Friday, September 30, 2011

getting the message across

I see these signs when I'm out on the road driving.
Like when I'm going to Costco.
There's a silent, little chuckle inside me, if you know what I mean.
They've been around for a while now and I decided they are blog worthy.
I wonder what those other drivers thought of me when I pulled over and took a picture of a Stop sign.
They probably think I'm weird.
Or maybe they think I'm a person from some city department documenting vandalism or something.
But I don't care.
I like these signs.
Looks like someone had fun.
Like someone had something to say.
And wanted it noticed.
I wonder how many do.
I think these little roadside social statements say it all.
Don't you?

P.S. If you aren't quite clear on the definition of serendipity, it's when someone finds something they weren't expecting to find. Like a "happy accident".

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dr. Mom To The Rescue~ Part 2: The Tackle Box First Aid and Wellness Kit

Of course, everyone knows that it's important to have a first aid kit, supplies, and medications in the home. We should be prepared for any emergency, crisis, or illness that hits the family. Especially in those instances where we can't get professional medical attention right away (like in the middle of the night). There are some cases where we don't need to run to the doctor; simple common ailments that can be treated at home. These situations obviously call for sound judgment, wisdom, loving care, and knowledge.

I've tried different ways of organizing all the items I find useful in the care of my family in an emergency situation, the every day situations when someone needs help with an owie, or the times when someone is ill. For most my years as a mother, I've allocated a couple of shelves in a hall closet, with little organizers and small store-bought first aid kits. Band-Aids, medicines, and creams were often scattered in the kitchen and the bathrooms all over the house. No one ever put things back how I had organized them. I wanted a place to corral everything. I needed compartmentalization. I wanted customization. I searched the Internet for ideas. I wanted something I could take with us in the car, especially on vacations or camping trips. Going on our cross country trip was the main incentive to build a comprehenive, transportable kit. (And boy, was I grateful to have that on hand. We put it to use every day on our trip.)

Then it hit me.

A fishing tackle box! A big one. The biggest one Wal-Mart carried. That was the answer!

Opened up and ready to use. See how much I can fit in here? Let me remind you that it takes time and money to put something like this together. It's taken me more than a year to build up my supplies. "Let all things be done in wisdom and in order..."

(See the empty little slots on the left? That's where I put my essential oils when we go on trips or times away from home. I can't believe how helpful they were to me on our cross-country trip to Wisconsin this summer. When they aren't in here, they are kept in a kit in my nightstand. More on that tomorrow.)

All closed and ready to move from place to place where it's needed. Most of the time, it sits on a shelf in my bedroom closet.

For Wound Care:

Band-Aids (of all shapes and sizes), butterfly bandages, gauze rolls (thin and wide), flannel and muslin bandage rolls, woman's sanitary napkin, gauze pads, athletic tape, waterproof tape, scissors, moleskin (for blister prevention), disposable gloves, Q-Tips, cotton balls/pads, tweezers, disinfecting/antiseptic wipes, *Complete Bone & Tissue ointment and capsules, *Cayenne Heat ointment, cayenne powder (for bleeding wounds, bloody noses, and shock), Neosporin, Arnica homeopathic cream and tablets (for bruising and swelling), Toprican ointment (for inflammation and pain), olive oil, castor oil, wheat germ oil (in fridge)

For Skin Irritations/Rashes/Allergies:

100% Aloe Vera gel for burns and sunburns, over the counter allergy medication, *Sting and Bite Ointment (for relief from itchy and painful insect bites, other itchy irritations, cuts and scrapes), Benadryl itch cream, natural DEET free insect repellent, Visine (for irritated eyes), *Black Ointment (to draw out slivers, infection from abscesses, boils, toxins and impurities from skin tissues)


Slippery elm lozenges (for sore, irritated throats), Cherry Bark Blend Cough Syrup (Herbs for Kids), *Cough Formula, herbal throat spray (for sore, irritated throats), *Kid-E-Col (for colic, tummy ache, nausea, *Kid-E-Well (immune strengthener/infection fighter for kids and adults, as well), *Infection Formula (took this at the onset of a sinus infection on our trip to Wisconsin and it knocked it out), *Sinus Plus (helps clear the sinuses), *Stop-Ache (for pain), Bach Rescue Remedy flower essence (for times of stress, upset), cold and flu homeopathic remedy (Highlands), nausea and vomiting Ipecacuanha homeopathic remedy (Highlands), Ibuprofin, *Anti-Spasmodic Formula tincture (to stop coughing, muscle spasms- I rubbed this on my sister's chest and it was able to stop her coughing fits and allowed her to sleep for the first time in days. It works.), *Lung and Bronchial Formula (for respiratory support), herbal ear drops (contains mullein, St. John's Wort, Garlic, Goldenseal, Lobelia, Olive oil), *Glandular Massage Oil (to help drain and move congested lymph), *Quick Colon Formula (to aid in moving bowels, cleansing, constipation), Valerian and Chamomile spray (to alleviate insomnia), electrolyte powder mixes (for dehydration), 5HTP and St. John's Wort (to help relieve anxiety and depression)

*denotes Dr. Christopher brand

(note: I also use the items we talked about in the previous post. They are essential aids in our wellness program.)

Now, my next project along these lines (I'm not sure when that may be, hopefully soon.) is to update the little first aid kits we keep in the cars. I want to expand these to become more of a emergency situation kind of kit. (I put together one as a gift to my parents one Christmas and it was one of the best things they (and I) felt anyone could receive.

I'd like to create little ones for my college kids, (hey, that might make a good Christmas gift!) as well as mini ones for the kids backpacks.

I'm sure you all have great things to share here:

Am I forgetting something? What items can you not go without?
How do you like to organize your home medical supplies?
Are there any noteworthy experiences you'd like to share in the doctoring of your families?

I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dr. Mom To The Rescue~ Part 1: Health Care At Home The Natural Way Featuring The Home Apothecary

I'm so excited to share this with you today. This post, in a three part series, has been a work in progress. It comes to you after much study and personal experience.  It's my wish that the information will inspire as well as educate.

I believe that God has not only given us plants as nourishing foods to strengthen and feed our bodies, but I also believe that He has given us the gift of plants for our health and healing. As I've discovered, these plants are to be used with skill, thanksgiving, and respect.

The use of herbs in every day wellness and home health care is very appealing to me. For one thing, I love plants and all that gardening entails. I love having a role in helping people heal. To know and demonstrate through the loving care I give, this gift of "the Healer's Art" isn't something that comes naturally. I want this blessing, especially in my role as a mother; a role I take very seriously. I want to do all in my power to take care of myself and my loved ones. Being self sufficient, knowledgeable, and prepared is something in which I'm constantly engaging in and striving for. Sometimes, I think I was born in the wrong century!

Don't get me wrong. I do appreciate the blessing it is to have modern health care. I am grateful for the services that allopathic  medicine has and will provide for my family. However, I'm finding it a little disgruntling that most medicines seem to mask the symptoms, don't seem to really heal the cause, and leave questionable side effects. Why the focus on disease instead of prevention? That's why I find herbs and natural medicine so appealing. These things are so accessible and affordable for the common man. I'm looking for something that will strengthen, cleanse, nourish, and heal my body. And all that comes proactively, mostly by the things I do on a daily basis: what I feed myself and my family and the ways in which we honor and treat these bodies.

So, let's get down to the nitty gritty, shall we? May I present to you a little bit of what I do in my home to bring this about:

The Herbal Wellness Pantry or the Home Apothecary

This is my new shelf (the one that almost broke my foot ) that I've organized in the last few days. Can I tell you how much I love this new kitchen addition?

Top Shelf:

~small lidded basket for the essential oils I use in the diffuser, in homemade household cleaners, ones that are handier in the kitchen.
~mortar and pestle to grind herbs, flowers, spices.
~wooden bowl with muslin bags used in herbal baths.
~White clay for facial masks, bath salts.
~Poppy seeds: culinary use, facial scrub.
~Marshmallow Root: used in teas for sore throats, diarrhea, constipation, bronchial inflammation.
~Calendula flower petals: used in soap making, hair rinse, nourishing and soothing for skin.

Middle Shelves:

~Dried Elderberries: used in infection fighting/immune strengthening syrup.
~Catnip: used to help bring down a fever, calming and sedative/ digestive aid tea.
~Dried Rosehips: high in antioxidants, vitamin C, iron; used in infection fighting/immune strengthening syrup.
~Echinacea: used in infection fighting/immune strengthening syrup, tinctures, capsulated.
~Comfrey: amazing tissue and bone healer used in poultices, burn ointment and skin salves.
~Cinnamon sticks: warming to the body in hot drinks, used in infection fighting/immune strengthening syrup.
~Whole Cloves: warming to the body in hot drinks, used in infection fighting/immune strengthening syrup.
~BF&C (Dr. Christopher's Bone, Flesh, and Cartilage formula) used is fomentation or teas  (soaking) for injured or damaged tissue or bone.
~Calcium Tea: a blend of nettles, oatstraw, horsetail (a whole food based absorbable form of calcium and other minerals I drink as a tea to strengthen my bones)
~Lavender: used aromatically in pillows, sachets, in bath water. Aids in alleviating stress, tension, insomnia.
~Bay Leaf: culinary and aromatic uses.
~Chamomile: used as a tea for treating colic, nervousness, infections, digestion. Also nice addition to the bath. Can be used as an eye wash for conjunctivitis (pink eye).
~Peppermint: my favorite tea. Helpful herb for digestion, stomach cramps, nausea, stimulant herb.
~Yarrow: used in a hot tea or bath water to help induce sweating and lowering fevers. Can be applied to cuts or wounds to disinfect and stop bleeding.
~Red Raspberry leaf: wonderful tonic herb to aid and regulate women's reproductive system, high in iron; helpful in times of sickness and fever.
~Cayenne: powerful and stimulating to the circulatory system by equalizing the blood pressure. Will stop bleeding if sprinkled on a wound, as well as stop a bloody nose (take 1/4-1 t. in a glass of water, or capsule or tincture dropperful). also an aid in shock (same procedure as bloody nose) and head ache. Energy bringer (I take some before I go running; great endurance and speed help in my races). Used in ointment that we have in the first aid kit. You get used to the kick after time.    
~Slippery Elm: inner bark powder helpful for soothing inflammation, burn, sore throat or cough (used in homemade lozenges) diarrhea (mix a tablespoon with a bit of oatmeal in a gruel), constipation. 
~Mustard powder: used as poultice for respiratory issues or in bath water when there's a fever (sweat inducing).

Other things I store in my kitchen:
~fresh garlic cloves: super infection fighter and antiseptic, stimulating to the immune and circulatory systems. Used in poultices, infused in olive oil to rub on lymph nodes, chest, feet. Eaten raw.
~ginger root: very helpful made in a tea for stomach and digestion disorders; very warming to the body, helpful in inducing a sweat (fevers).
~fresh lemons: used in a tea with honey and ginger root when feeling ill. Cleansing to the body, especially the liver.
~apple cider vinegar: used in washing the body (diluted) after breaking a sweat when fevering.
~raw honey: taken (not those under 1 year old) by the spoonful (or simmered with onions in a natural cough syrup, used in immune strengthening/infection fighting syrups. Helpful for seasonal allergies.
~onions: will break up congestion when baked or sauteed and then placed as a poultice on chest.

Herb Drying Rack: (All grown and harvested from my garden!)

~Thyme: infection/fever tea
~Marjoram: culinary (Italian seasoning blend)
~Lavender: I can't seem to grow enough.
~Lemon Balm: sedative, calming, and anti- depressive herb used in teas or bath soaks.
~Oregano: infection fighter, culinary (Italian seasoning blend).

Stay tuned for tomorrow's Part 2: The Tackle Box First Aid and Wellness Kit and Thursday's Part 3: Essential Oils in the Home

Sunday, September 25, 2011

notes from "the witch doctor": treating my crushed foot

My family is starting to refer to me as a witch doctor.

I kind of like it.

As I've been studying and now implementing natural healing modalities on the willing "guinea pigs" in my family, including myself in the past few years or so, I'm becoming more and more convinced of their effectiveness.  It's been an empowering experience being able to be a little more self sufficient in providing care in situations of crisis or minor illness for my loved ones when it's been needed. 

(For the last few months, I've been excited to share with you my natural remedy/ first aid kit I've put together. Be watching this week for that post.)

Let me tell you about yesterday. It involves my not very attractive foot as you can see as is evidenced in this (not so flattering) picture.

I was carrying a shelf (for my medicinal herbs if you can believe it) that I just bought at the antique store over to Keith who was weeding a flower bed. I wanted to show it off to him. Well, I somehow lost control of the thing and the base of it landed hard on top of my foot and then bounced across the lawn. I was wearing shoes (with no socks) with my forefoot exposed. My first reaction was to see if the shelf was broken. (Thankfully, it survived.) As you can imagine, my foot immediately started to bruise and swell. It was really hurting, too. And that's a huge understatement.

I didn't take the time to do anything to treat it. I was too busy. I needed to head to the grocery store to pick up some ice cream for today's get together at my sister's house. While I was there, I bought a huge stack of food storage buckets (in which to store the wheat that's been sitting in stacks in the family room downstairs.) When I got home and opened the hatch of the van, out rolled the stack of buckets. Right on top of my same foot. I can't tell you how much agony I was in. I think I am a fairly tough person when it comes to pain, but it was so bad I started crying right then and there on the driveway.

As I could barely hobble into the house and lay moaning and groaning on the couch with the unbearable pain, I knew I needed to do something. And fast. I've already experienced a metatarsal fracture in the other foot, and I was dreading the idea of that possibility (And the 6 weeks of no running that it entailed.).

The first thing I did was have Eliza go up to my kit and bring me the Arnica- the topical cream and little tube of homeopathic tablets that dissolve in your mouth. I had used this in the middle of  my marathon when my knee was starting to hurt. It got me through it, I know. I also remember Gary's experience of taking it when he had his wisdom teeth out and he ended up not having any bruising or swelling whatsoever.  

From my study, I've learned about the amazing healing properties of the herb Comfrey. This herb is a very helpful friend to have when it comes to bone and tissue repair. It works wonders for any kind of wound, burn (I used it successfully in a poultice for Sam's blisters when he grabbed onto the hot dog roasters this summer), swellings, bruising, insect bites, etc.  I asked (more like demanded urgently) Eliza to go cut a couple of leaves from the plant I have out in my herb garden.

She brought it in and I instructed her to put it in the blender with a little water. It would be used as a poultice.

I took the gloppy green mash and packed it on top of my foot, wrapped some gauze around it, and placed on a sock to keep it in place. I needed to get it elevated and I hardly knew how I went up stairs as it was excruciating to put pressure on it.

I decided to take some herbs for the pain and inflammation- I used Dr. Christopher's Stop-Ache formula, and that plus Keith's blessing he prayed over me, allowed me to get through the pain.

This morning, I woke up before 5. I couldn't believe the difference. I took a big dose of the Complete Tissue and Bone Formula, more Arnica, and more herbs for inflammation (I didn't really need any for the pain, I could see know.) I can walk around without any glitch or limp at all now; even galloping down the stairs. I'm relieved to think I didn't fracture anything.

As you can see in the picture I took just a little while ago, there is hardly any sign of bruising or swelling. (You can see the noticeable tan mark from my sandals, though.) My family are all amazed today after seeing what I went through last night. It seems like a miracle. I think I just might be able to try running in a few days.

Boy, am I grateful for the things I am learning. I guess it's right when they say that experience is the best teacher. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

today, I...

Am loving this picture Gary took when he went on a canyon drive/hike the other day

:: woke up at 3:15 and couldn't go back to sleep so I fixed myself a bowl of leftover sticky brown rice (because I didn't eat dinner last night) and sat down at the computer to watch Tess of the D'Urbervilles (because I finished the book last night) movie clips on YouTube.

:: think I love and am attracted to beautifully depressing literature.

:: cried a lot. And not about the book.

:: realized that I've only ran one day this week.

:: enjoyed a cup of peppermint and red raspberry leaf tea instead.

:: ironed Isaac's clothes so he would look nice for his school picture.

:: heard a huge flock of geese honking outside my bedroom window. I wish I would have gotten off the bed to see them flying overhead. Happy Fall. (it's official today.)

:: will go to the airport in a little while with the kids to welcome my nephew home from his two year church mission.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

bread day at the blue house bakery

How to make bread for masses. And enough to last the family a week. (and hopefully, more) :

1. Put on your apron. It'll help get you in working mode and you know that you'll get covered with flour if you don't. Be sure to put on comfortable shoes. You'll be on your feet all day.

2. Turn on some Bach harpsichord music for some get-up-and-go.

 3. Grind your wheat. Your bread will taste fresher and will be so much more nutritious for you.  (Plus, you've got to use up all that wheat that's filling the basement, right?)

4. Pull out your Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook. Mix up the 100% Whole Wheat Bread, Plain and Simple recipe that you'll use for the Naan flatbread and the pita. Then, the 100% Whole Grain Maple Oatmeal Bread dough that you'll use for the sandwich loaves and the cinnamon raisin bagels. Let them both rise for a couple of hours. Easy enough.

5. Make the tortillas. Adding more oil and letting the dough balls sit for a half an hour sure makes all the difference. 

6. Heck, they're good enough to eat, so why not? Pull out some hummus (that you made yesterday) from the fridge, schmear some on one that's still warm, and enjoy for your lunch.  

7. Talk to Jane on the phone.

8. Check Facebook. And other Internet stuff.

9. Fry up the Naan bread for tonight's dinner. This will be so good with the Portuguese soup that's planned.

10. Read Gary's email. Respond and snicker at your own wittiness.

11. Turn the oven on real high, like 500 degrees or so. Roll out the same dough for the pita. Most puffed, so that's good.

12.  Cut off hunks of the oatmeal dough and plop them in your greased bread pans. (Remember to save some for the bagels.)They'll go in the oven next after they rise. A tip: Brushing the loaves with a beaten egg and sprinkling on a topping always makes your bread prettier. And pretty is always good.

13. Form your bagels. Let them rise a bit and give them a bath in boiling water. Bake them longer than the recipe says. (They'll be pretty soggy.) Try not to not let it bother you that they come out a little flat looking. Isaac will still be happy you made them.

15. Attack most of the kitchen mess before you have to head out the door for carpool. You'll thank yourself when dinner time rolls around. Like in a couple of hours, don't you know.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

season of the fruit stand

One of the things I look forward to the most in this season of late summer/early fall are the fruit stands scattered throughout the valley. This one seems to be my favorite, even though it's a little bit of a jaunt from where we live. I like this one mainly because of the glorious apple juice they sell. You just can't find it anywhere else.

We've about gone through the bag of apples I bought two weeks ago. (The peaches were devoured long ago.) Now, I think it's time to stock up on a box. Apple crisp, apple pies (Isaac is begging.), apple muffins, apple sauce, apple pancakes...

Yes, autumn is on its way. My favorite season of the year. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

the big plan

Scenes from yesterday. Monday is an intense kitchen work day.

Now that my days aren't consumed with homeschooling and having kids home during the day, I've been trying to find my groove. Without any sort of routine or rhythm, I seem to flounder. (Not that watching foreign films in the middle of the day is a waste of time. wink, wink.) I need a focus, a direction to my days. There's a lot I want to get done in a week. I want a full life. I find that if I make some sort of plan- not just in my head, but actually written down, I seem to stay on task.

After a lot of thinking, prioritizing, and trial and error, this is the basic skeleton I came up with. I've already implemented a lot of this already, but there were some things that needed tweaking. Obviously, none of these tasks, meals, and focuses are set in stone. There might be things on the day's list that might not get done, and that's perfectly fine.  But I like having something to shoot for. There are also things I do that aren't on my list. Automatic things I don't need a prompting for. Even though I am a structured person, I allow for flexibility. Especially, if it involves other people and over riding circumstances. 

You'll see that I place a lot of emphasis in time spent in the kitchen. Feeding my family whole, nutritious, from scratch foods is a huge priority to me. And that takes time, energy, and sacrifice. My role as a homemaker is my life's work. And that takes staying home most of the time!


Breakfast: oats
Dinner: beans

cook beans/grains
rinse and drain sprouts
almond milk


Breakfast: toast and eggs/smoothies
Dinner: potatoes

study and read (or watch foreign films!)


Breakfast: muffins/yogurt/smoothies
Dinner: soup and bread

bread making (daily, rolls, breadsticks, pita, tortillas)


Breakfast: pancakes/French toast
Dinner: pasta



Breakfast: granola/other grain
Dinner: kids make

volunteer at school
date night


Breakfast: kids make
Dinner: Mom's choice/easy

house cleaning/change bedding/organizing
outing/library visit
movie night


Breakfast: Mom's choice
Dinner: chicken or fish

soak beans, grains, seeds, almonds

Monday, September 19, 2011

hospitality sunday: papa's 76th birthday and we welcome mariana from portugal

It's fun to have people over. Hospitality is something I enjoy and am striving for. Weekends, especially Sundays, seem to work best for this. I was so excited that Jane wanted to invite her new best friend from college over for dinner last night. She met Mariana, a young woman from Portugal, in her Chinese class and they instantly bonded. I remember her father from the time I lived there. Jane says she feels such a closeness to her. Because of our family ties and love of Portugal (I lived there as a girl with my family for three years, Keith served a church mission there, and we took the kids on a dream vacation 4 years ago...) I couldn't be happier to see this now second generation connection come into Jane's life. I know their meeting was not a coincidence.

I could see the happiness in Mariana's eyes as she was with us. To have people who understand and appreciate her country and culture; I know that means the world to her. I think she really felt at home with us. I told her she was welcome to come every Sunday. She told me how much she loved it when I kissed her on the cheeks, as is her custom. That made me happy.

I fixed bruschetta (always a hit) and a pasta with pesto from the garden tomatoes and basil. Mariana was glad we had fish, too, and a traditional Portuguese  salada mista.

I invited my mom and dad, brothers, and my sister Felicia and her family to join us for dessert later. It was my dad's birthday. (Do you see the tears in his eyes? He's a bawl baby and always gets emotional when we sing to him. I love that about him and I think I've taken after him in this aspect.) Oh, and we always sing the Happy Birthday song in both English and Portuguese. Always. Tonight, we'll celebrate again (there's a ton of family birthdays this month) at Brick Oven. It's a tradition.

Of course, there were lots of good desserts. Mom brought a sponge cake that we topped with fresh peaches. Felicia made Dad's favorite coconut cream pie, and I made a mixed berry and plum crumble.

My family is loud. We laugh a lot. We tell funny stories. We eat good food. Our sisters and their families are sure missed at times like these.

'Till we meet again....

Saturday, September 17, 2011

picking pears and other garden/harvest musings

It was high time I got my tail end out in the yard slash garden. I've been avoiding it because it's been a titch overwhelming. We had a big thunderstorm yesterday and temperatures are dropping slowly. The poor unpruned and out of control  apple and pear tree boughs are heavily laden. Our apples are always so small and tasteless and to be honest, it's kind of a relief that I don't have to deal with those. (At the same time as the rest of the stuff.)

I bucked up and went out to start on the pear tree. Decided that it was more than a one person job, so I called Isaac and Eliza to come out and help. Isaac was in charge of picking up the windfall wormy pears and chucking them to the fence. He has a good arm, I've found. Eliza was a big help. There were so many that we couldn't reach, but we did the best we could.

Fresh pears are welcomed around here, but bottled pears, not so much. I think as soon as they ripen to a mellow golden, I'll dehydrate some and make pear sauce (frozen) with the rest.

Listen up, you local chums. I would really love to share. Leave me a note if you'd like to stop by and pick up a bag or a bushel (seriously). It would make me happy, really it would.

The garden is winding down but at its peak if you know what I mean. I still haven't gotten to the potatoes. Wanted to today, but I didn't want to deal with the mud. Picked about a gazillion cucumbers today. Cute little lemons and several English ones. Also another huge bowl of tomatoes. I think I'll roast them on Monday. I put these tasty caramelized treats in freezer bags and we'll enjoy a taste of summer in colder days to come.

The basil patch was next. I decided it was the day to harvest, as I don't want to risk it with a freeze. I did save a few, though, to pluck off in the next few weeks. I plopped myself down on the ground and picked each leaf off those plants. I guess I was out there for over two hours. My index and thumb are stained a brownish reddish and it won't come off. I don't remember that happening before.

All this basil (4 bulging gallon sized Ziplocks) will be turned into pesto that again will be frozen (in jars) to enjoy later. Basil sends me to the moon.

Boy, do I have my work cut out for me. I've still got so much to get to in the garden. Weeding, harvesting, processing. Will it ever end?

As I was picking that basil with all that time to think and feel, surveying the expanse, I realized that I'm the only one that seems to care, really, about this garden. Why is that so? It's like this every year. The kids occasional weeding and watering helps a lot, it really takes the edge off for me. However, I've decided that it can't just continue to be a one man show if this garden, and the scale that it is, is going to continue. This huge half acre yard on top of it all. I just can't keep up.

It seems like from early spring to snow, that's all our Saturdays are consumed with. Wondering if it's worth it all. I do know that a having a garden is hard work. And work is good for the soul. It's been good for my kid's souls and my own soul; this I know. But my work force is downsizing, folks. So are the mouths to feed. And this fantasizing of a literal downsizing in all aspects is becoming more and more appealing to me.

Wow, I've said it. Sorry to be a bit on the complainer side today. But a little acknowledgment of these overwhelming feelings takes a bit of the pressure off. 

Know what I mean?  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

to look deeply is to understand. this is what it means to love.

When you love someone, you want him to be happy. If he is not happy, there is no way you can be happy. Happiness is not an individual matter. True love requires deep understanding. In fact, love is another name for understanding. If you do not understand, you cannot love properly. Without understanding, your love will only cause the other person to suffer.

...In order to love properly you have to understand. Understanding means to see the depth of the darkness, the pain, and the suffering of the other person. If  you don't see that, the more you do for her, the more she will suffer. Creating happiness is an art.

To meditate is to look deeply into the nature of things, including our own nature and the nature of the person in front of us. When we see the true nature of that person, we discover his or her difficulties, aspirations, sufferings, and anxieties. We can sit down, hold our partner's hand, look deeply at him, and say, "Darling, do I understand you enough? Do I water your seeds of joy? Please tell me how I can love you better." If we say this from the bottom of our heart, he may begin to cry, and that is a good sign. It means the door of communication may be opening again.

Loving speech...this is the way to water seeds of happiness.

If we practice the art of mindful living together, we can do this. We see that the other person, like us, has both flowers and compost inside, and we accept this. Our practice is to water the flowerness in her, not bring more garbage.

~from Teachings On Love by Thich Nhat Hanh
with photography by Eliza

Roasted Chickpeas

You can call them chickpeas. You can call them garbanzo beans. It's the same thing, folks.

This little bean is one of my favorite things to eat. It wasn't always so. I think the only real time I remember eating them was in my mom's minestrone soup or in the old 3 Bean Salad. I think something about the texture turned me off. In the last two years or so, I've fallen in love. Real love. Like, addicted love. Of course, they star in hummus. I put them on top of my salads. I make a to die for spicy garbanzo-spinach medley that we'll eat in wraps or over brown rice. I love them in curries. Ahh....

Here's how it goes:

Place two cups of cooked chickpeas or 1 (15 oz.) can in strainer or colander and rinse with water. Try to get off as much of the water as you can. Lay some paper towels or napkins on a cookie sheet and pour the beans on top. Use another towel to gently roll them back and forth to absorb any excess water. In a little bowl, combine 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and any other seasonings you may want to use. The possibilities are endless.


garlic powder or salt, fresh minced garlic, or roasted garlic
nutritional yeast
cayenne pepper
black pepper
chipotle powder
Cajun seasoning
soy (tamari) sauce and sesame oil
lime juice
maple syrup or honey

Take this mixture of olive oil and seasonings and drizzle over the pan of chickpeas. Toss with your hands. (It's really the only way).
Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until the beans become golden. You may want to take them out of the oven halfway through and give them a quick stir. Watch so they don't burn.

(Note: Some folks like to add the seasonings after roasting. Either way, it is good.)

Prepare yourself for some serious yum. You'll be surprised at how they'll be crunchy and chewy all at the same time. They are best eaten right away, but since I made a 3 can batch, we've been enjoying them this week for out of the hand snacks, in lunch boxes, and on top of my lunch time salad.

Is your mouth watering?

I thought so.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

happy list

~see this face? This is happiness right here. The sixth grade teacher at his new school grabbed me the other day at Costco and said how when she sees Isaac's sweet little face on the playground, she wants to run up and eat him. (I can so relate with her.) The school librarian also told me that she has to fight the urge to hug him when he comes in. She asked me "how can you say no to that child?" (I can't). He's my joy boy.

~listening to Chopin while doing the dishes

~for the crazy happiness I heard in Jane's voice when she recounted having been on Facebook chat the other night and having 3 young men all getting on to "converse" with her, plus another one texting her on her phone, all at the same time. We're talking for over an hour with all these guys. We laughed and laughed when she said that she felt like she "needed to cut and paste dialogue" between all four conversations. Then having her tell us about her going on a total of 4 dates (two in one day even) last week. So overwhelmed and taken by surprise by all this attention after only going on a handful of dance dates in high school.  I'm trying to get used to all this, but am happy that she's enjoying herself. (Isn't she just beautiful? No wonder...)

~feeling like doing a happy dance (literally) last night when Gary texted me (Keith got a hold of my phone and read it to me) and then called me later to again recount that he went out and bought himself some new running shoes. How he went on a run last night and loved the way it made him feel afterwards. He's never shown any interest in running and this caught me so off guard. I'm just so happy knowing that something might be rubbing off on my kids. Knowing that if Gary keeps it up, he'll be so benefited from this. Whoo hoo!!!

~seeing Eliza having the self confidence to run for vice president in her school.

~ hearing Sam's scout leader telling me on Saturday night how Sam was so positive and encouraging to the other boys who went on last weekend's 50 mile hike. How he was "sprinting", leading the way both physically, emotionally, and motivationally.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grandma

Today is my grandma Fay's birthday. She would have been 101 years old. I miss her so much. She passed away almost 9 years ago. I've had a few vivid dreams since then where I've been in her presence, felt her arms around me, and felt that she is keeping as busy as ever. That's been a gift and a comfort.

As my maternal grandmother, she has profoundly influenced my life in so many ways. The mothering and teaching she gave to my own mother and those things becoming ingrained in who I am now; I don't think I'll ever know how much of an impact her life has had on mine.

She had so many qualities that I hope to have one day and I can see that my life has several similar threads. She loved life. She loved it so much that this love, purpose, and activity kept her going until she was in her late 90's. She kept busy. She worked hard.

She woke before the sun rose in the morning. Those early mornings were often spent out in the raspberry bushes, endlessly picking and picking and coming back inside with scratches to prove it. Those berries turned into the best freezer jam, pies, and homemade ice cream. (I'll never eat a raspberry without thinking of her.) She was proud of her beautiful garden. Along with the raspberries, she grew the garden so she could share with her family. I'll never forget the job I had after breakfast of taking the ice cream bucket out to the compost, dumping out those cantaloupe rinds and egg shells into the heap and being awe-struck that that could turn into the rich, black garden soil she and Grandpa were so proud of.

She and my grandpa were "rock hounds", traveling around the west in their camper, always on the hunt for a new gem or rock specimen to add to their collection. She knew all about the different types of rocks. When I'd go down in her dark basement, I'd often hear the rock tumbler rumbling away. She'd then take those polished stones and gems and fashion all kinds of things to again share with those she loved; tie bolos, belt buckles, wall clocks, rings, necklaces, and other kinds of ornamental framed lapidary work. She also did this with shells. We were so proud to take those little sewn bags of rocks to school to share with our friends. We were also the envy when we got share the rock and shell board collections with our science classes at school.

She loved to learn. After she passed away and we were going through her things, I was in awe of the notebooks she kept on Native Americans and Egyptology. Those things, along with geology, were interesting to her and that curiosity about this world, I know, helped enrich and add years to her life.

She loved to share and make gifts for her family. This brought her joy, not just in the giving, but I think that these aspects of creativity were important for her happiness. The quilts she'd make for all of us, the hours and hours of staying up late out alone in the "carport", those tiny bird like stitches... Gifts of love, each one, and a treasure. Later in her life, her focus and creative energies were put into her painted ceramic phase. We all treasured the Father Christmas's and other holiday figurines that still grace each of our homes. More labors of love, we marveled at the steadiness of her hand and how good her eyesight remained in her old age to be able to do such fine, detailed work.

Some other random memories:

The summer wouldn't be complete unless my sister Sara and I would get to stay with Grandma and Grandpa. She'd make everything so special, especially mealtime. We'd wake up in the morning to a beautifully set table with our choice of sweet cereal (what a treat!), and little dishes of cantaloupe or raspberries with either half-and-half or cream poured over top. (This brings to mind the smell of Grandpa's coffee and how he always had Shredded Wheat in his bowl.) The noon time meal was "dinner". Pot roast, mashed potatoes, creamed carrots, the little wooden bowls with a carefully arranged green salad with croutons and Blue cheese dressing. Always a treat from the freezer to finish it off or the novelty of your own little carton of flavored yogurt. "Supper" introduced me to fried zucchini that I thought I'd hate, but I quickly discovered that it was really something good to eat.

During those visits, Grandma would always plan lots of fun activities. Underwear shopping at Grand Central or the Bon Marche always seemed to happen. Movie matinees, stopping to get a bite to eat at Kentucky Fried, or a tour of the old Ogden Train Depot were some of the things we did together. Later after supper, she'd turn on Gene Autry really loud, pull out the ballerina costumes she bought for us, and beg us to dance for her. Even though doing that wasn't (in her words), my "cup of tea" I felt beautiful and I knew that it made her happy. It was so fun to be able to sleep out in the camper; even the time that I fell of the bed in the dead of night, cried out for her, and she came running out to rescue me. She taught me the correct way to wash dishes by hand (You need almost scalding hot water.) and how to make jelly the old fashioned way with paraffin.

Something funny: I was about ten and I remember staying up late watching the royal wedding of Princess Diana. Grandma had changed into her nightie and came in to check on me. It was a hot summer night. I'm not exactly sure of the details, but I remember her telling me that it was okay if I didn't sleep with my underwear on like she did. She walked away, and amazed, I didn't know whether to laugh, go ahead and be "liberated" like she was, or stay put. (I stayed put.)

I get tears in my eyes, thinking of those times when I'd first see her at a family party, or upon arrival at her house, or saying goodbye. Wrapping her arms around me, she'd give such tight hugs and was the only one I've ever known to give those famous "poop" kisses on our cheeks that made us all laugh. Her Grandma smell. I'll never forget the image I have in my mind of her standing and waving on the porch to send us home. I'd turn around in the back seat of the station wagon and notice that she wouldn't leave until we drove out of sight.

My heart sometimes aches for those times. I'm almost 41 years old now, but I still feel like that child I was when she was such a huge part of my life. If I could, this is what I'd say today:

Thank you, Grandma, for being you, yourself. Thank you for such happy childhood memories. Thank you for loving me just the way I was.

You've taught me so more than you'll ever know, and I thank you for that. I hope you know that now, like I am seeing more and more each day. I hope you are happy. That you know that I'm thinking of you today on your special day. I wish I could call you on the phone and sing you the Happy Birthday song like you always did on my birthday, even when I was a mother to my own. That we could catch up. That you could tell me what you are doing. That I could share my joys, victories, challenges, and day to day living and motherhood with you now.

I'll never forget you, Grandma. I'll see you in my memory and in my dreams. I look forward to another poop kiss when we meet again, someday.