Monday, April 30, 2012

Beach Bard

Last week I read about a program for  would-be poets scheduled at the Nature Center at Jones Beach State Park on Saturday.  While interested, I didn't think about attending until I received a second notice from a friend via email describing the workshop.  Fate was calling. I took the plunge and went alone, stepping outside my comfort zone a bit, since I almost always travel with a friend or with the Admiral.

  It was a workshop made in heaven  for me. I love walking the deserted reaches of Long Island's barrier beaches, stopping often to meditate on the flora and fauna of this seemingly desolate landscape.  Salt water flows in my veins and for as long as I can recall, memories take me near the shore.  Since  I've been trying for a few years to write poetry and am at the point where I need some critiquing from poets further along in writing, it was perfect.

Beach Plums in flower

Against the brilliant sky

Oyster Catcher faces the wind
Horse shoe crab reacts to being returned  to the bay

Rescued pair of Horseshoe Crabs
    First a naturalist took seven of us out along the bay side near the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, formerly West End 1.  In my youth, I worked at this field as a cashier, meeting lots of cute high school boys from Wantagh and earning money for nursing school.  In those days I didn't notice the flowering beach plums or the oyster catchers along the shore, although I do remember that the horseshoe crabs impressed me even then.

A Snowy Egret takes off as a Willet watches
A pair of Common Terns

The shore birds were plentiful, as always, and invited picture snapping, since I can see the birds better through my camera lens than I can with binoculars.

The poet, Maxwell C. Wheat, Jr.  Nassau County's first poet laureate, instructed us to take notes as we walked, observe the surroundings using all of our senses, ask questions of the naturalist and soak up ideas with the intent of eventually creating a poem.

  We returned to the classroom after traipsing the beach for an hour or so and our poet coaxed us to attempt  a list poem about the morning's walk. I had lots of images in my notebook, the barest beginnings of a poem.  The other poets, more experienced than this would-be bard, read what they had produced in a mere twenty minutes.  I was impressed.

  I needed a day or two to let my experience percolate in my sub-conscious and I now have a rough draft to continue working on , perhaps this week.

                           Beach  Bard

The bay whispers an old tale,
Cadenced with the whining wind,
Couplets in a briny yarn.

Clams and mollusks, iridescent slate,
Slowly grind to sand, another chapter
Retold by the ancient tidal flow.

Fire-tailed hawks in tune with sporty oyster-catchers
Return, using  the route taken by ancestors,
They nest, passing the road map on.

Beach plums bloom stark ecru
On black branches, leaves still in bud,
Pollen murmurs secrets only the birds hear.

Horseshoe crabs, immigrants from the primordial past,
Keep counsel in the ebbing  bay, rescued
For another day, another century, another eon,

By a poet straining
To read the whistling wind
and getting lost in its song.

Take-Away for Today -  Stepping out of my usual routine felt good, and I wrote a poem!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hangin' With the Boy

   Fridays have become our day to fetch our grandson from nursery school and set off on an adventure before returning him to his mother later in the day.  It gives her some uninterrupted time and it gives us a chance to be young again, if only in spirit.  The body , not so much.

  All worries, aches and pains depart for a few hours when I get into three year old mode.  Henry is all about this instant in time.  With little concern about what happened last week or what might happen later, he is completely engrossed in the NOW.  His questions keep us hopping to stay one step ahead of him and it is especially wonderful to see again with new eyes, fresh to the world.

  He expressed the desire to "go to a museum,"  so we headed over to the Brooklyn Art Museum, a favorite haunt since his mom is an artist.  He was interested in the sculptures and was intrigued  with  how many different materials could be used for sculpting.  He liked the African masks and would have begun making one on the spot if someone had provided the materials.

  He showed us the "piano in a tree" sculpture, but was disappointed that the piano wasn't playing .  The last time he was there "it played by itself,"  he informed us.  Sure enough, the sign reported that the piano wasn't working.

  When we tired of indoor treasure hunting, we headed over to the Botanical Garden for some fresh air and flowers. Henry led us on a nature walk through the woodland garden, delighted that we let him decide which path to take when we came to a fork in the road.  He loves to sing and has recently been making up his own songs so our stroll through the garden was accompanied by his gentle rendition of his latest song.

  My  own children grew up too quickly, it is true.  Much as I wanted to remember each moment, they piled up on each other and then slipped into the misty past.  I waited a long time for a grandchild and now that he is here, I am recapturing some of those dim memories.

Today's Take-Away -  Find a little boy or girl to spend time with, revel in, and relive "childish" moments from the past while staying rooted right here in today.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It-Never-Tastes-the-Same-Twice Vegetable Soup

When the weather turned cool earlier in the week, I decided to cook up one last pot of soup before the hot weather  kicks in and all I can think about is salad and watermelon.  The chopping and peeling of veggies is soothing to me so I decided to make a pot of Vegetable Bean Soup or Minestrone.

Start with lots of veggies

 My Vegetable Soup has so many variations that my children called it the "It-  Never -Tastes -The -Same -Twice -Soup ."  I don't use stock or store -bought broth, so I need a few tricks to  make a rich flavorful soup that can be made in one hour.  I usually make a large pot and freeze half or, more recently, give half to my mother since she  doesn't cook anymore.

Here's how I do it.

Ready to roast the garlic

 Heat the oven to 400. Prepare about 5 cloves of garlic for roasting.  Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil.

Roast the veggies to bring out more flavor

Chop  about 4 carrots, 1-2 red peppers, and 1 or 2 onions , drizzle with olive oil and roast on a cookie sheet on 400 for about 15 -20 minutes. Roast the garlic at the same time.

Quickly saute the rest of the veggies

While those  veggies are roasting, quickly saute 1 zucchini, 1 potato, 1 onion,  2 or 3 stalks of celery, several cloves of garlic,  and a handful of string beans for about 3 minutes.  DO NOT OVERCOOK.

Adding the tomatoes

Turn the heat off and add  1 large can of (Red Pack) chopped tomatoes (28oz.) Add a can of water.(28oz.)
Add the roasted veggies which should just be finishing.  Add lots of oregano or basil ( not both) .
Take 1 or 2 cups of the partially cooked soup, 1 can of small white beans or cannellini beans drained, 1/4 cup of parsley,  the roasted garlic  and about 1 cup of water and blend into a puree in a blender.  Add to the soup pot along with 1 can of chickpeas(drained but not pureed) and some chopped cabbage and a dash or two of cayenne pepper flakes, bring to a boil,  lower the heat and cook for 5 or 6 minutes.
  Taste and season with salt, more black pepper and oregano or basil if needed.


Serve with grated romano cheese, parsley, a loaf of Italian bread and wine.

Secrets to getting lots of flavor without a soup stock or meat:
1)  Roasting some of the veggies especially carrots, onions, peppers and garlic adds flavor.
2)  Adding the pureed beans adds depth to the soup as does pureeing some of the veggies.
3)  Garlic, garlic, garlic!
4)  Make the soup early in the day so the flavors meld together.
5)  Don't overcook the vegetables.  Since you will be reheating it later, they will be cooked when the soup is served.

How to vary the flavor:

Vary the veggies:  I've used  eggplant, yellow summer  squash, peas, corn and spinach .   This soup can also  be called "Whatever -you -have in- the- vegetable -bin -soup!
Vary the herbs: oregano or basil or thyme and rosemary, or sometime I really shake it up and use Indian flavors like cumin, turmeric and cinnamon (leaving out the Italian cheese etc) I love using a tablespoon or two of pesto if I have it on hand to season this soup.
Use pasta instead of the potato.  Add cooked pasta just before serving.
Vary the type of beans used - Try kidney, chickpeas, black or cannellini or small white beans.
Use red or white wine in place of some of the water.

Today's Take-away -  Delicious, nutritious and made in one hour!  (and 5 minutes to load the dishwasher)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lemon Balm- Herb of the Week

   I discovered several lemon balm plants flourishing in my herb garden this morning, as well as a few volunteers coming up willy-nilly around the yard.  That's the good and bad news about lemon balm.  If it wasn't  so useful and aromatic, it might become a bit pesky.  It self-seeds quite freely and the since the flowers are nondescript, it takes a bit of effort to keep it from setting too many seeds.

  I'm a bit laissez-faire when it comes to this sort of thing, so the uninvited are welcome  in my yard, for the most part.  If they get in the way, I harvest them and plant something else in the spot.

  Lemon Balm, also called 'Melissa,' which means bee in Greek, is a relative of the mint family and , like it's names suggest, it has a lemony scent and is loved by the bees.

 I grow it  primarily to use in teas.  It has some mild medicinal properties which  are a welcome addition to my winter teas.   The leaves can be used in salads and
I've also used it in several herbal vinegar recipes.

    Lemon Balm is well known traditionally as a relaxing herb that lifts the spirits and " causeth the mind and heart to become merry.."  according to Nicholas Culpepper, a well-known British herbalist of the 17th century.  I add it to my 'cold and flu' tea blend  for this soothing effect and also because it seems to chase away the chills that often accompany a cold.

  I begin harvesting  Lemon Balm as soon as I see flowers forming because that is the time when the leaves are the most aromatic and flavorful.   Harvesting  in mid-morning on a dry day, I cut the plant down to within inches of the ground, discard any damaged leaves, wash and dry the leaves quickly but thoroughly.  With  lemon balm, I can usually harvest two or even three times in a season.

My preferred method of drying is to lay the herb on paper towels, under a ceiling fan to dry. I've also hung them up side down in bunches in my kitchen, and I've tried drying in a dehydrator. When the leaves are completely dry, I place them in a glass jar , label them and store out of the light.

  In September or October, after all my herbs are dried, I make the tea blends. Lemon balm can also be added fresh to iced tea during the summer.  I add it when the tea is brewing, remove the spent leaves before serving, then add a fresh sprig when serving. Lemon balm is one herb that is best used with other herbs, since it's flavor is subtle.  I like it with black tea, lemon verbena, mint or chamomile.

Today's Take-Away - Lemon Balm , beloved by the bees, is easy to grow, makes a nice addition to tea and is calming and  soothing.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Not-So-Secret Love Affair

I fell hopelessly in love at the age of five and my ardor continues unabated to this day.  I was on a family vacation with cousins , aunts, uncles and grandparents.  We were at a lake house somewhere in New Jersey and  I don't recall much  except that I discovered one of the great loves of my life.

Falling in love at five.
One very hot morning my great aunt took me for a walk through the woods and along a country lane.  I remember the road was dusty and the  bees and other insects buzzed about my face.  As we strolled along I noticed the flowers growing along the rocky edge of the lane.  My Aunt Loretta knew the names of all the flowers and we picked the Queen Anne's Lace, a few Tiger Lilies  and some Chicory.  I was enthralled by the variety and beauty of the flowers and began an affair that has lasted my whole life.

Summer Garden 2006
Since that memorable wild flower walk, I've planted  dozens of gardens, each one was a work of art-in-progress.  Unlike a painting or a symphony, I never quite finish my  garden, always imagining new ways to realize my vision, which changes from year to year and decade to decade.  Just ask my long suffering spouse.  He has suggested that we should never actually plant anything, just keep everything in large pots with wheels.

The compost bin is hidden in this corner of the garden

A seat for the gardeners to relax.
My current garden has been evolving over a 14 year period. The  plan was to plant a garden with four season interest that would be a haven for whatever wild life we could attract, especially birds and butterflies.  I wanted trees, shrubs, flowers,  and a separate area for herbs and a few veggies with a  path to suggest a walk in the woods.

This garden is a source of constant enjoyment for both my husband and I.    We  get lots of exercise keeping up with the weeding, trimming and planting.  I  spend many hours photographing  my 'work of art' and I especially enjoy harvesting and preserving my herbs.

These echinacea attract goldfinches when they go to seed in the fall.

I love to photograph the visitors
We can be found at all hours sitting on our deck just gazing at the beauty around us.  One particularly wonderful pleasure is sitting on the deck with a cup of tea, on an early summer morning, watching the birds teach their fledglings to fly.  We feel like they are "our" birds.

Thank you Aunt Loretta for turning me on to a life time love affair with  plants and flowers!

Today's Take-Away-  For me, gardening is a hobby that nourishes my soul in so many ways.  Everyone needs a hobby this fulfilling!  What is yours?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Just Breathe

I've been a closet meditator for years.  I taught myself how to meditate in the 1970's and have discovered many different methods and ways to relax using these techniques.

 I loved teaching some of my patients  how to clear the mind  and meditate.  Over the years, many patients reported that the simplest breathing exercises helped them a great deal.

I once had a patient who had been seriously injured many years before I met him.  He relayed his story to me: On the day he was injured, while he waited for the ambulance to arrive, he was terrified and began to hyperventilate.  Someone he did not know, leaned close to his ear and whispered to him to focus on his breath and to continue doing so until he was stabilized.  His racing heart slowed and his breathing returned to normal.  He credited that person, who was a yoga instructor, with saving his life.

The simplest and easiest meditative exercise I know is to 'follow your breath.'  This  exercise can be learned quickly  and has been successfully used by many patients who were in pain and/or short of breath as a way of reducing anxiety.  Studies show that meditation can lower blood pressure  and relieve stress.  I used this technique when I was delivering my babies and once to relieve a    wicked migraine headache when I had no aspirin available.

First I make myself comfortable in a seated  position.  Then I scan my body from head to toe, noticing any tension or other sensations. I gently allow each body part to relax.   I spend several minutes on this.

Then I bring my attention to my breath, becoming aware of the air moving in and out of my nostrils.  I make no effort to change my breathing, just notice it.  Each time I am distracted, I return my attention to my breath, the sensation of the air going in, it's temperature, and then how it feels as I exhale.

 I listen to the subtle sound the air makes as it passes through the nostrils and the slightly different sound it makes on the way out, gently bringing my focus back to the breath if my mind strays.  I continue this practice for 15 to 30 minutes. When I first started practicing this exercise, I  could only manage about 5 minutes at a time.

   Learning to meditate can be challenging.  Our world is so distracting and most of us lead distracted lives.  The benefits are worth the effort it takes to master the techniques.  After a few weeks of meditation, most people notice they feel more relaxed and less stressed.

There are many CD's available to walk you through various meditative practices and they can be very helpful.  I recommend listening to a sample(on i-tunes) to make sure the voice on the tape is a pleasing one to your ear.

Books and CD's :
                        'Sadhana' by Anthony DeMello
                        'Learn to Meditate' by David Fontana,PhD
                        'The Relaxation Response' by Herbert Benson, MD
                        'Breathing- The Master Key to Healing' by Andrew Weil, MD

Today's Take-Away -  Simply spending time becoming aware of the breath can relieve tension and bring a sense of calm to a harried life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Staying Right Where My Feet Are

  My daughter got married this past weekend and I want to remember every detail.   How do you keep every treasured moment and hold it in your heart forever?  I don't think it's possible but I suspect that  relaxing into each moment is one way of preserving  it.  I used to be a worry-wart, anticipating  catastrophe.  By living in the future, I missed the present.  This weekend, I lived in the present.  I watched a radiantly beautiful bride enjoy herself completely and it was wonderful.  I let someone else take the photos and I just enjoyed myself.

  This morning, shortly after dawn, I sat near my favorite window, watching the garden gradually come alive.  As I contemplated the past weeks and months and the flurry of getting ready for the wedding and the weekend culmination of all of my daughter's planning, I was struck by the simplicity of my desire to live in the present moment.

 Much as  I wanted to continue to savor the moments of the weekend, I was distracted by activity in the garden as the world began to wake up. I  spent a few minutes observing a squirrel.  He was as still as a stone, up on his hind legs, front paws folded as if in prayer.  He did not move for the longest time.
He seemed to be entirely engrossed in doing 'mountain pose' right next to my statue of St. Francis.  Perhaps the squirrel was doing his impersonation of the  statue.  Who knows?

 It was intriguing until  a  pair of cardinals caught my attention when they  arrived for a morning snack of safflower seeds.  They always have the same routine.  The male hangs back in the tree while the female comes down to the feeder.  After a few minutes, they change places.  I think they guard each other from predators.

I didn't get a picture of the squirrel or the cardinals, but  I  did enjoy the relaxing time I spent  sipping my tea, recalling a beautiful bride, a perfect weekend and watching the creatures who visit my garden.  And I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving for all these gifts and the privilege of staying present to them.

Today's Take-away -  Practice staying in the moment, every moment.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Herb of the Week- Chives

  Chives reliably return every year in  early  spring.  I can always count on using fresh chives on Easter Sunday no matter how early Easter is.  They are another example of an early bitter herb.  With a fresh onion flavor, they are a traditional addition to baked potatoes served with sour cream.

 I love to add them to  our favorite veggie  dip recipe and they make a delicious garnish for just about any soup recipe.  I chop them and add them as I'm serving the soup.
                                  Favorite Veggie Dip
                                              Adapted from the Elegant but Easy Cookbook

Mix together:

1 pint of sour cream
2 tbs horseradish (or more, if you like the heat)
1 tbs paprika
1-2 tbs fresh chives
1 tsp salt
1 tsp tarragon (or Mexican mint)
1 clove minced garlic
black pepper

Chill and serve surrounded by veggies.

Chives look good in the garden too.  They bloom in May and the flowers, which are pink or lavender, are edible and make a nice addition to salads.  I've also used  the flowers when making dried flower arrangements.

Chives in early spring
At left is a photo of my chives taken in early spring.  They are planted in partial shade and, if you look closely,  you can see that they are surrounded by a plethora of chamomile seedlings which will grow up to produce loads of flowers for tea later in the spring. (More about chamomile later)

Garlic Chives

 Chives, like garlic, onions and garlic chives are members of the allium family and although not thought of as medicinal, are considered very nutritious.  The garlic chives, pictured above, look very much like chives, although they bloom later and sport white flowers.  (If you look closely at the picture, you'll notice the garlic chives are surrounded by weeds and if I don't get out and do some weeding soon, the little devils will go to seed and I'll have my work cut out for me all summer.)

Take-away for today - Chives are easy to grow, taste good , look good in the garden, are impervious to pests and are good for you too!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Laugh Out Loud

"  Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.  I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."  Kurt Vonnegut

No doubt about it, laughing out loud does a body good! It lowers blood pressure, increases oxygenation to the body and just plain makes me feel good.  Humor is one of my favorite ways of de-stressing.  Sometimes I can see the humor in my situation, sometimes not.  I make it a point to find at least one humorous episode or happening in my day.   When all else  fails,  I turn to some old favorites to cheer me up.  

The Muppet Show was always a favorite in our house.  It was on television during the years when my children were young.  It was probably the most sophisticated TV show ever developed for a young audience. The children loved it, and so did we.  Here's a favorite  clip, guaranteed to grab a belly laugh or two.   Enjoy the  The Swedish Chef

Today's take-away -  Isn't the internet great?  I can pull up just about ANYTHING in two seconds, even a belly laugh.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Haiku Moments

     The idea of writing haiku came to me purely by accident.  Several years ago, I began a nature journal.  It's purpose was to chronicle the changing seasons, the bloom times of the plants and trees in my garden and the wild life, mostly birds, that visited my yard and "my" preserve.

 I found a ten year journal to use which was perfect.  I could see how things varied (or didn't) from year to year.  It had about four or five lines for each date, for each of ten years.  After a while, I found I had to sharpen my writing and choose my words carefully in order to capture the flavor of a particular day or describe an incident worth recording.

     Around the same time,  I received a book called 'The Essential Haiku- Versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa' as a  Christmas gift.   Soon I was challenging myself to  write  haiku for my  journal entries.  It was great fun!

   Haiku  is an ancient poetic form that originated in Japan.  It is a three line poem that attempts to capture the details  of a particular moment in time by describing what the writer saw, or heard, or smelled etc. The intention is to  evoke the same  feelings in the reader that the incident evoked in the writer.

   Many writing teachers, especially in grammar schools, instruct students to use the traditional 5-7-5 form, used in Japanese haiku.  However, syllables in English are not quite the same as Japanese syllables, called onji.  I often take liberties with the word/syllable count because of this and have found  it easier to write haiku  in the 2-3-2 or the 4-5-4  form.

   Most, but not all, Japanese haiku suggest a season and incorporate observations about nature.  Haiku is an effort to compare, contrast and surprise the reader with a description and hopefully allow the reader to glimpse the feelings experienced by the writer when she had the "haiku moment."

    The Zen quality of haiku, with its  goal to capture a particular moment in time and try to share it with a reader,  drew me to it.   It was perfect for my nature journal.  I was hooked!

   Here's an example of a haiku I wrote a few days ago.  I was sitting at my east-facing window watching the sun rise, when  I saw and heard

                                     Honking geese
                                     head north -
                                     ahead of summer.

   My favorite book about the craft of writing haiku is called 'The Haiku Handbook- How to Write, Teach, and Appreciate Haiku' by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter.

Today's take-away -  Reading and writing haiku keeps me in the moment
and brings delight.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Herb of the Week- Lovage

     Lovage is an uncommon herb but can add much to both the garden and the cook's repertoire.  It is a perennial herb that can grow to 4 or 5 feet.   Easy to grow, it  will tolerate shade.  It is one of the earliest herbs to pop in the spring and it's leaves at this time of year  are tender and slightly bitter, tasting strongly of celery.
    I like to add the leaves to my salads to introduce a welcome bite after the bland vegetables of winter.  Lovage stems and leaves can be added to soups much the same as one would use celery.  The stems, which are hollow, make an interesting addition to a Bloody Mary, for use as a straw.
   In July, lovage produces a soft yellow flower,  resembling the umbrella-like flowers of dill and fennel. Eventually the flowers produce lovely seeds, larger than celery seed and with a strong celery-like flavor.  I collect the seeds and dry them thoroughly, using them all winter whenever I  make something that calls for celery seed.
  One favorite family recipe I make often  is coleslaw made with shredded cabbage, chopped onion, mayo,  cider vinegar, salt, pepper, green olives and some ground lovage seeds.
   Like many seeds(fennel, anise, dill, celery, cumin) lovage is considered an aid to digestion.  The roots have been used medicinally  by herbalists as a treatment for cystitis. The roots should not be used medicinally by pregnant women or anyone with kidney disease.  When used as a food, it can be safely eaten by anyone!

Take-away for today:  Add a lovage plant to your garden, it tastes good and it's good for you too!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April - Perfect Month to be in the Garden

    The weeds are tiny!

    The weather is cool!

    The bugs are missing!

    April is my favorite time to get out into the garden and get my hands dirty.  I love to wander about, looking for my perennials, inspecting the ground for signs of life.  I can breathe in April and the garden smells good, especially if there are a few hyacinths and primroses in bloom.

     I usually find at least one stunned toad, newly crawled from his hibernation hideout, covered in dirt and  still a bit sleepy.  The birds are chasing one another, bent on mating right in broad daylight.

   Digging puts me in touch with my muse.  The minute I get down and dirty, I am lost in ideas for a poetry book focused on garden haiku, or a journal about my favorite herbal concoctions.

    Getting lost in the garden, mentally, not physically, is the whole point.  For me , it can be a very meditative activity or I can vent a bit of my frustration or anger at something or other going on in my life by pulling at the weeds with  a vengeance.

Here are some photos of my garden taken April 7, 2012.  Here in the Northeast, we are a few weeks ahead of schedule this year due to a mild winter.  I'm not so sure if this is "climate change"  and what the long term ramifications are, but in the short term, we are enjoying it!

Today's Take-away-  Gardening is good for the body and the soul.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Love my CSA

    I rejoined my CSA ( Community-Supported Agriculture) today and I'm already  day dreaming about the vegetables and fruits to come.  This is our third year in a CSA  and we are loving it.   We discovered the Golden Earthworm Organic CSA  located in Jamesport New York,  last year and since the farm arranges drop-off points all over Nassau, our fruits and vegetables are delivered to a location closer to my house than my local supermarket!

    For me, it's the best of all worlds.  I can eat my veggies, support Long Island organic farmers, and not have to give up my flower garden to grow my own vegetables.  We also discovered some interesting foods that we never ate growing up in the 50's and 60's.

Last year we sampled gooseberries, kale, daikon radishes, heirloom tomatoes, rutabagas, leeks, celery root,  white turnips, exotic lettuces in addition to the usual cast of characters usually found in the produce aisle.

  I  like the idea of eating whatever is ripe in a given  week - it adds a sense  of mystery  to the meal planning.  And  a bit of a challenge too.

  One thing I've learned - when in doubt, grill it!  Almost all vegetables turn into delicious morsels when grilled!

Today's Take-Away -   Supporting local growers through a CSA, a farmers market or a community garden is a win-win for everybody.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Coasting to Ninety

     My mother will be ninety this year and though she has not been great in the past year or so, she's had an amazingly healthy, independent life until a fractured pelvis interrupted her plan to "remain on my own until I die in my sleep."  I have a photo of her kneeling on the floor when she was 87, playing with her great-grandson!

     It got me to  thinking about all those ninety-somethings I met over the years in my travels as a visiting nurse.  I noticed definite similarities among them and, although unscientific, here's my assessment of what these long-lived people had in common.  They had:

1)  chosen least one parent with good genes,
2) were overwhelmingly female,
3) thin, even underweight,
4) picky eaters,
5) with normal or near normal blood pressure (with or without medication.)
6) They ALL displayed a wonderful sense of humor and
7)  a resilient bounce-back-no-matter-what-happened attitude about life.
8) Not one smoked  although many drank alcohol, but not too much.

    All had had many losses and heartbreak during their long lives but had not gotten 'stuck' in despair, anger, or resentment.  Everything rolled off them like water off the back of a duck.

   OK ,so we can't choose our parents or their genes  but everything else up for grabs.    Well almost.  I can't for the life of me figure out how to become a picky eater!

     Like my mother, (and everyone else, no doubt)  I want to live  independently 'til I drop on a hiking trail somewhere out in the woods or die 'a king's death'  (peacefully while I'm sleeping.)  Too bad we don't get to choose.

Today's Take-Away - It would be great to live to ninety, but only if I get there on my own steam.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Stunning Four Minute Meditation

 This excerpt from  The Wings of Life ,  by Louie Schwartzberg is photography  at its best.  I found this short film to be inspiring and meditative.

  I am one of those crazy gardeners who loves to have the bees and butterflies buzzing around me.  I have a batbox in my yard and  all manner of plants to attract the birds and the butterflies.  This film showed me exactly what all those pollinators are up to when I'm not looking.  We are  dependent on them whether we realize it or not.  I think I'll spend time in my garden today planting  some more flowers to attract the butterflies and hummingbirds.

Here's a list of plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds:  columbine, salvia, fennel, trumpet vine, butterfly bush, butterfly weed, viburnum, honeysuckle and bee balm.   There are many more.


Today's Take-Away - Hooray for the pollinators and for terrific filmmakers too!  Grow something to thank them.
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