The Fork In The Fight: Breathing Into Self-Awareness And Ease

Andrea and Grace have a lovely history together.  Please enjoy the third post of a three post installment in their new series, The Fork in the Fight.   Check out Part 1: Our Story and Part 2: Butternut Squash Curry Bisque recipe!

The Fork in the Fight: recipes for restoring our souls and thriving in the face of cancer

Part 3: Breathing Into Self-Awareness And Ease


In Grace’s story, she mentioned how her experience taught her to be her own friend and to be self-examining. In Yoga, the practice of swadhyaya, or self-study, is a Nyama, or daily observance recommended for practitioners. This looking inward can be beneficial to all humans, regardless of present tragedy or bliss. A safe way to practice is to find a comfortable seated position with the spine tall. You can use blankets or pillows to prop yourself up if needed.  Make sure you are warm (or at your preferred body temperature) and in a quiet space where you can be uninterrupted for 5-25 minutes.  Close your eyes. Start to notice your breathing. “Awareness is central to contemplation because it reduces the distance between us and that of which we are aware.” (Thomas Ryan, Prayer of Heart and Body) So often we are caught up in our surroundings that we are not aware of the feeling in body. As you notice your breath, be aware if it feels shallow or deep, easy or constricted. Also notice where you might be clenching — like the jaw, fist, buttox, pelvic floor, or shoulders. Do your best to release and let go without judgement.

Continue for as long as you have time — scanning the breath and the body, releasing, relaxing and letting go. You may find a few sighing exhales to be especially healing. You can carry this practice with you. In a challenging moment, even if you can’t close your eyes, notice your breath, your body. What can release and let go? Can you slow and deepen your breath, softening your physical presence to invite ease into your present situation? As you prepare to come back to the present moment, be mindful of the serenity you have cultivated, and take time to transition slowly and quietly to your next activity.

We are excited to explore our shared experiences of recovery, relationship building, and self-love with you. Stay well and take time for yourselves during this busy holiday season.

With love and gratitude,

Andrea Ridgard and Grace Van Velden

The Fork In The Fight: Butternut Squash Curry Bisque

Andrea and Grace have a lovely history together.  Please enjoy the second post of a three post installment in their new series, The Fork in the Fight.  Check out Part 1: Our Story and look forward to reading Part 3: Breathing Into Self-Awareness later this week!

The Fork in the Fight: recipes for restoring our souls and thriving in the face of cancer

Part 2: Butternut Squash Curry Bisque


The Recipe

This soup is our mutual favorite for cold winter nights and frosty winter days. It is hearty, flavorful, and comforting. As with all recipes, we believe in using fresh, seasonal, and unprocessed ingredients whenever possible. This can be easily adapted for vegan diets, locally available produce, or taste preferences – as those can change so often during and after treatment. For some ingredients, we have included potential substitution ideas or additional notes in [brackets] should one of them not work for you. For all ingredients we recommend local and/or organic when possible.

Butternut Squash Curry Bisque

+ 1 large or 2 small butternut squash [acorn squash]
+ 1 cup of apples, chopped*
+ 1 cup of sweet red onions, chopped
+ 1 cup of carrots, chopped [purple carrots to boost antioxidants]
+ 2 tablespoons of ghee [coconut or olive oil]
+ ¼ cup of ‘milk’ [raw, organic, whole milk, organic soy milk, or any non-dairy milk]
+ Curry to taste, at least 1 tablespoon [homemade recipe below]
+ 3 ¾ cups of vegetable broth [homemade or store bought]
+ 2 bay leaves
+ 2 tablespoons of local honey** [local maple syrup as a vegan option]
+ 1 bunch of cilantro or tulsi [parsley or another herb if preferred]

Homemade Curry
+ “Make your own by combining and grinding equal parts coriander, cumin, fennel, mustard, fenugreek, cardamom, poppy seeds, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and 1/3 the amount of any one of the other spices, cloves” –Chef Johnny’s Korma Power, Eat, Taste, Heal, p. 229



After setting the oven to 350ºF, prepare the butternut by slicing lengthwise and drizzling the faces with ghee/coconut oil/olive oil. Place the squash face down on a cookie or baking sheet and bake for one hour. Roughly 10 minutes before the squash is done baking, chop the onion and sauté over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of ghee or sesame oil. Add chopped carrot and apple once the onion becomes more translucent and sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Once ready, remove the squash from the oven to cool and stir in the curry to the onion-apple-carrot mixture.

Into a new pot, scoop at least 3 cups of squash from the skins and add the vegetable broth. Stir in the onion-apple-carrot mixture, add 2 bay leaves, and top with a lid to let simmer. After one hour, remove the pot from the heat and take out the bay leaves. Blend, in small batches if necessary, and return the puree to the pot. Once the puree has cooled to eating temperature, stir in the milk and honey. Ladle the butternut squash curry bisque into a warm bowl and garnish with cilantro or parsley and a touch more ghee or oil if you are in need of the good fats.

*Ayurveda recommends enjoying fruit separately from other foods, so you could substitute the apple for extra carrots and cinnamon, or just enjoy the recipe as is occasionally, and if you have good digestive strength.
**Honey should be added only after the soup is done cooking as the honey’s beneficial enzymes and some nutritional value will be lost under high heat.

The full recipe can also be found on Andrea’s website, Grounded Here:


We are excited to explore our shared experiences of recovery, relationship building, and self-love with you. Stay well and take time for yourselves during this busy holiday season.

With love and gratitude,

Andrea and Grace

The Fork In The Fight: Our Story

Andrea and Grace have a lovely history together.  Please enjoy the first post of a three post installment in their new series, The Fork in the Fight.  Look forward to reading Part 2: Butternut Squash Curry Bisque recipe and Part 3: Breathing Into Self-Awareness later this week!

The Fork in the Fight: recipes for restoring our souls and thriving in the face of cancer

Part 1: Our Story

Andrea Ridgard and Grace Van Velden

Andrea’s Story

There was light in their eyes. We met Adriaan first. He was working with our friend, Holly, who invited us out for drinks after work. His laugh was, and still is, the most captivating of any I know. I don’t recall the exact next steps of our relationship from there, or even the date when we first met, but I know I instantly fell for Paula’s loving presence. There could not be a more genuinely loving being in my life. Chris and I adopted this delightful couple as friends, mentors, our first real family-friends of our own—as family. Our connection grew as Chris and I would just stop by the Van Velden home, often after church on Sunday. We’d discuss world affairs, marriage, careers, family, and always it would be accompanied with tea and milk as well as some of the more authentically polite exchanges I have witnessed. Of their children, I most remember David at this time, curious, and eager to sample cookies that we shared when we gathered. He’d emerge from the world of video games and adolescence to say hello and sit with us for a moment. Jane was coming into her own, and Grace was as elegant as ever, even as a teen. These young people were mature, connected, beautiful, and welcomed these new friends of their parents as their own. During this time, Grace was in remission, and preparing for university. She’d decided on Michigan. When Paula shared with us through tears on the couch in their cozy family room that the cancer was back, it was as if time froze, and us with it. We began talking about food, and healing beyond the medical procedures and treatments. Without hesitation, I offered to consider cooking for her myself. It was one of the more important quick proposals I have made (I tend to be one to jump in feet first!)

At the time I had just begun working with a new farm business incubator and was getting to know the local food scene. I was geeked about sharing local, organic and fresh food with Grace. My husband and I had recently bought a home with the intention of growing a bit of our own food as well. Not only did I have the opportunity to support a friend and her family through a tremendously trying time, but the chance to share my love for growing and cooking food were meeting needs of my own to tangibly express love, care and healing energy.

Throughout the process of sharing food, Grace and I began to cultivate a relationship of our own. As she regained strength and the treatments became fewer, we were able to spend more time together. I began cooking for her roommates when she resumed her school work, and was able to learn about her ambitions in Public Health. Everytime I think of starting a wellness center, bed and breakfast or any cooperative healing space (which is quite often), Grace immediately comes to mind as an integral part of its success. We have become family, and now colleagues as well. The deep and loving connection between my husband and I and the Van Velden family, and the way I saw Grace’s family wrap their arms around her is the blessing I wish upon caregivers and patients alike. Of course, there is much to learn from experience, and I imagine that in our journey you will see the challenges we faced, and ways we recommend doing some things differently. But with the main ingredients of love, patience, and respect, building a nourishing life even in the midst of turmoil is possible and an incredible gift to all involved.

Grace’s Story

At seventeen, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – a rare and painful form of juvenile bone cancer. I underwent ten months of chemotherapy and a fourteen-hour surgery that replaced two-thirds of my right humerus with an allograft. Facing mortality at that young age was terrifying and isolating, but it taught me to become my own friend, to be self-examining, and to be resilient of spirit even when my mind and body cannot. It was these powerful lessons that enabled me not only to survive my re-diagnosis at twenty, but to thrive in spite of it.

I credit much of this ability to those kindred spirits who drenched my soul in positivity, who crawled into the hospital bed to cuddle me while the nurses weren’t looking, who laughed with me, who cried with me, who carefully styled my wig and dressed me, and who filled me with healthy and healing food. Yes, food. During treatment it seemed like there was little in my life, or even in my own body, that I had control over. Andrea gave me back some of that power.

It is an incredibly intimate thing to be fed by someone when you are ill. It is something that many of us share only with mothers or perhaps close family. When Andrea heard I had been re-diagnosed, she told my family she wanted to cook for me. In my second diagnosis, I wanted to be kinder to myself, and to focus my energy on building myself up. Andrea is an especially talented cook, and it was through her healthy, fresh, and delicious meals, that I felt that I was enabling my body to keep fighting. I looked forward to her menu emails, and our banter over the deliciousness of cinnamon (or in my opinion, the lack there of) kept my heart happy.

Having cancer was a powerful event in shaping my character, and being a survivor has become one of the most positive experiences of my life, something of which I am proudest. My exploration with Andrea into which foods made me feel great and which ingredients were the best for me, has grown into a life passion for healthy living, cooking, and gardening. Since battling cancer twice, I have fallen in love, graduated from university, lived abroad in my native South Africa, travelled, and moved across the United States to start a new chapter in a full and happy life. And, I have had the distance of time to reflect.

I once believed that having cancer meant my body had failed me, and I’m sure many others are burdened with this thought. But, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It took me time to appreciate my body as an ally. I am not sure that I ever would have fully learned this had I not begun to focus on feeding my body, and my soul, while I was in treatment. I am grateful for the love of healthy food and the connection to my body that was built as Andrea and I began our friendship.

It may seem small, but I know that food can be an empowering building block when facing seemingly insurmountable health issues. It is a way to nourish your own body, a way to lend strength to someone you love and who may be struggling with the side effects of treatment, and it is a way to deepen the connection between the patient and the caregiver who share, in different ways, the emotional weight of battling cancer. My and Andrea’s story is one of many possible stories. I hope that through our posts and recipes you will feel inspired to share your own food and recovery stories, and more emboldened to throw the spatula at cancer.

Our Story

From the beginning, our arrangement for food preparation was an open conversation. Below is an excerpt from one of our first exchanges in March 2011, after the re-diagnosis and before treatment began.

Grace: Andrea, your food is absolutely delicious!
Andrea: so glad you like it!
Grace: especially the amaranth & date bars, but really, I love everything
Andrea: How are you doing? ooh, glad you like those! I like them too (saved a few for us)
Grace: and so does my boyfriend, I had to stop him from eating all of it
Andrea: haha! Yes, keep them for you!
Grace: I’m doing really well, thank you. I’ve got a good grip on what’s going on and the track ahead. It really is going to be such a wonderful treat to look forward to these meals
Andrea: OK, so glad to hear all of that. And please continue to be honest about how you like the food and if you have special requests
Andrea: I am trying to do some research about what would be most healthy and healing for you, but want to include you when and wherever you are interested. I know you have a lot going on, so I will stay out of your way, but don’t hesitate to make suggestions or inquiries, OK?
Grace: I will be 100% honest. I think it’s going to take a little getting used to but I’m pleased to be getting such raw & fresh food. It really tastes fantastic and I would love to cook with you sometime, too. Absolutely will let you know what I’m thinking 🙂
Andrea: You are so welcome. So happy to be working with you in this way. I know you and I have not spent so much time together yet, but I feel so close to your family. You are so dear to me, Grace.

This was an experimental process bathed in a lot of love… just like The Fork in the Fight is. Sharing our story with you is new and exciting, and yet, we don’t know how it will land with you. We invite you to keep us posted by commenting, asking questions, sharing what worked for you and what did not work for you when eating or feeding a loved one in treatment. We look forward to learning how we will all grow in this process of sharing our stories.

In each The Fork in the Fight post, we will include ingredients and instructions, photographs, and conversation surrounding why that recipe was picked. As this is a forum for focusing on healing and restoration from diagnosis, throughout treatment and all the way to remission, occasionally (including in this post!), we will also share a non-food related “recipe” for something we have learned along the way: a breathing technique, a yogic practice or position, or a strategy for staying self-loving.

We are excited to explore our shared experiences of recovery, relationship building, and self-love with you. Stay well and take time for yourselves during this busy holiday season.

With love and gratitude,

Andrea and Grace

Welcome Andrea!

Lacuna Loft is excited to continue introducing some guest bloggers!  These great folks represent a variety of perspectives on the myriad of topics covered here at Lacuna Loft.  Before everyone starts really getting into the nitty-gritty of all they have to say, we wanted to introduce them a bit.  Without further ado, here is Andrea!

Andrea Ridgard is a 500 Hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher, with a focus on Ayurveda as well as an Ayurvedic Health Counselor. She currently teaches yoga classes and private lessons Ann Arbor, where she is expanding her business to include Ayurevdic Diet & Lifestyle Consultations. Ayurveda is Traditional Indian Medicine. Studying it has led to Andrea initiating several diet and lifestyle changes that have helped her enhance her digestion, readily find calm and ease an anxious mind, and most importantly establish a real sense of self-love. To read more about Ayurveda, visit

At the beginning of her Yoga teaching career, before she knew anything about Ayurveda, Andrea also spent time cooking for Oncology patients in treatment, delivering warm, home-cooked meals for them and their loved ones. This was a beautiful and trying experience. The knowledge of Ayurveda would have thoroughly enhanced this work, and she is eager to share her insight and collaborate with others in exploring wellness daily for all of us, whether bearing a severe illness, caring for someone who is, or just trying to get through life feeling our whole, true, and healthy selves.

Before teaching yoga, Andrea graduated from the University of Michigan and worked with local grassroots non-profit organizations: The Young People’s Project, Inc. and Tilian Farmer Development Center to organize the community around their missions and create sustainable programming. She continues to be closely tied to this and other meaningful community work. When not practicing or teaching yoga, Andrea enjoys cooking with local ingredients, growing her own food, hiking with her husband and dog, and sharing food with friends and family. She also volunteers with The Agrarian Adventure.