Twilight and Herbs

Happy and tired faces after accomplishing the difficult task of building an herb garden from chunks of recycled concrete.

Today was one of those perfect spring days.  Since it was a Tuesday, it meant that we didn’t get to enjoy much of this beautiful day because of work.  After dinner, we hurried outside to enjoy what remained.  I had elaborate plans to accomplish in the veggie patch, but I soon realized that time and light were not on our side.  So we piddled.

While I worked in the herb garden, my beloved attempted to burn off one of the beds. Burning off the beds will release important nutrients into the soil while purifying it. We should have burned off the beds a couple of months ago, but didn’t.  With more living weeds than last fall’s dead plants, he only managed to burn a few stems.  But I could tell he was enjoying the art of fire building.

As the shadows lengthened, our chit chat slowed. We became engrossed in our tasks. Beneath my fingers, new sprouts from the oregano and thyme released their heavenly scents. Soon, the air was filled with aromatic blends that made my mouth water. I love my herb garden.

Last year, my nephew Trevor and adopted niece Katie built the herb garden using chunks of our former sidewalk for the structure.  With help from our son, they worked together choosing the design, moving the chunks of concrete, and building its walls.  I think they had a good time.  I know I did.  Afterwards, my beloved filled the planter with compost.  Then for Mother’s Day, instead of giving me flowers, he bought me enough herbs to fill the structure (and then some!).

They worked so hard.

Working in the herb garden during this evening’s twilight brought back the memories of its loving beginning, the joys of slipping out to snip fresh herbs while making dinner, and the thrill of using my own dried herbs throughout the winter.  There’s just something special about herbs you grow yourself.  As the sun set, we wandered back indoors.  For our troubles, my beloved harvested two heads of rogue lettuce that had survived the winter.  And he harvested another surprise carrot.  I know what we’ll have for dinner tomorrow night: a fresh salad.  Then we’ll rush back out and enjoy another gloaming in our garden.

I’m not going to plan anything for us to do tomorrow evening.  I think piddling will work just fine.


Momma’s Got a New Mower

Daddy always said that push mowers built character. With my new dream machine, I can simply mow the grass.

Saturday morning dawned fresh and bright.  With only a touch of coolness in the air, we realized that we couldn’t ignore our yard any longer.  All around us, our neighbors have been mowing their grass for weeks.  With weeds as tall as the dog, it was time to roll up our sleeves.  Always ready to compromise on chores, we determined that this year we’d divide yard responsibilites.

I like the front yard to appear manicured and well maintained, while my beloved could care less.  Therefore, I agreed to accept responsibility for the front yard on one condition: I refuse to touch the green monster, i.e. our yard tractor.  I would gladly mow if we’d purchase something that I could easily use.  If he wanted to use the green monster, then fine.  But  I despise that yard tractor.  It’s cumbersome, complicated, and more moody than I am.   When he’s driving it, a perfect lawn is achieved.  When I operate it, the yard looks like a five year old used her Fiskars scissors to cut the grass.  With obvious relief on his face, my beloved grabbed the keys and off we went.  You see, he doesn’t like it when I use his yard tractor, either.

We walked into the store and wandered over to the push mower selection.  An eager young salesman walked up to my beloved and asked if he could help.  My husband muttered something about looking at push mowers and the eager salesman started in.  “Yep, I’ve sold lots this morning.  I even sold one with a key!”

“A key?” I asked.

Finally noticing the female customer he answered, “Yes m’am!  It had a key.”

“Why did it need a key?”

“So you can start it!”

Without missing a beat, I looked at him and said, “We’ll take it.”  He cut his eyes towards my husband as if to confirm this decision to which I responded, “Yep, load ‘er up!”  I then looked at my snickering husband and said, “Finally, somebody understands that its never attractive for a middle-aged fat woman to crank a lawn mower!”  Ten minutes later, the eager young salesman was loading our new mower in the back of our hybrid.

“Well, that was easier than I expected,” said my beloved with a smirk.

We got home, and he began unboxing the mower.  Let me tell you, it’s a real beauty.   A self-propelled, bright red dream machine.  It even has a grass catcher — a good thing because I hate dead clippings and my beloved hates raking.  The only thing missing is a cup holder.  The best part?  The keyed starter.  One turn and my dream machine comes alive.  Now I realize, that we’ve had a key starter for years on our riding mower.  But even with the key, it requires turning knobs and fiddling around to it get going.  On the other hand, never in my life has it been so easy to start a mower with a simple turn.  You have to understand: I drive a Prius.  It doesn’t have a key starter.  Turning the key and hearing the engine roar to life is thrilling.

Even the deck adjustment is easy to use!  With a quick stroke, I was able to adjust the deck to my interpretation of the perfect grass height.  No struggling, no cussing, and no kicking required.  My beloved edged with the weed wacker, while a handy neighbor seeded and fertilized our lawn.  In about thirty minutes, our front yard was perfectly manicured.

I can’t wait ’til next weekend, when I get to do it again.

Spring Has Sprung! Are You Ready?

Last fall, Vince stuck an iris bulb in one of our flowerbeds. On this first day of spring, it bloomed. In March. Unbelievable.

Its official!  The calendar says that today is the first day of spring.

Despite the fact that Mother Nature has triumphantly displayed spring for weeks with clumps of daffodils growing beside the road, at first I was skeptical.  The beautiful days, the warm weather — I convinced myself that it wasn’t real, that it was a spring mirage.  In other years, I’ve charged into the garden during the mild early days of March, determined to start digging and planting, only to be forced into extreme measures in order to save precious seedlings.  After all, in West Kentucky, we often get snow in April.  This year, I decided to be patient.  So I’ve waited.  And waited.

Every few days, I’ve checked our raised beds and declared that they are still too wet to work.  With a sigh of relief, I’ve gone back inside and watched basketball.  I mean, who tills their garden during the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament?  It’s one thing to till around the Final Four, but during the OVC?  That’s just crazy talk.

A few of my gardening friends went for it.  They watched and observed Mother Nature’s lead, and they put out their green peas and radishes.  While it’s perfectly possible to plant in early March, I didn’t.  Was it smart to wait?  Probably not.  But then, it’s not the first time that I’ve been wrong about gardening.

The thing is, our raised beds are genuinely still too wet.  If we till now, we’ll only stir up chunks of clay.  Nothing good can grow in that.  If we can get another few days of sunny weather and no rain, then we can till.  Until then, we’re tackling other projects.  We’ve started weeding the flower beds and sprucing up the yard.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll even wash our windows.

Nah, that’s just more crazy talk.

Conquering Mind Over Matter on a Yoga Mat

A teaching moment during private lessons. My instructor, Donna Ortner, is incredibly supportive and encouraging.

After 25 years of thinking about it, I finally joined a yoga class.

There’s nothing more humbling than what you discover while on a yoga mat. I discovered many things, such as the fact that any flexibility or limberness that I might once have had no longer exists. And no matter how dry your feet may be, don’t apply lotion before class or you might actually hurt yourself. Also, make sure you know what time class actually starts. Otherwise, you’ll get there late and end up on the front row. My cellulite was not anything I wanted others to see. Ugh!

There were times when it whipped my backside as I lumbered through the Sun Salutation A. My knees and wrists were challenged beyond their abilities, as they had to support my body. They weren’t designed to handle that amount of weight. Every twinge was like a slap for every donut I’ve ever eaten.

Now that I have finished the class, I’ve signed up for private lessons to whip this bodacious body into gear. The private lessons will help me gain strength and flexibility that I need to move forward. I’m also learning to breathe. For the first couple of weeks I focused on getting my body into the various poses while forgetting to breath, which is backwards. Concentrate on breathing, then worry about where your body parts are. Besides, my parts aren’t going to go anywhere they’re supposed to for a while, so I might as well learn to breathe.

I have also discovered something I wasn’t prepared for. While lying in repose after a challenging session, it dawned on me: “What the heck am I doing to my body?” Despite my proclamations about healthy eating, yoga had taught me that I’m nothing more than a tired, overweight, middle aged woman who can only touch her toes while dreaming. For some, their yoga journey would have stopped there. But for me, my yoga journey began. I’m thrilled to have such an encouraging teacher who understands my challenges and who thinks I have a beautiful Warrior Pose. It will take me years to transform this body. But thankfully, with yoga I’m adding years to my life. So bring it!

If you’re interested in yoga, I strongly encourage you to find a class. There is nothing more encouraging than a real person standing in front of you telling you that you’re accomplishing something. In Murray, we’re blessed to have Balance Yoga Studio. Not only are the instructors caring and challenging, the atmosphere is amazing. Check out their Facebook page and then give them a call. You won’t regret it. If I can do this – so can you.


Experimental Muffins

A bemused look of relief?
Bless his heart, he tasted every
batch before I finally got it right.

Recently, we started juicing in order to boost our intake of fruits and vegetables. One of the opportunities of juicing is its byproduct, fresh pulp. Not one to waste food, I decided to try recipes where I could use the abundance of pulp that we’re producing. My first thought was to use pulp similarly to how apple sauce is used in recipes. After a few experimental tries (and a few dozen muffins) I think I’ve struck upon a recipe that is similar to a Morning Glory muffin, that is high in fiber (thanks to the pulp) and delicious.

We like chunky muffins, the kind that are filled with all kinds of grains, fruits, and nuts. Adding orange juice gives the muffins an unexpected brightness.  But you may prefer to leave out the extra ingredients. If you prefer a shot of cinnamon or nutmeg, go for it. The teenaged son has declared them worthy and now reaches for a muffin rather than the potato chip bag for an afternoon snack. Its a win-win combination.

The key to a great muffin is not to overmix the ingredients. Don’t be afraid of lumps or loose flour. Hand toss your mixture for only 10 seconds. With muffins, less is more when mixing. The chemical reaction begins when the wet ingredients get mixed with the dry, so it’s important to get the muffins into the oven as soon as possible. I used all organic ingredients, from the fruits that I juiced to the supplies from my pantry. When given the choice of organic vs nonorganic, I prefer to buy organic ingredients.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Do not add wet ingredients until right before you’re ready to bake.

Dry Ingredients

2 cups of all-purpose whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t sea salt
1 cup oats
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins

Wet Ingredients
1 stick of butter
2 eggs
1 cup orange juice
1 cup juiced pulp (carrot, apple, lemon or grapefruit)

Prepare muffin tins with non-stick spray or cupcake liners. Mix dry and wet ingredients by hand when oven has reached temperature. Fill tins with mixture. Cook 20-25 minutes. Remove and cool on wire racks. Drizzle cream cheese icing over the muffins when they are cool. Makes 2 dozen.

The Sun is Shining, the Grass is Green

My beloved presents of bouquet of B3.

The sun is shining, 
The grass is green,
The Blue and the Gold team sways.
There’s never been such a day,
in Murray, Kentuckay!

I love the opening stanza of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.  I often rewrite its lyrics to suit my mood.  The brilliant sunshine that streamed in our windows found a happy, happy woman this morning.  So I sang the modified opening stanza to waken our sleeping teen.  After days of eating foods rich in B3–and watching every bite–I feel better.  My spirit has been lifted from the funk that had descended upon me.  Amen.

Yesterday, I could tell that I was beginning to feel better.  I actually walked out of my office and spoke to co-workers.  Of course, my conversations were limited to the wonders of a vitamin rich diet.  What I discovered is that many of them have been feeling the same funk.  Maybe I should open a juice bar in the empty office across the hall?  Who knows what we could accomplish if we were supercharged with juiced fruit and veggies?

I’ve also noticed a surprising change in our son.  He’s been… open.  That’s the only way I can describe it.  Normally, it takes all the effort I can muster to engage him in conversation.  By the time I get home, he’s often submerging into his autistic version of a happy place.  Once he’s there, I can’t blast my way through to him.  But the past couple of afternoons, he’s been different.  He’s been talkative, he’s been charming, and he’s been engaged.  It’s been amazing.  Last night, I shed tears of joy for the opportunity to spend real quality time with my son.  Was it the raw broccoli?  Was it the change in me?

Understand, we eat a well-balanced diet.   We eat seasonal, local, and mostly organic foods.  But we don’t watch every bite.  There are still some lingering processed foods that sneak their way into our mouths.  But this week, we’ve eaten lots of B3 foods, in their rawest state when safe.  And we’ve nearly eliminated the negative impact foods.

So here’s the shift change: If I’m feeling this much better by targeting specific nutrient-enriched foods, can I encourage others to supercharge their diets and perhaps to feel better too?  Are you, dear reader, interested in such a change?  Do you expect your food to simply fill your tummy, or do you expect your food to be an active partner in your well-being?

Are you willing to investigate what you’re eating and what its doing for you?