Pumpkin Spice Smoothie
1-1/4 cup milk of choice

1/2 cup canned or fresh pureed pumpkin

1 medium banana, frozen

1 tablespoon chia seeds*

1 knob of fresh ginger 

1 tsp ground cinnamon 

½ tsp ground nutmeg 

½ tsp ground cardamom 

½ teaspoon vanilla extract 

4 ice cubes 

*Ground flaxseeds make a good substitute if needed.
Place all ingredients in your blender in the order listed and blend for 30 seconds or until smooth. Enjoy!


This week I’m bringing in traditional teas from around the world to share with my yoga students. These herbs are legendary in the lands where they come from, and each has a uniqueness to share. Check out the special selections below.


Herbal Infusions

Chrysanthemum tea is a beverage made from steeped flowers that is most popular in East Asia, especially China. Traditionally the tea has been used medicinally and as a pick-me-up.

Tulsi (Holy Basil)

Holy basil, sometimes known as “The Queen of Herbs,” is closely related to culinary basil. It is native to India where it stands out for its traditional uses as a spiritual and medicinal herb.

Herbal (Rooibos) Chai

Rooibos or "red bush" in Afrikaans is an evergreen South African shrub of the pea family whose fermented leaves are steeped to make an herbal tea. Rooibos is sometimes used today as a base for warming, aromatic Indian spices and herbs to make a caffeine-free chai.

Stevia Leaf

The stevia plant, related to daisy flowers, is native to South America. It is sometimes called “candyleaf” or “sweetleaf.”  It is used to add a sweet flavor to teas and herbal preparations.
Use 1-2 teaspoons of dried herbs to make 1 cup of tea. Use 1-2 teaspoons or more of flowers if steeping chrysanthemum.

To sweeten tea with stevia, use ¼ teaspoon for every cup of herbal tea. Steep together in hot water for about 15 minutes. Strain, sip and enjoy.

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

— Albert Camus


Dia de los Muertes, or Day of the Dead, falls at the end of October and early November at the same time as Halloween. The rituals around this holiday are new ones to me, I haven’t ever experienced them firsthand.  I have been reading more about the Day of the Dead traditions since I got introduced to the science of ethnobotany. Ethnobotany is the study of the relationships between people and plants including our medicinal, religious or other traditional customs and uses.


The Day of the Dead rituals rely strongly on flowers that are used to decorate the graves of loved ones. Marigolds are used in warmer climates where they can grow throughout the year and are sometimes known as the “flower of the dead”.  In cold temperate climates where marigolds cannot survive a frost, hardier flowers like mums are used. One thing that the flowers bring to the ritual is their smell; the scent of the flowers is thought to please the souls of the dead that return during the holiday.


The holiday’s practices also involve candles, food, skulls and dancing to lure their loved ones back to their graves.  While a lot of the symbolism and rituals for Day of the Dead revolve around gravestones and death, the focus of the holiday is to honor loved ones who have passed. This makes it not just a holiday to honor the dead but a time to celebrate life.




My children’s garden class made muffins to sell to their peers at a special Market Day event. One of the students has a few food allergies so we made them gluten- and dairy-free. With the grated root vegetables and apple they were sweet, moist, delicious and fun to make!


Carrot Beet and Apple Muffins
1 cup gluten-free flour*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup grated beets
1/2 cup grated apple (about 1/2 of a large apple)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon gluten free vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
butter or oil for greasing muffin tins

(*We used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour. Add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum to mix if your flour doesn't have that already.)
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease the cups of a 12-cup muffin pan.
In a large bowl whisk together the gluten-free flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.
Stir in the grated carrots, beets and apple.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, maple syrup vanilla and water. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until evenly moistened.
Scoop the batter into the muffin wells.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a fork inserted into the center of one muffin comes out clean.
Remove the muffins from the oven and, after 5 minutes, transfer them to a rack to cool.
Wrap any leftovers airtight and store at room temperature for several days or freeze for longer storage. Yield: 10-12 muffins.

My husband’s late music mentor gave him some wise life advice before passing away. He told him that life is like a spiral staircase; you keep coming around to the same place, but each time you come back you’re at a higher level.

What better way to mark the passing of time and reflect on what has changed each year than the return of a season.

(goingmerrygo/Flickr CC)

(goingmerrygo/Flickr CC)

As Billie Holiday sings,  “Autumn in New York, why does it seem so inviting?…autumn in New York, its good to live it again.”



Fall, the season, is all about transition and gradual change — from the long, hot summer days to dark and frigid winter. Eleven years ago my parents moved to Singapore from the Northeast, USA, and spent most of the year on the hot and humid tropical island. My dad would come back to visit Pennsylvania twice a year; once in July and once in December. For him, fall and spring, the transitional seasons, disappeared. He’d fly away in August from weather not unlike Singapore’s climate, and return when everything was covered with ice. He’s since moved home and is about to experience his first fall season in eleven years.

Fall colors comes from trees adapting. Just like bears consume many thousand calories a day to prepare their bodies to hibernate, trees notice when days are getting shorter and cooler and they make adjustments, the most noticeable being deciduous trees that loose their leaves. These trees start making changes by pulling back parts of the chlorophyll out of their leaves, the green pigments in their cells that make food, and hold onto them in their growing tips for the spring.  The red, yellow and orange colors are always present in the leaves but are hidden by the green pigments. When the green disappears, the other colors are put on display.


As the season continues and the trees know they must go dormant to survive the winter, they release a hormone that encourages the leaves to fall. Ideally the leaves will land at the base of the tree to offer its own roots insulation and nutrients when the leaves decompose.  Re-using some of the mineral nutrients from the last year’s leaves the tree will have what it needs to grow new leaves and make more food in the spring.


You don’t need to know what’s happening in nature to appreciate it’s beauty. If you do know the adaptations that trees need to go through to survive you may be impressed or even inspired. Trees have many methods to support and preserve themselves and they are able to handle very harsh changes.  Change does not need to happen all at once, in fact, it rarely does. A natural process takes the time it needs to take, and whatever is going through that change often has the strength it needs to survive and the resources to bounce back and grow stronger.

Of course many places around the world never experience autumn like we do in the Northeast, with its dramatic color and changes. Some people may choose to travel to the Northeast, USA to see how the weather transition creates the most beautiful fall colors. Seeing them for the first time must be extraordinary. For my dad, I don’t think he knew how much he appreciated the season until he didn’t have it.  Now, after a decade of missing the transitions, he can’t wait to re-experience the beauty and wonder of fall.

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. –William Blake

Here’s a recipe for a salad that I made with my City Farmers gardening class in mid-September, harvest time!


Kale Harvest Salad with Tahini Dressing
12 kale leaves
2 large tomatoes
3 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup tahini 
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste or 1 tsp. soy sauce (optional)
Add olive oil, tahini and lemon juice to a mason jar (plus salt, pepper or soy sauce if using) to make the dressing. Close the jar and shake jar until ingredients are well-mixed.

Dice tomatoes and set aside. Tear kale leaves into bite-sized pieces and put in a bowl. Pour 1/4 cup dressing over kale and massage leaves until they start to darken and soften. Add more dressing if desired or necessary. Add diced tomatoes and pumpkin seeds to the kale salad. Mix up the ingredients and serve.

Note: This recipe makes about 1 cup of dressing which is more than is needed for the salad. You may like save the rest for your next salad or use the extra dressing as a dip for veggies!

Serves 6-8.

I am a new staff member at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Children’s Garden. We run weekly classes for kids guiding them to plant, harvest, eat and explore in the century-old garden. You can watch their beautiful centennial video or click here to find out more about the Children’s Garden and its classes.


Greg (Cosmo) and I got married this spring, June 2016, in the Pocono Mountains. What made our wedding day so wonderful was the people, but the natural surroundings helped make the day even more beautiful and meaningful.

The air was warm and the sun and clouds were out, the blue sky felt big and open. Sunlight reflected on the water and the lake looked bluer than I have ever seen it in all my years visiting and playing there. The day felt full of possibility.


The wind blew as if it had been called upon as part of the ceremony to symbolize action and change, encouraging us to embrace something as powerful and new as our imminent union.  The lush green trees surrounded the lake like a soft embrace, and helped make our gathering feel intimate and safe.


The pink rhododendron shrubs still held onto some blossoms that had bloomed in May and speckled our surroundings with their fuchsia pink color. A local florist shaped seasonal June flowers into beautiful bouquets, a feast for our eyes and noses.  All of the blooms, and their fleeting spring beauty, encouraged us to savor the fullness of these special moments.


The light, the colors, the breeze on our skin; it all arrested our attention. Collectively we saw that everything — and everyone — around us that day was buzzing with love and life.