3 Areas to Find Freedom

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As I celebrated Independence Day this weekend, I was reminded that in recent years women in the United States have come so far, yet unfortunately in many areas of the world, women are still struggling.

Realizing how I take what I have for granted, I made an intention to be more

Women at a Yoga Retreat

Women at a Yoga Retreat

mindful of the simple freedoms I experience every day.

I am so grateful that I’ve found the freedom to be me, because it allows me to be myself unapologetically, speak my mind (even when others may not agree), and choose the activities and relationships that keep me moving forward.

Are you free to enjoy the life that you deserve? Take a moment to reflect on a few questions that may help you find the freedom you are seeking.

Freedom from expectations

  • Do you find yourself not expressing your opinions out of fear that someone else might not agree?
  • Do you participate in an activity when you’d rather not…because it’s easier than suggesting something else?
  • Are you in a job or relationship that doesn’t nurture your soul because you’re afraid to get out of your comfort zone or let someone down?
  • Do you think you should look or behave a certain way?

We often want to “keep the peace,” but this may hamper us from being our truest self. What if you took a baby step today that allowed you the freedom to be truly and authentically you, letting go of expectations and judgments?

Freedom from things

  • Do you feel that buying the cute purse, latest gadget, or adorable kitty knickknack will somehow make your life better? (Do you notice that you already own several purses and kitty knickknacks that are alarmingly the same?!)
  • Do you think you need the latest technology, when your current device is fine?
  • Do you find yourself buying things on credit, only to notice that the thrill of the purchase turns into buyer’s remorse?
  • Do you ever feel like all the things you own start to stress you out – feeling like you don’t have enough time to keep up with or use them?

Maybe your life is entirely simplified, everything streamlined and clutter free. Or maybe you’re more like me, sometimes lost in a sea of “things” looking for the relief that less brings. What if you took some time this week to go through and reflect on some of the things you’ve collected over the years? Then make a conscious effort to donate, throw away or keep, reminding yourself that it’s just stuff.

Freedom from over scheduling

  • Do you have enough time to nurture the relationships with your loved ones?
  • Do you make time to relax and enjoy your garden, hobby, pet, or what brings you joy?
  • Do you get your work projects done in a timely manner?
  • Are you able to get to the gym or yoga studio or go for a run or bike ride?
    • Always Be You

      Always Be You

      Maybe your life is perfect in that you have just enough time to give to all priorities in your life. Or maybe you are so thinly stretched for time, some days you feel you might just…snap. Allow yourself to remove one “obligation” that doesn’t serve you this week.

      Search for and Find More Personal Freedom

      Sometimes personal freedom is simply learning to say “No” to the things that keep you from moving forward. “No I don’t need this purchase,” ‘No thank you,” or “I’m sorry, but no I can’t help this time.” Try saying no to a work or volunteer project that you can’t fully give your attention to, no to a night out of dancing and drinking when staying in would nurture your soul, no to the friend that vents for an hour on the phone before you can even say word one.

      Today, give yourself permission to be truly and unapologetically you.

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chocolate-banana “ice cream”

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retreat in the pines featured favorite recipe-chocolate-peanut-butter-banana ice cream

chocolate-banana ice cream topped with warm peanut butter and cinnamon, served with iced coffee.

I LOVE ice cream so much so that i can’t buy it for myself unless i have someone to share it with. I love ice cream. then, i discovered this amazing banana “ice cream” and it’s the perfect sweet treat, with no added sugar. love it! you’ll need:
  • 6-7 overripe bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 1/2 cup milk*
  • 4+ tablespoons cocoa
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • cinnamon
  • for topping: almond/peanut butter, toasted pecans, fresh sliced bananas
  1. blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until whipped to a creamy consistency, about 2 minutes.
  2. top with toppings and enjoy!
*i recommend using real milk over almond/coconut/etc. because if there’s any leftover (which there very well may not be) the creaminess of the milk makes it a bit easier to dip into and serve without waiting for it to thaw (coconut cream might be something to experiment with but i haven’t tried it) try experimenting with other flavors and tell us what you come up with! happy ice creaming (: love. nina
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Cool Basil Avocado Feta Dip

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This delicious dip is the perfect appetizer on a hot summer day. I love it as a late afternoon pick me up with gluten free crackers. Or enjoy it as a nice addition to a light dinner of healthy salads or a side dish with something from the grill.


Delicious & Cool Basil Avocado Feta Dip

Delicious & Cool Basil Avocado Feta Dip

  • 1 lb tomatoes chopped
  • 3 medium avocados cubed
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 8 oz. package of crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Toss together first four ingredients. Combine olive oil and vinegar and pour over ingredients. Gently stir. Serve immediately with sweet potato chips, tortilla chips or crackers.

    Avocados are delicious and so good for you! Here are some of the healthy benefits you’ll enjoy when you enjoy an avocado.


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5 Easy Ways to Be Mindful this Summer

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Hammock in Spring

Spend a Lazy Day in the Hammock

The lazy days of summer are the perfect time to practice mindfulness. There’s no school projects to stress over, the hustle and bustle of the holidays is still in the distant future, and the days are longer…everything about summer seems to encourage mindfulness.

This is the time to enjoy the warmer temperatures and spend time in nature. The long days allow for more time to enjoy morning walks, evening bike rides, afternoons swimming at the pool, and sunsets on the patio. With an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies from the Farmer’s Market (our local favorite is the Coppell Farmers Market) – which really do taste so much better than the produce from the grocery store – summer is the perfect time to mindfully tune into all the sensations that surround you. Summer vacation plans allow you to really slow down and spend time with the people you love, enjoying the activities that you enjoy.

Mindfulness is as simple as breathing. But we tend to get caught up in the past or the future – usually without noticing – and the present disappears before we even realize it. Are you are despairing over your own (or someone else’s) words or actions? Are you spending your time fretting the “what ifs”, or losing yourself in the busyness of planning this day or that event? In doing that, the past or future is consuming your thoughts while the present passes you by, unnoticed.

How to Stop Being Mindless and Be Present

1. Follow your breath

We often take our breath for granted, not really noticing the incredible life giving force that it is. Take a moment right now to simply notice your inhale and exhale. Notice the movements that your body makes as you breathe. Notice the sensation of the air in your nostrils, your throat, and your belly. Practice exhaling all the air in your lungs and taking fuller, deeper breaths in. If you get distracted, simply bring your awareness back to your breath. Be patient with yourself and know that, like yoga, this is a practice. See how long you can go for – starting out with one minute, five, and working your way up to ten or more. If you’re interested in beginning a meditation practice, following your breath is a great place to start.

2. Start small

Your drive to work or the grocery store is a great place to start practicing mindfulness. Instead of letting the countless thoughts take over, take a moment to notice the sensations you’re experiencing around you. Look at the people (often entertaining) and scenery, tune into the sounds and noises, tap into the sensations your body is experiencing. What do you notice? Was someone smiling at you? Did you hear a noise that was previously unnoticed? Did you feel sensations that surprise you? Every time you notice yourself distracted and running through the list of “I have to…”, ”I can’t forget…” , “I better…” simply stop and refocus. Practice taking this into other areas of your day – drinking your morning coffee, sharing a conversation with someone, talking a walk on your lunch break.

3. Pay attention to loved ones

It’s too easy to be distracted by weekend plans, what you need to pick up for dinner tonight, and the countless other distractions experienced in the presence of loved ones. We get wrapped up in the day-to-day distractions, taking precious moments for granted. Try to intentionally tune into the time that you are sharing with another person as you enjoy a meal in each other’s company or drive somewhere together. Notice their facial expressions and gestures, listen to the story that they’re sharing with you, and look for the little things that you love about them. Get out of your head and into the space with your loved one. We all know that our time with each other is limited – be intentional to cherish their company, their thoughts and insights, their laughter.

4. Take it outdoors

As you enjoy the warmer weather and activities, look for opportunities to be present in the nature that surrounds you. Take note of the colors, the textures, and the life around you. Follow your breath and notice the scents of freshly cut grass and blooming flowers. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, noticing how your perspiration cools your body in the breeze.

Fresh Fruits & Veggies at a Local Farmer's Market

Fresh Fruits & Veggies at a Local Farmer’s Market

5. Savor your food

Another life-giving force that is all too easily taken for granted, eating is often done mindlessly with many of us combining it with working, watching TV, or driving – thinking that eating alone in silence is a bad thing. Take the time to really enjoy your meals, not eating while reading the newspaper, watching TV or driving. And especially don’t stand up to eat at the kitchen counter. Slow down to eat. Smell the aroma of your coffee before you drink it, notice the colors and textures of the fresh fruits and veggies, and savor every bite. (Some great summer recipes to try are the Strawberry Superfood Crisp and Quinoa Salad)

Photo: Allen Scheffield

Practicing Mindfulness at Retreat in the Pines

Pine Trees & Hardwoods

Driveway to Retreat Center

One of my favorite parts of a retreat is our Saturday morning mindfulness walk. Going out, we talk and enjoy one another’s company. On the walk back, though, we are intentional to be silent and practice being fully present with each step – observing the sounds, smells, and sights around us. One of the most amazing things the guests discover is that the walk back feels longer. The act of paying attention to our surroundings and noticing how our body physically feels in space seems to draw out time – something worth noting.

There is growing evidence that spending time in nature in a mindful manner has many health benefits, both physical and mental. Researchers have proven that the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, the practice of mindfully spending time in nature (specifically among trees), can actually help reduce stress hormones and decrease blood pressure.

As we get busier and busier and time seems to go faster and faster, don’t you wish your life would slow down just a little? It can, with the simple act of practicing mindfulness. Try it today. Make this moment count, then the next and the next.

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” – Anne Frank

Check out our upcoming retreat schedule at

See you in the pines!

Posted in Retreat at Home Tip | 1 Comment

Mothers’ Love: “Why My Mom Deserves a Retreat” Giveaway

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Sue and Daughters Melissa and Pat at a Recent Retreat.

Sue and Daughters Melissa and Pat at a Recent Retreat.

Mothers are truly incredible women. There are no words that can adequately describe the role that they play in our lives. Some of us have the gift of friendship with our mother (something that I am personally incredibly grateful for and blessed by), others have lost their mothers, and some have never met their mothers. We all have a different story to tell about our own, but the role played by a mother is an invaluable thing – whether it’s a birth mother or a grandmother or someone else that might have stepped in when we needed mothering, we each experience a very bond with our mother. A relationship that deserves to be celebrated more than once a year. Here are quotes celebrating 100 years of honoring mothers on Mother’s Day.

In some of our recent newsletters, we asked readers to share with us why their mother deserved a getaway at Retreat in the Pines. And while I didn’t submit my story, it wouldn’t have been picked anyways – I’m guessing that it probably wouldn’t be very relaxing if my mom won a retreat and had to host it at the same time. Katie, however, submitted her entry for the “Why My Mom Deserves a Retreat” giveaway and the story she shared with us about her mother was one that we couldn’t pass up.

Keep reading for Katie’s story, and then my own.

Katie’s Mom

“My mom has had the mixed blessing of raising an additional generation as a working mom. My younger sister lost parental rights to her children, and it was my mother who adopted them all (officially in 2012). My oldest nephew had lived with my mom since he was an infant, over 10 years now. My younger nephew and niece have both lived with her since they left the hospital immediately after their births in 2010 and 2009, respectively. My mother housed, fed, and cared for all three children without hesitation… and without any financial help from my sister, the birthmother.

Katie's Mom Theresa

Katie’s Mom Theresa

Cashing in her 401k with penalties was just one of the many sacrifices my mother made in order to support these children. She has had to deal with everything from irregular court appearances, to CPS case workers, to the Office of the Attorney General, and all sorts of bureaucracy in between, just to keep the children safe. She’s had to take untold amounts of unpaid days off from work, put an unknown number of miles on her car, and spent an unholy amount of time in administrative offices to protect the interests of these children.

My mother has never taken a vacation by herself. She has never gotten a manicure, or a pedicure, or a facial, or gone to happy hour with her friends. She doesn’t drink, or smoke, or even go out to dinner without the children. She doesn’t date – she hasn’t dated anyone since she and my father split over twenty years ago. She’s never had a spa day, or a massage, or gone to a yoga or meditation class, but she is very spiritual and would love it. Of this, I am certain.

My mom stays home with her grandchildren every night, watching movies, going to the neighborhood park, and even taking them out for frozen yogurt on occasion. Everything she does is centered on those children, and they are so lucky to have her – I can testify to this. I truly believe that they would have an even better experience living with a [grand]mom who was better rested, less stressed, and even more peaceful, but of course mom doesn’t make the sacrifice for herself – it isn’t her nature. Not only do I think the Retreat in the Pines experience would be good for her, but I also think it would be good for them – to see that taking time away for self-care is crucial for grownups. I know that they would be able to tell the difference after, and I imagine that my mom would as well.

Katie & Theresa at Katie's Graduation

Katie & Theresa at Katie’s Graduation

My mom deserves to be “forced” to experience restorative time without toddlers for the first time in years. My mom deserves some healing time with peace and her thoughts. She deserves some gentle introspection and opportunity for self-renewal.

I know that my mom will most likely have to work well past the age of retirement. We want her to be mentally, spiritually, and physically fortified for years to come. Being hypertensive – and on medication for it – my mom deserves the calming properties of yoga. This retreat would be an amazing experience for my mom, and I hope it would also mark the beginning of her yogic path.

I love my mom, and I want her to be happy. She deserves to know what happy is outside of the context of my niece and nephews. She will be your best student.

Namaste, Katie”

My Mom

My Mom and I Enjoying Time Together Away from Work

My Mom and I Enjoying Time Together Away from Work

My mother is an amazing woman – I think she deserves way more than I could ever give her. There is no one word that could describe her, and to this day I still tell her that she’s the best mom in the whole world.

I’ve watched my mom endure a lot. I’d like to think that I’ve helped my mom endure a lot. No one has an easy life, but there’s something about being a kid and the way moms do their thing that somehow make everything look easy. So much so that all kids seem to want to do is grow up! But looking back now, I am able to see just how strong my mom actually was… and is. 

Growing up, I formed a special relationship with my mom; there were times when it was just the two of us. I always like to think of us as being the team that stuck together through all the years; to this very day we continue to work together. When my mom got laid off from her job she was a single mother raising three kids. It had only been a couple of years since the divorce, and being an adult now I can’t even imagine what that would feel like. 

But nothing stopped my mom. To this day she often tells me, “Nina, everything will be okay” and I imagine that this – or some other similar mantra – was what kept her going in those seasons of uncertainty. The layoff was a blessing in disguise – she found her niche and began teaching more and more fitness classes, eventually leading her to the path of becoming a yoga teacher and finding her life’s calling. Though it was hard for all of us at times, everything that has happened – both good and bad – has led us to where we are now.

I’ll say it again, my mom is an amazing woman. She works hard. She loves deeply. She gives selflessly. She’s been through more than I can describe, but she still smiles and laughs more than almost anyone I know. Witnessing her start a business, run it, and pursue her passion is a gift that I treasure. I am so grateful to call her my mother, and I am so blessed by the opportunity to work with her in this adventure called Retreat in the Pines.

Susan and Her Daughter Melissa Enjoying a Yoga Class at a Recent Retreat

Susan and Her Daughter Melissa Enjoying a Yoga Class at a Recent Retreat

Your Mom Deserves a Retreat

I don’t think we give enough credits to our moms. Especially those of us who don’t have our own children, and can’t fully appreciate the lengths that our mothers have gone to in an effort to raise us. So, treat your mom to a retreat. She probably deserves it. And even if you think she doesn’t, maybe she needs it. 

Check out our upcoming retreat schedule at

See you in the pines!


P.S. Have you seen my most recent recipe blog? It’s a Spring Strawberry Superfood Crisp that you don’t want to miss! Check it out!

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Quinoa Salad with Apricots and Spinach

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With warmer weather coming, main dish salad meals are my favorite. This recipe is so easy, plus it’s delicious and oh so healthy. I love this salad because its so versatile. You can make it as your main dish, wrap it in a tortilla for a sandwich on the go or have it as a side dish with something off of the grill.


Vegan Quinoa Salad Recipe

Healthy, Delicious and Easy to Make Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad with Apricots and Spinach

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I prefer a sweeter wine)
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds toasted on stove top in a pan, stirring frequently
  • Dressing

  • 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt, plain non or low fat
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp each of cumin, cinnamon and ginger
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • Toast quinoa in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until it becomes aromatic and begins to crackle, about 5 minutes. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Add apricots and the quinoa; continue cooking, stirring often, until the quinoa has dried out and turned light golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add water, wine and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the quinoa is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 18 minutes.

    Make Dressing. Transfer the quinoa to a medium bowl and toss with the dressing. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Add almonds. Just before serving, add tomatoes, onions and spinach toss to coat.

    For variety you can add blue cheese or feta or even shredded chicken. I love it sprinkled with a bit of blue cheese.

    Here are the benefits of using quinoa.


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Nurturing Family Relationships

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Family Relationships and You

Let Family Be Your Priority

In honor of Mother’s Day, a simple ‘Retreat at Home’ tip to nurture our family relationships.

Maybe your family includes lots of extended family, near and far; maybe you have a close circle of friends that surround you like family; maybe its you and your husband; or maybe it’s something else… whatever family situation you might have, do you ever think about how often you take the time to actually listen to what those closest to you have to say? Of course, it’s convenient and “efficient” to listen as you do a load of laundry and put the dishes in the dishwasher, but is that really listening?

In the harsh reality of technology and social media, it’s tempting to let all of our interactions take place as posts or texts. Nothing can take the place of one-on-one personal interaction, yet we spend so much of our time together glued to the devices that surround us: phones, computers, tvs, you name it. Connection is so important to us as humans that it’s been scientifically proven that physical touch (hugging, pats on the back, high fives, and loving kisses) is healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally (read an article on “That human touch that means so much”).

Try These Tips to Intentionally Connect One-on-One

Be Present Be still, intentional, and present; watch the speaker’s lips or focus on a single point; focus on listening and give what you can in response. Avoid multi-tasking and indicate you are listening – maybe it’s a touch, a nod, a smile, or a few words of perspective.

Avoid Planning Don’t do that thing where as the other person talks you are planning what YOU will say. Let this conversation be about them. Know that every conversation isn’t about something that needs to be fixed. Sometimes we’re needed to just listen. The conversation can take place at the kitchen table, at a restaurant, or as you enjoy a walk together. Now’s not the time to think about feeding the cat or what’s for dinner or what else you could be doing.

Sisters at Yoga

Sisters Randi & Chris at a Yoga Retreat

Make it Personal If getting together in person isn’t an option, a phone call is better than a long drawn out texting conversation. Not a phone call while you’re driving or folding laundry. A phone call where you can focus your full attention on the conversation.

Don’t Put it Off There is no better time to connect with the important people in your life than right now. Before you get busy with summer activities or the holidays are upon you and you wonder where all the time has gone. The pile of laundry can wait. Your loved ones shouldn’t have to.

When you listen intentionally you are not only giving the gift of yourself to another, you are receiving so much in return. Moments in the company of your loved one are priceless. Enjoy them while you can.

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Spring Strawberry Superfood Crisp – GF || vegan || low-sugar

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IMG_7062Spring is HERE! I love love love it! Especially being in the Pines. There’s something special about spring air out there… waking up to sunshine through the window… birds singing… the wind between the trees… the stillness… and of course, coffee on the porch and day dreams in the hammock.

I’m so super excited to be cooking for the June 13-15 – Summer Detox and Yoga Retreat…. you should join us!

My roommate claims the crisp “smells like Christmas“, which I’d agree with… just for you – a little bit of Christmas cheer for your Spring! (:

Ever since mom and I took the “Luscious Lemons” class at the Central Market cooking school, I’ve been on a serious cooking spree! Stay tuned for more recipes to come, can’t wait to share these! (:



P.S. be sure to check the “nina’s notes” section! Read more »

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Vegan, Gluten Free Healthy Banana Bread

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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

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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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