How to Get Your Life Back on Track

how to get your life back on track

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It’s the new year and my family and I have a great task at hand. We have strayed from our principles and values and now an epic journey to get our lives back on track is in order. Well, maybe epic is an overstatement, but we certainly have our work cut out for us. And we want to help you get your life back on track just as much as we want to get our lives back on track.

Right now I am on a plane to Ithaca NY, where Rache and I met about 7 years ago, heading to a Zen meditation retreat (called sesshin) that I used to participate in at least twice a year. I am SO happy to be resuming this practice that I reluctantly put on hiatus for 5 years while we raised our kids.

So with committed clarity and intention it is a good time to reflect on where Rache and I were 7 years ago and where we are now. Sometimes, if you find things have gone off the rails, maybe look back at why you have gone astray. Then try to find the positive things you were doing before things started going bad. With a little work and a little guidance, you can get your life back on track. It’s not that hard.

Can you come up with something positive that you are proud of and made you feel good about yourself? Grab hold of that moment and hold it close to your heart. It will help you navigate towards being healthy and loving yourself and your life again.

Healthy Living Gone Astray, and Our Commitment to Get it Back

Over the last few years, inundated in the day to day of raising Iza, who is 5, and Zai, who is 3, and starting a new life in Guatemala and all of the challenges involved in moving to a new country (especially a developing one) we have compromised a lot of our values for convenience and ease. And we are not happy about that.

We both came together in the last few weeks and expressed our trouble with the way we are living and our desire to do better. We suddenly aligned as if by magic or fate and by uniting this way we have set our intention to get our life back on track.

The Beginning of Our Journey

When we first met, I was practicing art and had a side business creating raw food meals and green detoxes for delivery to people that wanted to improve their health. Rache was working for Cornell in the Food and Brand Lab helping to research better ways in which to get healthy food into the hands of students who were not eating well (which in America, is like, all of them).

I was living in a Zen Buddhist center and offering vegan pop up dinners to local folks in Ithaca, NY who loved the vegan lifestyle. She too was mostly vegan and she was practicing yoga along with a diligent exercise routine of running, kayaking and working out in the gym. We were both intent on helping to develop a healthy community and working to assist others interested in getting their lives back on track through healthy eating, meditation and exercise.

But years went by, we moved around a lot, had kids, and ironically we slowly started becoming those people who needed help.

We now (painfully) realize the error of our ways and we have committed ourselves to change. How will we do it? By reengaging Ra’Co Life and wholeheartedly practicing all the values and principles we hold so essential to our lives. Together we can help each other get our lives back on track.

We need to firmly implement these ideals and practices that hopefully will influence how our kids will live the rest of their lives. And we need to create the habits and stick to them so we don’t fall back into old patterns.

This month’s theme at Ra’Co Life is “Getting Our Life Back on Track”, so that is what we are going to do.

How will we do this?

10 Ways We Will Get Our Lives Back on Track

Can you come up with 10 ways to help get your life back on track (which I assume maybe it is if you are reading this)? Rache and I dedicate ourselves to these 10 commitments to start off: (please hold us accountable, we need your help.)

  1. Each of us has gained 10 pounds (Rache and I, not the kids haha) and we commit to shedding that extra weight.
  2. We will embrace our vegetarian and 50% raw (Ra) food diet and 50% cooked (Co) food diet.
  3. We will build our healthy community, both locally and online, and share everything we learn through this website and blog.
  4. We vow to be nicer to each other and find more thoughtful ways of speaking to each other and embracing our differences.
  5. We will volunteer and give to our community, especially those who are in dire need and are struggling just to get by every day.
  6. We will increase our knowledge through reading (ebooks and audio books) and engaging in meaningful discussions and collaborations with those who have knowledge to share.
  7. We will commit ourselves to the practices of mindfulness and meditation so we can be more thoughtful, more compassionate and more empathetic.
  8. We will forgive those that have caused us trouble so we can let go of that baggage that does nothing for us but weigh us down.
  9. We will save money, stay debt free and live minimal and frugal lives.
  10. We will commit dedicated (and digital free!) time to each other every day as a family and engage in meaningful discussions and activities.

There are many more things Rache and I can do to get our lives on track, but these are 10 big ones to start with. As they say here in Guatemala, poco a poco (little by little).

Change Starts Now

We all have within us the ability to change our lives if we desire, no matter how elusive and difficult that change may seem. But there comes a time when the desire to change becomes so powerful and all pervasive that we cannot shake it no matter how bad we want to continue with our old nasty habits.

When this force arises within us we must embrace and use that power while it is the most potent. At this point there is no time to wait. Now is the time for action.

Getting Over Fear and What Holds Us Back

For me, beyond the 10 points of change that I called out above, I commit to building a fire within myself to move my art career forward towards helping others in some way.  And I commit to further develop the passion and ambition to succeed, for myself, for my family and for others. All my life I have struggled with self-doubt, depression and fear that I could never make this work and make a great living from my art.

These things have held me back, and now I know that I have to move beyond these fears, face them, and use them as power to further motivate me toward success. Now is the time, because if it doesn’t develop, then I will have to move on and do something else. And this is not acceptable. I strongly believe I have too much to give and share with the world.

Finding Your Passion

I am extremely lucky to have found my passion early on. What is your passion?

The more I read, the more I come to understand it helps to find and embrace our core motivators and do them.

No matter what stands in the way, we have to go beyond ourselves and dig in deep to move forward and do something we know must do. These needs are within all of us, we just have to get out of our own way, and get on with our life’s work to benefit ourselves and those around us.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”7076″][vc_column_text]Sunrise, a new day at the Ithaca Zen Center.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548029278003{margin-right: 10px !important;margin-left: 10px !important;}”]

Read, Read Read

Many of the books I have been listening to and reading lately speak to our need to find our passion and embrace and nurture that inner desire and to finally begin to do what we were meant to do. There are arguments against this such as written by Cal Newport in So Good They Can’t Ignore You, which I encourage people to read, but I believe finding your passion is a very good way of setting yourself up for a career with which you can support yourself and keep your mind calm and clear, which is the most important thing we can do for ourselves.

Actually, find work that is meaningful and helps people and puts you in service to others. That is truly the best way to find happiness in this world.

These books help me to push forward and finally take action and are relentless in my pursuit to express myself and do my tiny little part to create change in a world that so desperately needs it right now.

Below is a list of 5 books that I am reading right now that may help you find your purpose and take action to create a better life for yourself (or at least a clear mind) if you have the burning need to do so. I am no different than you. I feel like my journey is just beginning.

Let’s do this together and help push each other forward to find our meaning and do our life’s work.

  1. Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins
  2. The Power of Purpose by Les Brown
  3. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
  4. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
  5. Creative Quest by Questlove

The first, “Real Artists Don’t Starve”, is by Jeff Goins, a fantastic and well known motivational writer. Judging from the title, it is obvious why I am reading it. Being an artist that is struggling to sell work and often getting down on myself because of that struggle, I need some strong words to help me keep going and find ways to make this work. 

This book provides the encouragement and some great ideas on how to keep going, stay positive and make my business thrive.

The second is by a very well known motivational speaker named Les Brown. Normally I would not read these types of books as I find they contradict some of my values developed through Zen practice. These motivational books often push the idea of finding and doing whatever it takes to achieve and be successful in order to feel good about yourself. They have the best intentions and are actually great books and writers, But Zen practice, in my view, says that success is not the way to happiness and that there is no lasting happiness to be found outside of our inner being, our deeper true nature.

Zen says we should practice and develop our minds (through meditation) to understand how the universe functions and to realize there is something that exists beyond what we perceive as a separate self.

We must realize that we are not separate from that which exists around us and we have to discover that we are all part of this single universal consciousness.

And the realization of this “true nature” is so far beyond any type of happiness we can achieve through external means. Having had certain moments in meditation that helped me understand this, I know I am absolutely sure this is true.

Nonetheless, I find Les’ words inspiring when I’m feeling down and ready to give up.

Relating to my discussion above on Zen, I always relish the words of Shunryu Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. He explains these concepts far better than I could ever begin to. So if you are curious and want to know more about Zen practice then this book is the place to start.

My life has been in and out of Zen temples and I have practiced meditation for years. But my path, I realized, was to live in the world and have a family and practice this way. And I made the right choice. Family life has helped me see beyond myself (Check out this short article on the challenges of family life) Even so I find myself lacking in certain worldly skills like developing ambition and finding ways to have a successful career and family life. I have to learn to live in this world, as do all of us, and we know that nothing in this world comes easily. 

Another book I want to recommend is by David Goggins and it really gave me a swift kick in the ass and woke me up to some things I have been missing in my life. If you haven’t read this book, it’s outrageously good and pretty much guarantees to inspire motivation and action. Overall, I like what he says about the need to push ourselves and go beyond what we think we are capable of. I prefer to push myself and improve myself little by little rather than a full onslaught on complacency and mediocrity like he does. But either way there are some excellent principles and ideas in this book that are guaranteed to inspire you to move.

Keeping it Together Through Creativity

The last book I want to recommend is by one of my generation’s most creative forces, Questlove. Here is an amazing exploration of what creativity is to him and how he goes about coming up with ideas, making things and expressing himself. There is really no other book like it. 

If you feel like you need to get your life back on track, I highly encourage you to find creative endeavors and start making something, no matter it is. I have been a creative all of my life, and I know that expressing myself has been one of the most important and essential ways to navigate this world when I feel I have gone off course. We are all creative beings, and during hard times making things can be one of the best ways to keep us going. Whether it be music, painting, sewing, carpentry, dance…you name it, your creative hobbies can save you.

Balance and Getting Our Lives Back on Track

Reading is a great way to help get you motivated and on the right track. Making commitments is also essential to help us create change. The next step is to find a way to motivate ourselves that will enable us to develop positive habits and not over commit or under commit to making change.

Enter the balance of Ra’Co Life. (like this short article on our work/life balance) I want to find a way to navigate this life (that often seems so backwards and ridiculous) and balance my actions in a way that enables me to always respect my mind and know that happiness doesn’t exist in the external world, but exists within. This is a challenge all of us must embrace and practice. So in the coming weeks I want to explore how to find this balance and share my discoveries with you. 

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Dry January, Hold the Booze Thank You

Another way we have decided to get our lives back on track here at Ra’Co Life is to put aside the booze for January. Rache and I, along with our many other bad habits, have been leaning on the alcohol too heavily over the last couple of years. Drinking too much is a progressive illness and we have definitely seen it creep up on us over time.

So if you are having the same kind of problem, maybe make an effort to take a month off, really push it through and see what happens. What I have noticed during this alcohol free month is that I am sleeping better and I am far more patient with Iza and Zai when they are acting crazy, which is pretty much all of the time (seems like it, but not really).

Check out what the guys at Dry January are doing to help people get away from their habitual alcohol use.

And please visit this link to to get all kinds of great information on why getting off alcohol can really change your life for the better.

I have to say that being dry for January has really helped me stay motivated and get my life back on track. I’m not sure how Rache is doing with this, I was traveling the first two weeks of the month and she is now off to Vegas for her monthly commute. Judging from photos that popped up in my photo stream, I get the feeling she may have back slid a little! We shall see.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1548020184321{margin-right: 5px !important;margin-left: 5px !important;}”]

In Conclusion

The main thing I want to say with all of this is that I am extremely excited to reengage Ra’Co Life to help facilitate Rache and I coming together and getting motivated to get healthier and make some very important and needed changes in our lives.

And I hope you too are excited about starting off the new year right and taking action like we are to make this a great 2019. Whether you are committing to reading more, drinking less, eating better or just being a nicer calmer person, I truly wish you success in all your healthy endeavors to lead a more balanced life. Ra’Co on![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

This is Our Story: The Story of The Brand Fam

Our story. Individual perspectives.

 I imagine it is about to be something different. This girl I had just met, Rache asked me what she wanted for dinner and it was somewhere around $150.00, which she said, “No problem.” Then, I eventually realized what she had asked for and I couldn’t believe that was what she wanted to spend. It was a complicated experience, mostly because we just hadn’t worked out how to communicate with each other, but it was fun and we had a great time enjoying the process.

It definitely took a long time to cook this meal – I spent the whole day in the kitchen. It is hard making a gourmet Raw Food dinner for two. I remember at one point I was trying to get the top of the bulk Olive Oil container open and so I was using a knife. At some point, the knife tip broke and I couldn’t find it. I assumed that it landed in a corner of the kitchen somewhere under the counter, etc. Turns out it landed in Rache’s salad which she discovered when we were eating. She handled it eloquently seeing as I could have killed my future wife and I was cycling through all the options of how it could have killed her and I was just horrified at my carelessness.

There is a single painting that hung over the dinner table and I got to talk about my process. It was the first time in a while. Jan gave me a chance to talk about it for the first time in a long time. And it was great to have two people there that were so interested in art and food. It was a great experience. I was also really happy to meet someone that was willing to go out of their way to have a special raw food meal and art viewing.

My mom Jan was coming into town and I was totally excited, so I booked a day at the spa and a chance for us to go to Kurt’s for dinner. He was completely confused over the whole experience. I thought I was buying a box and then somewhere he changed it to dinner along the way. He was so flaky and confusing, but I was really excited to have him meet my mom and show her his work. It is so intensely beautiful from what I had seen on Facebook.

We got there a little late and it was dusk. Really gorgeous farmhouse and barn. Every room we went into I got more and more excited about what he was doing there. My kind of person, for sure. My mom seemed a little annoyed that we were so hungry and wandering around so I rushed the visit and we ate. Totally amazing food. We had the best Raw Lasagna, Crispy Fennel Arugula Salad and a sensational smoothie (with bananas, gross!). We gobbled it up, or rather I did. So tasty. I think I finished my plate in under 5 minutes, but I did run into a little shard from the knife and it was quite a bite! I imagined what could have been, but I looked at it as a way to connect together.

Walking upstairs and looked at Kurt’s work which was beautiful and my mom gave her educators / professional opinion. For some, it can be annoying, but Kurt was really patient and seemed to kind of appreciate the conversation.

Afterward, we all went downstairs and we did the dishes (mom and me) since we are helpers and we wanted to do something. Kurt just let us do it, which was a bit strange, but it was fine. He then brought out dessert which was a cashew thing… maybe with orange flavored? Like a custard. It was absolutely insanely rich and good. We shared one and it was wonderful.

We both knew, at that moment, that this was something special. What it was, neither of us knew…. only time would tell.

New York Times Article Review: A Portrait of a Modern Family

Ra'Co Life New York Times Article Review Portrait of a Modern Family

The New York Times, one of the most appreciated publications on the planet, just published an article on the American family. They titled it: Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family. It showcased many of the issues we as families face today by being stretch too thin; the inability to be there for everything you need to be. But they are all choices we make and we all have the ability to shift or adjust to make them differently. The article was not reflective of the entire population, but the comments on the article by the readers really demonstrated a broad spectrum of opinions and life experiences related.

What’s Missing?

What the article didn’t showcase was real opportunities for change for this ‘typical American family.’ The article had very few solutions and a lot of banter about what is not working. It didn’t account for the millennial population of out-of-the-box workplace scenarios and lacked content around alternative lifestyles like communities, expatriate living, or families who have worked out schedules to be home at opposite times to co-parent.

One other element not considered in the article: there is no talk about balancing behaviors like more sleep, a better diet and general health of the people they are showcasing. We find that often the main reasons people are stressed, tired and rushed is due to being overweight, sleep deprived and sickly, unable to function at 100%. Work becomes less productive and life is less enjoyable. All of this can be avoided through preventative health.

Kurt and I know this first hand because we’ve been there. When we first had Iza, we had just gotten two huge contracts. To fit it all in, we stayed up after Iza was asleep… we became sleep deprived and then ate poorly and drank too much to ease the pain. We stopped meditating and stopped exercising. Not only did we feel terrible, but we found that we were spinning and hardly getting any work done. We had strayed too far from our values, so we stopped, reevaluated and initiated a plan which supported our lifestyle.

What we love about this article is that it says what many of us are thinking all the time. It speaks to the realities many families face in the general workplace… the one with no life balance or boundaries.

Fertility: Helping from the Male Side

When it comes to pregnancy and fertility, guys know that back in the day, men had just one job when it came to making babies; let the little men flow and do their thing. But these days things are different. Men and women are having kids later in life and there are studies coming out now that tell us women are not the only ones having to worry about autism and other birth related problems due to the advanced age of the parents. And the older you get, the harder it may be to provide the super sperm you once never even thought about. If you’re young and having trouble getting pregnant, of course there may be some deeper fertility problems going on, but don’t go running to the doctor so fast. Try some of the suggestions we are discussing here.

For the fellas, if you think you are having fertility issues, there are a lot of things you can do to boost your sperm count before engaging in expensive and time consuming fertility treatments. Check it out:

1. If you can handle it stop smoking cigarettes and marijuana and stop drinking. The weed has been known to reduce sperm count in certain studies, cigarette smoking is just pointless and dumb and not good for anything, and over indulging in alcohol has been shown to reduce zinc levels.

2. Eat foods that are high in zinc. Zinc deficiency is known to decrease sperm quality. We always recommend getting your vitamins and minerals from food, but take a high quality supplement if you need to. Here is a list of foods rich in zinc:

  • Seafood, namely oysters. I’m getting crazy hungry just thinking about it because I haven’t had oysters in a long time. Man, I miss them. Also, you will be happy to know that crab and lobster run a close second.
  • Beef and Lamb. I don’t go there but 3-4 times a year, and even then I just don’t feel good about myself. Stick with the plants if you can.
  • Wheat Germ. I don’t go there either because we keep our house gluten free. But it is supposedly good for your sperm. Supposedly contributes to greater ejaculation volume.
  • Spinach. Now we’re talking. Eat it raw, cook it, juice it.
  • Pumpkin and Squash Seeds. More awesomeness, I could eat these all day.
  • Nuts. Love them. Cashews are the highest in zinc and great for making raw food cream sauces and deserts. We love us some cashews.
  • Cacao and Chocolate. Hell yea!
  • Pork and Chicken. Gross.
  • Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Flax seeds. We use them to make delicious raw crackers.

3. Keep em’ cool and loose. Some studies suggest constricting the testicles could affect fertility. A great excuse to not wear tighty whities, if you have mistakenly made that error in the first place. Wear boxers or boxer briefs, that goes without saying, and your lady will love you more anyway. Also, studies have suggested that exposing your little friends to high heat could affect fertility. So no hot tubs for awhile. And don’t put your laptop on your lap; more heat. And while we’re at it, don’t put a cell phone in your front pocket either. Some studies say it can have a negative affect on your sperm.

So no alcohol, no hot tubs, no weed and no cell phones in the pocket. There goes your chance at being a famous rapper. Still want kids? Read on.

4. This goes without saying across the board; keep your weight down and exercise. Thats right up there with not smoking cigarettes.

5. Have sex, a lot, but don’t use WD40 or anything like that for lube. That could be a problem.

6. Eat organic to avoid pesticides, and stay away from toxic solvents and glues. And don’t sniff glue, thats probably bad for sperm.

7. Take supplements.

Okay, so lets get down to the supplements, which is what we have all been waiting for right? Supplements should by no means replace an active healthy diet full of nutrient rich vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains. Some studies have shown that supplements do little to enhance fertility. But other say it can help a lot.  And if you do take the supplements listed below, there will be a three month waiting period while the weak sperm grow into super sperm. Here is what I have found from extensive research and what, I think, has actually worked for me.

  • Zinc – at the top of the list. If you don’t like to eat a lot of the foods we listed above then take a good quality supplement.
  • L-carnitine – in healthy sperm there are high concentrations of the amino acid l-carnitine.  WebMD talks about l-carnitine and male fertility. Also check for more info on l-carnitine.
  • L-arginine – an amino acid that studies say increase sperm count and mobility. Check and for discussions on why l-arginine may be good for your sperm. Because it is mostly found in animal products, the supplement may be needed by vegetarians.
  • Selenium – helps to reduce birth defects and may increase sperm count.
  • Antioxidants – essential in all aspects of health.
  • Omega 3 – in animal studies, Omega 3’s were shown to increase sperm.
  • Vitamin C – high in antioxidants.
  • Folic Acid – combining with zinc may help to increase sperm count much more than just taking one or the other.

So there you have it fellas, lots of great information on building up your little men to do the job they need to do. We love to do everything the natural way first, through a healthy diet consisting of mostly plant-based nutrient-rich whole food, exercise, and by staying calm and stress-free through meditation and yoga. But if you are a healthy individual that lives like us and you find you are having problems with fertility, try the supplements. And if you don’t find that supplements provide results after a few months, go see a doctor. We wish you the best.


Everything in Life is a Practice

In life, it seems everything is a practice, and no matter what decision or choice we are faced with the practice part is the constant:

  • It is a practice to stay and a practice to go when it comes to my career.
  • It is a practice to be a parent, but the practice also to find a different way without children.
  • It is a practice to love someone, and also a practice to live with them every day.
  • It is a practice to work with a client, but it is a practice to not have any clients.
  • It is a practice to have a family and to have family obligations, and a practice to have a family and not be close.

We are definitely in a ‘searching’ phase of our lives. Some of it might be indecision or misdirection, but a big part of it is a balance. We want to achieve the ultimate level of success by giving ourselves both time and dollars. It has seemed like pushing away from all that we know and graduating to a level of thinking that is not widely supported is both good and bad, but either way, any decision we make is a practice.

Our day to day practice has always put experience first instead of responsibility. We often see responsibility as a roadblock to creativity and one that stifles our opportunity to grow, but we have found recently it does not have to be the case. Responsibility can actually act as a set of boundary lines to help push us forward in a directed manner…almost establishing ground rules.

Perhaps a bit esoteric, but in the months and years to come this will be honed in, refined and ultimately a perfected daily practice; we will master our ability to ‘practice’ over time.

Raco-Life-080000-Kurt-at-RhinzijiPhoto taken at Ren Zhi Ji Mount Baldy. Kurt stands near the infamous Roshi.

Kurt practices Zen Buddhism and maintains at least 2 sesshins a year at the Ithaca Zen Center.

The Lake for Lovers…

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]We had a great Valentine’s day as a family… although none of the below happened. Truthfully we are not huge fans of Hallmark Holidays – although with Iza we are finding that it is more and more fun to watch her giggle at the traditions that we have known all our life.

Valentine’s 2016 is a year away, and in light of planning we figured it might be fun to share some of our clever and thoughtful things on the lake. Or maybe some of this will spark a non-Valentines day romantic excursion sometime during the year. We would both agree now is the time to be here. It is calm waters and gorgeous sunrises/sunsets everyday.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Kurt’s mom (Mommalei) sent Iza the cutest Valentine’s package filled with every possible sticker and adorable heart-shaped item you could buy. It was so thoughtful and she adored it. I suppose there is an inherent love for heart-shaped with little girls.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3820″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][vc_text_separator title=”Best Things to Do on Lake Atitlan” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3782″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none” img_size=”500×400″][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3825″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”left” link=””][vc_column_text]La Fortuna is absolutely magical. We live here and we still wanted to spend the night! That has to say something, right? The hotel is expertly designed and appointed, setting the tone of some kind of Bali adventure. It was rated #1 most romantic hotel in Central America and #6 in the world. Worthwhile adventure and trip.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”5px”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3793″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3826″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”left” link=””][vc_empty_space height=”5px”][vc_column_text]Truly the most spectacular views of the lake, Lomas de Tzununa will take your breath away. It is not an easy feat to get to but when you reach the top you know why it was so much work… beauty doesn’t come easy.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”5px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3804″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”3827″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”left” link=””][vc_empty_space height=”5px”][vc_empty_space height=”5px”][vc_column_text]Walking into the entrance of El Artesano feels like we are going back in time to Italy, but with a modern, almost Brooklynesque edge. It far exceeded all our expectations for what a wine & cheese bar should be (in any country and in any place in the world).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Rotator Cuff Issues and Inflammation

Rotator cuff injuries suck.

After I stressed out my rotator cuff 3 years ago from doing yoga too intensely and trying to progress too quickly (not yoga!) I fell off my strength building/maintenance routine, namely lots of push ups, and became super schleppy. I didn’t do what I needed to do to rehab the rotator cuff issue, which was a very bad move. I gained weight, my chest looked like crap and I was just generally not looking or feeling my best. Add in taking care of a baby for the first year….excuses, excuses.

But now I have had enough of that and have made a firm resolve to get it together and get back in shape. The first step is to rehab my rotator cuff. What does this involve and what have I started to do to get my RC back in shape?

1. Acupuncture and Acupressure Point Therapy

I’m a little skeptical about acupuncture. I believe it definitely has its merits when it comes to fertility, and I know it is a great way to relax, similar to a massage. Acupuncture has worked for Rache and I in both of these departments. But the practitioner has to know what they are doing. And I believe this may be an issue behind the efficacy of acupuncture. People are licensed to perform the therapy but still don’t really know enough about what they are doing. Acupuncture is an ancient practice and I believe many practitioners do not  have the same understanding, channels of learning or dedication to the form as they used to (acupuncture school is about 3 years now). Of course there are experienced and knowledgeable alternative health practitioners out there, but I think there are way too many therapists who don’t have enough experience or knowledge to practice effectively. Compare that to the loan debt accumulated to get certified and the pay scale of an acupuncturist (30-70k) and it makes it hard to practice full time to develop the skills as an an alternative health therapist. I do believe the practice is valuable though in some ways and hopefully it will grow in the future as people become more and more skeptical of solely relying on western style medicine, especially these days with the rampant use of prescription drugs. Acupuncture is very controversial and further research is needed for us to better understand the practice.

From my experience with a rotator cuff injury and acupuncture therapy I can’t really say it did a lot for me. So I moved on to other forms of traditional therapy that have been proven effective.

Acupressure, on the other hand, did work for me. A type of massage, acupressure focuses on trigger points of the body to relieve tension and aid healing. For this reason I think it is more effective than acupuncture.

2. Herbs and Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Herbs are another alternative type of therapy used to help heal rotator cuff injuries. Why herbs are considered alternative I have no idea. Herbs in many cases have been proven effective in the treatment of various ailments and illnesses. Currently I am using medicinal doses of turmeric and I have found this type of therapy to be very effective in relieving inflammation and helping to rebuild damaged tissue. The main active ingredient in turmeric is circumin. Circumin is an excellent anti-inflammatory and also an antioxidant. After reading the article  10 Proven Health Effects of Turmeric and Circumin at, I really learned a lot about turmeric and inflammation. Check it out. One of the great things about writing a blog is what I learn while researching a topic. Two important things I learned from this article are:

  • Turmeric actually contains low levels of circumin and it is more beneficial to take a high quality concentrated supplement of circumin. So I will gravitate away from just turmeric capsules to taking the concentrated supplement.
  • Low level inflammation plays a major role in many Western type chronic diseases. (This is why Ra’Co Life is here. To research all of this information and present it to you in a personal and understandable manner.) Wow! totally makes sense considering how bad the standard American diet can be in the cause of inflammation.

Another thing I just learned is that the full effects of circumin are not realized until after a 2 month period of continuous use. This leads me to believe that the most immediately effective therapy for me right now is stretching and the continued use of circumin supplements.

Other herbs and foods that are good for inflammation are:

  • Ginger – We use fresh ginger all of the time for cooking and juicing.
  • Cinnamon – I use cinnamon in my coffee as well as other things for this reason. Check out our post on Guatemalan coffee and how we use cinnamon.
  • Omega 3 Fattty Acids in fish, nuts and chocolate.
  • Black Pepper – adding black pepper is necessary for the absorption of turmeric into the blood stream.
  • Cloves
  • Cayenne and Chili Peppers
  • Pineapple – Pineapple contains bromelain which is said to have inflammatory properties. One of our favorite websites, recommends mixing fresh pineapple juice (juice the core as well) with aloe, ginger and turmeric for a powerful anti-inflammatory morning drink.
  • Basil
  • Chamomile
  • Celery Seeds – great in coleslaw!
  • Parsley
  • Nutmeg
  • Dark Leafy Greens – pretty much good for everything. Eat them up!

3. Stretching

From my short experience I would say that stretching the problem area has been the most effective and immediate form of treatment. After doing some research I have ascertained that these are the most effective stretches for my rotator cuff pain right now, which is in the front part of my shoulder, or the internal rotator cuff.

I’m going to progress slowly and introduce new stretches into my program over the next 6 weeks. Then I will begin exercises to strengthen the muscles around the rotator cuff so I don’t injure it again when I begin to workout.

Here are the 3 stretches I am doing now:


Pull your problem arm behind your head and gently pull down at the elbow with your other arm. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat two more times.


Stretch your problem arm in front of you over, pull over your body and gently press back with your other hand. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 2 more times.


Hold a towel behind you with the problem arm. With the other hand grasp the towel at the top and gently pull upwards. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat two to three times.

4. Strength Building Exercises

As I haven’t started my strength training exercises yet, I will save these for another post. But they are the crucial and final step in rehabbing an injured rotator cuff.

I will keep you posted on my progress.

Hope this helps a little for those who have rotator cuff injuries.





Strong Partners, Art and Life, From the Studio

I’ve been floating around all my life. Into one thing and onto another. That includes jobs, relationships, homes, apartments, countries, states. You name it. I’ve been a construction worker, a pizza boy, a tailor, a carpenter, a raw food chef, a designer, a monk, an unemployed searcher, a writer, a musician. I could go on. Never sure of who I was or what I should be doing. But all along one thing I have always been sure of is that I am an artist. Never being success oriented or driven to conquer the world, I have let it blossom over time and enjoyed the beautiful struggle all along.

Making art is a bitch. An angry one at times. But at other times I can disappear into what I am making and everything seems to make sense. And I know I am good at it and that I love it and that is often enough. It has carried me through many a rough time, (though I often think those rough times were caused by the need to make things). And it has brought me to where I am today.

This is where I am today, check out the view from my studio:


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

From this you can see that I haven’t done too bad for myself. But what is a huge reason I am here? Support from others, my family, friends, but mostly from Rache. She gave me this studio as a gift of faith and love. This place where I am working now used to be a wet, rat infested, dark, useless storage space. Now it is a glorious studio filled with light and fresh air and art. And I am eternally grateful.

My woman is a real strong woman. And she was adamant that the first thing we were going to do when we moved into this isolated and empty home was to rehab the casita on top of the hill and turn it into my studio. We found the contractor, Rache made some material choices and lighting plans and set a budget, and off we went. Less than a week later I had the studio of my dreams.

And believe me when I say that when we moved into our house below, there was pretty much nothing. Nothing in the kitchen, no decent furniture or bedding or towels. No boat (we have no road in or out of here). No tools. Nada. The garden was practically dead (but over time Rache resurrected that also, and now we have all kinds of flowers and vegetables growing everywhere). So you can see where Rache’s priorities were; with her family and making others happy before she made any decisions for own happiness. This is what a strong and dedicated partner can do for someone; help them become what they are supposed to become and grow into what they were always meant to be. I hope I am or can become that strong and dedicated partner as well.

So everyday I wake up with gratitude and awe for the support and confidence that Rache has given me to keep moving forward and do what I am supposed to do; make art and be there for my family. It’s all I need and it’s all I want.

Now it is time to get my ass in gear and create some magnificently great work that will help to support us in all of our current and future plans (we have a lot of them, big dreams and big desires), put food on the table, give Rache the time to be a Mom and pursue the things that she wants to do and provide Iza with the means to survive in a future that looks very bleak for humanity. I have a lot to give back for what has been given to me. Thanks Rache for being that strong partner that I so needed. I am a complete pain in the ass and it takes a hell of a person to deal with me.

Please keep reading our blog and watch how my art unfolds and how The Brand Fams’  business develops. We have a lot of exciting projects to bring into fruition over the next couple of years and a million ideas to share and we hope you can be with us along the way.

More studio shots:






Let us know what you think and what your partner has done for you. We all need stories of inspiration, I hope my story inspires you to give daily gratitude and appreciation for the people in your life that appreciate you, love you and give you strength to keep on keeping on.

Morning Stretches

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Three years ago Kurt injured his rotator cuff doing what most yogi’s do: Overdoing it. He has since seen the error of his ways and with a 30lb toddler to lug around all day he needs his strength and to be limber for those expected moments and the unexpected ones when she leaps into his arms.

This is how he rolls… After his morning Zen practice, Kurt runs through a stretching routine. It is down and dirty, basic and can be done in 20 minutes or less.

  1. BREATHE and follow your Breath the whole way through.
  2. SIT on a chair or the edge of a normal height bed with your FEET GROUNDED on the floor.
  3. BLOOD FLOW: Reach up with your hands, lock them above, drop your head and look up. Repeat up to 5 times in 10 second intervals
  4. RELEASE TENSION: Rest your hands on your thighs. Lean your head to one side and bring that arm up over your head and lightly pull your head towards your elbow. Keep your back straight and your shoulders dropped. Alternate up to 3 times and hold for 5 seconds on each side.
  5. OPEN UP: Cat-Cow is a very popular yoga and gymnastics position and it helps to open up the space through the center of your body. Put your hands under your shoulders, open up your hands into a 5 point star with your fingers forward, keep your knees shoulder width apart with a flat back. Concave your back and look up when you breathe out, breathe in and round your back and look down. Do this 5 times and follow your breathe.
  6. REST: Go into child’s pose. Sit back onto your heals and stretch forward. It is always helpful to have a toddler try to help you.
  7. LENGTHEN: Sit up straight with your feet flexed. Hold this for 15 breathes. Bend forward with your shoulders down and your back flat. You can bend your knees as necessary to get a good stretch. The cheering squad is the best part.
  8. BALANCE: A modified sun salutation into a tree pose is a great way to accomplish two things at once. Bend forward and touch your toes, come up with your hands above you with your fingers stretched out into a 5 point star. Press your fingers together and take them up over your head. Drop one hand grab your ankle and bring it up to the inside of the opposite leg. Bring your hand back up to meet the other hand. Look straight ahead and hold for 15 seconds. Alternate.

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The World Has (Almost) Nothing to Offer You, (except, maybe, ice cream)

Today I am going to put something utterly ridiculous sounding out there. You will scoff, snicker, joke, frown and outright laugh at what I am going to say. And as a human being it is impossible to understand. But deep down, our true self knows it to be true. It is the idea the the world has nothing to offer us (except sustenance). This is a quasi-philosophical Buddhist rant so if your not into that kind of thing then stop reading now. It will just piss you off or you may just form some kind of opinion before you even listen to the idea. In fact, I can see the wheels turning in your head right now, forming opinions, making judgements…yep, I see it! But thats okay because I do the same thing… but with one slight difference; I try to just look at it and know that I am human and that is why I am judging my judgements and forming opinions of my opinions instead of latching on to those judgements and opinions like they are the key to my very existence. Because they absolutely are not.

Every day we form opinions ( stay with me? I will try to stay under 500 words) and judgements about a million petty things. “I like this, I don’t like that”. “That person sucks, but I really like that person”.  On and on we go. Of course we need to make these judgments every day just to keep alive. I don’t like drinking battery acid because 1. It taste bad (we are foodies after all) 2. It will likely kill me. We have to make these decisions. But the problem is, we don’t know when to stop. Like eating ice cream. I know I have to have some ice cream, right now. Eating ice cream is pretty much enlightenment. Especially the raw kind that Ra’Co Life makes. But we don’t have to keep eating it to confirm our existence. We eat a little then move on and forget about it. Imagine going through life constantly thinking about eating ice cream, What a waste of time! When would I find time to look at Instagram or to shop on Amazon? Seriously!

So right now I am going to lay some heavy writing on you from The Third Patriarch of Zen, Seng-ts’an. He was a major dude in the world of Buddhist practice. Major. These words are what he left to the world after he died. So they must have been pretty important to him, right? And the words basically say one thing, “Don’t get all hung up on your opinions and judgements. Don’t attach to them you dummies!” Ok, I paraphrase.

So here are the words. If you get bored (I hang on every word, but he basically says the same thing over and over, I understand), skip to the end of this post so I can bore you some more with what I mean about the world having nothing to offer you (except sustenance). It ties together I promise.


Verses on the Faith Mind
by Chien-chih Seng-ts’an
Third Zen Patriarch [d. 606 AD]

Tr. by Richard B. Clarke
Zen teacher at the Living Dharma Centers, Amherst, Mass.

The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.

When the deep meaning of things is not understood
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.
Be serene in the oneness of things
and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other,
you will never know Oneness.

Those who do not live in the single Way
fail in both activity and passivity,
assertion and denial.
To deny the reality of things is to miss their reality;
to assert the emptiness of things
is to miss their reality.

The more you talk and think about it,
the further astray you wander from the truth.
Stop talking and thinking
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find the meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment,
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for the truth;
only cease to cherish opinions.

Do not remain in the dualistic state;
avoid such pursuits carefully.
If there is even a trace
of this and that, of right and wrong,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities come from the One,
do not be attached even to this One.

When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
nothing in the world can offend,
and when a thing can no longer offend,
it ceases to exist in the old way.

When no discriminating thoughts arise,
the old mind ceases to exist.
When thought objects vanish,
the thinking-subject vanishes,
and when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.

Things are objects because there is a subject or mind;
and the mind is a subject because there are objects.
Understand the relativity of these two
and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole world.
If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.

To live in the Great Way
is neither easy nor difficult.
But those with limited views
are fearful and irresolute;
the faster they hurry, the slower they go.

Clinging cannot be limited;
even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment
is to go astray.
Just let things be in their own way
and there will be neither coming nor going.

Obey the nature of things
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
for everything is murky and unclear.
The burdensome practice of judging
brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived
from distinctions and separations?

If you wish to move in the One Way
do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to accept them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.

The wise man strives to no goals
but the foolish man fetters himself.
There is one Dharma, not many;
distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
To seek Mind with discriminating mind
is the greatest of all mistakes.

Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
They are like dreams of flowers in air:
foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong;
such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.

If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
the ten thousand things
are as they are, of single essence.

To understand the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen equally
the timeless Self-essence is reached.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relationless state.
Consider motion in stillness
and stillness in motion;
both movement and stillness disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate finality
no law or description applies.

For the unified mind in accord with the Way
all self-centered striving ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and life in true faith is possible.

With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating,
with no exertion of the mind’s power.
Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination are of no value.
In this world of Suchness
there is neither self nor other-than-self.

To come directly into harmony with this reality
just simply say when doubt arises, “Not two.”
In this “not two” nothing is separate,
nothing is excluded.
No matter when or where,
enlightenment means entering this truth.
And this truth is beyond extension or diminution in time or space;
in it a single thought is ten thousand years.

Emptiness here, Emptiness there,
but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes.

Infinitely large and infinitely small;
no difference, for definitions have vanished
and no boundaries are seen.
So too with Being and non-Being.
Waste no time in doubts and arguments
that have nothing to do with this.

One thing, all things;
move among and intermingle,
without distinction.
To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about nonperfection.
To live in this faith is the road to nonduality,
because the nondual is one with the trusting mind.

The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is

no yesterday

no tomorrow

no today.

Did you make it through? Magical, right?

So what does this have to do with the idea that the world has nothing to offer you (except sustenance)?

Basically, I think we are all trying to GET something out of our surrounding environment i.e the outside world. We as people are all about acquiring things; comfort, love, respect, money, security…on and on and on. We can never get enough. But the fact of the matter is, everything that we need (except the most basic bodily needs…food, water, shelter) is within us. The light that shines within us is not actually us but something greater than ourselves. And we ALL are this light and we all are connected. Roll your eyes, go ahead. Call me whatever you want. I don’t care and I will not judge you, because, yes, it does sound ridiculous. But it is true. The truth can only be found within ourselves and not outside of ourselves.

Like the Third Patriarch says, by constantly looking outwards of ourselves, forming opinions and judgements about what we see, and attaching to those opinions and judgements, we hold our selves back from the truth.

So look within. It is all there waiting for you.

Oh, and Happy Birthday to my nephew Oscar, you are the coolest. Eat some enlightened ice cream with your cake!



The Proposal

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Today we celebrate 2-years married. Wow! I can’t believe how quick it has gone and how LONG it has felt :). Hard to believe that in that time we have experienced as much as we did.

Funny enough, we got married on the fly at the courthouse on a Friday (very us) and we don’t have a single photo, but that’s what makes it so special. It is really a fabulous story – one for the books. I will share another time, but today I want to make note of our proposal.

Kurt and I had gotten to Northampton, after a very intense week of moving and trying to get things in order. It was mid-June and we had just gotten ‘kicked out’ of my mom’s house as a result of them moving, and truthfully an uninterest in having us around for it. We were a little lost – homeless will do that to you. We kind of needed a plan and we had decided to just rent a place temporarily while we figured it out. The place was in walking distance to town and we had a great time roaming around town, arm in arm. It was great.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vcex_feature_box style=”left-image-right-content” content_width=”50%” media_width=”50%” heading_type=”h2″ image=”2595″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″]There is a corner candy store in Northampton with every kind of vintage and current candy known to man. Kurt and I love candy. For two foodie / health-nuts, I suppose it is what you would call our ‘guilty-pleasure.’ We just love it. Kurt’s favorite are Jelly Belly’s and mine are Swedish Fish and those grapefruit jelly’s with sour flavor on them (which since I can’t have due to their potent gluten-additives). We bought a little bag of each and went across the street to one of the new bars that had just opened. We sat next to each other at a hightop community table and we had scotches and then red wine with our candy. Yum.[/vcex_feature_box][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_column_text]About halfway to drunk, Kurt leaned in, took my hand, wrapped a Swedish Fish around it and said, “Marry me, Rache. I love you.” And there you go. I think there was a lot of laughing and joking into the night, all the way to drunk. But in the morning, we knew that it was a moment in time that A. we would never get back and B. we never would want to go back in time, just forward.

I love this man. Happy Anniversary, babe![/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”2591″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Throwback: Our First Supper – I Paid Him to Make It

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Kurt ran a company called Kurt’s Cuisine and part of his deal was a raw food box. I thought that meant that he would provide me with all the tools necessary to make the food for myself. Wrong. The idea was to make dinner for you for an evening. At $60, if you think about what you would pay at a restaurant, that is a pretty good deal for 4 people.

My mom came to town and I wanted to do something special with her. We went to the spa for massages and facials and hung out and had wine, and then we went to Kurt’s to his country house in Newfield for dinner. He had rawked (hahah, raw cooked… I just make that up) lasagna using zucchini and pumpkin seeds, salad, an smoothie of some kind, a side dish I can’t remember and a cashew orange torte. It was delicious, but I found a knife tip in my meal. We had a laugh, and enjoyed the moment.

Being that it was only our 3rd meeting, I didn’t know anything about him yet. He shared his collection of art that he had done and talked a bit about his history. He shared some stories and provided some thoughtful insight to where he was with his Zen practice and his life. My first inclination when I met him was ‘he’s cute, but he likes himself too much.’

This conversation changed everything. He was sensitive and sweet, showed my mom his artwork and genuinely provided him with feedback, and he listened. He was thoughtful. So, at the end of the evening my mom paid the tab of $60 and then I gave him a $20 tip (I am a very good tipper).

As we walked away, she said, “I don’t know why you aren’t considering Kurt as a potential mate. He is great.” And that was that.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_image_carousel style=”default” item_width=”230px” min_slides=”1″ max_slides=”3″ items_scroll=”page” auto_play=”true” infinite_loop=”true” timeout_duration=”5000″ arrows=”true” thumbnail_link=”none” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”500″ img_height=”500″ image_ids=”2470,2477,2471,2466,2467,2468,2474,2475,2472,2476,2473″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_text_separator title=”Make Your Own Raw Lasagna at Home” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_single_image image=”2482″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_video link=””][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Ingredients
Lemon-Pignoli “Ricotta”
2 cups raw pignoli nuts, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional; available in health food stores)
1 teaspoon sea salt

Tomato Sauce
2 cups good-quality sun-dried tomatoes (dry-packed), soaked in water for at least 2 hours
1 medium ripe tomato, diced
1/4 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons sea salt
Pinch hot-pepper flakes

Basil-Pistachio Pesto
2 cups packed basil leaves
1/2 cup raw pistachios
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

3 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
3 medium Heirloom tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Garnish: whole basil leaves

.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Cooking Instructions
Lemon-Pignoli “Ricotta”: Place the pignoli, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and salt in a food processor, and pulse a few times, until thoroughly combined. Gradually add 6 tablespoons water, and pulse until the texture becomes fluffy, like ricotta. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

Tomato Sauce: Place all ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth.

Basil-Pistachio Pesto: 
Place all ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth.

Lasagne: Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, shave zucchini lengthwise into very thin slices, then cut in half crosswise. Cut the tomatoes in half, and each half into thin slices. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with two layers of zucchini slices. Brush the zucchini lightly with olive oil, spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce over it, and top with small dollops of “ricotta” and pesto, using 1/3 of each. Layer on 1/3 of the tomato slices, and sprinkle with 1/3 of the oregano and thyme. Add another double layer of zucchini and repeat twice more with the tomato sauce, pesto, ricotta, tomato slices, and herbs. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic and let sit at room temperature for a few hours. Garnish with basil.

Recipe can be found at:

Screenshot 2014-11-30 17.46.50[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_text_separator title=”Having Some Fun During Our Raw Cook Off” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div”][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Yesterday and Today, Same Mind

Yesterday I was laying in bed at 4:30 in the morning and I just wanted to get up, go sit and then paint. But Rache got up to work, Iza was crying and I couldn’t do anything. I was trapped. Today, I woke to the soft hum of a distant boat on the lake, sat and then went straight to painting. Beautiful morning. But I try to keep the same mind whether it goes my way or not. The Third Patriarch of Zen, Seng-T’san, said:

“If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinions for or against anything.”

Most of us are not enlightened monks so we have to find a balance. But whether things are going our way or not, we still have to have the same mind, constantly looking inward and not giving importance to what happens outside of us.

Too Many Choices….

What drives us crazy?

1. Too many Choices – Lay a ton of crap in front of us and try to make us want it.

2. Too many Decisions – Trying to decide on the right option will make us crazy.

3. Too many Opinions – Once we have made all of those decisions we form all kinds of opinions on them. These opinions deepen the insanity.

I’ve read about this problem in a few places. Barry Schwartz writes about it in “Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less”.


“By synthesizing current research in the social sciences, Schwartz makes the counterintuitive case that eliminating choices can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives. He offers eleven practical steps on how to limit choices to a manageable number, have the discipline to focus on the important ones and ignore the rest, and ultimately derive greater satisfaction from the choices you have to make.”

The idea is that the abundance of choices we have to make, or more importantly, feel we have to make on any given day creates internal tension that can lead to stress and unhappiness. We don’t even realize these choices are slowly and insidiously taking us down.

Seng-ts’an, The Third Patriarch of Zen, said:

“To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.”

A good friend of mine, a Russian from Kiev before the wall came down, recounted a story to me abut the first time he came to America.  He arrived in New York in the winter time and decided he needed a new coat as his old one was getting worn out. Going to Macy’s was an exciting and new experience for him, but when he got there and looked at the amount of coats they had available in the Men’s Department, he became overwhelmed at the choices, had a huge melt down and ran out of the store without a coat!

Here in Guatemala we go to the market two or three times a week to get produce. The interesting thing is that the markets basically have the same items for weeks on end. One kind of lettuce, one kind of tomato, one kind of apple. In America we would probably think of this as a bad thing. The more options the better! But here we have found it incredibly liberating to know what we are getting every week. One less thing to think about!

So a simple thing like food shopping has taught us a great lesson. The less decisions we have to make about what we are buying, the less stress we feel.

It’s a hard thing to practice back in the US, but hopefully, when we return, we can apply what we have learned here and try to make our lives easier and less stressful.


Meds in Guatemala?

Eons ago when we were back in New York, Rache had her doctor call in a prescription for a 3 month supply that would get her through the time we planned on staying in Guatemala. Didn’t seem like an issue. She already had a one month supply and  knew she had to go back to New York for a business meeting so would pick up the 3 month supply then to get her through the rest of our stay in Guatemala. Nope, didn’t work out that way. Back in New York the prescription got messed up, her doctor was AWOL and she was left unable to get the new prescription. Clear as mud? Sorry. So we had a lot to worry about as she now had no good way to get her meds. She could get them mailed if she could finally make contact with her doctor, which wasn’t really happening. We had a friend here that went through the same situation, and she went through hell trying to deal with the postal system and waiting to finally get her shipment.

Rache finally decided to see a local doctor here in Santa Cruz to see if he could prescribe the meds for her. The doctor told her that they don’t really do prescriptions here and that she could buy the meds over the counter at a pharmacy in Panajachel. What! You mean back in the states we have to go through hell to get the meds she needs, and here you can just go up to the counter, ask for the meds, they hand it to you, you pay for it and leave. Relief!

After I heard that I got to thinking. A few days ago I smashed my toe on a rock while hiking up the mountain to Casita Blanca and was hobbling around in a fair amount of pain. Ibuprofen just wasn’t cutting it. I thought, “If Rache can get her meds over the counter,  maybe I can get something for my broken toe.” A quick internet search confirmed this was possible. Just ask for Kodone, and you will be given a nice new box of Vicodin, no questions asked. I went to the pharmacy, told them in my terrible Spanish that I had broken my toe and they offered Ibuprofen. “Ummmm, no, necessito medicina mucho fuerte.” They put the Ibuprofen back and handed me the Kodone. They also added, “How many boxes would you like?” For real!?!? I said one would due, paid the lady, and walked out.

Chalk up another win for The Brand Fam! The meds are expensive, and I’m really not into taking pills at all, but in this case, you better believe I’m on it!

lamotrigine 1 pills


Pimp My Tuk-Tuk: The History of the Tuk Tuk and Our 1st Nomination!

Pimp My Tuk Tuk, Guatemala

Here in Guatemala, and other parts of the world, the main style of taxi is a motorized rickshaw type vehicle called a Tuk-Tuk. I’m sure lots of you well traveled folks are familiar with them. We have become totally fascinated with these little three wheeled demons and it is now turning into an unhealthy obsession (Ok, for me at least. I don’t to drag Rache into this ridiculousness, but hey, thats what I do best).

So I had this idea to do a series of blog posts on our favorite Tuk Tuks in Guatemala. As you all know, if you have a good idea, there is a 99% chance it has already been done. Well, you guessed it, it has. There are some dudes in India that created a charity called “Pimp My Tuk Tuk” and we love it! Check it out. Maybe Ra’Co can hook up with these guys while we do a version in Guatemala. We’ll see!

But back here at the Lago, we are going to start our own version of Pimp My Tuk Tuk by posting images of our favorite Tuk-Tuks and we will try to do a little expose on the drivers as we learn more of the language. But right now our Spanish totally sucks. This will be a killer ongoing project that we are really excited about. Hopefully we can get to a point where we can gain interest in the project, get ya’ll to vote on your favorite vehicle, post videos etc. of the drivers and their vehicles and tell their stories. Maybe even start a Kickstarter project to raise funds for the drivers, their families and the less fortunate Mayan folks in the area that we are growing to love.

Sound good! Give a shout!


The History of the Tuk Tuk 

According to these guys the first version of the Tuk Tuk was created in Japan by Daihatsu. But they say Thailand was really responsible for inventing them and putting them to good use over 50 years ago. Anyway, the above mentioned site gives an excellent history of the Tuk Tuk so I’m not really going to get into it any further than I have to. That’s what links are for.

So without further ado, here is our first entry into Pimp My Tuk Tuk Guatemala. We call this one The Love Tuk and it’s located in San Juan La Laguna, a beautiful arts and crafts town located next to San Pedro. Unfortunately the driver wasn’t around so we could only get these photos. We will definitely follow up on this once we can find the driver, get his name, and try to get him to tell us something about himself.



There it is, out first entry in Pimp My Tuk Tuk Guatemala. Check back soon for the next installment!

Yesterday I killed a snake, I am miserable, and I will never do it again….

Yesterday was one hell of a day.

Iza has been sick for the last three or four days and I am doing my best to make sure she is ok. She has been crying consistently, running a slight fever, eating very little and just has not been her happy smiling self. She wakes up 3 or four times a night crying and I rock her back to sleep.

I’m pretty tired.

Rache is in New York working her ass off to provide for us.

Yesterday I decided to find a doctor for her and looked at a list of options that our landlord offered us. There was an American doctor and a few naturopathic doctors in neighboring towns. I opted for the American doctor because, quite frankly, my Spanish completely sucks. Fortunately my wonderful nanny Marta came along with us to ease the burden of communication if I couldn’t find the clinic. And I’m so glad she did. We ended up going to the wrong town, San Marcos, to find the doctor but Marta ran into a friend as we were searching aimlessly. Her friend told us that there was a great clinic in town that practiced natural medicine and that we should go there. We quickly found the clinic and went inside. It felt right immediately. The place was spotless and the people that worked there also knew Marta and were extremely kind (like most of the people we have met here). Behind the reception desk were shelves upon shelves of little carefully marked brown bags full of herbs and plants and such. A beautiful site.

But what does this have to do with killing a snake?

Almost immediately the doctor came and ushered us into the examination room. He asked a few questions and Marta did her best to translate what I didn’t understand. Then doc checked Iza, felt her throat glands, and ascertained right away that she had an infection. I can only assume bacterial. He didn’t seem worried so I felt better. Back at his desk he wrote out a prescription and went to get three bags of dried herbs for tea, some fresh green leaves and a small bottle of drops to take orally. After we gave Iza the drops she almost immediately calmed down. Muy tranquilo. Things were going well.

So we paid Q150 for the services and medicine (maybe $25) and headed back to the dock to catch the taxi boat back to Santa Cruz. Along the way I stopped in a tienda for dos cervezas to take back with me. I knew they were going to be much appreciated later in the evening. Consumed that afternoon, they never made it that far.

At the dock we got on the boat and in no time were back at our landing. Iza was really chill at this point and starting to quietly fall asleep. So we jumped on the trail and headed back up to Casita Blanca. Another peaceful ten minutes along the gently flowing creek through the forest and we were at the gate of the house. Suddenly hear Marta yell. Ahhh!

A snake was blocking the entrance. I had read about venomous snakes in the area and ignorantly thought it was a poisonous yellow beard. I thought about it for a moment then decided to grab a rock and kill it; and I did. Dumb ass! How could I have done this. Fear for my baby and my nanny made me react in the wrong way and now I have to live with what I have done. After I killed it I saw next to it a large bloody mouse that it had just killed.

The cycle of life was right before our eyes. Iza is sick and plants are there to heal her. The mouse eats the food it finds in our kitchen. The snake eats the mouse. I, stupid fucking white man (see my favorite movie of all time, Jarmusch’s “Dead Man”), kill the snake.

Turns out the snake was actually a scorpion hunter and it was there protecting us and helping us.

And I now know that I will never kill a snake again unless it is an absolute last resort.

At least the journey proved fruitful. Iza seems to be slowly getting better and hopefully she will be up and around in the next few days. If not it’s off to the American doctor, most likely for a dose of antibiotics. Hopefully, we won’t have to resort to that.

But that’s Ra’co life, 50/50. We do the best we can.


raco life_herbs1 san marcos san-marcos-clinic


Baby with 102 temperature! First time parent syndrome…

So last night about 2am, the night before Rache is leaving for New York for a few days, Iza wakes up moaning and crying. Rache is next to her and I am roused out of my usual half sleep to her stating nervously “Iza is on fire!”. What to do!?

I’m supposed to be the chill guy that keeps it all together emotionally (“supposed to be” being the operative word) so I get out of bed calmly, reassure Rache that everything is ok, and go down to the bathroom to get the forehead thermometer that we brought along in our toiletries bag.

Iza has never really been very sick minus a cold here and there but she is having a hard time adapting to the Guatemalan food and has been fussy and gassy and not her usual self. We are really careful about our diets, but let’s face it, Gringo Gut is bound happen.  I’m pretty sure she is ok so I stay cool and take her temperature. 102 degrees. I am a die hard research guy (read “time waster”) and remember reading that as babies get older this can be quite common and shouldn’t cause a freak out call to the doctor. So I’m there reading everything I can on the internet about a feverish one year old and conclude that she is ok. Rache is holding her and putting on cold compress and quickly her fever drops and she calms down. Then I rocked her a bit and off to sleep she went.

So we are obviously first time parents and I’m sure a lot of you are laughing a little under your breath. No worries, we get it!

This morning she is super fussy and won’t let me put her down but her fever is gone. Cool.

Here are some of the things I have gathered from various sites on the internet about babies with fevers:

1. Fever is nature’s way of fighting disease. A moderately high temperature means your baby is doing what it is supposed to to take care of itself during illness.
2. There isn’t a lot of difference between a 100 degree temperature and a 102 degree temperature for a one year old. Don’t freak out!
3. Don’t jump immediately for the acetaminophen. It may help your baby feel a little more comfortable, but only drops the temperature about 1 degree. Try to calm them naturally first and only resort to those meds if they are still really upset. We didn’t use it and she went back to sleep in about 30 minutes.
4. Never give a child under 19 aspirin! They could develop Rye’s Syndrome.
4. If the temperature reaches 103 its probably time to call the doctor.
5. Babies from 0-6 months with a fever is a bigger concern. Call the doctor if she is over 100 degrees.
6. If she is closer to a year old and has a 102 degree temperature monitor it for 24 hours. If there is no change, call the doc.
7. 104 temperature is probably time to go to the emergency room.
8. Make sure the baby is mostly free from other symptoms. I won’t go into them as the list is quite extensive. Google it.

This is a very basic outline and I am by no means a doctor. But I have researched it pretty thoroughly and I hope the list helps you first time parents out there.

Also, there are lots of natural remedies for a fever and we always refer to those first. Here are some links:

Week 1 As Parents

For pictures, please scroll down! or check out her site:

Well, we tried to get these up sooner, but I guess having a new baby is going to extend all our personal goals and timing a little! Right now in the early morning light with the rain falling buckets from the sky, Kurt is blowing baby kisses on Iza’s belly, Mozart is playing in the background and we are enjoying a precious moment as a family after a VERY long night struggling with feeding. It is truly heaven for us to hear her little smooshy noises and squakes at all hours of the day and night. We have both wanted to be parents for so long, and we found each other and now found her!

She is really the most delightful baby; she rarely cries and even when she does it is extremely short lived. We take her everywhere already and she just rolls with the program. She is sweet and funny with her little faces. And she mostly looks like a little Buddha. Everyone asks us who she looks like or they try to find some resemblance. Right now, she looks like her – Iza Ruby – and a baby. She doesn’t have any of her actual features that she will shortly adapt and grow into, so it is fun to be able to evolve with her, get to know her as she gets to become apart of our little world. But I would say Kurt and I definitely enjoy people’s projections of what she looks like.

It has been a busy week of adjustment and change:

  • Sunday am Iza was born and we had a chance to just stare at her for a few hours. Around 3pm Kurt went home to deal with drying the placenta so we could encapsulate it and to make us food since we realized how inadequate the food truly was. We were lucky that the hospital was amazing and the food was really the only bad part. He came back in the evening and by 10pm he was literally green from exhaustion. After a sleepless night of feeding and nurse intrusions, by mid-day on Monday we were packed and strolling home. It was great to leave the hospital with the silly 4 hour check ups (which truly left us more sleep deprived then having a small child to care for) and horrible food.
  • Tuesday we stayed in most of the day as it was Iza’s first cluster feeding day and we were so tired we couldn’t breathe. But at some point I had to bust out and break free for a little walk and Kurt went to the gym to achieve some sort of balance and clear his head. It was by far the best day that Iza has had in terms of her general presence and awakeness, so we are starting to feel like there is some merit in the value of home.
  • Wednesday was our first family outing for her Pediatrician appointment with Dr. Malik at Bambini Pediatrics in Poughkeepsie. This very progressive doctor was thrilled with her coloring, attitude and general demeanor and was pleased with how we handled the birth. So far so good! Then we made the mistake of going to Target to get a few small things, but when you are crazy tired, you just take forever to do anything. Nothing is quick! We ended up getting mostly home and then realizing that we left the one reason why we came to Target on the cart in the parking lot. Nice. So, we stopped in a local agricultural park fed her, changed her massively exploded diaper and rested as a family for a few minutes before heading back out to Target. The whole day took us from 9am – 4pm and we got home and were shattered and starving… just in time for another appointment at 7pm which took us about 30 minutes to drive to. I think I cried for 2 hours in the evening out of pure and utter exhaustion. I felt like a toddler who was so overtired you actually can’t make yourself sleep.
  • Thursday we had a beautiful moment as a family at Beacon Natural Market and we had a chance to show her off. Then we came home and prepared for a visit from Grandma Jan and Grandpa Drew who were coming from Northampton, MA. When they came we went to dinner at the Beacon Falls Cafe downstairs below our house and then we headed straight up to the house and off to bed. Starting to get into more of a routine.
  • Friday was a crazy busy day with Grammy & Grandpa here. Kurt and I left Iza with G &G around 10am (our first time leaving her!) and went to look at 2 potential houses to rent in Beacon (after 4 days with a munchkin we realized that there was NO WAY we could stay in our tricked out, beautifully sunny loft space and started looking. Main feature of interest? Washer and Dryer of course). Then as a family we went for a walk around town in what felt like 100 degree heat to all the shops so Iza could meet everyone. While it was probably extremely overstimulating for her, it was totally fun for everyone to meet her. She even got a bonnet as a present from Jacqueline’s shop. Then we went home for lunch and had a lactation appointment with our magical doula Sandy Trimarchi, so Grammy helped out and did the dishes. Sandy talked us through the eating process and how babies need to consume milk. She showed up some invaluable techniques and made it so we felt more comfortable with the general breast feeding process. Afterwards we took naps and G & G headed to the Dia: Beacon to relieve us and give us a break from the activity. When they came home we headed off to dinner in Cold Spring. It was all a bit too much and we have certainly learned our lesson!
  • Saturday morning we woke up and walked to the bank, the post office, Rite Aid and the Beacon Market and then headed straight home. A very quick 30 minute adventure. We decided to talk to our landlord about the lease and he came over with his two girls to see the baby. Dave was very understanding about the situation and willing to work with us, so Kurt went and put in a deposit on the house we liked best (wildly ugly on the outside, but totally new and decked out on the inside – 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, massive backyard and veggie garden). Dave thought he could get someone in to look at our loft that day that had already expressed interest, so Kurt and started a cleaning frenzy then somehow worked its way into a blow out argument. We spent an hour talking through it and realized how lucky we were that we had made it through the entire week with only 1 battle on extremely little sleep, a total life change and being totally and completely off our routine. All was worked out in expert form. In the afternoon we decided to do something for us and we went to the Main Street galleries with Iza to show her off and see the new shows that were up. It was fun! Everyone was so amazed by her sweet demeanor and quietness. We then went to the Dia: Beacon and took her to soak in the raw talent of our favorite artists. She was hungry and Iza and I went outside to the bird call garden to have a minute. My first experience breastfeeding in public and with the 90+ degree heat, we certainly did not enjoy the moment. But, we got through and my shirt only had a minor explosion of milk on one side. Not too bad! We had a little tea and cookies in the cafe and then went home afterward, but not before we ‘illegally’ took pictures of Iza with our two favorite artists work. Already the talent is soaking in!
  • Sunday Granddad & Mimi came from Lancaster, PA around 12 and we hung out and played with Iza. We went briefly to the Beacon Farmers Market (about 30 minutes total, realizing that we had been overdoing it with her in the heat) and ended up at Homespun for lunch. It was nice, simple and uncomplicated. We came home, fed Iza and then just chilled out and had a glass of wine and relaxed with her. It was really nice and simple. By 4, we were absolutely wiped out and Granddad & Mimi saw it in our eyes. They headed home and we laid down and didn’t wake up until 5:30. It was a glorious moment for us as a family and other than Iza seemingly uninterested in eating, it was a great couple of hours. Around 8:30 we decided to go to the Roundhouse and have a drink to celebrate Iza’s week with us and we sat at the bar and enjoyed a lovely glass of wine and drink. We met some very cool new locals and snacked on some of the best olives EVER! Everyone was shocked at how little Iza was and happy to see that you actually didn’t need to stop your life because of baby – we reminded them that these two weeks she is essentially still in the womb and at some point she will wake up and release the CRACKIN’ and it will be impossible to go out so we are taking advantage now. We came home and tried to all go to sleep and feed Iza, but the little lady was not having it. We couldn’t seem to get her to eat all night or wake up! She just wasn’t interested. There is this little soft spot on her head and Sandy showed it to me as an indicator of whether or not she is getting enough to eat. It will be indented if she is hungry and flat if she is full. Crazy, huh? Well, it was very indented and her started my decline of stress and anxiety as to why she was not eating. Basically I was in full on meltdown mode – and it took us until 5:30am of coaxing her and working together to get her to eat. She did eventually do about 20 minutes total and we are going to aim again in a few minutes.
We each have 2 parents who are remarried (total of 8), we have my Grammy still rockin’ and rollin’ (total of 1) and in total we have 9 siblings (combined biological and step). Most have a partner (total of 17) and we have 11 Nieces and Nephews… so Iza is one incredibly loved child with already a built in network of nearly 40 family members all to love her. Not to mention the countless friends, extended family, clients and neighbors who have been patiently anticipating her arrival. Needless to say, it has been a full time job managing all these individual people! We are hoping that this site being updated will help us a little.

And that brings us to the present. It was quite a week, full of surprises and new experiences. It is hard to believe that a little more than a week ago we didn’t have Iza in our life and now we honestly CAN’T imagine life without her. She is a part of us and completes our family portrait. She is simply amazing, but with little girls everyone seems to go straight to hearts, stars, sparkles and the term Princess. Even I am guilty of it at times. Princess is not a term of endearment we want to use and when Iza’s Great Grammy called her that, my throwback was “No Grammy, she is a strong and will someday be an independent woman.” Grammy said, “That’s quite a mouthful. What about Wonder Girl?” So, here you have it… our Wonder Girl.


Preparing for Baby #1: What we Learned Along the Way

RaCo Life Iza's Announcement

We have really gone to the ends of earth to make sure that we were prepared for Iza’s arrival… although, it might be impossible to plan, preparing is an important step to any successful experience. I still got Bell’s Palsy at my 7th month mark, an indication of the stress that my body was ensuing as a result of carrying a child. In turn we challenged our own choices and worked hard to find a way in the last 3 months to rebalance my body and our birthing plan to accommodate.

Some of the external things we did to prepare:

  1. We did the Bradley Method classes. It was 8 weeks long. Sounds like a long time, but it was a Friday night social thing which gave us the opportunity to meet other parents close to our due date. We found this out through Waddle & Swaddle – and amazing kid store in Poughkeepsie and in Rhine Beck. This included methods, relaxation techniques, general understanding of birthing naturally and partner-led births. We have very minimal assistance from the doctor with this method – Kurt is pretty much handles everything leading up to the delivery provided everything goes well.
    • Why natural? If you have a natural birth, your body recovers quicker and you have an instant connection with your child. Skin to skin is the most essential part of this and offers the best opportunity to make that happen. If you deliver through the birth canal it helps to clear the mucus out of the nasal passage and throat allowing the baby to cry. It also empowers the ability to be a woman and to go through the most incredible aspect of life – giving birth. It helps with postpartum and relieves many of the concerns around allergies in children.
  2. Plus we did a yoga position and breathing workshop for a 1/2 day with Elizabeth Casasnovas-Calderon from Beacon Birth. This was one of the best experiences because it taught us to work together to bring Iza to the world and how we could help her along. Some of it was dancing, some of it was birthing positions, some was massage. In the end it offered huge confidence to Kurt and I to be able to work together.
  3. We also hired the most well-respected Doula in the area – Sandy Trimarchi who is also my yoga instructor. She gave  us a few 1-1 sessions and was there for the full birth, plus a few hours after as a lactation consultant. This was probably the most invaluable part of working with Sandy. She seriously changed my life with the information she shared with us. I was fortunate to do several classes with Sandy leading up to the birth which helped me to stay strong and prepared.
  4. I have done prenatal yoga in a group the whole way through… so I have learned a lot from the other women, including stuff like which pediatrician to go to and what questions to ask. I also did acupuncture mostly every week from early on in the pregnancy for relaxation and to keep things smooth with my energy levels. I went to a chiropractor 2 times a month and a masseuse 1 time a month to keep my back straight and loose. And I exercised regularly hiking until my 6th month, running until my 7th month and walking there after until the day I delivered.
  5. I did a registry through Harvard and Mass General Hospital for my medication and we were able to work with a genetic counselor and an imaging specialist out of Dr. Lescale’s office. We were fortunate to work with Dr. Lescale himself. We also were under the supervision of a fantastic Psychiatrist who was a female and dealt with many of these concerns around my medication before. And I had a great psychologist who is also a mom and was happy for me to voice my concerns and ongoing issues surrounding mommyhood.
  6. Pick a great pediatrician, interview them and be sure that you are making the right choices for your child early on. We were able to go to several pediatricians to make sure that we knew exactly who we would be working with. Our first experience was with a guy that basically was the epitome of everything we are not – into vaccinating before 2 years old. We ended up with a great alternative doctor from Bambini Pediatrics called Dr. Malik. In the area he is a minor celebrity for his focus around health and wellness for families. He offers both Naturopathic services and regular modern medicine. He believes in helping kids however they need to be helped.
  7. Read! Reach out to people! Be as educated as possible on your choices. The power of information is only as good as what you make of it. The more you reach out, the more you will learn.

Also, after going through the Bradley Method Classes we feel empowered to make our own choices and to not just allow the hospital / doctors to make decisions for us. We went on tours of 3 out of the 4 hospitals that we were associated with. First Putnum, (definitely never having our kid there with the cinder block walls and dark hallways and the Mid-Hudson Medical Group that we disliked immediately), then Vassar (with their politics and general issues surrounding healthful eating), next was Northern Westchester Hospital (which had a 40% cesarean rate) and finally Hudson Valley Hospital’s Birthing Center out of a recommendation from Beth Proague, a mommy and professional in Beacon. Our Doctor, Dr. Dinsmore, was local to Fishkill and was as weird and quirky as they come. But he came highly recommended and also did 2 days a week with a local clinic that I really respect.


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I have to say that when I started pregnancy I knew absolutely nothing and I felt extremely prepared after going through all the above – the car was packed and ready, car seat is in and our birth plans were already at the hospital. We were checked in and our insurance already cleared, so really the classes were extremely helpful helpful to us in understanding, preparation and getting Kurt to feel part of the process. He was totally invested and knew how vital his role was to a healthy birth!


Took the right vitamins:

Everyone takes prenatal vitamins, but does anyone actually know what’s in them? Throughout your pregnancy there are different things that you need at different times and a blanked prenatal is just not enough to do the trick. There are also too many vitamins mixed into one tablet to make it effective, so it is best to do it without taking them all at once.

Immediately you need Folic Acid and a lot of it. I ate a ton of broccoli, but supplemented with 800mg of Folic Acid as well. Then I introduced Omega 3 around my 4th month for brain development. This I still take now when I am nursing. I also started taking E3 Live which helped to regulate my body and truly made me sleep. When I still had trouble sleeping I took magnesium in my tea and now I am doing a body spray which is helping Iza with regulating her immune system.


RaCo Life Green JuiceAte organic & juiced often, but allowed ourselves to indulge in cravings:

Many women use pregnancy as an excuse to allow themselves to fall apart and just indulge in whatever they want. Really, you should be upping your health ante and eating even more healthy. Kurt and I juiced as many days as we could during the week. At the end of pregnancy this was hard because of the little space I had available, I was burping up a disgusting flavor of leaves all day long after drinking, but otherwise we maintained. I allowed myself to eat as much and as often as I wanted to. This was hard because my body wanted to eat all the time and I am not a super eater. I typically eat 4-5 small meals a day and maybe 1 big one and in pregnancy as soon as I was done with 1 thing, I was onto another meal. My time was sucked up by eating all the time!

We had large salads most of the time and Kurt became an expert gluten free baker. We cut out sugar completely and focused on eating a ton of fruit instead. I got really into frozen peas as a snack and frozen coconut and fruit smoothies as the weather got warmer. And my cravings seemed to go in waves. For a few weeks I was obsessed with eating quinoa porridge with raisins and then I couldn’t even look at it, same with avocados. It was weird to walk into a bakery or restaurant and the baby jumped with the smells. I wasn’t used to being so sensitive to my choices, but I truly turned a corner completely and focused on what Iza needed to be healthy and grow strong.

Most who know me, know I don’t eat meat, poultry, gluten, soy or dairy of any kind, so it was certainly an experience to craft my meals everyday. My favorite was Kurt’s raw bars and crackers which are 10x better than anything you can buy that’s store bought. I am a lucky girl with a chef like him!

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Indulged in a fabulous maternity wardrobe:

I was still working at the beginning of my pregnancy on a contract in Massachusetts. As a result, I made sure that my clothes were always fitting me and that I had a great balance of work and play outfits. I did not want to be one of those women always in pj’s in the middle of the day or wearing sweatpants to meetings because nothing else fit! So, I indulged.

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And made sure to continually do stuff together

We were fortunate enough that I had off for most of the end of our pregnancy, so we were able to spend as much time as we wanted together. We took full advantage by walking and talking, planning our future and being creative together. Kurt especially was much more creative in his art during this time. I, on the other hand, became exceptionally organized and focused. It was a great blend to capitalize on opportunities to work together.

RaCo Life Maternity Dress Blue HillOne of the most special items that we did was go on our own baby moon – kind of a honeymoon before the baby comes. We went to America’s best restaurant called Blue Hill at Stone Barns which is in a nearby town called Pleasantville. It was not a cheap dinner, and to prove it, we relished in every moment of it. We had 8 courses and maybe 3-4 drinks a piece. Everything was all natural, organic and grown right there on the farm. Everything was made just for us, based on our preferences and allergies. It was sensational and totally worth every penny. Kurt even did a little speech and gave me a wonderful card, filled with the sweetest message I have ever received.

We also cooked together every day and took quiet walks whenever we could. The idea that our life was about to change and a 3rd person was going to be invited into it offered us reason enough to seek as much time as possible together – for the next 20+ years we are going to be active parents and never truly alone without thoughts or worry.

Black-LineAnd in the end: 

Coco B Sweet Photo Shoot with Iza 11 Days OldNow, on the other side of all this, we are lucky. We have an insanely beautiful daughter who was brought naturally into this world and is the sweetest disposition. We were able to leave the next day from the hospital after giving birth and my milk came in within 4 days from date of delivery. We are managing to sleep through the night and our kid only squaks when she wants something, and rarely cries. We hold her whenever she wants us to and we listen to her needs because we know what to look for and the warning signs she is giving us. And in general, we are getting through… which is a lot for 1st time parents to be able to say!



RaCo Life It's All in the Name

For pronunciation, please click:

The beginning stages of a brand are crucial. It has to be a perfect setting with the right groundwork. Without it, you are already sunk before you get off the dock, so we know how important the branding of our baby is and we have not been light with the development of it.

When we found out that we were having a baby, we would talk about baby names on our decent from Mt. Beacon… it is about 30 minutes down, so we had lots of time to talk. Kurt loved the name Zai and within minutes we were both sold on it so we decided that if we had a boy it would be Zai Stefan (after his brother’s middle name). Coming up with a little girls name made us crazy. Rache had a million ideas and all of which were shot down with force, not being the right sound, arrangement of letters or potential nickname. Eventually, out of frustration, Rache tried rearranging the letters for Zai and it spelled Iza.

We selected Iza [pronounced EE-sah] because it is a tribute to beauty, being the first part of Izabela, a Hebrew version of the Americanized name Isabella. It also means in Hebrew “My God is Vow.”

There are many other significant sources of Iza in the Muslim religion, and we have also found origins of the name from the South African Zulu origin from the  Zulu or Xhosa word meaning to “come.”

When we first shared the name with Rache’s grandmother she was certain that we had dropped the ‘L’ from the first part of the name, making it “Lisa.” So, when we shared that it was Iza in spelling, she was totally confused. Her Rabbi recently shared with her the Hebrew meaning of “Rising Up” and recognizing Iza will be raised culturally Jewish with the Zen Buddhist philosophy (she is going to be a JewBu), we find her name having a Hebrew origin is very fitting.

We are happy to stay that it stuck. Ruby is Rache’s family name and with a bunch of nutty ladies in the family, Ruby seemed to be a fitting name since she is sure to be textbook “nutso” with our combined genes!

There you have it: Iza Ruby Brand.


Click to download our very fun announcement. Here is a preview: 





Lets Face It….

When it comes to having a kid, our partners/wives/girlfriends are doing all the work, that’s pretty obvious. But all of you that have been through this or are going through it knows good and well that it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Far from it! So this is the time we must, with our greatest strength and effort, exhibit patience and compassion for our pregnant partner.

When her moods are swinging like a wild monkey…. she’s crying, she’s screaming at you, she’s just plain freaking out, take the time to breath and relax and don’t perpetuate the fight. Try not to give in to the urge to avenge your precious ego, just let it go and be with it and understand that the person you love is carrying the most precious and vulnerable thing there is in your life.

Keep trying to show understanding and compassion. Keep your ears open and keep your wits about you. Because, brothers, it’s not about you, it’s about her.  And the more you are there for her, the more kindness you can show her, and the clearer you are about your intentions of raising a happy child…well the better off everyone, including your self, will be.

It all starts now.