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!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Taking Refuge In Mama Nature's Bosom

Alright kiddos! Brace yourselves cuz this is gonna be a long one! ;-)

Divine Chuckle
Have you ever heard Lennon's words that "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans"? This is very much in alignment with the way that Don and I have been navigating through our lives for the last several years; attempting to get as close to the Present as we can and to make as few plans as possible. What we found works best for us is to wait for Life to give a clue as to what should be our next step. We call it 'The Flow'. There are times when that is made very clear, others when it's foggier than we'd like, making us wait 'til the very last minute before revealing the way.

This approach works particularly well while on the road, as letting things unfold organically seems to be the most natural way to travel. Of course it can sometimes be challenging when one is trying to fixate or nail down a specific event in the future. Thankfully Life is a wonderful feedback mechanism; when you're not going in the right direction it lets you know (your job is just to pay attention).

The way we do it, Don handles the driving and I'm the navigator. I'm quite intuitive and usually that intuition is right. The best way to describe my process is to say that I 'feel our way' around. Well, as days went by at Diane's in Santa Barbara, I found myself in a growing state of confusion. We had a couple of events scheduled in San Francisco coming, yet I found myself not feeling up for it at all. Also normally I get a sense of when it's time for us to move on; this time it felt like we were gonna be leaving in mid-stride, like our stay there hadn't quite come to a conclusion.

Then the hints came...

In the evening the three of us often sat down to watch movies Diane got through Netflix. Three in a row 'happened' to be around the theme of serendipity and how quickly plans can change. One even began with one of my favorite quotes: "If you want to make God laugh, makes plans!" The evening before our 'planned departure' for San Francisco, after watching a movie about how easily one can miss opportunities when caught in predecided arrangements, I couldn't hold it in any longer. I just had to mention what I'd been feeling to the others and get their feedback. They immediately agreed that I was onto something. Diane had actually said 'jokingly' a number of times that we should cancel the events and stay longer, but I would always discard the idea at once, thinking that I couldn't possibly let those people down.

I think that Life was trying to show us in yet another lesson how tentative making any sort of plans in the future ever is. I mean, how can we ever know what the circumstances will be at that particular point in time? In this case I had made agreements based on my energy level at the time, but what I didn't take into account was the possibility that once that date arrived the energy might not be available in order for me to carry these through. The fact was that after being close to 4 months on the road, most of which spent in constant interaction with others as we stayed in people's homes, my batteries badly needed recharging.

I was expecting to get a chance to do just that when we camped in Arizona but we weren't really able to relax then; the van kept having mechanical problems (talk about stress!) and we hooked up with Don's sister Sandy and hubby Bruce near Phoenix. A few days of chilling out here and there just didn't do the trick for me.

As if it wasn't bad enough, added to the load was the extremely intense collective stress around the earthquakes and nuclear incident in Japan, the expectation of radioactivity hitting the west coast and talks of a potential earthquake. To put it very bluntly: I had come quite close to being an emotional nervous wreck!

The way we see it, we are constantly being presented with challenges. It's in the nature of things; Life is perfectly designed for our growth and will present us with whatever it is that we need to learn. However if one doesn't show up in class and fail to meet these challenges effectively as they arise, then they begin to build up and accumulate. In my experience there usually comes a time when I can no longer keep my head above water. I become a walking time bomb, ready to explode at the slightest tug (which usually comes from poor Don!) What I find has been most effective to solve these types of situations is to go completely internal, either by attending a Vipassana meditation retreat or by doing an informal retreat at home.

Since we've been on the road it hasn't been easy to find the right circumstances conducive to my going internal, which of course has been part of the whole problem. And so when I decided to embrace that the correct course of action was for me to cancel our events in the Bay area I also clarified my intention: to make best use of whatever time I was given in order to get myself 'back on track' energetically. This direction was confirmed minutes after our decision to stay when Diane's landlady called to express that it was time for us and the furries to move on. She didn't want to give the other tenants the wrong idea about her pet policy. (She had made a very special exception so that we could stay there in the first place.)

Right, so Life was pointing out that we had to get out of town and withdraw from the busy-ness of the world. After doing some scouting we agreed that the best idea would be for us to go camping in the Santa Ynez Valley, just a few miles northwest of Santa Barbara. This would allow us to withdraw in Nature's healing surroundings yet be able to come into town and connect with Diane once in a while.

First... A Camper's Nightmare
One thing we quickly discovered is that staying at California state parks is not cheap; at $35 a night without electricity ($50 with) this was the most expensive camping we'd come across so far. Most of the state parks in the area were already full and required reserving a spot several days ahead of time, which complicated things. Thankfully Diane did some research and found out about Lake Cachuma's campground which sounded much better. With over 400 sites available space would certainly not be an issue.

It was only a short 20 minute drive through the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley to Cachuma Lake Recreational Area.

Here you can see Lake Cachuma in the distance.


When we arrived at the campground the wind was so fierce that we decided to empty the van and sleep in it rather than in the tent. Interestingly though, most of the sites were basic ones with no hook up (in all places we've camped at previously the emphasis had been primarily on RVs.) We opted for an electric site so that we could enjoy our fresh juices, smoothies and soups which are major staples in our diet. We figure it makes it well worth paying a few extra bucks!

The next morning, when the wind had died down, we realized that the noise coming from the nearby highway was quite prominent. Hardly our idea of a tranquil camping trip in the wilderness! That's when it came to me that we ought to appeal to our warrior nature and be prepared to 'rough it' a little; a tactic that would open up the possibility of staying in one of the primitive campsites closer to the lake shore and away from the traffic. Don was up for it so we packed our gear and relocated to a site with a lovely view of the water. There was hardly anybody else on the loop, so we virtually had the place to ourselves. We knew that we'd most likely be going into town every few days, so we thought it best to pitch the tent and use it as a storage space, rather than just leaving all our stuff under a tarp.

The view from our campsite.

After dinner we went for a walk along the water and admired the sunset. So far so good...

However our idyllic camping time was soon over; I was awakened around midnight by headlights shooting into the van and the sound of voices. My first thought was "You've gotta be kidding!" There were 3 young people looking for a site at that hour and of course of ALL places they chose the one opposite ours! Dang, we must have bad camping karma or something! I mean, the place was nearly empty! They didn't go to bed until the wee hours of the morning, talking and laughing loudly, so I didn't get much sleep even with my earplugs. Don for his part didn't hear a thing; I guess there are some advantages to having lost some hearing from his army days. ;-)

I woke up in a foul mood; I could sense that our new neighbors were 'bad news' and that really disturbed me. How was I supposed to meditate and recharge with them so close? I could sense a lot of harsh and negative energy coming from them; they repeatably yelled and called each other names that I wouldn't dare write here.

We had arranged to spend the afternoon with Diane, so at least we weren't around for most of the day. Upon our return we quietly prepped our dinner. As we were eating I overheard them talking on a cell phone; someone else was coming to join them. Sure enough next thing you knew they were setting up a third tent. That was the straw that broke the camel's back; we decided that we needed to change spots right away if we planned on sleeping at all!

We packed up in record time and managed to get set up in another part of the campground before nightfall. Thankfully this time no one creeped in next to us and after a good night's rest we reloaded the van and headed to Santa Barbara for the day. We found a much smaller and less developed campground - Fremont on Paradise Road - a few miles away in the San Padres National Forest. It was even more primitive camping as it didn't even have shower facilities, but we figured we could handle it. Our plan was to come back later and stay there. Since the forecast was predicting rain for the next couple of days, it occurred to me as we were driving that we could potentially sleep at Diane's until the weather cleared up and leave the furries in the van. It turned out to be a fantastic idea! Not only did it allow us to do all our puter work, but also Fremont Campground was not the place to be that weekend; it got 12 inches of rain (in fact it rained so much that Paradise Road was closed a few miles further down due to flooding) and 3 ginormous oak trees fell down on the property, one smashing the camp host's windshield! Eeek!

...Then A Camper's Paradise
Fremont Campground was a whole different deal than Lake Cachuma, not at all your family destination type. It has only about 14 sites around a single loop, most of which are very private. We found the perfect spot hidden under a massive oak. To our delight we discovered that it was surrounded by a field of Miner's Lettuce; a delicious wild edible that is sort of like spinach. We were able to munch on it to our hearts' content! Oh, and I forgot to mention that a short trail had its head close by which allowed us to go on our daily walks without having to leave the campground.

The animals loved it; which is also a good sign. Kylo sat for hours observing the little critters running around the place.

We had left Puss free to roam around the van at will while we stayed at Diane's, and when we arrived at Fremont she jumped out without us having a chance to prevent her. My first thought was "Oh no!" but then it occurred to us that she'd be fine. There was no one nearby and plenty of places for her to hide if something scared her. (One of the reasons why we don't always let her out is that if she's suddenly frightened and has nowhere to go she might head for the woods and get lost.)

There she goes, off to explore the surroundings.


It was rainy and cold for a good chunk of the time that we camped there, but that was alright; we were so glad to have finally found some peace and quiet in Nature and to have a chance to relax! I went immediately into retreat mode, meditating most of the day and leaving the bulk of the food prep to Don. My Firefox browser had accidently closed on our way there which meant I couldn't even blog. And you know what, that was perfect! The way I see it, it was The Mystery letting me know that I had to focus my energy inwardly.

After 5 days - probably the longest stretch I'd ever been without internet connection in a while - I still didn't feel completely ready to shift back into social mode, but we had to go into town. My inbox was undoubtedly getting full and I needed to do some catching up. Plus we badly needed a shower!

And We Thought It Couldn't Get Any Better!
After staying overnight at Diane's we said our goodbyes the next morning and left for Ojai. We had spent an afternoon there a few weeks earlier and really liked the area. Since we didn't have anything scheduled until the end of April in Seattle, we thought we might as well stay in southern California and enjoy the warm weather. I had read raving reviews about Wheeler Gorge, about 7 miles north of town. It only had vault toilets and no running water but we had gotten used to making do with less comforts by then. One of the reviews recommended site 18 which was right by a creek. It was indeed a nice site and it was available so we got settled in. Once again we set up the tent for storage in order to sleep in the van.

On the down side our spot was not far from the road which happened to be undergoing some repair. However the creek was gushing so loudly that it almost managed to cover over the noise. We were still able to enjoy the gorgeous weather (it even got into the 90s!!!) and even replenish our supplies of vitamin D.

The furries also welcomed the opportunity to chill out in Mama Nature's bosom. ;-)

A popular destination for locals, Wheeler Gorge tends to fill up on weekends and we learned that our spot had already been reserved for the Friday night. The campground offers some 70 sites, ranging from mediocre to really awesome. We found another spot directly opposite the creek that turned out to be even better! The sound of the creek gurgling wasn't so prominent from there and we were able to hear the frogs at night and the birds during the day. Heavenly! It was actually quite big and provided the perfect balance of both shadow and sun exposure. Our own little paradise in the woods for a few days.

The view of our site from the creek.

We were told that they hadn't seen so much water running through the creek in 5 years so we were really blessed. It was such a beauty to behold and listen to.

Kyky going for a drink.

The whole family really made the most of this chance to replenish and rest.

In this short video I give you a small tour of our 'home away from home'.

Walking In Beauty
There was a short trail starting at the north end of the campground which we walked every day. It offered a nice view of the mountains, which interestingly are also part of the Los Padres National Forest, like the Santa Ynez Valley.


There was a large tree with a great big hole in it that Don particularly liked.

Puss: A True Tree Story
One day Puss followed a lizard up a tree."Watch out that she doesn't get stuck!" Don warned me. 

You see, when she first joined us several years ago once she went missing for a couple of days. We finally found her perhaps 80 feet up a tree in the adjacent forest. She wouldn't do so on her own as she had to go back first and little branches would hit her butt and stop her in her tracks. As nightfall was approaching and promised to bring a rainstorm we decided that we better take our chances; after 2 days perched up there she might get tired and fall off! Eeek! 

How to get her down!?! Not seeing any alternative Don took the chainsaw and cut the tree down as I watched with concern. I felt so bad I thought I was going to be sick, seeing this teeny gray dot up there and hearing the threatening sound of the saw. He had tied a small piece of rope to the trunk in an attempt to slow its fall which didn't help much, but it did get hung onto other trees for a few seconds. 

At about 50 feet I saw the gray ball drop to the ground and held my breath, then we heard the big clunk of the tree hitting the earth. We hurried up to the trunk looking for Puss but there was no sign of her. Neither of us had our glasses which didn't help much with the search so we went back to the lodge to get them. Glasses or not, still no Puss in sight! After several minutes we finally gave up and went home, only to find Puss casually waiting for us on the stairs (in our hurry we had left the door open) with a look that seemed to say: "Where have you guys been?" As though nothing ever happened! Phfew! The incident has become a favorite anecdote and we joke that it was an initiation to make her into a 'warrior Puss'. ;-)

I didn't know whether she still remembered what happened then. So yeah, better for her to not get too enthusiastic about climbing that tree! I called her just as she was getting ready to move further up.

Brought back to her senses she just hung out for a while and admired the view.

In the end I had to perform our little 'elevator trick'. Whenever she gets herself somewhere from which she doesn't know how to get down, I come to the rescue with a pillow or a laundry basket into which she jumps. So cute!

Town Trips
We went into Ojai every 3 or 4 days in order to go to the library and replenish our stocks at their great farmer's market (nearly all the produce was organic!) While we were there we checked out Bart's Bookstore: a super cool used bookstore that is entirely outdoors!

We also returned to the Krishnamurti Foundation of America in order to buy some of his work and walk through the property. I can't get over how peaceful it is even 25 years after he has been gone; tranquility just permeates the place. Orange trees had started to blossom right alongside others that were still heavy with fruit. The aroma was intoxicating!

In fact some trees had both oranges and blossoms simultaneously!

Ready To Socialize Again
Towards the end of our stay we bumped into our only neighbor, Mike, who turned out to be a really cool guy. Don and he hit it off right away and had plenty to talk about. I also took it as a sign that we were now ready to emerge from our internal phase.

The White Bearded Brothers

In Our Sunny Outdoor Kitchen
We ended up staying almost two weeks in our camping paradise. One of the biggest challenges was not having access to showers. I thought that certainly there would be facilities we could use in town, but nope. The creek's water was way too cold to dip in so we had an ingenious idea: to warm up water in bottles in the sun for a few hours so that we could wash our hair. As for the rest, well, cat washing just had to do.

Another challenging area was the food department. We'd gotten so used to relying on electrical appliances for our daily fare that it meant getting quite a bit more creative than usual. We started the day off with a freshly squeezed orange juice from locally grown fruit. Oh man was it ever delicious! For lunch we'd later have a mega chia pudding made with chia seeds, water, various superfoods, dried fruits, nuts and seeds to which we'd add some chopped or grated fruit. Another variation of this theme that we enjoyed was a huge fruit salad into which we'd fold some of the chia pudding.

Mmmmm, Mmmm, Good!

We always began our dinners with a different take on our miso soup, using 2 or 3 veggies at a time along with chopped pieces of avocado and seaweed. Yum! We'd then generally have a main course with a green salad drizzled with olive oil, tamari and nutritional yeast.

Some of the entrees we enjoyed include Tabouli (which can be made with either sprouted or cooked quiona), Asian Spinach Salad, various forms of marinated veggies served with cooked quinoa or amaranth, and onion bread topped with avocado, tomato and sprouts. Jozzie's Fajitas were also awesome and easy to assemble. We let the veggies marinate in a Ziploc bag in the sun then enjoyed them in a soft dehydrated wrap.

Another great meal option not requiring any equipment: Spring Rolls! I managed to whip up a dipping sauce by mixing almond butter, tamari, crushed garlic, lemon juice, honey and red pepper flakes.

Oh and I did whip up a Hemp Avocado Dressing and a Sunflower Garlic Spread before leaving Diane's. 

Dessert was a toughy. Sometimes we just nibbled on some fresh barhi dates or yummy raw choccie that we bought at farmer's markets. One time when we were staying at Fremont Campground I did get pretty adventurous and made Almond Joys. The filling is made with coconut butter, dried coconut, sweetener, vanilla and salt and mixed by hand. I had some dark chocolate mixture left over from another batch in the cooler, so all I had to do was melt it and dip 'em in, which I did under Kylo's watchful eyes!

Not bad under the circumstances, eh?

After all that beautiful sunshine and warmth, finally the sky clouded over and the temps cooled off quite a bit. That's alright, we had to be on our way north anyways.


  1. Carmella, thank you for such a thoughtful and inspiring post. So interesting to see your raw on the road life - you and Don are such a testament to going with 'The Flow'!

    It is so evident how much time and care you put into each lovely post here on your blog; stopping by The Sunny Raw Kitchen is always such a highlight for me. Thank you! :)

  2. What a great post. I especially loved the video. After reading your blog and following your journey over these past years, it is wonderful to see all of you in movement! The peace of your camping trip really came through as well. Have a great next trip of your journey! lots of love, Tara

  3. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. It wasn't too long for me. I enjoyed every word. I have to admit, I'm not practiced at waiting and listening as you and Don are. The first thing that would have occurred to me when the landlady called to say pack up, is that that was a sign that I should go on to San Francisco anyway. All the campground troubles would have confirmed it for me. Thank goodness you stayed firm in your determination to find peace in the wilderness. What a fabulous time you eventually had, and even little Puss got to stretch her legs and explore the outdoors. It's no wonder she likes the trees, she is so perfectly camoflaged. I love the picture of Don with his friend, the first of the two, where he is all bathed in the sunlight. Talk about a "being of light". Thanks again for sharing the wonders of your story and your journey.

  4. Where did you get those wooden plates?


  5. I finally just made those almond joy truffles too. Very good.

    I always think to myself if you can enjoy raw camping I can do it in my tiny kitchen.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your travels and experiences with us. It's wonderful that you're so able to stay so much "in the flow" of things, and be so willing and able to flex with changes as they occur, even when the signs may seem a bit unclear at the time.

    On another note, I'm just enjoying yet another glass of "Our Daily Juice" from "Delightfully Raw"; I could also have this every day - it's pure bliss! Many more recipes to try yet, lucky me. :)

  7. Carmella I have been following your blogs for quite a long time now.....even feel like I know you and Don and the furries : ) I'm so happy when another post pops up in my "Mail" I love to read your adventures and try your truly inspirational recipes...they're quite wonderful! Enjoy the rest of your trip and keep safe whilst travelling! Love Angela XXX (South Australia)

  8. Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to write a few lines in response to this post. I'm so happy that the honest sharing of our adventures is proving to be inspiring to some of you. Yay!

    At the time those two events (the phone call and terrible neighbors) did seem like negative omens to me too. Still, I couldn't shake off the feeling that we were doing the right thing. So yeah, it's not always clear on the spot.

    I got those plates at a store called 'Canadian superstore' in Calgary.

  9. The first thing will happen to me when the landlady called and said wrap is a sign, which I should go to San Francisco anyway. All the trouble of camping will confirm it for me. Thank God you stayed firmly determined to find peace in your wilderness.