photo-8            juice-14  salmon15

For the last three years, I have done some sort of nutritional fast in the Spring.  The urge usually begins when I am dissatisfied with my weight or lack of energy, and Spring is an obvious time for all things new and rejuvenating. I blogged recently about de-cluttering as a tool for mental clarity. Cleansing the body is even more important from a health standpoint, but it also triggers the urge to make positive changes across the board.

I have tried different fasts over the years.  Once I attempted The Master Cleanse,  a juice fast consisting of lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper.  This proved too hard-core for me and I don’t think I made it two days; the headaches, nausea and hunger were too much for me. Three years ago, my friend Sarah recommended Pamela Serure’s  3 Days to Vitality: Cleanse Your Body, Clear Your Mind, Claim Your Spirit, which prescribes a three-day juice fast. With all fasts, there is recommended prep time and downtime as you gradually eliminate foods from your diet and later re-introduce them. I had some success with this fast, losing some weight and kick-starting some better eating habits. Then two years ago, I read an article in a health magazine which I pretty much bought because Mariska Hargitay was on the cover. In the article, Mariska recommends the book Clean by Alejandro Junger, M.D. Naturally, I bought the book right away, because I adore Marriska and if  she recommends something, it must be great.  And she was right!


The Clean program is a gentle, blended fast consisting of juices, smoothies, raw soups and one meal per day. All ingredients come  from what Junger calls “the elimination list”  in that it omits the most common allergens (wheat, dairy, soy, certain fruits and nuts, some meats) as well as refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol. It really helps to stock your kitchen and prep for this fast by eating from the elimination list for about a week before starting the fast. Eliminating these foods and then re-introducing them is a great way to discover allergies and sensitivities. Some sensitivities and discomfort come from excess mucous in the system. The most common mucous-forming foods are wheat, dairy, refined sugars and red meat.

The Clean fast works for me because of that one mid-day meal. If I have that to look forward to, I am OK. Drinking a lot of water is important, and helps to fill you up. Also, if you find yourself extremely hungry, Junger allows for light snacks of fruit and nuts. Very important is to make sure to have a full twelve-hour period of fasting each day.  That means there should be twelve hours between dinner and breakfast with no snacking in between. According to Junger, eight hours after we eat, a “detox signal” is triggered.  Once  in detox mode,  the digestive system ideally require four hours to get rid of toxins and restore healthy bacteria. This is something I try to remember even when I’m not fasting.

Clean contains recipes for 21 liquid meals (juices, smoothies and soups) and 21 solid meals. A typical day for me would include an Apple, Ginger, Lemon and Spinach Juice for breakfast (pictured at top of page),  Halibut Baked in Parchment with Olives and Thyme for lunch, and Easy Pineapple and Avocado Gazpacho for dinner. I like to use my nice Belleek china or Nicholas Mosse pottery to make my meals special.

halibut  pineapplegazpacho

During this fast, it is important to drink a lot of water daily. The recommendation is at least two quarts. I like to add lemon, lime or cucumber.  There are some supplements that also support the detox process. Fiber helps to enhance elimination.  Natural fiber products such as psyllium husks or flax seeds can be added to smoothies or diluted in water. Two tablespoons of olive oil followed with water and lemon before bed helps with elimination. Probiotic supplements restore good intestinal bacteria and antimicrobials such as concentrated oil of oregano or a clove of garlic each day helps kill bad bacteria. A liver support supplement such as milk thistle is also suggested.


Several books on fasting suggest other great ways to support detox: exercise, at least 7 hours of sleep each night,  deep breathing, skin brushing, saunas, and hot/cold water plunges.  I have incorporated all of these into my fasting schedule,  and have added meditation, journaling, and  making art. During a fast, I get a real good sense of how body and mind work together holistically in everything I do. Last year, I was able to do the Clean program for three full weeks, and after that, I tried to adhere to the diet  for one day every week. This year, I am on Day 12 and am feeling great. Confession: I did not give up coffee this time. Coffee is always the hardest for me to give up, which is probably a sign of how insidious and addictive it is.  I have, however, cut down to a cup or less a day, with almond milk, diluted with water.

Thank you again, Mariska! (oh, and Alejandro Junger, too, I suppose ;^))  I am down five pounds,  and feeling great!  I am hoping to continue eating consciously; slowing down and appreciating each morsel, rather than mindlessly eating leftover scraps of pizza off of my son’s plate or snacking just for the heck of it.  It is incredible how much we eat without thinking about it. I’ve identified some of my poor eating habits such as excessive late night sweets. Maybe it’s the addictive nature of fat and sugar, but for me, one small dish of ice cream doesn’t cut it, and I always find myself going back for more. Now, I keep the twelve hour window in  mind, and if I’m hungry outside of that window, I stick to some almonds and blackberries. It’s amazing how I am not craving the fatty, starchy foods I used to crave. Hopefully, the next time I have a serving of ice cream, I’ll try very hard to enjoy each spoonful, and to wait before going back for more.  I’m sure I will backslide occasionally, and that’s OK. I plan to do the Clean program every Spring. It creates some good habits that last throughout the year.


Piedmont Stairs

trixandbadge stairpiedmont

My sister, Melissa, asked if my friends and I did a Stairway Walk after our huge lunch at Brown Sugar Kitchen a couple of weeks ago. Indeed, we did, although in order to burn the calories ingested that afternoon, we really needed to have done four walks, or else run the course several times, as we saw one fellow doing. We were content, however, to walk and climb at a leisurely pace, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Piedmont.

This particular walk is called Trestle Glen and Piedmont, with a duration 45 minutes,  a distance of 1.4 miles, a difficulty rating of 3 and 370 steps. This is one of the shorter walks in Charles Fleming’s book Secret Stairs East Bay, and begins on the border of Oakland and Piedmont near the intersection of Park Boulevard and Trestle Glen Road. There are Tracie and I, guidebook in hand, ready to go!

Located in the East Bay Hills, the small city of Piedmont is surrounded on all sides by the city of Oakland and is almost exclusively zoned for single-family residential housing. There are lots of gorgeous houses and spectacular views of Oakland, San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay. One of the first houses we came upon had a tree swing in the front yard. Alyssa and I were ready to try it out, but there had been enough egg on Tracie’s face for one day, so we kept going.

swing cherryblossompiedmont

There are some lovely saltillo tile patterns on several sidewalks, some which extend to the adjoining stairs. This is a type of terra-cotta tile that originated in Saltillo, Mexico. We also came across some golden poppy – the state flower of California.

saltyarch  poppies

This was a pleasant walk that I would do again. I could even see myself putting on some running clothes on a cool day, and talking the loop in both directions for exercise.  Well, we’ll see about that.

Egg on My Face


Egg on my face for not blogging for close to two weeks. A simple post about breakfast at Brown Sugar Cafe in West Oakland should have been easy to dash off. But this was no ordinary breakfast. Actually, it was lunch. And there were no eggs.  Unless you count the eggs used in Tanya Holland’s  crisp-on-the-outside-light-as-heavenly-air-on-the-inside  cornmeal waffles with brown sugar butter and apple cider syrup – yes, they are THAT good.  There were probably eggs in the batter Tanya uses to marinate that juicy,  crispy-coated goodness of buttermilk fried chicken that goes so well paired on the fork with a bite of waffle – mmmmm.

Who thought to combine these two foods? I’ve heard a couple of stories, but I like the one about jazz musicians in Harlem famished in the wee hours of the morning after a night of  playing and scatting and finally craving both breakfast and dinner.  Chicken and waffles would sure do the trick.


There must also have been eggs in the bacon cheddar scallion biscuit I felt the need to order, and that was  so ridiculously redundant. At least Tracie had the sense to order a salad, because I was eying the BBQ shrimp and grits. That could possibly have just killed me. Thumbs up for Tracie who is the voice of reason among the three of us. Alyssa is more like me, and ordered a side of mac and cheese. That was awesome, too. And naturally we saved room for dessert. Strawberry rhubarb crisp and sweet potato pie. In the past, I’ve been ambivalent about sweet potato pie. For me, it’s like pumpkin pie, but not as good. I think it’s because every version I’ve had has been kind of gritty. Not so this version! Brown Sugar’s sweet potato pie is smooth and creamy with a delicious buttery crust and topped with fresh whipped cream. The tangy and sweet fruit crisp was also excellent, and inspired Alyssa to make her own version the next day.

ladies!!! desseart

When we arrived at Brown Sugar at about 12: 20 PM on a Wednesday, there was a forty minute wait. Tracie and Alyssa were on Spring break, and I had a little time on my hands, but we wondered about the hordes of other diners waiting for a table.  “Don’t they have jobs?”  Tracie asked.  Well, she asked the wrong person, because I was happy to take a survey to find out. This is the kind of behavior that mortifies Tracie. I think it makes her feel something like this:


Well, from my informal survey, there are enough young software engineers and other hipsters working  from home, plus stay-at-home moms and tourists to keep Brown Sugar pretty packed on a regular basis. I can only imagine how crowded they are on the weekend.

I actually think we may have turned a corner with Tracie so that in the future she might be more accepting of what she affectionately calls my badgerific behavior. One of the diners I approached was a woman who was eating with a gentleman at the counter. They were both older (full heads of grey hair) and dressed very casually so I thought they might be retired.  It turns out the man recently moved to Sacramento from New York, and had heard of the restaurant, even before moving here. The woman lived in San Francisco and volunteered that she was in the neighborhood showing an apartment at 2:00 PM. It so happens, Tracie and Alyssa were considering moving to the East Bay, so I told her that we wanted to come see the place after lunch.


Well the apartment turned out to be gorgeous. It was the second floor of an old Victorian,  with all of the original wood details, renovated with stainless steel appliances, washer and dryer in the unit and this fantastic spiral staircase. The tenants would also have access to a huge, enclosed yard. It seemed to be too good to be true, but it wasn’t. It was just a great find. Unfortunately, the landlord did not allow dogs, and Tracie and Alyssa have a little French bulldog. Alyssa explained that Brooklyn was small and well-behaved. Well, it was a no go. Apparently, the previous residents were  model tenants who would make jam for the landlord. The only reason they were no longer there was that they wanted to get a dog. The landlord was disappointed. She liked Tracie and Alyssa. So Alyssa mentioned again how well-behaved Brooklyn, but the landlord cut in, “Don’t you understand? My last tenants were great! They made me jam! What if they drove by and saw a dog? I’d have egg on my face!”  So much for my badgerific ways resulting in the perfect apartment for my friends. The story didn’t end there, either. The woman had a house she was renovating in San Francisco, and there, she would allow dogs. But in the end that didn’t work out either. I was disappointed  because had it worked out, Tracie might never have had to ask me that question again:

2egg on my face

Scrambled eggs all over my face. What is a girl to do. Goodnight, everybody. Deirdre has left the building.

Secret Stairs in Berkeley


I consider walking and exploring great forms of therapy. I especially enjoy self-guided tours in urban areas,  so when I heard Charles Fleming talking on the radio about his book Secret Stairs East Bay (A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland), I ordered a copy. Each circular walk is calibrated by length, difficulty and duration, and also, the exact number of steps on each walk.  Fleming had previously written a book on hidden stairways in LA where many locals were less than thrilled with urban hikers in their neighborhoods. By contrast, he reports that East Bay residents seemed delighted with explorers taking an interest in their necks of the woods. This tidbit made me happy as I have just recently begun to embrace the East Bay as my home. I moved from Manhattan to San Francisco in 1999 and then to the East Bay in 2004. For most of that time I considered myself a New Yorker spending a little time on the Left Coast. Fourteen years later I am still here with no plans to re-locate, so I think I can start calling myself a Californian. Hmm. Seeing that in writing is unsettling. New York is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and I have never stopped loving it. I suppose I can think of myself as having dual citizenship. There.  That feels better.

I just came across a photo of what appears to be a stairway to the sky in mid-town Manhattan. In fact, this “stairway” is actually private patios and gardens at a residential development called Mercedes House. Next to that photo are some steps near Holy Hill in Berkeley. Those are real and anyone can visit them.

MercedesHouse1      steps

When I lived in New York, I enjoyed many self-guided and  a few guided tours, of which there are plenty. But apart from Washington Heights and areas north of it, you won’t find a lot of stairways in Manhattan, unless you’re inside of a building. (This is part of what makes it such a great walking city). I grew up on the South Shore of Long Island – also very flat. Geologically, Long Island  is the result of  sediment deposits from melting glaciers. Most of the rocky debris formed the North Shore which is what makes it hilly, with stony  beaches. The South Shore comes from the melted “outwash plain” which resulted in all of those white sandy beaches on the Island’s South Shore. Great beaches – no hidden stairways. In the mid-90s I lived in Hong Kong for a few months. Now that’s a city of outdoor stairways! Hong Kong is so steep that several escalators are built into its rocky terrain:


The perfect excuse to crack open the East Bay guide book came with the arrival of my sister Melissa and her wife Jennifer last week. You may recall from previous blog that they were visiting from the East Coast. The delicious lunch at Vik’s Chaat Corner in Berkeley was, in fact, fortification for Walk #6 (Holy Hill): 1.5 hours, 2.6 mi, 244 steps with a difficulty level of 3.  When we finished our lunch, however, it was raining a little, so we did a little shopping while we waited for it to clear up. Then we optimistically headed to Holy Hill – a neighborhood north of UC Berkeley campus characterized by several theological institutions.


We grabbed some good strong coffee from Brewed Awakening, a spacious college study spot, and set out to explore. Jennifer seems happy to be back in her old university ‘hood, and Melissa just seems happy.

holy2 holyhill

In days gone by, Euclid Avenue was home to a streetcar line. Many of the stairways on this walk connected residents to that line. The houses in this area are gorgeous, and the book discusses several individual homes and architects. The Berkeley hills are susceptible to fires, and many homes and apartment buildings in this area were destroyed by fire in 1923. The newer buildings are in keeping with the old architecture, however.

lovelypath  hillct

This delightful walk meanders through a beautiful hillside neighborhood, and is enhanced by Fleming’s historical and architectural descriptions. In addition to the charming stairways, there are several  hidden  paths on this walk. Had it not been for the book, we might have thought we were trespassing as several steps and paths are neatly ensconced between homes. In fact, some of these homes do not face the street, and are only accessible via these steps and paths. If you think you might be wandering into someone’s yard, just look for a street sign to be on the safe side.

We were so pleased with our walk that we decided to try another the next morning. This time, however, my five-year old son was going to be with us so I had to keep this in mind when picking a walk. I ended up selecting the shortest walk in the book – Walk # 7 (Berryman Station).


This 30 minute, 0.8 mi walk with 89 steps and a difficulty rating of 1.5 basically encircles Berkeley’s Live Oak Park.  This was perfect as I didn’t have to worry about streets and cars, and my son could run around and explore on his own a little.  The Berkeley Art Center lies on the perimeter of the park and I made a note to come back and visit.  My son had fun participating on the tour by counting the steps to make certain we were in the right place. Live Oak Park boasts a creek, a few bridges and a picnic area. There is  also a graffiti-covered wall which made me pine for New York. We came upon a plaque about the  Napoleon Byrne House, an 1868 mansion that once stood at this location and was home to “Nappy” Byrne and his family. They  traveled  from Missouri by covered wagon and are said to have been Berkeley’s first African American residents. Farther along on the walk is an interesting remnant –  part of a huge stone chimney which is all that remains of a 1915 residence destroyed by fire. My son liked this out-of-place structure in the middle of the trees and tried to open the big metal doors of what appears to be a working fireplace.

dommierunning       dommieruns

Well, my out-of-town visitors are gone, but my interest in stairway walks has been piqued. There is a soul food restaurant in Oakland that friends and I have been meaning to try, but we are a little nervous about the calories. A perfect solution might by chicken and waffles followed by an Oakland walking tour. Sounds like a good plan ….

Chatting over Chaat


I just spent three lovely days with my sister Melissa and her wife Jennifer who were visiting from the East Coast.  I set aside my collages to play  host, not concerned that I would be without therapeutic activities.  One of my favorite forms of therapy is good eating,  so I was delighted when Jennifer suggested lunch at Vik’s Chaat Corner in Berkeley (

Jennifer had been to Vik’s as a grad student at UC Berkeley years ago.  Back then, it was nothing more than a nondescript warehouse on a commercial stretch of  West Berkeley. Well, much has changed on Fourth Street since the nineties.  Vik’s  moved to a larger, brighter warehouse in the same area which is now dotted with artist studios and “Build it Green Certified” apartments.  The area of Fourth Street a few blocks north is now a high-end shopping district characterized by several good eateries and stores such as Sur La Table, Anthropologie,  Kiehl’s and M.A.C. Cosmetics.  Vik’s  boasts a spacious, colorful dining area with an adjoining market place for all of your Indian cooking needs.


Now that I think about it, I’m a bit surprised that Jennifer  even suggested Indian food  because the two of them  live in Jackson Heights,  Queens -one of the biggest Indian neighborhoods in New York.  On the other hand, they probably wanted to compare good Indian food on the other coast.

Vik’s  is not your run-of-the mill  Indian restaurant with “the best chicken tikka massala” around. In fact, you would not find that on the menu. According to some of our Indian friends, this is the only local restaurant that serves authentic Indian food. Order at the counter from the daily specials, and then wait until your name is called from one of the various open stations. We grabbed a mango and a rose lassi and waited. Here are Jennifer and Melissa, happy because they will be eating soon:


We decided on a Massala Dosa (a huge savory pancake stuffed with potato filling),  Dahi Padpi Chaat (Jennifer’s favorite – made with little dumplings (papdis),  potatoes and garbanzo beans smothered with yogurt and chutney), and Pani Puri,  my favorite, in part because it is so much fun to assemble.  I love puri,  a huge puffed up hollow bread that reminds me of a blowfish. This chaat consists of tiny, individual  puris. You poke a hole in them, fill them with potatoes and garbanzo beans, add a little tamarind chutney, and fill with spiced mint water. You then pop the whole puri in your mouth. Yum! Below you can see Melissa assembling one.

food  stuffing

After quickly devouring these three chaats, we were ready for more. We spied what looked like a colorful little pizza at a neighboring table, and  decided to try that one.  This chaat is called Uttappam and is a rice and lentil pancake topped with tomatoes and onion. I could not even snap a shot before Melissa pulled a piece off.


Vik’s has a large selection of Indian sweets, typically too sweet for my taste. Instead, we went to the grocery area and got a kulfi malai- a simple  Indian ice cream, which just hit the spot.

Holy Cow! Look at all this Clutter!

Several years ago, I read a good book about decluttering. I can’t remember the name or author as I recycled it in the name of decluttering. But it made a lot of sense to me, even getting me into some good routines for a while. I remember separating stuff into (1) Trash (2) Give Away / Donate (3) File / Keep. For a time, everything was put away, or on a path to where it needed to go.

I am a bit of a pack rat – certainly not a candidate for the TV reality show Hoarders, but I am sentimental.  I have a hard time parting with things, especially those linked to a memory.  I have drawers filled with concert ticket stubs, old Christmas cards,  lyrics written on napkins, etc.  Here is an example:


Here we have a broken watch, a tiny bag of buttons, a glue stick, a couple of dried-out calligraphy pens, an old cough drop, some twisted earbuds, a credit card that expired in 1992, a commemorative 9/11 firefighter stamp, a newspaper clipping from one of my sister Melissa’s performances, and Bob-O-Magic’s business card.  Bob used to be the open mic host at  The Hotel Utah, many moons ago.  If I ever need to get a hold of him, I’m sure I can, either through Facebook, LinkedIn, or through one of our many mutual friends – not by digging through drawers searching for a business card containing obsolete information that I’m not going to be able to locate when I need it anyway. Even a sentimental person doesn’t need to keep something like that (although it does remind me of some fun nights at the Utah …… hmm,  maybe I’ll hold on to it for some kind of music collage).

One  of the things I remembered from the decluttering book was that if something is sentimental, bringing up nice or poignant feelings when you come across it, it might be worth holding on to. But if it’s crumpled up in a drawer next to a dusty old cough drop, a couple of paper clips and some old toothpicks, its meaning is not being honored. It should be kept in a special book or folder with similar items, or else be tossed.

I disposed of that decluttering book, thinking I had absorbed everything in it. I had updated my filing systems, put together some scrapbooks, added to my photos albums etc.  Not surprisingly,  a lot of old habits have returned and I have new clutter to deal with.

Recently, I learned of a book called Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. I liked this idea as I had once applied some Feng Shui principles to my surroundings with the help of my friend Kari. Feng shui  is a Chinese system of arranging things in your environment to support a healthy flow of energy. I had forgotten most of the principles I had learned.  (What I did remember was to never leave your bathroom door open, nor leave your purse on the floor, otherwise  your wealth –  current or future – will go right down the drain).


Karen Kingston’s book is starting to get me back on track, and I have recently purged a lot of items. The book also talks about the Feng Shui bagua,  a grid that identifies eight areas of one’s living space and how they correlate to specific parts of one’s life.  I applied this grid to my home, and found that my dining area is the “Knowledge, Wisdom, Self-Improvement”  gua. This revelation delighted me, as it’s from my dining room table that I especially enjoy looking out of the windows on to the bay writing, drawing and collaging.  Since I have been in a very creative place lately,  I wanted to make sure to get the energy flowing properly in this room. I needed it not only decluttered, but also very clean. Apparently,  bad energy accumulates around dirt, so I had to make sure the surfaces and floors were spotless. I admit, it’s not too often that I give the place a really deep cleaning. Over time, it’s even possible to believe that dirt and grime are actually shabby chic stains.

filthyfloor holycow

I’m a little embarassed by this  now, but I didn’t realize that the squares on the left were dirty until I applied a little elbow grease.  Elbow grease and some Holy Cow cleaner! My friend Christine turned me on to Holy Cow. As you can see, it works great.  My husband even used it on the floor mats of the car, and that worked well, too.  Holy Cow also gets points for being non-toxic and cruelty free. No need to wear a mask and lock your pet in the bedroom while using this stuff.

I like to go into Spring with organized,  clean surroundings. If cleanliness is really next to Godliness, and if I arrange things so that energy flows freely, perhaps God’s spirit will  flow through me in a way that continues to be creative and productive.

Second Collage


I am NOT a morning person, but recently I’ve been getting up early, prompted to do something productive:  write, meditate, draw,  exercise …  Highly unusual, but good, I suppose. Who knows,  perhaps I’m finally  developing some healthy new habits!

This morning I woke up before dawn,  thinking I wanted to blog about a recent workshop (on the use of digital film making  as a healing tool, particularly for people in the hospital). But when I looked out the window at the grey morning, I was motivated to start the second collage for my  Rectangles on the Bay series.

I enjoy taking pictures. They’re not the best quality as they’re just snapped from my iphone.  It’s easy to do, though, and suffices for my purposes,  at least for  now. (Getting a nice camera and using it is on my bucket list). Anyway, I like the reflections and angles in the above photo. It’s several hours after I made the collage, so the light is a lot different, and I took it from a closer vantage point.

Things went pretty smoothly during this collage-making session. No gunky glue sticks. Nothing burst into flames. The only misstep was accidentally dipping one of my  watercolor pencils into my coffee (hey, it was before 7 AM!) And yes, I continued to drink the coffee.

easy mistake

Easy mistake.

I wasn’t planning to use anything but paper and glue for this collage, but a majestic pine tree begged to be included. It was fun using aforementioned watercolor pencils, first to sketch the tree, then wetting them to add painterly effects.  I enjoy working with these pencils as they are much easier to control than paint brushes.

Here is the result, which is nearly finished. As with the first collage, I am planning to include some metal and string to fashion the blind cords and cleat hooks.  I figured that would be a nice way to tie them together.

collage 2