Pardon the video quality there. A.J. and I shot that video at night and, although it looked decent on the camera's preview screen, the actual video came out almost totally black!? However, with a bit of video processing, we were able to salvage it. It's not optimal video, but it's at least watchable (and, hey, also conveys a little of that nighttime festival feeling).

A quick note about veganism before I share some additional info... As we've stated here many times, Pure Jeevan advocates a raw vegan lifestyle. What do we intend that to mean, exactly? Well, strictly speaking, veganism excludes all animal products, both in terms of diet and lifestyle.

Ahh, yes... Ginkgo Biloba. What a distinctive tree, don't you think? So easy to identify, and so many reported health benefits. This one belongs to a neighbor that seems to have an affinity with Asian landscaping motifs. They also have gorgeous bamboo growing in their yard, and other Asian elements. ?I would have liked to have harvested some leaves to dry for some Ginkgo tea, but the owner wasn't around to ask. Perhaps some other time.

Let's take a quick look at a few dessert pictures, then compare and contrast, shall we First up is a small slice of some normal pastry:

Looks sinful, right It seems to proudly display its bready crust, its gooey chocolate center, some sort of butter-rich top layer coated with lovable little bits and bobs, and a liberal sprinkling of confectioner's sugar to make the whole thing cute as a wintry scene from one of those holiday specials hosted by the claymation likeness of Burl Ives. I'm sure it's delightfully rich, too. A tad small, though, eh ? It's probably all anyone can take of such decadence without worrying about clogged arteries or putting in extra time on the tread mill for the next three days.

For today's Makin' It Monday, we're not really making something, but rather sprouting something! We tend to go through periods of time when we are sprouting a lot, consuming sprouts on salads, sandwiches, and inside whatever dishes we can add them to at the time. It seems appropriate for this time of year to start sprouting, again.

Have you ever sprouted seeds? The first time I ever sprouted, I used a nut milk bag that I kept dangling over the kitchen sink. I put some seeds into it, let them soak overnight in a bowl of water, and then rinsed them in the morning. Every time I was in the kitchen, I rinsed them again and let them drip into the sink until the next rinsing. It's important to keep the seeds moist and rinsed. It was thrilling to see the tiny little sprouts when they first began emerging from the seeds!

Today, we'd like to take the time to introduce some raw athletes who continually inspire others. There is a huge misunderstanding about the need for protein in our bodies, especially within the world of competetive sports. Many believe that without large amounts of protein we can't be strong, we can't build muscle. Raw athletes are proving that a vegan diet not only supplies enough energy to sustain the human body during competition, it also allows them to many times outperform competitors who are half their age.

Who Would Win

I've been holding on to some things to share here on the blog, and today feels like a good day to share this particular inspirational gem, below. I hope it speaks to some of you in a way that brings about a deeper love for yourself. Many times I have a feeling, based on emails I receive, that I love some of you more than you love yourselves (and I deeply love all of you). That's okay, though. Your time will come to blossom into the self-loving individual that you know you are at your core. Perhaps today what I share will trigger a deeper sense of self-love for you, as it did for another friend.

Back in October, a friend in an online raw community sent me a message about how she was having a tough time with cravings. I responded to her, as follows:

... You CAN do it, too! For me, it took finally loving myself to make the change. I had to KNOW that NOTHING was going to stop me from loving myself. And loving myself meant never putting harmful things into my body EVER AGAIN! So, once I made that decision, I moved forward. I'm not saying I didn't have cravings, but I loved myself through them! ...

Many times in the online communities, the messages you share with others will also be read by individuals stopping by the pages of your friends. That was the case with what I wrote, above. I received a lovely message from another friend in that community, who had read the message I left for someone else. Here's what she wrote to me:

I started writing on a raw food forum about the oranges coming in today. But, I was on my way out the door and I had more to say about them than I realized, so, I figured I'd paste what I wrote, so far, and add to it here in our blog. ;-)

?

(organic oranges and grapefruits)

After leaving Salem, Oregon, Wendi and KDcat drove less than an hour to the city of Corvallis where they met up with their hosts the Zander's -- Joni, Steve, Bekka, and Stephanie -- a fellow unschooling family Wendi had come to know in an online forum. It was great to be in their company and we loved them right away,? Wendi wrote. ?Their home is absolutely beautiful on a really cute lot with plenty of plants and trees around ? including the most delightful flowers that smelled divine (I think they were called Daphne).

Corvallis is the city we ve mentioned multiple times -- the city that feels like it s the right fit for us. Well, it lived up to our dreams in just about every way. It s a progressive, hip town with a lot going on. The people are friendly, the weather is beautiful, the land is gorgeous, and there are lots of unschoolers. Access to fresh, ogranic, raw foods doesn't seem to be an issue anywhere in Oregon, according to reports from the road so far. While they've been away, we've talked quite a bit each night about what they're finding -- and fresh organic produce seems pretty much everywhere out west. "The west," wrote Jim Morrison, "is the best." (Surely he was a raw foodie.)

Jon Gold, owner of the Sunny Side Up Cafe (a vegan and vegetarian restaurant there) and an unschool father, put together a little gathering of unschoolers for KDcat and Wendi. They were able to meet some local unschoolers and ask questions. There was also a gathering one day at the cafe where KDcat was able to do some art at a table with some other unschool teens. It's definitely a creative, easy-going town with some fantastic people in it!

All this week we're going to be highlighting different sections of the All Raw Directory (A.R.D.). For those of you who don't already know about it, Jim and I created an amazing site (AllRawDirectory.com) to house links to every source of raw food information that exists on the Internet. It's a huge task, but we created the site so that it's community-run. Housing links to all of the information available within the raw food community is a near-impossible task for one individual, but as a group we can do amazing things!

If you don't know how the All Raw Directory works, you are going to love the ease and simplicity of it all! Simply become a member (it's FREE and always will be!) and begin adding any raw food links that aren't already included (the system checks for duplicates, so don't worry about that). You can add your personal raw food blog, a raw food business, your social raw food media links (like Twitter, Facebook, GiveItToMeRaw, RawFu, etc.) for others to easily find you, share links to informative pages about the raw food diet/lifestyle, and so much more!

It's been a while since we offered an update on Wendi's health challenge. So, I asked if she felt up to writing a blog post to let everyone know what she's going through, highlighting a few new directions taken of late. As usual, I added some color splashes and graphics here and there, just for aesthetics. But, the following post is from Wendi. -Jim

Many thanks and lots of love go out to all of you for the love and support you ve been sending my way. I can t spend much time at the computer, but Jim has been trying to keep up with my email and he s been passing along your love, concern, advice, and healing energy. Thanks so much for everything, including the things that have arrived through the postal service. I definitely feel the love from all of you and I want you to know that each and every one of you means so much to me! * blows kisses *

If you ve been a Pure Jeevan family member for a while, you know we don t always focus on food in regards to health. Health isn t only about the food you put into your body; it s about so much more. We are mental, spiritual, emotional, physical beings who thrive best when we have a balance in all those areas of our lives. Humans are, for the most part, social beings. If we lack something as vital as social interaction, we become out of balance. As young children, our primary social interaction is through direct contact with our parents and close family members. As we mature, almost all of us develop friendships with individuals outside of our family s social circle. Friendship is essential in helping us maintain a healthy balanced life.

How we meet friends, and how we interact with them, has been changing over the years as online social media communities have been created. For those living a raw food lifestyle and using the Internet to connect with like-minded others, you have no doubt realized there is a strong and growing virtual raw food community online. It s a large tribe, of sorts, where we are able to wander from website to website, meeting others and creating friendships together. (Be sure to join Pure Jeevan s Facebook page to connect with other Pure Jeevan family members.)