's nice to eat something that is made from nutritious food.

The groups made some delicious food including a walnut and pomegranate roulade, a cranberry and pear tart, choux puffs and individual citrus and chocolate cakes.  They looked so beautiful too.

(Gluten free, dairy free, egg free, refined sugar free) Cranberry and Pear Tart

They were good sessions and people seemed to enjoyed the end result!  I wonder what they'll make again at home for Christmas and friends and family.

(Fat free, gluten free, refined sugar free, dairy free) Individual Citrus Cake

All the dishes were gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free.  In addition,
  • the walnut roulade had no flour in it - only walnuts 
  • the cranberry tart also had no flour, and used almonds and walnuts instead, it used flaxseeds as an alternative to eggs, and used dates as its sweetener
  • the citrus cake used oat flour and replaced fat with applesauce
  • the choux buns used sorghum flour and coconut milk for their cream

Which one would you chose?
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Neal Barnard on Diabetes

Here is the latest talk, published this month, from Neal Barnard on Type 2 Diabetes and how is it curable. Recorded at the TED Talks in Fremont.

This research has been available for some time now, yet so many are still ignoring it.  Hopefully this talk will help share the information to those who need it.  I ran a Food as Medicine group yesterday - and another tomorrow which was all on this subject.  More people need to know.

If you are interested, read his great book :Reversing Diabetes  and check out the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website for more information.  They lead an online 21 day vegan kick start program - in many different languages.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Truly Scrumptious - Hazelnuts

My "truly scrumptious" delight this week was a humble hazelnut.  I was cooking with some and one got away and I ate it - just raw.  Gosh - the taste was fabulous.  I rarely eat hazelnuts just as they are - but that will change now.

My first revelation about hazelnuts came when I was lucky enough to go to the French Laundry for dinner one night.  One of the courses they served had three raw hazelnuts on the plate.  When I ate one, I couldn't believe how wonderful it tasted.  I figured they must have an incredible secret place where they source them, as I'd never tasted such a fresh, flavorsome hazelnut...but then, there in my kitchen this week was another one!

Pure delight!  Go out and buy some raw hazelnuts and give them a try.  They are so delicious.  I think too often we get old rancid or salted/roasted hazelnuts and it masks their delicate flavor.  It's got to be the tastiest nut out there!

Hazelnuts are rich in unsaturated fats - which are shown to lower LDL and raise HDL.  They are also high in magnesium, manganese, Vitamin E, and B Vitamins.

You will be seeing more hazelnuts in my future!

What was the most truly scrumptious food you ate this past week?
Monday, December 10, 2012

Olive Harvest

We harvested our olives on Saturday. Just John and I.  Harvesting olives isn't nearly as glamorous as harvesting grapes, so it's rare we get anyone to help!

But it is still fun....And it was a lovely sunny day. Much nicer than harvesting in the cold and rain as can be the case with a crop that ripens in December!

We were out there for about 2 1/2 hours.  Not too long.  One of the reasons it didn't take too long is that most of our trees are too tall and so most of the olives are unaccessible.  We therefore pick those that we can easily reach by ladder, without risking life and limb and then stop.  The previous owners of the property had planted some olive trees and let them grow tall, so it's only the one's we've planted that are of a reasonable height for harvesting.

There were a lot of olives on some of the trees. They are alternate year crops so tend to have olives one year and none/very few the next...but we have about 13 trees, so there are always some with a crop.

The time to pick olives for pressing for oil is when about 70% are black and 30% are green. They change from green to black.... apart from one tree that always just has green olives.  This is an anomaly - olive trees shouldn't do this, but this one does for some reason!

We took them to Figone's Olive Press in the village.  They will press them and we pick up the oil next weekend.

We picked 111lbs - in just over two hours.  Pretty good going.

Should be enough oil to last us a few years.

But it is tiring and makes your shoulders and neck ache being up the tree and raking them. You can see in photo of me that I have a collecting vessel in front of me that you rake the olives into.  (The hat and sunglasses are protective from swipes of branches!)

This last photo gives you an idea of what we did when we got back from the olive press, to help those aching muscles!


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