This week we've invited blogger, entrepreneur and weight loss queen Wendi Dee to participate in our My Way feature. Wendi was raised on a primarily vegetarian diet, but after many years of not paying attention to what she ate, she became nearly 100 lbs over-weight. Around 2005 she embarked on a raw food lifestyle and immediately noticed transformative results. Shortly there after she started the site Pure Jeevan as a way to inspire others to embark on their own transformation. Wendi lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her husband Jim and daughter KDcat.
My Way: Wendi Dee
When Dhrumil asked me if I’d consider doing a My Way article, I was honored. However, I was on my way to the sunny, warm Florida Keys (I currently live in Pittsburgh, PA, which holds an award as one of the least sunny places in the USA). Writing a My Way article about my trip seemed like it would be a bit too much fluff. How many of you would have read beyond the second day when I was simply writing the previous day’s mantra over and over: I love the warm sun, I love the warm sun, I love the warm sun?
Well, guess what? The sun didn’t show up on our first day in Florida. I had made an impulsive decision to pick up in the middle of some major projects and juggled our budget around to make the trip a possibility, all so that I could see the sun and feel its warmth on my skin. Yet, there I was in a chilly, cloudy place. So, it turned out I had more to say than simple praise for sunshine. Here’s a summary of my week away, done My Way…
Our trip officially started on Wednesday, when we (me, husband Jim, and daughter KDcat) drove to Sandusky, OH, to spend a couple of days at an unschool event held at the Kalahari Resort. KDcat is a brilliant, creative, loving young teen who has been given the freedom to explore her world and passions. I have a strong belief that no one needs to be “schooled” or controlled in life, so she’s been given a lot of freedoms that most people don’t experience. When we found out about an event put on for unschoolers, she claimed: “This is my Raw Spirit Festival!” What she meant was that now she’d be in a place surrounded by hundreds of other people just like her—all unschooled—as I was surrounded by others just like me—raw foodists—at the Raw Spirit Festival. I immediately understood what she meant and registered her for the event.
When I made our reservations at the resort, I requested one of their rooms with a full-size refrigerator. I told the manager that I have a very special diet, one that requires me to eat a lot of fresh, refrigerated produce to absorb maximum nutrients, so I’d like an exemption from their rule of a 3-night minimum in order to book the large room with the refrigerator. Sure, he probably assumed I was on some sort of doctor-prescribed medical diet, but I don’t feel like I was being dishonest. This raw food diet has brought me back to life and kept me alive (see my video on YouTube)—there’s no way I’m going to let something like a refrigerator stop me from eating/being healthy. He waived the 3-night minimum and we stayed in an absolutely amazing condo-like room for two nights!
While KDcat enjoyed time with other unschoolers all day and evening on Wednesday, Jim and I formatted some fabulous guest articles for our Pure Jeevan blog. I had requested some inspiring raw success stories to run on the blog while we’d be away, and many amazing individuals took the time to share their stories; the My Raw Story series was a huge hit.
Thursday afternoon I made banana ice cream for KDcat and some of her friends. Later that day I also created some amazing raw food meals to share with some fellow unschool raw food friends who were also staying at the resort. I made tacos, "veggie stir don’t fry," a few different salads, and a banana coconut dessert. Then we all went to a Medieval Ball and danced into the evening.
Friday morning we woke at 4 a.m. so we wouldn’t miss our flight to Florida. We made large green smoothies to fuel us for the morning and kept some bananas easily accessible for later snacking. Once we landed, we picked up a funky-looking red rental car and drove straight to Glaser Organic Farms, where our produce order was waiting. We found out about Glaser Farms by posting an inquiry on Give It To Me Raw, asking where to find organics while visiting Florida. What a great, resourceful community!
Glaser Farms was nice enough to stay open late, so we’d have our groceries for the week while staying down at the Florida Keys. We ordered a few of their veggie patties to eat before leaving, and then arrived in the evening at the beach home we rented in Islamorada. I unpacked all the groceries, checked out all of the rooms, and went to bed so I’d be well rested for my first full day of the warm sunshine I’d been craving.
I woke up feeling a bit chilly, but opened up the sliding glass doors that covered the waterfront side of the home to check out my first Florida morning. There was a cold breeze blowing and I could see the sun trying to shine, but the clouds decided I wasn’t ready for such a drastically bright day after living in sunless Pittsburgh for so long. It wasn’t dreary at all, however. I was still happy to be away, even without the warm sun, and delighted to be without Internet or phone connections for an entire week!
Today we decided to relax a lot, explore the private beach, and drive to Key Largo to find a knife suitable for opening the young coconuts we had purchased from Glaser Farms (at $3 each). The coconuts were huge, but they still had an outer casing and were difficult to open for our smoothie that morning (we succeeded, however, because we wanted to have fresh coconut water!). That was our first time opening a coconut that didn’t have its outer casing already removed, but it’s something we (actually, Jim) got better at as the week progressed.
We are lovingly calling this the Coconut Trip, since we saw coconuts everywhere and they became a large focus for each day--marveling at the fact that everyone had them in their yards but didn’t eat them, spending time opening 2-4 a day, and searching out places to acquire even more of the lovely green, life-filled beauties! We managed to knock one out of a tree on the rental property, KDcat scored some free ones from a neighbor who was trimming his tree and tossing them out, and we found a roadside stand selling them for less than a dollar each!
Our food today consisted of amazing smoothies made with the freshest coconuts, strawberries, oranges, and mangoes we’ve ever had, nori wraps with chopped veggies, and almond pate eaten with veggies.
We went to bed early last night, compared to when we are at home and using the computers late into the evening. It’s amazing how the body quickly falls into a more natural rhythm with sleeping and waking, when we get away from our normal routines. We found ourselves waking to the sunrise. Yes, the sun was shining! I love the warm sun, I love the warm sun, I love the warm sun! ;-)
Today we hung out at the private beach, drank a lot of coconut and fruit smoothies, ate some raw apple pie, watched the beautiful sunset, and KDcat braved the cold water by taking a sunset swim in the Gulf of Mexico.
Today we woke again to the sunrise. What a lovely way to live! We packed enough smoothies and veggies with dip to last us for a day away, and then headed down to Key West. We met Rita Romano, author of Dining in the Raw, to interview her for our blog. We bought some food from her while visiting, but then later also went to check out Help Yourself, a local restaurant serving organic raw foods. The food was so great that we hired a bike taxi to escort us from the famous Mallory Square sunset celebration to eat a late dinner before driving back to our rental home for the evening. While there for our second meal, we interviewed the owner, Charlie Wilson, for our blog.
KDcat fell in love with Key West. It’s a small, creative community with a lot of great energy and friendly people. On top of that, there are stray cats roaming the entire city (and beautiful stray hens/chicks, too)! We visited the beautiful beaches, enjoyed the warm sunshine, window shopped, walked past Hemmingway’s place, and checked out some kite surfers.
Today we checked out some recommendations from Dr. D, who used to run a fasting retreat in the Keys. If you ever visit the Keys, be sure to check out Bahia Honda State Park for some beautiful ocean waves and nice sandy beaches (here we saw some strangely beautiful, alien-like blue bubble creatures that later Dr. D explained were poisonous Portuguese Man o’ Wars!), and then head back to the 7-mile bridge for the evening sunset with some yummy coconut smoothies!
Every day seems to start with a giant coconut and fresh fruit smoothie, and many evenings end with them, too! Today we also ate the dip and food we didn’t eat from yesterday’s trip to Key West. We had some more apple pie, too.
Since this was our last full day here, we decided to hang out at the private beach again, as well as hang out around the house just relaxing. KDcat did some more swimming, while Jim and I waded out a bit but decided it was just too cold to be truly enjoyable. I sat with my face facing the sun, eyes closed, willing my body to absorb as much of the Vitamin D it could. I wasn’t too happy to be leaving, because in doing so I knew it meant I was headed back to the cold, sunless place that I so desperately want to move away from. But, I know things will work out in time, especially since I’m taking action on projects that are moving me forward.
Today we realized we overbought groceries. So, we created some amazing taco salads, smoothies, and a carob dessert, trying to figure out how we’d be able to get all of this produce back home. I decided to dedicate two of our carry on bags to the food, and I packed all the things that didn’t require refrigeration (like nuts, spices, etc.). I bagged up things that needed to stay cold and kept them in the fridge for the evening. In the freezer I kept a bag of ice that I would use to keep the produce chilled for the trip the next day. We packed up all of our clothes, biked a bit, hung out at the local beach some more, and played some more card games (which we’d been playing a lot during the week).
Before going to bed I was tempted to eat even more of the already prepared foods, so that they wouldn’t go to waste, and I stopped myself. What kind of thinking was going on in my head? Why would I eat if I wasn’t hungry? Wasn’t it better to leave some food behind and hope that the cleaning people would eat it? I made a mental note to remind myself that even though I don’t like to be wasteful, I value my health above all else.
We started the day with enormous coconut fruit smoothies, which we also bottled up to drink during the long drive to the airport. During the drive we watched the sunrise and it was absolutely beautiful. While at the airport, since we arrived early, we sat and leisurely ate tacos from the leftovers I had packed. Everything was staying nicely chilled, which made me happy. Before we went through the security check, I dumped the ice from our carry on bag into a trash can and folded the bag up to fill again, once through the security check (to keep things chilled while on the plane trip home).
Our plane was held up in Philadelphia because of severe winds, so we were getting hungry during the flight. We had easily accessible bananas and some dried mulberries. By the time we arrived in Pittsburgh, it was late in the evening and we were all quite hungry. We stopped to buy a soup, bread, and brownie at Panera Bread Company for KDcat on the way home (yep, she’s not completely raw and eats things that drive me crazy sometimes, but it’s her body and her choices—at least I know she’s educated on what those foods are doing to her body). I was so hungry that I ate more than my share of dates and walnuts on the way home, but Jim didn’t complain. There was a feeling of comfort in returning home, even though I’m looking forward to moving away as soon as our home sells.
There’s one thing that I learned during this trip: I refuse to live long-term in a cold climate anymore. I insist on living in an area filled with warm sunshine, a place where I can knock my food out of the trees and feast to my heart's content!