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Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 14, 2012

There are events that take place in your lifetime that you remember as if it happened only yesterday. You vividly recall where you were and what you were doing and you remember it for the rest of your life. Events like 9/11 - I'll never forget where I was (at work), who I was with (close friends and co-workers) and how I felt - how we all felt as the events unfolded (stunned, shocked, in disbelief).

And so it will be the same with regard to the horrible, senseless and tragic massacre that occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.

It was a beautiful day; bright and sunny, the air cool and crisp. I stopped at my boyfriend's house on the way to work to pick up his mail since he had been out of town all week and was in fact, returning later that day. I remember hearing a helicopter, looking up at it and thinking to myself, how odd that it was black and flying so low. Mind you, the "event" hadn't happened yet (still over 40 minutes away), so it was probably just flying around over the highway or perhaps coming in for a landing at nearby Danbury Airport.

I continued on to work and was doing the usual work stuff in the office, but I was also tracking my boyfriend's flight which was en route from Austria to JFK. My friend and co-worker had just returned to his desk which is next to mine and shouted over the partition asking if I had seen the online bulletin which had been released from the head of our HR Department, alerting us to an "event" that had taken place in Newtown. I had not. The bulletin mentioned something about a shooting in Newtown and provided a link to the developing news story and instructed people to leave if they felt they needed to leave. My company never advises leaving. Hardly ever, unless it's a state/government mandate due to a weather emergency or something, so we knew this was big. Indeed, a shooting had occurred at an elementary school in Sandy Hook. My thought immediately went to my friend who has a daughter that attends school in Sandy Hook - thankfully she attends a different school. However, her school, as well as other schools throughout the area were in lockdown. How horrible to be a parent and not be able to get to your child in the midst of this chaos and developing horror, which in the beginning, was fraught with confusion, and constant twists and turns as the story continued to unfold. (Similar to 9/11... at first we heard a small plane had hit one of the towers, only to find out it was an airliner. And then a second plane crashed into the second tower... and well, we know how that unraveled. Images that will haunt our memories forever).

So, in similar fashion, the events that took place in Sandy Hook on December 14 slowly unfolded. Most of us were watching livestream news on the internet. At the end of the day, twenty little first graders and six administrators/teachers were killed. Of course, the Sandy Hook event dominated the news but also on that same day in China, 22 little children were slashed with a knife as they were on the way to their elementary school.

By mid-afternoon, my boyfriend's plane finally landed and I emailed him to let him know a shooting had taken place in Newtown. I wanted him to be aware in case the traffic in our area might be affected  but I felt I had to clarify by saying this was BIG. Not just any random shooting; but a mass murder. No need for my email though as this news story was all over the world by his time and he was watching it on CNN as he waiting in the line at Customs.

It's been surreal. Huge helicopters flying above my house en route to Newtown. The president of the United States visiting Newtown. This type of thing doesn't happen in your own backyard. And most certainly, you would never, ever expect a crime of this magnitude to take place in a town like Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Of course, the Columbine shooting, the Virginia Tech shooting, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Norway shooting - they're all terrible and horrible. But they're somewhere else and while you still feel bad and sad, furious and helpless, there's a bit of distance there. It's a different story when it hits so close to home.

So like I said, it's been surreal. And it's been a sad week. When the pictures were posted of those little children, that's when it really got to me. Such sweet little faces, so cute and innocent. They never did anything to hurt anyone. They were just cute little kids - little first graders between 6-7 years old.  Gunned down. Forever silenced. I cannot even begin to imagine the depth of grief of losing a child and especially losing them in such a violent, senseless manner. How does a parent face the void left behind by the death of one so young and full of life? Never to hear their child's laughter again. Or play a game together. Or push them in a swing. Or walk hand-in-hand, child between each parent, being lifted in the air. Or watch them grow up to be the human beings they were destined to be. How sad for the parents that during this holiday season, instead of selecting toys, they had to shop for caskets and decide which clothes to bury their child in. How does one deal with something like that? I can't even begin to come to terms with the level of pain those families must be going through.

Those parents were just going about their normal day - putting their kids on the school bus or dropping them off at school and then going on to work or whatever their normal routine was on that day only to have their lives shattered in the blink of an eye. How tragic for all the parents and especially those who moved to Sandy Hook for whatever reason brought them there that placed their child in that classroom at that time.

On a positive note, the amount of love and support from around the world has been profound. I'm not even directly affected by this tragic event except that it happened in the next town over from me and I have friends who live there, but I'm still so appreciative of all the people and businesses that took time out to write from all over the world. The outpouring of love and concern that flooded Facebook that day was meaningful beyond belief. The Sandy Hook/Newtown community has certainly come together to support each other. People in surrounding communities are doing what they can to help and trying to alleviate their own grief sorrow by building and visiting memorials and donating to the families.

So now there are new 26 souls released. It's a reminder that you just never know... your life can change in an instant... and so in closing, I'm reminded of a quote I have hanging on my partition at work:

Life is a precious gift. Don't waste it being unhappy, dissatisfied, or anything less than you can be. Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey.

Enjoy life. Be kind to each other.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Recipe: Faux Salmon Steak (raw, vegan)

This recipe was demonstrated and served at Chef Renate's home. She is one of the chefs at the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. Approximately 3 Sundays a month, she and her husband host 10-15 guests to a delightful evening including information on the raw food lifestyle and the various types of equipment used in raw food preparation (juicers, food processors, Vitamix, dehydrators, water ionizers, etc). The night we went, the demo / menu included Mushroom Ceviche as an appetizer and a Garden Herb dressing served atop a bed of organic mixed greens. The entree was Faux Salmon Steak with a Caper-Dill Sauce.  And the desserts included a most delicious and impressive raw food version of Key Lime Pie and decadent Chocolate Truffles.

Mushroom Ceviche with Salsa and Avocado Puree

Faux Salmon Steak before dehydrating

Faux Salmon Steak after dehydrating 4-5 hours

Key Lime Pie

If you have an opportunity to attend one of her demos, I think you'll find it worthwhile. She is passionate about the raw food lifestyle and takes the mystery out of raw food preparation. The dishes are simple to prepare yet elaborate enough to impress guests and she offered so many wonderful suggestions and variations to style and serve each dish. I'm so glad I went; it was a wonderful evening away from the institute, not that I felt it was necessary to get off the campus, but it was something different - a nice evening spent with sweet friends, good dialog, great information and fantastic food and Chef Renate's husband entertained us with his piano music and singing. Magical night. This is something I would like to do myself someday, so it was helpful to attend a live demo to get real-life tips and tricks.

The Mushroom Ceviche was actually the very first raw meal I prepared as soon as I returned from Hippocrates since I just needed to go to the store and pick up the ingredients (no pre-prep required). I had ordered a dehydrator before I left Hippocrates, but I had to wait nearly 2 weeks before it arrived, THEN I could finally make the Faux Salmon Steak! It came out tasting pretty much just like the chef's!

Faux Salmon Steak

Process the following in a Champion juicer or twin gear juicer (note: I used a food processor which produced a slightly more textured mixture, but it still worked):

3 cups walnuts, soaked (I soaked overnight)
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup red peppers, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 tsp kelp powder
2 T dulse powder or flakes
2 T Braggs Liquid Aminos, or sea salt to taste

After you process above mixture:
Shape into steaks on dehydrator trays lined with ParaFlexx sheets
Wrap steaks with wet nori strips (resembles the dark salmon skin)
Slice the bottom white part of a scallion, about 1/2 inch and stick in the indent (see picture) to simulate the little bone that's in salmon steaks.

Garnish with lemon slices and serve with caper dill sauce.

Caper Dill Sauce
Place ingredients in Vitamix container:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup oil (Chef recommended sesame oil, but I used Olive Oil - that's what I had)
1 clove garlic
2 cups parsnips, chopped
Add water until it just reaches the top of the parsnips
Sea salt to taste (optional)

Blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour dressing into a bowl and stir in diced cucumbers, chopped dill, scallions and capers (the recipe doesn't specify quantity; I used about 1/4 cup of each.

Here's how my version came out:


Braggs Liquid Aminos can be found in any health food store, usually in the Macrobiotic section or near the soy sauce section. Nori can be found in the Macrobiotic section as well.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Recipe: Better Than Tuna (raw, vegan)

Finally getting around to posting recipes! So, this was a recipe that was demonstrated and served at Hippocrates by Chef Renate. She also held a cooking demo at her home one Sunday where she prepared and served a delicious 4-course meal. I think I posted the "Faux Salmon" that she prepared on Facebook, but I'll re-post it here as well (in a separate post) since I don't really get how the Facebook timeline works - sometimes I have a really difficult time finding my older posts.

Anyway, this recipe was a big hit among those of us who tried it at Hippocrates and it was really quite simple to prepare. The main thing is to be sure to factor in time to soak the sunflower seeds. Soaking seeds and nuts helps to remove the enzyme inhibitors, making them easier to digest. It also makes for a softer texture. Always discard the soak water.

I made a batch of this on Sunday and my boyfriend enjoyed it although in all honesty, while it did resemble tuna salad and it tasted good, it didn't really taste exactly like tuna salad; I believe I could have adjusted for this by adding kelp seaweed sprinkles to it to give it more of a fishy flavor, but it was actually delicious as it was so I really didn't feel the need to tinker with it further.

It makes quite a bit - we had some for dinner and we both had plenty leftover for lunch for the next 3 days, so I think next time I'll make half of the recipe if it's just for the two of us. This recipe would work well for a party - you could leave it in a bowl and serve it as a pate with celery sticks or you could fill endive leaves or lettuce leaves filled with little scoops of it and served on a large platter. You might also use large slices of red pepper with little dollops of the pate on top.

"Better than Tuna"

3 cups hulled sunflower seeds, soaked 4 to 8 hours, rinsed (discard soak water)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 squirts of Braggs Liquid Aminos or kelp to taste

Process in food processor (S blade) until thick and creamy.
Put pate in large bowl.

1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced white onions

Mix all together.

Lasts 2-3 days in the refrigerator.


Braggs Liquid Aminos can be found in any health food store, usually in the Macrobiotic section, or near the soy sauce section.  Kelp can be found in the Macrobiotic section as well.

Save money by purchasing nuts and seeds in the bulk section of the health food store. When I get home, I place them in mason jars - looks nice and keeps them fresh.


Final Week at Hippocrates

Hello Blog, I've missed you! I've been wanting to put new posts and recipes on here, but the Capricorn in me wouldn't let me do so until I'd finished writing about my final week at the Hippocrates Health Institute, so all the posts are in consecutive order. There really isn't too much new to add to the last week - most of the lectures and presentations were repeats, so I skipped most of them and just went to my complimentary treatments and tried to take in and enjoy every inch of the institute and its grounds. The one new (to me) lecture was one I wish I'd known about earlier in my stay - Intramuscular Manual Therapy - I think I would have benefited so much more by having the treatment done each week rather than just one treatment the day before I had to leave, but now I know.

On October 23, we had our final check-in for our weight and blood pressure and got our final blood draw done. So let's compare the blood pressure and weight over the 3-week span:

October 8:
Blood Pressure: 128/80
Weight: 173

October 16:
Blood Pressure: 124/84
Weight: 168

October 23:
Blood Pressure: 110/70
Weight: 163

The last week absolutely flew by so incredibly fast. Most of my time was spent feverishly making certain I had taken pictures of all my friends and making sure I had email addresses and friended any Facebook friends, etc. I was feeling sad to be leaving that place and those people. I hope to stay in touch and hear how everyone is doing.

Part of the graduation ceremony was to get up on the podium and speak about our experience. Here's what I said. I meant every word:

I left home feeling broken, tired, sad, mad, overweight, weak and stressed out. I came thinking I had had enough of people, enough of corporate life at a big pharma company and I just wanted to heal by myself. But the many friends I made during the past three weeks have touched my heart and enriched my life as much as, or perhaps even more than, the program itself. I'm leaving here much happier and more whole than when I got here.

There are so many things I have never, ever done before that I've done here:

  • Never flew so far by myself.
  • Never took 3 weeks off from work at one time.
  • Never did a day of juice fasting.
  • Never did 3 weeks completely raw.
  • Never went 3 weeks without TV
  • Never had a baby raccoon peer in through the window of a hut as class was taking place.
  • Never was able to discuss colonics while at a dinner table.

I'm proud of myself for doing all of this and more while I've been here. I even got to see a baby turtle go out to sea in real life!

I wanted to mention the power of our words... I used to joke around about having a brain tumor. I did this for years. If I forgot something or made a mistake, I would blame it on "my brain tumor." And then at 40 years old, I did indeed have a brain tumor. As if I didn't learn my lesson, these past few years, I've been saying that "my job is killing me" and now I've found that it is indeed starting to kill me. And I also now know how to stop it.

For most of us, the highlights were coconut day, avocado day or especially nut ice cream day, but for me, every single day here was a highlight.

I thank Dr. Brian and Dr. Anna Maria from the bottom of my heart for creating this healing place. And thanks to Viktoras as well as every single staff member here who have been so kind and caring.

It was sad saying goodbye to everyone that evening.

So heading back Saturday morning, I was facing flying through Super Storm Sandy. As if my fear of flying wasn't bad enough, right??? ... As I was boarding the plane, I was having serious misgivings - one of the flight attendants saw the look of terror on my face and asked if I was OK. I told him I was terrified and he told me that he'd been flying for over 8 years and yes, this flight was going to be bumpy due to the hurricane, but he told me to just look at him whenever I got scared and he would smile back and let me know everything was going to be alright. Such a sweet guy. I wish I'd gotten his name, but with all the terror going on in my head, I didn't. And as it turned out, the pilot flew well above the storm so the turbulence was not so severe.

Getting back to the Hippocrates experience, I would recommend the Life Transformation Program to anyone whether battling a serious, life-threatening disease or anyone needing/wanting to lose weight or to just learn about the power of live, raw, vegan raw foods. What I will recommend though, is if you can afford it, definitely spend the extra money to have a room of your own unless you really don't mind sharing a room with others. I had my own room and didn't have to share a bathroom, but I visited my friend's room which was shared with two others and I gotta say, it was a little too close for comfort for me. Now I will fully admit that as an only child, I'm not used to sharing space but this was crazy! I mean I don't think there was more than 4 feet between her bed and the other bed. I mean, no privacy AT ALL and if you're saddled with a roommate who has no concept that midnight is time to sleep and not go through their wardrobe rustling plastic Walmart bags without regard for their roommate who's trying to sleep because they have to get up early for appointments, etc, well... don't get me started on common courtesy and consideration. Besides that, while you're there, you are instructed to do enemas twice a day and it's awkward enough sharing a bathroom with roommates, but to try to schedule alone time in the bathroom for that just adds to the stress. I think the living conditions in the shared rooms are not conducive to healing at all, unless of course, you thrive on that. The rooms were clean and very nice, but they need to improve a bit on the privacy for everyone's best interest - maybe even a partition between beds. Something. With that said, everyone's different; there was one lady who came there hoping to have a roommate and was disappointed that there was nothing available for her, so she got her own villa (over 2,000 square feet) all to herself. Go figure!

I'm happy to report that I've pretty much maintained a mostly raw lifestyle since I've been back. I'm still feeling really good. I'm thrilled to report that most of the ailments on my original list have been reversed:

To recap:

Hot flashes: almost non-existent
Weight gain: lost 10 lbs and still losing
Irritability: diminished
Intolerance: diminished
Frustration: diminished
Brittle/split nails: no more split nails, but they became brittle again upon returning
Painful walking: almost non-existent
Cuts taking a long time to heal: better
Difficulty concentrating: better
Fatigue: much more energy
Anxiety: diminished
Bloating: diminished
Feeling stuck/hopeless: I have experienced a much better life - I don't feel as hopeless anymore

I most definitely returned happier, clearer, lighter and more radiant than when I left, so my mission was accomplished.

Our group: Me, Maria, Parris, Gill, Heidi, Bob, Nan, Stacy, Marcus, Marisa, Lisa. Sitting down: Ann, Heidi, Ziphora. My friend Paula is missing from the photo (she had to travel back home before the storm). Such special people.