I have released four recipe books so far:

The Best of the Sunny Raw Kitchen
The Best of Raw Freedom Community
Delightfully Raw and
Deliciously Raw

These feature some of the most delectable creations to have come out of my raw kitchen and will appeal to anyone interested in a healthier diet, regardless of their level of knowledge and experience. From easy one-step everyday fare to more elaborate and involved gourmet dishes and layered cakes, they offer something for everyone and every occasion. Incredibly tasty smoothies, creamy and comforting warm soups, sexy salads, delicious nut cheezes, satisfying entrees and scrumptious guilt-free desserts...

Healthy food never tasted so good!

To learn more about my recipe books, click here!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rawcking in Sunny California

Hello everyone!

I'm now in beautiful (and mostly sunny) Santa Barbara and I can't tell you how happy and grateful I am to be back here! Of the many wonderful places Don and I have been blessed to visit in the last couple of years, this area is one of our favorites. While we're not really metropolitan type folks, we couldn't resist Santa Barbara's quiet charm with its Spanish revival architecture, lush vegetation, proximity to the ocean and pleasant climate.

But as much as we enjoy this town the main draw has been our friend Diane. When she began dabbling into raw in January 2010, my blog is one of the first resources that she stumbled upon. Thanks to Diane's incredible generosity, during our Sunny Raw Kitchen Tour in 2010 a brief stop in SB was put together in record time. Little did we know that this was to spark up the blossoming of a powerful friendship!

From the moment we stepped out of the van and met Diane 'in the flesh' it just seemed to click right away. The three of us share a deep and unexplainable bond that, to this day, remains a mystery. While we haven't spent that much time together we feel like we're family.

This was taken during our second visit last March. Diane hand-dyed some beautiful shirts for Don and her... call them the 'Tie Dye Kids'. lol

Early this past fall, when the possibility of renting a cabin in Canada was presented to us, the prospect made me feel kind of uncertain and confused. I couldn't shake off the feeling that it was important that we go to the States in order to touch base with some of the friends we've made over the years, and more specifically with Diane. After working on it a while, we found a solution; while Don remained behind to look after the furries, I was to fly alone to spend part of the winter in California.

I've gone on short trips before on my own but this is the first time that the four of us are apart for such a long stretch. Miss DaPuss and I share a special connection so I was concerned about leaving her with the boys. She was of course highly aware that something was going on as my departure got closer.

Pu' keeping a watchful eye as I packed.

She was particularly curious about my suitcase and had to examine it first paw.

"Wanna come with, DaPu'?"

"I think not!" she would have replied if only she could talk! As I walked towards her when I was about to go she shot off the bed and went to hide, terrified that I intended to put her in the pet taxi. She's seen us go through the motions of getting ready to leave countless times before and clearly had no intention whatsoever of going for a ride. lol Still, I was a bit sad not to be able to say proper goodbyes, complete with fuzzy kusses.

Our friend Livina had plans of driving down to Spokane near the end of October - how perfect! - so I traveled with her. Both the journey and the crossing couldn't have gone smoother. Yay! (Lord knows we've had some interesting border experiences in the past! lol) I joined Livina and her friends for dinner that evening and she later took me to a motel nearer the airport, as I had an early flight.

Welcomed Back
After an uneventful trip I arrived at SB's new municipal airport where Diane was waiting for me. It felt wonderful to be together once again, yet also strange not to have the rest of the family with us. "It's like some part of you is missing," said Diane.

From the way everything flowed effortlessly to bring me to California I already had a strong sense that it was meant to be. This was further confirmed when something pretty darn mind blowing happened next. Outside, as we were walking towards Diane's car, I came face to face with Taylor, the Cherimoya Man himself! (I've introduced him to you in this post.) It was such a surprise that my initial thought was that he already knew about my arrival, but in fact he was coming to pick up his girlfriend, whose flight 'happened' to arrive on the very same day and time. I mean, what are the odds of that, eh!?!

Taylor and I know each other from our website, Raw Freedom Community forum, which he joined about 4 years ago. Last time we were in Santa Barbara we bumped into each other at the Saturday Farmer's Market on a number of occasions. We're still unclear as to why The Mystery keeps bringing us together serendipitously like that, but it certainly is startling. Perhaps we'll get a chance to find out since I'll be hanging around town for a while.

Land of Lushness
I learned that I left Canada just in the nick of time, as the temperature dropped to below freezing in the days following my departure. When my plane landed in Santa Barbara the sky was heavy with fog but I woke up to a gorgeous blue sky the next morning and a cozy 71 degrees. It's been mostly sunny ever since with temps ranging from the mid-60s to high-70s. In other words, I'm in sheer heaven! (A fact I try mighty hard not to rub into poor Donnie's face!)

I couldn't wait to walk around town and take in my new lush surroundings! It was a bit of a shocker to cover so much distance in such a short time and suddenly find myself among palm trees, agave plants and the odd cacti. For the first few days I kept exclaiming out loud "I'm here! I'm here!" with a big grin on my face. ;-)

Diane's apartment is conveniently located within walking distance from downtown and offers close access to two beautiful parks. I found Alice Keck Park, only a few blocks away, vibrant with flowers. What a treat!

Strange looking stems protruding from some of the agave plants.

The lovely view of mountains as peeked from the sun dial structure.

The pond...

... and some of its inhabitants.

Can you see the turtles hiding among the lily pads?

Love this next shot!

Gorgeous red maple trees, reminders that in spite of the pleasant weather we are still approaching winter.

A Day at the Beach
While I am quite content with soaking up the sunshine from one of the nearby parks (my favorite spot is the one in front of the Mission, but more about that in a later post), Diane and I have gone to the beach a couple of times. After checking out Arroyo Burro (or Hendry's Beach) - our usual hang out last time we were here because of its dog friendly section - she took me to More Mesa. This beach is considerably out of the way and requires walking a fair distance to reach it. On the other hand this makes it a quiet and natural setting. Sooooo much nicer than the busy-ness of Hendry's with its restaurant and people constantly walking by.

The beautiful view as we approached the descent to the water.

We had to pause several times to give Diane's complaining knees a break as we made our way down the steps. It allowed us a chance to admire views of the beach.

The sun was glittering like jewels on the ocean.

 Keep heart Diane, you're almost there!

Yay, we made it!

More Mesa is the last optional clothes beach in the area. There used to be more but sadly these have been reclaimed as 'regular' over the years. While I usually don't wear a bathing suit when I'm sun worshiping at home, I had never been to a public nude beach and wasn't sure what to expect. It was a pleasant surprise! The atmosphere was so relaxed and the people very respectful, being careful not to infringe on anyone else's space. We had such a nice time!

The sun among the trees as we later climbed our way back.

Thrilling Santa Barbara 
A few days after my arrival Diane's next door neighbor, Michelle, and some friends were busy getting dressed up for that evening's Thrill the World event. Each year, on the Saturday before Halloween, thousands of people in over 100 countries dance Michael Jackson's "Thriller" at exactly the same moment in a global attempt to break the record for "Largest Simultaneous Dance."


Nice butt, eh? he he

Michelle confided that she'd been rehearsing at a dance studio for months for the occasion. I'm not one for large crowds but how could we miss out on this? And so after dinner we strolled down in the warm evening to the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens, where 197 local Zombies had gathered for this much awaited moment. By the time we got there, however, the Thriller performance was already happening and it wasn't easy to get a peek of the action. At least we were able to watch it here on utube the next day. I must say that it's weird to be on what is sort of Michael Jackson's turf (his Never Never Land ranch is located in the Santa Ynez Valley just north of SB.) Ironically, the one known as the "King of Pop" was actually tried at that very same courthouse in 2005 on counts of child molestation. Now THAT's what I call creepy!

Off to Ojai
On my 'to do' list was a trip to Ojai in order to stock up on raw specialty products at the Raw Food World warehouse. Don and I spent over 2 weeks in the Ojai area last spring and totally fell in love with it. As Diane so rightly pointed out, there's a sense of sacredness about it. It also feels so laid back and accepting. In fact we resonated with the area so much that if we'd come down in our new RV we were planning on going directly to Ojai and spending most of the winter there. Ah well... perhaps next year!

Mister Sun wasn't out for our road trip but we figured that was not so bad after all since we were going to be mostly indoors anyways. We took the more quiet 150 highway that took us along the beautiful Lake Casitas, a popular recreational destination.

Diane fell in love with those clouds!

We first went to the Raw Food World warehouse where the staff was welcoming and friendly. Some of the workers even remembered me from last time I was there. Steve, the guy that helped us find what we were looking for, warned us about the basket being magnetic. He was right: things seemed to be pulled from the shelves and fall right into it! lol In fact our basket got so full that we had to empty it half way through our shopping spree.

We'd made sure to come at the end of the month so that we could benefit from both of October and November 'At Cost Specials'. I was able to load up on chia seeds, unpasteurized almonds, macadamias and gogi berries to take back up north with me. There's also a discount rack where you can usually find some awesome deals at 50% off. We got several packs of kelp noodles, a big gallon jug of coconut nectar (what a deal!!!), dates, kale chips and Zesty Almond Bliss from Living Nutz. And to make things even better, when you pick up an order or buy directly at the warehouse you receive an additional 10% off on your purchases. Woo hoo! It's a rawbie's dream! I strongly recommend popping by if you're ever in the area!

After checking out the awesome and unique 'outdoor' Bart's Bookstore - a funky used bookstore that we discovered last spring, we then headed out of town to Krishnamurti's old residence, now the Krishnamurti Foundation of America headquarters. Pine Cottage was turned into a library and opened to the public 3 years ago. I was looking forward to visiting it again, as the energy is so very peaceful there.

These next two shots were taken by the ancient pepper tree at the entrance of the cottage. It is said that Krishnamurti had a profound mystical awakening in 1922 while sitting underneath it.

This gives you a better perspective of how huge that tree is now.

K's old bedroom has been transformed into a quiet meditative space, so we spent some time there doing Vipassana meditation - a technique I've been practicing since 2001 and that Diane first experienced last year. It's amazing how, after all this time (K passed away 25 years ago), the house still has an aura of tranquility from his presence. Just walking around I became aware of my entire body vibrating, a sensation that was much more pronounced once we began to meditate. It was also much easier than usual for my mind to grow quiet. I could have stayed there for hours, bathing in that wonderful feeling!

Carmella's Note: After writing the above paragraph, as I was doing research about Pine Cottage for this post, I stumbled upon a writing about another woman's experience of K's Quiet Room:
While Gabriele sat in the Quiet Room at Pine Cottage on October 11, 2009, she felt and saw energy hovering above the whole of the Krishnamurti Foundation of America’s property, energy that was consciously left behind by J. Krishnamurti. Above the Quiet Room the energy was denser, more concentrated, and alive with vibrations. There appeared to be a very fine screen holding and releasing vibrational energy. It is there waiting, available to the questioning mind, but will not be seen by the chattering mind, by people who pretend, people who are full of imagination or who use thought to explain everything.

The energy has been manifested from the Immensity to be available for the inquiring mind. When one sits very quietly in stillness, it enters the room as a blessing, and is available to connect with the questioner.
Wow! How thrilling to have someone else confirm the feelings I experienced there too!

When we walked out of Pine Cottage we noticed the offering of lovely bright petals that had been placed on this statue while we were inside.

We then took a stroll through the orange grove surrounding the residence, a venture that was cut short because of a rain shower. I paused underneath a tree, hoping that it would pass. When Diane saw me with my purse over my head, she laughed and said that I looked like I belonged in a different time and place. ;-)

Most of the oranges were still green so we didn't have the pleasure of picking any.

We were famished as we got back into town and I thought I knew just the place for us to refuel: a vegetarian cafe called Hip where Don and I had eaten before.

I ordered the Three Scoop platter: Garden salad with Miso Ginger Dressing surrounded by scoop each of Seed Pate, Spicy Jalapeno Almond Pate and Guacamole. Served with Onion Bread strips. The dish usually comes with a traditional garbanzo hummus but the waiter offered me an all-raw version with the guac. I thought that the Seed Pate was rather bland, but the Guacamole was ok and the Jalapeno Pate was the bomb! I opted for the large size platter and it was absolutely gigantic! I'm still not quite sure how I manage to eat it all!

Diane had the Hip Hip Hooraw Wrap: Spicy Jalapeno Almond Pate, Guacamole, lettuce mix and sprouts (although the resto stopped serving these due to a recent salmonella scare) wrapped in tender collard leaves. It came with a choice of salad or soup. She opted for a split pea soup that was super tasty. She also loved the wraps.

Ojai has a number of second hand stores and I checked a couple of them earlier that afternoon. When we came out of Hip we decided to go next door to yet another one: Vicki's Pink Thrift & Vintage Store. There was a lovely aroma in the air and we quickly learned that it came from the back of the store where Vicki keeps her fresh stock of hand-made soaps. She uses a base of local cold pressed coconut, palm and olive oils and essential oils. Vicki took the time to describe each one to us and oh my, the blends were so inspired! Diane chose a Frankincense soap while I was seduced by the Geranium & Lavender.

The store itself is adorable and the energy was so wonderfully relaxed and welcoming that neither of us wanted to leave.

Diane captured this interesting photo while I was browsing for some hidden treasure.

I did happen upon the most wonderful find: a delicate white lace stole knitted in what looks like some kind of mohair yarn. I was almost afraid to ask how much it cost as, having knitted lace myself, I know that such pieces are virtually priceless. Vicki candidly replied: "Hum, let's see... $3?" I could hardly believe it!!! I have always wanted a meditation shawl and this is turning out to be so perfect! Yippee!

Vicki and yours truly in front of her vintage store. I think that you can sense the connection between us although we had only just met. When examining these shots I realized that our mouths are almost identical. In fact, come to think of it, she could easily pass for an older version of me! he he

Vicki is like the ultimate grandmother, so nurturing and with love pouring out of her! Diane and I left promising to visit her again next time we're in Ojai, which will hopefully be very soon!

Alrighty! *catching her breath* I think I'll stop here for now. Be back real soon!


  1. Carmella, what a fascinating, varied, colourful, luscious to all the senses, trip you take us on with your blog! You are Mistress Master of the blog!

  2. The "stem" coming from the agave plant is the beginning of it's blossom! And that knitted stole was a steal! wow.