Friday, June 29, 2012

Cool Off With Calvin

       I really miss Calvin and Hobbes and like to  resurrect them every now and then for a good chuckle.

      This series called  'Snow Art'  was an outstanding example of the genius of the cartoonist, Bill Watterson  and I can always count on a belly laugh when I read them.

       Perfect humor for a scorching hot day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Exercise Report for June

   Starting an exercise program the first week in June, what's not to like?   I hooked up with another blogger who hosts a 'Readers' Workout'  every Tuesday and I found out that announcing my intention on-line was very motivating!  And it is very interesting to read about other bloggers, their struggles and triumphs with an exercise program.  Here's a link to  Joy's Book Blog  if you want to check it out.

  I made goals that were easily attainable  and chose to exercise early in the morning.  I'm happy to report that I exceeded my commitment of minutes by about 300 for a total of 1200 minutes of exercise for this month.  I began doing some strength training and counted some heavy lifting and bending  in my garden in my minutes.

   I feel better than I did a month ago, am sleeping like a baby again and I dropped 2 pounds. If I keep up this pace, perhaps I'll be 12 pounds lighter by Christmas!  If only....

   I love the early morning and was often able to incorporate a meditation into my walk.  One of the joys of retirement is being able to spend more time on the "Wanna Do List"  and less time on the "Have-Ta Do List" and prayerful meditation , getting in touch with the Spirit within and listening to my heart to discern what God's plan is for me for this day is something I look forward to doing daily.   What better time to get in touch with Him/Her than on an early morning walk in June!

   There is a holistic connection that exists in the Body-Mind-Spirit continuum that warrants our consideration.

  Goals for July:

      Increase my exercise time to 1400 minutes.
      More strength-training
      Increase my speed/distance
      Eat mindfully
   Take-Away -  A month of steady exercising felt good -  physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Harvesting and Drying Herbs and Introducing Hyssop

Just picked  -Lemon Balm and Hyssop

   Sunday was the perfect day for harvesting hyssop and lemon balm.  They  are just starting  to flower,  the time when the leaves are most potent and flavorful.  I  cut the  herbs in the morning on a dry day, shortly after the leaves have dried from the night dew and before the sun gets too hot and robs them of their flavor.

   I find a comfortable spot in the shade and "pick over" my harvest.  Now is the time to eliminate any leaves that aren't perfect.  Most herbs are immune to bug damage and disease but still, I only dry the healthiest looking leaves.  This job can be compared to knitting or crocheting, other Zen-like activities.  It is repetitive, somewhat mindless and soothing.  Add the lovely aromas generated by working with  herbs, and it is a delightful, meditative  way to pass a morning.


   Once  I remove any leaves that aren't perfect, I plunge them into a clean sink full of cold water and swish them vigorously to remove any dirt.  Some herbalists don't recommend washing and prefer to just brush the herbs off.  The nurse in me is compelled to wash!  And, as long as I do it quickly, it doesn't seem to affect the flavor.

Lemon Balm

     Next I shake the herbs vigorously or spin in a salad spinner to get rid of the excess water, then I lay them on a clean tea towel under the ceiling fan in my dining room. Other methods include tying several stems  in a bunch and hanging the plant up-side down or using a dehydrator.  Some herbs, like basil and cilantro are best preserved in the freezer.

So what is Hyssop?

             Hyssop is a somewhat strong flavored member of the mint family, used  primarily for its medicinal qualities,  although it has been used to season food in the past. It is one of the ingredients I use to make my "Cold and Flu Tea."   We brew this tea all winter to ward off  and treat all  manner of viruses that come our way.  Hyssop is known to relieve congestion and improve a cough.  It is also said to be anti-viral.


Easy to grow even from seed, hyssop becomes an attractive shrub in a season or two.  It can be pruned to keep it in bounds and  it makes a nice border hedge in the herb garden.  The flowers are blue, pink or white and the bees and butterflies love it.  One more reason it is welcome  in my garden!

Hyssop and Sage Flowers


        Here's a link to a post about :  Lemon Balm

Monday, June 25, 2012

City Peacock

   We observed this fellow in Prospect Park a few weeks ago.

Looking for attention


He stands soundless
in jeweled raiment
green and blue
following the rhythm
left sway right
right sway left
two-step peacock
looking for a partner.

Impressive even from the back.

           There was no peafowl in sight.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Spring Pasta Primavera

Beet greens and chopped aspargus
It's a challenge to incorporate all those spring greens in the CSA box into recipes, especially if you didn't grow up eating them.    Last week I made this wonderful  (and easy) pasta dish using beet greens, asparagus and garlic scapes.
Garlic Scapes
Other  greens like escarole, collards, kale, broccoli rabe  and spinach can be used with or in place of the beet greens.

Quick saute in olive oil
Cook paste as directed on the box.  While pasta cooks, chop asparagus into 1 inch pieces.  Clean and chop beet greens. Cut up garlic scapes or use garlic if you don't have any scapes.  Saute asparagus and garlic or scapes for 2 minutes and add beet greens. Cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes until wilted.  Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of pesto (I make pesto every year in September and freeze it in ice cube trays, then bag it for use all winter.)  Alternatively, use store bought pesto.  Add pepper and salt to taste.  Add a tablespoon or two of pasta water.
Drain pasta and add to the pan with the veggies and mix well.

Angel Hair  Primavera with Beet Greens and Asparagus
 Garnish with fresh basil leaves and  serve with grated Romano or Parmesean cheese.  Both the asparagus and the beet greens were very mild flavored, as are the garlic scapes.  The dish was soothing and quite satisfying.

Delicious can be nutritious too!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


   Sometimes gratitude comes in great waves, overwhelming with joy.  Other times it comes in the midst of  a quiet contemplative moment.  Occasionally I  experience  gratitude when all seems like trial and sadness.  That amazes me.   

   Always , it is a reminder of the goodness of the Cosmic Creator,  who answers to many names.   I am comforted by this divine  Presence  which I can see and feel in the world around me.  

   Today  I am grateful for my companion, my partner, my soul mate in life.  He holds my hand and my heart and I find in him my true home because he reflects the goodness of the God who made him.


                      Gratitude is one of many  pathways to the spirit  in the Body-Mind-Spirit continuum.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Gorgeous Girls of June

   When we planned our  garden 14 years ago, our first priority was to create a space with interest 12 months a year.

   I visualized the garden  as a gigantic stage where glamorous plants come forward at their designated time and take a deep bow, dazzle for a  few moments then recede into the back round as others take their place.

   Some months are more challenging than others.  June is not one of them.  I could have made a  knock- your- socks -off- garden that performed brilliantly but only in June and July.

   Our garden  has evolved with a lot of help from my strong (and patient) mate,  lots of gifts from other gardeners and a lovely temperate climate.   I love what it has become.

   Here are the gorgeous girls of June.

Lace-cap Hydrangea was a gift from a neighbor

Tiny Fairy Roses remind me of a little girl who loved pink

Evening Primroses came from my cousin Mary's garden

Wild Daylilies moved to LI from Massachusetts

Coreopsis adds sparkle to an otherwise green area

Lamb's Ear - Children love this fuzzy plant

Coneflowers getting ready to pop

Butterfly Weed, Veronica and Yarrow

An Astilbe Forest

Dahlias  and Lavender dress up the driveway

    June is truly a gift from God, the Master Gardener. Enjoy.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The "I'm Never Going On A Diet Again As Long As I Live" Diet

  A number of people have asked recently if I'm on a diet in conjunction with  my new exercise regimen.  The answer is yes and  no.  I don't really believe in dieting in the usual sense of the word.  I've been on a diet (many times)  and I don't think they work.  So I've developed the "I'm never going on a diet again as long as I live" eating plan. It is very simple and, if I follow it, I lose weight!    And this 'diet'  is very easy to remember- just four words-----


     Less calories in, more energy burned. Voila -weight loss.  

  I guess the next question you may be asking is, what foods are allowed on this plan?  Only you can answer that question for yourself.  You can really eat any foods you want , just eat less and move more!!

   Technically you could eat McDonald's everyday for a month and if you eat less and exercised more, you would lose weight.  However, we all know what happened when a certain documentary  film maker tried that.  He was quite sick at the end of a month of eating only  fast foods.
  So,  if you are asking me what I think  a healthy diet is, the answer is more complicated.  It brings me to my version of the  "Prevent heart disease, cancer,  type -2 diabetes, memory loss and  hypertension  for as long as possible, anti-inflammatory,  have younger looking skin and more energy diet."   

  The good news is (and this is easy to remember too)  if I want to stave off decrepitude,  all I have to do is avoid                  
                              Processed Foods.
   This includes just about any food that comes in a box, can  or a package, that has been altered from its natural state in some way, that has been processed into something our ancestors would not have recognized as food.  It means avoiding food with twenty-seven letter chemicals added to it.  It means avoiding food with white flour, sugar,  most sugar substitutes and added  salt.  It means shopping the walls of the market and skipping the aisles for the most part.


Veggies on the grill, basted with olive oil

   So what  do I eat most of the time?  Think RAINBOWS.  The more colorful my plate, the better.  This means fruits and vegetables, lots and lots of them. (You knew that was coming, right.) I eat fruits and vegetables at every meal.  At least 5-7 servings a day. No kidding!

Rainbow Veggies Ready to eat

 There are other foods I feel strongly about too. Foods that are important for  the nutrients they provide.   They contribute to health in numerous ways. They include : tea, nuts, olives and olive oil, yogurt, beans, flax, oatmeal, herbs and spices, fish and fish oil,  tofu and some meats.   I also include a small amount of cheese because it tastes good and I often go meatless. 

That's it, folks.    There are a million theories about eating  and I've read them all.  This way of eating  makes  the most sense to me.  And I feel good when I eat this way.  

  Oh, one more thing.  When  I cheat, and I DO  cheat once in a blue moon,  I try to pretend I'm  French and just take a tiny portion.  (As in EAT LESS)

The  "INGOADAALAIL" Diet in a nutshell:

                                 Eat Less, Move More
                                 Avoid Processed Foods
                                 Eat Colorful Foods


Friday, June 15, 2012

Pay-Back Time

    I am not a morning person.  For years,  I  needed jumper cables to get me going.  My husband has always loved a big breakfast.    AND he  always seemed  to leap out of bed all showered and dressed. So it often fell to him to prepare breakfast.  He was particularly adept at plying the children with pancakes and hot cereal when they were in high school and had to leave the house before it was light.
French Toast, Strawberries and Tea
   When I retired and he didn't, I decided it was my turn to make him breakfast! These days  I set my alarm for 6AM and leap out of bed (well, not exactly leap.  More like drag myself into the kitchen) to  prepare a full breakfast for him.  Omelets, pancakes, French Toast, old-fashioned oatmeal with fruit and cinnamon, scrambled eggs and toast, now I do it all!! 

  He is ready in about 18 minutes ( life is so easy if you are a man)  so I have to be quick without burning the house down, since I need 9 of those minutes to make his lunch.  

  French Toast is one of his favorites and I can have it ready in 8 minutes and 54 seconds. 

 Beat one egg and some milk (we use soy milk) with a generous amount of cinnamon.  Heat the frying pan and add a tablespoon of canola oil.  Dip two slices of  whole wheat bread in the egg mixture and get the bread soaked on both sides.  Fry until golden brown. Sprinkle with more cinnamon.

   Cut up a serving of whatever fruit  is in season.  It's great  with berries, sliced apple,  pear,  peach or nectarine and maple syrup, of course.  Serve with strong English Breakfast Tea and  a bit of cream.

Breakfast can be fast and easy to prepare!  And if you are making this for a certain special dad on Father's Day, by all means add some bacon!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

'Summertime' - Relaxin' With a Twist of Bluegrass

 " A painter paints pictures on canvas.  But  musicians paint their pictures on silence."  Leopold Stokowski

   Here's an unusual rendition of a quintessential American song from 'Porgy and Bess.'   Very laid back, perfect for relaxing .  And just in time for summer too.

What do you listen to when you want to relax and unwind from a stressful day?

 Today's Tip - When the music begins, close your eyes, take a deep breath, relax your shoulders and give yourself to the music for three minutes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Exercising With a Friend

       This week I added two 30 minute sessions of weight training.  I am proceeding very slowly with that to avoid injury since I haven't done weights in awhile.

     I'm still on track for my goal of 900 minutes for the month of June.  I added a whopping 365 minutes to my total which included a few hours of weeding and planting. (bending and sweating counts, right?)

    I varied my workouts in another way this past week.  I usually exercise alone and  occasionally with my best friend, the Admiral.  (sorry Pete)  but, rarely with anyone else. 

   Last week I went for a long walk with an old friend and I highly recommend it!  We talked books and writing and a hundred other things, chattering away as the miles and minutes went by painlessly.  It was a welcome change from my usual solitary , meditative walks.   Exercising with a friend can be good for the body and nourishing for the soul.
  Week Two Accomplishments:

                         Added weight sessions
                         Varied my regimen  
                         On track with minutes
                         Enjoyed exercising with a friend

 Goals for next Week:

                         Maintain momentum
                         Increase walking speed
                         Vary walking speed within each workout
                         Add some bike riding

Walking with my best friend, G

Take-Away -  Occasionally multitasking is a good thing when it involves spending time with a friend and exercising too!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kale- Glamour Green of the Year.

Everybody is talking  about kale.  It's good for you and it has become  the darling veggie of chi-chi chefs and nutrition gurus.  And it arrives in the CSA box regularly.   So what do you do with kale?

  Here's a recipe I adapted from one I found  on the Golden Earthworm website.  I didn't have pecorino cheese so I used feta. The results were satisfying and I got the thumbs up from my husband.

 "This was good, you can make it again," he said after having seconds.

   I liked the red kale better than it's  ruffle-leafed cousin. It's milder and not as chewy, if you know what I mean.

                                          Tuscan Red  Kale Salad

1 bunch red kale, cleaned and stems removed
2 slices pumpernickel bread toasted
1 clove garlic
 kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup feta cheese (or  pecorino)
3 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
red  pepper flakes

Chop kale  into thin ribbons.  Toast bread  and crumble into crumbs.  Crush garlic with salt until pulverized into a paste.  In a small bowl mix the garlic, oil, cheese, pepper flakes and black pepper to taste and lemon juice and pour over kale, mixing well.  Serve topped with bread crumbs.

The recipe works well with regular kale too.  If using regular kale, try using both hands to "soften" the leaves.  After cutting them to ribbons, add the dressing, except for the cheese, then get your (clean) hands messy by 'kneading' the mixture for a while.  Mix in the cheese when you add the bread crumbs.

Today's  Take-Away -  If my three-year old grandson can eat kale with gusto, I can too.

Monday, June 11, 2012


A friend suggested that Friday's post entitled Picking Flowers  was a poem waiting to happen.  I agree. So, always up for a challenge, I began to think about a poem based on a poet's garden walk. Before I had time to write the poem,  my three-year -old grandson arrived for an overnight stay  and  as the weekend unfolded, my poem took shape.  

  Writing poetry gives me great pleasure, if not great poetry. The joy comes from the satisfaction of capturing a fleeting  moment in words.

                                                 Grandmother's Flowers

                                                 Once she gathered dandelions,
                                                 to carry home to mother
                                                 fashioning a tiny bouquet.

                                                 Soon those yellow treasures
                                                 turned to roadside weeds
                                                 and childhood flew away.
                                                Then came her oldest  daughter
                                                with a bunch of  heady lilacs
                                                on a sunny spring day.

                                                Her daughter  grew up
                                                moved to New York City,
                                                another childhood put away.

                                               Today she wanders
                                               through a garden gate
                                               thinking of that dandelion day

                                               while she helps a little boy gather
                                               pink blossoms and rose buds
                                               the colors of  a summer day.

                                              Now the boy named Henry
                                              carries flowers home to mother,
                                              his own handpicked nosegay.

                                              Grandmother savors this moment
                                              soon to be a memory
                                              another childhood hurries away.


 Do you ever write poetry?                      

Friday, June 8, 2012

Picking Flowers

 Any time I get a yen for fresh flowers, I head outside to my back yard and I'm a little girl again, picking flowers for my mother.     A June morning stroll  yields an assortment of blooms perfect to make some tiny bouquets.

  I snip  sweet-smelling chamomile, grab the clippers and take a bunch of heavily scented roses. Next  I pick a bit of catnip and some ladies mantle to act as a filler and I'm ready to make some little arrangements for the house. 

  Old spice jars and college beer mugs from years ago make fine containers for my treasures.  

  The bouquets are fleeting like my days, but no matter. Each one is lovely, if only for a moment.    Tomorrow is another day and something new will be in bloom

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chamomile, My Chamomile

Bee's Eye  View of  Chamomile  Patch

       Peter Rabbit's mother knew her herbs!  After an exciting (and stressful for a bunny) day in Mr. MacGregor's garden, Peter needed something to calm him down so he could fall asleep.  His mother made him a cup of chamomile tea and put him to bed.  So ends one of the best loved children's picture books.

  My chamomile is starting to bloom  and every morning I find a few minutes to go outside, pick a handful of the apple-scented flowers, rinse them off and put them in my favorite drying spot.  By the end of the summer, I'll have enough chamomile to last all winter.

  I use a  teaspoon of the chamomile  flowers with a teaspoon or two of lemon balm per cup of boiling water for a ticket to a good night's sleep or to calm a grumpy stomach.

  Chamomile  can also be used as an ingredient in skin lotions and creams and the tea makes a wonderful hair rinse for brunettes.

  This herb is easy to grow from seed in a sunny corner of the yard and it will reseed itself for years.

PS----  Chamomile is a member of the infamous ragweed family of plants.  If you are allergic to ragweed, you may be allergic to chamomile too.

Today's Tip -  Try a little of Peter Rabbit's favorite tea to relax and "sleep tight"  as my mother used to say.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Exercise Report :Week One

  It's been just seven days since I committed to a goal of  900 minutes of exercise for the month of June.  So far, I'm delighted to report, I'm on target.  I've managed to walk every day except Sunday and to my surprise, I found that once I got myself out the door, I usually stayed out much longer than 30 minutes.  I also noticed by week's end that I have to go further to get the same amount of time in, which means I'm moving faster!

  June is  a perfect month to begin an exercise program.  The sun rises early and the temperature is ideal for exercise, especially at that time of day.  (in December, not so much, but I'll deal with that  later!) Because I'm so enamored of being outdoors in this weather, I neglected the weight training part of my regimen.

   My goals for this week are to add in the weight-training portion (very important for women of a certain age!)  My go -to author regarding weight-lifting is Miriam E. Nelson, PhD. Her website is Strong Women.   Initially she studied the positive effects of strength training on elderly women and wrote Strong Women Stay Young.  This was followed by more studies at Tufts and books promoting strength training for women for weight loss, to prevent osteoporosis, to improve cardiovascular health and to  control arthritis symptoms.  In short, strength training is an important component of exercise for women of all ages and at all levels of fitness. (Good for men too.)
So this is a definite must-do activity for me!

  Accomplishments for Week 1:

        I got out the door!!! Yeah!
        I enjoyed the meditative aspect of walking in the silence of early morning.
        I exercised 305 minutes.
        I lost a pound.

Goals for Week 2:

       Keep up the momentum.
       Add two sessions of weight-training
       Increase my walking speed.
       Continue to be grateful for the gift of an early morning walk and the beauty          all around me.

  I'm curious.  Did you begin an exercise program recently or are you already exercising regularly?  How are you doing and , if you are successful at maintaining your commitment, how do you do that?   Join the conversation  by clicking on the comments section below.

My Take-Away for Week One:  I CAN do it!  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Music - One Way to De-Stress

       Years ago, when I first began my career as a visiting nurse, I discovered that  the stress of a demanding profession had followed me out of the hospital and on to the highway.  In addition to the challenges of being out in the community, going into strangers' homes, assessing patients who were often discharged from the hospital too soon, I had to contend with  heavy traffic and finding my way from one place to the next in towns I had never been to before.  My home care career began prior to the days of Map-Quest and well before the days of the soft-spoken computer generated GPS voice smoothly correcting the driver when  she overshot or made a wrong turn.   Getting around the county involved a dog-eared Hagstrom's and the ability to make a  quick U-turn to avoid a 10 minute detour.  Needless to say, this added to the stress of an already stress-filled job. 

      I liked to decompress between patients by listening to the car radio.  Music was always a part of my day.  After  September 11, my stress level was suddenly off the charts and  I needed to find some music that would help me reach, if not Nirvana, at least a place where I could relax and mentally  calm myself for the next visit.  I turned off the Springsteen and the Eagles. I deleted the "oldies"  and I tuned out the jazz.  This music just revved me up  and added to my angst. 

        Initially,  like most other New Yorkers and probably most other Americans, I listened to the news, in an effort to make sense of what had happened.  After awhile, I began to recognize that listening to the endless talk about, not only September 11th but all things political, was, in a word, MAKING ME CRAZY. (Alright, in three words)

        One day I turned my dial to a classical station and as soon as I did, I felt myself take a deep breath and my whole body relax.  I was hooked.  Classical music has become my "go-to" choice most of the time whether I'm in the car or listening at home.  I especially love classical guitar and most works that feature a piano or cello.  Give me Mozart, give me Chopin, give me Beethoven.  Not that I really know or care who or what I'm listening to, usually I don't.   I have also discovered that there are many recordings of chant music , recorded in great Benedictine cathedrals which can soothe the agitated soul.  In a similar vein, there are numerous recordings of meditative gongs, bells, flutes based on Eastern contempletive listening.  

   A word of caution about some music designed specifically for meditation. Unlike classical music,  it is not suitable for listening to while driving a car.  The Admiral and I once visited the Southwest and during the trip  we purchased a CD of music based on the drumming of Native Indigenous People from the Southwest.  We were driving through the desert and decided to put it on the CD player in the car.  After about 15 minutes, I was beginning to get drowsy and as is my custom, I said to my husband,"  Are you awake?"  I need reassurance that he isn't sleepy before I succumb.  He said,"Actually, I am very sleepy and I was thinking of pulling over."  We both felt a strong  hypnotic effect from the drumming.  We pulled off the road and took a rather long nap.  We decided to save the drumming CD for a quiet evening at home.

     There are many genres of music and not every type of music is relaxing to everyone.  Jazz relaxes my husband but  makes me feel like I'm being tortured.   I guess one man's music is another man's noise!  

   Here is one video of music I love and find very relaxing.  Click on the video, then click again on 'Watch on You Tube'  That should take you there.. Relax and enjoy!

I wanted to embed several examples of the music I find relaxing, but I was unable to do that.   I'll post some more   another day.

Take-Away -  classical music helps me de-stress.

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