Sour cherry delights

At the end of a yoga session I like to bring treats; something for folks to share.  A little something to nibble on while they have an opportunity to get to know each other a better.  Yoga for me is so very much about the connection that we have with ourselves, but also about the connection that we have with others.  Teaching yoga has been an amazing opportunity to bring people, a wonderful place for me to feed people with words and movement and every so often with food.

Last week I made a raw cheesecake with layers of sour cherry and chocolate.  I was a little nervous.  I usually make these things up (like this cake).  And after a not so yummy sour cherry smoothie I wasn’t sure if I was making a good choice.  But it seems the cake was a hit.  So much so that I been kindly asked numerous times for the recipe.  You will find the “recipe” below.  I am approximating what I but in the blender.  I have been making raw cakes for about a decade now so it is all by feel now.  I hope that this approximation helps you create a yummy treat!


Sour cherry chocolate “cheese”cake

In a high powered blender (or perhaps a food processor) put in the following for the cheesecake layer:

4 cups of raw cashews

juice of 1 lemon

2 Tablespoons of coconut oil

1/2 cup of raw honey

1 or 2 Tablespoons of water

optional (vanilla, lemon rind, cinnamon)  I did not have this in the above cake but I often do.

And blend under as smooth as possible.  Give it a little taste to see if it is sweet enough for you. I use a vita-mix with the plunger and plunge like mad!  I don’t mind if there are some whole cashews in my cake. Once you are satisfied pour mixture (should be thicker than a smoothie…or like a really really thick smoothie) into a cheesecake pan or even a lasagna pan).  Use a spatula to get all the good stuff out of your blender and to smooth out the top and put the whole thing into the freezer.

Sour cherry layer  (place in blender)

3 or 4 cups of frozen sour cherries

1/2 cup of coconut milk

3 or 4 Tablespoons of honey (or more if you like)

1 tsp of cinnamon

Blend under nice and smooth.  Poor over bottom layer and freeze

Chocolate layer (make in pot on stove)

4 Tablespoons of coconut oil

1 Tablespoons of cacao butter

2 Tablespoons of honey (or more to taste)

4 Tablespoons of cacao powder

optional (vanilla)

Over a low heat melt these ingredients together.  Poor over cherry layer and freeze.

Freeze overnight!  Serve cool.  Sometimes it takes a good 15 or more minutes to be able to cut into the cake!  But if you wait too long it will begin to return to it’s puddle state!



This cake goes very well with “fancy” coffee!  Last week I made some french press coffee and blended it with some coconut oil and brain octane oil.  Yum!

May you have sweet people with whom to share your sweet treats.

So much love and connection. xoxo




i traveled with sue


sue and i swam in the sea.  we did this every day.  and every day it was this holy shit feeling.  we are swimming in the ocean.  i could see it in her eyes.  the awe.  the gratitude.  the bliss.  i’m sure i had a similar expression.  i felt so buoyant.  and free.

sometimes we giggled like children.  so much was fresh.  so much was new.  like the flying fish jumping.   i yelped in delight every time i saw one.  when they hit the surface, not far from where we swam, and descended back into the water, a spray of smaller silver fish glittered.  sue had lost her prescription sunglasses in the water the day before, but still i continued to shout: “can you see all the little ones flying up? over there! wild!”   we stayed in the water until the sun was low in the sky and our fingers were puckered.  i licked the salt around my lips.

newness was driving on the other side of the car, on the other side of the road.  this newness was awkward.  worse than a sloppy first kiss at 13.  on these daily car treks i sometimes shrieked, but not usually in delight.  sometimes i was grumpy after a day of bizarre (to me) round-a-bouts, narrow roads, and steep climbs with blind corners.  i argued with paul, my dear friend, about the meaning of straight.  no way seemed straight.  nothing seemed like going forward.  it was all rough and curvy.  and i felt lost.  i slowed at every passing car.  and almost froze when buses came near!   i could not enjoy the view!   but a dip in the sea was all i needed to wash away the stink of fear.  and i tried to tell myself that i was getting smarter.  all this other side business.  all this switching it up.


i was always excited to see fresh papayas and avocados being sold on the side of the road.  thrilled to pick a lime fresh from the tree.  happy to find kale and mizuna and mustard greens at the holder’s farmers’ market.  i enjoyed the smell of freshly brewed bay leaf tea.  and was deeply saddened by the mangoes, falling on the road near paul’s house, never to be eaten.  and just the other day, back at home in guelph, i saw dozens of neglected apples on the roadside half covered in fallen leaves.  same same.  but different.

my travels don’t often take me far from home.  but for the past few years i have been journeying to barbados.  once a year.  and for the last two years sue has joined me.  this year she was my sole retreatant!  i was her personal person!  and she was mine.



traveling with sue was a gift.  a gift of giving and receiving.   i offered yoga and food and adventure.  she presented me with grace and surrender.  and trust.  we offered as much of ourselves to each other as we knew how.  we shared stories.  we listened.  we watched the moon grow lush and full.  we laughed.  drank from coconuts.   swam.  and swam.  we napped in the shade of beach umbrellas.   and then we swam some more.  we celebrated sue’s 61st birthday.  ate chocolate for breakfast as often as we wanted.  and then we cried.  we mourned the death of her son.  we honoured the 10 year anniversary of his passing.  we looked at his photos.   his little boyness.  his young manness.  his eye twinkle.  his 25 years of life.  sometimes we held back our tears.  i could see it in her eyes.  the ripeness of  her sorrow.  the holding it in.   our travels brought us back again and again to the joy and the sorrow.  the two holding hands, never far apart.  the warm sun against the deep loss.  the loss highly contrasted by our joy.

one day, tired after a full day of trekking, we swam in rough waters and were taken by the current.    it came upon us so suddenly.  one moment we were laughing in the waves.  the next we being being whisked away!  we were terrified.  i saw sue stuck.  unable to swim against the pull.  i followed her not knowing if we would get smashed against a rocky shore.  but unwilling to leave her.  in my haste i made my way, desperately, for rocks.  thinking i was at home in different waters with different rocks.  the waves smashed me against the jaggedness.  but i made my way to the beach with only a few sea urchins embedded in my shin, and fingers, and feet.  sue let the current pull her around the rocks and managed to find a small patch of beach upon which to land.  we looked at each other in shock.  and relief.  and we never swam at that particular spot again!  later, after a long nap and supper, sue took photos of me trying to dig out the hard urchin bits with a needle.


ever morning, at 6:30, we faced the ocean on our mats.  and almost every evening too.  we sat side by side looking out and breathing in.  our meditation was to receive the sound of the ocean, and the birds, and the music at the bar.  our yoga to be with the dogs that liked our mats as much as we did.  to stretch and strengthen even when people were walking by.  our practice, i think, was to be together.


our retreat offered us the possibility of being, just being in all our wildness, by the powerful sea.

sometimes i get up early

yesterday, at 3am, ezra asked me to cover her up.  the blankets must have gotten tangled.  she was cold.  i snuggled her back into blankets, rolled over, and checked the clock.  3am.

3am has become this funny time for me.  if i am woken (by myself or someone else) i can’t seem to fall back asleep!  my mind is full.  telling stories.  planning.  fretting.  working stuff out.  i usually stay in bed while this happens.  but yesterday, after an hour of mind play, i decided to get up.

i rolled out my yoga mat at 4am.  it was a miracle!  i never get up and do yoga.  unless i’m teaching.  i wake up at 5:30am almost everyday.  but it’s to make green juice for folks and get the kids ready for school or go to the farmer’s market.  there have been very rare moments when the girls are with their father that i have done some yoga.  but not like this.  this yoga was more free from self-judgment than i’ve experienced in a long time.  maybe it’s because of the auspicious hour?  maybe it’s because of the week of morning yoga i had taught the week before? or maybe it’s because of what i said before bed?

i twirled my wrists and flicked my fingers.  i laughed and i watched years of yoga teaching roll over me.  all the phases i have been thru.  all the movements i haven’t taught in a while.  poses i love.  poses i don’t.  i was compassionate and funny with myself in a way i usually reserve for others.

yoga photos by ally 026i luxuriated in twisting.  breathed into spots where something has been holding for a long time.  i tried not to push too hard.  i tried not to try.  the holding and stiff spots didn’t disappeared.  i just noticed them.  and breathed.

it was one of those moments.  a more clear than foggy moment.  a rare self kindness hour.

yoga photos by ally 035i am no longer dreading waking at 3am. although i’m not setting the alarm for that hour!  but if i do wake and find i really can’t go back to sleep i might get up and roll my mat out again and see what happens.

before i went to bed i had curled myself up into a ball and i had promised myself that i would take care of me.  that i would love me no matter what.  you see i had been feeling sick for weeks.  tired.  scared of i don’t know what exactly.  scared of death.  scared of failure.  sickness being a failure (in my stories!)  and so i promised to myself again, like a little wedding, to honour myself no matter what.  with or without the yoga.  with or without the cold or flu.  healthy or not.  i was going to remember to keep loving me.  it’s a good promise.  and it’s so strong and deep it’s ok if i break it or i forget!  probably a little something like god.

yoga photos by ally 032

all photos by ally

the joy of going away: my first raw food yoga retreat in barbados.

maybe i could begin in the middle.  with the bats.  because they find me wherever i go.  imagine yourself lying by the ocean at sun set.  it is still very warm.  and you are doing yoga.  i am teaching you.  we are stretching our legs as the sky turns a deep pink and the bats begin to fly overhead.

i turned to sue and asked “are those bats?”  she wasn’t sure.  sue has been my student for almost fifteen years.  and she has been in class with bats before.  she has even, over the years, helped to usher the bats outside.  this time, however, we were outside.  and the bats were dancing above us.   i am wildly scared of bats when they are inside; but i am not so frightened when they are out in the open and free.  besides, the colour of the sky and the sound of the ocean was a great pacifier!i rarely teach or practice yoga outside.  i am almost always in a building:  in the church downtown, at my friend’s studio, or at my house.  teaching outside was so different.  i worried that it would be too distracting, both for myself and my students.  but i hadn’t sought out another option.  so outside it was.  i tried to balance receiving the outside world with moving in to ourselves.  we practiced early in the morning or just before sunset.  we explored the grass by the ocean side, the beach, and paul’s side yard.  all were magnificent.  i often begin my classes with a centering i learned from hart lazer.  receiving what is without pushing away or without holding on.  not an easy practice!  i begin with receiving sound.  outside was the perfect location for this practice.  we allowed our ears to open and receive the sound of ocean waves, of roosters cocking, of dogs barking, and of kids playing.  we opened to the possibility of receiving ourselves fully:  our thoughts, our feelings, our bodies, our breath.  we placed our mats over crab holes, felt the softness of sand beneath our mats, and bowed to the blue of the ocean as we folded deeply into ourselves.

 i saw many things while teaching.  i glimpsed a green monkey, saw the quick movements of a hummingbird, and watched dogs copulating.  i saw a man get naked by his car, watched my students straining in the warrior poses,  and was blessed with sunsets.  the background rich and true to life.

before leaving i was worried about driving on the other side of the road.  i definitely brought that fear with me.  i held the wheel tightly and drove cautiously around the narrow curving roads.  right and left turns became muddled.  rights were to be lefts and lefts were to be rights.  even the indicator was on the other side of the steering wheel.  and (in error) i continuously set the wipers to movement.  it was a testament to how deeply patterned i am.  i am grateful that i could laugh (and received being laughed at)!  i comforted myself with the belief that this switch-a-roo was good for my brain.  the first couple of days i hit the sidewalk a few times.  that was incredibly humbling.  my friend paul, sitting in the front passenger seat, would belt out the word “sidewalk” in his lovely deep bajan voice.  and my friends would laugh heartily from the back of the car.  i could not believe that i was so close to the sidewalk.  but i was!!!!  the wheel rims knocking against the curb was proof!  i was mostly concerned with oncoming traffic.  i wanted to hug the curb.  over the course of the week i learned to find balance (between this side and that) and i gained much confidence in my daily bajan driving adventures.

olivia and sue enjoyed a week of my raw food wares.  we ate incredible local fruits and vegetables. and lots of coconuts!!!!  i think for them (maybe especially for olivia) eating raw food all day was like driving on the other side of the road.  it was unlike their regular at home life.  i think they enjoyed it though for they sat me down and gathered recipes into their journals.  a few times over the course of our week i gave them a “break” from raw and took them to experience some local food:  roti, yam coo coo, cassava, and fish cutters.  there was even one rum punch in there.  all for the sake of balance!

our trip was full of explorations.  of trying new things.  we surfed!  we hiked.  we swam in the salty salty water until our lips puckered and our fingers wizened like children who have stayed in a bath too long.  our skin turned red from so much sun (even before 9:30 in the morning).  we swam with colourful fish and sea turtles.  we took naps.  found shade.  read books.

for me the most beautiful part of this trip was people.  the strangers.  the new friends.  the old friends.  after supper we would tell our stories.  we talked of our children.  and of loss.  we told of our husbands.  we listened to one another.  and opened our hearts.  we laughed and cried at the wildness of this life.  and of our serendipitous coming together.  it was a great gift to spend such time with such incredible people.

and i will do it all over again next year.  and because life is so ever changing.  it will be different.  unique.  and maybe you will come and join me!