Turquoise Barn

An Eco-Conscious, Green-Certified Retreat, Event, & Education Center located in the Catskill Mountains on an Organic farm. Offering group workshops, retreats, outdoor event space....specializing in sustainable Botanical Cuisine, Nature Therapy, and more! An ideal venue for YOUR retreat, wedding, or friends/family gathering. For more information, please visit our website.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Why I love Mexico

"Ocean Street Art"
I recently returned from a visit to Mexico  and would like to share just a few of the oh so many reasons why I truly love Mexico.  Of course this is just a short list and honestly, I found as I was writing, it was very difficult to express the magic, connection, and joy that I feel when I am there.  Traveling in general always facilitates growth and evolution in many ways on many levels.  We can share words and pictures but nothing can truly compare to a first hand experience. Well with that being said, I’m still moving forward and sharing with you why I LOVE Mexico…….

My first experience traveling to Mexico was in the early 90’s.  I visited a small town called Todos Santos.  I immediately fell in love with everything!   The little town mesmerized me with it’s sandy streets, ocean blue waters, and pink bougainvilleas contrasting against brightly colored  turquoise buildings.  What I saw were soft lines and rich colors reflecting the beauty and deep history of the culture -  natural beauty - not contrived or manicured. 

As years went by, I took a few trips back to explore other areas in Mexico; all unique  and exciting in their own way.  

In 1998, I decided to take a year long solo adventure to really get to know the country (and myself).  Of course I wasn’t able to see everything, Mexico is a huge and very diverse country.  However, what I did experience, was life changing and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. 

In most places, when you walk along the streets in Mexico, you can see and feel the deep connection to a history of rich cultural roots and traditions that are incorporated in everyday life. This connection projects a deep vibrant energy that pulls you into the complex tapestry of this beautiful culture.  

The people I met were welcoming, friendly, family oriented, and always seemed to be smiling.  The smell of fresh corn tortillas and burning wood; the sounds of happy children talking & laughing in the streets, music playing, roosters crowing, and dogs barking (yes - the barking dogs were are all part of the experience). 

I remember walking down a cobble stone street in the charming city of San Miguel de Allende and seeing a tiny old man coming down the from the mountains with his donkey and cart selling his wares. The contrast struck me as something very beautiful.  Despite the fact that San Miguel is a somewhat cosmopolitan city, the preservation and authenticity of the culture is still pervasive. Fortunately, this contrast is still common even in some of the most touristy areas of Mexico.  

From Mexico City to remote Mayan villages, colorful, deep rooted tradition can be felt and seen everywhere throughout the country.  When I began traveling, I was surprised to learn that not everyone speaks Spanish; 1.4 million speak Nahuatl, over three quarters of a million speak Yucatan Maya, and about half a million Mixtec.

Vegan Enchiladas
This diversity of course spills over into all aspects of the culture, including food (which of course I have to write about).  When most think of Mexico, the main staples of rice, beans, corn, and chillis first come to mind.  

However, each region has it’s own signature ingredients and style of cuisine.  If you are in a small fishing village along the coast, you will find lighter fare such as ceviche and fish tacos with a variety of salsas made with fresh peppers and fruits.  Inland the foods tend to be heavier as the climates can be cooler.  

Oaxaca for example, is known for it’s cheese, mole sauces, and chocolate delicacies (including an amazing mole); oh and not so heavy but famous - grasshoppers.  That being said - if you prefer a vegetarian or vegan diet it is possible to eat delicious and satisfying foods - sin animals and insects just about anywhere in Mexico. You just need to know how to ask : 


Dining al fresco is standard in many areas of Mexico.  From higher end restaurants and cafes to tiny hand-crafted taco carts, many have outdoor seating and kitchens as well.  

You can find fresh tortillas and delicious drinks made with fresh fruit, herbs, veggies, and rice (horchata) in almost every region. This is definitely something I love; what could be better than finding fresh juices everywhere AND al fresco dining.   

One of my favorite drinks is a blend of fresh pineapple, mango, and chaya (a local wild crafted herb similar to spinach).  Chaya is also used in a number of recipes in the Yucatan.  It not only tastes great but is loaded with vitamins and minerals that surpass spinach.  My second choice would be watermelon juice.  Always be sure to ask sin azucar (no sugar).

The markets (mercados) are generally a mix of food, drinks (prepared, fresh, dried) and artisan wares such as textiles, pottery, jewelry, etc.  Of course each region has it’s own specialty and some of the larger markets have items shipped from all regions of the country.  Shopping at the mercados gives you an opportunity to not only experience a fresh local meal, but also meet the artisans; men and women who are keeping alive the traditions of their region and culture.

Sacred ruins are everywhere throughout Mexico.  To be able to see, touch, (and in some cases climb) the architecture and artwork that has been preserved over the years is yet another avenue to experience and learn more about the rich and complex history of this country. 


Churches are always on the top of my list of places to visit. You can see everything from a large modern cathedral type building filled with a wall of Milagros and candles, to an outdoor church with just a few benches set before a beautiful and always colorful hand made altar.   The combination of the intense silent energy, scents from burning candles, visually mesmerizing iconography, and pure love felt inside these spaces can literally move me to tears.

Besides the churches, I also love the graveyards!  Depending on the region, many of the gravestones are hand decorated altar type tombstones.  In the coastal regions, the graveyards are set along the ocean with amazingly hand decorated altar type tombstones, painted bright colors with personal messages, pictures, and personal items.  Each one as unique as the individuals they are honoring and remembering.

Most people are familiar with Day of the Dead, a celebration to remember family and friends who have passed and to help support them  on their spiritual journey.  These celebrations usually take place in the graveyards, where prayers, music, candy skulls, marigolds and personal belongings are brought to the grave site. It’s one of the most interesting times to visit Mexico. 

Art is everywhere ~ from museums in Mexico City to political street art in tiny fishing villages. Just like food, each region has their own specialty from textiles, pottery, paintingsculpture - creative energy can be felt everywhere.  Historically, again, Mexico has produced some of the greatest art of our times via paintings, sculptures, and architecture.  Two of the most well known modern artists are of course Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo  (and one of my favorites).  I was fortunate enough to visit Frida's home and studio located in Mexico City.  A beautiful experience.  

It is all around and inside of everyone. everywhere.  Perhaps it's because I am more relaxed when traveling in Mexico, but I always feel more connected. White sandy beaches with turquoise colored waters, cenotes, flowers, flowers, and more flowers, mountains, and  lush jungle areas. In many regions, the people are still closely connected to their land.  Even in some cities, it's common to see people picking wild growing herbs, flowers, roots to take home and use for food and medicine.  On my last visit in January I met a man who was harvesting leaves from a plant growing wild near the ocean.  He explained to me that they were taking it home to make tea to help with back pain caused by inflammation. 


Of course there is so much more I can say ~ I love sharing my experiences and the joy I feel when traveling here.  Two years ago, I was able to share my love of Mexico with my son (who by the way is a 5star hotel kind of guy) and we had an amazing time.  During our stay we took a local bus and “talked” with 2 Mayan women dressed in traditional clothing on their way to sell their wares at the market; we spent the night and visited Chichen Itza (one of the 7 wonders of the world);  rented a golf cart and explored Isla Mujeres (Island of Women), visited churches, graveyards, the floating island, and the Ixchel Temple; we went to the beach, snorkeling, restaurants, shopping, and attended a professional soccer game.  

And this year, I am excited to be offering an opportunity to join me on a sensory adventure to Mexico in April 2016 where we will explore an area of the Mayan Riviera and Yucatan Peninsula.  This trip will be similar to the one I took with my son.  Although the itinerary will be slightly different, we will be in the Yucatan Peninsula and Mayan Riviera region of Mexico.  

The trip will be an interesting blend of relaxation and exploration - a combination retreat and tour. Traveling and attending a retreat both facilitate growth and evolution.  All activities are designed to give you an opportunity to expand and develop your own personal development of mind, body and spirit.  For more details and photos feel free to contact me or  visit the Turquoise Barn website or Facebook page.

A note about Safety Concerns:  
I know some people are concerned with safety when considering travel in Mexico.
Mexico is a HUGE country, and just like anywhere else including the U.S., there are certain areas that are more dangerous than others (currently in Mexico these are mostly the border towns and the western part of the country - the opposite side of where we will be).  Please be assured that we will not be near any of these locations. We are only traveling to very SAFE areas geared mainly for tourists. As with anywhere you travel, you just need to use common sense and take standard precautions, i.e. be aware of your surroundings, don't flash valuables around, and don't leave your wallet on the beach (seriously, people do that). 

I have been making numerous trips to Mexico since 1992; including extensive traveling throughout Mexico and Central America for almost 1 year solo as a single woman and I never felt threatened. Last year in 2014, I traveled with my teenage son, a female friend and her teen son.  We traveled to 3 different places by local bus and never felt afraid or uncomfortable. This is the same area that we will be going with our group.  This area is very family oriented and SAFE. I would not risk bring my son or anyone (including myself)  to a high risk area, I’m not that brave ; ) .  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Love Affair with STINGING NETTLES
 Nettles.....Stinging Nettles.....Oh how I love thee…..
let me count the ways and share them with you.

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered -Ralph Waldo Emerson 

(Note:  This is an updated post from 2011 - I added some additional info and pictures but it is basically the same post - thought it was an appropriate time to reshare : ))

Although I’ve known about this plant for many years,  my love affair with Stinging Nettles began after really "experiencing" this amazing plant.   It was actually one of the first “weeds” I discovered over 15 years ago when I first moved onto my property.  Before I knew better, Nettles was a just a scary weed that I would avoid brushing against or weeding without gloves, lest I’d feel the sting and breakout in a rash. 

My very first encounter with Nettles was casual.  

In 1993 I was diagnosed with anemia and a friend recommended I try Nettles tea to bring up my iron levels.  So I bought some from the health food store and began drinking as a tea.   It wasn’t long before I had forgotten all about the Nettles of my past -  until I became pregnant. 
I had read that nettles was a good tonic for pregnancy so I decided to buy some get back to drinking it again.  I also drank red raspberry leaf tea, another tonic recommended for pregnant women.  

Nettles, Red Clover, Mallow

I was excited to discover that I had red raspberry leaves on my property and decided to try and harvest the raspberry leaves myself to make a tea.

However, it was inconceivable to me to even think of harvesting, stinging nettles – ouch! 

For a long while I had read & heard of stories of individuals actually harvesting & eating wild nettles not just for medicinal purposes but for food.  

Really?  I was intriguedWell, it took me awhile but about 7 years ago I decided to FINALLY give it a try.  It had been on my “list of things to do” for a long time.

Honestly, I really wasn’t interested in sautéing or cooking with them since I prefer to eat a diet of mostly raw foods, especially when it comes to greens.  

I had heard of people using them raw in smoothies.  Since I was already drinking green smoothies everyday, this just seemed like the most logical place for me to start.  

And needless to say, stinging nettles & I have become good friends........that's how my love affair began.  

Yes, nettles and I have progressed - our “relationship” has evolved - in fact, I love nettles so much that I no longer need to wear gloves to harvest.  

Just like any relationship, if you are gentle, respectful & kind, you will be repaid with gentleness, respect, and kindness (and in the case of nettles lots of health benefits too) – if not – look out – your gonna get stung!   
 Needless to say, I love the taste and smell of nettles – for some reason it reminds me of green tea but without the caffeine side effects.   In fact, I make a delicious nettles ice cream that tastes like green tea.  (I'll be making this for my upcoming retreat)  

Other ways I love my nettles include: 

Incorporating them into my crackers, cheeses, dips & desserts to add a unique flavor and loads of nutrition. 

Also wonderful both fresh 

and dried as a tea, for infusions, and tonics. 
I use the leaves, stems, & seeds.  

Why Nettles?

Nettles are a great source of Calcium, Manganese, Vitamin A, K, and protein.   Medicinally, Nettles have been used to help with a variety of aliments including (but not limited to) anemia, joint & muscle pain, arthritis, allergies, bladder infections, bronchitis, gout, hives, kidney stones, PMS, dandruff.  

If you are interesting in learning more and experiencing this wonderful herb first hand, we will be harvesting, preparing, and EATING Nettles at our upcoming retreat (along with some other nutrient dense, delicious wild food tonics, elixirs, and botanical cuisine)  For details, click here.  

Here’s a recipe for one of my favorite Nettles Smoothies

Wild Edible Green Smoothie 
We serve this whenever in season at the B&B and during our retreats – besides being high in protein, loaded with vitamins & minerals; it’s also great for cleansing.  Wild edibles are much more nutrient dense than cultivated greens;  you may actually feel a “buzz” of energy after you drink this.  But what about the “stinging” of the nettles?  You can wear gloves to harvest – once blended, the sting will be gone.  And……you may also be wondering about taste…..absolutely wonderful….I refuse to eat or drink anything JUST because it’s “good for you” – no nose holding going on here.  

1-2  cups stinging nettle leaves
½ lambsquarters
1/2 cup kale
2 frozen bananas
1 cup blueberries or 1 cup papaya
1 cup pineapple (optional - for extra sweetness)
½ cup spring water

Blend all ingredients together in a *high speed blender and serve.
Optional: Top w fresh or dried nettle seeds,  bee pollen or cacao nibs 

Note:  When harvesting Nettles, use just the leaves and only harvest BEFORE they begin going to seed. At this point, you can harvest the seeds; use fresh or dried for toppings on salads, smoothies or soups.  

If you do not have access to any of these greens – you can substitute spinach, swiss chard, kale, or collards.

*You can make this in a regular blender, although I prefer using a Vita-Mix 

Caution:  Do not harvest or eat nettles when they begin flowering or going to seed – can cause irritation to the urinary tract.   

NOTE:  The information offered on or blog & website; in our workshops, classes, & retreats, represents the views of the author/presenter.  The views & information offered are intended for informational purposes only and not intended as medical or health advice.  We do not accept any responsibilities for any liabilities resulting from the use of this information.   We recommend consulting with a licensed health professional before using essential oils, herbs or making any changes to your diet, exercise program, or lifestyle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Palo Santo Essential Oil - Exotic, Earthy, Grounding, Intoxicating

For the past few years, I have been hosting a series of Essential Oils Workshops entitled "The Art of Essential Oils".  The topic of Essential Oils is vast, and new research about the benefits of one of Mother Nature's most powerful resources are growing each day.  In addition to become home staples, Essential Oils are now being used in hospitals and clinics around the globe.  

That being said, the oils I use and discuss apply only to high quality, pure, therapeutic grade essential oils. If you are new to using essential oils, please read my previous post "The Art of Essential Oils" for a basic introduction to how essential oils work and why you may want to incorporate them into your everyday life.  I also touch upon a bit of history, the importance of using a quality oil, and where to purchase.  

Palo Santo

Often described as exotic, earthy, spiritual, grounding and intoxicating, Palo Santo is one of my favorite essential oils.  It is also one you may want to consider adding to your "medicine" cabinet  as research is (re)discovering some of the powerful healing properties available from this magical oil.  

Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) is a tree that grows along the coast in South America and is from the same botanical family as Frankincense from the Middle East. Both have numerous healing properties, and in some cases Palo Santo may be may be used as a less costly alternative to Frankincense.    


Palo Santo's properties contribute to a variety of benefits that support the mind, body and spirit.  The list below offers some of the ways this intoxicating oil may be a beneficial addition to your oil collection. (or good reason to get one started!)  

Although mainly considered to be a spiritual oil, Palo Santo offers some amazing healing properties that are currently being researched.*  The essential oil contains a high limonene content (75-76%) making it an excellent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacteria, immune boosting, nervous tension, joint pain, and may inhibit cancer (specifically breast)*. The oil (and smoke from the wood), may also be used as a mosquito and bug repellant.  I am currently using with Frankincense for a nodule that I have on my thyroid.  I'll keep you posted on the results.  I also add to coconut oil or vitamin E oil and apply use on my face as a moisturizer.  

Known for its long history as a spiritual oil (along with frankincense, myhrr, sage), Palo Santo was used by the Incas and still used in a number of Shamanic rituals.  Attributes:  Opens the third eye and crown chakras, deepen meditations and spiritual awakening, cleansing, purification.  Combine with Frankincense to enhance meditations and spiritual quests.  

Most oils from trees including Western Red Cedar, Spruce, Cedarwood, and Frankincense, provide stabilization; grounding both physically and emotionally. Suggested uses: Balancing, grounding, calming, introspection, releasing anger & fear.  


Dogs - fleas & ticks. As with any essential oil - always consult a veterinarian before using on your pets, especially with cats - they are extremely sensitive and even the inhalation can be fatal.  


The name Palo Santo means "holy wood" or "sacred wood".  Primarily recognized as a spiritual oil, Palo Santo was used by the Incas to purify and cleanse the spirit from negative energies and as a powerful medicine. 

Most are probably familiar with the wood pieces from the Palo Santo tree, however, the essential oil is much more concentrated and versatile to use.  Both have a sweet, balsamic and earthy aroma with incense-like overtones, which I find intoxicating!  

The Palo Santo tree lives for 80-90 years.  The essential oil can only be extracted from dead trees and fallen branches that have been left dying on the ground for a minimum of 2 years. The resin is driven into the hardwood when the wood dies and matures, thus developing its unique and powerful chemistry.  The longer the tree is dead, the more powerful the oil. In Ecuador these sacred trees are protected and it is against the law to remove or cut down Palo Santo trees. 

Suggested Usage:

Direct Inhalation:  Place a drop on the palm of your hand, rotate to rub into the center, then inhale with cupped hands. (stay clear of your eyes).

Diffusion:  Straight or blended with Frankincense, Vetiver, Grapefruit or Lemon (any wood or citrus is nice).  Chamomile & lavender added make a nice relaxing blend (for topical as well)

Topical (skin) - Neet on throat chakra, ears, temples, 3rd eye or with a carrier oil - I prefer coconut oil.  I prefer to use neet (without carrier oil), however, always test your skin sensitivity.  Use with carrier oil, purification, lemongrass as a natural insect repellant.

Note:  Pure Palo Santo essential oil has a very concentrated scent ~ I love it ~ but if it feels too strong to you, I would suggest using with a carrier oil and adding a light citrus to lighten. 

If you are interested in learning more or experiencing the magic of essential oils and herbs, join us for one of our upcoming workshops or retreats.  Please visit www.turquoisebarn.com for more information.  

If you are interested in ordering essential oils contact me for more information or you can order here: Oil❤️

Reference Guide for Essential Oils - Connie & Alan Higley
Young Living

**when ingesting essential oils, please use precaution.  There is much controversy on this top and not all oils are considered safe for ingestion.    

NOTE:  The information offered on or blog & website; in our workshops, classes, & retreats, represents the views of the author/presenter.  The views & information offered are intended for informational purposes only and not intended as medical or health advice.  We do not accept any responsibilities for any liabilities resulting from the use of this information.   We recommend consulting with a licensed health professional before using essential oils, herbs or making any changes to your diet, exercise program, or lifestyle.