Nature Interrupted

Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things. ~Lao Tzu

If you are a regular Micro of the Macro reader, you have seen my posts on how the design of Nature is being interrupted on an ongoing basis. Harmful chemicals are used on crops, in cleaning products, and in personal products. Plastics are used indiscriminately. Landfills are expanding. Oceans are affected by industrial run-off and carbon dioxide emissions. Trees continue to be wiped out to make room for commercial livestock. The water we drink now is largely devoid of minerals. These many macro-level tragedies combine to create a frightening reality for all of us sharing the planet. Drilling down to the micro level, I would like to share how the interruption of Nature’s design can affect us on a more personal level.

In a recent study from Lancaster University, extreme rainfall and flooding caused by climate change was shown to cause lower birth weights in newborns. Starting life in this manner can have life-long consequences for health and development, the study reports, including lower educational attainment, poorer health, reduced income in adulthood, and mortality risks. And of course, these undesirable consequences affect future generations.

Speaking of the little ones, an article in Psychology Today says that when children forgo playtime outdoors, choosing instead to play on devices, their tendencies toward mood disturbances increase significantly. Studies show that screen time can result in sleep disturbances, depression, stress, aggressive behaviors, poor focus, and lack of motivation. The article goes on to say, Many children are “hooked” on electronics, and in fact gaming releases so much dopamine—the “feel-good” chemical—that on a brain scan it looks the same as cocaine use. This habituated response desensitizes the brain’s reward pathways, resulting in the need for ever-heightened stimulation. What’s more, increased screen time contributes to obesity and diabetes.

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Khalil Gibran

The chronic disruption of circadian rhythms, which regulate much of our biological functioning, has been shown to be instrumental in tumor growth, according to a study published in the journal PLOS Biology. Circadian rhythm alteration resulting from jet travel, shift work, or sleep disturbances, is a known risk factor for several types of cancer, the study shows. (On a side note, I have read from other sources that 5G technology has potential to substantially interfere with our circadian rhythms, as well as those of other animals.)

And finally, I want to address stress. Through decades of studying human health, I have come to believe that stress is a common denominator among those things that have harmful effects on us. Poor eating habits, sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, climate change, working too many hours, worrying about money, commuting in traffic, too little time in Nature, physical and mental illness, relationship issues, working at a job (or for a boss) you don’t like, and the list goes on: all very common situations in our lives that result in stress. We didn’t evolve as a species to spend so much time feeling stress, which often activates our body’s fight or flight survival response. According to an article from Harvard Health, Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction. These unfortunate effects can result in even more stress. It’s a vicious cycle.

Nature is loved by what is best in us. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

When Nature’s design is interrupted, we all suffer in a number of ways. Each one of us is a microcosm of the macrocosm of Nature, after all. We owe it to ourselves, our families, and our communities to be proactive in making changes, big and small, to combat these calamities that rob us of beauty, peace of mind, health, and longevity. By working toward preserving and restoring Nature’s design on all levels, we could find ourselves thriving in an optimal, life-enhancing world.

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. ~Frank Lloyd Wright

Blessings for Nature’s Design,

Lisa

Super-Simple Bok Choy Soup

This was the first recipe I shared on Micro of the Macro. It’s quick, easy, healthy, and delicious; what could be better?

According to the Universal Guideline for Human and Planetary Health, (WFPB.ORG), Human and environmental health are dependent on one another. What we consume greatly influences our personal health, the economic health of our countries, and the health of the planet we all share.

In the age of Coronavirus, this idea is more urgent than ever. Boosting immune function by eating more whole plant foods (for example, eating a sweet potato rather than sweet potato chips) and by consistently hydrating, which I believe is just as important as washing your hands, makes you proactive. And being proactive is a much better approach than stressing about when you might get the vaccine. Would you agree?

One cup of bok choy has about 75% of the US RDA of Vitamin C, which has been shown to help people who have contracted the virus. And vegetable soups, with a high water & mineral content, are very hydrating, which can mean the difference between falling ill or staying healthy.

Bok Choy Soup is one of my easiest go-to recipes. It doesn’t require much time in the kitchen, and it’s amazingly delicious. I have shared it with friends, some of whom weren’t previously familiar with the vegetable, and they, too, love it. With the addition of a few chopped Yukon gold or baby red potatoes, it can be made heartier for chilly nights.

A big thanks to www.Vegannie.com for the inspiration.

Let me know what you think if you give it a try!

Yield: 5-6 servings

Ingredients

1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 bunch celery, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
Himalayan salt to taste
15 oz cannellini beans, drained
*3 bouillon cubes
*6 cups water
1 large bunch of bok choy, chopped into 1” pieces (or 4-6 baby bok choys)

(*or sub 6 cups of your favorite broth)

Directions

Sauté the onions and celery in the olive oil over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, until the onions are becoming translucent. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring, for another minute. Add crushed red pepper and sprinkle with salt. Add beans and stir for another minute or two. Break up the bouillon cubes over the beans and add the water. Increase the heat to high. Once it is almost boiling, stir until the bouillon cubes dissolve completely. Add the bok choy and reduce to a simmer for 8-10 minutes, or longer if you prefer the greens softer. Add salt to taste. Enjoy with a chunk of nice crusty bread.

For the Love of Trees

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

This post was first shared close to a year ago. Although it’s a personal favorite, it didn’t get a whole lot of love because, at that time, few folks knew this blog existed. I am reposting it for all my current readers, in an effort to instill the vital importance of trees for each of us.

I grew up on a small farm in the Deep South, surrounded by trees and animals. My family had a couple cows, a few pigs, and lots of chickens. My grandmother, or Mawmaw, as we called her, maintained a huge vegetable garden on one side of her house, and a slightly smaller flower garden on the other side. Her property had several pecan trees, a walnut tree, a fig tree, and apple trees. Each time a grandchild was born into the family, she planted a new tree in her front yard. My birth tree was a magnolia, and even now, the scent of a magnolia blossom makes me swoon.

In those early years, I spent a lot of time climbing trees. It was great fun and I loved the views from above. Recently, I’ve learned to appreciate trees for other reasons. When I checked out of real life and took up traveling for a few years, (see Escaping Normal for more on that!) I discovered that trees were healing. Hiking in a forest or canyon or up a mountain surrounded by redwoods, ponderosa pines, aspens, or birch trees made me feel nurtured. And that’s as true now as before.

Petrified wood in southern Utah

Trees have not been the subject of a great number of scientific studies, although the studies that have been done reveal that their functions are vital for life on the planet. Most of us know that trees produce oxygen, take in harmful carbon dioxide, and provide shelter and food for animals. But after reading Jim Robbins’ The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet, I’ve learned that trees are more important than I ever imagined. The author, who has written on environmental issues for The New York Times for more than 35 years, asserts that planting trees could in fact be our most important ecotechnology for saving this troubled planet.

According to Robbins, trees absorb not only carbon dioxide, but also various other pollutants that might otherwise end up in our lungs. Their root system can render toxic waste harmless. They can control the distribution of flooding rain and filter searing heat. They generate over 100 chemicals, many in aerosol form, that benefit not only their own species, but sometimes other plants, as well as some animals, including humans.

During my travels, I have witnessed some really unique trees with interesting stories. From the Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert, to the Great Basin’s ancient Bristlecone Pines, to the Giant Sequoias in California’s Sierra Nevada, the encounters were fascinating and unforgettable.

Joshua Trees inside California’s Joshua Tree National Park

The Joshua Tree is said to have been named by Mormons in the mid-19th century who were trekking through the Mojave Desert in search of a place to settle. The shaggy bark and open branches of the trees seemed to point them toward Utah, reminding them of Joshua from the Bible, who, with outstretched hands, guided the Israelites to Canaan. I couldn’t help but laugh when I first saw these unusual trees; they look like Dr. Seuss creations!

Bristlecone Pine inside Great Basin National Park

In Nevada’s Great Basin National Park, I came upon Bristlecone Pines, which are between 3000 – 5000 years old, making them some of the oldest living trees in the world. Their ability to withstand extremely inhospitable conditions accounts for their longevity. These ancient sentinels produce healthy pine needle clusters within a form that is partially dead. Instead of rotting, their decay-resistant trunks are polished by wind and rain. Even after dying completely, the Bristlecone Pine can remain standing for thousands of years.

Giant Sequoia dwarfing its neighbors inside Sequoia National Park

Giant Sequoias, according to Treehugger.com, can live up to 3000 years, and have branches that are bigger around than the height of 2 humans. Vertically, they can grow up to 300 feet, as high as a 26-30 story building. They can weigh over 2.5 million pounds, and may have a ground circumference of 100 feet. If you have never witnessed these gentle giants first-hand, I strongly encourage it. You’ll gain a new respect for biology! Sequoia National Park in California has some of the largest ones on record.

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. ~E. B. White

Trees work quietly for the betterment of life. Unfortunately, they are disappearing at an alarming rate. In his book, Robbins estimates that 80% of the world’s old-growth forests have been destroyed, and the destruction process continues. Trees and forests, he writes, “are ecosystem engineers that create the conditions for other forms of life to exist on every level.” Their disappearance, often the result of “progress,” may be facilitating the extinction of the human race.

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. . . . People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. ~Greta Thunberg

Demonstrating love for trees is a great place to start in resolving our ever-worsening environmental problems. If you have kids, talk to them about the importance of trees. Ask them to help you plant and care for some fruit trees or an oak or maple. (BTW, trees increase property value.) Teach your kids to climb trees, or climb with them. Take them to the forest to hike or bike. Visit an apple orchard. Check out state and national parks renowned for their grand species of trees. If you must have a live Christmas tree each year, decorate one in your yard instead of cutting one down. Showing love and respect for trees helps all life forms, and might just prolong our existence on this planet.

In the time when the world is sick and dying, a tribe of people will come together of many races. They will be a people who put their faith in deeds, not words, and the world shall become green again. ~Cree Prophecy

Blessings for the Love of Trees,

Lisa

Outstanding Blogger Award

I was recently nominated by Angela from SUITCASE Travel Blog for the Outstanding Blogger Award.  Heartfelt thanks, Angela!  Like me, Angela is passionate about travel, exploration, meeting new people & learning new customs.  I do hope you’ll show her some love by visiting her beautiful site!

Rules

  1. Provide a link to the original creator’s award post, as well as one to the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions provided.
  3. Compose 7 questions of your own.
  4. Nominate & notify up to 10 bloggers.
  5. Continue your awesome support of our blogging community!

Angela’s Questions

1. How did you choose the name for your blog? What’s the story behind it?  The name of my blog comes from a precept of Ayurveda, an ancient healing system based on balancing all aspects of self (the micro) and environment (the macro) to create optimal health and well-being.

2. How do you motivate yourself to keep blogging?  I am motivated by learning new information that helps me be the best version of myself, as well as the desire to share it in hopes of inspiring others.

3. If you would create another blog what would it be?  My current blog is broad enough to cover all the topics I want to write about, from health to vegan recipes to travel, so I wouldn’t consider a second blog.

4. What hobby do you have beside the blogging?  I enjoy cooking, reading, travel & the planning that goes with it, spending time in Nature, photography, and learning.

5. What are your essential travel apps or gadgets?  I am pretty old-school when it comes to travel.  I will research my destination online, and sometimes use a navigational device if I’m driving, but nothing fancy.  I still enjoy travel guide books. And one of my most exciting recent purchases was a road atlas!

6. Once you can plan your next vacation, where will you go?  I have begun planning a camping trip for early summer.  We will sleep in a tent, hike, and photograph the 3 parks in California’s Sierra Nevada.  I can hardly wait!

7. What superpower would you like to have?  I would like to be able to reverse the environmental damage done to our beautiful planet.  For example, when (even more) forest land is burned or clear-cut for the purpose of raising cattle for commercial consumption, I’d like to have an immediate awareness of it, appear on the scene, and cause all of the trees, shrubs, and wildlife to be instantly restored.

My little sister

My Questions

  1. When did you last spend time in Nature?
  2. Why did you become a blogger?
  3. Do you have a pet?  If so, what was the last funny thing he/she did?
  4. What music are you listening to right now?
  5. What book(s) are you currently reading?
  6. What was the last meal you prepared at home?
  7. What travel destination does the pandemic have you longing for?

My Nominees

The folks I have nominated are talented writers, storytellers, poets, and photographers, and their hearts always shine through their posts. They are also kind and encouraging to other bloggers. If you don’t know them already, you should; they are outstanding bloggers in every sense.

  1. Cindy at Unique Times 
  2. Janet at This, That, & the Other Thing
  3. Joanna at Naturetails 
  4. Ashley at A Different View
  5. Henrietta at Hensblooms 
  6. Kate at Aroused
  7. Philo at Philosophy Through Photography
  8. Frank at Beach Walk Reflections
  9. Dwight at Roth Poetry
  10. Donald at Donald Reese Photography

Thanks again, Angela; I am honored by your nomination!

Community Blessings,

Lisa

12 Simple Acts to Help Our Current Crisis

View of Big Sur, CA, from inside Julia Pfeiffer State Park

Extinction:  a word normally associated with dinosaurs, certain smaller animal species, and ancient civilizations.  Or, that used to be the case.  Recently, there’s been a lot of speculation on our possible extinction; that is to say, you and me and everyone we love.  Why, you might ask?  Because of our collective irreverence for Nature.  Although much of the problem can be attributed to the greed of the mega-wealthy and shortsighted politicians, we all play a part.  

We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. ~Stephen Hawking

What are the factors contributing to our possible extinction?  I’ll share a few big ones.  Landfill areas are expanding and pollution is worsening, in the air, on the ground, and in the water.  Soils are being destroyed by chemicals and unhealthy farming practices.  In addition to the clear-cutting that continues in forests, the remaining trees are catching fire more frequently and burning longer. Oceans are being polluted, over-fished, and the ocean floor raked clean.  In short, Nature is being exploited at an alarming rate that increases every year, leaving humans with less oxygen and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which drives global warming.  In fact, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that we must take drastic measures by the year 2030 to avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.  If not, we could be facing unprecedented drought, flooding, heat, and land loss.  This could result not only in increased personal loss due to natural disasters, but also world-wide food shortages as well as some presently-populated areas becoming uninhabitable.

I never gave much thought to why civilizations ended.  According to an article on the website Live Science, new research suggests Ancient Greece’s collapse was due to a 300-year drought which caused wide-spread famine and conflict. I wonder: prior to the drought, did their population approach the natural world with greed, irreverence, and irresponsibility?

A nation that destroys is soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land . . . ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Below is a list of actions for making our situation a little better.  What steps are you taking?

  1. When you go out for groceries or other merchandise, use your own bags.  Plastic bags can break down into microparticles that make their way into our water sources.  You’ve heard about all the plastic being found in the bodies of fish, right? This is a major culprit.
My homemade mushroom broth gets frozen in glass containers.

  1. Buy glass storage containers.  Scientists are not yet sure how long hard plastics take to decompose.  Therefore, each one thrown away may be buried in a landfill forever.  Glass storage containers can last forever, and your food won’t end up leaching harmful plastic chemicals when heated or frozen.
  2. Do more home cooking.  Takeout containers are usually bulky and not environmentally friendly. Not to mention, you control the oil, salt, & spice.
There’s nothing quite like meals made from fresh produce.

  1. Take your own coffee to work.  If only once a week, just think of the stack of 52 coffee house cups & lids you’ll save from a landfill each year.
  2. Purchase items locally, if possible, with little or no packaging.  Online orders require packing materials and boxes for shipping.  Buying processed foods leaves you with cans, bags, and more boxes.  Fresh produce is usually sold at the market without packaging.  Better yet, buy from a farmer’s market or join a CSA. 

  1. Recycle all the items you possibly can.  Take a moment to consider in which receptacle they should go.  At a local airport, I’ve noticed the “trash” sign has been changed to read “landfill;” a great reminder that the stuff we throw away doesn’t just disappear.
  2. Once you finish your current shampoo, laundry detergent & various cleaning supplies, replace them with natural products.  This change means you will no longer use those toxic chemicals on your body or inhale them inside your home, and they won’t be going into the soil and water.

  1. Avoid using anything toxic in your garden or on your flowers.  Roundup, the worst Nature violator in my opinion, is a biocide, not just a pest & weed killer.  It does not discriminate as to what kinds of life it destroys.  The healthy microbes in our guts are not immune to its destruction, which leads to disease of all kinds.  Studies show it also causes birth defects & autism.  

  1. Vote with your dollars by purchasing organic and/or non-GMO foods.  Organic foods use regular seeds grown as Mother Nature intended: in healthier soil, attended by insects, with no harmful chemicals.  Non-GMO foods utilize regular, healthy seeds as well: those that have not been altered in a lab to withstand the Roundup sprayed on them and accompanying weeds.
  2. Don’t purchase water in small bottles.  A great number of single-use plastic bottles don’t get recycled but wind up in landfills or tossed on the ground or into bodies of water.  Invest in a water filtration system if possible.  If not, purchase large bottles that can be filled at a reverse osmosis dispenser, or purchase by the gallon or 2.5 gallon container & refill your personal water bottle as needed.
  3. Compost your food scraps.  Some cities offer a weekly or bi-weekly pick-up service for a small fee.  You may also be able to drop off your scraps at a community garden, where they will be gratefully received.  By composting, thousand of pounds of food scraps avoid the landfill and decompose into natural fertilizer for crops.  A win-win, for sure.
  4. Take your kids on Nature walks, teaching them the value of the natural beauty we are immersed in.  If our species manages to survive a couple more decades, we will need young adults who understand the importance of appreciating and working with Nature as opposed to taking Her for granted.
  5. And now for a less easy step:  If you are moved to act on a larger scale, make your voice heard.  Contact your local, state & federal Representatives;  become active in local politics; check out organizations like The Sierra Club and Farmers Footprint who are always in need of folks willing to sign petitions or contribute financially.

Extinction, a grim possibility now looming over our Planet, is a frightening concept.  Taking action immediately to prevent our species from disappearing is one of our most pressing challenges.  The time is now to express love and concern for Mother Earth.  Our continued existence depends on it.

Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air or drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. ~Carl Sagan

Blessings for a Healthier Planet,

Lisa

7 Lifestyle Touchstones from the Healthiest Person I Know

Over the years, I have learned that regularly investing in the health of my mind, body, and spirit is vital.  I don’t want to live forever, but I do want to feel good, enjoy life, and thrive as long as I’m on the planet.  When I go to my annual doctor’s visit for a check-up and blood draw, I remind her with a smile that I am the healthiest person I know!  I am blessed and grateful to be illness-free & require no meds; I’m strong and flexible & feel good the majority of the time; and my lab results are always stellar.  There are certain lifestyle elements that are essential to maintaining optimal health, and below, I share the ones that work for me.  (These tips have been garnered through the years from my degree work, independent research, and experimentation.)

  • Hydration is one of the most vital processes in my body, and I have control over it.  When I haven’t adequately hydrated, I become forgetful, I have no energy, I get headaches, and my body temperature goes unregulated.  (I can suddenly get way too hot or cold, and stay that way despite my efforts.)  After having worked in a lab, I’ve seen first-hand the way blood cells clump together when they aren’t dispersed with enough water.  Anthony William, author of Liver Rescue, among many other books, says that this thickening of the blood caused by dehydration results in the heart and liver being forced to work harder.  I believe it must force all our organs to struggle.  The human body simply cannot function properly without good hydration. (For more on the importance of hydration, check out my article Hydration – No, Really.)
Inner Basin view of the San Francisco Peaks
  • Spending time outside is one of the most important things I can do for my mental well-being.  When I’ve been inside for too long, I can get lethargic and grumpy.  Studies show that being outside has loads of beneficial effects.  For me, going outside can be like flipping a switch: I instantly feel happier, more grateful, and energetic.

  • Working with the microbiome in my gut is one of the best ways to ensure my continued good health.  According to Dr. Zach Bush, a triple board certified physician, each of our bodies is an ecosystem through and through colonized by bacteria.  The majority of that bacteria resides in our guts, and we have a symbiotic relationship with it.  By eating fibrous, non-GMO whole plant foods, avoiding antibiotics whenever possible, consuming fermented food and drinks, and breathing in diverse ecosystems like lakes, waterfalls, mountains, oceans, & deserts, I keep my microbiome healthy and happy, which in turn keeps me healthy & happy.
Eat this, not that processed stuff!
  • Regular exercise, including stretching, strengthening, and cardio, is essential not only for my physical health but also for feeling good about myself.  If I go 2 days in a row without it, I feel like a worthless lump!  Climbing, hiking, biking and yoga classes are my favorite forms of exercise, but we have a workout room at home for the days we can’t do our preferred activities.  Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Brain Maker, asserts that exercise can be just as effective as anti-depressants.  I can attest to that!  (Of course, you shouldn’t go off anti-depressants without working with your doc.)
Hiking in the snow again!
  • Focusing on the positives in my life helps me stay positive.  When less-than-pleasant ideas start to dominate my mindset (like when I get bad news), I step back, refocus, and recall my blessings & belief that everything happens for a reason.  According to Dr. Joe Dispenza, New York Times best-selling author, the term emotion can be thought of as energy in motion, and it goes wherever you place your attention.  Rather than worrying and dwelling on negatives, I find I am much more productive and cheerful when I am in a state of gratitude, expressing love for my life and the beautiful world around me.
  • Being generous opens my heart unlike anything else.  This doesn’t mean I go around handing out cash; my generosity involves expressing compliments, sending a card to a far-away friend, sharing home-cooked food, focusing my full attention on one with whom I’m speaking, and giving small gifts.  Research shared by UC Berkley’s Greater Good Magazine shows that giving releases feel-good endorphins, activates a part of the brain associated with pleasure, results in a helper’s high, and provides a myriad of long-term health benefits.  
  • Continuing to travel and learn about health, spirituality, cuisine, the planet, and other animals feeds my soul.  It also keeps my brain functioning optimally by forming new synapses.  You know the old saying use it or lose it?  That applies here.
Lake Powell, Arizona

An important caveat: as soon as I realize I’m feeling off, I assess.  What have I eaten?  Have I taken in ample water & electrolytes?  When did I last exercise?  Where have my thoughts been focused?  I want to feel good in mind, body, and spirit all of the time.  Figuring out the reason I’m not up to par is critical to getting back on track as soon as possible.

To me, feeling good on every level means thriving in a world teeming with love & beauty as opposed to enduring a joyless existence.  Staying conscious of the touchstones that support my health are of utmost importance.  My hope is that you may benefit from my experience. Regardless of your age, investing in your health and well-being is always one of your very best endeavors.

Blessings for Health,

Lisa

Winter in the High Desert


The first time I witnessed a big snowfall, it was in Northern Arizona. I was walking back to my hostel from a yoga class when the flakes first started. After having lived full-time in the Southern US, where snow seldom makes an appearance, I was super-excited to see it. Two days later, there was an accumulation of three feet, and I was over the moon. My car was buried, and I was lacking a proper coat and snow boots. But what a delight!


Later, after spending time in the Northeastern US, I learned that the snow in the Southwest was different; in addition to making everything beautiful, it was light, easy to shovel, and didn’t stick around for long. After a bit more exploration, I knew that I wanted to spend many more winters in that high desert environment.


The topography of the state of Arizona is an anomaly, and the weather reflects that. Cities sit at elevations separated by thousands of feet, mountains rise up sharply from arid desert floors, and forest covers about 25% of the state. Much of the state’s deserts are hot and dry. But on average, Flagstaff, in northern AZ, receives about 100 inches of snow each winter, making it one of the snowiest places in the country.

One of my favorite snow scenes is what I call a “spray-painted tree.” It is one with many small branches and without leaves on which the snow has fallen gently for hours, causing each of the little branches to be thoroughly coated. I also love the way the snow appears on the boulders, large and small, near the San Francisco Peaks, which are the majestic result of volcanic activity eons ago. And, of course, snow on the red rocks of Sedona is unforgettable.

From the inside looking out at the San Francisco Peaks

The reason the snow doesn’t usually linger here is due to the frequency and strength of the sun. Northern Arizona gets upwards of 300 days of sunshine annually, and the elevation increases its strength. For example, Sedona, sitting at about 4000 feet in elevation, is just under a mile higher than areas at sea level. Flagstaff, perched at 7000 feet, is closer to a mile and a half above sea level! You can imagine how the sun might feel stronger and melt snow quickly in these areas. (Of course, this doesn’t apply to the highest elevations where temps stay lower – like the ski area!) Owing to our strong sun, many cold days, even with temps in the 20’s, can be tolerable for hiking and other outdoor activities.

Layer up for a hike?

But there is more to the area’s extraordinary winter than snow. Some evergreens here exude an intoxicating fragrance in the colder months. Sometimes you have to cozy up to the trees to smell them, but other times you walk by and they just seem to be broadcasting their lovely scent. You know when you’re walking down the street and you smell some really good food and turn to see where it might be coming from? Same idea!

And the skies, oh the skies! To look up in the frigid night and see a gazillion stars in the big Western sky is absolutely glorious! In the early morning, the sun creeps over the horizon, heralded by tender shades of pink and baby blue. In the evening, when a snowstorm is blowing in or out, sunset skies can display brilliant hues of yellow, orange, red, pink, silver, black, gray, and violet. Photographs don’t do it justice, you really must see it first-hand.


In some years, the cold weather is prolonged here (we can get snow in June!), and we just need a break. When that happens, we hop in the car and within 2 – 3 hours, we find ourselves in a lower elevation with a higher temperature. Phoenix, for example, typically has winter temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees warmer than points north. A fabulous respite!

I do hope you are enjoying the season as much as I am! The snow, sun, skies, elevation, and evergreens make the high desert a true paradise in winter months. Especially now that I have a winter coat and boots!

For more photos and info on Arizona, check out my article Arizona: A Love Letter.

Winter Blessings,

Lisa

Asian Veggie Noodle Soup

As funny as it may sound, this recipe will forever take me back to memories of Northern New Mexico. It was in a small hostel there that I first had a soup similar to this prepared by another hostel guest, a young Japanese girl who was selling it for $2 a bowl. It was so fresh and delicious that, once I returned home, I immediately searched for a similar recipe on the internet. The closest one I could find was a Soba Noodle Soup by Rachael Ray, which I modified for the recipe below.

Not only is this soup crunchy with raw, colorful veggies & peanuts, but it’s also earthy from the reconstituted mushrooms, filling from the tofu and noodles, and have I mentioned incredibly delicious? It is versatile as well. If you don’t like one or more of the veggies in it, replace them with something you do like. If you’d rather not eat it with noodles, toss in some cooked brown rice. If you enjoy a “brothier” soup, use fewer veggies, noodles & tofu cubes.


Is this versatile, delicious soup good for you? Indeed it is. Gabriel Cousens, MD, author of Conscious Eating, says that raw vegetables have more enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, structured water, and other merits as compared with cooked veggies. Shiitakes have properties that enhance immune function and reduce inflammation, thereby helping prevent cancer, according to The World’s Healthiest Foods. And the American Heart Association urges us to replace some of the animal foods we eat with soy foods to cut our risk of cardiac disease.

I hope you’ll enjoy this healthy soup as much as I do! Please let me know in the comments below if you give it a go! And if you like this recipe, please check out my other recipes under the Categories link of this site.


Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients (use all organic and/or non-GMO ingredients if possible)
1 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup of boiling water (for reconstituting mushrooms)
*5 cups water
*2 low-salt bouillon cubes
1 inch ginger, minced
2 tbsp tamari
1/2 lb extra-firm tofu, drained & cubed
8 oz buckwheat soba or rice noodles
1/3 lb sugar snap peas or snow peas, cut into thirds
1 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
1/2 cup thinly sliced green cabbage
1/2 – 1 bunch scallions, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Roasted, unsalted peanuts

Directions
Reconstitute shiitakes by placing them into boiling water removed from heat. Cover and let sit for 12 minutes. Remove the mushrooms (saving the water), rinse & dice. Pour the shiitake water through a strainer lined with cheese cloth into a soup pot. Add the shiitakes, 5 cups of water, broken bouillon cubes, ginger, tamari, and tofu. Bring to a boil & reduce to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the soba or rice noodles & continue to simmer long enough for them to soften, between 5 and 12 minutes. (Soba takes about 1/2 the time of rice noodles; be careful not to overcook it!) Taste for tamari, adding more to taste.

Place raw peas, carrots, cabbages, & scallions in a bowl. Ladle noodle, tofu, mushroom, and broth mixture onto the veggies. Top with cilantro and peanuts. Enjoy!

Store all the raw veggies in one bowl (except cilantro, which can go solo in a smaller bowl) and the broth mixture in another. Will keep a few days in the fridge.

*You may sub 5 cups of broth for the 5 cups of water & 2 bouillon cubes.

Travel Challenge – Day 10

A big thank you to my friend Jyothi at Travel Explore Enjoy for nominating me for the 10 Day Travel Challenge!

The rules of the challenge are very simple. Post a favorite photo from your travels without explanation for each of 10 days, and nominate & notify 10 other bloggers to participate.  Be sure to link back to the person who nominated you!

Today, I nominate Andy at Andy’s World Journeys.

Travel Challenge – Day 9

A big thank you to my friend Jyothi at Travel Explore Enjoy for nominating me for the 10 Day Travel Challenge!

The rules of the challenge are very simple. Post a favorite photo from your travels without explanation for each of 10 days, and nominate & notify 10 other bloggers to participate.  Be sure to link back to the person who nominated you!

Today, I nominate Alison at Travels with Ali.

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