Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!!!!

We wish you all the best in 2009 and beyond.

Our January newsletter is almost finished, great articles and information about what is going on at the Birch Center. If you are not on our newsletter list you can sign up here. Lots of exciting things in store for 2009!

If there is anything you'd like to see us address or discuss or offer in 2009, please let us know, either with a comment on the blog, or you can email us at

Talk to you soon!

Lots of love,
Melissa and Dave

Friday, December 26, 2008

Raw Latkes!

Above: my amazing raw latkes with raw applesauce.

We still have a three more nights of Chanukah, enough time to make and enjoy these amazing sweet potato latkes (potato pancakes) I came up with!

You do need a dehydrator for this recipe (unless you have an oven that can bake on a very low temp....)

I wish I thought to take a picture before I was eating the very last one (isn't that strange that the thought occurred to me, literally, halfway through the last latke?)

But I will make them again tomorrow, so I'll take a picture then. (picture posted above.)

Here is the recipe:

1 large sweet potato (the orange kind), grated
3/4 large onion, grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp tamari
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup ground flax seed (to hold it all together.)
chili powder and/or paprika and/or black pepper (I used chili and paprika because we don't have black pepper, but I think black pepper would be nice.)

Mix ingredients together, and adjust seasoning.

Form into latke shapes (potato pancakes - round and flattened) and dehydrate on 105 degrees for 10 - 12 hours (although I started eating them much sooner...they are so good and they really taste just like potato pancakes!)

Serve with apple sauce (I made raw by putting peeled, chopped apples in a blender.)

An easy raw sour cream would go something like this:

In vitamix or other strong blender, blend:

cashews (if you soak them, they'll be softer - a good idea if you have a regular blender)
lemon juice
water (add slowly, until the right consistency.)

Or, if you have the time and inclination, try something with probiotics and a few days of culturing, like this recipe from

I didn't make the sour cream, though.

Just the latkes and apple sauce were heavenly!

With Joy and Love,
~ Melissa

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

We hope you are enjoying this wonderful holiday season.

If you are looking for some very family-friendly entertainment this holiday season, here is a movie we watch on youtube (year round) though it is especially appropriate this time of year (as it is Christmas themed.)

It's called A Muppet Family Christmas, and it brings together the entire cast of muppets: from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock. Lots of great music and good cheer, and Jim Henson even makes a quick cameo at the end (I think this was filmed around 1986.)

It's in five parts. Here is the link to part one. If you like it, it will take you to the other parts:

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Chanukah! Happy Solstice!

Happy Chanukah!!! - Chanukah starts tonight at sunset: 4:57 pm.

Today is also solstice - happy winter! The solstice occurred today, Sunday December 21, at 7:04 AM in Pittsburgh

Today (Sunday) we'll be hosting a family knitting group at The Birch the office will be open from 10:30 am until about 12:30 (Steeler game is at 1!)

If you are in the south side today, please feel free to stop by...for a cup of tea and to say hello, to peruse the books we have for sale to raise money for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, or to buy a gift certificate at 10% off.

We hope you are having a great holiday season!

Melissa and Dave

Friday, December 12, 2008

Around Pittsburgh this Holiday Season

Holidays are such a great time around Pittsburgh! Here are some fun things to do:

Phipps - the winter flower show is fabulous this year! I just love the displays of animals made from all natural materials. And Santa is at Phipps again this year: Saturdays and Sundays, 11 am - 2 pm.

Holly Trolley - The Holly Trolley is free on Saturdays and Sundays with stops at Station Square, Macy's, and other places downtown. What a great way to see the all the displays of the holiday season.

The Nutcracker - at the Benedum. Wow! We saw it for the first time today and loved it! Ella could not help but dance in the aisle (luckily we went to the school matinee, and no one seemed to mind.) Our friend Erin must have had the day off today (sadly for us!) but she will be in future performances as Marie, The Snow Queen and The Sugar Plum Fairy, depending on the performance. I just loved how they made it local to Pittsburgh in so many ways (the mansion was from Shadyside, the carriage was Heinz....)

So so many other things, too. A Christmas Carol at the Byham...Chanukah begins December 21 - which is also the winter solstice - this year. There is a Raw Food Holiday Meet Up at Maggie's Mercantilein Oakland on December 14. Just so many festivities.

Please feel free to share your favorite thing to do this season in the comments! I don't want to miss anything! Thank you, and happy holidays!

The Book List

Here it is!

10+ of my favorite books. May they lead you to enlightenment, well being, and joy!

  1. Meditation, An Eight Point Program by Eknath Easwaran. I had been looking for this book ever since I read another book by Easwaran: Gandhi the Man.I love this author and the Meditation book did not disappoint. And now I am reading The Bhagavad Gita (on Easwaran's recommendation.) I'm reading Eliot Deutsch's translation...but Easwaran also has a translation of the The Bhagavad Gita and his three volume The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living.

  2. No Death, No Fearby Thich Nhat Hanh. Here is another author I can't get enough of.

  3. Green for Lifeby Victoria Boutenko. Green Smoothies! She also wrote Raw Family: A True Story of Awakening,which is a definite page-turner about how she and her family regained their health (the four family members had: mom - obesity and heart disease, dad - crippling arthritis, sister - asthma and brother - type 1 Diabetes). After research and soul searching she threw away all the cooked food and filled the house with fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and it is incredible how they all healed!

  4. The Simple Living Guideby Janet Luhrs. This is such an inspiring book, and turned me on to Cob building, money saving principles from the book Your Money or Your Lifeby Joe Dominguez, as well as many other things.

  5. The Power of Nowand A New Earthby Eckhart Tolle. Did you see the 10 part interview Oprah did with Tolle (online) about the book A New Earth? It was amazing. You can download it for free at

  6. The Anastasia books. These are a nine book series, written by a Russian author about a young recluse from the Siberian wilderness who lives off the earth and has amazing innate abilities - to see, heal, understand.

  7. Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutritionby Paul Pitchford. Still my favorite go to handbook on all things nutrition, especially in that it has an Asian medicine perspective.

  8. The Web That Has No Weaver : Understanding Chinese Medicineby Ted Kaptchuk. If you are interested in Chinese Medicine, I still think this is the first place to turn.

  9. For raw food preparation, my favorites are Ani's Raw Food Kitchenby Ani Phyo and RAWvolution: Gourmet Living Cuisineby Matt Amsden.

  10. Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guideby Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman is my favorite book when I'm out foraging.

  11. I need to add just one more. The Contrary Farmerby Gene Logsdon. And while I'm on the topic of back-to-the-land and grow-your-own-food, check out Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Lifeby Barbara Kingsolver. I loved both these books.

No-Sew Dream Pillows

In our last newsletter, I wrote an article about making dream pillows. (You can sign up to receive our monthly newsletter here.) Recently I got some feedback by my good friend (and very inspiring young woman) Bethany, about making them without sewing!

She put the herbs into a sock and tied it up - how easy!

Here are some herb mix ideas:

  • Pleasant dreams (keep nightmares away) Rosemary and mint (or rosemary and lavender...lavender is more relaxing.)
  • Remembering your dreams: Rosemary and Mugwort
  • Creative Dreaming (kick your dreams up to the next level!) Mugwort alone, or with lavender
  • To help sleep: lavender alone or with chamomile and/or hops

Another great sock (or bag) idea: to make an eye rest. Along with the herbs add some uncooked rice to the sock (or bag) and tie it.

These would make such great homemade gifts! A special touch: with the dream pillow give a blank journal for recording dreams. You could also decorate the cover of a blank journal to make it a dream journal (I did that one year.)

The eye pillow idea came from Bunny Berry of Raw Fu fame, and she just opens bags of Celestial Seasoning herb tea to fill her sock (along with the rice.) I believe she said that some kind of Orange Spice tea was her favorite.

I love all these creative ideas...just in time for the holidays!

Monday, December 8, 2008

It is in giving that we receive...

Hi everyone!

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

Our December newsletter just went out, with articles about making dream pillows, keeping uplifted during the holiday time, and our book sale, in which 100% of proceeds are being donated to The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

If you are not on our mailing list, please join today.

I'm very excited about our book sale fundraiser, and hope to make it a regular event at the Birch Center. When you come in for an appointment, make sure you check out the sale table. There are great titles on there like Son Rise: The Miracle Continues
by Barry Neil Kaufman, The Power of Intention
by Wayne Dyer, and Quick Vegetarian Pleasures: More than 175 Fast, Delicious, and Healthy Meatless Recipes
by Jeanne Lemlin.

We are suggesting a donation of $3 a book, $5 for 2. If you have any books you'd like to donate, bring them by! 100% of the proceeds are going to the Greater Pittburgh Community Food Bank.

Here is the prayer (which I am meditating on lately, a la the book Meditation: A Simple Eight-Point Program for Translating Spiritual Ideals into Daily Life
by Eknath Easwaran...more on that great book later) from which I took the inspiration:

It is by St. Francis of Assissi, and the translation I am including here is from Easwaran's book, pages 29 - 30:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness; joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.