Intro to Vedic Cooking

This beautiful piece is located at the dhyana Center.


Last Saturday, I was fortunate to take a two-day course, titled Edible Ayurveda, with my brother at the Dhyana Center, which is located in downtown Sebastopol. My brother’s friend, DeAnna Batdorff, is the owner of the center. My brother and DeAnna have been good friends for about 20 years, which is around the same time he began studying Ayurveda. Seeing my brother with DeAnna warms my heart because he loves studying with her! ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ“š


The Root Beer Float, a popular drink found at the dhyana Center’s Apothecary Bar. Finally, I got my hands on this drink!



The best of friends: DeAnna and my brother.


Our weekend actually started Friday, which was when my brother and I stopped by the dhyana Center to say hello to DeAnna. It also gave me the opportunity to meet Mary Sheila Gonnella, a certified nutrition consultant and Ayurvedic practitioner, who was also going to teach the course with DeAnna. Mary Sheila runs Occidental Nutrition.


Mary Sheila Gonnella, one of the instructors of Edible Ayurveda.


I had individual consultations with both DeAnna and Mary Sheila, and both made the same helpful suggestion: to spend more time on myself–including plenty of self-care. You see, four years ago, I stepped in and became a caregiver to three family members: my parents and older brother. They are all okay right now, but taking them to doctors appointments, running errands for them, going grocery shopping, etc., can get very taxing on me. ๐Ÿ˜ฃ I’m attempting to work through my challenges and what better way than with the help of DeAnna and Mary Sheila. I’d also like to give some credit to my brother, who ‘started the ball rolling’ a while ago when he suggested I seek some holistic assistance at the dhyana Center. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿฝโค๏ธ๐Ÿ™‚



Every student taking the course received this study guide.


The first day of class had a lot of great information. During the six-hour course, we learned about Balanced Nutrition, Elemental Theory–including Ether (Cold), Air (Dry), Fire/Water (Hot) and Water/Earth (Wet)–Mindful Eating, Micronutrients and Macronutrients, amongst other, interesting topics. The main idea of the course is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to maintain your doshas (body constitution).



Sprouted Chickpeas


On Sunday (the second day of class), the class met at the Ceres Community Project, a local business with a kitchen accommodating about 15 or more people. The Ceres Project is located in Sebastopol, but also has offices in Santa Rosa and San Rafael. They provide healthy meals for those who are challenged with cancerโ€”including meals for the person’s family too. The meals from Ceres are organic, fresh, sustainable and locally grown–whenever possible. DeAnna and Mary Sheila utilized Ceres’s kitchen to show us hands-on how to make some of the recipes (located in our guidebook) and how this food is beneficial to your health. ๐ŸŽ



Coconut for the Chutney that was made during Sunday’s class.


In between the time DeAnna and Mary Sheila were cooking, we all assisted in either grating and cutting up vegetables, adding spices to a specific dish, preparing the main dish or washing and drying dishes. It was heartwarming to see everyone come together for a common goal. And I know each student was looking forward to tasting the different items DeAnna and Sheila were putting together.


Before fermentation:: the Raspberry Shrub.



After fermentation: Behold, the Raspberry Shrub.



Just some of the ingredients used for the Chile Verde salsa rub for the chicken.



Chicken with Chile Verde salsa.


Hands down, the chicken with Chile Verde sauce was so delicious and very simple to make! I’m not a fan of super spicy food, so it surprised me that I couldn’t tell that the sauce had a few Serrano chilis in it.ย  ๐ŸŒถ๏ธ๐Ÿ—๐Ÿค”


I ๐Ÿ’š Kale!


Kale was used to make the stuffing that was placed inside and around the chicken. This was an awesome addition to the chicken, which I intend to repeat when I make this recipe at home.


The final product, which also included a tasty salad.



Someone really enjoyed his meal!



A probiotic dessert. It includes pistachios, raisins, kefir and nectarine chutney


For those who have very little experience in the kitchen, this course is user-friendlyโ€”and a must!

My purpose for taking the course was to learn about Ayurveda and the benefits it provides. I know that by incorporating some Ayurvedic practices into my life, it will help my overall health. โค๏ธ

For more information on the Edible Aryuveda course or on the center, visit the website at The dhyana Center or call (707) 823-8818.

A Day In San Francisco


The ‘Open Heart’ sculpture at Pier 39.


About a week ago, my friend Eva invited me to spend a day with her in San Francisco. Other than having a tremendous heart, she is a great friend. The history behind our friendship goes way back to when we worked together (she was once my manager). We’ve actually known each other a lot longer than that because her mother’s younger sister is married to my father’s younger brother. Although we live in the same town, we don’t always get to see or talk to each other every day or every week.

On Saturday, Eva picked me up around 10:30 a.m. and as we drove in to San Francisco, it dawned on me that she wasn’t using the map on her cell phone. I asked her about it and was told she wouldn’t have any problem finding her way around the city because she was familiar with the area.


The Transamerica Pyramid in downtown San Francisco


Eva proceeded to drive to an area of San Francisco where I probably last visited about 10 years ago. We pulled into a motel’s somewhat small, cramped parking garage just about a block north of Chinatown. Note to self: the next time I know I’m going to be walking non-stop along several, narrow and somewhat uneven blocks, please do some stretching before I start walking! ๐Ÿšถโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ˜


Francis Ford Coppola’s restaurant in North Beach.


I forgot just how many tourists visit here during the weekend and summer! Various crowds of people flocked along the narrow streets of Chinatown, walking in and out of different businesses and soaking in the beautiful, sunny San Francisco skyline. A smell that often resonated with me during our time in Chinatown was of fish, which we smelled as we walked by some of the shops. ๐ŸŸ We walked in to some different shops and found items, like a Bruce Lee t-shirt for Eva’s brother, a doll for her granddaughter and personalized keychains for her two sons.

We must have walked for about two and a half hours around Chinatown. By now it was 1:15 p.m. and we were both in search of a bathroom and food! We walked around hoping we’d remember our way back to Eva’s car. At that point, I turned on my phone’s map, which was taking forever to load. Finally, as we got closer to North Beach, she pulled out her parking ticket and looked at the address. We walked in the opposite direction of where we were and within a matter of eight minutes, we were reunited with her car! ๐Ÿš—

Next, Eva drove to our next destination, Pier 39. Thankfully we found parking in the garage located across the pier. Another note to self: if we can make it happen next time, go to San Francisco during the week–NOT during the weekend! Let’s just say there were LOTS of tourists there! I found it more bearable to walk around here than Chinatown because there was ample space–except for when someone stood right, smack in the middle of where we wanted to walk through. ๐Ÿ™„


Looking out towards the bay from Pier 39.


We had discussed eating lunch at the Hard Rock Cafรฉ. As we got in line outside of the cafe’s entrance, we overheard the woman in front of us say it would take an hour to be seated and an additional 25 minutes to wait for your order’s arrival. ๐Ÿ™„ Yeah, we weren’t going to wait that long, so we walked around some more until we came across Luigi’s Pizzeria, which Eva had initially suggested. We were seated within five minutes; I then ordered a small, pesto pizza, while Eva ordered a small, mushroom pizza. ๐Ÿ• The pizza here was very tasty (it somewhat reminded me of La Vera’s Pizza in Santa Rosa, which I just discovered closed its doors last month). After we finished lunch, we walked towards The Candy Baron, which is a candy store filled with nostalgic candy, as well as candy you can normally find at your local Safeway or Rite Aid. I found one of my favorite chocolate bars there, the Curly Wurly. The deliciousness of milk chocolate and caramel together is what I love! ๐Ÿซ

About 30 minutes later, we left Pier 39 and walked across the street to check out some of the other shops. I had been craving some ice cream since we first arrived, so the search was on! We walked in to The San Francisco Chocolate Store, which sells chocolates of different variations and Eva wondered if maybe they sold ice cream. Sure enough, as we were almost out the door, we noticed the ice cream, as well as custard. Eva ordered Rocky Road and Mexican Vanilla Custard, while I ordered the Mexican Vanilla and Chocolate Custard. OMG!! The custard was so delicious!! ๐Ÿ˜‹ย ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿจ


Mexican Vanilla and Chocolate Custard for dessert.



My friend Eva.


After dessert, we decided it was finally time to wrap up our visit and head back home, where the weather was still hot. โ˜€๏ธ We had a great day playing tourists in the city! I’m so grateful to Eva for her kind gesture and friendship. โค๏ธ๐Ÿ˜ƒ


The area in front of the tan wall once housed Tower Records. The street’s name reminded me of singer and teen idol Davy Jones of The Monkees.



The Golden Gate Bridge hiding behind the fog’s haze as we headed back north.



The tunnel named after former, longtime Marin County resident, actor and comedian Robin Williams.

A Day Out in Sebastopol


My brother and I have always been really close. There was a time when I was younger (e.g. in my teens) that if I wanted to go somewhere, such as to a concert in another city, I wasn’t allowed to go unless my brother drove me. Now the roles are reversed and I’m his chauffeur (he is no longer able to drive). Last Friday, I drove us in to the town of Sebastopol, which is about a 30 minute drive east of Bodega Bay.


One of my brother’s friends, DeAnna Batdorff, is the owner of the dhyana Center. In fact, he has been friends with her for over 20 years, having helped her before she actually opened up her business in downtown Sebastopol. We’re both happy to see her business thriving because she has placed her heart and soul into the Center, which has created a space for those wanting to learn about Ayurveda and it also provides a self-care sanctuary for people who desire a ‘time-out’ day for themselves.

The dhyana Center is a Ayurvedic school, a self-care studio and community center. It offers the following services: Yoga classes; a treatment center where you can receive a deep tissue massage or a pulse consultation from one of the Center’s knowledgeable practitioners; and you can treat yourself to a non-alcoholic drink in the Apothecary Bar. There is also a retail store located in the Center, which carries an array of items, like nourishing teas, essential oils and salt scrubs.


The Apothecary Bar at the dhyana Center. They have a variety of cooling and hot drinks to choose from.


Within about five minutes after arriving at the Dhyana Center, my brother asked if I wanted a drink. I replied, “Yes.” He ordered a Margarita drink for himself, which looked a little too familiar. ๐Ÿธ๐Ÿ˜†


The cooling, Margarita drink.


The Margarita consisted of cucumber, coriander, umeboshi, lemon juice and zest, honey harlequin, house-made celery tincture, sumac and salt rim. I took a sip of it and found it rather tasty and refreshing.


My brother, enjoying his drink.


As I quickly glossed over the drink menu, I chose the Mayan Elixir. This drink consisted of local, organic rose water, coconut milk, cocoa powder, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, pink salt and brown rice.ย  โ˜•

The hot drink I chose, the Mayan Elixir.

My brother looked at me with some skepticism because I had ordered a hot drink on a warm, sunny day. I stated I wasn’t going to change my mind. After taking a few sips of the Mayan Elixir, I’m glad I chose it because it certainly reminded me of drinking hot chocolate–a favorite of mine.

After being at the dhyana Center for about an hour, we planned to have lunch at a restaurant I had been wanting to try for quite some time. The restaurant is called Slice of Life. My brother told me it had been quite a few years since he last ate there, so he was looking forward to it.


Slice of Life is a vegetarian restaurant located in downtown Sebastopol.


Sweet Potato Fries, which our waitress brought to us by mistake.


There are so many menu choices! Deciding what to order proved to be difficult. Do I order a hamburger, taco or pizza? My brother also contemplated the same thing…until he finally chose the Sampler Plate, which consists of organic brown rice and steamed vegetables with their sauce of the day, organic beans, guacamole and salsa on a bed of crispy corn tortilla chips, with two choices from tempeh, tofu and seitan.


My brother chose Slice of Life’s Sampler Plate.


I enjoy tacos, so I opted for a healthier choice–sans a few things it normally comes with. ๐Ÿ˜‰


I ordered the Street Tacos, which consists of a corn tortilla, guacamole, cilantro, onions, a drizzle of chipotle queso and your choice of raja peppers, beans & rice, roasted cauliflower or marinated tempeh–when available. I asked the waitress if they provide one or two tacos with the order; she stated just one. Because I forgot to ask what size tortillas they use, I ordered two, along with rice, pinto beans and cilantro. The tacos were good, but I wish I would have given the roasted cauliflower or marinated tempeh a try. Okay, maybe next time. ๐ŸŒฎ

Nevertheless, we had a great time in Sebastopol and we will be returning soon! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

The dhyana Center is located at 186 North Main St., Ste. 250,ย Sebastopol, California. The Center is open daily, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 707-823-8818 or go to:ย

Slice of Life is located at 6970 McKinley Ave., Sebastopol, California. For more information about the restaurant or its hours, call 707-829-6627 or go to:

Song Sunday: The Carpenters

I have loved The Carpenters music for as long as I can remember! Karen Carpenter had such an amazing, angelic voice and was considered to be one of the best female vocalists of all-time.

Sometimes a song’s lyrics just speak to you. This is one of my favorite songs sung by the Grammy Award-winning siblings. ๐Ÿ‘ซ๐ŸŽค๐ŸŽน๐Ÿฅ๐ŸŽตโค๏ธ