Of Turkeys and Gratitude

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In place of my annual Black Friday rant about corporate greed, bad behavior and misplaced priorities, which now extends to Thanksgiving Day, I’m going to take a more positive route and talk about why I, and many others feel so strongly about this holiday.

While we all know that the story we were taught in school about the friendly pilgrims and indigenous peoples isn’t how the first Thanksgiving really went down, it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth celebrating.

OK, this clip from the Addams Family movie isn’t accurate either, it’s hilarious and I just love to watch it every year.

All kidding aside, the ideas behind Thanksgiving, gratitude and sharing are pretty darn awesome.

Oh yeah… and FOOD! Who doesn’t like food?

But what about that first thanksgiving and should we really be playing into it?

In a recent article published by Indian Country Today Media Network, Ramona Peters, the historical preservation officer for the Wampanoag Nation dispelled some myths about that first Thanksgiving.

When asked if she considers Thanksgiving a positive thing, she replied, “As a concept, a heartfelt Thanksgiving is very important to me as a person. It’s important that we give thanks. For me, it’s a state of being. You want to live in a state of thanksgiving, meaning that you use the creativity that the Creator gave you. You use your talents. You find out what those are and you cultivate them and that gives thanks in action.“

And yes, she celebrates it.

Thanksgiving, unlike less secular holidays doesn’t bring up a bunch of religious debate. There’s no “war on Thanksgiving” (see comments from a descendant of those who were there above) there’s no requirement to go into debt and spend stupid amounts of money on items people don’t need in order to impress the neighbors.

We all eat, and sharing a meal makes it even better. Thanksgiving meals need not be expensive. If you like traditional fare, turkey is actually pretty cheap as are the side dishes. (and if you’re against turkey genocide, there’s tofurkey)

The focus on family, friends and gratitude it what draws me to this holiday.

It is far too easy to get caught up in the sadness, stress and challenges of our daily lives and the world beyond.

It is far too easy to forget what is good in our lives.

It is far too easy to forget to tell people how much they mean to us.

Thanksgiving is a chance to remember and celebrate the good.

We all have our own memories of the Thanksgivings we celebrated growing up. Oddly enough, in the dysfunctional house I grew up in, holidays were actually happy and not stressful unlike most of the rest of the year.

Thanksgiving in the early 70’s involved laying around after eating too much and watching the Twilight Zone Marathon. (you millennials can google that if you need to) It also involved me getting a few sips of champagne and getting yelled at for putting the olives on my fingers. I remember learning how to make the lead crystal glasses “sing” by dipping my finger in water and running it along the rim. I have those glasses (I still stick olives on my fingers too)

To this day, it still involves tuning in to a local radio station at noon to listen to Alice’s Restaurant.

and it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without revisiting the now classic WKRP in Cincinnati “Turkey Drop”

As we grow older, move away from or lose our families, we begin to create our own traditions.

An increasingly popular trend is “Friendsgiving” either before, after or on the actual date. I have hosted my “Day After Thanksgiving Feast/Anti Black Friday Protest” for the last twelve years. I love doing it on Friday so more people can come. It also gives me the day of to “party hop” at other people’s events.

It is a commonly held belief that the expression of gratitude can boost one’s mood and outlook on life. That’s a good thing, especially up here in the cold, dark Pacific Northwest where seasonal affective disorder begins to manifest at this time of year.

For me, cooking a meal and sharing it with friends and chosen family is a show of gratitude for them being in my life, it’s a small way to give back. It’s a positive, happy thing; don’t we all need a bit more of that in our lives?

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Guerrilla Urban Farming

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It’s taken almost exactly three years (closed escrow on this place on May 18th 2010) but I finally got rid of all the lawn.

Something that most folks don’t know is that lawn is bad for the environment, just like street and sidewalk, a well manicured lawn on compacted soil is an impervious surface, meaning that water won’t filter through the earth and percolate down to recharge aquifers, it just overwhelms the storm drain system carrying fertilizer, pesticides and dog poop (along with gas/oil/antifreeze and whatever else is on the street) with it out to the Puget Sound via Commencement Bay.

Over the years I’ve been in this house, I’ve been slowly converting lawn in to more useful area; a nice pervious gravel bed under my grape arbor, a fairy garden, adjacent to a small orchard of mixed fruit and one hazelnut tree, and a huge garden area. The only place out back where I now allow grass to grow is in the chicken area so that they can eat fresh greens when free ranging.

I converted the (very small) front yard slope into flower garden the first year I was here, but was left with a huge parking strip full of the offending green stuff. This parking strip is 15 feet deep (measured from the sidewalk to the street) and runs the length of the property.

A neighbor, one bock over on the other side of the street has a wonderful little guerrilla urban farm that I have been admiring since I moved here. It’s hilarious at peak squash season, as the vines go insane and sometimes encroach in to the street. Since the legality of taking over what is essentially city property (but we are required to maintain) for urban farming/gardening in the front, where people can actually [gasp] see it is somewhat questionable, I like the slightly “naughty” feeling… [raises dirt covered fist in the air and yells]…”POWER TO THE PEOPLE! SQUASH IN THE STREET!”

THIS is what I am aspiring to… (you can see my house in the background)

this is not my garden... this is a neighbor one block over (you can see my house in the background) who I aspire to be like

But first, I had to get rid of the stupid lawn…

I was pretty happy to have this be my LAST mow.

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I didn’t want to dig out the sod or rent a sod cutter (sod this old doesn’t come out easily anyway) and really didn’t want to have to mass apply herbicide, so I decided to use the same technique I used for my actual front yard and garden beds out back, which has worked fabulously.

I raided my basement, then the Safeway down the street for cardboard boxes which I laid out over the lawn. Once weighted down with topsoil, mulch, or in my case Tagro, it will kill the grass with no cutting, digging or chemicals and then the cardboard and grass will decompose and amend the soil, no tilling required.

That big pile there is 3 cubic yards (that’s 4,800 pounds, over two tons) of Tagro

Gardening - Spring 2013

as it turns out, 3 cubic yards wasn’t quite enough to do it as thick as I wanted…

Gardening - Spring 2013

so I got another 3 cubic yards…

Gardening - Spring 2013

Gardening - Spring 2013

over the course of one afternoon and the following morning, I shoveled 9,600 pounds (oh so close to five tons) of Tagro, thus re-confirming my status as “crazy lady no one wants to mess with” on my block.

It sure felt good when it was all done. (Ibuprofen was my friend that night)

Gardening - Spring 2013

So just like that, I reclaimed 535 square feet of prime, sun filled garden space…

As I was shoveling and shoveling, I fielded a lot of questions from neighbors young and old. “Are you crazy?” and “Can I feel your biceps?” comments aside, they were interested in the process, my reasons for it and what I was going to put there.

I have been thinking about putting up some signs talking about urban farming and what is growing there due to all the interest the project has received thus far.

Anyone who knows me, figures out pretty quickly that I am a very serious and dedicated anti-Monsanto/Big Agra and pro local, healthy, sustainable, non-GMO food activist.

Of course, it was going to be food.

“What!? You’re going to grow food out here where people could steal it?”

If someone is hungry and wants fresh vegetables, they are welcome to them. I have way more than I need from my huge garden out back.

Last summer, my friend Jack, like many in this area had a bumper crop of plums. He harvested all of them, laid them out on a sheet with a sign that said “free”. He even provided plastic bags to carry them home in.

What if everyone who could, grew some of their own food. What if they made the excess available to neighbors who didn’t have the land/skill to do so? What if we taught people how and shared our plant starts and seeds with them, and they in turn did so as well?

Can you imagine how much healthier, happier and more connected our communities would be?

While I’m happy to share food, vandalism and waste would make me very sad , so I am keeping “high temptation” things that could be vandalized out back, such as red tomatoes and corn (the neighbors down the street had some issues with kids picking their corn and throwing it some time back) A neighbor grows his really weird looking, off color tomatoes such as yellow and green zebra out front with no trouble.

I didn’t get my seeds started in time this year, so it was off to my farmers’ market and Gardensphere for as many organic/non gmo starts as I could get…

Gardening - Spring 2013

What I can’t grow from organic starts, will at least be heirloom and open pollinated (those are non-GMO) so that I can save seed.

One of the many scary things about Monsanto’s monopoly and GMO is the loss of genetic diversity. At the rate we are going, the only way to save these wonderful, much tastier and safe heirloom fruits and veggies is to save uncontaminated seed from season to season (you know, like farmers used to be able to do)

Seed saving is vital to the future of our food supply.

I have planted the front garden with broccoli, brussels sprouts, beets, carrots (from seed), radishes (from seed), red onions, walla walla onions, artichokes, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, butternut squash, kentucky wonder pole beans and snap peas

I roped the area off in order to keep the tender young plants from being tromped on and just to make it pretty, planted double knockout roses in two whiskey barrels I recently acquired. If all goes well, I will be picking up some landscape timbers in the next few days which will help keep the neighbor’s grass out, and keep the dirt in the bed and off the street/sidewalk.

Now I just need everything to grow baby grow…

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Of course, the back yard is getting some new plant action as well…

As a matter of fact, I’m sure that yesterday’s wind and freezing rain storm, and today’s hailstorm are directly related to the fact that I planted tomatoes on Friday. (well, the crappy weather on Saturday is mostly due to the law of nature that says it has to be cold and nasty on Daffodil Parade day)

Gardening - Spring 2013

Gardening - Spring 2013

Gardening - Spring 2013

and don’t forget…

Gardening - Spring 2013

The apples, cherries, plum, peaches, pears and blueberries are blooming.

It’s so amazing out there that I don’t even mind the copious amounts of pollen attacking my sinuses.

More photos of this year’s garden work and things in bloom can be seen by clicking on this link new photos will be added to this set as they are taken.

~L



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Sporkless at Second Beach

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Life has been more than just a little intense lately, and it became apparent to me that I was long overdue for a solo backpacking trip out on the coast. (like two years overdue as was evidenced by the cheese and beef jerky in various stages of decomposition/creating new life in my bear cannister)

I decided that my only chance to get away (with good weather no less) was to leave the market (a ten hour work day) as soon as the vendor envelopes were turned in at 3:00 PM and run like heck to the coast.

Everything was packed up and by my front door ready to go, all I had to do was get out of there, get home, grab the cold/frozen stuff out of fridge/freezer and hit the road. The only glitch was that I could not find my titanium spork. I love that spork and it’s just not the same going without it.

I was on Hwy 16 at 3:30 PM.

It was smooth sailing all the way to Port Angeles where I stopped to get my backcountry permit at the WIC (Wilderness Information Center) I knew I could self register at Mora, but that would require taking a different fork in the last road and then back tracking, so I opted for the stop in Port Angeles.

I was in and out of there in record time and was on the LaPush Road entering the Quileute Reservation on final approach for the trail at 7:30 PM. Sunset was at 9:00 PM, so I still had plenty of time to make final pack adjustments and get down the (luckily, very short) trail and get my tent set up before sunset.

One of the advantages of having been a backcountry ranger and a river guide is that I don’t mess around when it comes to setting up/tearing down camp-I learned to become extremely efficient, even more so when there’s no one around trying to “help”. I figure the faster I can do it, the faster I can get to the very serious task of relaxing.

This is the scene at 8:30 PM; one half hour before sunset.

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I was too tired between the five hours of sleep I got the night before, the long work day and the long drive to worry about a fire, so I dined on smoked salmon, cheese, crackers and kalmata olives with a small glass (and by glass, I mean my purple titanium mug 😉 of red wine.

I slept through the low tide the next morning (4:05 AM) which is just fine with me and spent the day walking up and down the beach and reading real paper books.

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I managed to finish “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister” and “The Hunger Games”

I spent the afternoon collecting firewood, which can be a real chore on a popular beach at this time of the year when the best bits are picked over, but I managed to gather enough to build a fine fire on which to cook dinner. One of the great joys of staying over on Sunday night is that when others leave, you can often find extra wood around their sites. Not so at this time of year as everyone had burned what they had. I’m not certain the energy expenditure versus calorie intake was a fair exchange on this one, but it was worth it to have a lovely fire and grilled seafood for dinner.

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Once I knew I would be able to cook dinner (shrimp and scallops frozen in half strength marinade) I headed out to do some tidal pool exploring since the afternoon low tide had arrived.

This is considered “social hour” among coastal backpackers. We tend to give each other space when in camp. Even on a busy Saturday night like the night before, you feel very much at peace and alone due to the courtesy given. On one of these more crowded beaches we share with day users (I prefer ShiShi or Toleak for solitude, but didn’t have time to get out there this trip) all you need to do is hike away from where the trailhead spills out to set up your camp.

At low tide, everyone converges on the best rock formations/pools and searches for sea stars, urchins, crabs and other critters. Lots of shouts of “Hey, check out this crab” or “Look at the color of this starfish” are often heard.

While it wasn’t a minus tide, there were plenty of critters to enjoy observing.

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After that, it was time to wander back and cook dinner now that the fire had burned down to a proper bed of coal.

Since I froze the seafood in marinade, wrapped it tightly and kept the bear canister in the shade, it was still nice, cool and safe. I didn’t want to rush and try to cook it the first night as I wanted to relax and really enjoy it. (it was still frozen when I arrived anyway)

Dinner was shrimp, scallops, sweet onions and bell peppers grilled over a driftwood fire.

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With the obligatory s’mores for dessert.

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and a cup of wine of course 😉

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After dinner and securing food/smelly trash from bears, cougars, raccoons, etc… (thankfully the bear and cougar population seems to be thinner here than at Ozette, the raccoons are not german shepherd size like at Rialto and there were none of the infamous Sand Point ROUS in evidence, that aspect of the trip was uneventful.) it was time for more sunset photography.

I wasn’t the only one with that idea an I had to giggle at this poor guy (who reminded me a bit of Kevin Freitas) dancing around on one foot as the tide was coming in at him.

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After another wonderful night of sleeping on the beach, being lulled to sleep by the sound of the crashing waves, I awoke to another beautiful morning.

There was even a rainbow out over the water.

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Sadly, it was time to leave and return to the working world, but it was a wonderful, relaxing journey.

It was time well spent, as I did a lot of thinking, reading, dreaming and feel like myself again.

I even encountered a potential “hot wolf boy” (for those of you who have been sheltered from popular culture, it’s a Twilight reference and I was on the reservation side of the “treaty line”) that I always joke about wanting to find out there, but never do.

While the attention and effort to talk to me were appreciated, upon closer inspection, he was too young for my tastes, so I had to leave him be. Oh well… I hear they don’t house train properly and tend to not behave well if you take them home, so it’s all for the best 😉

Here are the rest of the photos in a slide show…

If your reader or browser doesn’t support the slide show, the photos can be viewed by making with the clicky clicky here

Oh yeah… I’d better hit up backcountry.com and order another spork.

~ L



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One More Step Towards Regaining My Perfect Health-Home Made Almond Milk

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I’m so lucky that after surgery on my uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes that no cancer was found.

I don’t want any more surgery and I want to get off the blood pressure medication (my doc thinks that stress from the former job, medical scares, as well as chronic pain from the girly bit surgeries, wisdom tooth extractions, dental, perio and ortho work was the biggest issue)

In addition to getting back on a normal workout schedule (as soon a I’m done recovering from surgery; right now, the best I can do is walking 3-4 miles a day) I am making an effort to make as many healthy (non-fanatical) dietary changes as I can that will assist with discouraging the growth of fibroid tumors and endmetriosis and get me off of the blood pressure medication.

As soon as the blood pressure issue reared its ugly head (after having a perfect blood pressure up until very recently) I immediately went off my hormonal birth control and caffeine. (yeah, cold turkey, both at once) and stopped rinsing my mouth that was being torn up by the new braces with salt water.

I also got serious about getting back to my normally very healthy eating habits which went to heck over the holidays (I was a naughty monkey); rarely eating out, no processed foods (I even make my own chicken stock) whole grains (always brown rice, and more often than not, I make my own whole wheat pasta) eating organic eggs from my backyard hens, growing my own fruit and veggies in season, being very careful about sodium (I don’t generally salt my food or add much in cooking, but I’m being aware) and of course, I can always do better about eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve read a lot (from credible sources) about the health benefits of black strap molasses, so I’ve started using a tablespoon a day in my morning lattes (healthier than vanilla and caramel syrups right?)

I decided that I also wanted to switch to almond milk for my morning lattes

Oh, no… I am not going completely diary free. You can have my cheese when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers and I do try to eat organic yogurt with live cultures several times a week.

I scored some Almond Breeze the other day, and discovered that I really like almond milk. But it’s expensive and the commercial stuff contains additives that I don’t want.

So I decided to make my own (it’s stupid easy)

First, I soaked one cup of raw almonds in water. You can do it from 8 – 24 hours; since these were older almonds, I went for the full 24.

Making Almond Milk 001

It’s important to rinse the almonds well and discard the soaking water, as it contains tannins from the skin that will make the end product unpleasant.

I added the now well swollen almonds and four cups of filtered water (4-1 ratio) to the food processor.

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If you want unsweetened almond milk, that’s all you need to add.

I opted to add six dates. The only thing I’d do differently is to soak/soften them first so that they didn’t gum up the food processor blades and a splash of vanilla extract. You can also add cocoa powder or nibs for chocolate milk or any fruit that you like..

Making Almond Milk 003

After blending in the food processor or blender if you don’t have one for two to five minutes, it’s ready to strain.

*as it turns out, the food processor wasn’t the correct tool to use for this-virtually none of them handle this much liquid without leaking from the top or bottom-I will be using a blender next time

You can use cheesecloth or specially sold nut milk bags, but I used my jelly strainer. I’m guessing that is what they are selling as nut milk bags.

Making Almond Milk 004

You’ll need to let it hang for some time, and to give the bag a good squeeze every once in a while. Once it’s done, you’ll have finely ground nuts which you can process into nut butter, or dry and use in granola or desert toppings

Making Almond Milk 005

What you are left with, is some super yummy, healthy, inexpensive almond milk.

Making Almond Milk 006

I’m calling this first attempt a “win” and now, don’t need to buy almond milk.

~L



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Phoenix Rising – The Surgery That Wasn’t

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I took some time off from blogging over the holidays, and holy moly, do I have a lot of catching up to do.

I am continuing the sharing of my medical journey in hopes that it will give some comfort to others who may be going through similar issues. It’s nice to not feel alone.

I was supposed to have surgery to remove the tumors from my right ovary yesterday. The story of all that “fun” and surrounding stress are documented here” Take My Uterus Please

That didn’t happen, because it was discovered that my blood pressure was dangerously high (187/111) at that appointment and not any better at home that night)

I was shocked to say the least.

I am used to being “disgustingly healthy” (direct quote from a doctor) and an athlete with no health issues other than my girly bits giving me trouble as I approach menopause.

Now I’m a “sick person” ?

This is beyond difficult to wrap my head around, and I am trying very hard to not let it make me depressed.

This also ruined my carefully laid/on a strict timetable plans which included being recovered from the surgery by Feb 1st so that I can concentrate on working/having a more steady paycheck (although I’ve done well with the writing/photography/performing over the last month) and less financial uncertainly/stress.

I’m really not budgeted to keep up the COBRA premium benefits past the end of this month and was planning on switching to a cheaper individual plan (which would pay less for this sort of thing) but I have no choice now as my health (and maybe life) depend on it.

Last Wednesday I was given an emergency dose of Clonidine in office to lower my BP out of the danger zone. I was also given a prescription for Amlodipine 5mg per day. It didn’t get me down to below 150/90 so I was instructed to double the dose this morning. Of course, I’m not allowed to drive until I know how it affects me, so no trip to the doggie park for Mr Frodo.

Wow, less than a week ago, I was fire dancing at First Night in leather pants and a bustier and now I’m a fragile old lady on medication who’s not allowed any strenuous exercise nor to even drive?

Inconceivable… (yeah, I know, “That word, you keep using it; I do not think it means what you think it means…” )

On September 14th (yes of this last year, just a few months ago) my blood pressure reading at the doc’s office was 116/70 (hadn’t been at work or drinking coffee that day so I was super calm), it started slowly creeping up from there over the next few months (but I’m often stressed just walking into a doc’s office and it if was a morning appointment after I had a latte that also raises pressure, so it did not attract any attention) It was pretty high the day of my uterine surgery, but I was super stressed out/anxious.

My cholesterol, blood sugar, thyroid and metabolic blood work is all good. What I could see of my EKG looked good; but then again, I didn’t get enough of a look to note if there were any prolonged QRS complexes or ST segments.

My stress level has been off the charts, and although that may not in its self be the root cause given my bad family history, it’s certainly not helping. Neither is having to leave tumors in my ovary for an as yet unspecified period of time.

I’ve worked through the initial phases of shock, depression and anguish and am back in fighting mode.

The first thing I did was get off the birth control hormones as they can contribute to high blood pressure and stroke in a woman my age.

The next thing I did was stop caffeine. I was able to order some decaf green beans from my usual supplier to roast, so I can still have lovely home roasted coffee/lattes.

Cold Turkey off of caffeine and hormones at the same time-Do I know how to party or what?

I also quit rinsing my mouth with salt water, which I was doing several times a day to assist in healing from the wisdom teeth extractions and mouth irritation from the braces.

I am getting back to my healthy eating habits (holidays pretty well trashed those) making a concerted effort to get back out for what exercise I’m allowed right now, and am trying to keep a good attitude.

Whenever life has thrown me ugly challenges (or tried to outright kill me, which has happened more than once) I always come back stronger.

As a Scorpio, one of my signs is the Phoenix.

I’ve risen from the ashes before (albeit slightly singed), and I’ll do it again.

Who knows, I could end up writing a successful book after all is said and done.

How timely that I’m sitting here looking at the sculpture that my dear friend Christina gave me for Solstice this year to commemorate the naming of my homestead “Phoenix Grove”.

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Ah life, it’s always an adventure…

~L

Part Deux…posted as a service to those who have been “given way too much well meaning good advice” in times of stress

My friends have been a constant source of love and support.

With that said, whenever someone is going through a medical challenge they are often overwhelmed with advice…

I am offering up the following excerpt from an email I sent to friends and also posted as a FB note.

(It’s amazing how many people immediately responded sharing their own stories of being almost “loved to death” by their friends who didn’t realize that the well meaning onslaught of advice is overwhelming and stressful in its self.)

Between the three months of constant pain dumping stress hormones into my body at an alarming rate and all the other job/financial/death of a friend/creepy neighbor guy bugging me/surgery/tumor/etc… stress combined with the holidays (getting away from my normally very healthy eating habits) and not being able to exercise (my number one stress reducer) due to surgery recovery and prior to that hemorrhage, my body is pretty messed up and I’m most definitely “off my game”.

I had one friend ask me if I had not had my blood pressure checked in a long time (wondering how in the heck it could get that bad undetected) it was a good question; here’s the answer.

On September 14th (yes of this last year-just a few months ago) my blood pressure reading at the doc’s office was 116/70 (hadn’t been at work or drinking coffee that day so I was super calm), it started slowly creeping up from there over the next few months (but I’m often stressed just walking into a doc’s office and it was a morning appointment after I had a latte that also raises pressure, so it did not attract any attention) It was pretty high the day of my uterine surgery, but I was super stressed out/anxious.

My cholesterol, blood sugar, thyroid and metabolic blood work is all good. Up until this point in my life, I have always been considered (by doctors) “disgustingly healthy”.

Many of you had given me excellent advice and insight.

I am going to state a few things here in hopes no one thinks I am disregarding or disrespecting their advice.

Everyone is different, and what works for one person, may not work for another.

Yes, I am aware that meditation helps.

However, at almost 50 years old, I have tried just about every method of counting breath, being aware of breath, Buddhist chanting, etc…

Sitting meditation is not my thing/is not in my psychological make up and has never done anything but frustrate me.

What DOES work to get me into a meditative state is “moving” meditation: yoga, walking, running, gardening, playing music/drumming so I’ll be concentrating on that. (I will however be trying the recordings that a friend sent me as I can lay and listen to them I the nest)

I have received numerous strong opinions/advice on diet (most with scientific studies to back up the claims) that a specific diet raw/vegan/vegetarian/paleo/south beach/fad diet de jour/etc… will take care of this without medication. Much of this advice directly conflicts with what the last person just told me and everyone is equally as passionate about what they believe will help (this is actually starting to add to my already monumental stress)

My body weight is normal (but on the high end of normal now, which means I need to get back to my workout schedule as soon as I can)

I am making my changes/taking action in steps.

I do have a medical and science background and do a lot of research (from diverse sources), so I am not stumbling blindly into this nor am I uneducated about how the human body works.

If I change absolutely everything at once, in addition to stressing out my mind and body, I won’t know what did and didn’t contribute to the cause or the cure. (I may never know due to the heredity factor, but science geek girls wants to try to know)

So I am going about this in a decisively methodical manner. (ooh, say that three times fast)

I’ve already cut out caffeine and my birth control hormones; both of these were done cold turkey last Wednesday, as they are known contributors and were easily in my control (and that 187/100 reading scared the hell out of me).

I was thrown into an unscheduled menstrual cycle (yeah, that was fun) which just ended yesterday. The caffeine wasn’t bad as I wasn’t drinking enough to create withdrawal. I love to roast and drink my own coffee, so I ordered some decaf beans/blends to roast and am happily enjoying equally wonderful morning lattes (it is my ritual) and not missing the caffeine. I will occasionally enjoy green tea, but am careful to have it only early in the day so it doesn’t mess up my sleep. Other than that, I’m drinking Hibiscus Bliss tea from Mad Hat.

I also stopped rinsing my mouth with salt water, which I was doing several times a day in order to heal up the wisdom teeth extraction sites and the abrasions from my braces (honestly, it’s like having a cheese grater in your mouth sometimes) No you don’t swallow it intentionally, but some does go down.

I don’t eat a lot of salt, I use it in baking because well, that’s chemistry is is sometimes required to get things to work properly, but in any other recipe I cut it in half, if not out completely.

I do not eat fast foods and rarely eat processed food. I even make my own soup and stock.

Since I know my eating habits went to heck over the holidays, and that is part of the problem, I’m getting back to the things I (through research, medical knowledge and trial and error with my own body) know work for me. (your mileage may vary)

I eat as much fresh, local and organic produce as possible (I have an organic garden in my back yard) and I try to eat my food in as much of an unprocessed natural state as possible.

I do eat eggs (my cholesterol numbers speak for the safety of them as does the current medical research) from my own back yard chickens, humanely raised and fed a vegetarian diet and free range during the day.

I eat salmon, and small amounts of other meat (occasionally, not every day) that is local and humanely raised as possible. If I want a burger or to make chili, I use organic buffalo (I’ve even been to the ranch it comes from).

If I eat bread or pasta (rarely) it’s whole grain and usually home made.

I have been a vegetarian; it does not work for me. I have no intention of becoming vegan. I understand that you who are are passionate about it think it is the best thing for me and the planet; please stop telling me to do it over and over again. (this is adding to my stress)

The same goes for you paleo folks (or anyone promoting any highly restrictive and/or fad diet) it is not going to happen, please stop adding to my stress by lecturing me about how your food plan/diet/philosophy is the best and only way to do it.

I have one latte in the morning with milk. It is organic, family farmed milk.

I DO NOT eat/drink Soy. It makes me violently ill, and there is plenty of research out there proving that it is pretty darn bad for us in the amounts/manner in which it is marketed by “big agri-business” as an alleged health food. I consider it little more than poison. If you’re interested do the research but for gosh sakes, please stop telling me to eat it.

I do not and will not eat “veggie patties/burgers” My philosophy is that the less processed a food is, the better able our bodies are to process it and utilize the nutrients. (see above note about eating food as unprocessed as possible)

I currently have one small glass of red wine in the evening after dinner. (yeah, I had quite a bit of champagne over the holidays, I’m a naughty monkey) and am doing my best to stick to that. I will, for the time being be turning down invitations to the wine shop, wine tastings and parties where it flows too freely (it’s too easy to say, “Sure one more little bit would be awesome” and or have your glass topped off when you’re not looking and end up consuming more than planned)

I am not allowed to do any strenuous exercise for the time being, so walking the dog (better, going to Ft Steilacoom dog park and walking around and around the big area not having to deal with a leash/keeping the dog in training mode) yoga (will start back up once I’m convinced of the safety of driving on the current medication dosage) and some poi spinning/hula hooping will have to do for now.

One of the biggest things I need to do is to decrease and manage my stress.

There will be times when I want/need to talk about all of this, and times where I need to not accept a call/return an email so that I can think of other stress reducing things. Please don’t take this personally.

I will ask that those who are super passionate and maybe upset because you love and care about me, please stop and think about how repeated (and I mean if I don’t answer turning around and calling right back a few minutes later after leaving a near hysterical voice mail message and then sending me an email YELLING (yes, all caps and underlined) demanding that I call you, take actions (based on you not even reading my email/knowing what I have or haven’t done) and doing things that are against my ethics (oh say like LYING) affect me.

There aren’t words to describe the feeling of going from “disgustingly healthy/athletic” to “sick/not even allowed to work out”. It is very depressing.

I need less stress not more and I know that none of you are trying to add to my stress (the vast majority of you are not), you are only trying to help me and are unaware how it comes across.

You have all been wonderful in your own way and I greatly appreciate the calm words of non-judgmental/non-lecturing support. (and I’m really amazed to know how many of you have dealt with this yourselves; it makes me not feel alone in it)

If any of you got through this long missive, thank you for reading and understanding.

I have another doctors appointment on Wednesday and will know more then.

~L



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Mmmm… Home Made Hummus From Scratch (no cans)

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I got a wild hair the other day after having seen a news report on the best commercially made hummus and decided to try making some of my own. I haven’t perfected my own recipe yet, so I’m not posting it here; there are a lot of them out there for folks to experiment with.

I had all of the ingredients on hand-well, except for the tahini which was easy to find at Fred Meyer; a neighbor even makes her own saying it’s “stupid easy”.

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You can used canned beans, but the taste, nutrition and food safety (due to BPA linings in cans) of dry beans is so much better; an added bonus is that dry beans are super cheap.

The night before (or in the morning if you’re going to make it in the evening) just rinse your beans and put them in a bowl of water to soak. If you’re buying bulk beans it’s always a good idea to check for small stones and remove them. Add a teaspoon or so of baking soda to the soaking water.

Once the beans are soaked, give them a good rinse.

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Just put them into a pot with a bit more baking soda, bring it to a hard rolling boil then turn the heat down and let them simmer for about an hour.

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A white foam will appear on top of the beans; scoop as much of this as you can off the top.

You will also notice skins floating around. It does not hurt to leave them in the final product, but if you like a very smooth hummus you can skim them off. I give my beans a final rinse before processing them which also takes off a few more skins.

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Garlic is a key ingredient in hummus; you can just chop it or process it in the food processor before adding your other ingredients. I find that roasting the garlic gives a richer flavor.

After you process your garlic, just add the warm cooked beans, salt to taste, lemon juice and tahini. You will find your own balance of bright and nutty by experimenting with the amounts of tahini and lemon.

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This is where traditions will differ a bit. Some people serve the final product with the olive oil sitting in a depression on top of the hummus for dipping; I add my olive oil to the processor (I just love that super smooth texture)

Process with or without the olive oil until well blended and to the consistency you prefer.

You can garnish your hummus with the olive oil you didn’t put into the food processor, extra roasted garlic, peppers, pine nuts or herbs.

I dusted this batch with a bit of paprika.

Viola! You have hummus that is way better (and cheaper) than what you can get in the store.

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~L



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Saucy! (from scratch no less)

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I had very good luck with tomatoes this year, despite the cold, frozen spring and virtually non-existent summer the extra effort to raise them from seeds under growlights and on heat mats in the basement, then move them to the greenhouse, then transplant into large containers using wall-o-water insulators paid off.

I’m one of the few people up here than managed to get two good harvests. The woman who came to interview me and photograph my urban farm for a book she’s writing said she hadn’t seen any tomatoes like mine between BC and San Francisco.

Here’s the first harvest. They are San Marzano heirlooms I purchased from Territorial Seed Co.

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The first thing I did was lightly score the skin off the bottom of each tomato; it only takes a few seconds.

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Then I dipped the scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen the skin. I used a colander/basket here but you can use a slotted spoon or skimmer.

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A quick dip into a bowl of ice water stops them from cooking and keeps you from burning your hands.

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The skin slips right off and then you just cut out the stem. San Marzanos have virtually no core and very few seeds; so this is a super easy process.

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You can squeeze the seeds and juice out of the tomatoes if you want it to take less time to cook down more quickly.

You can also skip the skinning step and run the sauce through a ricer after it’s cooked to get seeds and skins out.

Now it’s just a matter of cooking the tomatoes down into sauce (it thickens as the water cooks out)

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You can see a few seeds in the sauce; when I make marinara, I run it through a ricer to remove them. (it’s not necessary; it’s an esthetic thing for me)

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The next step for any sauce is the onions and garlic; even better if home grown. I had a good harvest of both this year. I chopped them up and sautéed them in olive oil until they caramelized. It’s not necessary to do so, but it sure makes for a richer more complex flavor if you do.

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After they are caramelized, I deglaze the pan with some red wine and pour into the sauce (not necessary, but it sure does make it taste amazing)

One joy of home made sauce is adding whatever you may have around the house. In this case, I had some ground meat and sausage in the freezer which I browned with more onions, garlic and pepper.

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I also had some pulled pork in the fridge which I added straight to the sauce.

The final step was fresh herbs from my garden; even the “bay leaf” came from the Bay Laurel tree in my back yard. Although not true culinary bay, it imparts the same flavor if used sparingly. I also add a few red pepper flakes to offset the sweetness of the tomatoes and give it a bit of spice.

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I was out of cans, so I just poured sauce into freezer bags for later use.

A few days later, I harvested a second batch including my larger Juliets and some Brandywines and made a lovely marinara; no meat. Although I skinned the tomatoes and squeezed the seeds out, I ran it through a ricer before adding the onion, garlic and herbs, which created a lovely sauce with a beautiful texture.

Honestly, I don’t think this is any more work than opening up a bunch of cans of sauce/paste/tomatoes and it’s so much healthier, tastier and better for the environment.

It’s so nice to have tasty, home made sauce in the freezer to heat up on a cold winter night for a taste of summer harvest.

~L



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Cold, Wet Gardening

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After three weeks of not being able to mow or garden (rain-STP-rain) I finally got out into the yard yesterday.

The grass in the back was a total jungle. It was finally dry enough to mow by about 7:00 PM. (note to self, replace more grass with something else; there is still too much of it out there)

One thing about our crappiest summer ever (seriously, only 78 HOURS of temps over 80 degrees so far the entire summer) is that the cherries like it. (along with our butt cold winter) My Lapin cherry tree is loaded. (I already ate all the Royal Anns)

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My tomatoes, lovingly started in the basement under grow lights and on heat mats, then moved to the greenhouse; then moved outside in protective wall-o-water insulators are growing vigorously.

Now we just need some heat so that these lovely Juliets will turn red. These were my favorite tomoatoes last year, they are a parent to the popular grape tomato.

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If we ever get any warm days, the blueberries will be ready…

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The cold weather crops (broccoli and peas) are doing well.

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It’s taking every bit of self control I have not to snap off these beautiful asparagus spears when they pop up; but I know if I leave the bed alone this year, I’ll be harvesting more than I can possibly eat on my own for years to come.

I’m glad I paid the money for two year old crowns so I only have to exercise this much self control for one season (best to hold off on harvesting until the 4th year)

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My Liberty apples are the only ones (out of three varieties) that are fruiting well.

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My Braeburn apple is badly infested with Apple Scab due to the cold, wet miserable excuse for a summer we’ve had (Liberty is resistant) I may end up pulling that tree out and planting a resistant variety. The Summerred apple never bloomed at all (we got a hard freeze at bloom time)

Yesterday, I had to spray some copper on the apple trees. You can’t really treat scab once it breaks out, but I want to keep it from spreading.

It’s just been a rough year all the way around for fruit trees; many of the trees that did bloom/pollinate dropped their fruit almost immediately.

My plum tree dropped it’s fruit and is now covered in aphids, I had to hit it with some organicide yesterday.

Oddly enough, I am getting some peaches which are considered a warm weather fruit.

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I am very lucky that my roses aren’t succumbing to blackspot or powdery mildew. They are looking very good this year (they’ve certainly had plenty of water)

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The lavender out front is doing well. I’m hoping that it will grow large and bushy and fill in the gaps this year, so folks won’t stomp through my flower beds to steal tulips next year. It stayed pretty small and spindly last year and a lot of it died over the brutally cold winter.

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I have some more photos here (make with the clicky clicky on this link to see them)

~L



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A Spring Celebration By Any Other Name

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No matter if you call it Alban Eilir, Ishtar, Eastre, Eostre, Ostara or Easter this time of year (around the time of the Vernal or Spring Equinox) is a time for celebrating life renewed, resurrection and fertility.

Even though we’ve had a record breaking cold, wet, icy miserable excuse for “spring” around here (with the exception of the beautiful day on Saturday when everyone in the region went nuts), the daffodils and tulips are blooming the fruit trees are bursting forth with new life, egg laying chickens are back to full production, our pets are hyper and the robin in my back yard is singing as loud as he can nearly 24/7 to attract a mate from the ladies in the park across the street. (dear Hilltop lady robins, please take pity on this poor guy, he’s driving me nuts)

Yesterday was celebrated as Easter by many in our country, most of whom do not know that it is actually a Pagan celebration. (the link is pretty cool, go ahead… give it a click)

Although I don’t celebrate the co opted Christian version of the holiday, it seemed like a great day to host a Sunday brunch honoring spring for some of my many eclectic friends. (one of the many joys of being eclectic/a spiritualist is more things to celebrate 😉

I enjoyed setting my table with my mother’s antique china and crystal (just disregard the cheap Fred Meyer champagne glasses) and fresh cut flowers from my garden (everyone got to take one home)

From Drop Box

I served cocktail shrimp, mimosas and my new gourmet deviled eggs (backyard eggs with pepper, garlic, super blue cheese dressing, garnished with bacon) as appetizers.

From Drop Box

For the main courses, we had a lovely spiral cut ham, cheesy potatoes and some lovely asparagus I picked up at the Farmers Market on Saturday.

From Drop Box

Good Food, Friends and Conversation filled the afternoon.

There were even a couple of treats courtesy of Knut and Alice. I bit the head off of the chocolate covered peep right away. The ducky pez dispenser will go into my ducky collection.

From Drop Box

Even Darwin the Slug got into the act (and will be updating his blog later)

From Drop Box

No matter your beliefs (or lack thereof) spring is certainly worth celebrating!

~L

Mood: At Peace



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Chicken Soup From Scratch (easier than you think)

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You can of course, roast/cook your own chicken.

I use a roast chicken from Fred Meyer. (I prefer the savory herb flavor) They are perfectly cooked and seasoned so you only need to add the chicken at the end so you never have rubbery, overcooked chicken.

A roast chicken at Fred Meyer is $5.99; one day a week they usually have them on sale for $4.99. I will buy one and stick it in the fridge for my next soup making adventure.

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I cut all the meat off of the roast chicken, saving 1 ½ – 2 cups of nicely diced meat to put into the soup. I can get a meal or two out of the rest. You can even make a tasty gravy out of the drippings in the bottom of the bag.

I cut up the chicken carcass, put it in a stock pot, cover in water and add onions, garlic, celery and pepper. The longer you let this simmer and cook down, the tastier your broth will be. This is a good project to start in the morning to let the broth cook for several hours (it makes the house smell wonderful). You can do it in a shorter period of time as well. (you can also use commercially prepared broth or bullion cubes, but YUCK! Too thin, flavorless, clear and salty. This is SO much better)

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After it cooks down, I usually end up with six cups, three for the soup and three to freeze in a bag for use another day when I want to make Jambalaya, some other soup, Mexican rice, or gravy.

Fresh veggies from your garden or the farmer’s market are best, but when you can’t find those, frozen is handy and more nutritious than canned (or even “fresh” that’s been warehoused in the off season) I always keep some sliced carrots and green beans in my freezer in the off season. Onions, Garlic and Mushrooms should be fresh, not powdered or dehydrated unless you have no other choice.

When the broth is done (or when you get around to it) sauté ½ cup each: onion, carrot and celery until just tender (don’t overdo, this will all cook longer)

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Mmmmm, fresh sliced mushrooms.

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Add a half cup of green beans and mushrooms to the sautéed veggies, then add 3 cups of your thick, rich, tasty (and low sodium) chicken broth (save the rest for future culinary endeavors)

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Bring this mix just to a boil.

Add pasta. Preferably, add fresh, home made, whole wheat pasta.

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Making pasta is not all that difficult; as a matter of fact, it’s super easy and way better than what you can buy in the store (or even get at most restaurants) I like to use half whole wheat flour. It’s tastier and much better for you.

Here are a couple of old posts showing my first and second attempt at making pasta.

Here’s how to mix home made pasta.

Here’s how to roll/cut home made pasta (note, I have since learned to roll the pasta out with a rolling pin before using the cutter to eliminate the thin areas/tearing, unlike the extruder where you put it in dry and lumpy)

Add Marjoram, Thyme and pepper to the noodles and soup and bring back to a boil.

If you’ve used fresh pasta, you don’t need to keep it boiling. If you’ve used dry/hard pasta, you’ll want to cook for the amount of time specified on the packaging (less some time so that it’s al dente and doesn’t get mushy)

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At the very end, add your already cooked, tender, perfectly seasoned chicken and a half cup of red wine just to warm it up.

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Once your added chicken is warm, enjoy your fabulous soup!

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I split mine up into small containers and freeze them to take to lunch during the week.

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When I take one to work, I leave it on my desk rather than put it back in the freezer, so it’s just thawed at lunch time.

Then all it needs is a gentle heating rather than a long hard nuking. This keeps the veggies and pasta from getting mushy and keeps the chicken tender.

Mmmmmmm

~L

Mood: Satisfied



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