Five Years Plus











{August 6, 2010}   Milk & Cookies

This week I decided to share something that brings me great joy, that’s right, milk and cookies. I venture to say that these recipes are about as healthy as you can get. Like many good things, they take a little time and organization to prepare.

Although I occasionally eat cheese and include a little yogurt with breakfast, I aim to keep the amount of dairy in my diet to a minimum. I also don’t drink soymilk, for reasons I outlined in Soytistics. Recently however, Special Breakfast has taken on a whole new look with the addition of home-made almond milk. My friend who grew up on a dairy farm marvels at how much it looks and feels like cow’s milk, so I figure that’s a pretty good endorsement. It has that slightly slippery, thick texture and tastes slightly sweet.

Almond Milk

  • 1½ cups almonds, soaked 8 hours and rinsed
  • 3½ cups water
  • 2 cups coconut water
  • 1 tsp non-alcoholic vanilla

Blend the soaked almonds and water; a high speed blender like a Vitamix works best. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or a jelly bag. You will need to squeeze out much of the liquid by hand, as if milking the animal herself. Mix with coconut water and vanilla. This makes about five cups and will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to five days. It will separate with an almond cream layer on top, so stir before drinking. You can make almond milk without the coconut water, however this addition makes it simply wonderful.

I have to admit, I have abandoned hacking open the fresh coconuts for this purpose (as I described in Cream of the Crop) when one of my milk batches went sour after two days. I blamed the coconut water. I just don’t how fresh it was, as the coconuts are shipped from Thailand and then sit in the store before sitting in my fridge, awaiting the right moment to put it all together. I discovered some 100% pure coconut water that comes in a convenient 2 cup Tetra Pak. The seven month old coconuts are from northern Brazil, hmm, still not local but closer than Thailand.

Now you might be wondering what you do with the soft almond pulp that is left-over, or perhaps you are just waiting to hear about the cookies. I couldn’t bear to throw away the pulp, so I created some “cookie” recipes. They are raw, gluten free and nearly vegan. I use honey rather than agave nectar since the supposed health benefits of agave were brought under scrutiny earlier this year.

Chocolate Cookies

  • Pulp from 1 1/2 cups almonds
  • 1/4 cup finely ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup coconut
  • 1 tsp alcohol free vanilla
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 16 drops liquid stevia
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Vanilla Cookies

  • Pulp from 1 1/2 cups almonds
  • 1/4 cup finely ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut
  • 2 tsp alcohol free vanilla
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 16 drops liquid stevia
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp very finely chopped dried apricots (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Place ingredients in a small bowl, mix and then knead with your hand. Press and roll dough out on wax paper. Cut using 3 inch round cookie cutter or glass and transfer to dehydrator with thin spatula. Dehydrate for about 6 hours until dry, ensuring that the heat is no more than 108 degrees for a raw cookie. (If you don’t have a dehydrator or an oven that has this modern option, I think you could probably bake these at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.) Each recipe makes 24 lightly sweetened cookies.

One of the difficulties of transitioning to a healthier diet is the loss of treats. Using foods like almond milk and cookies in moderation can give us that sense of comfort we all enjoy at times.

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{August 1, 2010}   What am I Missing?

Last week (To Beam or Not to Beam) I discussed the pros and cons as well as my thoughts and feelings about regular breast screenings using mammogram, MRI or thermogram. This week I had the opportunity to discuss this topic with two prominent doctors in the field of medical imaging at a social occasion. They understood my reluctance to continue to subject my breast to the ionizing radiation of mammograms and felt that an MRI was the alternative of choice for me, as it generates a comprehensive picture with radio waves which are not harmful. They were not supportive of thermography because in their opinion, the image produced is just not detailed enough and that “it would be a pity if you missed something.” This got me thinking, just what might be missed if I choose to monitor my remaining breast with thermography instead of mammograms and/or MRIs?”

Mammography is the standard breast cancer screening technique and is used to detect both invasive and non-invasive (known as in situ) breast cancers. It works by passing x-rays through the breast onto a sensor to create an image. The manner in which breast tissue passes or absorbs the x-rays determines what the radiologist sees on the mammogram.

When reading a mammogram a radiologist looks for shadows, distortions, tissue density, masses and tiny specks of calcium deposits called microcalcifications. Although microcalcifications are not cancerous or dangerous in themselves, they indicate the possible presence of cancer cells contained within the milk ducts, called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). The incidence of DCIS increased rapidly through the 1980s and 1990s, primarily a result of the increased use of screening mammography. In 2001 DCIS accounted for about 19 percent of all cancers found compared to less than 4 percent prior to 1984. The diagram on the left, from an article by Dr. Susan Love, shows the breast duct and tubules and a cross-section of a duct demonstrating DCIS.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) images are formed by passing high intensity radio waves through breast or other tissue in the presence of an extremely strong magnetic field. MRIs are more detailed and sensitive than mammograms and allow the radiologist to see indications of in situ cancer cells themselves. Recent studies suggest MRI may be better than mammography for finding the more dangerous DCIS lesions which might someday become invasive cancers. MRI is also better at imaging dense breast tissue, more common in younger, premenopausal woman like myself. Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society recommended that certain high risk women should add MRI to their screening regimen.

If a radiologist reading a mammogram or MRI finds something that looks suspicious in the image, he or she may recommend further tests or monitoring, or recommend a biopsy. In themselves imaging methods can only indicate the possible presence of disease; microscopic examination of the tissue by a pathologist is the only way a diagnosis is made. While it does make logical sense to find cancer at this early, easily curable stage, it comes with certain costs. Both imaging methods are subject to false positives leading to biopsies that determine that cancer is indeed not present.  If DCIS is found, there is pressure to undergo considerable treatments that may be harmful, even though DCIS might never progress to invasive cancer.

After biopsied DCIS cells are examined microscopically, they are categorized as either “high-grade” (likely to become invasive) or “non high-grade” (likely not to cause harm). I was surprised to learn this, as I had frequently read that there is no way to determine which abnormal cells will progress beyond the in situ condition to become invasive versus those which will remain harmless. The thing is, there is not 100 percent certainty that a non-high grade DCIS will not become invasive, so the recommended treatment for all DCIS is lumpectomy and radiation (or if it is widespread, mastectomy). Five years of hormonal treatment may also be recommended. Since DCIS is very curable, with 98 percent of women surviving, it is debatable whether the benefits from radiation and/or tamoxifen outweigh the associated risks, some of which are life threatening. In fact, there is considerable controversy surrounding the treatment of DCIS, in part because for so many women it would never cause any harm even without treatment.

I am not suggesting it is better to wait until breast cancer is in a later stage to find and/or treat it. But I do question the emphasis on finding the signs of cancer earlier and earlier and then applying treatments that cause harm (biopsies, surgery, radiation treatments, etc.) for conditions that may not ever develop into invasive cancer. And I do worry that perhaps the cumulative ionizing radiation from mammograms actually contributes to the development of cancer, especially in women like myself who are under 50.

Wouldn’t it be great if imaging could provide an indication of the health of breast and other tissue in addition to searching for signs of disease? All screening methods today are about finding disease rather than assessing tissue health, but thermography has potential. It measures the heat produced as a metabolic by-product. Perhaps one day we can detect generalized inflammation (not just tumors) which might be addressed by adjusting nutrition, supplements and/or lifestyle before disease occurs. While we wait for that kind of technology, I rely upon blood work to give me an indication of overall health. I use the absence of blood tumor factors, manual breast examination and imaging to establish that nothing abnormal is going on.

If I had to choose between mammography or MRI for breast screening, I guess I would go with the MRI. Having had invasive breast cancer and family history, I fall into a category of risk that would probably result in my insurance company covering the cost of the test. However, despite the recommendations of my doctor friends and my oncologist, I am still reluctant. This may sound strange, but having faced breast cancer already, I am not afraid to miss something small, like the presence of DCIS. When I take a step back from the current cultural obsession with early detection, I find the whole emphasis of searching for and eradicating disease antithetical to the way I view my health.

I realize that conventional medicine is not in support of thermography, but to me, as a health care consumer, it makes sense. First, it does no harm because it works by passively measuring the heat produced within tissues, rather than bombarding the body with radiation. If my thermogram, blood work or manual breast examinations show anything worrisome, I can follow up with further imaging through conventional means (i.e. MRI). I reason that:

  1. My careful attention to nutrition, supplements, exercise and other alternative practices will keep my tissues healthy.
  2. The combination of three screening techniques (thermography, blood work and manual self-exams) gives me a very good chance of catching anything deleterious early enough to treat it.
  3. There is a high percentage chance that anything missed by such screening is benign or non-invasive (like DCIS).

For me it’s a trade-off. The small increased risk of missing something important is, in my humble opinion, worth it. I will avoid the potential worry and discomfort of false positives and unnecessary biopsies associated with more sensitive imaging. Last but not least, thermography is in sync with my health priorities and principles (set out in Baby Steps). Throughout my cancer treatment and healing I have chosen a path less traveled that supports the health of my entire being. I want to take this path for monitoring the health of my remaining breast. For this reason I have booked an appointment for my first breast thermogram on August 17. I’m excited to have taken this step as it is something I’ve been thinking about for over five years. I will let you know my thoughts as I actually have my thermogram and continue my research and look forward to hearing your feedback on the issues I am raising.

The amount of material easily accessible on these topics is incredible. At times this week I felt buried in on-line articles, unable to remember where I had read this or that.  I hope you take the time to click on today’s links. The articles I chose to reference are all scientific, trustworthy and accessible!



{July 24, 2010}   To Beam or not to Beam

My annual breast screening appointment date is coming up in September. In Between Two Worlds, I reported that I’d already decided not to have another mammogram. At that time I agreed with my oncologist’s urging to have an MRI instead. Almost immediately I felt uncomfortable with that decision and now I don’t know what to think or what I’ll do as this deadline approaches.

First, let me explain my dilemma with respect to having another mammogram. Having already had breast cancer, I have a higher than average risk of getting it again. An annual mammogram is the “gold standard” for detecting breast cancer at an early stage. Therefore, I should be happy to have one annually (and my oncologist certainly holds this position). However, mammogram machines deliver a powerful x-ray, according to one source perhaps 1000 times stronger than a chest x-ray, sending ionizing radiation, a known carcinogen, into the breast tissue. Since mammograms have difficulty detecting cancer in dense breast tissues, I am often subjected to additional radiation as the radiologist works conscientiously to take extra views of my breast in the hopes of not missing anything. Having already demonstrated the predisposition to develop cancer in the breast, I reason that it is unwise for me to continue to expose myself to known carcinogens. Experts think that in part, it is the cumulative exposure to radiation over a lifetime that increases the risk of cancer from that cause. Therefore, it seems to me that any time is the right time to stop such exposure.

Even though annual mammograms are considered the Standard of Care, as I recounted in The Ninth Life, mammograms are by no means fool proof. The false positive rate is significant, 95 percent of women who are called back for additional screening do not have cancer. Two out of every three women who end up being referred for biopsies do not have cancer. The false negative rate is also noteworthy, with about one in every five cancers missed by mammograms.

So what about the MRI? An MRI makes a clearer, more detailed image than a mammogram, so it should be a better screening tool, right? An MRI doesn’t use x-rays. Rather, the patient is given a contrasting agent (like gadolinium) by injection and then put into a powerful magnetic field and probed with radio frequencies. There is no scientific evidence that these frequencies of electromagnetic radiation cause cancer or are otherwise harmful. The contrasting agent can cause reactions in persons with kidney problems, but otherwise, this test seems less deleterious than the mammogram, although it is lengthier, more expensive and more uncomfortable in my opinion. Unfortunately it also increases the risk of false positives and could lead to unnecessary biopsies and the associated anxiety, cost, time and discomfort.

This is at the heart of my distress as I approach the crossroads in September. I don’t want to subject myself to additional carcinogenic radiation through a mammogram. Neither do I want to expose myself to the anxiety of an MRI which is a stressful test in itself and runs a greater risk of a false positive requiring a biopsy to disambiguate. I am especially sensitive to anxiety because of my propensity toward mood and sleep issues (as I reported in Good Night Sweet Princess). In fact, after having a colonoscopy a few years ago at the recommendation of my OB/GYN and GP, it took me about three months to reestablish my equilibrium. I treat the havoc in my life that results from anxiety as a very real side effect of such a test.

Which leaves me where? Do I want my remaining breast to go unmonitored? With my history, completely opting out of breast screening seems like a foolhardy idea. Thankfully there are three options which do not have any negative health effects. The first is the old standby – manual self examination. This is actually the way I discovered my cancer, so even though it is not a method of early detection, I believe it is still a worthwhile practice. If I find something manually, I can have a sonogram, although at that point a mammogram would also be recommended. A sonogram, also known as ultrasound is quick, not uncomfortable, requires no contrasting agent or ionizing radiation. It creates an image which can distinguish between a solid tumor and fluid filled cyst. The third harm-free alternative is a relatively new imaging method is thermography.

Thermography measures the amount of heat emitted by the body, in this case the breast tissue. Abnormal cells are usually hotter because they require a greater blood supply and therefore show up on the color image that is formed. The upsides are that it is a comfortable procedure with no negative side effects. It also seems that it can detect abnormalities in the breast tissue before a mammogram and has a lower false positive rate. The downsides are that although a thermogram is relatively inexpensive, it is not currently covered by medical insurance and is therefore an out of pocket expense for the patient. Second, thermography is unregulated so one has to be careful to use a reputable provider. Fortunately we have a provider who visits a nearby office monthly. Finally, the vast majority of radiologists and oncologists are not trained in this technology, and will not make recommendations based on its results. Therefore, the thermogram is sent to a center to be read by properly trained radiologists and will not be read by the radiologist who has followed my case since 2005.

As I said in Baby Steps, my first principle in making decisions about my health and healthcare is “First, do no harm.” For this reason, I’m reluctant to have another mammogram or an MRI for purely screening purposes. There is more research on this that I want to understand fully and I will report on what I discover in future blogs. In the meantime, I do intend to have a series of two thermograms to establish a baseline that any future changes in my breast tissue can be measured against. The thermogram satisfies my final principle: “if a treatment causes no harm whatsoever and I want to try it, then it is fine, even if there isn’t conclusive scientific evidence for its effect on cancer.”

I’m not 100% sure of any of this and I am certainly not making recommendations about what anyone else should do. For now, it’s what feels right for me and I’m being consistent with my principles and priorities in making my own health choices.



{July 18, 2010}   Six Months

This week marks the first 6 months of this blog. That’s 26 posts, 2,269 views and 78 comments. In this time I have learned to insert hyperlinks, pictures and do internet research at lightening speed (lol). I decided it was a good time for a review to provide a summary for my regular readers and introduce new readers to the discussion thus far. Hopefully the links will easily direct you to the posts you want to read or reread.

It was a lot of fun to review, as I clearly remember writing and the events preceding each post. It ended up taking quite awhile to read through all of the posts and make some kind of order out of the smorgasbord of my life. As such, I want to thank my #1 supporter, my husband Chuck. He initially set up the blog and is my editor and problem solver. He also patiently endures the times (like now) when I spend “our” Saturday night at the keyboard.

I began Five Years Plus in the dead of winter, on the eve of the five year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis. The act of starting the blog spun me into a period of over-excitement and sleep deprivation which I chronicled in Good Night Sweet Princess.  The response to this on and off-line was striking, with people sharing their own mood issues so openly and honestly. In my third post I introduced my struggles with over-eating and the constant vigilance it takes to feed myself properly.

The subject of eating is a big part of my life and has likewise been featured in a number of blog posts. In Special Breakfast I introduced the general idea of food as medicine and that eating well is an act of self-love. At times I included recipes which reflect the changing seasons, such as cabbage soup in winter (a reminder of the simple good things in life) and coconut ice cream in summer. I have written about foods that I use, like eggs or the sugar substitute stevia, and those that I’ve moved away from for health reasons, such as soy.

With the coming of spring I got fired up about eating locally, writing a series on this topic and coming up with four keys to get started:

  1. shopping at local farmers’ markets
  2. sourcing local pasture raised meat and eggs
  3. subscribing to a CSA (community supported agriculture)
  4. supporting local foods restaurants

As summer and berry season rolled around I think it’s appropriate to add a fifth key: pick local (organic) berries

Currently there are further options for both budding and experienced “locavores”. Tomorrow is the first day of Madison County’s “Buy Local Week” which includes an opportunity to discover some of the 33 local farms that are opening their gates to visitors on Saturday, July 24. There is also a new I-phone app that directs one to local foods in upstate New York.

In addition to being dedicated to eating locally whenever possible, I am committed to the Paleo diet that features meat, fish, eggs, plenty of vegetables, fruit and some nuts and seeds, thereby resembling what our Paleolithic ancestors may have eaten. Although I was a vegetarian for many years I now choose to include meat in my diet. I have to admit, I find it an ongoing challenge to eat in accordance with my intentions, especially when eating out or on vacation. Even so, I have managed to lose 10 pounds and am maintaining a comfortable healthy weight. One of my most enjoyable eating journeys and something I would like to explore further was a period of paying deep attention to the way I eat.

When we think about taking care of ourselves, diet and exercise come to mind first. Moving my body is fundamental to my own well-being and my work outside our home is dedicated to teaching others to be present in their bodies through yoga and tennis. I credit tennis with helping me “get back into life fully” after my breast cancer treatment and continue to better myself through competition. The desire to play tennis well helps fuel my motivation for working out two or three times each week. I am so happy every time I effortlessly move from a deep squat to standing, as this is an improvement that is a direct result of working out.

Although my experience with breast cancer has infiltrated every aspect of my life, I see that only a few posts relate specifically to cancer or medical issues. I outlined ideas for getting started on an alternative path when first being diagnosed and written some advice about do’s and don’ts when dealing with friends who have been diagnosed. I touched on iatrogenic (medically) caused illness and the uncertainty of imaging techniques through a story about my beloved cat. I am also well aware that I have not settled my inquiry into breast screening techniques and that my next oncologist appointment is approaching. I have already started researching the effects of ionizing radiation (i.e. mammograms) on breast tissue health, so you can expect to see this soon.

Writing this blog does take a tremendous amount of time and determination. In return, it helps me to live a more examined life and to believe that perhaps through my efforts I am making a difference. As I reflect over this past six months I recognize that I have made positive changes in my life. My diet has improved, my workouts are regular and my sleep and moods are in equilibrium. At the same time I see there are areas where I continue to struggle and need more awareness and self-love.

I really appreciate you reading Five Years Plus, commenting and passing the link along to others who might enjoy it. If you want to have each weekly post automagicallly delivered to your Email inbox, fill in your address and click on “Email Subscriptions” on the right side of this page. Beware though, you need to open a confirmation Email which may end up in your “junk” folder. I believe we all have a great deal to share with one another and I intend to continue to learn to harness the power of the internet to benefit all of us.



{July 11, 2010}   The Cream of the Crop

This week we have experienced extremely hot, humid days that remind me of living in the tropics. In 1991 I spent the summer in Mysore, India, studying yoga with Pattabhi Jois. On my bike ride home after each morning’s vigorous sweaty practice, I stopped at the coconut vendor’s stand to replenish my energy with the satisfying fluid and white succulent flesh of a young coconut. My coconut vendor knew I preferred plenty of water and a minimum amount of flesh. After tapping a number of the round, green coconuts to listen to each ones distinctive sound, he would choose one, hack it open with his cleaver and let me pick out a colorful straw. After I had savored the sweet, clear liquid I would hand it back, asking him to “open”. He would carve a scraper from the coconut husk itself and expertly split the coconut  into two for me to scoop out the thin layer of slippery innards. (This photo by Vikas Kamat shows a common method of coconut transport in India.)

Now, nearly twenty years later, my husband hacks open the young coconut I buy from our grocery store with the precision gained from a couple of months of practice. These coconuts appear to be an off-white color because the outer skin has been stripped away to give a flat-bottomed and pointy topped shape (see photo below from Melissa’s website). Inside this lies the seed of the coconut. The water inside is completely hygienic and under slight pressure. The amount of flesh clinging to the inside of the nut varies considerably; when scraped away it can yield between a couple of tablespoons to a cup or more of pulp. Coconuts with more pulp generally contain less water. These tender coconuts are picked before they are ripe when the liquid inside is sweet, almost clear, and the flesh is soft, thin and easily separated from the shell.  Mature coconuts from which the familiar dessicated coconut is made are different. They have thick white flesh and a cloudy, perhaps bitter liquid inside.

Since I committed to a Paleo diet, young coconuts have found their way into our diet. Coming from Thailand, I realize that they are a long way from local but I make an exception because they are such a wonderful healthy treat and remind me of my years living in India. I chose coconut as the base when I decided to create a raw, vegan, paleo, sugar-free ice cream recipe. I recommend using whole young coconuts if you can. They taste so pure and you can blend both the pulp and coconut water together, rather than only getting the blended meat that canned coconut milk is made from.

The coconut oil in this mix is not only good for the hair and skin, but also bestows a plethora of health benefits, contributing to stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, bone strength and dental health. Coconut oil has also been associated with improvements in conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, and cancer. The main active ingredients providing these benefits appear to be lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which show antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Specifically, digestion converts lauric acid into monolaurin which appears to be active against the viruses causing influenza, herpes, AIDS and others. It also appears to thwart disease caused by harmful bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes and heliobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia.

Ginger Coco-Cream

  • 2 young coconuts – use all the pulp and up to 1½ cups of the water (or 2 – 13.5 oz cans of coconut milk)
  • 4 tsp ginger juice, grated ginger or ginger powder
  • 4-6 soaked, pitted dates or 2 tbsp xylitol
  • 8-12 drops liquid stevia

With cleaver, open the coconut and drain out liquid. Chop coconut in half. This takes some force, as if splitting wood. Use an upside down spoon to peel the flesh out of shell. Remove any hard bits and rinse if needed. Blend flesh from the 2 coconuts with 1.5 cups of coconut water. You will probably end up with extra water which you can drink straight or add to homemade almond milk. If you have a juicer, simply juice the whole ginger root – no need to peel. Add remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. Freeze using an ice cream maker of your choice. Makes about 4 one cup servings.

Chocolate Coco-Cream

  • 2 young coconuts – use all the pulp and up to 1½ cups of the water (or 2 cans coconut milk)
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 4-6 soaked, pitted dates or 2 tbsp xylitol
  • 12-16 drops liquid stevia
  • ½ cup lightly chopped raw macadamia nuts (optional)

Follow directions as above. I make this recipe with a raw cacao powder that is grown and produced in Bali, Indonesia. Its flavor has incredible depth that is makes this product well-worth the effort to find.

Coco-cream is meant to be enjoyed in small quantities. Although made from top quality ingredients, it is a concentrated high calorie, high fat food. I serve it in small ceramic bowls so we get the feeling of eating a full dish. It is best to eat it right away as the texture is best right out of the ice cream maker. Because it does not contain emulsifiers, it will freeze solid if you put it in the freezer. In this case, simply let it soften up at room temperature before eating.

Making your own ice cream takes a considerable amount of effort and equipment. However, it is very satisfying to create such a delicious treat and you know exactly what is in it.



{July 3, 2010}   The Ninth Life

July 1 is my dad’s birthday, Canada Day which commemorates the birth of Canada where I was born and the one year anniversary of the rebirth of Ivy, our cat. As I awaken to the “cat alarm” (her incessant meowing outside the bedroom) at 6 am, my annoyance is tempered with gratitude that she is still alive.

Most people have heard that pets are good for the health of their human companions. They can help to improve mood, reduce stress, lower blood pressure and provide unconditional love, which can lift depressed spirits and extend life. Ivy also seems to have special powers and her former cat-sitter identified her as a “natural healer”. For example, when I am experiencing insomnia, she will rest on my belly for as long as it takes for her tender purring to bring relief.

Ivy was born in a barn. Luke found her on an annual sojourn to Lucksinger’s tree farm. “Since its Christmas time, let’s call her Ivy”, the kids suggested. Chuck nicknamed her after Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of great compassion. She certainly embodies the quality of steadfast commitment to her family, coming back time and time again to shower us with her love even when we, tangled in our busy lives, reject her approaches. Both Chuck and I are allergic to cat dander, so any physical contact must be followed by hand washing and sometimes clothes washing. Even so, Ivy is such a special cat that we feel blessed to have her in the family.

During the spring of 2009 Ivy was noticeably depressed, showed no interest in going outside, was overweight, and having some issues with her teeth. I thought she might have diabeties and took her to the vet for some tests. Her blood work showed anemia and we put her on vitamins and a course of antibiotics in preparation for surgery on her teeth. Within ten days she suddenly began to vomit severely. Hours later her breathing was labored and I feared she might not survive the night.

The next morning she was still alive, but breathing with difficulty. After more blood work and some x-rays, Chuck was shown a fuzzy slide that supposedly revealed “extensive cancer”, pronounced as certain to be terminal. The vet suggested we consider her “quality of life” and say our good-byes, but agreed to give her intravenous fluids over the next day. We had the kids and a few friends come by and I spent every available moment with her, appreciating the little time I had left. There were many tears. Each day thereafter we took her to the vet for intravenous fluids. When she arrived home she would take a few wobbly steps before collapsing into her makeshift nest in the laundry room. I could not entice her to eat or drink anything, but she did not seem to be in pain or worsening so we could not bring ourselves to put her down.

Nine days into the ordeal, a friend who is a vet warned us that when cats stop eating, especially overweight ones, they face the danger of developing hepatic lipidosis, a life threatening condition whereby fat being burned for fuel is not fully metabolized and ends up accumulating in the liver tissue. At this point we noticed she actually did better when not having the stress of the daily vet visit, so we kept her at home and began to force feed her, slipping small amounts of watered down wet cat food into her mouth. We thought it was a good sign that she fought us all the way. By the end of the second week she drank a little water on her own and licked some heavy cream off my finger. Every day, Chuck held her and fed her with a syringe until one morning she had had enough and started eating on her own again.

It’s been a year and I think we’ve finally figured out what works best for her food. Since her teeth are not strong, she primarily eats high protein canned food and no longer chows down the dried kibble that made her so fat in the first place. She also enjoys chicken, salmon, scallops and shrimp. I supplement her food with vitamin paste and cod liver oil. I know there is a theory that cats should eat raw food only, but she is doing so well that I hate to meddle. Marveling at Ivy sprinting across the garden and bounding through the stone path this afternoon, it’s hard to believe she ever had cancer. The truth is she didn’t.

Blurry x-rays images are difficult to read even for experts. Human x-rays are read by experienced radiologists and there is still a risk of false positives and negatives. For example, most suspicious mammograms do not result in a cancer diagnosis. It is estimated that of 1000 women receiving a mammogram, 70 are called back for further imaging. Ten of these 70 will have biopsies, and of these 10, 3.5 will be diagnosed with cancer. To put it another way, 95% of women called back for additional screening after a routine mammogram don’t have cancer. On the other hand, receiving a negative result on a mammogram doesn’t guarantee that the breasts are cancer-free. The National Cancer Institute estimates that about one in five cancers present at the time of screening are missed by mammograms.

So, if Ivy didn’t have cancer, what made her so sick? I have no way to prove this, but my suspicion is that she had an adverse reaction to the injectable antibiotic I had been giving her for 10 days prior. Although none of my Internet research reported a reaction as strong as this, nausea and vomiting are common side effects of Baytril. Negative reactions to drugs are very common in humans as well and is the number one cause of iatrogenic death (death brought about  by a “physician’s activity, manner, or therapy”). It’s rather shocking that 225,000 deaths per year may be iatrogenic, making this the third most fatal disease in the United States.

So perhaps our cat’s illness was iatrogenic and then misdiagnosed as cancer by a false positive reading of an x-ray. To this day it remains a mystery, as does the mechanism behind her recovery. I do feel quite certain that our love played a large part in her healing. We believed in her and were not willing to give up. Of course medical treatments are often an important component of healing. However, one must not underestimate the power of love.



{June 27, 2010}   Strawberry Fields

Strawberries are the most popular berry worldwide and are available all year round from Californian or imported sources. Here in upstate New York the local strawberry season is brief,  sandwiched between  summer solstice and the fourth of July. I have picked berries with my good friend Bodhi for three years now. Yesterday we finally found a day we were free and Cobblestone Farm’s organic strawberry patch was open. By chance Deb and her daughter Mel were able to join us.

Strawberries are one of the foods I aim to always eat organic, as conventionally grown ones are heavily sprayed. In fact, this year strawberries are number 3 on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list. This list rates the conventionally grown fruits and vegetables most likely to contain high pesticide residues, even after washing. Eating organic (where pesticide use is prohibited) or eliminating these most contaminated foods can reduce ones exposure to pesticides by 80 percent. It’s really worth following the link to check these foods out; for those of you who want to read it here, starting from the worst, here are this year’s “dirty dozen”: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes and grapes.

According to the Environmental Working Group, up to 59 pesticides were detected in residue on strawberries. The PAN Pesticides Database is a document that quantifies the amount of 50 common pesticides used on Californian (the primary strawberry growing state) fields. In 2008 a whopping 9,686,580 pounds of pesticides were applied, amounting to an average of 7 pounds of pesticides for every acre of strawberry fields treated (some acres are treated more than once).

"A dense canopy of leaves"

Methyl bromide, one of the pesticides used on conventionally grown strawberries, has received a great deal of attention worldwide. It is a colorless, odorless gas that is used as a soil fumigant to help control weeds, soil-borne diseases, nematodes and insects. Respiratory, kidney and neurological effects are noted health risks and farm workers are particularly susceptible. Methyl bromide is also a recognized ozone depleting chemical. In response to a 2002 amendment to the Montreal Protocol of 1987, its use is being phased out for all uses in all countries. While this was intended to be completed by 2005 in America, a “critical use” exemption has extended this deadline in some areas. The PAN report shows that 2.7 million pounds were still being applied to Californian strawberry fields in 2008. The irony is that organic growing methods are available, can be even more profitable than conventional methods and do not use chemicals that are toxic to the ozone, the earth, farm workers and consumers.

I picked about 30 pounds of chemical-free berries in just over two hours. Not only is picking strawberries physically demanding, it’s a bit of a hunt. The berries are hidden under a dense canopy of leaves and especially in the case of organic strawberries, weeds. I alternate between bending over with a straight back, squatting and later in the morning, picking from my hands and knees. This latter method only works when the berries are plentiful, which fortunately for us, was the case yesterday morning. Below are some picking tips I have developed over the years:

  1. Arrive early.
  2. Remember to bring containers to put picked berries in and a few extra just in case you strike a bumper day.
  3. Resist the temptation to pick the berries where the pointy tip is still green or white. They aren’t ripe and strawberries won’t ripen further once picked.
  4. Pay attention to your body mechanics and stop before you drop.
  5. Remember it takes at least as long to prepare the berries when you get home as it did to pick them.

Deb & Mel: the "straight back" method

Of course, strawberry grazing on the field is one of the highlights of the pick your own experience. I find biting into a strawberry an adventure. Even when choosing that perfect berry to sample, I never know for sure whether it will be bursting with the essence of sweet, deep strawberry-ness or be mouth-puckeringly tart. Each berry is a little different and I pay attention to its unique flavor even as I continue to pick.

Bodhi: the "squatting" posture

What do I do with all those berries, you might ask? I like to eat strawberries year round, as according to Ann Louise Gittleman[1], they contain a cancer-protective agent called ellagic acid and a phyto-nutrient that helps the liver break down excess toxins. So besides a two week in-season feast, I mainly freeze them whole with stems removed to use in smoothies and with Special Breakfast.  I am taking the extra time to first freeze them flat on a cookie tray before bagging them, as last year they stuck together, retained a lot of moisture and became icy. I am also planning to make ice cream (more about this in a future blog) and some strawberry-rhubarb jam for my sister. In the meantime each time I open my fridge I am transported back to the strawberry field by sight and smell. Summer is definitely here.


[1] Fat Flush Foods, New York: McGraw Hill, 2004



{June 20, 2010}   The Traveling Yogini

I’ve written several blogs this year regarding local foods and perspectives. I also enjoy the expansion I experience through travel, so when Chuck invited me to accompany him to Los Angeles last week I jumped on the opportunity.

As I walked on the beach in Santa Monica, CA, I saw cyclists, runners, roller skaters, dog walkers, swimmers, surfers and volleyball players. Everyone seemed to be physically active and that active SoCal lifestyle is reflected in a large number of yoga schools in the area. One of my favorite out-of-town activities is to check out the local yoga scene. Here in upstate New York we are mainly offered fairly gentle yoga options, so I usually opt for a more intense version when I have the opportunity.

I chose to attend classes at YogaWorks, as this is a studio I have seen advertised in Yoga Journal and it was in walking distance from our hotel. On our last morning, I made a special effort to attend an intermediate level class that I heard would be taught a popular teacher who had just returned from vacation. Below is my story.

*****

I arrive early as this class is sure to be full. Already twenty or so women and men sit on rolled up yoga mats in random small groups. There is excitement in the air and a solid-looking woman sitting nearby announces, “Oooh. It’s going to be really hard today. He’s going to punish us.” In jest I reply, “Where’s the best place to hide?” She responds in her deep silky voice, “There’s nowhere to hide. You’re only hiding from yourself.”

This is clearly a conversation stopper. I don’t explain that although I have practiced yoga for nearly 30 years, where I live I don’t have access to high intensity yoga classes like this one. My personal challenge today will be to stay focused without pushing; to breathe, move and enjoy without following my natural inclination to take every posture to its fullest expression. I know the places where old strains and injuries are only too ready to re-announce their presence. With a trans-continental flight immediately following the class and a demanding weekend tennis tournament starting in two days time, I have a responsibility to myself to stay alert and healthy.

In truth I am a little nervous about the upcoming class and also lonely in this crowd where everyone seems to have at least one friend. It doesn’t help that the woman is now proclaiming: “He’s going to really hurt us today. I’m sure of it”.

I turn to the man sitting beside me and comment, “I hear this class is really famous”. I’m wondering just what it is about this teacher that draws such numbers.

“It depends on what you mean by famous”, is all I get out of him. I guess that was a dumb thing to say, but really, I was just hoping for some interaction.

“I guess I mean popular. How many students does the studio fit?” I continue. By now one of the receptionists is stationed directly at the front entrance to check in the steady stream of students flowing in.

“Eighty-five”, he replies. It’s going to be very tight, I think to myself. At last it is time and the mob purposefully descends, quickly filling in the front and back rows with multi-colored yoga mats, many covered with what looks like a cross between a towel and blanket known as “yogitoes”. I have an extremely thin travel yoga mat that weighs less than two pounds and can fit in my carry-on luggage. I find a spot in the second to last row and count 70 bodies in five rows before we close up every remaining gap to squeeze in a few more.

The teacher is a large man with a soft yet commanding voice. Although I don’t know the background to this YogaWorks flow series, I recognize the first part of the class as similar to the Ashtanga form I practiced in my early 30s. As in Ashtanga yoga, the 5 rounds each of surya namaskar A & B (salute to the sun) heat the body from the inside out. I am delighted when the teacher turns the music up and we are left to complete the final 3 rounds of surya namaskar B on our own. Directly in front of me high up in a window is a circular Shiva Nataraja figure (image above is from Wikapedia). I softly gaze at this each time I flow into Warrior II, feeling the power of being simultaneously grounded and uplifted. By now everyone has broken a sweat and some are already dripping on to their mats. Profuse sweating is supposed to detoxify the body and the heat certainly makes it easier to stretch deeply.

The main body of the class is a series of standing postures and balances linked together by vinyasas, a strenuous combination of linked postures that rebalance the body and maintain the internal heat. The postures include the usual suspects: triangle, lateral angle, half moon and their twisted versions, all three warriors, planks and side planks, the eagle and the crane.

Fifty minutes into the class I am beginning to struggle. Not only am I tiring, I am facing equipment failure. My mat is slick and I am dripping more than I can mop up with my one washcloth. I grab the hand towel I had reserved for showering after class and move it under my hands or feet, wherever I need the most stability. At last we begin to slow down. A five minute inversion (I still enjoy standing on my head) is followed by a couple of longer held postures. Savasana (final relaxation) is brief, class is over and we disperse.

As I walk into the cool freshness of the outdoors I reflect on the question that motivated me to spend my last morning in Santa Monica in a stuffy room with 75 sweating strangers. What makes a class this popular? This particular teacher exuded confidence without being overbearing, seeking to inspire each student through his voice, brief moments of individual attention and appropriate, uplifting music. I am happy to report that in no way did I find him punishing or hurtful. There were plenty of reminders to be respectful and aware of my body and ample opportunities for modification of the postures.

*****

I have to admit I enjoyed the novelty of this action packed, packed class. I am also grateful to be home, to breathe the fresh air and jump in our cold pond that has filled in our absence. When I arrive at the Monday morning class which I have taught for over 7 years, I am struck by how relaxed and friendly it feels. Perhaps this morning I teach with a little extra intensity; my students keep up.

One of the great things about yoga is that it is available world-wide. Obviously it is helpful to get some information about the class you plan to attend beforehand. Even so, no matter how challenging the class you find yourself in may be, the most important thing is to be present in your body and respect your limitations. With this simple safety measure it is possible to experience the different flavors of yoga whenever you’re away from home.



{June 12, 2010}   Breast Cancer Blunders

Last week I received a couple of copies of a group email entitled “The Cutest T-shirt Ever”. Usually I simply strike the delete button on emails like this and forget about it. This time I decided to devote today’s blog to this and other breast cancer blunders – common faux pas which, in my opinion, are best avoided when dealing with someone (like me) who has survived the ordeal of losing a breast to cancer and has lost dear friends and family members to breast cancer.

I open the email, and as I scroll down the page I see a wide-eyed baby with a puckered mouth wearing a pink hat and T-shirt that reads: “Find a cure before I grow boobs”.  The baby is cute. The T-shirt is crass, tasteless and exploitative. Additional text and a photo with some sort of religious connotation implores me to keep the email circulating in memory of anyone I know who has been struck down by cancer.

Losing a breast, facing cancer and the fear of death are such deeply personal, challenging, frightening and painful processes. To me it feels simplistic and insensitive to plaster breast cancer messages in every conceivable corner, this time on a baby t-shirt. At first sight, I am offended and angry. I have to find out the source of this offense, so I ask Chuck to trace the image for me. It seems to originate with a woman, Mary Nolan, who designed the T-shirt to sell on her UK website. This and her “Cancer, you got the wrong chick” t-shirt for women are her best sellers. So is the “keep this email going in honor of…” message just a ploy to sell more T-shirts? I don’t know. There is definitely irony in the fact that Mary’s site also features many items audaciously promoting the abuse of alcohol, which ironically, is the one dietary factor that randomized research most clearly relates to the development of cancer.

By now I’m pretty worked up and every dumb-ass thing that I have seen or heard about cancer comes back to me. Like the roadside billboard that faced me one morning as I drove into Syracuse for breast cancer treatment proclaiming “Abortion causes breast cancer.” How insensitive, insulting, rude and downright upsetting to post such a blatantly manipulative piece of propaganda in an attempt to further the anti-abortion cause.

Or the bottle-drive advertisement on a placard that I passed numerous times last summer saying, “Bottles for Boobs”. Just why is it necessary to use a term like “Boobs” to advertise the drive? And just exactly where is that money going?

A second category of breast cancer blunders is the dumb things people say. For example, shortly before my mastectomy a well-meaning health care provider said to me “most women I talk to don’t even miss their lost breast”. While I’m sure she thought she was reassuring me, the comment hit me like an arrow through the heart. At the time I was dealing with a tremendous amount of fear and grief, grief that continued for quite some time after my surgery. It is true that now, five years later, I don’t miss the breast I lost so much. I have a new one that is different in shape, texture and sensation and I love her in her own right. However, the acceptance of my loss was gradual and is ongoing. Of course the number one blunder that I have received in this category is when a breast cancer specialist answered my concerns over the carcinogenic nature of tamoxifen by saying that if I did get uterine cancer from taking it, they would cure that with a “simple hysterectomy”.

The third category of blunder is when well-meaning friends and acquaintances offer overly simplistic cures for cancer. The goji berry miracle juice I was offered or the “asparagus cure” circulated again by email are examples. All tap into our wish that there was an easy answer to this seemingly uncontrollable disease. As hard as it is to swallow, if there was an easy answer, we would have found a cure already. There was a time that I misunderstood the complexity of cancer and have been guilty of the same misguided behavior I am now complaining about. My husband and I now regret that we once gave what turned out to be a completely misguided book to a beloved friend who was dying of breast cancer. In my own treatment I got quite an awakening when my original attempt to cure my cancer with minimal surgery, maximum alternatives and soul searching did not work.

Breast cancer blunders are not just matters of taste or “political correctness” as some will say. I think that most people who make these blunders mean well, but feel fearful or awkward and try to compensate with humor. Some think “raising awareness” is important while others are motivated by profit (e.g. selling T-shirts) or to cover the enormous costs of conventional cancer treatments. Unfortunately, with billions spent on developing these conventional treatments, the incidence of breast cancer is greater today than it was in 1975. As much as the cancer industry attempts to convince us that the right drug or other “silver bullet” treatment will be the answer, cancer is complex and it is unlikely there will be a single cure.

I believe that it is undoubtedly easier to prevent cancer than cure it. Unfortunately, current breast cancer prevention efforts are primarily directed at encouraging women to get mammograms. The irony is that we actually know what causes cancer. Cancer occurs when previously normal cells cease to function normally, and the body’s own defenses fail to destroy these cells. David Getoff states that cancer is caused by:

  1. The enormous load of toxic chemicals, radiation and hormone-like substances that we are exposed to daily that our bodies are not equipped to deal with;
  2. The poor quality nutrition we give the body based on packaged, processed and artificial “food”; and
  3. The unprecedented amount of sugar and substances that digest quickly to sugars that we consume.

It is going to take tremendous individual and societal commitment to address these causes.

So here are some simple do’s and don’ts that I hope will help us to support friends, loved ones and other people we know who are facing breast cancer.

Do’s

I. Do engage in heartfelt acts of support. I personally found friends and acquaintances who took the time to send cards, flowers, bring food or even help me at home, to be tremendously uplifting.

II. Do ask someone you know who has cancer if they want to talk, and if they do – LISTEN.  After you’ve listened, all you need to say is “Thank you” or “I appreciate you sharing with me.”

III. Do send a simple note of encouragement or affection.

IV. Do support fully whatever treatments or life-style changes the patient chooses.

Don’ts

A. Don’t pass on “cute” emails, images or cancer slogans. You never know who you’re going to offend, who’s profiting and whether it’s helping or hurting.

B. Don’t exploit cancer to make your political statement, whatever it is.

C. Don’t give treatment advice unless you’ve been asked for it! I have a fairly strong alternative perspective, and I have to constantly catch my own tendency to proselytize my beliefs and follow the advice I read somewhere long ago: When someone is making a treatment decision, go ahead and offer alternatives if they are open to it. However, once they have made their decision, fully support that, whatever it is.

D. Don’t be afraid to ask, “How are you?”  Frequently I run into someone I haven’t seen in awhile who knows I had breast cancer. They ask me, with a meaningful look, “How are you? Are you well?” I know what they really want to know is am I still cancer free? Even though it can be slightly awkward, I really appreciate these inquiries. I feel seen and cared about. I reply, “I’m healthy, happy and five years cancer free. Thanks for asking”.



{June 6, 2010}   Locavore

By the time the bakery at the main intersection in Cazenovia closed, Chuck and I were already sourcing grass-fed beef and pasture-raised poultry and eggs and choosing organic food whenever possible. We wondered for weeks what would be revealed when the brown paper came off the windows of the new restaurant boasting “New American Cuisine”. When finally unveiled in February 2006, we were delighted to find Circa, a hip cozy restaurant that filled an culinary niche in the community which had been empty since the old Wheatberry closed over a decade before.  My first meal there was a succulent lamb stew, which was so good, we decided to adopt the place and become regulars.

Alicyn Hart, co-owner and chef of Circa, had traveled the world, sous-chefed in numerous restaurants and taught the culinary arts. She was certainly ahead of the curve to open a local foods restaurant at that time as the local foods movement in the United States was in its infancy. This was two months before the publication of Michael Pollen’s groundbreaking Ominivore’s Dilema (April 2006), before the word locavore (someone who eats exclusively local food) made it into the dictionary (it was named the Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year in 2007) and long before a survey by the National Restaurant Association ranked locally-grown produce and locally sourced meats and seafood as the top two restaurant trends for 2010.

Like many new businesses there were challenges in the beginning. Shortly after opening the restaurant, Alicyn became pregnant and at this time she was often the only one in the kitchen. I recently asked her what made her want to start a local foods restaurant in the first place. “It’s not that I really planned it,” she said matter of factly. I’m just committed to providing local, whole food. It simply tastes better and for me is the right way to eat.”

There are good reasons why local food tastes better. Grocery store produce travels an average of 1500 miles from the farm where it was grown. Foods grown outside the country may take two weeks before arriving at the grocery store. To survive the travel and extend the shelf-life, food is often picked under-ripe and varieties must be chosen to withstand the beating of rail and road. In contrast, farmers who sell their food locally can concentrate on freshness, maximum nutrition and taste.

Much of our conversation centered on how she and her husband/co-owner Eric Woodworth source the food we eat at Circa. “In the beginning we had to search the area for local food,” Alicyn remembers. Now she has a team of local suppliers who deliver their fresh products directly to the restaurant. Eggs, chicken and more recently beef come from Ingalside Farm in Greenville. Lamb comes from Meadowood Farm located only a few miles from the restaurant. Our local beekeeper Robert Thorp supplies honey and apples. Micro greens (such as pea shoots and sunflower sprouts) are provided by of Fresh Herbs of Fabius and Finger Lakes Fresh is a not for profit greenhouse in Ithaca that produces salad greens year round. Alicyn and Eric also produce some of the restaurant’s food. Last year Eric raised six pigs and tended a half acre of vegetables (that’s a lot of weeding!).

The recent increased interest in local food is good for business, but can create difficulties for the food supply to Circa. As demand for local food increases, some suppliers turn from the truly local market to the more lucrative trade from New York City restaurants. Also, more local people are buying directly from the producers for use at home, sometimes leading to shortages. This is great for the local economy and ultimately for Circa, but it means that a lot of time goes into sourcing on an ongoing basis.

I asked Alicyn whether local vegetables are more difficult to source year round than meat and poultry. “Absolutely,” she replied, “meat has no season.” Local grassfed and pasture raised meat is frozen immediately after processing. Local chickens are available fresh for much of the year and in the winter she procures indoor free range chickens from Murray’s in Pennsylvania. In the winter she features vegetables that can be frozen (e.g. corn, peas, beans) or cellared root  vegetables and winter squash. There are time when she needs to purchase canned organic tomatoes and uses non-local romaine lettuce for the Caesar salad. Sometimes in the winter she resorts to purchasing non-organic greens or spinach when the organic produce is simply not up to a standard she can comfortably serve. “This is a business too,” she considers.

Cazenovia is a small and conservative market but fortunately, there is a core of foodies who appreciate Alicyn’s vision and the reliability of Circa in serving only top quality meats and vegetables in their dishes. Business has picked up in the last year. For the first four years Alicyn was in the kitchen preparing food alone for much of the time. This made it challenging to get meals out in a timely manner when the restaurant was busy. Now she can afford to hire more kitchen help and this year has the additional help of two interns who wish to study the culinary arts on-site. But even so, Alicyn spends about 70 hours per week working in the restaurant. Cooking with whole foods takes considerably more time and skill than that required in restaurants that serve primarily pre-prepared, often frozen foods. Alycin has found that even graduates from culinary schools may not know how to carry out certain basic skills like de-boning a chicken and making stock.

Over the years Circa has become an important community resource and gathering place. An attractive deli display offers a variety of local and imported items for sale including cheese, eggs, olives and olive oil. Alicyn will sell just about anything you might need that she has on hand. “I would sell my last loaf of bread. It’s just the right thing to do” she explained, and in fact, one time I did buy her last fresh baked pie. She also does a fair amount of catering or just selling prepared food for take-out. But I think our favorite thing about Circa is that any day or evening we walk in, there is someone we know eating there.  The sense of community, of sharing lovingly prepared local food with our friends and neighbors is a constant draw. This past year, Chuck and I threw our joint birthday party at Circa, with a great local band and all our friends in attendance and in April, Alicyn hosted a lively going-away bash for Jenn, a key staff member and favorite waitress who is moving on and getting married. This summer, we’re looking forward to many “Taco nights” with together friends gathering for a Sunday feast.

In supporting our local foods restaurants on a regular basis we also sustain our local farmers. At the same time we bestow our bodies with fresh, whole foods that nourish us on a deep level.



et cetera