Vegan, Gluten Free Healthy Banana Bread

nina's current supply of bananas The question, “So what do you do with the pulp?” always arises after serving some freshly pressed carrot+ginger+grapefruit+lemon+orange juice.

To be completely honest, both mom and I were against the idea of juicing at first. It seemed a bit over the top and pricey, not to mention the overall idea of drinking vegetables (I grew up drinking V8 in preschool and didn’t have fond memories of vegetable juice). Striving to be open-minded individuals, somewhere along the lines we gave it a try. We were pleasantly surprised by how yummy it was… but we never expected so much pulp to be created in the process!

Being a girl who cringes at the thought of throwing away anything edible, I got to Googling and found some great inspiration to start using the pulp. I started adding it to anything I could think of: sauces, soups, salad toppings, quiona, roasted vegetables… and my personal favorite: banana bread.

Growing up, I remember spotty bananas always becoming one of two things in our house: chocolate-banana milkshakes or banana bread. I think these fond memories have made banana bread one of my absolute favorite comfort foods. Maybe it’s because I’m in love with bananas (I’m not even kidding… this is the current supply that my roommate and I will devour over the next week and a half)… maybe it’s because it’s resourceful (every banana gets some love)… or maybe it’s because it creates the perfect morning pick me up (coffee + a toasted slice of banana bread = a reason to jump out of bed). Honestly, it’s the whole package… plus I love having breakfast and snacks for a week.

Try it and tell me what you think. This round (pictured) I made with blueberries, topped with an agave-lemon glaze. They are UH-mazing, and I’m having a hard time not eating them all… 


P.S. the pulp I used was exactly what came from the juicer. some people like to separate it, but – in the bread especially – it really doesn’t make a difference to me… your personal preference may be different 

banana blueberry muffinsVegan, Gluten Free Healthy Banana Bread 
(with non-vegan, non-gluten free substitutes)


  • 2 flax eggs* (substitute: regular eggs)
  • 1/4 cup agave (substitute: honey)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar 
  • 3/4 cup applesauce (no sugar added) 
  • 1 cup mashed over-ripe bananas, about 3 medium 
  • 1 + 1/2 cup juicer pulp
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 + 3/4 cup almond meal (substitutes: oat flour, whole wheat flour)


*1 flax egg = 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp water

Mix-ins to Try

  • handful of walnut pieces + handful of raisins
  • 1 +1/2 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, prepare flax eggs by beating flaxseed + water (using a fork or mixer). Let rest.
  3. To the bowl with the flax eggs, add agave, brown sugar, bananas, applesauce, juicer pulp, baking powder, and salt; mix thoroughly.
  4. Using wooden spoon, slowly stir in almond meal until mixed. Gently fold in any mix-ins. 
  5. Bake in lightly greased loaf pan (I like to use coconut oil) for 1 hour at 350 degrees, until knife comes out clean. Cover ends of loaf pan with foil during last 10 to 15 minutes to prevent over browning.

Variation: Muffins or Mini Loaves

  • Reduce cooking time to 20 minutes for muffins or 30 minutes for mini loaves. 

Enjoy the yummy, healthy, fibrous goodness!

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Journey of Renewal

Yoga retreat

Spring Renewing Itself

Spring. The point in nature’s cycle where living things reinvent themselves in the most beautiful way possible. Flowers, trees, and animals emerge from the dark, dead winter into the glorious light that awakens the earth with warmth and renewed life. As nature is in the process of rebirth, I find that I am too.

The timing of life never ceases to amaze me. Like the harmony of the seasons, everything has a time and place. It’s hard to see it in the moment, but upon reflection, I am able to see how the events in my life make sense after they’re over.

I learned some valuable lessons over the past few months. I’ve shared what helped me on my journey of renewal at the end of this blog.

Forced to Let Go of Control

Most recently, it was my surgery that turned my world upside down. Surgery that I put off for a year because I was afraid. Surgery that went great…until there were complications and I had to stay in the hospital for a week. Surgery that left me weak and humbled and especially grateful. Surgery that I put off because I didn’t have insurance. Surgery that left me renewed in more ways than one.

Fortunately what was growing was removed and I am free from long term health worries. Even better, this year I was able to find coverage under the affordable care act, so my hospital costs instead of being tens of thousands of dollars is much less.

I found an awakening to life that every moment is precious and what I choose to do, consume, be a part of is a decision I can make mindfully. I made the decision to start living fully in the present, as opposed to living unaware in a way that is not serving me, and potentially harming me.

Establishing Roots of Renewal

Immediately following the second surgery I was unable to do anything but sleep, distract my eyes and thoughts, and eat ice chips. It was as close to doing absolutely nothing as I’d ever been in my life. I was frustrated, overwhelmed, and discouraged by my situation. I had to let go of all of my expectations about my recovery, about what was going to happen next. As I evaluated my life from the bleak hospital bed, my perspective was being slowly renewed. Like the sprouting of a seedling beneath the surface, I couldn’t see what was happening, but I was establishing roots.

As I became stronger, I started to look at where I was in my life. The obligations that I had. The people that surrounded me. The activities and non-activities that consumed my time. I decided it would be by choice, not by accident, what I put back into my life.

Recognizing and Revising

In the beginning stages of recovery, I had been spending a lot of time looking at Facebook. Mindlessly scrolling through my news feed I was constantly bombarded by the over sharing, the illusion of perfection, the “look at how great my life is” attitude. Ugh, it wasn’t helping me, rather it was draining me. Without even realizing what I had been doing, I found myself addicted to something that I didn’t even like.

Wanting to stop the vicious negative cycle, I deleted the app off of my phone. Then, like I’d unlocked a clue to a secret deep within myself, I noticed that there were other things in my life that were holding me back from living fully. I found myself cleaning out my files, my closet, my schedule, my life… and for the first time in a long time I realized I’d trapped myself in all these things and thoughts, all of which I wanted to be set free from.

The physical decluttering helped me mentally recalibrate. I took a good long look at myself and the way I had been acting… and it saddened me. I have written and talked about being a recovering control freak, but reevaluating my life made me realize that I’d been stagnant in my recovery. Somewhere along the lines I’d gotten wrapped up in my head that I was “recovered.” I had forgotten that everything is a continual process. I realized I was living my life thinking that if I could control everybody and everything around me everything would be ok.

Everything was far from ok.

Finding Freedom

Yoga retreat

Letting Go of the Need to Plan

As much as I wanted to let go of control, I was afraid. I cried. I worried. I journaled. What would happen if I released my tight grip on EVERYTHING? It felt as if my whole world would fall to pieces.

I am thankful for the love and support that my friends and my daughter have given me to help me through this rough patch. They’ve encouraged me when I thought I couldn’t go on. They’ve loved me at my worst. They’ve stood by my side, listening and advising. I began to realize that what I struggled so hard to control were the very things that were controlling me. I had to let them start falling away.

I’m still uncomfortable with not being able to control certain aspects of my environment. Some days I’m still discouraged. And while I’ve found letting go is hard; holding on is even harder. But I’m finding freedom.

As I work to mindfully let go of the many things in my life, I am awakened to the fact that I never really had hold of any of them in the first place. It was only an illusion of control. A good friend shared this with me: Letting go is possible. Holding on is impossible.

As we shed the old (habits, ideas, thoughts, emotions, relationships), we make room for new opportunity and possibility in our lives. I’m in the process of shedding the old and letting go of what doesn’t serve me. I am finding my way to a renewal.

Taking Action

What about you? Is this spring your time of renewal and rebirth? Choose to do a mental, physical, and emotional spring cleaning for yourself. Here are some tips that helped me on my journey to renewal. My hope is that they’ll inspire you to get started

  • Mental – Let go of habits and thoughts that are bringing you down. Are you comparing yourself to others or to unreal images on the internet? Are you constantly critical and negative? Are you caught in a loop of crises or drama?
  • Physical – Let go of bad habits that are causing stress and distress to your body. Drinking too much, overeating, not exercising. Do you find yourself eating or drinking to help you cope with what is going on in your life? Let go of activities that drain you. Do you find yourself getting together with the same group of friends just because you’ve been doing it for so long? Are you stuck in a rut in your exercise routine just because?
  • Emotional – Let go of guilt or anger or perfection or anything else that seems to cause problems in your life, to yourself or others. Do you find yourself holding on to a past hurt? Are you in a toxic relationship with a significant other, friend or family member?
  • Forgive yourself – For the things you have done, the things you didn’t do and all the things in between. Holding on to the pain and not allowing forgiveness only makes you feel bad. Find compassion and understanding for those in your life and especially for yourself.
  • Make a change in your life – Maybe it’s a small change like taking a different way to work or putting your mat in a different spot in your yoga class. Maybe that step leads you to something more profound like changing your eating habits a little at a time, taking up an activity that heals you, or doing something that scares you a little bit.
    Yoga Retreat at Retreat in the Pines

    Women at January 2014 Yoga Retreat Enjoying a Weekend of Renewal and Healing

  • Get out of your comfort zone – Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of trying a new sport or hobby or traveling somewhere. What is it that speaks to your soul? Find renewal when you listen. You don’t have to wait for someone to do it with you, you can do it on your own. A yoga retreat is a safe place to come on your own. You’ll meet new friends and find the space you need to change your perspective. You’ll find that time away from your routine will open you up to possibility. As you step out of your comfort zone you’ll find freedom, and with freedom comes joy. Experience it today! Book your retreat get away here.

Maybe this spring is an opportunity for you to find renewal. Remember, renewal is a journey. It doesn’t have to happen overnight. Take baby steps. Give yourself time. And never give up.

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The Year of Acceptance

Love Yourself

Love Yourself

Join us as we celebrate and embrace our year of acceptance, inspired by Megan Reilly, winner of our “Love Yourself” contest. Megan shared the following inspirational story with us.

Let it inspire you.

I want this year to be the “Year of Acceptance.” I want to reconnect with who I am and learn to be happy with the present moment while still investing positive energy in the future.

Awareness is the First Step

I recently came home from a business trip in New Hampshire, where I designed lights and projections for a new play. Almost immediately upon returning to my Texas-based life, I started worrying. I worry a lot about what others think of me, especially about whether I’ve let them down (did I see enough of my friends and family while back in NH? did I pay enough attention to my traveling companion? did I make too many mistakes at work prior to leaving and thus left my coworkers with a mess?).


Yesterday I realized that I was very, very close to being done with that mindset. I was close to accepting that others’ feelings were theirs, not mine, and that I was not responsible for them. I was close to accepting that some of what I was worrying about was unimportant in the larger picture of my hopes and dreams. And some of the chronic tension that I carry with me slipped away.

Letting go of the Past

I’ve carried a tremendous amount of tension in my body for over two decades now. It comes from a lifetime of anxiety over whether or not I’m doing the right thing or being the right person. It’s the result of never fully trusting myself, my own perceptions and instincts. And the last year of my life – which I termed the “Year of Rejection” – did nothing to help this. I’ve just come away from a very difficult time in which it seemed as though I was never going to be able to pursue the life I wanted. I’m fighting the urge to focus all of my energies AWAY from who I am today and on who I hope to be tomorrow. I try to live my life by the principle of santosha (contentment) and am failing miserably.

The depression of the last year took with it my dedication to yoga. I am currently reconnecting with that part of myself and recommitting to a practice of self-care. And it’s not an easy task. I’ve become too used to sitting on the couch with my laptop, watching whatever television show was on and waiting for the day to be over. The few times in which I can get out of this routine – especially traveling and MOST especially being away from computers, phones, and televisions – are times in which my mind quiets down and releases some of that anxiety. Those are times when I start to feel like myself again.

Retreat as Recovery

During this “Year of Acceptance” I feel like I started on this path and have long thought that a yoga retreat would be instrumental in such a journey but the stress of money always brings me back to reality. Winning a chance to go on such a retreat would be a huge part in my healing.

We are pleased to say Megan will be attending the May Women’s Yoga Nurture Retreat and will share her story of the retreat and its impact on loving herself.

Learn more about Upcoming Yoga Retreats

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla soup is a tasty main course any time of the year. This recipe is easy and for any level of cooking experience. You can also make it a part of a Tex-Mex feast with quesadillas or tacos and of course a margarita! This is one of the most requested recipes that we serve at our yoga retreats.


Yoga Retreat Recipe

Yummy & Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 3 Large Chicken Breasts, skin removed
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 2 zucchini squash
  • 6 carrots
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 cans rotel tomatoes
  • 1 cup of your favorite salsa
  • 2 cups cooked red quinoa
  • 1 tsp each of salt and cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 bunch of cilantro chopped
  • avocado slices
  • shredded cheese
  • tortilla chips
  • Cook chicken breasts in 2 quarts of water (add salt & pepper) until chicken is cooked (cook on medium, water should be simmering). Chop vegetables while chicken is cooking. Remove chicken and strain broth, returning broth to heat and adding vegetables (except tomatoes). Simmer for another hour. Then add tomatoes and chicken. Heat for another hour and serve. Top with fresh avocado, grated cheese and tortilla chips. Enjoy!

    Here are the benefits of adding quinoa to the recipe.


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Roasted Beet Salad

Roasted Beet Salad Retreat in the Pines Yoga Healthy Eating Living DetoxLooking for a way to make your spring salads more exciting? Roast some beets and add to some super greens and you’ve got yourself a great spring detox meal! Your taste buds will rejoice in the flavorful goodness as your body thanks you for the nutritious energy! The taste of these earthy root veggies is surprisingly sweet and delicious – I’ve hooked several friends who claim to not eat beets with this simple and delicious recipe.

Beets are a great source of potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; and folic acid. They are a great detox for the body, cleaning the liver and blood, while acting as a great natural source of energy. Read 6 Health Benefits of Eating Beets.


Easy Roasted Beet Salad Recipe

  • 1 – 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 medium beets, greens removed
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • baby spinach
  • arugula
  • blue or goat cheese
  • avocado slices
  • dried cherries (you can also try cranberries, blueberries or raisins)
  • toasted pecan pieces (walnuts are good too)
  • balsamic vinegar (try it with a fruity balsamic vinegar like blueberry or cherry)
  • olive, grapeseed, avocado, walnut or other salad oil
  1. Thoroughly rinse beets (I like to use a small sink bath with baking soda, a splash of vinegar, and room temperature water to soak for about 10 minutes – a handy veggie brush also really helps to remove the extra dirt).
  2. If desired, peel your beets (I like to leave the peel on when I’m using organic beets).
    Warning: Beets stain very easily! I usually don’t mind, but if you’re worried about having slightly pink hands for a day you may want to wear gloves. Also, be mindful to not leave the peels sitting on a light colored counter or sink, unless you’re wanting to go for a new look in your kitchen.
  3. Chop the beets into like size pieces, to help with even cooking.
  4. In a sauté pan on medium heat, melt coconut oil and add onion and garlic.
  5. Sauté for 5 minutes and stir in beets; add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Let the beets cook over medium heat until desired consistency, stirring occasionally. 
    Personally, I like my beets to still have a bit of crunch – cooked al dente – while others prefer softer beets. Keep in mind that the longer you cook something, the more nutrients are lost. 
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. In a bowl with your desired amount of spinach and arugula (spring mix works too), spoon warm beets over the greens, topping with cheese, avocado, toasted pecans, dried cherries, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and your preferred oil.
  9. Enjoy! 

Have you tried the Healthy Indulgent Chocolate recipe yet?

Check out more great Retreat in the Pines recipes here! 

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Conserve Yourself

In honor of World Water Day (observed March 22) I wanted to write about water and other natural resource conservation…but I believe conserving our time, energy, resources is an even more important element of conservation that we tend to overlook all too often in our “busy” lives.

Our Valuable Natural Resources  at Retreat in the Pines

Our Valuable Natural Resources at Retreat in the Pines

Of course conserving and caring for our earth’s amazing resources – water, land, air, trees, native plants, and so on – is incredibly important. At the end of the day it does matter what you do or don’t put in the trash, how much water you consume, what things you re-use, where and how you shop, and so on… but all of these things start with one thing: you. If you’re not taking care of yourself, conserving your energy, your time, your resources… you’re probably not going to care or think twice about conserving resources that aren’t “yours.” I say this from personal experience.

Can you start conserving you? Here are some suggestions. And you’ll find the more you take care of you, you’ll have the energy and time for the things in your life that you you must do.

This isn’t a to do list. These are suggestions, find one that resonates with you and gently incorporate it into your life.

Where Does Your Energy Go?

How are you spending your precious energy? Yes, it’s renewable through self-care and taking time for yourself, but ideally you want to make sure that you’re spending your energy on things that actually matter to you.

Are you running your children to point A and point B and back again, just to keep up with the Joneses? Are you working/studying/living inefficiently, trying to do so much that you’re not doing anything besides running out of energy? Are you using your energy on something that you could have someone else do, either bartering, hiring or sharing?

Conserve Your Energy

First, start by examining those things in your life that drain your energy. Then, decide what you need to limit or possibly even eliminate. Do you have friends, family members, habits, or other regular encounters that leave you feeling completely drained…things that literally suck the life out of you?

Do you have a friend who always complains, someone who doesn’t really want to listen to you or invest in you like you do them? Maybe it’s time you limit the time you spend talking or visiting with that friend.

Is there a family member that is taking advantage of your resources, your kindness, and your good will? Maybe it’s time to think through and set some boundaries. I know it can be scary to speak up sometimes…but remember, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Are you the go-to person in the office, PTA, or other group that always does everything because no one else steps up? It’s okay to say no. Saying no to one thing means you can say yes to something else, something that better serves you while still serving others. “I’m so sorry, but NO I can’t help out this time.” It feels good to say…try it!

How Do You Spend Your Time?

How are you spending your precious time? Probably one of the greatest mysteries of all time is time. Where it goes, no one seems to know…but we all talk about how fast it flies by.

Are you worrying about what’s going to happen or not happen tomorrow? Are you creating problems for yourself by imagining worst case scenarios or over reacting to small things? Are you so unorganized that every day is a challenge of finding your keys, your coffee cup, and your phone? Do you have the perfectionist leaning or control freak mindset (recovering, that’s me) where you have to do everything just so, or if you don’t do it, no one will? Maybe you plan to spend a couple of minutes on social media, and look up an hour later to wonder where the time went.

Yoga Retreats

Then Let Go of Those Things That Don’t Serve You

Conserve Your Time

Think about the things that matter most to you – the things that ignite the fire inside your belly and make you want to wake up in the morning. You may have heard that worrying is like praying for what you don’t want. Whatever it is you’re worrying about, worrying won’t help fix it – trust me I’ve tried. Instead, try writing down things that you’re worried about as they run across your mind. Let the physical act of getting them out of your head be an exercise to let them go. Maybe pray or meditate for a moment on the process of letting go. Try to visualize yourself holding the problem in your hands, setting it down, and walking away. And if you find yourself still holding on, just keep letting it go. Then, for every worry that comes to mind, write down something you’re grateful for. Keep adding to the lists as things come to mind and watch as your list of worries gets smaller and your gratitude list gets longer.

When it comes to time, organization is one of my biggest challenges. Leo Babauta’s blog Zen Habits, saved my life. My daughter Nina introduced me to this internet gem and I couldn’t be more thankful. Check out his blog or any of his books, embrace the small changes of simplicity, and watch as your life begins to turn around.

If you’re struggling with endless lists of to dos, try writing down all the things that you think you “need” to do. Take an honest look at the list and determine what actually needs to get done. Then, think about the people in your life that could possibly help you with the other tasks. Maybe it’s your spouse, your children, your friends, or a co-worker. And maybe some of those things you “need” to do aren’t as important as you originally thought.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: just say no to social media or cable TV that doesn’t enhance your life. Say yes to music you enjoy, curling up with a good book or working in your garden. It’s the baby steps that add up.

Take Look at Your Resources and Where They Go

How are you spending your precious resources?

Are you aware of your income versus spending habits? Are you spending money on the latest fashions, decor for your home, or gadgets that promise to make your life easier, just to feel a momentary fix? Do you spend all of your hard earned income on a gas guzzling car? Do you find yourself eating and drinking out all the time? Are you giving to a charity that only contributes 20% of revenue to the cause?

Conserve Your Resources

Take the time to think through a budget. There are so many helpful resources to utilize for free – just check out Mint and Learnvest.

Take some time for yourself, preferably in nature doing something active (it boosts those awesome endorphins), and find that you don’t “need” so much stuff…you may discover that the craving is more of a want than a need.

Think about trading in your car for something fuel efficient, try sharing a ride, or something as simple as combining your errands into one trip.

Find joy in preparing simple and healthy meals at home and enjoying a bottle of wine from your local grocery store.

Check out your favorite charity at Charity Navigator to see how it’s rated for what it actually gives to the chosen recipients versus the amount of money it brings in. If the giving numbers are unacceptable, find another charity through Charity Navigator or contribute locally, to your children’s school or the local food pantry.

Yoga Retreat at Retreat in the Pines

Women at January 2014 Yoga Retreat Enjoying a Weekend of Renewal and Healing

Savor Your Life

Take time for you. Yes you. You deserve it. On a daily basis, maybe a few minutes some days, maybe an hour other days, and take the necessary weekend here and there. Go to yoga or exercise class. Get together with friends (the non-toxic ones). Take a weekend away with yourself, maybe a yoga retreat. Make a gratitude list in your head at every stop light.

This is your life, your energy, your time, your resources.

Why would you want to waste another precious moment? Savor it. You’ll be looking back before you know it, realizing all the small things you couldn’t find time for, are the things that matter most.

Learn more about Upcoming Yoga Retreats

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Opening Our Hearts to Vulnerability

Yoga Retreat May 2011

Margaret in Heart Opening Meditation

There’s a lot of talk about vulnerability these days. Personally, I believe vulnerability is one of the key things that makes us human. For many of us, though, it is something we find ourselves fighting on a daily basis – ‘us’ including me. Fearful to be found defenseless, we keep our guards up and our hearts closed down. It’s terrifying to let someone see us as we truly are, where our desperate needs and raw emotions lie exposed.

I truly believe that in order to live a deeply connected life, our vulnerability must come out into the open where we can grow and change; finding a place where we allow ourselves to breathe deeply and open up to the joy of endless possibilities – rather than the frustration of inconveniences – that surround us in each passing moment. And though it may be scary, as with anything else, you can start with baby steps.

For an inspiring talk on vulnerability, see Brene Brown’s Ted Talk. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

When you Open Your Heart to Vulnerability

We asked you what you thought about vulnerability, about what it meant to you. Thank you for opening up your hearts to us! Here’s some of what was shared:

  • Joann commented, “Vulnerable to me is putting yourself out there by opening up your heart and mind, regardless of your fears.” Joann has attended three retreats, each time attending by herself, definitely opening up her heart and mind, and making new friends in the process.
  • Denise, who came with a group of friends in Spring 2013, added her definition of vulnerability, “Vulnerability is where real truth begins!”
  • Lyn has a way of looking at vulnerability that really opened my eyes up to the importance of vulnerability in our lives. She said, “Vulnerability to me is being less judgmental and controlling. Instead, opening my heart to become a more empathetic, caring and insightful person, willing to take chances despite the risks. Breaking down hard, protective walls built up over life’s hard knocks…to become a better human being not only for myself but for everyone around me.”
  • Denise W. expressed it so well when she said, “It means to lower our walls. Not only with people but with ourselves.” For some of us, one may be easier than the other.
  • Terri posted, “Vulnerability to me means allowing yourself to experience something that may be uncomfortable, be it an emotion, new relationship, or simply a self reflection that creates a stir…”
  • Jo Ann’s description, with vividly expressed images, “In my opinion, it would be sitting in a straight backed chair on an elevated stage, with people all around in a circle on the floor in easy pose, your center stage. The lighting is low and it’s around sunset. Each seated person gets to ask you whatever they want. You in your straight backed chair have to answer with absolute truth. Vulnerability.”
  • Julie, who recently attended the Strength & Healing Retreat, shared this. “Having the courage to live from the heart and allowing for the same in others.” I love it. If we don’t give others in our life the freedom to be vulnerable with us I think we’re only getting it half right. We must all embrace our vulnerability.
  • Tiffany observed, “Vulnerability is sensitivity and a true opening of the heart. It allows us to love fully.”
  • Kimberly summed it up when she said, “Vulnerability means open to all possibilities!” Kimberly has been to three retreats and I love keeping up with her posts on Facebook, where her willingness to be vulnerable as a mother, wife and attorney is inspiring.
Women's Yoga Retreat

Sharing and Connecting Over Dinner

Vulnerability: An Adventure

Since 2004, I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many amazing women at the retreats I’ve hosted. I’ve witnessed incredible changes in women’s lives, I believe coming to a retreat opens up a door of possibility for the women who are ready for it. The willingness to be vulnerable and take a risk is a key ingredient.

As I observe diverse groups of women gathering together in the intimate setting of Retreat in the Pines, beginning or continuing their journey of lowering their walls, I am truly humbled by the connection and healing that occurs. It has been my experience that the women who are truly willing to open up and share with one another, allowing themselves the freedom to really be vulnerable, are the ones that enjoy the richer retreat experience and go home with a renewed perspective on life.

Heart Wide Open

Keeping my guard up, not allowing my heart to open, is seemingly “safe.” Yet it seems to be a recipe for a less connected existence. That’s not what I want… I know its scary, but I want to live and love with my heart wide open, embracing that vulnerable side of me on a daily basis. Living intentionally in the present moment, rewarded by the open heart that comes alive with adventures and freedom.

What about you? Are you ready to open your heart to the possibilities of vulnerability?

Seek Vulnerable Moments

Tell someone how you really feel. Do the thing that completely terrifies you. Surrender and find comfort in the discomfort. What if you opened your heart up to the possibility of attending a retreat by yourself? View our upcoming retreats here

Share your story and enter to win a “Love Yourself” retreat giveaway (details below) 

Yoga Retreat Dessert

Healthy Indulgence Chocolate Covered Strawberries

P.S. Looking for a last minute Valentine’s Day treat? 

Whip up some Healthy Indulgent Chocolate and dip strawberries to share with someone you love. Or give yourself a little Valentine’s love. Enjoy!



Enter to Win a “Love Yourself” Retreat Giveaway!

In 750 words or less, open your heart to vulnerability and tell us why you deserve to win a “Love Yourself” Retreat.

Send your story to
Submissions due March 10.

One lucky winner will receive a FREE Retreat* 
Second Place: $50 off a Retreat 
Third Place: $25 off off a Retreat

Winners will be announced in the April Newsletter.

First Place Winner’s story will be featured on the 
Retreat in the Pine’s Blog 

*Applicable only for retreats in 2014 with Theresa. Must be booked 60 to 90 days in advance to guarantee spot.

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Black Bean Birthday Brownies


Our 3 lovely birthday ladies! Kari, Jonna & Suong

With the opportunity to celebrate three birthdays this weekend, the black bean brownies made it sweet, but the women we celebrated with were the true treat. I had so much fun at the January Detox retreat – juicing carrots and citrus, roasting yummy fall veggies and being present, really living life with intention.  

Full of Goodness

I came home completely exhausted, but full of love, joy and wisdom. And while I spent most of the weekend in the kitchen, I was able to sneak out to enjoy a relaxing Yoga Nidra class on Saturday night, followed by devouring some delicious birthday brownies and enjoying great conversation with some truly incredible women making for some really sweet memories.

At Retreat in the Pines, we realize that the retreats are about so much more than the yoga. It’s hard to describe, but Mom and I have no doubt that the amazing things that happen at these retreats are just meant to be. And these fudgy black bean birthday brownies were one of them, no doubt about it.



P.S. You will notice that this is a large batch (it is what I used for the retreat). Cut it in half and make in an 8×8 glass baking dish if you don’t want TOO much chocolatey goodness (:

This recipe was inspired by a black bean brownie recipe I found on one of my favorite blogs, Minimalist Baker

Jonna's Lavender Vanilla Version**

Jonna’s Lavender Vanilla Version**

Black Bean Brownie Recipe 

Serves 20+
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Vegan, Gluten Free

Brownie Base

  • 2 15 oz. cans unsalted black beans
  • 6 Tbsp ground flax
  • 3/4 cup coconut/almond milk (or water)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • generous splash of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups cocoa powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 15×10 glass baking dish (I used coconut oil)
  2. Drain and thoroughly rinse the black beans.
  3. Using a food processor, blend the beans until they don’t blend anymore.
  4. Add remaining “Brownie Base” ingredients to the food processor, one at a time, and blend until smooth. 
  5. Pour into baking dish, and pop in the preheated oven.
  6. Cook for about 25-30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Fudgy “Icing” (which I actually just slightly adapted from the Healthy Indulgent Chocolate recipe) 

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 1.25 cups cocoa powder
  • toasted pecans
  1. Heat saucepan over medium heat, and add coconut oil.
  2. Turn off stove and let coconut oil melt completely, remove from heat entirely.
  3. Whisk in honey and vanilla extract.
  4. Add cocoa powder 1/4 cup at a time until whisked throughly.
  5. After brownies have cooled for about an hour, sprinkle with toasted pecans and pour the fudgy icing mixture on top.
  6. Let cool completely until topping is no longer “melty” but “fudgy” (I refrigerated for a couple of hours)

**Jonna only made half the batch. Instead of brown sugar she used 2 tbsp lavender vanilla bean sugar (from Savory Spice Shop) and 1/4 cup pure maple syrup. She also used the same amount of oil but did 1/2 coconut 1/2 walnut! Yum!

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Live Life with Intention

It’s so easy to make resolutions, choose intentions or set goals at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, it’s just as easy to break them. And you may or may not berate yourself for that supposed “failure,” but why even go through that when there’s a more attainable idea for your new year.

Live Your Life with Intention

Live your life intentionally.

Each moment, each day, each week. Each person and each situation (good, bad or indifferent). Living your life intentionally allows you to bring your yoga off of your mat and into your world.

Wouldn’t you rather be truly aware of your surroundings, your life, your loved ones, as opposed to the “living” so many of us are addicted to, the going through the motions and living distractedly?

When’s the last time you drove from point A to point B and couldn’t remember how you got there? Do you find yourself nodding your head in agreement and saying uh-huh, supposedly engaged in conversations, but actually focused on, or even doing, something else. Has your multi-tasking habit gotten completely out of control?

Scientists now say our brain fails miserably at multi-tasking and we perform best when we engage in one activity at a time. Read more about the pitfalls of multi-tasking in Forbes.

Enjoy the little things in your life, doing one thing at a time, not simultaneously. Walk your dog. Call (instead of text). Appreciate the little things around you: trees, kids, sunshine coming through your window.

Start with one activity per day. Maybe driving to work. Notice the other drivers, the scenery,
pay attention to how you’re feeling. No talking and texting while driving of course. Turn off the radio. Be fully present. Actually remember the trip from point A to point B.

Maybe that’s all you can manage some days. Maybe some days you do several activities intentionally. Maybe you start to live your life that way. Baby steps.

One day you will notice… you are actually living your life, fully engaged, and not just going through the motions.


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Healthy Indulgent Chocolate Recipe

Do you plan to eat healthier in 2014? Don’t deprive yourself of the things that you enjoy! Instead, intend to eat mindfully and eliminate the truly bad for you stuff (processed, junk and fast food), while continuing to enjoy healthy indulgences.


Note: This makes a small batch of chocolate that I usually devour in about 3 days. I was intrigued by a post featuring chocolate that claimed to be “metabolism boosting” and being a lover of all things chocolate, decided to give it a try. I have to say, this is as close to guiltless as I’ve ever been while eating chocolate, and for as much as I’ve been eating it, I’d definitely endorse the metabolism boosting elements. Go for organic ingredients where you can. Enjoy!


Healthy Indulgent Chocolate

¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup honey*
⅓ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1. Melt coconut oil in saucepan over medium heat, remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

2. Add vanilla extract and honey to coconut oil, whisk together.

3. While whisking, add cocoa powder gradually until thoroughly blended.

4. Devour anyway your heart desires!

5. Store in the refrigerator.

*The amount of honey used can be altered to your preference. I found that I actually preferred less than ¼ of a cup, making it a darker, more bittersweet chocolate.

Suggested Devouring Methods:

- Line a baking dish or tupperware with parchment paper or foil, pour in chocolate, add some toppings (I like a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel and chopped, roasted pecans), and refrigerate until hardened, cutting or breaking into chunks after set…resist the temptation to eat the entire batch (or don’t).

- Invite a friend to bring wine and enjoy it as a healthy chocolate fondue with bananas and other fruit (what I’m doing for New Years).

- Make chocolate covered things: pretzels, strawberries, cake balls, etc…to share with neighbors and friends.


Suggested Toppings:

- Fleur de Sel (or kosher salt)

- roasted nuts, chopped or whole

- unsweetened coconut flakes

- dried, unsweetened cherries or cranberries (if unsweetened isn’t available, use less honey)

- crushed peppermint (with a splash of peppermint extract added to the chocolate)



P.S. a lot of chocolate was consumed while posting this…


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