Happy Year of the Earth Pig 2019


2019 is the Year of the Earth Pig according to Chinese Zodiac. Starting from Feb. 5, 2019 (Chinese New Year) and lasting to Jan. 24, 2020.

Pig is the twelfth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese Zodiac Sign. The Years of the Pig include: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031, 2043…

Come on out of the doghouse—there’s a party in the pig pen! The pleasant and genial Earth Pig’s arrival is a welcome relief after 2018’s Earth Dog antics. Dogs are pack animals, and in the past year, groups have stuck together out of “loyalty,” at times, to a fault.

People with Chinese Zodiac Pig sign are considerate, responsible, independent and optimistic. They always show generousness and mercy to endure other people’s mistakes, which help them gain harmonious interpersonal relationships. However, sometimes they have a lazy and indolent streak and can lack actions. In addition, pure hearts would let them be cheated easily in daily life.

  • Strengths: Warm-hearted, good-tempered, loyal, honest, gentle.
  • Weaknesses: Naive, gullible, sluggish, short-tempered.

Some FAMOUS FOLKS born under the influence of this Chinese Astrology Sign are: Oliver Cromwell, Albert Schweitzer, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ewan McGregor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Julie Andrews, Lucille Ball, Luke Wilson, Mark Wahlberg, Ronald Reagan, Amy Winehouse, Carrie Underwood, and Mila Kunis.

According to the Chinese Astrology, 2019 is a GREAT YEAR to make money, and a good year to invest! 2019 is going to be full of joy, a year of friendship and love for all the Zodiac Signs; an auspicious year because the Pig attracts success in all the spheres of life!

Pig Natives can be patient whether it be waiting for the love or for their fortunes to amass. We could all learn from this and exercise a little more patience ourselves! And don’t forget the power of building friendly alliances with colleagues. Pigs are often the office optimists and motivators; the ones who will keep the team spirit BURNING BRIGHT.

Pigs are complex COMMUNICATORS who dream, recognize their own names and have over twenty oinks and squeaks that have been identified with an actual language that they share. Some scientists believe that their social skills rival those of primates. Unlike the territorial animals who governed 2017 and 2018, Rooster and Dog, the easygoing Pig cohabitates well with other barnyard species. Perhaps 2019 will be the year where people start engaging in legitimate dialogues again, instead of simply barking at each through the “picture window” of social media.

You know that famous quote by Jim Rohn? “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Earth Pig isn’t always the most DISCERNING creature. In 2019, guilt by association can be an issue for folks who naively get caught up with the wrong crowd. Appearances can be deceiving during the Year of the Earth Pig. Bottom line: Don’t let other people wipe their mud on your clean reputation and sully your name.

How about LOVE? Pig is associated with Scorpio in the Western zodiac, and it’s certainly possible to bring out our “wild boars” in the bedroom. (Easy with those tusks, please.) Like Scorpio, the Pig is a water sign in the Chinese Zodiac—capable of deep and powerful emotion. And yet, the intensity of those feelings might be a bit much for people, especially with the grounded Earth energy ruling this year. Remember, fun and laughter can be natural anti-depressants!

Speaking of PLAY, no expense will be spared in the Earth Pig Year when it comes to luxury, fine dining, vacations, and self-indulgent services! This is the time to pamper oneself – just easy does it when it comes to our wallets. Perhaps this is the perfect time to create an entertainment or vacation fund!

“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” ~George Bernard Shaw

Enjoy 2019!

written by Gretchen Hidellheadshot_gretchen_small




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Soup Basics: How to Make Soup in 6 Easy Steps

chicken soupIf you know the basics of soup making, you don’t need to follow the recipe word for word, but instead can glean inspiration from recipes and use what you have on hand. With a nice sharp chef knife, a cutting board and a Dutch oven there are endless possibilities. See equipment below.

Step 1: Soup base –  Mirepoix

The base of the soup usually starts with sautéing some vegetables, which flavors the oil or fat. Choose a fat that can handle the temperature. Read more about FATS here.

  • Ghee, clarified butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Lard
  • Bacon Fat
  • Tallow (beef fat)
  • Butter – keep heat fairly low
  • Olive oil – also not recommended to sautéed at high heat

Warm the oil/fat on medium heat in a thick-bottomed deep soup pan, such as a Dutch oven, and sauté:

1-2 finely chopped onion, shallot or leek

then 1-2 carrots, and if I have it, celery, both chopped finely, or medium-fine, about a half inch chunks.

Sprinkle with sea salt (maybe a ½ teaspoon or so, I dunno exactly, I don’t measure, I add a little as I go along and usually end up needing to add more at the end.)

Chefs call the classic mixture “mirepoix”, otherwise known as the “holy trinity” in the cooking world.

Step 2: More vegetables

If you want to add more vegetables, you can add them to the mirepoix about 5-10 minutes after the carrots and onions.

What do you have in the fridge? Here are some vegetable ideas:

  • Sweet potatoes, parsnips, celerac, butternut squash
  • Mushrooms – crimini, shiitake
  • Bell peppers – green, red, yellow
  • Kale, any variety

The key here is that all the vegetables should be a similar size so they cook at the same rate. Think about the denseness of the vegetable and add it into the soup at the step that gives it enough, but not too much, cooking time. Sweet potatoes would be added earlier than kale.

In terms of amounts, I like to stick to around 4 cups of vegetables for 4 to 6 servings of soup.

Note: you can reserve the most tender veggies and herbs such as for the very end after the broth has been added and the soup has simmered.

Step 3: Aromatics and spices – garlic, ginger, and spices

When everything has had time to soften, start adding the tender aromatics. If you cook these too long before adding the liquid, the aromatic oils you want to collect will be lost, as in cooked off, room freshener.

Add 1-2 cloves of garlic with another sprinkle of sea salt in the last 3 minutes of cooking

Consider also adding 1-3 teaspoons total with a few of these spices:

  • Black pepper
  • Celery seed, thyme, rosemary
  • Cumin, coriander (I usually use a 2:1 ratio – 1 t cumin, ½ t coriander)
  • Chili powder
  • Turmeric, paprika
  • Yellow curry powder
  • Fennel, cinnamon, ginger powder
  • Ginger, fresh, can be added in the last 30 seconds before adding the broth. Peel with paring knife and finely mince ginger – slice as thin as possible against the grain, then chop the thin slices finely in one direction, then turn 90 degrees and mince.
  • Lemongrass, galangal (Thai ginger), anise – you can add these as chunks to simmer with the broth – for flavor – but don’t eat if big chunks.

Step 4: Protein

Add some meat – sliced chicken breast or skin-less thigh, beef slices, ground meat, sausage, pork slices, fish chunks. Cook till close to nearly done.

If using beef stew meat (chunks of beef), you will want to cook these longer and perhaps even separately first, then set aside and added at this step.

While the meat is cooking, you can add spices in above step now instead of with veggies, or some spices with each step. If using ginger, add last, just before you add the broth.

Step 5: Broth / Simmer / Starches

Broth – Add chicken, beef, veggie broth or stock (homemade or store bought) or water. I often do 1 quart of broth and then another quart or so of water.

Check out this delicious and healthy recipe for: BONE BROTH.

Simmer Times – Okay, this is where the magic happens. How you cook your soup is important. You’ll want to simmer your soup, not boil it. Boiling soup too rapidly can cause the broth to turn cloudy. So how long do you cook it for? It depends. Obviously, you want your meat cooked through and your vegetables tender—which should take 20 to 30 minutes.

Grains / Starches – Add starches like potatoes, rice or pasta and time them so when they are done cooking when the soup is ready.

  • Potatoes – 10-15 minutes
  • Pasta – 10 minutes (see package)
  • Rice – 25-30 minutes
  • Beans, cooked – add in the last 5 minutes or so.

If you’re using pasta/grains, add it 10 minutes into cooking. Most pasta will take about 10 minutes to cook. And remember, grains and pasta expand, so you don’t need a lot—about 1/2 to 1 cup of each for 4 to 6 servings should be plenty.

Add starches like potatoes, rice or pasta and time them so when they are done cooking, your soup is done cooking as well.

Step 6: Finishing touches – Taste and season

Add tender leafy vegetables, even in the last few minutes or cooking:

  • Broccoli
  • Spinach, chard, basil, cilantro, parsley
  • Tomato – can be added with broth or towards the end
  • Honey, apple cider vinegar
  • Beans pair nicely with chili powder and cumin.
  • Tomato purée or diced tomato?
  • Cream or Coconut milk – add at the end. Don’t boil – when  you reheat this soup, just bring gently to temperature.

Herbs/Spices – You’re almost done! Taste your soup—make sure you cool down your spoon first! Then adjust the salt and pepper to your taste. Does it need some more spices? What about splash of vinegar or a little sweetness – honey or agave could work here.

Add fresh herbs when your flame is turned off the soup, right at the end, before serving. This is also the time to add a drizzle of olive oil or garnish with sour cream or yogurt for some soups.

That’s it! You can make any soup using the ingredients you have on hand with the flavors you prefer, without any recipe. I almost never use a recipe anymore because this is so much easier, though I do write down what I did if it was good. Who knows, you may just end up inventing a brand new soup, and maybe even creating a new family favorite

Here are some combination ideas. What do you have on hand? Feel free to mix and match:

  • Carrot soup – mirepoix with extra carrots – garlic, fennel, cumin, coriander, ginger pureed with immersion blender – garnished with sour cream and scallion slivers.
  • Sausage, butternut squash, kale in broth with garlic, thyme, rosemary
  • Garbanzo, sweet potato, peanut butter, ginger, honey, carrots, potatoes, spinach
  • Chicken curry with carrots, mushrooms, kale and spicy chili. See Slow-cooked Chicken Curry.
  • Chicken with rice – just do the mirepoix, chicken broth, rice and shredded chicken,  or this Asian variation Vietnamese Chicken and Rice Soup.
  • Stock mixed with tomato purée is delicious, as is stock with milk. Or even cream with tomato purée!
  • Cream soups might benefit from a dash or parsley or thyme.

EQUIPMENT for cooking:

  1. A sharp chef knife and cutting board. Also a paring knife is helpful. Image
  2. A large, nonreactive (stainless steel or ceramic) soup pot or Dutch oven that can hold at least six quarts will allow for large batches. Or an Instant Pot or Slow Cooker.
  3. An immersion blender or high-speed blender if you are making pureed soup. Immersion blenders keep you from having to transfer hot soup from the pot to a blender.
  4. A large spoon to stir the pot.
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Gretchen Hidell

headshot_gretchen_smallGretchen Hidell: Intuitive Astrologer, NLP Life Coach, Hypnotist, & Reiki Master

Gretchen has worked with me in my office for, wow, 10 years. If you haven’t had an astrology reading with her, it might be time. Gretchen is just fabulous.

Introducing, Gretchen Hidell:
Make personal discoveries which lead to self-empowerment & healing. Allow me to guide you through the exploration of your Soul’s Blueprint. Release patterns, gain knowledge, and reconnect with your own beautiful Spirit!! I have been studying the art of Astrology for 35+ years now! Both my mother & grandmother had interest in the subject and my mother started buying me Dell Astrology Books when I was just 12yrs old. Since then, I’ve been reading Astrological Charts for friends & family throughout my life. I have many types of Astrology charts to choose from and several styles of Readings.

In addition to my extensive knowledge in Astrology, I also use my Intuition and Physical Mediumship abilities. I am clairvoyant, clairaudient, & clairsentient – meaning I see, hear, and feel energy. I will often have “visions” about missing person cases, medical issues, and remote viewing – using these skills to expertly guide you. Being a psychical medium means that I assist people in connecting with deceased loved ones. After a person (or pet) has passed away, very often our conversations with them feel very one-sided. I love connecting people to remind them that the veil between worlds is actually very thin.

Many times during a Reading, there will be a pattern that will be discovered in a person’s life that may not be serving them. Unlike a lot of other traditional Astrologers or Psychics, I have additional training & certifications to guide you through your own healing experiences. NLP Life Coaching , EFT, and Therapeutic Hypnosis are wonderful tools to help someone break old habits, overcome phobias, have better relationships, achieve increased confidence, master public speaking, etc.

The body wants to heal! Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. As a certified Reiki Master, I will work with you to assist your body to return it to it’s own natural state of balance & well-being. I am certified in Usui (traditional Japanese), Sechiem (Egyptian) Reiki, and Chakra Clearing.

Call me for more information!
“Readings that Run Deep”
Call/Text: (802)-999-4677
Email: Info@GretchenHidell.com
Website: www.GretchenHidell.com
Facebook Page: AstrologyUpdatesbyGretchenHidell

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Year of the Dog 2018

2018 is the Year of the Earth Dog.

Friday 16 February was the first day of the Chinese New Year this year.

Dog years: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, and 2030…

The Dog is known to be friendly, kind, loyal and pack-oriented. Some of the major themes of the Dog Year are justice, practicality, protection. Honesty and truthfulness are also Dog values.

Bill Clinton and Donald Trump are Dogs.

OK, so obviously we need to take the Chinese horoscope with a grain of salt, along with some common sense. Here are some themes that can help everyone, especially during a Dog Year.

Practice tolerance and empathy. Listen. Reflect. When having a challenge conversation, can you slow down and hear where they are coming from? Are their end goals similar to yours? Is their way of getting there different? Embrace diversity in thought and dig deeper to uncover the why of how others think. You may learn something from someone else’s perspective!

Family, friends and community are very important for the Dog Year. This is a time for family get-togethers and deepening friendships. Sharing healthy meals together is such a great way to be in community together. Don’t over do it with comfort foods and sugar. Sugar will deplete the digestive energy.

This is the year of the Earth Dog. In Chinese medicine, the Earth element is about the Spleen and Stomach and digestion. Healthy goods are: soups and stews, roasts meats with root vegetables, and casseroles.

This year could easily lead you to being more of a homebody, which is ok if you don’t let inertia get the best of you. Be at home, do projects, declutter & organize, read – and – Exercise balanced with stretching and relaxing will be key for the Earth element.

Worry is associated with the Earth element, too. Worry is not good for the digestion – and an energetically weak Spleen and Stomach will often lead to worry. They say that most of the things we worry about this year won’t actually happen. So, for the sake of your health, try to let your mind chill a bit. Relax, it’s all good.

Remember, being more tolerant in 2018 will be best for everyone, yourself included. Appreciate the differences that others in your community have to offer.

Enjoy 2018 and play like a Dog!




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Spring Cleansing

Every spring for the last 15 years or so, I do a cleanse of some sort. It started with one month of no sugar, and I did that several years in a row. It was such a great reset. I had been finding it hard toIMG_3294 resist all the wonderful sweet treats available everywhere. Quitting sugar for a month was like hitting the reset button and afterwards I definitely found I craved sugar less and was able to resist the sultry temptations. And now to this day, I can walk into Stone Soup and admire the piles of sweet yumminess, pay for my savory selections, and go on with it, without a second thought. Success!

Since then I have probably done about five different cleanse programs, each one a couple times, including Clean and Restart, and now I am 25 days into what I call a Whole 30-inspired month (the Whole 30 with some modifications – and perhaps I will do it for longer than a month).

What these cleanses all have in common is simple – eat lots of vegetables and protein & fat rich foods including meat, fish, and some nuts – and take out sugar, alcohol, breads and processed grains. Restart and the Whole 30 are pretty similar to the Paleo diet, which means eating mostly meat and veg, and cutting out grains, legumes and dairy. Also with these cleanses you can eat minimal sweet fruit, but all the avocados and cukes (fruits that we think of as vegetables) that you want.

The key to success, besides spending lots of time in the kitchen prepping food, is getting plenty of fats. Drizzle Saratoga Oil Company olive oil on your steamed broccoli (sprinkle on some sea salt, too), cook eggs in coconut oil, ghee or strained bacon fat, reheat roasted root veggies and add some extra ghee. Eat bacon and avocados whenever you can :)   You get the idea.

This time cleansing is extra great for me, because my husband is on a very similar plan. He is doing mostly meat and vegetables with some fruit, nuts, and dairy. His plan is not limited to 30 days and he gets one “cheat” a week, which makes it more sustainable for the long haul. He is finding that he is feeling amazingly well and noticeably stronger in his work-outs. He is really focused on getting plenty of protein and it seems to be positively affecting his muscles. He looks slimmer even though the scale is slowly dropping.

With these cleanses, you have the option of making them an elimination diet. If you suspect that you have some symptoms related to certain foods you can take those foods out, ideally for at least 3 weeks, and then add them back in one at a time and see how you fee. The most common culprits are dairy, gluten/grains, eggs, and night shades (peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, tobacco). Nightshades can cause joint pain and stiffness in some people but since those foods are so ubiquitous it can be hard to see a pattern until you completely take them out and then try them again. If they turn out to be a problem for you, it is possible to take take them out for a few months, while eating quite clean-ly in general, and then put them back in without having problems. In this case it is not a true allergy, but an intolerance due to an overloaded system. Cleaning it up can make a big difference.

Happy cleansing.


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Zero Balancing I in Burlington, Vermont 22-25 March 2018


Zero Balancing I      March 22-25, 2018

A 25 hour professional bodymind therapy training for health professionals with Michele Doucette DC

Zero Balancing is a leading-edge, hands-on, body-mind therapy. It combines the Western view of medicine and science from the field of osteopathy with Eastern concepts of energy and healing from the field of acupuncture. ZB affects the whole person (body, mind, and spirit) by providing both structural therapy and energy medicine simultaneously. It promotes a deeply meditative state in which sub-optimal tension patterns are easily released. Like adjusting the tension on a guitar string, ZB leaves a person more in tune with their essential being, more resonant with their true self…more relaxed, comfortable, resilient, awake, self-aware, grounded, and expanded.

ZB I is approved for 25 hrs. Continuing Education credit (through VT Board of Chiropractic, NCBTMB, NCCAOM, and several other accrediting agencies.  Accepted for VT/NH PT/OT credits)

The instructor:  Michele Doucette DC, practicing/teaching ZB for over 20 years in Wilmington, VT.  To register contact Dr. Doucette at 802-464-2361  bones@sover.net  www.zerobalancing.com   Course Fee:  $795, $695 if pd 1 mo. advance, $595 2 mo. advance.

Hosted by Kelly Kaeding MS LAc at the Vermont Center for Acupuncture & Wellness
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Zero Balancing intro Thursday 18 May 2017 and ZB I in September 2017

free Intro to Zero Balancingzba

with Michele Doucette DC

Thurs 18 May, 6:30-8:00 pm
Vermont Center for Acupuncture & Wellness
161 North Street Burlington, VT

Please join us for a free talk and demonstration about Zero Balancing (ZB). Come if you are interested in learning about energy, receiving ZB, or studying Zero Balancing.


Zero Balancing I

A 25 hour professional bodymind therapy training for health professionals
with Michele Doucette DC
September 21-24, 2017
Vermont Center for Acupuncture & Wellness
161 North Street Burlington, VT

Zero Balancing is a leading-edge, hands-on, body-mind therapy.  It combines the Western view of medicine and science from the field of osteopathy with Eastern concepts of energy and healing from the field of acupuncture.  ZB affects the whole person (body, mind, and spirit) by providing both structural therapy and energy medicine simultaneously.  It promotes a deeply meditative state in which sub-optimal tension patterns are easily released.  Like adjusting the tension on a guitar string, ZB leaves a person more in tune with their essential being, more resonant with their true self…more relaxed, comfortable, resilient, awake, self-aware, grounded, and expanded.

ZB I is approved for 25 hrs. Continuing Education credit (through VT Board of Chiropractic, NCBTMB, NCCAOM, and several other accrediting agencies.  Accepted for VT/NH PT/OT credits)

The instructor:  Michele Doucette DC, practicing/teaching ZB for over 20 years in Wilmington, VT.  To register contact Dr. Doucette at 802-464-2361  bones@sover.net  www.zerobalancing.com   Course Fee:  $795, $695 if pd 1 mo. advance, $595 2 mo. advance





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IMG_0487Saturday 28 January is the first day of the Chinese New Year, the year of the Fire Rooster.

Rooster years: 1909, 1921, 1933, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2017

Rooster qualities – commitment, loyalty, honesty and outspokenness – can help us all in 2017. The Rooster’s vivacious and charming energy draws people to them and they can be quite influential. In 2017 with Rooster energy abound, we can all be change-makers.

Don’t’ be afraid to take the spotlight and speak up for what you believe in.

With right effort, goals will be realized and projects completed.

Best place to start is with yourself and your health. Implement your exercise, meditation, nutrition intentions. 2017 brings an open slate for you to begin your next masterpiece.

In numerology, 2017 is a 1, which signifies new beginnings. Astrologer Gretchen Hidell advises that we choose to put our energy where we want to see it grow in the coming years.  “Energy flows where attention goes,” Gretchen always says. Listen to Gretchen’s You Tube video about 2017.





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Every year on First Night there is a Dragon Parade down Church Street just before the early fireworks. The dragons were made by different schools and other groups and the parade is led by Sambatucata, the Argentinian marching percussion band.

Here are some photos from the Sustainability Academy’s dragon and baby dragons, animated by students, family and friends of SA. Happy New Year to you and your family.


Read More »

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Death by Food Pyramid by Denise Minger


For years I have been frustrated with what I call the brainwashing of our society about what foods are healthy. Even medical professionals routinely recommend dangerously unhealthy diets to their patients. Where is the confusion coming from? Denise Minger hits the nail on the head with her new book, Death by Food Pyramid, and clearly shows where the food pyramid came from and why it is so up-side-down..

Denise Minger is research scientist with a doctorate in Nutritional Sciences who started her career with a powerful critique of The China Study, a study that condemns animal foods. She has since published hundreds of articles about health and nutrition. She advocates for traditional whole food diets which include healthy fats.

Michael R. Eades, MD, too, found her work fascinating and wrote a sort of cliff notes/blog trailer for it, which you can read here.

Check out: Death By Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Ruined Your Health and How to Reclaim It





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