Flashback: Icelandic Pesto is the Best Thing Ever

Last August, Loren and I drove the Ring Road exploring the wonders of Iceland for 9 days. We enjoyed amazing food (mostly food we cooked on a single burner camping stove at campgrounds and stops along the way) and gazed upon some of the most spectacular features of planet earth. 

The food part was particularly memorable, because I had zero issues eating the baked goods we found at an amazing bakery called Brauð & Co in Reykjavik. Zero stomach cramps or digestive issues, zero discomfort. I’m guessing it has something to do with the strain of wheat they use or a nice, slow leavening … all I know is that we couldn’t get enough of this place for the short two days we spent in Reykjavik before hitting the road. And I certainly enjoyed my consequence-free glutinous vacation.

Icelandic Pesto

Brauð & Co: Baked Goods and Pesto from Heaven 

This bakery was truly a thing to behold: a tiny room that could hold no more than 7 or 8 customers, with 4 bakers and two cashiers behind the counter — and a line down the block. You could smell this place from a block away, following your nose to the long line of Icelanders patiently awaiting baked goods from heaven. 

Icelandic Pesto

They had staggeringly delicious, warm loaves of sourdough bread and the most incredible house-made pesto I’d ever tasted. I have never experienced pesto like this anywhere else, and I LOVED it. On our way to pick up our camper van and hit the Ring Road, we stopped and grabbed a fresh loaf of bread and a container of pesto, so we wouldn’t be without on our road trip. We made some pretty amazing sandwiches using those two ingredients. 

Icelandic Pesto Mission: The Translation

As I slowly grew more and more obsessed with this unfamiliar pesto, I decided that I needed to have the option of eating it forever. To do that, I’d have to find out what was in it. I took a picture of the label (all in Icelandic PestoIcelandic) and made plans to sit with Google Translate once I was stateside and figure out exactly how to replicate it at home. Then I had the chance to ask a couple of Icelandic natives to translate it for me. I wrote down their translations and deleted the picture.

Then I lost the piece of paper. That’s right. TRAGEDY. 

That being said, I do remember a few key ingredients from the translation, so I used those as my jumping of point and combined them with the circumstances of my refrigerator and cupboard to bring you today’s recipe.

The ingredients that I know overlap between my version and theirs are: arugula (which they called rocket), sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and sunflower seeds. Everything else is a guess. And I’d say I made a pretty darn good approximation of what this stuff was all about. I’d love to have a side-by-side comparison, so if anyone is planning a trip to Iceland soon, please stop by Brauð and get yourself some pesto. I’d love to know how mine measures up. And also get a loaf of bread and a cinnamon roll. And then mail them to me. Thanks.

Icelandic Adventures

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say more about our amazing trip in this flashback post — after all, flashing back is all about reliving the glory of a wonderful experience.

icelandic pesto

Highlights (in no particular order):

  • We experienced some of the most majestic natural hot springs on earth, including a hot river. Almost the entire country is geothermally active, and there are areas where water and steam just pour out of the earth. It’s magical.
    Icelandic Pesto
  • I had my first experience using cramp-ons when we hiked the Svínafellsjökull glacier.Icelandic Pesto
  • We saw enough waterfalls and rainbows to satisfy the imagination of every child with magic in her heart.
    Icelandic pesto
  • We did a spontaneous beach clean up while waiting for a cave tour in Snaefellsbaer.Icelandic pesto
  • We got a unique view of Kirkjufell by hopping a fence and taking an unofficial waterfall tour into the mountains at Snæfellsnes.icelandic pestoicelandic pesto
  • We picked wild blueberries with the aid of two locals stocking up for winter (literally filling three giant buckets) at the beginning and end of a beautiful hike that required no trail to find our way.Icelandic pestoicelandic pesto
  • I learned how to drive a stick shift (but not really in a city, and definitely not to parallel park).
  • A tour guide in Reykjavik told us that we were too late to see the puffins, but in fact, we arrived at Black Beach just in time to see pretty much every puffin on earth preparing to leave for the winter. (They were too high up for a good photo without a better camera.) 

You Should Go to Iceland!

All of this, and we barely made it halfway around the country before having to turn back. Iceland is absolutely magnificent (and very tourist-friendly), and there are a lot of ways to stop through if you’re planning a trip with a European destination. We will definitely go back there in the not too distant future. It was just stunningly beautiful — so much so that it was difficult to take it all in. 

So with that, here’s the Icelandic pesto recipe — I recommend using it however you’d use regular pesto, including scrambling into eggs, dipping bread or crackers, stirring into veggies, pasta, or veggie pasta, and even cooking with shrimp or chicken. 

Icelandic Pesto
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  1. 3 cups raw baby arugula
  2. 1/4 cup blanched carrot tops
  3. 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  4. 1/4 cup cashew pieces
  5. 1/4 cup pine nuts
  6. 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
  7. zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
  8. 1/2 cup garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil (split into 1/4 cups) OR 1 clove garlic + EVOO
  1. Place all ingredients (except 1/4 cup EVOO) in food processor and process until a choppy but incorporated mix is achieved. You can decide how chunky you want it to be.
  2. Once ingredients are mixed to your liking, stir in remaining 1/4 cup of EVOO.
  3. And you're ready to serve!
Adapted from Inspired by Brauð & Co Bakery in Reykjavik, Iceland
Adapted from Inspired by Brauð & Co Bakery in Reykjavik, Iceland
Cultivated Wellbeing http://www.tonisicola.com/

Special Edition: Cultivated Wellbeing 2 Year Anniversary!

It’s officially been 2 YEARS since I started Cultivated Wellbeing (CWB), and I have to say, it’s been SUCH a fun ride. I’ve enjoyed pretty-much every minute of the journey so far, and I’m looking ahead at what’s to come in all aspects of my life — personal, professional physical, psychological (well, I guess I’m only looking forward to things that start with a “p”).

A pretty cool side-effect of having a blog in the style of CWB is that it sort of doubles as a virtual scrapbook, chronicling the adventures in the aspects of my life that I’m most eager to write about: those in the kitchen, the great outdoors, the garden, and inside my mind. This project started out as an expression of all the ways I wanted to create and feel personally fulfilled, and over the course of the last two years, I’ve whittled away some of the hobby-style aspects of the blog and focused more deeply on the activities I think would be most useful for others — the lessons I’ve learned and discoveries I’ve made along the way that might benefit someone else. 


I shared this image in my very first CWB post back in 2013. It was taken on a climbing adventure in Pinnacles National Park, and the only proper gear I had for climbing was my harness and shoes. Seeing this — what I’m wearing from head to toe really highlights for me that this was the beginning of an epic adventure in the sport of rock climbing. I barely recognize the person in this picture. She certainly had no idea what was to come!

Progress Report

Over the course of the last two years, I’ve forged relationships with other bloggers through workshops, conferences (like BlogHer), and on the interwebs. These relationships have taught me how to make genuine connections through blogging, how to reach more readers, how to use social media as best I can to get my message out, and ultimately how to create better content for you to read.

I’ve been a guest on radio shows and podcastsfeatured on other blogs and wellness sites, hosted guest bloggers here at CWB, even had a spot on a news show in Milwaukee!

I’ve published three eBooks, one of which was bundled together with masterpieces from some of my peers in the blogosphere in the 2015 Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle.

I’ve forged relationships with companies I believe in and just recently launched a YouTube station dedicated to answering your questions about the Bone Broth Acne Cure.

Oh yeah, and before your very eyes, I cleared 20 years of acne in two weeks with traditionally prepared bone broth. That was a big one. 🙂

The Bone Broth Acne Cure Question and Answer

In the garden

Over the past two years, I’ve built out my garden (even won a competition!) and seen both successes and failures in the front and back yard. I learned that slugs love to get drunk and that peppers and tomatoes prefer the front yard over the back.

I’ve discovered that succulents prefer less sunlight than I thought they did, and that food won’t grow under the shade of a redwood tree.

I’ve set up an indoor seed-sprouting station, been ready to kill my dog over a destroyed green bean crop, and found joy and magic in the surprisingly delicious brassica bean

Above all else, I’ve learned that organic gardening is a humbling endeavor, and that what worked one year might not work the next. In the garden, you will always be surprised (maybe not always pleasantly), and you will inevitably find powdery mildew, aphids, and leaf miners. I’ve learned that nature rules, and there are plenty of variables you can’t control — a lesson that applies on many fronts of life. No matter what you do, or how long you’ve been at it (for me, not all that long), you will always learn something in the garden. I started gardening because I wanted to cultivate my own food, but I’ve ended up cultivating a lot more than that. CWB Garden Spoils (1)

In the kitchen

The CWB kitchen has turned out some pretty fantastic flavors over the last two years, if I might say so myself! Of course, there have been some flops too, which you’ve probably seen if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook. My sad cauliflower pizza crust that crumbled on the plate, the chewiest turkey necks known to man, burning things, under-boiling Dungeness crab … the list goes on and on.

But the gems are in there too! I’m planning to dedicate a whole post to recipe highlights of 2015 at the end of this year, but for now, suffice it to say that if you want to get a bunch of winners all in one package (or three), consider downloading my eBooks! And here are some teasers just because I can’t help myself:

Recipe Round up Sneak Peek!

In the Great Outdoors

The amount of character that has been built entirely out of the perils of climbing and being in the elements could fill a whole book. Granted, we got our van this year, which was HUGE for cold weather camping, but in the end, it’s the adventuring that’s paved the way to a more contemplative and deliberate me. 

Let’s not kid ourselves. Sometimes there’s crying. I’d say that on multi-pitch climbs, there might even often be crying. But I never regret the push. I never regret getting to see the view at the top, struggling with a move I don’t think I can do and then finally pushing through it. Climbing forces you to be in the moment — right there, nowhere else.

It’s not the kind of sport that allows you to check out and move forward mindlessly — there is no multitasking in climbing. You have to be completely in it. And that element of singular focus can really be a challenge for me sometimes. I’m juggling a lot right now in my professional life, and it’s often difficult to turn it off at the day’s end. Climbing forces you to clear your mind and solve the problem in front of you.  And all the while you get to be in some of the most beautiful places on earth.


Brag Over

Ok, so I’ve spent this whole post telling you all the great things life has brought in the last 2 years. Sorry if it was over the top. But the point of this post was to encapsulate this moment in time — this two year mark where I look back to see where I was, look in the mirror to see where I am, and look ahead to see where I’m going. And I’m doing all three things with the utmost gratitude and humility.

This work is fun, but it’s a commitment to making tiny little steps forward. There aren’t a ton of overnight blogging success stories, but sometimes it’s hard to resist comparing myself to others, and wondering if there’s something more I could be doing to get to the next level. A little sense of competition never hurt anyone, but that urge to compare can be intoxicating — and toxic. A lesson I’ve learned across everything I’m doing: in blogging, in business, in gardening, cooking, lifting, and ESPECIALLY climbing, is that nothing good comes from comparing myself to other people. All I can do is see where I was, see where I am, and see where I’m going. 

One of the more treacherous experiences of the last two years -- Cathedral Peak in Tuolomne Meadows. This was a multi-pitch climb that involved altitude sickness, getting lost on the route, and realizing as the sun was setting that two out of three of us had forgotten our headlamps. If it weren't for the patient and generous soloers who topped out with us, we might have had to camp out up there.

One of the more treacherous experiences of the last two years — Cathedral Peak in Tuolomne Meadows. This was a multi-pitch climb that involved altitude sickness, getting lost on the route, and realizing as the sun was setting that two out of three of us had forgotten our headlamps. If it weren’t for the patient and generous group of soloers who topped out with us, we might have had to camp out up there. Sure is pretty though, right?

Spoiler Alert!

I won’t spoil everything I have in my bag of goodies, but there are some exciting things in the works at CWB. In this third year of the blog, I plan to launch some exciting new offerings, write another eBook (more to come on that!), and who knows? maybe there will be some new developments in the CWB kitchen that are worth writing home about!  

Until then, THANK YOU for your support over the last two years (or whenever you started reading)! Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter, for replying to my emails, for taking my surveys and answering my questions, for participating in the comments section, for watching my YouTube channel, and for following me on social. The CWB community is amazing, and as we move into this third year, I plan to call on you more and more to ask for your input as I build the next phase of this project. 

Flashback: Love Muffins (Almond Flour Muffins [RECIPE])

It’s been a couple of months since I did a “flashback” post, so for those of you who haven’t read the previous ones, I’ll quickly explain. Flashback posts are blasts from the pasts — recipes, experiences, time travel from before my blogging days. I post these stories from time to time, usually because they hold some sort of juicy morsel worth sharing with the world. They often involve a special experience in my life, and today’s flashback recipe is no exception — it’s a love story in fact!

Today, we’re transported back in time to spring of 2011, when these little yummies were introduced to me for the very first time…

Loren had just proposed marriage atop Indian Rock in Berkeley. The following morning, my lovely friend Colleen called to ask if we’d planned to go to the farmers’ market (which took place halfway between our respective homes). I said yes (to both questions!), and she asked if she could meet us there.

Upon seeing Loren and me, she held out a plastic freezer bag filled with beautiful home-baked almond flour muffins and yelled, “CONGRATULATIONS, LOVE MUFFINS!!” A huge fan of cheesiness with a healthy appreciation for pun, I laughed and gave her a big hug, just before sampling a muffin on the spot. Pure gloriousness! I couldn’t wait to get the recipe.

And then the truth was revealed. Once the excitement subsided, Colleen said, “I don’t really need much from the farmers’ market. I just wanted to see your ring, so I brought you these muffins as an excuse. Let’s see it!” 

almond flour muffins love muffins

We got married the following summer. Here are a couple of pictures (sans muffins).

almond flour muffins love muffins

A Muffin Was Born

So that’s how the name of these beautiful almond flour muffins came to be — I got engaged, and since they were kind of an engagement gift, they were dubbed “Love Muffins.” And boy oh boy will you love them! My recommendation is to get as creative with these babies as your little heart desires. But first, try them exactly as the recipe suggests. This way you’ll get an idea of just how delicious they are before you start tweaking things.

Then, the next time you make them, play with the details as much as you like without losing the main ingredients that make them a nice, solid muffin (that’s the ingredients with asterisks* next to them in the recipe below, for those of you who were wondering).almond flour muffins love muffins

Some variations could include:

  • skipping the chocolate and adding fresh blueberries
  • doubling the cocoa powder and skipping the dried cherries for a chocolate/chocolate experience
  • switching out the dried cherries for fresh cranberries and adding in some orange extract
  • swapping the cocoa for cinnamon and switching to white chocolate chips, or even skipping them altogether 
  • adding additional nuts and seeds of your choosing for a heartier, more calorie-dense snack

On the Health Front

This muffin works great for breakfast or a snack, but it does have some extra sugar in it. If you’re tracking your sugar, choose the darkest possible chocolate chips for your muffins or skip the chocolate chips altogether. (These chocolate chips from Enjoy Life are my favorite because they’re dark chocolate and soy-free.) (affiliate link) You can also reduce the amount of maple syrup to 1/4 cup to further cut back the sugar.

These muffins are gluten-free and grain-free, decently high-fiber, full of healthy fats and proteins (from the eggs, almonds, and walnuts), and are sweetened with an unrefined, natural sugar source. They’re a perfectly wholesome addition to nearly any diet — plus they’re called Love Muffins, which makes them great for the mind, body, and spirit. 🙂 

Love Muffins
This recipe yields 8 large muffins or 10 medium-sized muffins
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
25 min
  1. 3 eggs*
  2. ½ cup real maple syrup
  3. 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  4. ½ cup unsweetened dried cherries
  5. ½ cup chopped walnuts
  6. ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  7. 1 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  8. 3 cups of almond flour*
  9. ½ tsp baking soda*
  10. ¼ tsp salt*
  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees
  2. Line a muffin tin with baking cups
  3. Combine the almond flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa in a bowl
  4. Combine the cherries, walnuts, chocolate chips, vanilla, maple syrup, and eggs in another bowl
  5. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well
  6. Evenly fill each baking cup with the batter
  7. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes
  1. *ingredients with asterisks should remain the same no matter how you modify the recipe with new or substituted ingredients I suggested in the post.
Adapted from a recipe in the book Grain-Free Gourmet by Jodi Bager and Jenny Lass
Adapted from a recipe in the book Grain-Free Gourmet by Jodi Bager and Jenny Lass
Cultivated Wellbeing http://www.tonisicola.com/

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Flashback: Fancy Dessert Made Easy – Sweet Plantain Custard [RECIPE]

Today’s plantain custard recipe is more of an amalgam than a flashback, although it’s most definitely inspired by a Panamanian adventure. About 4 years ago, Loren and I went on a vacation to Panama. We landed in Panama City and drove across the whole country, stopping along the way in a beach town, a mountain town, and the scariest place I’ve ever been before launching out to the islands of Bocas del Toro — Caribbean paradise. The trip, which we called our “Engage-moon,” lasted two glorious weeks. It was our post-engagement vacation designed and timed to escape as soon as we were engaged in order to curtail the answering of wedding planning questions the second we got engaged. (Believe me, questions were asked that very night until my dad intervened and told me to hang up the phone!) Anyway, I digress.

coconut sweet plantain custard recipe

The view from our first lunch stop in Bocas del Toro

Plantains and Coconuts

Our trip to Panama was fabulous and filled with two things: plantains and coconuts. When we arrived in Bocas Del Toro, the groundskeeper of our BnB brought us freshly shucked coconut. He had skinned and sliced the top off of two coconuts with his machete, and we drank the coconut water before biting right in. It was heaven — and extremely impressive that he didn’t lose a hand in the process.

coconut sweet plantain custard recipe

So good! We were in Coconut Heaven!

coconut sweet plantain custard recipe

Not a soul in site. We had this whole beach to ourselves!

Like most people with functioning taste buds, I love sweet plantains, but what really got me on this trip were the patacones — unripe (green) plantains smashed and fried and heavenly. While today isn’t the day to share that recipe, that day will eventually come — you can count on it (possibly sooner than later because now I’m craving them). Today, however, is a sweet treat featuring very ripe plantains, coconut milk, and (you guessed it) maple syrup. 

>>>Want to read other “Flashback” posts? You can find them HERE.<<<

Second Chances!

To be perfectly honest, this recipe is the result of me buying green plantains with the intention of making patacones, waiting too long, and having to go the sweet route instead. The beauty of the plantain is that you get a second chance! coconut sweet plantain custard recipe

Sweet Plantain Custard
Serves 4
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Prep Time
2 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
12 min
Prep Time
2 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
12 min
  1. 3 egg yolks
  2. 2 very ripe plantains
  3. 1 cup coconut milk + 1 tbs
  4. 2 tbs maple syrup
  5. 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  6. 1/4 tsp REAL salt
  1. Start with the two peeled plantains and 1 tbs coconut milk in the blender
  2. Once the plantains start to loosen up and get mushy, add in the egg yolks
  3. Pulse enough to incorporate all ingredients
  4. In a double boiler, heat 1 cup coconut milk and maple syrup until you achieve a low simmer
  5. Once the coconut milk is warmed, slowly pour it into the blender pitcher, stirring/ whisking, or running the blender on its lowest setting until all ingredients are well-mixed
  6. Pour the whole mixture back into the double boiler and simmer until it thickens, about 10 minutes
  1. Be careful not to overcook this one. The plantains are pretty thick, so if you allow it all to spend too much time on the stove top, you'll end up with something thick and baby-food like, and no one wants that.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://www.tonisicola.com/

Flashback: Cambodian Cooking Class [Recipe]


Angkor Wat

Cambodian Cooking Class – Fish Amok with Morning Glory

We’re back in Southeast Asia for this flashback post featuring a classic Cambodian dish I learned how to make on our honeymoon a few years back. Some of the best parts of our trip were the parts we didn’t plan in advance, and this cooking class was one of those things. 

Loren and I spent a few days in Siem Reap, Cambodia mostly to see Angkor Wat and all the surrounding temples in the Angkor Archeological Park. We had our first Fish Amok with Morning Glory in a tiny open-air restaurant just outside the park, so I had a good idea of how my dish should turn out when I made it in class.

fish amok recipe

in tourist mode at Angkor

Our tour of Angkor was one full day of a 3 day visit, so we found ourselves winging it for our extra time in Cambodia. Of course, we got foot massages every day and spent some time by the pool enjoying cocktails and being silly, but we were thrilled to find a cooking class advertised in the window of a beautiful restaurant on the main drag in downtown Siem Reap.

fish amok recipe

Angkor Palm Cooking Class

Each of us in the intimate cooking class was able to select the dish we wanted to make from a list of menu items. I chose Fish Amok with Morning Glory, Loren chose Sour Soup with Chicken, and we all agreed that the Tapioca and Banana dessert would finish off our meals nicely.

fish amok recipe

cooking action shot

We were presented with photo copies of hand-written recipes and guided through the process by the Head Chef of Angkor Palm Restaurant. Today I’m sharing the Fish Amok with Morning Glory recipe, which I love because it’s an authentic regional food chalk full of vegetables (a feature sometimes hard to find in places where rice is the main staple food). It was so fun to see all the beautiful fresh ingredients and learn from someone who had probably been making this dish his entire life.  

fish amok recipe

the variety of seasonings everyone used for their Cambodian dishes

fish amok recipe

fresh garlic, turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves

fish amok

fresh long beans and red chilis for a dish another student made


Fish Amok
Serves 2
Amok is a national culinary tradition and staple dish in Cambodia. It's served in every restaurant and perfected in every home, and it can be made with fish, beef, or chicken. It's commonly served with morning glory or some other leafy green.
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  1. Chinese cabbage (6 leaves, thinly sliced)
  2. Oyster mushrooms (6 to 8 torn into small pieces)
  3. Large handful spinach (or noni leaves if you can find them) sliced thin
  4. 1 lb catfish cut into 1.5 inch chunks
  5. 8 tbs coconut oil
  6. 6 tbs curry paste*
  7. 1 cup coconut milk
  8. 1 tsp salt
  9. 2 tsp chicken stock
  10. 2 tsp palm sugar
  11. 4 tsp fish sauce
  12. 6 ladles of water
  1. Heat a large skillet and add oil and curry paste
  2. Stir until the curry becomes aromatic then add in the coconut milk, 3 ladles of water, and the fish
  3. Cook 5-7 minutes
  4. Add remaining vegetables and cook about 3 more minutes
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients including 3 more ladles of water
  6. Stir another minute and turn off fire (make sure the fish is cooked through)
  1. *curry paste can either be purchased or made from scratch. Unless you're really ambitious, I recommend simply purchasing a Thai curry paste at your local Whole Foods or Asian super market. It will be the closest to making it yourself. If you would like to make it yourself, the ingredients are (all fresh): galangal, turmeric, yellow ginger, kaffir lime leaves, garlic and lemongrass, blended and refrigerated.
Adapted from Angkor Palm Restaurant, Siem Reap Cambodia
Adapted from Angkor Palm Restaurant, Siem Reap Cambodia
Cultivated Wellbeing http://www.tonisicola.com/

Morning Glory  (aka Water Spinach)

And now for the morning glory recipe. You might be asking yourself what morning glory is. It’s a beautiful leafy green veggie pretty similar to spinach. If you’ve had sautéed leafy greens at a Cambodian, Vietnamese, or Thai restaurant, it very well might have been morning glory. It’s also called water spinach if  you’ve ever seen that on the menu at your favorite Asian restaurant. I love it because it holds up in cooking but still has a delicate grassy flavor completely absent of bitterness. It has fibrous, hollow stems, and this recipe calls for them to be cut and then either smashed with a mallet or crunched in your hands before preparing. 

raw morning glory and catfish for my recipe

raw morning glory and catfish for my recipe

Stir-fried Morning Glory (Water Spinach)
Yields 2
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Cook Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
  1. 1 large bunch morning glory, chopped and smashed
  2. 1 cup chicken stock
  3. 2 tsp palm sugar
  4. 2 tbs oyster sauce
  5. 2 ladles water
  6. 4 tbs coconut oil
  7. 2 cloves garlic
  1. Heat a large pan, then add the oil and garlic
  2. Stir until golden and add morning glory and water
  3. Cook 1 minute and add remaining seasoning
  1. This dish can be enjoyed with a number of main courses with an Asian flare.
Adapted from Angkor Palm Restaurant, Siem Reap Cambodia
Adapted from Angkor Palm Restaurant, Siem Reap Cambodia
Cultivated Wellbeing http://www.tonisicola.com/
I’m planning to share the Tapioca and Banana dessert sometime soon, so stay tuned for that! In the meantime, enjoy this authentic regional cuisine from Cambodia! 


Flashback: Deep Water Soloing in Railay


Two years ago this past July, Loren and I went to Thailand and Cambodia for our honeymoon. We couldn’t wait to get out of town after our much-anticipated wedding day, but most importantly, we couldn’t wait to climb in another country! We did some climbing at Crazy Horse just outside of Chiang Mai, but the last week of the trip included climbing nearly every day in Railay on the giant limestone towers that cordon off the entire peninsula, rendering it completely isolated from the rest of the country. There’s no motorized transportation, just foot traffic. The “island” (as the locals call it) is entirely walkable. Every morning, I’d make breakfast while Loren walked down to the coffee shop for Thai iced coffees. We’d finish our breakfast and head to the rock. 

Railay Breakfast

Loren enjoying a breakfast of shrimp fried rice with an egg on top and fresh mango with homemade coconut sauce. Oh yeah, and that Thai iced coffee right there on the left made every day that much better.

Quick Sidenote:

As you might have already noticed, this is a new kind of post I’m sharing with you today — a “flashback” about something from the past that happened before I started blogging. This particular story involves learning some life lessons while experiencing something extraordinarily scary. It’s also an excuse to share photos of beautiful summer days in Thailand to facilitate some happy daydreaming on this cloudy day. I have a few ideas for this type of post floating around in my mind, so stay tuned for more Flashbacks as I further develop the idea. I hope you enjoy these occasional blasts from the past!

deep water soloing in Thailand

Deep Water Soloing in Railay 

One of those wonderful, sunny mornings, we boarded a small boat with a group of climbers in search of an incredible adventure. Headed out to the ocean where huge rocks jut straight up out of the water, we planned to swim over, climb up, and jump off. This type of climbing deep water soloing involves climbing as high as you can and then jumping into the water (or falling if you are brave enough to push yourself to your max). For those of you non-climbers reading this, “soloing” means climbing without a rope. 

deep water soloing in Railay, Thailand

photo credit: Chris Bechtel

I was scared. 

There’s no rope, and since you’re wet from swimming to the rock itself, no chalk. We were also in borrowed climbing shoes. Sheesh!

Some of my favorite memories in the world are of jumping off of rocks and bouldering back up in Pace Bend Park just outside of Austin, TX when I was in college, but this was an entirely different beast. These rocks were completely vertical (some overhanging) and much, much higher. I had to psyche myself up just to get out of the boat! One woman in our crew was completely unable to pull herself up the rope ladder in order to climb the rock at all, just to give you an idea of what we were getting into. 

deep water soloing in Railay, Thailand

Lucky for me, I have a husband who’s part human, part lizard (that’s him up there!), so after a bit of deliberation, I just sucked it up and followed him up the ladder and onto the rock.

Life Lesson#1: Fear can cloud your judgement and cause you to think less of yourself or your ability. Sometimes it helps to have someone around whom you trust to help push you out of your comfort zone.

Just believing that my brand new husband wouldn’t encourage me to do something he didn’t think I could do was enough to get me out of the boat and up the ladder. I’d been preparing for the climbing portion of our honeymoon for 6 months at that point. That had to count for something! I was still a beginner, but not a bad climber. I just needed to try. That was it. I did it, and it was awesome!

photo credit: Chris Bechtel

photo credit: Chris Bechtel

I drew the line on height before my climbing ability was exhausted, however. See that guy at the very top? He got up there at the beginning of the day and literally refused to jump the whole time. He ended up down climbing a bit and jumping from a lower point — a much more dangerous choice than just jumping. I didn’t want to end up in his shoes, or worse, slip and hurt myself on our honeymoon. 

Deep Water Soloing on Make A Gif

That’s me! (photo credit: Chris Bechtel)

Life Lesson #2: Make a new experience your own and take everything there is to take from it. 

The way I worded that sounds selfish, but that’s really not where I’m going. How I maximized my experience on this amazing trip was defined by me, and I took from that everything I could. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t climb as hard as some other folks on the trip, because I did what I could and I had so much fun doing it. It doesn’t matter that I couldn’t do everything that Loren did; in fact, I’ll never be the climber he is, and that’s fine. It’s not about comparing myself to others or feeling less than because of a difference in skill or fear factor. I literally didn’t stop being scared the whole time I was on the rock, and it was still one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in my life. It was a once in a lifetime adventure that I’ll never forget, because it pushed me outside my comfort zone and forced me to face fear. I showed myself what I could do with wet hands and shoes on a wet rock 30 feet above crashing waves in the Andaman Sea. I’ll take it!

——>Check out my post on facing fear in climbing<——

photo credit: Chris Bechtel

photo credit: Chris Bechtel

At the end of the day, our honeymoon trip will go down as one of the most fantastic travel experiences of my life. We visited ancient temples, rode elephants and bathed them in the river, climbed world class rock, had this amazing soloing adventure off the coast of Railay, watched an MMA fight and fire throwers, and most importantly, we got $6 massages and drank coconut shakes almost every single day of the 21 day trip. 

Oh yeah, and after our deep water soloing day, Loren looked like this.  IMG_1198

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