I want to admit something to all of you: Sometimes I still cry because of how people treated me when I was obese. Because I stuffed all of my "negative" emotions deep inside my entire life, it's going to take some time to fully release them. I'm working on it, however, and making tremendous progress with healing myself on all levels. I'm not telling you these things so you'll feel sorry for me, however. I'm telling you because I am thankful for all the pain I endured. It shaped me (in more ways than just my physical appearance) into the person I am today.

Even though it sounds strange, and somehow wrong to feel this way, I'm thankful that I was obese. I'm thankful for all of the experiences during my life, even the extremely painful, traumatic ones. Maybe if I was a different kind of person I would wish that those things didn't happen to me. However, I am using those experiences in positive ways. They've helped me understand people even better, and to understand myself on a deeper level, as well. When people reach out to me it's not only because I'm an approachable person, it's because they sense that I understand them--and they're right. I DO understand them. I understand you. My experiences, coupled with my gift of empathy, help me relate to you in a way that maybe not everyone else is able to do.

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!

We had a wonderful weekend that started with a raw food potluck in our home (through the Pittsburgh Raw Food Meetup group). There were about twenty people and so many lovely raw food dishes! I haven't checked the camera, yet, but I hope someone remembered to capture some pictures of the food and guests. It was all very yummy, including the beet pasta I made with a cream sauce. I also made some carob peppermint sweets that KDcat formed into bite-sized balls and arranged them on a platter. A friend of mine told me that the people who show up for raw food potlucks tend to be genuinely nice people, and she was right. It was a pleasure meeting everyone and I look forward to next month's meetup.

The rest of our weekend was spent with our guest, Devaki, who just left a few minutes ago to return to the ashram. She played some beautiful music on the harmonium and she and some other lovely guests filled our home with the beauty and energy of Kirtan chanting. Some of the chants were in English, too. I thought I wouldn't like them as much, but they were just as beautiful as the Indian ones. One of my close friends who was here for the Kirtan told me that I was glowing after the chanting! I love the blissful feeling that comes from chanting and meditation.

As promised, here is the picture again of the Mexican meal I created the other day. It will be served at the upcoming 3-Day Raw Food Spiritual Ashram Retreat (only a few spaces left!). Since many of our readers can't make it to the retreat, I said I'd post some of the recipes here in the blog. I hope some of you will try to create the recipes and let me know what you think!

I'm still working on the dishes that will be served at the upcoming 3-Day Raw Food Spiritual Ashram Retreat (only 2 spots left!). Today, I worked on the Sandwich Fixin's that will be served for lunch on one of the retreat days.

Before officially starting the new year, I'd like to acknowledge the changes and growth that took place over the past year. It was a whirlwind of changes, sometimes so dizzying that I wondered what I was doing and occasionally questioned whether, or not, I was making mistakes with my life. I followed my intuition, however, and it served me well. I'm here today, remembering the past year and ready to announce plans for this new year that has just begun. It's a beautiful life, isn't it Even when things seem dark and like there is a lot of pain, there is a tremendous amount of potential for new growth and a brighter life than ever imagined.

I ended 2008, perched on a summit and ready to take flight. Before I fly, however, I'm standing still for a bit and enjoying the view. I feel like the entire past year consisted of climbing to higher and higher plateaus of an enormous mountain. While climbing to each new plateau I stumbled, held on for dear life, saw amazing things, and became stronger.When reaching each new plateau, I'd spread my wings and leap, circling the mountain's circumference. But, I wasn't strong enough to fly straight to the peak. It was a year of gradual growth and change -- and I found myself becoming stronger and stronger as I reached the summit.I'm certainly not the same person who started this climb. I have transformed into a more genuine version of myself, a younger and stronger woman emerging from a lifetime of guilt and fear. As I stand on this summit, I feel youthful and invigorated. What lies ahead may be unknown to me, but I know it's within my ability to fly to the highest heights of ANY mountain, to see and do and experience ALL that I desire. It's going to be an incredible future and I look forward to sharing it with all of you!

In recognizing all of the accomplishments of 2008, I think it's important to admit that it wasn't one steady climb to the point I'm at today.The few years prior to 2008 were almost like my training in mountain climbing. Last year there were a lot of tears shed, along with a releasing of physical and emotional baggage that was still clinging to me. I openly shared what I was going through, however, after learning that keeping things inside was slowly killing my spirit. I think if I had to sum up 2008 in just one sentence it would be: In finally releasing everything, I woke up as my true self.

Mmmmmmmmm! ?I'm sitting here at my computer eating the Best Organic Fuji Apple Ever. Don't believe me? ?Here's a picture of the apple I'm eating right now:

Looks dee-lish, right? ?(Okay, so maybe it's not the most appetizing pic in the world...) ?Anyway, one interesting thing about this apple is that I bought it (a whole big bag of them, actually) because it was so cheap. (I'm on a relatively tight budget these days.) ?But, if it was so cheap, how could it be so tasty? ?(And organic, too!) Well, that's where the basic law of supply and demand come in. Whenever a crop is at the peak of its season, the supply rises considerably. Instead of the store receiving X number of bushels of apples, they receive 5X or more. So, they slash prices to move that kind of volume.

Today, we're going to show you haw to make some tasty brownies. Best of all, this recipe takes only a few minutes. Let's get to it!

First, throw a couple of big handfulls of raisins into your food processor.

For today's Makin' It Monday feature, we'd like to present "Salsa Campechano." We'll have to admit, though, that we do not speak Spanish. So, we have to give some credit to Google's online language translator. When we went to name this recipe, Wendi suggested that this is a "manly" dish (since I created it). However, we didn't find the perfect Spanish word to fit the recipe.Then, considering the walnuts in the recipe, Wendi suggested that perhaps "hearty" was a better adjective. Google returned the Spanish word campechano for this, and we immediately thought: Yes!, that sounds just perfect!? So, here's an amazing recipe for you. It's a hearty salsa recipe, but I actually like to eat it as a soup.

Have you ever heard about mono meals? When I first did, it sounded like such a great idea. When you eat a mono meal, you eat one item (and only one item) for the entire meal. Eating that way is supposed to be very cleansing and it gives your digestive system a rest from processing different types of foods at the same time. Supposedly there is a boost in energy, as well, since your digestion isn't taking up so much energy.

I recently received an email asking for advice from one of our Hindu readers, asking what I could recommend as far as light eating during the nine-day Indian festival of Navratri. Navratri is traditionally a time of fasting for nine days, however in modern society most Hindus no longer fast. Many do, however, pay more attention to their diets, and they try to eat lighter meals that do not contain animal products. Since our reader is just starting his exploration into raw foods, I didn't want to offer him advice that would make his nine days of Navratri difficult.He recently purchased a Vitamix, so I suggested that he make a lot of smoothies, since he has been enjoying them so much.

Pure Jeevan is hitting the road? this weekend, heading to Chicago for some super-double-secret raw business stuff, returning late Monday. (Can't discuss it yet, but it's raw food related and ultra-cool. We'll get to it in due time, I promise.)?

Actually, it's going to be quite an interesting trip, as we have some very serious, very intense work to do in Chicago over the entire weekend, but we're not sure yet whether it'll be Wendi doing the work or me! It all depends on how Wendi feels -- and with Lyme, you just never know. So, one of us will be busy, the other largely free to explore the windy city with KDcaT and Th' Jooge.