Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vegan Retreat Weekend in South Haven

Music: Iron & Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days

This is my longest blog entry yet. But there was a lot to cover. Let’s see if Google lets me post it all or if I have to break it into 2 parts.

It took me about 3 hours to get to South Haven. Except for a woman from Indiana, I believe I came the farthest. What surprised me was that I was one of the few actual vegans there, it was all women (with the exception of Jill Ovnik’s boyfriend), and most of the women were at least ten years older than I was, if not older. Most of them came for a weekend retreat getaway or to learn more about eating healthy though, which is always a good thing.

Jill Ovnik, in the Arundel House gourmet kitchen

I was greeted with an eco-cloth bag filled with free goodies including Dr. McDougall’s soups, an Alternative Baking Co. Chocolate Decadent cookie, sample packets of a non-coffee alternative (made from carob & chicory) called Teeccino (delicious with French Vanilla Silk Soy Creamer--didn’t need Stevia sweetener either), tons of handouts of information on dairy, meat, & health, a DVD called Eating, a chocolate shake mix by Cinch, a DVD talking about an alternative health & eco company called Shaklee, Tom’s of Maine toothpaste samples, etc.! Needless to say, I didn’t have to bring reading material because I had plenty.

I had an entire master suite at the Arundel House to myself! A king-size bed, walk in shower, separate bathtub, 2 closets, & 2 porches/decks! Poor Jim would have loved this but he ran out of vacation time. Next time definitely.

View from my room of the Black River

Gourmet kitchen at Arundel House

The food on Friday night included: High Tea Cucumber Sandwiches for appetizers (with an absolutely delicious vegan Southwestern Ranch Dressing created by LuAnn Bermeo that reminded me of a dill dip I used to buy at the market so I must recreate for my own sandwiches), Sweet Potato Bisque (soup), Tofu-Walnut Balls with a Southwestern BBQ Sauce, Big Green Salad with Garlic-Infused Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar, 2 kinds of taco-layered dips, a One Pot Thai Noodles dish with peas & broccoli, and for dessert: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Chocolate Mousse with raspberries, & Tropical Rice Pudding that Jim would have loved with coconut and pineapple. I have all the recipes & I purchased a 2 cookbook set by the main chef, LuAnn Bermeo, called Amazing Meals I & II. It is a must-have for any vegan or vegetarian.

One of two Taco Layer Dips & the Tofu-Walnut Balls

A sample of both the Chocolate Mousse & the Tropical Rice Pudding

The first speaker that evening, was Evelyn Kissinger whose program was titled, “Building a Better Brain.” She had amazing visuals such as a bottle of Mountain Dew, whose sugar content is 31 grams. She had somebody measure out in teaspoons how much sugar that was and it was staggering. What was also eye-opening to a lot of people was the fact that that bottle of Mountain Dew was 4 servings! “Didn’t know you were supposed to share, did you?!” Kissinger said in her southern drawl. Most people drink one in a sitting, then add a candy bar=more sugar. Yikes. So glad I don’t do that anymore. Kissinger’s point was how what we eat affects our brain as well as how we feel. We’re not as sharp.

She also talked about fiber (soluble vs. insoluble) and carbs (simple & complex). She was really preaching to the choir in my case but I love hearing about things like this because I think, with more information, I will be better able to answer people’s questions about my lifestyle.

The retreat was spread over 3 gorgeous rental houses across the street from Lake Michigan. I was in the main house (Arundel House) so that was convenient but the other 2 houses were just a block or two down the street. All meals were at Arundel in the gorgeous gourmet kitchen (see the pictures), speakers at the Avery, and yoga was at the Green House.

After dinner, Jill Ovnik told her personal story about how she came to be vegan. The gist of it was she had a problem with her relationship with food. A friend (who was older than her) came to visit and looked amazing & it really motivated Jill because it made her upset that someone older than her looked and felt better than her. So began her journey to veganism.

All of the houses are beautifully renovated and worth thousands of dollars. I think the Arundel House (about 5,000 square feet) rents for $5,400 for a week in the summer, the busiest time of year!

Saturday morning I took yoga in the Green House. Very nice at 7:30am, with the sun shining and meditative music playing.

The Green House

Breakfast choices included: French Toast Royale, Berry Applesauce, Easy Oven Potatoes, 5 Grain Cereal in Crock Pot (with dates, nuts, dried & fresh fruit), Amaranth (lots of people commented how it looked like Malt-o-Meal), LuAnn’s Blueberry Flax Muffins (each with a tablespoon of ground flaxseed), Assorted fresh fruit & morning condiments, & Gingered Melon. I had the 5 Grain Cereal since that’s what I usually enjoy for breakfast. I added fresh blueberries, raspberries, & strawberries to it. Because of the dates, it did not need any sweetener. I also ate a Blueberry Muffin but found it a bit too sweet. I think it’s because my taste buds have changed to needing less sweets.

This is the 5 Grain hot cereal with side of fruit & Blueberry Muffin. This inspired me to add more variety in my morning cereal grain choices. I'm going to try amaranth & millet as well as the Bob's Red Mill 5 Grain & 7 Grain Cereals.

The point of the elaborate meal choices was to show non-vegans how one need not feel deprived of good food. I completely agree; if it isn’t good food or good tasting, I won’t eat it. I don’t eat food just because it’s labeled, “vegan.”

Saturday’s programs included: Sherrie Attila & building an “Herbal Medicine Cabinet.” Her enthusiasm was infectious as she told her story as well as how to support your body as it fights illness, from flu to ear infections. She, too, gave free samples of Shaklee herbal products, including one to take at the first sign of illness. Again, I already do this with Vitamin C, Echinacea, Zinc lozenges, & Airborne at the first sign of not feeling well. What was new to me was the fact that Attila raised 3 children & only had to use antibiotics twice (and that was because her two eldest children became ill before she had the knowledge of using herbs to treat illness first). The point was that, if your body isn’t already in good condition, you’re more prone to illness over and over again. Antibiotics are definitely overused in this country but most people are prescribed them anyway, even though antibiotics only fight bacterial infections, not viral (which is what most common illnesses are).

One of the best parts of the weekend was the weather! It was sunny and in the 60s! I walked to the Pier near the lighthouse several times in only my sweater. What a thrill!

On the pier.

Before lunch, there was an eye-opening seminar on using green smoothies to improve your health. The speaker, Susan Milliron, from Toledo, told us how we don’t get enough greens in our daily diets and how making green smoothies helps us achieve that goal. Greens are not vegetables, they are greens, a separate category. Again, she told us her personal history of illness and how she encountered Victoria Boutenko’s books, Green for Life and Green Smoothie Revolution. She made us two sample smoothies, the first with spinach, banana, and frozen mango & pineapple, the second with parsley, blueberries, & banana. She also added 1/2 of an avocado to each; this is what keeps the smoothie from foaming! They were both delicious, much to my surprise. While I wouldn’t want to go completely raw, I am thinking of incorporating a few quarts a week of green smoothies to my lifestyle.

Susan Milliron is Mexican like me so I was struck with her smooth, clear skin & eyes (she wears no makeup except lipstick) and shiny black hair. Even her family drinks green smoothies. I checked out Green for Life from the Troy Library as soon as I got home and today I bought some baby spinach, frozen fruit, & bananas to make my first smoothie.

For lunch, we had a Traditional Holiday Meal to demonstrate how you can eat vegan (and healthy) for the holidays: Pretty Baby Spinach Salad w/Grandma Marion’s Secret Salad Dressing, Zesty Pumpkin Soup, Gwen’s Holiday Brussels Sprouts (served gorgeously around a Chicken-Style Tofu Loaf), Mashed Potatoes with Cashew Chicken-Style Gravy, FarmHouse Stuffing (the best I’ve ever had; sorry, Mom!), Three Sisters Succotash (with soy beans), Fresh Cranberry Relish sweetened only with an orange, zest & all, Awesome Autumn Pie (made with a full can of pinto beans, the secret ingredient of moistness) with Maple Glazed Walnuts & Soy Whip. Whew! Of course, I had to sample a bit of everything.

Awesome Autumn Pie

Pretty Baby Spinach Salad

My plate with Big Green Salad, Garlic Bread, & Coleslaw

Succotash, Stuffing, Brussels Sprouts, Chicken-Style Loaf, Zesty Pumpkin Soup, Salad

Chicken-Style Loaf, the turkey alternative, right out of the ovens.

At 3pm, I indulged in a full-body massage with Carol Unites, a lovely woman who gave me a wonderful massage. The only downside was that we could hear a leaf blower the entire time! Sigh. She used plain coconut oil to massage my skin scented with essential lavender oil. This was only my second massage in my life and it was a real treat.

After my massage, I went for another walk to the pier. The wind was whipping but it was warm. It was really refreshing after my massage.

Before dinner, the next speaker was Dr. Kerrie Saunders. I heard Kerrie speak at Troy Library in the summer on “Diet as Disease Prevention.” Here she went even more scientific which I appreciated. She spoke of cravings and food addictions and why we become addicted to certain foods. She spoke how dairy, meat & eggs affect the body, as well as chocolate, cheese, & coffee. I love coffee but went without all weekend (drinking Teeccino instead). It has inspired me to reduce my twice-a-day espresso habit. I also paid for a Bio Impedance Assessment test (done with tiny electrodes placed on my hand & foot) for a report on guidance of how I can take better care of my body. It also got me thinking of how my mother & father (who overuse drugs in my opinion and STILL don’t feel better) might benefit from Kerrie’s services. She works with doctors as part of a health team to get people well who suffer from all sorts of medical problems. She’s very professional, knowledgeable, approachable, and personable. I really enjoyed speaking with her more.

Are you ready for the dinner menu? Big Green Salad again (same as Friday), Polenta Casserole, Tortilla Chip Soup, Stuffed Shells, Lazy Sunday Stew, Jill’s Coleslaw, Make Ahead Garlic Bread, Carrot Cake, & Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. I only ate some salad, the Tortilla Chip Soup, Coleslaw, & Garlic Bread. Oh, yes, & Carrot Cake. I rarely eat this much dessert but I just had to try it!

Tortilla Chip Soup

After dinner, Julianne Downes, a registered dietician and breast cancer survivor (incidentally, I met 3 women during this retreat who had had breast cancer--yikes!), gave a personal story, “Taking Control of Cancer: Diet, Exercise & Spirit.” She was vehement on how she changed her food choices and opted for alternatives to chemotherapy to battle her cancer after her double mastectomy. She said that cancer is out of control in this country and she is angry that all the doctors told her that it didn’t matter what her diet was. That makes me angry; I’ve said it before: if you take a pill it changes something in your body. Doesn’t it make sense that what you put in your mouth for food also has an effect? Duh!

I opted out of Sunday morning yoga and took a walk to the pier instead at 7:30am. I was the only one out there except for 3 fisherman. Awesome! Lake Michigan was calm and the sun was just starting to shine. Bliss.

Breakfast: I ate Swedish Muesli & split a Cinnamon Roll with someone else, but other choices included Egg-y Brunch Casserole (made with tofu), Ambrosia (fruit salad), morning condiments of dates, nuts, dried fruit, berries, bananas, tea, Teeccino, water.

The next speaker was unfortunately placed next since it was a Raw Food Tasting Seminar! It was fascinating, though. She gave us all little folders with recipes (as she did for the Green Smoothies Seminar) & made samples of applesauce, chai tea, pesto & marinara sauces with soaked quinoa noodles, & almond milk. I could see doing this in the summer when you don’t want to use the oven. I already do this with my gazpacho recipes. Great ideas.

Oh, boy. Our last meal was lunch before it ended: Chopped Spinach Salad with Orange Vinaigrette, Quinoa with Green Beans & Ginger Soy Sauce, Oak Street Tempeh Mango Chutney Salad, African Bean Soup, Jolie Gem cookies, & Fudgy Mint Brownies (made with black beans & avocado--yep, that’s right!). You’d never know.

This weekend really inspired me to take care of myself even more (with green smoothies, massage, more recipes, possible consulting with Kerrie Saunders, etc.). It also made me think about possibly moving to the west side of the state, to be by the big water. I met some wonderful people who share my philosophy of good health and it was really nice.

If anyone wants more information, Jill Ovnik will have more retreats in future. Click here for more information. Maybe I'll see you at the next retreat!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your retreat with us! I've always wanted to do one of these and now maybe I will!