Food in Bowls and Jars

The wheel of the year turned another notch today. Summer Solstice, the longest day, arrived. I watered the plants. Radishes should be ready by the end of the week. Carrots poke small fern-like leaves through the top of the soil. We have four bean plants getting ready to rock and roll. And many other green leafy things have popped up. I don’t remember what I planted where, but we have an abundant crop of something or things on the way.

After giving the plants a drink, I had a rather hip and trendy breakfast of overnight oats. You haven’t tried them? You can’t connect to any relatively healthy eating site these days without thumbnails for recipes greeting you. I used a 16-ounce very well washed salsa jar for mine. All you have to do is put oats and some sort of milk or yogurt in a jar in a two-to-one ratio (I use 1/3 cup oats to 2/3 cup yogurt or soy  almond milk), a sweetener (stevia in my case), mix, and let sit overnight. The longer the resting period, the creamier the oats the next morning. You can throw in cocoa powder, nut butter, nuts, chia seeds, flax, whatever is healthy and world for you. Just don’t forget the sweetener; otherwise the flavor will remind you of library paste. And don’t forget some berries or banana in the morning when breakfast time arrives.

I put pumpkin in with mine, and pie spices. A bit unconventional for the first of summer, but it was quite good. Cool, creamy, dessert-like. Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite desserts; this echoed it pleasantly.

Another ubiquitous jar presentation: salads. These get shown in quart Mason jars. I see no reason why any other quart jar wouldn’t work. The basic recipe starts with dressing on the bottom, tomatoes, cucumbers, protein to act as a moisture barrier, then lettuce on top. At lunch or dinner time, give the jar a good shake and there you have your lunch or dinner. You can eat it as is or you can pour it out onto a plate.

If you don’t want to eat your meal on a plate, you can always put it into a bowl. Bowls garner a lot of press these days as well. The formula involves a layer of grains, some veggies, a protein, and salsa or some kind of sauce on top. If I can’t get to Chipotle for one of their bowls, I can make a fairly reasonable copy at home. Not quite the same, but pretty close.

While nothing can replace sitting down and enjoying the casual elegance of a sit-down homemade dinner, jar and bowl foods provide an option for tasty meals on the go. Two sites I like for ideas are Mind over Munch and The Domestic Geek.

Even with the hipness and trendiness, bowl and jar meals introduce some practicality. You can make meals for a few days in advance. You can practice better portion control (says the writer who picks at leftovers). You can reuse and up-cycle glass jars and plastic containers from past take out meals.

And  you can be sure that curbing plastic consumption and saving money will never go out of style.

 

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We Are Stardust. We Are Golden. And We Have to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden.

 

graphics from Old Design Shop

Oakley asked to go out at six this morning. While he nibbled yard salad and tended to personal business, I watered the garden. The last shadows of the night veiled it, allowing me to give it a good drink that should soak in before the rising sun evaporates the water.

The radishes came up first. Their leaves look slightly ruffled. Some carrots may have sprouted. At least I think they’re carrots. I didn’t mark any of the sections, so there may be some overlap.  Green beans and tomatoes poke their first leaves through the top layer of soil. The first planting of mixed French lettuces and basil have broken through as well.

No weeds. No invading species. Just my crops. As Oakley sniffed and grazed, I sang to the plants and myself the lines from the Crosby Stills and Nash song: We are stardust. We are golden. And we have to get ourselves back to the garden. 

In the wake of yesterday’s events concerning the Paris Climate Treaty, it seemed like the best place to be this morning. Even though I was expecting the news, I still felt as if I’d taken a foot to my solar plexus.

The backlash for this rash decision began almost immediately. Governors and mayors announced their commitment to the Paris guidelines. Elon Musk left the president’s business advisory council within a few hours. More will come internationally, I’m sure.

On an individual basis, a bit of self examination will help determine doable actions in your own little corner of the world. In addition to gardening and protesting, what about writing thank you notes to the elected officials who are standing up to this attempt to send the US into developing world status? Just a little “thanks” on social media? A phone call?

There’s always a little something to be done, a seed to be planted, as we return to the original garden.

 

 

 

Garden Report for 5/31/17

Hubby built the raised bed for the garden last week. It’s 4’x8’x18″ and can accommodate all kinds of root depth.

We filled it with some fine organic soil premixed with sand (for drainage) and compost (for nutrients). After we shoveled the beautiful dirt into the bed frame, I tucked the seeds into it. Short and root crops go along the eastern edge. The taller, bushier ones went to the west side. I  watered, watered some more, and hoped for the best. We have tomatoes, some herbs, broccoli, lettuce, green beans, radishes, heirloom carrots, and spinach incubating in their lovely bed. Now we wait.

image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

I hadn’t planted in seven springs. The last garden came into being just after Orion made his journey across the Rainbow Bridge. In the haze of early grief,  I half-heartedly poked holes in the ground, stuck the young plants into them, and watered. And walked away. And still had decent produce, including a zucchini the size of a baseball bat. Really. As I cleaned out the bed that fall, I bumped something buried in the leaves with my foot. There was the zucchini. Hubby and I didn’t know if we should cook with it, bronze it for posterity, or apply for an open carry permit.

I think I made some bread with it, and soup.  Good soup, if I remember correctly.

This year, I wanted, needed to get my hands back into the dirt. I needed to do something, anything to counterbalance the craziness in the world. Working with the cycle of nature keeps me sane, reminds me that all things will pass, eventually, and to have patience as they come to fruition.

Plus as the meme says, I’ll get tomatoes. You can’t beat that.

“Otherwise”

It’s Monday. All day. For another 13+ hours.

The last week or so, Jane Kenyon’s poem “Otherwise” has been my mantra. So much could have been otherwise.

Things were pretty quiet around here since the last entry. Oakley made a lovely recovery from the mild case of Lyme disease. We go back to the (more experienced) vet (who’s seen Oakley since puppyhood) this week for a recheck. My money is on that diagnosis because of how quickly he responded to the doxycyclene.  Within a couple of hours after he took the first dose,  he perked up, took nourishment, and wanted walks. I feel like I can exhale now. That could have been a huge otherwise.

Saturday was interesting, to say the least. A loud storm discharged a huge clap of thunder that shook the house hard enough to make one of the smoke alarms wail in protest. Granted that it was the alarm that goes off if someone sneezes while walking beneath it, but it was still disconcerting. It could have been otherwise, such as a bolt of lightning striking the roof. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

Later, as Oakley and I returned from a hasty walk between storms, one of the turkey buzzards that live in the trees down the road flew directly in front of my car. I slammed on the brakes as did the driver behind me. The bird lived to clean up road kill for another day; my windshield and both bumpers remained intact. A win-win situation for all resulted. That could have been an otherwise as well, and an incredibly messy one at that.

Despite a relatively late night, Oakley and I woke up with the sun. That could have been a huge otherwise, but it wasn’t. The sky had cleared. We had slept well, even after watching “Dark Angel” on PBS last night. Joanne Froggat, best known here in the states as Anna on “Downton Abbey” portrayed Victorian-era serial killer Mary Ann Cotton with chilling accuracy. I wisely cleansed my mental palate with many cake making videos before closing my eyes for the night.  With the way I carry what I watch on TV into my dreams, that could have definitely been otherwise.

But it wasn’t.

We go about today, another ordinary Monday, and make notes of gratitude that it wasn’t otherwise.

 

A Day to Spend Nothing and Eat Veggies

And chill. Oakley and I had to make a run to the vet on Saturday. He picked up some kind of infection that caused the glands under his ears to swell. After a rather heated exchange with the (extremely young) new vet at our clinic, she conceded that we should try an antibiotic first; then if they don’t work, test for a couple of other possibilities; and then and only then will we test for the unspeakable (as in cancer but we will not go there).  By Sunday afternoon, the glands had started going down. He was back in his usual form, staring at me and patting the carpet until I took him to the park. Dinnertime brought on an extended version of the starving urchin lecture until his bowl was in his crate. We had a good sleep and woke up ready to face another Monday, including the obligatory chase around the coffee table when the time came to gear up to go to the park.

In the last few years, Mondays have been a call not to eat meat (#MeatlessMonday) and more recently, not to purchase anything (#SpendNothingMonday). The day of veg eating to begin the week started in World War II to make sure that the boys and girls at the front were getting well fed as well as making sure there was enough to go around here at home. Now it’s to relieve, even just for a few minutes, the burden placed on our dear planet by industrial meat production. Spending nothing started was brought to my attention a couple of months ago by a friend. Its objective: to make the participants aware of how much we spend on a daily basis and again, to relieve the burdens on the earth as well as our psyches caused by rampant consumerism.

It’s easy for me to participate in both since I’m home based. Out of sight; out of mind, aided by not being very fond of shopping either on-line or common reality to begin with.  I’ve slipped up a few times on the no spend thing by grabbing an iced coffee as a treat after a run to the park, but otherwise I don’t shop.  Especially not today. The vet visit put me off shelling out more shekels for the moment, thank you very much.

I usually don’t eat a lot of meat, so it’s not a big deal to me to go without it. Today I had yogurt with strawberries for breakfast . Lunch was a stir-fry of cabbage with carrots and red peppers to make it pretty, and an alt-meat called Quorn.  It’s made of egg whites and mushroom culture. With almost no discernible flavor of its own, it takes to seasonings well. I used half a package of the crumbles. I’ll use the other half in tacos or in shepherd’s pie tonight.

Tuesday will take care of itself. I may just extend this into Tuesday. As long as I have a jar of almond butter, a coffee pot, and the companionship of a good boy, I have all I need and more.

 

 

A Friendly Reminder or Four

Well, two, actually. Mothers’ Day is May 14. The day before that, May 13, is the US Postal Service’s Stamp Out Hunger food drive. All you have to do is leave your bag of nonperishable food items by the mailbox and your carrier will do the rest to get it to your local food pantry.

And let’s make that three friendly reminders: most community food banks desperately need protein foods such as canned fish and meats, nut butters, and legumes. Contrary to stereotypes, many people who need assistance are elderly or disabled, not lazy bums sucking others dry. (In fact, many clients work two or three jobs and still can’t feed themselves and their families adequately.) Something like 20% of children are food insecure as well (read: get some baby formula in there). As a person gets older, the odds of type-II diabetes increase. They can’t live on carbs alone. A really high carb diet makes it hard to maintain a healthy weight and the blood sugar spikes and crashes do overall wellbeing no favors.

Oh, and while I have your attention, other items needed by local food pantries may not be food related. Many distribute diapers, feminine hygiene supplies, and cleaning products. They aren’t covered by SNAP.

For more information and to find out what you can do, check out Feeding America. And one more time: protein foods, baby formula, household paper products. You can grab some when you go get your mom or grandma a card.

Back to the Mat

 

 

About three weeks ago, I weighed myself. I weighed my self and oh, holy crap, was that a number I hope never to see again. As soon as I finished cursing myself, my menopausal process, and all the sorrows that had unfolded between the last time I was at a healthy weight (Orion’s crossing; hormones or lack thereof; stress from Hubby’s mom’s passage; stress from Hubby working at home before he retired; genetics; colorful and interesting family issues) and that moment.

And then I started troubleshooting. What was different then:

  • I followed a low-glycemic diet (a/k/a smart carb, low GI, South Beach).
  • I was younger and had something that vaguely resembled a metabolism.
  • I was a lot more active. Oakley likes his walks and playing at day care, but he is not the hiker Orion was. It wasn’t uncommon for Orion to drag me around the four-mile trail system at the nearby state park, then be ready for another walk in the evening.
  • On top of that, I went to yoga and dance classes.
  • I tracked my food intake and weighed myself very week or so.

So back to low-GI eating and increasing activity. More importantly,  tracking it. I found a free app called FatSecret (godawful name for a very useful tool) through a friend whose dietitian recommended it. Not only can a user keep an eye on carbs, calories, and fat, but it sends an email every two weeks to remind you to weigh yourself. The low-GI plan is flexible enough that the journey to a healthy weight may have a few pit stops for cookies or ice cream here and there. Not many. But a few.  I lost seven pounds in the last couple of weeks. You will sleep better not knowing how much more I have to go, but at least the numbers are going in the right direction. This will be slow, but I will get there.

With nutrition squared off, the next challenge was exercise. I started taking yoga again. I found a small studio near my home with small classes (three of us, usually). The instructor is about my age.  She understands how to move a body that survived the battles of daily life. Today, savasana (a/k/a corpse pose); tomorrow the headstands. Or maybe next week. We’ll do it when we do it. No hurry in the meantime.

Much of it felt good, right, and lead to better sleep. Some of it lead my body to express its displeasure about not moving consistently the last few years. The extra magnesium and Advil negotiate the truce between mind and back, hamstrings, and rear end.

In addition to the gentle but through workout, yoga helps to balance the endocrine system and to relieve stress while making you aware of your body’s wants and needs for movement as well as sustenance. Sometimes it’s as simple as a glass of water or changing to a more comfortable position.

And sometimes a person really does need a bit of chocolate. Not often, but sometimes you just do,

Taking Refuge in Lake Wobegon

 

 

(from cardcow.com)

 

“Chocolate cake.”

Until last week, those had been two of my favorite words. Hearing them spoken by  The Wearer of Ferrets as he discussed the moment during a dinner with China’s President Xi when he gave the green light to bomb Syria put a considerable pall on them. I may never be able to eat either again. If there is a positive, the sound of his voice echoing around my mind is aversive enough to keep me away from both as efforts at weight loss continue.

While desserts have their charms, taking refuge in them too often is not a good idea at all. Just ask my jeans.

Where, then, does one turn to escape the rampant insanity ? I’ve tried to keep the TV off with mixed success. Two PBS shows I love run late morning, and then there’s the midday news that a couple of minutes of won’t hurt, then perhaps a couple more, and next thing I know it’s 1:00 and I have to ice down my middle fingers from overuse. Not a good idea.  Limiting time tuned to WCPT  (independent progressive talk) and NPR to short bursts in the car helps somewhat as well. Somewhat.

In times like these, we need refuge from current affairs to prevent a collective slide into madness. I find mine in visits to Garrison Keillor’s fictitious hometown of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Blessed be the tuneIn app that delivers the stream to the Sonos system that fills the house with his soothing baritone, gentle wit, and delicious sense of absurdity.

There are days when one needs to hear stories of hair raising escapes from fishing sheds as the ice breaks beneath one’s feet (especially when the shed in question is an RV). There are days when one needs the tale of a homecoming parade inadvertently but rudely interrupted by the queen’s father’s front loader that just excavated a septic tank. And there are days when one needs a slice of rhubarb pie and fresh coffee at the Chatterbox Cafe.

Based on the quick news summary just now on WFMT with the sabre rattling, I think I’ll take the pie, please. And if there’s any vanilla ice cream, a scoop of that on the side would be most appreciated.

 

 

 

Enough is Plenty

I took Oakley for one of our rides this afternoon. We drove on the back roads beneath the sunshine, investing a couple of hours in nothing but the pure joy of being. The first grasses reached towards the sun like a baby reaching for a parent’s finger. A few temporary lakes caused by the rains earlier this week mirrored the cloudless sky, adding some notes of blue to the landscape.

We stopped at a forest preserve for a walk. Only two other walkers and a couple of fisher people went about their business; otherwise we had the place to ourselves. We walked the circular trail in compatible silence with me looking up at the new leaf buds and Oakley inspecting things closer to the ground.

The afternoon was warmer than expected. I forgot to bring water. I did have four quarters and some smaller change, however. With that, I treated myself to an iced tea and a cup of water for Oakley. His long slurps sprinkled droplets around the front seat and treated the people in the car next to mine to a laugh and one of his best smiles.

I smiled, too. The afternoon had been woven of small joys, of the moments that too frequently get discarded in the chaos of the world. I had the time, the gas, the working car, the dollar and change, and good weather.

I didn’t need anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recovery from The Great Iced Tea Disaster of 2016 and Other Notes For a Monday

I had to take my MacBook Pro to the shop last week to rectify a situation that I created last summer. It wasn’t pretty, but it could have been exponentially worse than it was. Parts and labor came in at two-thirds less than the original quote.

Let’s rewind to last August. I had a big Mason jar of tea in the fridge, a reward for a hot walk with Oakley. I put it on a coaster on an end flap of a cover that I had draped over the sofa arm. When I sat down with my laptop on my lap, the flap moved, flipping the tea onto the computer. With a bloodcurdling shriek, I dried it off with a towel, then ran upstairs to get my hair dryer. I put the laptop back on the desk and positioned the dryer to focus a concentrated air stream onto the key board. Then I mopped up the sofa, the rug, and myself.

It would have worked, but in my distress, I neglected to check the temperature setting.  The up-down-left-right and shift keys had curled like bacon in a hot frying pan.

When the dry heaves stopped, I just left the laptop alone, choosing to let nature take its course. I used a lot of Rescue Remedy the rest of the morning.

Of course Hubby came in that afternoon. He’d had another round of disasters with repairs and renovations. I didn’t say anything, not wanting to listen to him hyperventilate about the incident (he takes care of most things technical) and because he was of good cheer. He crashed on the love seat, Oakley also crashed next to him. Did I want to disturb that? Hell, no. I poured a glass of rose, spiked it with Rescue Remedy, and told The Mystery to send more of the peace, please.

I needed to take it in. I just couldn’t. The combination of distance and parking (our nearest Mac store is in an otherwise lovely suburb that involves picking and dodging through traffic some 45 minutes east of here only to end up in the third circle of parking hell), embarrassment and self loathing (really, am I ever going to be grown up enough to use tools properly?), and terror of the repair bill played factors in the procrastination.

Fast forward to a little over a week ago. I’d been able to work around the melted keys, but the battery wasn’t charging, and the laptop shut itself down  when there was an interruption to the power supply.  Hubby, to his credit, didn’t judge. “Shit happens,” he said as he set up the appointment to drop it off for repairs.

It was just the battery, not the motherboard. The problem is that MacBook Pros have their batteries glued to the top panel (with the keyboard), so the whole top had to be replaced. Very well. See you in three to five days.

The call came. I had my laptop back, and all was again well with the world, or at least my little corner of it.

Next purchase will be a water bottle for making iced tea. One with a pull top or spout to mitigate the odds of future damage.

On we go into spring. The scent of new grass gently floats through the air. It’s good to hear the birds again.

I signed up for a yoga class. That starts tomorrow. Been ages since I took one. I don’t have the discipline to keep at it on my own.

So we begin again.