So here we are in autumn, a beautiful time of year. I’m so happy to see we are really getting a good one this year, the leaves had time to change and create the painted landscape when in previous years they were somehow torn from the trees overnight from a bad storm. There was no time to enjoy them. What comes with the changing season is also the end of the garden. Today I pulled up the remaining plants with the exception of some radishes, beets, and swiss chard that are still hanging in there. I learned some big lessons this year. I branched out and tried growing broccoli. Although it thrived, I realize I can really be a bad gardener. I could not bring myself to eat it as I found some well hidden, broccoli-stalk colored caterpillars hiding between florets. They were so well camouflaged that even after two sets of eyes and hands prodding the head of broccoli, they still remained mostly elusive. Even after the weather became cold and I believed they would have changed to whatever it was they were to change into, I cut some side stalks, inspected and saw none. Then as I chopped up the head to steam, a caterpillar began climbing up the side of the bowl. Gross. I felt so wasteful and for most tossed in the back of the yard for some little creature who needed some extra winter padding. Then I came upon an excellent post that proved I was not alone and explained one method to draw out the creepy crawlies was soaking in vinegar. My main lesson this year is I can handle flies, bees, ants, even beetles (unless they kill my plans), but I cannot handle any strange, alien-looking soft-bodied crawlies like caterpillars, slugs, earwigs, or anything else whose body shape is just not normal. So I need to either toughen up or hit the farmers market for those crops the weird creatures prefer.
Resolutions 2013 – Get Fit January 13, 2013
Tomorrow it begins. My grand scheme to not look like a slim girl in clothes and an out of shape beached whale when shoved into a bikini. As the past two years held a lot of good and a lot of bad, all of it made me very, very sedentary. I perfected sedentary, if I am good at anything it’s knowing how to sit like a champion. I changed my career after over a decade in business that I hated beyond belief. That was an amazing adventure but also one perched in front of a computer researching, writing papers, messaging my classmates. I got a good job in my new career but I also spend 50% of my time in the car traveling and when I arrive at my destination I tend to sit more. Helping care for my mom sure I ran around a lot but that was the most of my exercise honestly. I also quit smoking and although that wonderful act doesn’t make you gain weight, when you supplement with snacking it definitely does. I am a huge proponent of the patch, by the way. It was the one thing this 15 year smoker never ever thought would work and it did. I love to feel confident, I love being active so this year I am taking myself, my life, my confidence back and I am starting a total body boot camp tomorrow – four days a week for seven weeks, an hour a day, kickboxing, yoga, strength training, and zumba (sorry to my future classmates, it may not be pretty). I have a yen to be a part of something, a community, and I always knew I needed an obligation to get me off the couch and this was a perfect fit. It was no amazing expense either, my sister’s township sponsors it so the cost was minimal for what you get. Even better, I get to hang with my sister four days a week. I took pictures today in my target bikini (don’t worry I will totally spare you and myself), WOW if there is any other motivation to get in shape is to see yourself plump and bloated in a bathing suit. Sorry body, I am so making this up to you, sorry I embarrassed you. After seven weeks I plan to continue a few of the classes and get running again too, maybe 5k in my future?
Apple Santa December 23, 2012
This Christmas will be a little hard without my mother here but I do believe I am doing right in honoring my mother’s memory. It’s been therapeutic maintaining our traditions and keeping the Christmas spirit alive this year. My mother loved Christmas: our traditional Slovak Christmas Eve, Church, presents, family, and the music. She always made Christmas such a special time. I am making sure to keep up the things she loved the most. One thing she did every year was make Apple Santa’s. It’s really easy, fun, adults and children alike love them, and they smell wonderful (not t mention they are edible)!
What you Need:
1/2 black licorice twist
6 whole cloves
How you do it:
1. Remove stem from apple, insert a toothpick a little more than half-way into the top. Place marshmallow on top of toothpick. This makes Santa’s head if you didn’t realize that. Finish his face using three whole cloves placed for the eyes and nose.
2. Cut the 1/2 licorice twist into four equal pieces. On the remaining four toothpicks, place a marshmallow first and then a piece of licorice. Place these toothpicks at the spots for arms and legs.
3. Finally, using a toothpick, score three spots for Santa’s buttons and press in a whole clove. That’s it!
Working my Way Back September 24, 2012
So it’s been quite a while since I posted. Well, I admit, I mentally and emotionally crashed. I am disappointed in myself that I let that happen but knowing I have seen even the strongest people crash now and then, I feel hopeful and ok with letting myself wallow for a little while. Mourning and grief are normal and natural, I have to remember that. Since my cousin was murdered in the beginning of August, my life seemed to nose-dive. Two of my uncles were diagnosed with cancers that are not treatable. My dog needed surgery. I was in a minor car accident. My mother’s myelodysplasia (MDS) was upgraded to acute leukemia and she’s been in and out of the hospital. She also requires a lot of help that of course I am so happy I am able to supply it. Everything just seemed/seems to go wrong lately and I began to learn things that were sad and unpleasant – I learned that I have been wrong for a long time about people I thought I knew so well and I am very disappointed in who they are. I hope they can find some spiritual guidance to help them become who they are capable of being. I am certainly not perfect and now is a time I am taking to also improve.
I was listening to a podcast today about Zen and Buddhist Dharma hosted by Zencast.org entitled “Practice Simplicity.” I found so much comfort in its insight. Gil Fronsdal introduced me (and his audience) to a tremendously important Buddhist instruction to, “Set your mind at ease, and notice what takes away from that.” It’s one of the hardest things to do – to set your mind at ease. But it is easier to see what takes away from ease – these people who are purposefully hurting others and are not who I thought they were. The only problem with this instruction is that’s the end of it. So… what do we do about what takes away from our ease? There’s nothing more, no more instruction. Fronsdal also noted that issue but said this instruction in itself is difficult, so to start – just “notice.” Notice the moment, don’t react to it, don’t let your mind do anything about it, just notice. So as I listened to this program as I drove, I practiced and noticed something that made me really, truly smile and appreciate the beauty of everything – the leaves are changing colors. Even walking to my car this morning I pulled a couple leaves stuck on the back of my car and STILL didn’t notice the leaves were changing. So from today on out I will track one beautiful thing each day as I do nothing else but “notice.” Today: the leaves are changing.
Wine Cork Plant Markers July 31, 2012
I love Pinterest. Of course, I am sure there are plenty of misleading things on there, just like blogs too. But I found this little crafty idea and I did it and am so happy with the results. What a cool idea! I took used wine corks (of which I have many), drilled a hole in the bottom, inserted cheap-o wine stirrers, and wrote the crop name in a Sharpie. Seriously easy and much sturdier than regular plan markers, not to mention economical and environmentally-friendly.
Greek Style Pasta July 22, 2012
Sometimes I want something really simple but not run of the mill. This recipe hits both the important “quick” and “easy” features I am looking for. Definitely season to taste on this one or it can be overpowering!
Greek Style Pasta
1 lb. ground beef or lamb (I don’t eat baby animals so I use beef)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp. cubed zucchini
2-3 Tbsp. sliced carrot
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes (14-1/2 ounces), undrained
1 can (5-1/2 ounces) V8 or tomato juice
1/2 tsp. instant beef bouillon granules (or 1/2 bouillon cube)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup dry shell macaroni
1 cup frozen green beans
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1. In a 12″ non-stick skillet, cook and break up ground beef and onion. When almost browned, add zucchini, carrot, and garlic. Cook until meat is browned. Drain fat.
2. Stir in undrained diced tomatoes, V8, bouillon granules, cinnamon, and garlic powder.
3. Bring to boiling. Add shell pasta and green beans and stir well. Return to boiling, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 7 minutes. Add water, return to boiling, reduce heat, cover, and simmer another 7 minutes or until pasta and green beans are tender and cooked through. Serve topped with feta. (Not sure what happened with this part of the directions earlier, sorry!)
What Vacation Teaches Us July 15, 2012
So I took a week-long vacation last week, a vacation my husband and I have been planning for about 8 months. This vacation has been my light at the end of the tunnel and of course, I am suffering the grief and loss that I usually encounter when vacations are over. I hadn’t realized just how much I really needed this one. A week at the beach was so necessary that I wonder if I hadn’t gone, how crazy would I be right now? I took time for myself and time for my husband and I to be a couple as well as friends instead of the strange, robotic routine animatrons we tend to become at home over time. I also learned something – when left to our devices, without the stress of expectations, we can all get a really good look at who we really are. I realized something, I realized I am very little like that person I “become” in the daily work week. I am much more fun, happy, kind, and active. I like “vacation me” better. I’m also pretty sure other people like “vacation me” better too. I somehow have to try to let “vacation me” become “daily me” and I think I would be happier and healthier. I say it after every vacation though but this one is different (do I say that after every vacation too?) Regardless, vacations happen for a reason and instead of banking vacation time for the money or impression it might make on our superiors, take it. Take vacation, learn who you are, grieve when it’s over, and come home to the routine with a new set of eyes.
Slow Down and Unplug June 25, 2012
I woke up this morning and immediately grabbed my phone and checked the weather. I came downstairs and turned on the laptop. I checked my phone for messages while I made my coffee. I got my coffee and sat down at the computer and checked my email. Now I sit here typing this. Do you even remember what we did before all this technology became requirements for us to function normally in our daily lives? Sometimes I strain to remember. I think I got my coffee and talked to somebody, maybe after that I walked my dog. One thing I do remember is being able to separate work, school, and my personal life. I think we all have become too aware of ourselves and what needs to be done that we forget to just live. Everyone needs time to unplug. We are so busy “checking in” we forget to look around and see what the world is trying to show us. Beautiful paths carved into the woods, natural phenomenon like the boulder field created from an ancient glacier, and finally realizing humans are just as much a part of nature as any other creature – we just need to do it right.
Watch my Garden Grow June 23, 2012
This is one of my favorite times of the year, when the garden starts showing off – getting buds, flowers, and fruits. Just looking at it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I know that in a short time I will have more produce then I can handle and I’ll break out the pressure canner. I cannot express enough the difference between food you grow on your own and what you buy in the supermarket. Did you know that celery actually has flavor and peppers aren’t bitter? Even more, growing your own food gives you a level of control over what goes into your body. I know what I use in and on my garden. I know how fresh the produce is because I am the one who picked it. This year, we extended the garden again and planted more than last year. This year’s offerings:
- Red onions
- Swiss Chard
- 3 Types of Tomatoes
- Green Peppers
- Jalapeno Peppers
- Green Beans
- Straightneck Squash
Simple Living Food June 18, 2012
There is nothing that says real simple living like the times we take ourselves completely out of our element. For some, our home is in the urban jungle, for others it’s the suburban safari, and others the country zoo. No matter where you are or where you live, we all need to unplug and unwind and take time to be what we were born to be – the human. Just like every other animal, we were built to sustain in this world. Our problems lie in the struggle between how we were made to live and how we want to live in this world. Many people believe living like a human is beneath them – the Jones’ would’ve gotten take out tonight right? In our world where being busy is somehow a gauge of success (although I am not sure why), in my natural rebellious way, I did the opposite. I took a long weekend with some of my favorite people and animals to spend in the woods. Tents, a campfire, and nature are all you need to put life in perspective at times. (more…)