Farm to Table Cooking Class with Amy Pennington

One of my favorite things to do at the Ranch is attend cooking classes at our cooking school, La Cocina Que Canta.  Why, you ask?  Well, let me count the ways.  It’s incredibly beautiful inside the kitchen as well as out on the farm.  The first time I stepped foot into the Cocina during the Organic Breakfast Hike I was impressed by not only how gorgeous it was, but also warm and inviting.  And how it sort of feels like home.  I didn’t want to leave.  Then there’s the six acre organic farm, Rancho Tres Estrellas, which right now is blooming head to toe with flowers.  So, that being said, you can start to see why I love coming to the Cocina.  And I haven’t even gotten to the food yet.

If you can while you’re here, attend one of the cooking classes.  In some ways it’s a life changing experience even though it’s only about three hours.  There’s a lot that goes on!  First you learn from not only our amazing chef, Denise Roa, but also our guests chefs who come to share their stories and their approach to cooking.  Then comes the tour of the gardens where you’ll be able to pick vegetables for the recipes you’ll be cooking and then of course, is the actual cooking.  However, what makes each class so special is truly working together as a group to make a spectacular meal and sharing it together.  It’s really hard to describe how unique that is until you’ve actually done it.  By the time you leave class, you’ll all feel like old friends.

This class was no exception.  The ride back to the Ranch afterwards was filled with laughter and stories from people who had first met just a couple of hours earlier.  A lively group I must say!  And of course there was the food.  Amy, whose background specializes in urban farming (she has an amazing website by the way) came up with a menu that honestly, I would eat every day.  Completely up my ally.  Veggie heavy recipes that taste delicious and are super healthy.  My favorites were the Lettuce Bowls with Shrimp, the Sweet Potato Salad, the Sautéed Escarole, well actually, pretty much everything on the menu!


Lettuce Bowls with Clove Pickled Beets and Grilled Shrimp

Herbal Minestrone- Stock, Bean, Zucchini and a Handful of Herbs

Panzanella with Crushed Tomato and Pickled Red Onion

Barley + Sweet Potato Salad

Grated Cumin Carrots and Raisins

Sautéed Escarole with Smashed Garlic

Orange Slices with Orange Flower Water and Pistachios

Stay tuned for recipes we’ll be posting soon from the class!

Don’t forget about our Culinary Week, La Fiesta De La Cocina Que Canta with Deborah Madison, John Ash, Marie Simmons and Nani Steele!  September 28-October 5th!  Book by August 1, 2013, limited space available.

Dreams and Relationships with Veronica Tonay

Every time Veronica Tonay comes to the Ranch to speak about dreams, I have to go.  You see, I’m one of those people who has really vivid dreams.  Almost like I’m living a different life.  There have been times where I can’t remember if a conversation I had with someone happened in reality or in a dream.  I consider myself lucky to have such active dreams.  It used to be that my dreams exhausted me.  I would have so many in one night and they would seem so real, it felt like I wasn’t getting any sleep at all some nights!  Thankfully, I’ve learned how to curb that (thanks to some advice from Veronica) so now I can enjoy my dreams and get a good night’s sleep too.

The class I went to a couple of weeks ago was about dreams and relationships.  I was really excited about this one because my relationships are a huge part of my dreams.  They sometimes even affect my every day life!  You know how sometimes you wake up after a particularly vivid dream that had bad vibes (or good vibes for that matter) and you can’t get it out of your head?  It’s a strange phenomenon because we know it’s not real, however, sometimes dreams affect us like they are reality.  I could go on and on about dreams, they fascinate me.

What I found so interesting about Veronica’s class is often when we’re dreaming and we come across a really strong personality that seems scary or intrusive, it’s a way our subconscious lets us know that this is something we need to work on within us, often not in the other person.  For instance, dreams where we are being chased usually means that there is something in our consciousness which we find threatening.  Often those are our own thoughts that we create.  If you begin to write down your dreams in the morning, you may start to see a pattern which can help you resolve issues you might be having in your every day life.  Watch the pattern of interactions and watch how you respond if someone is being negative to you.  This may give you some insight into how you react to things.

If you’re interested in the dream world I highly recommend attending one of Veronica’s classes next time she’s here the week of September 7, 2013.  In the meantime, you can check out her book and articles at

Yoga Backbend Workshop with Hazel

hazelI’ve been coming to the ranch for almost a year now and surprisingly I have never taken one of Hazel’s classes before. Not because I didn’t want to, but we always seem to be here on different days. Anyway, I need to get with be program because she was great!

The class was more of a workshop on yoga backbends, something that I’ve been struggling with (we’ll get to that later), but it surprised me in many different ways. First I’ve always thought of backbends as the wheel pose, but actually there are a lot of many gentle ways to stretch the back.

With the help of the blocks there are options for those of us that may not have flexibility on our side.  For example the “supported fish” where you place one block under your upper back and another under your head and let your arms flow back which is an amazing stretch.  The next was the “supported backbend” with the block under your sacrum (between your tailbone and waist) which felt equally amazing (“like heaven” is what one person said in class). You can build up the intensity by adding another block to add more height.

Lastly, it was time for the wheel pose. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about it. I’ve attempted doing it before but number one it scares me and number two, I always feel like it hurts the middle of my back. Well, I learned a big lesson from Hazel. If you’re having any sort of pain in your back while you’re doing it, don’t push yourself. Focus on the beginner steps of squeezing your legs together as if there is a block in between them.  You will also need to increase flexibility in your shoulders and upper arms which I think is my problem.  Without the flexibility, it’s really hard for your arms to be able to support your upper body.  So now I know why I’ve always had trouble with backbends!  But my goal is to do it, so I’m currently working on creating more flexibility in my shoulders. I’ll keep you all posted on when I finally get it down!

Yoga for Every B.O.D.Y. with Shayne and River Morgan

River_and_ShayneMore and more, yoga is becoming a part of my life.  I’m realizing that yoga is much more than exercise, it flows into many other areas of my daily existence, and overall, it just makes me feel so good! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend Shane and River’s class last fall when they were at The Ranch, so I jumped at the opportunity when I saw them on the schedule this time.

I had met River the last time she was at The Ranch during another class and she has beautiful energy and is so sweet and inspirational. Together with her mother, Shayne, they create a class that is warm and inviting. The title says it all.  Their class really is yoga for every body type, and people from beginners to experts can benefit from the exercises in this class. I especially appreciated the shoulder stretch we did with the strap. It provided such release and is really good for those of us who tend to get hunched over using a computer.

I loved that the class focused on gentle yoga stretches that are not difficult to do, but you can still feel the result immensely. That’s my favorite kind of yoga! I’m so looking forward to seeing Shayne and River back at The Ranch!

Yoga For Every B.O.D.Y. will be at the Ranch again November 29, 2014. Don’t miss them!

The Truth About Marriage Today with John Jacobs M.D.

Oh marriage. Sometimes sweet, sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating, sometimes irritating… and always a lot of work. But don’t fret. Work is not necessarily a bad thing and actually when it comes to marriage, working on your relationship is essential. Recently, we had psychiatrist John Jacobs M.D. at the Ranch for a series of classes based on his book, All You Need is Love and Other Lies About Marriage. As someone who is in their first year of marriage, I happily and curiously went to this class! Is our marriage normal? Are the issues we have universal? One thing I learned before I went to this class from my other married friends is there’s no such thing as a perfect marriage or relationship. It just doesn’t exist. There are always issues, small or large. And I think that’s something that all of us married folks (and unmarried for that matter) can relate to.

What I appreciate most about John’s class is his honesty about marriage in recent times. The fact is that today marriage is not essential in the ways it was before. Today, a woman doesn’t have to depend on a man for financial support, and a man doesn’t have to marry a woman based on society’s demands. So where does that leave us? These days, people get married primarily because they love each other (of course there are always other circumstances, but for the most part love is the reason.) Those of us that are married or who have been in long-term relationships know that it takes a lot more than just love to make a relationship work. So how can we make a relationship last when we know that the being “in love” feeling eventually fades? How do we stay connected in a loving way, get past our differences and hopefully create a long-lasting loving partnership?

In the video below you can hear from John himself, speaking about these issues in his interview with our Activities Director, Barry Shingle. John’s knowledge has left me with a few priceless lessons that I believe can be helpful for any marriage or relationship. Enjoy!