Carrots

Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

 

I’m past the saturation point of stories about Harvey. The hurricane. I can always watch the gentle movie with James Stewart, but I am burnt toast from the images from Texas. I donated a little, and will donate more. But today I needed a break. I played in the garden and let the sun and the dirt work their magic.

Today’s lunch consisted of egg salad on whole wheat bread (Hubby) or crisp bread from Ikea (me) with the carrots that I pulled this morning. Oakley had a couple of hardboiled eggs with a scoop of the freeze-dried dog food on the side. He doesn’t like carrots unless they’ve been grated and mixed with other food. Even then, he still manages to pick them out and spit them out on the mat beneath his dish. I don’t have to step in a pile of them or chewed-up peas twice to get the hint.

These weren’t just any carrots, however. These had history behind them. Before the 1600’s, carrots were more likely to be white or purple than orange. I’d bought them from the store where I do my big bi-weekly shopping, but wanted to try growing them. They taste a little more carrot-y. The unexpected visuals of purple and white delighted the eye even if they temporarily confound the mind .

Carrots became predominately orange at that time due to hybridization and selective breeding.  According to The Carrot Museum, the story was that the scientists wanted to honor the House of Orange, the royal family of the Netherlands, and so developed the carrots in the color we know best today. That hasn’t been substantiated, but I still think it’s kind of cool.

Whether it’s true or not, carrots still provide beta-carotene among many other antioxidants (depends on the color) as well as being pretty.

They were fairly easy to grow. They were a little smaller than expected due to inadvertent overcrowding. Next year, I will thin them out, or take tweezers to the seeds. They aren’t much bigger than grains of salt and love to stick to your slightly sweaty fingers.

Even though planting them was a bit challenging, the tops waving in the breeze looked really pretty this summer. The ivory and purple roots added a note of royalty to lunch. More wait in the garden, waving the summer on in the wind.

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Harvest Season

Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

I pulled the last of the radishes a couple of days ago, then planted the next crop. Note to self: heed the directions concerning thinning well to avoid overblown tops and mere roots, not rosy round radishes. Maybe using tweezers to place the seeds with a higher degree of accuracy was a little obsessive-compulsive, but these should work better.

If the cherry tomatoes will perform their alchemy and turn from little emeralds to small rubies, that would be great. There are a lot of them, but none of them seem to be ripening with any haste. If all else fails by frost time, green salsa is an option.

We have had a couple rounds of green beans. Steamed. Butter. Lemon. No need to do anything fancier. I’d hoped to have enough to freeze some for the winter, but not to be this year. I’ll have my gardening chops back next year. We’ll do better then.

I had to severely weed the other day. The alleged French mesclun greens bore no resemblance to any salad green I’ve ever seen. I gave them back to the earth and to the critters who eat them.

Carrots still hide underground. They haven’t started peeking above the soil yet. It’s still early. When I was on the wedding frenzy the other day I inadvertently pulled one. It was pretty tasty. This year I planted heirloom carrots that come in purple and white as well as the best known orange. They should liven meals up a little.

Basil has been prolific. I’ll be able to get some more pesto and pasta sauce out of the plants.

The broccoli? I don’t know about that. It put forth some impressive foliage, but doesn’t have anything resembling broccoli yet.

So we wait and see what happens for second harvest.

Random Monday Thoughts

Two new goals have popped up in the last week or so: to create a firmer schedule for my days and to start doing meal prep and plan once a week.

The schedule is to give the sails of the day some structure the way masts and riggings would on a ship. Otherwise the day just kind of flops around and I embody the stereotype of the writer who watches TV  or goofs on social media all day and wonders what happened. Today I’m on track. I did yoga, walked Oakley, and am writing this entry before checking in with my buddies in cyberspace. Yes, I will still have fun and yes I will still have time to watch TV, but filling the day with meaningful activities pushes me to be more selective about what and how much I watch.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of blog entries and watching videos by Tonya Leigh, a life coach who made significant, lasting changes for herself by studying French culture and applying the the lessons to her own life. Anyone who tells you to throw out all the self help books that make you feel broken is someone you need to listen to.

The meal prep and plan is an act of self nurturing and self defense. Otherwise it’s just too easy to look at what’s in the fridge and nibble on leftovers instead of sitting down with a portioned-out meal. This goes double after yoga class. Or to succumb to pizza’s siren song. I’ll likely do that on Wednesday and shop Tuesday en route home from dropping Oakley at day care.

In the garden, the beans have blossomed. I have a pretty decent crop of basil and lettuce.  Some of the veggies look so different in their natural state that I can’t tell what they are, but there are a lot of them.  However, I have a lot of stray grass and other things I didn’t sow that need to be pulled. Oakley and I will do that tonight. Well, I’ll do the pulling while he stands guard. He’s good at that.

Attempts to relearn crochet unfold. I can create a semi-decent granny square in about a half hour. I’m not in it for glory or cash; I’m just in it to keep myself out of the snacks. It calms my mind for the most part, except for the times when I can’t get the tension right or I have to repeatedly rip out stitches due to a multitude of errors. Then I put it aside.

And find something else to occupy my hands and head to keep myself out of the snacks.

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.

 

 

 

Oatmeal Morning

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Rain came through the soybean field on Saturday. It finally broke the endless string of days hovering between the high 80s and low 90s with tropical humidity levels. The windows have been opened since then.

The six a.m. sun turned the condensation on the window pink. The crickets’ songs of harvest time harmonized with the fan’s steady whir, gently waking me up. Make coffee, mix Oakley’s breakfast (he wakes up when he hears the microwave beep), then sip coffee while I offer prayers and intention to The Great Mystery. A few lines in my journal, and we begin the day.

That’s pretty much how every day starts. Today I had a definite craving for oatmeal. I’ve had yogurt or eggs or toast with a reasonable amount of nut butter on it and some fruit, but this morning I wanted oatmeal. Maybe it was the coolness of morning, but that called to me. So I had a packet of instant oatmeal with flax, a spoon of almond butter, and blackberries. I do instant because the need for portion control overrides the other benefits of plain ol’ rolled oats, plus you can’t make cookies with it, so it prevents scarfing down the dough.

If you can actually get the cookies in the oven or not sit and fudge with portion sizes, whole grain or rolled oatmeal is a great breakfast. The fiber fills you up, helps to keep cholesterol in line, packs in a good amount of magnesium (helps with generally feeling mellow as well as keeping muscles relaxed), and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Wanting lunch at 10 is a bit awkward. If you give in to the siren song of the donut to get you through until noon, that can cause a bigger blood sugar crash that will leave you feeling rotten and craving more sugar.

The biggest issue is making sure that you choose toppings that won’t play havoc with your nutritional goals for the day. Recipes abound for high-sugar variations on the oatmeal theme that pretty much negate the benefits, so I find it best to just stick to fruit and milk with a tablespoon of nuts or nut butter to boost the protein.

One of the spins gaining popularity in recent times is the jar breakfast: put oatmeal, milk of choice or yogurt, and fruit in a jar and refrigerate overnight. In the morning the oats will be soft enough to be edible. That way a person can reap the benefits of the humble oat year round without turning on the stove in hot weather.

It may not be the most exciting of breakfasts, but it’s reliable and does its job. You can’t ask for much else.

The Point of Sweet Tension

Some years ago, I had a yoga teacher who called the place where you’d bent into the pose enough to get a good stretch, but not far enough to put yourself in pain “the point of sweet tension.” As August slides into its middle weeks, I find myself in that place. Not so much in a forward bend, but with life and time in hurry up and wait mode.

On one hand, I look forward to Labor Day and all that comes with it. We’ll be making a trip to Bristol Ren Faire (sigh) for closing weekend, the start the countdown to next July. Daytime highs will begin to creep to more acceptable levels, and the colors will turn to golds and crimsons. And in November, we will finally be through this election season that has been unparalleled in sheer bad behavior and insanity.

On the other, despite the highs being uncomfortable, in the face of political insanity, and despite the changes and challenges foisted on me this year, I don’t want to wish it away. This ride, even with the pain and the headaches, is just too short. There are days when the middle years feel like a war of attrition: life choices and genetics catch up with a person eventually, and sometimes a passage just happens for no apparent reason.

If some how I had been able to fast forward, I would have missed the hawk making lazy circles above me as I drank an iced coffee with a shot of caramel at a park. I would have missed an excellent lunch with a spirit sister last weekend, and the song of the crickets this morning as I woke up. Don’t forget the gifts of homegrown tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers, either.

The sweet point among the salad is the need to stay in the moment, and knowing that eventually you can straighten up, but enjoy the stretch in the meantime.

 

The End of Eras

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Photo by Brian Hanna via freeimages.com

 

Garrison Keillor hosted his last “Prairie Home Companion”  yesterday. Of course I listened. Just as I have for the majority of Saturday evenings since–OK, you caught me–I was in junior high. There will be “best of” rebroadcasts, I’m sure, as NPR has done with “Car Talk.” It won’t be quite the same, but I’m sure that my fellow fans will still be able to count on two hours of respite from the lunacy that is the world these days.

Another end came up in my news feed yesterday, too, one much closer to home. The mom (no pop) shop where I’ve bought some of Oakley’s supplies since his first week home was sold.

The bittersweetness was mitigated by knowing that both transitions are likely for the best.  Garrison’s leaving the show in the capable hands of Chris Thile, a mandolin player I look forward to getting to know better. He is cut from the same cloth as Garrison, and will do well as he puts his stamp on the show. The new owner of the pet supply store is a local chain that has the same values and commitment to providing customers with high quality products made in the US as the mom does. They’re keeping all the staff, so that’s a good thing.

Both changes are for the better. Garrison is 73. In one of the many articles covering his retirement he quietly mentioned some health concerns as well as a desire to get back to writing. Under its new ownership, the store can expand and serve more people and pets now.

I still spent a lot of time sighing yesterday. Sighing for the passage of time. I took Orion to the mom store the last couple of years of his life, followed by a then-scrawny semi-feral Oakley.  Wondering how I arrived at the age I am now even though I still feel twenty most days. Sighing for yet another round of changes and letting go. Not exactly painful, not earth shattering, but just change.

Yet, there is consistency. Both Garrison and the mom ensured that the high-quality entertainment and pet supplies continue. We’ve been left in good hands by both. It will play out for the best and highest, I’m sure. In a mass produced world, it’s good to see the unique continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When in Doubt, Make a Casserole. When Confident, Make Two.

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(image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy)

Well, that was a hell of a week.

Let me try again.

One ill family member; one visit with out of town relatives who’d cancelled vacation plans to come to see her; one hearing for a special use permit for Oakley’s day care; and two drives up to see the family of said family member left me totally wrung out. Except for the visit (breakfast at a very comforting restaurant) the other events involved drives of upwards of an hour, plus trying to convince Oakley that the relatives’ dog was not a fruit bat-shark mix.

Good boy that he is, Oakley just walked away, then sat quietly by the door until we left. I made him a bison burger for dinner.

The ill family member is in progress. I’m not going into details to protect her privacy, but I will tell you that she fares better today. And that her condition scared a few years of growth off all of us. It’s going to take time, but things look a lot better this week than they did last Monday.

I couldn’t directly influence her recovery process, but I could support the ones in the immediate circle with food. Comforting. The type with plenty of carbs and that can be heated up in the microwave. In other words, a casserole.

Nothing fancy. I made stovetop lasagne. Been too hot to turn on the over here. I boiled the pasta (1 lb. fusilli), stirred in a jar of sauce, a carton of ricotta, and some pre- shredded provolone and mozzarella. They liked it.

I made a huge batch of turkey chili, too. They received it with favor. And a rotisserie chicken that I grabbed at the store. They will be well fed for a few days. My hope is that things will level out so they can do a little cooking. It’s therapeutic. I felt better as I saw the chili and pasta fall into place.

They felt better as they ate the chili, too.

Had it been cooler, I would have made a chicken-noodle casserole as well. It’s like tuna-noodle, but with chicken and cream of celery. Two people in that part of the family have fish and mushroom allergies, and they had enough problems without a reaction to the tuna. And the mushrooms.

But it worked out, and continues to do so. We just have to be patient. And eat some casserole.

 

#WoofWoofWednesday: Home Cooking for Canines

12091164_1093123694038950_1270561461227914638_o“Carson, we’d like the tea and biskies now….” (image courtesy Mid Day Play)

That’s Oakley’s favorite place for a short rest at day care. He’s gracious enough to share the sofa with his with his friends, though. He also might be wondering what his mom is making him for dinner. Am I going to get turkey? Bison? Bunny? I know I’m getting pumpkin. Other carb veggies set my tummy off because they have too much sugar. Is Mom going to try to get me to eat spinach? It’s not as good as grass, but Mom said I had to eat spinach once or twice a week because Dr. P said so. I hope it’s turkey. Yeah, I’d like some turkey…

I think his wish came true that night. Frozen turkey (thawed and cooked, of course) and pumpkin. He’ll eat spinach now and then, but mostly then.

Spinach, pumpkin, and one of the above proteins fall on the cool end of the spectrum in Chinese medicine and nutrition. Because of the low fat and sugar content, they are least likely to cause inflammation for Oakley, keeping his tummy calm and his mother sane. I can easily find canned bison and rabbit without additives. The turkey has to be cooked from scratch after the label gets scrutinized. He can have two biscuits a day without digestive repercussions. Dr. P had suggested a vitamin powder, but every time I’ve tried one of those, it’s knocked his tummy out of whack. He seems to be doing just fine without them–his hair is smooth and soft, blood work numbers are all good, so I see no sense in rocking the ship.

This is what works for him. It’s not spoiling him any more than it would be giving him insulin if he were a human child with diabetes.  I get weird looks sometimes when I speak of making his food, but as long as he’s happy and healthy, the critics can look askance to their heart’s content.

A lot of kibble has ingredients that may be healthy for some dogs, but not so much for Oakley. Omega 3 fatty acids set him off. We don’t talk about what happened when he ate a flax-based food in polite company.

Pumpkin. Protein. Spinach. Occasionally an egg or a tiny bit of cheese. This is what works for us. Things might be very different for your fur-child. Please talk to your vet before changing over to a new feeding regimen.

If you’re interested in exploring home cooking for canines, please read Dr. Pitcairn’s Book of Natural Health for Dogs and Cats or Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Dogs and Cats. 

And someone please ring Carson for the tea and biskies.

 

Hibernation Protocol

The air temps are bad enough, crawling up into the single digits and hanging there by their fingernails. We are in expectation of below-zero wind chills tonight. We have been rewarded for the last two winters with a rather mild one this year. The contrast intensified the shock of not uncommon weather for mid-January.

We follow hibernation protocol today with DVDs, hot beverages for me and lots of nose work to amuse and delight Oakley. Except for short runs in the yard for hygienic purposes, we are staying inside.

The big challenge: not letting my impulsiveness lead me down the path of ruin. I found a new strategy in a weight loss article posted on the Additude website: plan your meals and snacks out in advance. That way, you can override the part of your brain that looks at options for meals, gets overwhelmed, and drags you down Binge Alley. I tried it yesterday and it worked pretty well. Today began with oatmeal for breakfast. Lunch will be soup and salad. I scored a small turkey roast at Woodman’s on Thursday, so that and veggies will be dinner. For snacks, I have Kind (chocolate-nut) bars and veggies to munch. Perhaps a small bowl of popcorn to delight the palate this afternoon, but only if I get hungry. Oakley will have an extra Kong stuffed with spray cheese and pumpkin.

This morning, I did a Latin dance workout that I found on YouTube–about 15 minutes, but pretty vigorous. I’ll see if I have some coloring sheets in my work basket; otherwise I’ll run off a few fresh ones.

I should be able to keep myself busy today. The warm up creeps in tomorrow. No precipitation expected until late in the week. It’s just for the day, not forever. We’ll get through just fine.