Happy New Year Redux

Whew, what a strange trip of a January, unfolding into a non stop season of no snow, wildly shifting temperatures and lots of riled up interactions. It’s time for another new year- this weekend I’m happy to welcome the Year of the Fire Rooster.

In a month usually reserved for quiet, restorative practices I’ve been expending energy in every direction. Even a surfeit of well-intentioned activities, an abundance of good things, can add up to too much. I had to back off and re-calibrate when an old injury had a major flare up, sidelining me. The body holds a wisdom our minds may be too preoccupied to acknowledge.

Lighter nourishment fits the bill when pain slows us down. And an inspiring book or two will help to maintain a positive outlook. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Here are three of my favorites on our table this month. The glory of root vegetables from my favorite farm markets provided flavorful comfort when I needed it most.
French Lentil Soup
A puree of green lentils, carrots and simple seasonings yields a satisfying lunch or dinner. Leftovers simmered down make a tasty side dish at the next night’s meal. I love the chameleon aspect of the smaller green lentils, which turn brown when cooked. You can find the recipe on Epicurious.

Golden Borscht
Using a classic recipe like this one I’ve had for many years, I switched up the usual red beets for more delicate golden ones and used kale in place of cabbage and simmered it with shin bones for added flavor. You can leave out the meat if you prefer.

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup
Boston’s NPR and Globe correspondent Kathy Gunst is a welcome voice in my kitchen. I tried her recipe this month using roasted winter vegetable soup and the flavors are sublime.

Put Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime on your reading list. Stories of childhood tinged with adult perspective are capturing my interest right now and Noah manages the ultimate sleight of hand. His humorous, enlightening, poignant and wise memoir reveals a repressive system of government and a social order imposed by a ruling minority, as seen through the eyes of a child. If you want to be reminded of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of art, not to mention the enduring bond between mother and son, look no further.

Happy New Year!

Photos, Claire Mauro

Winds of Change

A Big Thank You to all who read along with The Parsley Way. The winds of change are blowing and even we are affected. With Chris stepping away for a while Claire will be re-evaluating the site, its aims and the content.

Creativity, Kindness and Nurturing continue to be the foundation on which our wellness practices are built. I hope we’ve illustrated some pleasing ways to bring them into your life. Maybe you’ve experimented and found a new and satisfying practice. Maybe you’ve re-discovered or re-invigorated a long-standing interest. It’s OK to take time at the beginning of the year to be discerning. Notice where you are directing your attention. Ask: what actually calls to me, enlivens my day, lifts up my perspective?

Use all your senses to get the most pleasure from your day. Take comfort in the familiar tasks and delight in the unexpected. Yes, delight — the unexpected may introduce friction into your well-ordered existence but it also opens an opportunity. Embrace it! And breathe deep.

2017, Happy New Year!

Gift Guide – A Heartwarming Tale


Gift Guides are a popular way to streamline your holiday shopping at this time of year. So here at the Parsley Way I wanted to share one of the ways our family combined wellness and gifts this year.

Pet adoption is an anytime option, particularly if you are flexible with your choices. As a cat lover I love all kitties, baby animals being universally adorable. Selecting one for your family is another matter. So many questions come to mind and should. If you are an experienced cat owner then you may have concerns based on past experience, such as disposition, health and behavior patterns. Or you may be concerned as new pet owner about the myriad responsibilities and whether you are up to the task. You’re right to be concerned! Pets should never be treated as disposable gift items.

Our family raised Tangerine, our orange persian x tabby from a kitten. We even met his mother and siblings! And he lived 20 years, a much-cherished companion to our son and a comfort to all of us. The thought of “replacing” Tangerine was not automatic; our grief was as strong as our pet love.

Tangerine at 20
Tangerine at 20

When I started to consider a cat again, as it often turns out by the law of attraction, feral cats appeared in our yard in late summer. Mama and babies stayed for several days and just as I was contemplating taking in the entire family, mama cat moved them on. I took this as further proof I should consider adoption. Did you know? –You can visit shelters and rescue sites online to see what pets are available. Local veterinarians can guide you too. For a short time we had a nearby Cat Café, but alas, they closed before I could meet my pet match!
After several missed opportunities, during the past month I knew I had to move forward no matter what. I contacted a network of cat rescuers and sure enough within days I had a list of current pets seeking new homes. Calamity befalls perfectly nice pets and they face homeless shelters and potentially the remainder of their lives in cages. This was the case with our Miss Lizzie. When I heard her story—living alone in an empty home after the death of her elderly owner and the adoption of her feline companion, well, I took one look at her photo and was smitten. The rescue worker quickly followed up on my interest by providing a video and then a meeting was arranged. The rescue worker assured us there was no obligation; I should base my decision on a feeling of connection with the cat. It was so sad to see this lovely, friendly cat in an abandoned home. She had a neighborly caretaker to be sure, but no family routine. It’s a match!
A month later we are happily growing used to one another, finding delight in our daily life together. We were provided with a health record and a regular check in with the rescue worker to monitor our adjustment to each other. I’m pleased to say Ms Lizzie performed all her necessary cat business the first evening, eating a meal, using her litter box and finding a comfy bed on a familiar pillow on a window seat. Since the first days we’ve introduced age appropriate food, presented her with cat toy options and lavished her with as much attention as she is willing to accept. She’s a curious, well-mannered and altogether independent Miss who will seek out her own activities or consent to play with us. And WE are pretty well trained already too. She will drink from a water bowl but prefers a running stream. The first time she jumped into the shower was quite a surprise! Now she will wait for one of us by the bathroom door and we will open a tap to run a trickle for her. I think she must have a bit of fisher cat in her Tabby bloodline!

The Nimbus 2000 of cat toys
The Nimbus 2000 of cat toys

We’ve hit the jackpot with Ms Lizzie for sure! We’re grounded in our daily life by the loving caregiving and pet companionship, a mutual relationship! Her soothing purr is beneficial for our health; keeping her well feed and cared for is good for hers. Her constant inspection of our home is a mouse deterrent and good feng shui, too. She moves the stagnant chi with her attention to the nooks and crannies of our home, delighting us with her independent spirit, love of play and expert attention to repose. Our new addition to the family proves to “tend and befriend” is a good antidote to what ails you. May you be well this season!

Mizz Lizzie Among the Pines
Mizz Lizzie Among the Pines

Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

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A Holiday Treat! Welcome our guest to The Parsley Way, health coach Donna Morin of Better Off Well, answering a question often asked at this time of year.
How do I stay healthy through the holiday season?
It’s a question that makes me chuckle because I know I am not the guru who has figured out how to say no to the pumpkin pie or the home-baked bread or the mashed potatoes with savory mushroom gravy or the….well, you get the point. I love to eat and I love good food.
But while I salivate over candied walnuts with the rest of you, I have made a number of strategies part of my lifestyle habits so that holidays don’t destroy the health I’ve built up over the years. It’s too important for me not to.
The best advice I can share is to start by listening to your body. It has an intelligence all its own and if you listen very carefully, you might find you learn a lot.
How can you do this?


Ask the BIG question.
WHY do you want to make good choices over the holidays? Why it that important to you? Do you have children you want to be a good role model for? Who you want to stay active with? Do you feel better when you eat certain foods versus others? Are there things on your bucket list you want to do that require you to have energy? Have you been living in pain and you don’t want to any longer?
Asking yourself these questions brings you to a place of awareness. When we bring awareness to our choices, particularly AS we are making them, we give ourselves space to make the ones that serve us best. And here’s an important piece…if the reason for wanting to make good choices through the holidays is all about your weight- that number on the scale- good luck with that. Until we dig deeper to find out why it’s important to feel good, the number on the scale will rule our lives and distract us from making sustainable change.


Take a deep breath…actually take many.

Too often in our lives we run on fumes. We plan for tomorrow before today has even begun. We live in yesterday while worrying about a fictional reality of the future that we have played out in our heads.
It’s enough to make anyone want to jump into the red velvet cheesecake and never come out again.
While stress has its advantages and keeps us focused when we need to be, chronic stress does a number on our bodies. It messes with the hormones that help us to sleep, that tell us when we are full, and that make us feel good about ourselves, just as we are.
During the hustle and bustle of this season, take a few minutes- even three makes a difference- every day to just stop. Breathe. Deeply. Buddha belly on the inhale; pull in your belly on the exhale. Detach your shoulders from your ears.

Be here. Right now.
This may not be the standard holiday advice you were looking for, the kind that tells you to use smaller plates when you eat, to avoid socializing in the kitchen, and to use an app to count your calories. Sure, those things can help, along with exercise, hydration, and getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night, but it’s when we begin to go to deeper places of mindfulness and presence that we understand ourselves better. We love ourselves better.
I started to give myself a little love 10 years ago, and it has made all the difference. Through consistent mindfulness practices, I have gotten to know my body much better. In fact, we’re pretty tight now. There are certain foods that make me feel great, and ones that make me feel like I went on a bender. There is a life force in whole foods that keeps me going unlike any processed food ever could.
My body is great about telling me when it’s not happy, and I am doing a much better job listening. For me, that’s the best gift I can give myself this holiday season.

Donna Morin is a certified health coach, writer, founder of Better Off Well Coaching & Consulting Services, and Board President for the Savvy Women’s Alliance. Find more tips and recipes through http://www.betteroffwell.com


Photos Claire Mauro

“Warm True Voices”

Dawn comes a little earlier now, and the filtered light through the window curtain at my foot nudged me awake. For a pleasant moment I savored the richness of a sleep-warmed bed. Then fresh loss returned to me; my peace of mind fell away. Fumbling through the beginning of my day the words would not come – the studdering step, step, step of my brain stuck, wouldn’t go forward. Flipping through the messages from the night and the morning, I saw one reminding me to drink lots of water and reflect. Oh yes, I realized, the toxins must be flushed lest they fester.

In that moment I was grounded back into myself. The endless looping disbelief gave way to conscious action steps. Flush the system, pick up your tools of choice and go back to work- battered, tired, preoccupied but, ultimately, present. When you slip on the banana peel you sit stunned for a moment, re-locating yourself in space. Then, assuming you are not permanently injured, you get up.

Next, you breathe. It sounds silly and obvious and somewhat ineffective, yet the difference between a shallow breath that heightens anxiety and the deep breath that calms has a significant impact on your health. And you engage your heart meridian by pressing on the 4 points, acupressure, along the outer edge of your arm at the base of your wrist. You can add up the means to lessen anxiety and focus yourself for action.
When you get up and move, remember to put your awareness on a steady exhale, strengthening the abdomen. A strong core is what stabilizes our balance, literally and figuratively, when we’re blindsided.

Comfort Food – Carrot soup and Grilled Cheese on Multigrain Bread

I seldom refer to this but when I was seriously injured in a car accident, lying alone and vulnerable on the highway just outside my smashed auto, my consciousness took flight. My hip was broken, I was partly under the car and the driver of the other vehicle had run to the opposite side of the road to be safe himself. I literally could not get up, but in my mind I saw myself running away down the road. Then a stranger appeared. He was holding my shoe. The force had blown it off my foot and onto the road somewhere. The man, a trucker, brought it back to me. This stranger hunkered down and told me help was coming, he had radioed for it. He had kind eyes through wire-rimmed glasses and a soft voice, and I focused on him for a moment. Other than that I really only recall grey outlines of a snowy, icy November day on the Pennsylvania turnpike. After reassuring me, he turned and left. Shortly after that I heard the ambulance siren.

My good Samaritan, as I think of him, could have been anyone. We didn’t ask each other questions or establish our identities, occupations, or religions. For a long time since then I have felt that my sense of the world included the unexpected kindness, the general good of humanity. And I’ve gone about my work with faith that sometimes what you need will touch you and it will help.

This is what I know today: we each must focus on and be true to our core selves, hold on to our belief in our own thoughts and keep our own counsel, not adopting a tribal identity without reflection. And we need to grasp the integrity of our bodies, locating ourselves in space, in our core strength. The bully may knock you down but you can get up again and persevere. We women have been doing exactly that for eons. There are young children to protect, another generation of young adults to nurture.
Poem “All Souls”by May Sarton
All Photos Claire Mauro

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow*

Shadows of white loom outside my window, wispy specters in the dawn light filtering through the trees. Closer inspection reveals them to be not early Halloween ghosts but a protection of sheets over the vegetable garden. A frost warning last night prompted us to abruptly change gears and burst into a flurry of activity to save the last gasps of our produce: the goodness of warm sunshine wrapped in tiny cherry tomatoes, slender string beans and the most prolific pepper harvest of recent memory. We want to enjoy it all before we let it go.

Like most people I always have a to-do list or, more truthfully, multiple lists. Making the list is never a problem, it’s the crossing items off where I get bogged down. Take for example my office reorganization. I have a plan, a checklist of actions, and then there is reality. Inside my office are files and piles, the recordings of complete project work from start to finish, the inklings and images of work yet to do and the supplies and research materials needed for that work. They lay there mute a lot of the time and I can just close the door on them and turn my attention to the more vocal of life’s pressing responsibilities, at least until a deadline calls. Living matter over inert! Often this is the broadest brush spurring me to action, a nurturer’s triage of choices.
Cleaning the closet is another of the to-do items that frosty mornings force into awareness. The prospect of changing over the closet contents from warm weather to cold can prompt the filtering of good intentions through the dictates of those who vigilantly guard against clutter turning into hoarding.

We can choose to “Discard it, donate it or take a picture of it if you can’t completely let go.” Maybe these exhortations are an act of contrition for excess, and of course that’s ok. How do you feel about ownership of things? Are you more of a sentimentalist? Do you like symbolism and feel comforted by things that hold memories? Can a fraying sweater be something that keeps you warm and represents your honeymoon destination, a symbol of love and commitment? Pragmatism is ok, too. It’s a luxury anyone can indulge in. Working to put food on the table and provide necessities doesn’t rule it out. By all means go minimal if that’s your desire. Or maybe a windblown bird’s nest brought indoors by a child can sit on the porch until it crumbles, representing the joy of discovery and the impulse to lovingly share. Conversely the item that reminds you of a friendship gone down in flames should not torment you any further!!
Inundated as we all are with advice and marketing strategies for everything from dish soap to political positions, often the wisdom of keeping one’s own counsel goes by the wayside. Step away from the newsletters and broadcasts and even your list-making and instead take a moment or two to listen to the sound of your own breathing. Pause to feel the ground under your feet. Visualize the sights and sounds of a favorite destination, recall a particularly stirring piece of music or the soaring feeling of mastering a jump shot or a tennis serve. Take comfort in the intangible, it will lead you to your roots.


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All photos Claire Mauro