Art of Listening

Are we really listening, or just waiting for our turn to speak?


Listening is a craft, gifted to some, while refined by others.  Ego drives a superior response, while humility allows open mutual dialogue. Multi-tasking and distraction are enemies for listening effectiveness and erode connection.


Health practitioners are trained in the art of listening to get ourselves; 1. Grounded, 2. Centred, and 3. Present.  No distractions, only purposeful listening when a client is speaking.  When conducting a client intake we intently listen to the verbal and non-verbal dialogue from a patient hoping to catch little clues in their history that may give us insight into their situation and ultimately assist in creating a treatment plan.


Demonstrating empathetic concern builds trust and strengthens both personal and professional relationships.  When you are a good listener, people want to talk to you.  Good listeners are patient, are generally better at taking directions, make fewer mistakes and process information more succinctly.


The sharing of knowledge is a double-lane expressway between individuals.  Listening opens the door to learning and expanding our base of knowledge.  Be mindful in your next conversation as to the listening skills you use.

Holiday Menu

From our homes to yours, we would like to share our favourite recipes as you prepare for your holiday feast.  

From all of us, we wish you a very happy Christmas season and many blessings in 2023!

With love, Allison, Brittany, Garret, Julie and Michelle.

Vegan Mushroom Wellington with Rosemary and Pecans

I am all for a hearty Beef-Wellington Christmas meal, however after a few days of holiday eating and socializing I enjoy a flavourful vegan dish for dinner.  ~Garret Woynarski


1 box -2 sheets vegan puff pastry, thawed in the fridge overnight. (Use cold-not at room temp)

2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter)

2 pounds mushrooms, sliced, stems OK (except Shiitake stems)

1 large onion, diced

4–6 garlic cloves, rough chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or sage, or thyme)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup sherry wine, red wine or white wine

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 cup chopped, toasted pecans (or feel free to sub hazelnuts or walnuts)

½ teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons truffle oil (optional)


-If you want to add cheese, add ½ – 1 cup grated pecorino, gruyere, goat cheese or cream cheese- or use a meltable vegan cheese- or make vegan ricotta!

-Egg wash – use nut milk, cream or melted coconut oil to brush on the pastry.  If you’re not worried about it being vegan, whisk an egg with a tablespoon of water.


  1. Make sure the puff pastry is thawed before you start – cold, but thawed. (Note if it is too warm, it may fall apart, if too cold, it will be too stiff to roll.)
  2. Preheat oven to 400F
  3. MAKE THE FILLING: Heat oil in an extra-large skillet or dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onions, garlic, salt and rosemary and sauté, stirring often, until mushrooms release all their liquid. Turn heat down to medium, and continue sautéing until all the liquid has evaporated, be patient, this will take a little time! Once the mushrooms are relatively dry in the pan, splash with wine and balsamic vinegar and again, sauté on medium heat until all the liquid has cooked off. This is important- you absolutely do not want a watery filling (it will turn into a mess!).  Add the toasted chopped pecans, pepper, truffle oil. Taste, adjust salt to your liking. At this point, you could fold in some cheese if you like.
  4. Let the filling cool 15-20 minutes (you could make the filling a day ahead and refrigerate).
  5. Fill 2 Puff Pastries:  Carefully unroll the puff pastry onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (if it seems stiff, let it thaw a few more minutes until pliable).  Place half the filling in a mound along the center (see photo) and working quickly, roll the pastry up, and over, seam side down. Fill and roll the second sheet.
  6. Brush with the egg or eggless wash.
  7. Score the pastry using a razor blade or sharp knife with your choice of design – cross-hatch, herringbone, leafy vine or just simple diagonal slits.
  8. Bake: Place the sheet pan on the middle rack in the oven for 35 minutes, checking at 20 mins, and rotating pan for even browning if necessary. Let the pastry bake until it is a really deep golden colour – to ensure it’s done and flaky all the way through. You may need to add 5 more minutes depending on your oven. Convection will help achieve a golden crust, (use it for the last 5-10 minutes).
  9. Cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving. Garnish with Rosemary Sprigs. It’s OK to serve at room temp, but warm is best.

Adapted from:

Wild Rice Pilaf

From Allison Ziegler’s kitchen


1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup diced celery

½ cup carrots

¾ cups diced onion

1 ½ cups wild rice blend

2 2/3 cups vegetable broth

1-2 tablespoons fresh parsley


  1. Heat a large skillet to medium-high and add olive oil.Add celery, onion, and carrot to the pan.  Sauté, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent and the vegetables have softened – about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and stir to combine.Allow the rice to toast until the oil is absorbed.
  3. Por in the broth and cover the pot.Bring the rice to a boil and then immediately reduce heat to low.  Allow the rice to simmer for 45-50 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow the rice to set for 5-10 minutes to allow the rice to absorb any remaining liquid.
  5. Fluff the rice with a fork and garnish with fresh herbs before serving.

Cranberry, Goat Cheese, and Pecan Salad

Julie Zepp’s pick


For the Salad:

4 cups baby mixed greens or spring mix, arugula, spinach (about 2.5 oz.)

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup candied pecans*

2 oz. soft goat cheese (chèvre)

For the Dressing:

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1.5 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

black pepper to taste

*For the candied pecans:


2 cups pecans

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 pinch sea salt


  1. Melt butter (3 tablespoons) in heavy bottomed skillet
  2. Add pecans (2 cups); stir to coat
  3. Add coconut sugar (1/3 cup), and cinnamon (1/2 teaspoon); stir to coat.
  4. Continue stirring until sugars caramelize- they should not be grainy anymore, and begin to darken in color (about 3-4 minutes).
  5. Spread nuts out on a parchment covered baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt, and allow to cool for at least ten minutes. If nuts are difficult to separate, you can break them apart after they’ve cooled for a bit.


  1. In the bottom of a large mixing bowl, whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together until well emulsified.
  2. Add the baby greens (4 cups) and toss together well with tongs to coat in the dressing.
  3. Add the sliced red onion (1/4 cup), the dried cranberries (1/4 cup), and the candied nuts (1/4 cup) to the bowl on top of the greens. Use the tines of a fork to crumble the soft goat cheese (2 oz.) directly into the bowl.
  4. Toss everything gently together. Divide into two serving bowls or plates and serve.

Beverage: Beet Kvass

Brittany Wolfe’s Specialty

This unique and mineral-rich beverage is great for digestion. It equal parts salty, tangy, warming and satisfying.
Note that this is a fermented beverage so if you’re interested in adding it onto the menu, start prepping now! Due to the fermentation, it is also naturally high in probiotics giving you and yours a sweet little blast of gut health this holiday season.


2 cups beets, rinsed and roughly chopped

2 tbsp fresh ginger, roughly chopped

4 cups filtered water

2 tsp sea salt


  1. Sanitize your jar and lid with boiling water.
  2. Place beets, ginger, salt and water in the jar.
  3. Stir until salt is dissolved.
  4. Cover with an airtight lid and store in a dark place at room temperature.
  5. It should ferment for 4-15 days.
  6. Strain and store in the fridge until you are ready to use.

Healthy Sugar Cookies by Vani Hari

Michelle Sthamann’s holiday treat


2 cups blanched almond flour

¼ cup coconut oil melted (or grass-fed butter at room temp)

½ cup coconut palm sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix all wet ingredients together and combine well
  3. Slowly pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix well
  4. Drop a tablespoon of dough on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet
  5. Bake cookies for 8-10 mins (until edges are golden brown)
  6. As cookies are cooling, sprinkle with a little coconut sugar after baking if desired
  7. Cool cookies for at least 5 mins before serving
  8. (Alternatively, if you are cutting out shapes, refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour and then roll out using a rolling pin and additional almond flour and bake the same way)

The Kidneys Relating to Pelvis and Low Back Pain

As I return from another week of 4th year Osteopathy classes in Vancouver, I am fascinated by the complexities and opportunities for treating low back pain.  We can get stuck in a groove of treating low back pain as purely mechanical in nature, when consideration of the visceral organs may result in a different conclusion and can provide advantages.


This latest set of classes on the Kidneys and Gynaecological structures opened my awareness and palpation to alternatives for treatment of pelvic and low back pain.  I have previous training courses in Visceral Manipulation from over a decade ago, however my studies in Osteopathy have enhanced my approach.


Low back pain, inclusive of anterior pelvic and sacral regions, can be structural in nature.  Misalignment of joint articulations, muscle tightness and/or weakness, nerve irritation and asymmetrical work/life/movement patterns are common reasons for pain.  When low back pain is treated as musculoskeletal in origin, and the pain resolves, perfect.  Case closed.


What if the pain isn’t being resolved?


Here I believe lies an opportunity.  An opportunity to think differently, ask different questions about the same pain presentation to arrive at a potentially superior conclusion.


For instance, the uterus rotates in a torsional pattern during the gait cycle.  When walking or running, as one leg moves forward and one side of the pelvis rotates, the uterus moves in its torsional patterns because of the fascial attachment to the inner iliac crests and the utero-sacral ligaments that anchor onto the sacrum.  As the sacrum moves, so does the uterus.  A sacrum that doesn’t move properly will cause a cascade of compensatory patterns through the pelvis and spine.


Patient symptoms to consider the Uterus:

  • Pre and post pregnancy
  • Painful menstruation
  • Lumbar, pelvic and sacral pain that won’t resolve
  • Lower abdominal tension
  • Hard fall/impact on the hips or sacrum
  • Post-surgery
  • Bladder pressure


Another example are the kidneys.  The kidneys are situated lateral to midline of the body near L2 and L3 vertebra, housed within rib 11 and 12.  During the gait cycle, the kidneys can glide approximately 3cm in motion along the rail of the psoas major muscle. Tightness and cramping in the low back during exercise can be muscular, but other considerations for the origin of the pain could be the diaphragm that also anchors onto L2/L3 vertebra, and the kidneys which are housed within the adipose and fascia layers of the lumbar spine region.


Patient symptoms to consider the kidneys:

  • Thoracic, lumbar and sarco-iliac pain that won’t resolve with treatment
  • Medial knee and ankle pain (kidney meridian in acupuncture)
  • Flexion of the hip and knee when sneezing
  • Lower limb swelling and/or poor circulation
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Hard fall/impact on the hips or sacrum


In summary, a multitude of considerations can be made for treatment of low back pain.  The end goal with any treatment is to improve structure and function, promote circulation, reduce pain and enhance the vitality of the individual.

Treatment for Long-Haul COVID Symptoms

Long-haul covid is a new term that is being used to described persistent, lingering symptoms experienced after one or multiple diagnoses of covid virus.  Symptoms are ongoing past six weeks from initial diagnosis and can last for months even when the virus is no longer detected in the body.


Individual symptoms will undoubtedly vary and can be intermittent in nature.   This is especially true when a person has contracted different variants of the virus.  The theme of covid symptom awareness is so diverse and top of mind, that almost any symptom we experience we are wondering if it is covid.


Common long-term symptoms may include:

  • Extreme fatigue, both physically and mentally that does not improve with rest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Change in voice, smell and taste
  • Impairment of mental cognition, focus and sleep
  • Weak immunity
  • Menstrual cycle irregularity
  • Muscle, joint and nerve pain/inflammation
  • Heart conditions and fluctuations
  • Emotional PTSD
  • Spine/back pain and sub-occipital/cranial pressure


A closer look at the above indicators reveals a multitude of bodily systems that may be singularity affected or a cumulative load applied upon multiple organ structures.  The symptoms can alter our respiratory system, immune system, reproduction system, and cardiovascular system to name a few.  As well, physical ability along with mental and emotional confidence can impede our activities of daily living.  The organs are taxed, and the vitality in the body is reduced.


Long-haul covid can be all consuming, and life altering.  So where do we start with treatment? I believe a diversity of treatment options is the best, with each treatment addressing a specific system.


  • See your Doctor. Medication, blood work, imaging and further referrals may be necessary.
  • Are you working full-time? Reduced work hours or being off work may ease the stress burden on your body and allow time for healing.
  • Physical treatments:
    • Osteopathy shines in the role of restoring vitality at a local organ level and systemically throughout the whole human structure. Cranial treatments to relieve pressure on the cranium and vagus nerve are key.
    • Massage Therapy is advantageous to reduce muscle and nervous system tension.
    • Physiotherapy clinics are offering 6-12 week clinical programs specifically designed for long haul covid patients. These programs can be partnered with Occupational Therapy.
    • Chiropractic is wonderful for improving spinal movement.
    • Acupuncture speaks for itself, to improve nerve conduction and energetic flow through the body.
    • Exercise as indicated. If you aren’t familiar with what to do and how often, there are professionals who can give insight into an exercise program.
  • Naturopathic Doctors have a plethora of insights and offerings to assist the human body in its natural trajectory toward healing.
  • Counselling and mental therapy are vital in addressing depression, anxiety, and trauma.
  • Yoga, meditation and sleep therapy. Avoid sensory over-stimulation.
  • Nutrition, and drinking more water to nourish the cells.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing exercises


I am seeing patients in my practice that have long-haul symptoms.  Each case is individually assessed, with common areas for assessment and treatment being:

  • A detailed case history intake and conversation
  • Rib articulations, due to excessive coughing
  • Spleen and liver, organ inflammation with the immune response
  • Diaphragm, weakened breathing patterns
  • Cranial, sub-occipital, and vagus nerve pathways
  • Throat and cervical spine, coughing and voice changes
  • Back/spine pain, compromised posture with recovery


A diversified team approach to long-haul covid symptoms is a strategic approach that will ideally show incremental improvements for the patient.  Each professional will offer treatment in what they do best.  Ask for a referral or recommendation to continue your varied healing journey.

Mind Your Feet

Our long-awaited summer is here!  Warmer weather, lighter clothes and of course, many different options for shoes.  The change in season brings a welcomed change of wardrobe and footwear to match the outfit or activity.

So, function over fashion, or fashion first?  Well, that depends on purpose and duration of activity.

I really enjoy summer flip flops, slides, sandals, sneakers and of course, bare feet whenever possible.  This variation in footwear can cause an abrupt change to the feet and the ascending postural gravity lines causing issues with the knees and low back.

Your gait and waking cycle will be altered based upon the footwear you choose.  Sneakers and running shoes afford a longer stride, while sandals may limit the stride length and cause the plantar fascia on the bottoms of the feet to work a little harder due to the construction of the sandal and perhaps less support.  Kicking around a campsite in 5 year-old, past-their-prime sandals is fine for a short duration, but nowhere near sufficient for a 3 km hike.

Our feet can swell significantly in warm weather, leading to foot discomfort at the end of the day.  When trying on a sandal in the store, be mindful of your cool foot vs. a hot and swollen mid-afternoon foot and the sizing available. Soaking your feet in cool water is a great way to reduce inflammation; cue: hanging your feet off the dock into the lake water!

A few other tips for your summer feet:

  • Calluses are protective, but don’t let them get out of control.
  • Pedicures are helpful for a refresh of summer feet.
  • Epsom salt soak + foot file scrub every few weeks.
  • Apply a healing cream/ointment for the heels. Cracked heels are painful.
  • Stretching the calves and hamstrings. Try the yoga pose downward facing dog for a great lower leg stretch.
  • Go barefoot when possible. It can strengthen your feet.


Choose your footwear wisely.  An overworked foot due to a poor shoe choice can take 4-6 weeks to resolve.  Enjoy your summer by keeping your feet happy. So, fashion vs. function?……I lean to the side of appropriate function.


The movement and progression from one situation to another is easily summarized as a transition.  Our life is full of transitions.  Some transitions are short and optimized, some transitions can be heavy on the heart, while others can be fun and uplifting.  Transitions can be forced upon on us – death, job loss or relationship unravelling – or an imminent transition we know is on the horizon, it’s looming, either in our personal or professional life, but it’s usually up to us to initiate it.


All transitions carry the potential for mixed reactions based on our current health, mindset, support system and previous life experiences.  Our perspective is what contributes to our response.


I know these transitions all too well in my personal and professional life, as a significant career transition is what has brought me to Prairie Sky Integrative Health.


A few months ago while on Vancouver Island, I was mountain biking on Maple Mountain and came across a beautiful arbutus tree, that was much larger and thus older, than any other arbutus tree I have seen before.  It exuded wisdom and stability.  A closer look revealed a few of its branches were completely dead, pale and lifeless.  Our eye somehow travels to notice what is wrong, instead of what is correct.  Pausing to reframe my perspective, I noticed near each dead branch, was a new creation of a limb that was viable, full of colour and thriving.


As I pondered this unique dichotomy of living and non-living branches on the same tree, I see the parallel in my own life where relationships terminate and new connections sprout.  I stared at the root of that arbutus tree, in awe, at how many transitions it must have weathered and it hit me; that in order to cope, withstand and thrive through a transition, we need a stable root.


Ashtanga yoga speaks about 8 limbs, and the importance of a confident base to move from.  Our root is likened to our boundaries, or parameters for what we will tolerate and what we will no longer endure. As we become wiser with age, we really start to understand ourselves, and we sense what cellularly aligns with our soul.  Authenticity is the word I like to keep near.


So what is my root?  It’s a valid question, and I recognise the answer changes as I progress through life and accumulate experiences.  We each have a different idea of what makes us rooted, grounded, happy and wholesome.  Sometimes roots get pulled out, and this can be difficult to replant.


During life transitions the physical, mental and emotional body often wavers.  Sleep, pain, nervous system dysregulation and digestion upset are common signs and symptoms.  These times are when patients are more likely to seek treatment of a physical nature, or sometimes even just to talk.  Through conversation, the finer details of life’s decisions become evident.  I think this is the value of having a trusted health care practitioner in your corner, an independent influence perhaps, to help realign the systems of our physical body to allow our intuition to symmetrically connect with the mind.


A few transition questions that can lead to clarity:


  • Who am I today, and does my current environment align?
  • Why am I feeling the impulse to make a transition?
  • Have I felt this feeling before?
    • If so, how did I act?
    • When I acted, what was the outcome?
  • What are my support outlets to gain clarity?
  • When do I have to decide?
    • Is it an internal pressure, or one from an external source?
  • Where do my fears originate?


Every transition has a unique set of circumstances.  Our life will perpetually have transitions, we cannot run from them, nor should we try.  If we can slowly develop and get to the root of who we are today, we start to feel more confident in our ability to adapt.  More confidence leads to less pain, better eating habits, more physical activity, improved sleep, and more authentic relationships.  Whether you tackle a transition solo, or with a team approach, clarity lies on the other side of a difficult conversation.