Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Bee-Friendly Garden

The Bee-friendly Garden, Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn

I have a number of friends who are beekeepers, and I do my best to share any information that comes through the news with them regarding bees. Everything gets passed on, from colony collapse, through pesticides, pests and weather reports.
Many people don’t realize just how important bees are to our diet. European honeybees ensure that we have fruits and vegetables in the market and on our plate. The wild growth that supports so many of them has been cut back, and people just don’t grow enough of the right kinds of flowers anymore. That’s why a book like the Bee-friendly Garden is so important.
The book is divided into 6 chapters, ranging from a general introduction to various kinds of bees through becoming an activist for bees. The plants are both decorative and edible, and lists of plants for different parts of the country and differing climates are included. The back of the book offers resources, photography credits, and an excellent index. The book has something for every experience level, from beginner to Master Gardener.
The illustrations are beautiful, but there aren’t so many that the information gets lost. The font chosen does make the book a little hard to read, especially for aging eyes.
I received this book through Blogging For Books, and was not required to give a positive review.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2016 reset

As usual, the New Year started with those pesky resolutions. You know, go to the gym, watch what I eat, lose some weight. This year however, I was so sick with bronchitis that none of that happened. So, I decided that January was just a test run, and I’m starting my New Year on Imbolc (also known as Groundhog Day, Candlemas, St. Brigid's Day, Candelaria, Feast of the Purification, etc.).

We started at the gym last week, mostly walking and Tai Chi. Being sick for two months just killed any aerobic fitness level I had achieved, and even a half mile was exhausting. But a half mile is better than sitting all day. Plus, it got us out of the house, into some winter sunshine and talking to someone other than each other! I guess starting in February was a good idea, because all those folks who started on the first of January have already stopped going. Finding a treadmill empty in January is always tough!

On the nutrition front, what I started with was simply portion control. I've found over the years that if I don't remind myself what a one cup serving really looks like, it will grow to a whole lot more, especially with favorite foods. It seems to be making a difference. I cut out fried foods a long time ago, and am limiting soda (even diet soda) to a couple of servings a week. Limitation, not deprivation, for most things.

I’m working on a new Tai Chi form, which keeps my brain active. The entire thought process is so different from Taekwondo and Karate that learning a new form is really work. I have to remind myself to slow down, not put so much power and focus into the techniques…just breathe! My knees and shoulders aren’t objecting too much, but I’m not trying to get the low stances all the way down. That’s just not going to happen.

I also got back into my choir practice at church. People don’t realize just how much work there is in singing, especially in a group. Obviously, when I had bronchitis, singing was out of the question. The coughing tends to irritate the entire group, but I had no lung power to breathe, much less sing. So, I missed the entire Christmas season this year, which made me really sad. Singing is food for the soul, even if my ribs are really sore from all that diaphragmatic breathing!

One thing I did manage to do while sick was crocheting. I finished a bunch of fingerless gloves and one prayer shawl while I was down. My technique is improving, and I think I’m going to try to move on to some more challenging patterns. Hats are next! This winter has been so mild here that I really don’t need any more, but I love to wear hats and I have some beautiful yarn that I want to try with.

I did a little herbal work over the sick days. Fire cider came out really well, and seemed to help people other than me! Some pre-shave oil was a quick mix. Now, it's time to make some boo boo salve up, as I'm running out. Motivation was hard while I was so sick, but I'm ready to go!

Friday, January 8, 2016

A walk in the Woods

For the first half of the book, I really did enjoy the book. I wasn't bothered by the fact that they were unprepared or out of shape. I don't think anyone can really be prepared for their first long distance hiking trip. I know I wasn't, and mine was only three days. . I also enjoyed that he talked honestly about the experience of hiking, and I liked the way that he interspersed history and facts about the trail with the travel writing.

The second half, however, got much less interesting. The day trips and the abortive Maine portion were actually kind of disheartening. The whole feel of the prose got sort of mean spirited. I had trouble finishing it, because it just got nasty and tedious.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Winter herbal prep

About two weeks ago, I started preparing the herbal remedies I want to have in the house, ready to go when winter hits. The fire cider, in particular, takes at least a month to properly infuse in the vinegar. Elderberry syrup is a lot easier, and I can make it in an afternoon. I have a couple of good tea mixes ready, and I've lined up my ingredients for some salves and bath preparations for winter chapped skin.

Why bother, when I know I can buy off the shelf preparations for all of this? Love, for one. When I make things for my family, to preserve their health, it is one way to show my love for them. I, as the "mom" in the house, am the one who cares for all of us when we're sick. I put the intention of that love in everything I make for them. It is soul-satisfying.

Next, although commercial preparations may be effective, I've found that my natural ingredients may be gentler on the system. As well, there is scientific study, especially with the elderberry syrup, that they are effective. Elderberries are a specific for flu. ( My Healthy Heart tea is filled with vitamin C from the hibiscus flowers, and hawthorn leaf, flower and berry which are wonderful for your heart and blood pressure (

I want to spend more time on my herbal studies this winter, and perhaps finish the course of instruction I am studying with Rosemary Gladstar, to be certified. It's so satisfying to do this and share it with my family and friends. As well, I want to make sure that the food we eat, especially in the winter months, is wholesome, healthy, and healing. The recipe search is on!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Comfort foods and dieting.

Today, I made kimchi fried rice for lunch. It's one of my son's favorites, and actually, it's quite healthy, especially when I make it with brown rice. Rice, a little leftover meat, and chopped kimchi. Most of my son's comfort foods are Asian, either Korean, Japanese or Chinese for the most part. I suppose having been raised in a dojang (dojo), and having spent a lot of time at various martial arts functions contributed to this. But fried rice was something we made a lot at home when he was young, especially on days when it was getting close to payday. We would talk while I chopped up every vegetable in the crisper, and the end result was always tasty. So, to him it's comfort food.

My comfort foods are much less healthy, and usually carb laden. My absolute favorite is bread that is just out of the oven. The smell and taste both remind me of my father, who was a baker. He smelled of flour and yeast and sugar all the time. When I would visit him at work, he would pull a French roll out of the oven, slather it with butter, and give it to me as a snack. I could have gotten a cookie, or a danish pastry if I had wanted it, but bread was my favorite. Since one of my other comfort foods is soup, it's a marriage made in heaven! Give me a good soup, and some good, fresh bread, and I'm happy.

One of my husband's favorites is macaroni and cheese. And, he will eat any version of it, from the cheap powdered cheese version to my version of Patti LaBelle's incredibly rich recipe that has about 5 different kinds of cheese. Again, carb laden, plus all that rich fatty cheese. None of us have comfort foods that are conducive to dieting.

Winter is a tough time to diet. All my comfort foods are calorie-laden, full of carbs and fats. It's funny though, none of us like sweet foods for comfort. They may be laden in carbs, but not sugar. So, what shall I do? Winter is nearly upon us, and I can't afford to put on any more weight. I'm at the fat end of the closet already! I know the bread really has to go, or at least be a rare treat. I'm searching for healthier alternatives for my soups. Do you think I could make cauliflower and cheese for my husband? I'm fairly sure he'll notice...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Smallest Change: NaBloPoMo #2: Morning routines

The Smallest Change: NaBloPoMo #2: Morning routines: A lot of the blog prompts from this month have to do with your childhood, or things you do today that are based in your past. Today is, &quo...

NaBloPoMo #2: Morning routines

A lot of the blog prompts from this month have to do with your childhood, or things you do today that are based in your past. Today is, "What is the first thing you do every single day (I mean, after you hit the snooze button)? When did that step in your routine begin?" I had to really think, because since I retired from teaching, my mornings are very different.
When I was working, every morning had the same routine. Get up, head to the kitchen and start the coffee. That was the routine for decades. Mornings do not begin until caffeine is available. Then, while the coffee brewed, I showered, did my hair and makeup and dressed for work. By then, my coffee was ready, and I could sit for a few minutes and savor the taste.
Coffee didn't enter my life until I joined the Army. I was a tea drinker until then. I enjoyed Constant Comment, or just plain old Lipton's every morning. My parents drank coffee, but I thought the bitter taste was really nasty. But, during basic training, there was no time to allow tea to steep, and cool off enough to drink. You know, the drill sergeant yells, "You've got 10 minutes to eat and 5 of them are gone!!!". So, I switched to coffee, with plenty of milk.
When I was stationed in Germany, I started to really appreciate good coffee. I would go to the little German coffee bars, and sip my coffee with just a bit of condensed milk, and sugar. In the afternoons, I would sit outside, and sip a cappucino. I kept tea in my barracks room, for after work, but I really started to enjoy coffee more each day.
After the Army, I came home to my new husband, who was a serious coffee drinker, and that's when the morning pot became a ritual. My Mr. Coffee was filled and ready to go before I went to bed, and the sound of the hissing, gurgling last few drops became my alarm clock. Of course, I hit the snooze button, but when the coffee was ready, I could get up. Tea was an afternoon treat.
All of this was obviously pre-Starbucks, and all the other coffee bars we have today. Fancy coffee drinks were far in my future, but now, I have a very hard time imagining morning without this bitter, sweet, caffeinated drink. So now, my morning routine is; wake up, use the rest room, and head for the Keurig. Coffee in hand, I sit down to see what happened overnight, first the news, then Facebook. So, good morning, all!