Quick Cookies

Quick (Mostly Healthy) Tea Cookie

I was perusing YouTube the other day when I came across a quick and easy tea cookie recipe from Mary Harris on her Sprout and Blossom channel.  I thought, “Ooooo, tea cookie!  That sounds lovely and comforting.  I have to try that this weekend,” So, I did.

Two main ingredients: banana and oats, what could be simpler?  Mary’s recipe is quite healthy, as well as quick and easy, but I wanted to do the cocoa, peppermint variation.  I was concerned that the cocoa might be a little bitter with only a banana as sweetener.  So, I added a little sugar.

Here’s my variation on the Sprout and Blossom Three Ingredient Recipe:

One cup rolled oats (blended into a flour consistency)

Two small to regular mashed bananas

One teaspoon vanilla extract

One level tablespoon of cocoa powder

Two tablespoons of organic cane sugar

About 3 drops of peppermint extract

About a quarter cup of mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix everything together but add the chips last.  Drop teaspoons of the batter on a lined baking sheet.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes.  (Keep an eye and nose on them, as baking times tend to vary depending on your oven.). I got a dozen cookies out of this mix.

Enjoy!

Many blessings,

Cynthia

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Easiest DIY to to Upcycle Corks Ever!

The easiest way to reuse a cork is to stick it back in the bottle.  So, technically this would be the second easiest.  You might be able to do it right now.

I was organizing my essential oils when I spotted an accumulated collection of wine corks.  Am I the only who has trouble throwing them away?  If you do too, you might want to try this.  It occurred to me that if I put some cedar wood oil in the cork; I could throw it in my closet and it would work like those little cedar balls that you can buy at the drugstore.  So, I did and it does.

Just put a few drops right in the hole where the corkscrew went.  You can put it anywhere you want really since the cork is porous.  However, it’s a lot less messy if you put it inside.  It occurred to me that I could use whatever scent I wanted.  So, I started adding a few drops of lavender oil as well.  My closet now smells lovely!

There you have it: easiest cork DIY ever.  You’re welcome!  Tell your friends!

Many blessings,

Cynthia

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Cabbage 25

Want to Save Money, Lose weight and Be Healthier? Eat Cabbage!

Until recently, whenever I thought about cabbage I would remember the unwelcome smell that permeated the hallway of my grandmother’s building in Far Rockaway, NY. It would make my nose wrinkle and I couldn’t wait to get into her apartment which always seemed to smell like fresh baked dinner rolls or something equally delicious.

So, I quite surprised myself when I picked up a head of cabbage at the farmer’s market.  I did it for two reasons: 1. I know how nutritious it is.  2.  It was only $2.  WIN, WIN!

I pondered what to do with it on the way home.  Then I surprised myself again by slapping the steering wheel and declaring out loud, “I am going to make sauerkraut!”  I have no idea where the thought came from since I never made it before and quite frankly… I never even really thought about sauerkraut being comprised of cabbage.  The same goes for coleslaw (which I also decided to make.)

How hard could it be?  It turns out, not hard at all.  It became clear after some quick research that sauerkraut is merely cabbage+salt+time.  I chopped the cabbage as thin as I could by hand, threw in a few tablespoons of kosher salt and began to massage it.  I found myself wondering how many of my German ancestors must have done the very thing I was doing at that moment.  It felt so natural working the salt into the cabbage until the juices flowed out.  After about 10 minutes, I decided I created enough of a brine to jar it up.  You want there to be enough liquid to fully submerge the kraut.  I used an onion* half to weigh it down in the jar.  After that, I topped the jar with a coffee filter and rubber band.  I found this set-up very effective for keeping the oxygen out while allowing the carbon dioxide to escape.  Then I set the jar in a dark cabinet in the basement, the only place that might come close to maintaining the ideal temperature range of 65 to 75 degrees.

How does this make sauerkraut?  The short answer is that cabbage naturally carries bacteria like lactobacilli which helps kick off lactic acid fermentation.  The salt preserves the cabbage to keep it from rotting while fermentation takes place.  There is a lot of debate about the proper amount of time to allow sauerkraut to ferment, anywhere from three days to six months.  I found the most consensus that around three weeks is enough time.  The idea is to allow the sauerkraut to ferment long enough to produce a goodly amount of probiotic bacteria. Then after that it’s just about taste.

However, if you are like me and you can’t wait that long or if the average temp is above 75 degrees then two weeks is long enough.  Also, keep in mind, the sauerkraut will continue to ferment in the fridge.  It will just happen much more slowly below 65 degrees.

BBQ beans on toast with tomato, olives, homemade kraut and a pickle... what more could you ask for?

BBQ beans on toast with tomato, olives, homemade kraut and a pickle… what more could you ask for?

I have to tell you that homemade sauerkraut is DELICIOUS!  It is so much better than store-bought. I am not sure I could eat the canned stuff ever again.  Give it a try if you like sauerkraut.  You have nothing to lose.  I paid two dollars for a head of cabbage at the farmer’s market.  (I noticed they are $1.29 at the supermarket.)  That one head netted me 16 ounces of sauerkraut and eight cups of coleslaw.  I call that VERY budget-friendly!

I will get more into the nutritional and weight loss benefits of cabbage in my next post, as well as share the coleslaw recipe I concocted.

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

*I got the onion as a weight idea from the Dr Axe website: https://draxe.com/recipe/sauerkraut-recipe/

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Tragedy, Hope and Making Sense of Racial Relations through Personal Relationships

I have shed a lot of tears over the last few days.  The deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five Dallas police officers: Lorne Ehrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thomspon and Patrick Zamarippa all seemed so senseless to me.  I just can’t wrap my head around it.

It’s painful thinking about a four-year-old girl witnessing a police officer killing the man who had been a father to her, while her mother, the man’s fiancée, stoically and respectfully taped it.  Another man was shot and killed while already pinned down to the ground.  An officer who had just been married two weeks ago got gunned down while doing his job, protecting peaceful protestors of, ironically, police violence.  It’s made me very sad and I don’t even personally know any of these people.  I also have been feeling the complete overwhelm of not knowing how on earth to help make things better.

I reached out to my friend Lorna (after not having heard from me in goodness knows how long) without any “Hi, how are you?” preamble, I texted her about how I was feeling.  She responded in her usual kind, compassionate way.  I could practically hear her elegant Jamaican accent while I was reading her responses.

Me: Lorna, I’m so sad today about all the killing that has been going on this week.  I am sad for the families of the two black men who were shot by police, as well as, the families of the cops shot in Dallas.  All these precious lives lost senselessly.  I have no idea how to help make things better.

Lorna: Cindy, thanks for reaching out and I do appreciate your thoughts.  There is so much good to celebrate and I cherish you, who have the guts to see beyond color or race! Blame can be passed around but we must now stop to listen!! Violence is not the answer!!  But what is?  Thanks Cindy.  Love you much.  Smile-hope lives.

Me: I am so glad I know you.  You never made me feel like a “white” friend but just a friend.

Lorna: I loved you the day you walked into ACS, then CWA (where we both worked over 20 years ago.) White or black, you are just a great person!!

Me: Thanks! 🙂 Right back at ya! (I’m not as eloquent in real time as Lorna.)

I think good racial relations are about personal relationships.  To go a step further, it’s not about race at all; it’s about treating everyone you encounter with kindness, respect and compassion.

My friend Jodi got it right with this response to a post I had put up on social media about how helpless I felt after the tragedies of the last several days:

“Some people are “activists” but my style is to just try to live with love, acceptance & tolerance to the best of my ability. I work in a tourist town and I meet all kinds of people, from everywhere & I try to enjoy them all and make them feel welcome. I always remember the lesson I learned  when I lived out of the country for a couple of years – when you met an American – it didn’t matter their race, religion, sex, anything it was an American -and I just wanted to hug them! If we could maybe live on another planet for a while – maybe we would appreciate [each other] whenever we see another human being or earth animal. I live in hope of world peace, but sometimes when I think of the thousands of years humans have been warring and fighting each other – it’s rather discouraging. But there is always HOPE.”

Jodi’s wisdom reminds me of Lorna.  We are more alike than we are different.  When we focus on what we all have in common while respecting and eventually appreciating our differences, we can all get along and even cherish one another. “Smile – Hope lives.”

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

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Father's Day Card Front

Naturally Crafty: DIY Father’s Day Card

Did you know that greeting cards were handmade up until the middle of the nineteenth century?  That was when advances in printing made it possible to reproduce a design relatively cheaply.

I can’t help but think sometimes that technology and the ability to mass-produce cheaply has turned many of us into mass consumers rather than creators.  Well, I say “NO” this year to a cheap, mass-produced Father’s Day card and “hello” to creating my own handmade greeting.  I also decided to make it mostly from materials destined for the bin.

When we get book inserts at work, they come wrapped in shrink wrap on these cardboard pieces to keep them from getting damaged in shipping.  Since my office building doesn’t recycle, I have been trying to find ways to reuse them.  Usually, I stick them in large envelopes to keep documents from getting bent in the mail but I have found they are also great for craft projects like making cards and journals.

Father's Day Card Materials smaller

All of the materials used in this card, except for the gold ribbon, the lettering, the white inner paper, the gold washi tape and the Velcro dot on the inner envelope, were saved from getting dumped in the bin at work.  (If you need orange envelopes…call me.)

Father's Day Card Front

The white heart was punched from a name tent from a past class.  The circle behind it is punched from a Thank you card someone was kind enough to give me.

Father's Day Card Inside

While it may not be perfect in the way that a commercial card is, making your own gives you an excellent opportunity to add fun embellishments or personalize your greeting to the recipient.

Lucy Envelope

I added this envelope in the back, so I could include a letter from my parents’ dog, Lucy.  (They receive correspondence from Lucy whenever they go on long trips.  Perhaps, not surprisingly, this began when I found myself with an over-abundance of orange paper and envelopes.)

Tell me, do you ever make your own cards?  Is it something you would consider?

Wishing all you fathers (of humans and furry kids) a very happy Father’s Day!

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

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Repair or Replace: Are You a Lamp-Saver?

What do you do when something breaks in your home? Fix it, forget it or replace it?

Recently, I was in my parents’ garage when I spied their bedside table lamp languishing in a corner. I remembered about a year or so ago that it stopped working. My father said he would fix it. Somehow, it migrated from the bedroom to the basement and eventually ended up in the garage a.k.a. “The land of forgotten best intentions.”

I picked up the glass shaded touch lamp and wondered how it would fair out in the outdoor storage area for long. Other than a coat of dust and a slightly bent finial, it seemed fine. It seemed too nice to eke out the rest of its existence, forgotten in the garage. I remembered Mom saying she liked it better than the replacement they picked up. I had no idea what was wrong with it or how to fix it but I seem to have a knack for figuring things out (My superhero name would probably be The Researcher. Sexy, no?)

A few quick google searches revealed that the little lamp was probably ailing from a dimmer switch that went bad. Apparently power surges are the main nemesis of touch lamps. The part was about $8 at Home Depot. (I wonder how much the new lamp was.) I picked it up and attempted to install it myself but was thwarted by the plastic caps on the end of the wires. Little suckers wouldn’t come off! So, I turned the project over to Dad and within an hour he restored it to working order.

The whole thing got me thinking about how people seem to have stopped repairing things like that. It’s just so easy to go out and pick up a new one, relatively cheaply. I wonder how many of us really even think twice about fixing anything that originally cost under a $100. We then start accumulating all of these broken items in garages, sheds and basements because we feel guilty, knowing they can be fixed and should be, but it just doesn’t happen. Eventually, we run out of room and these items either get moved to a storage facility or thrown out. If they get thrown out, they sit in landfills, taking many, many years to decompose or are incinerated, releasing toxins into the environment.

We don’t like to think about our waste or what it is doing to the planet. I get it. I am busy too. Sometimes, it seems like if I have to stop and consider the implications of everything I throw away, my head might explode. I forgot to bring a fork to work with my lunch the other day and ended up using a plastic one. It happens. I wasn’t about to eat chili mac with my hands. However… maybe when something like a lamp or something similar breaks, knowing it’s not a big, expensive repair, it’s worth considering the time and effort to save it. When you do, you are saving money, space, the environment and possibly giving a repairman much needed work if the job is outside your abilities. That’s a pretty great return on investment!

Are you a Lamp-Saver? I would love to hear about your home repair triumphs. Please share them in the comments section.

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

 

MomandME2

Mom Was Right

Yesterday, I was driving home during rush hour in stop and go traffic.  I like to leave a good 20 to 30 feet between my car and the one in front of me because I have seen too many multi-car fender benders. I have no desire to be put in a position to slam on my brakes and pray I don’t rear-end someone.

Apparently, my logic was lost on the maniac child of God behind me BECAUSE he practically hooked himself on my bumper and periodically honked at me.  I would glance in the rear-view mirror and shrug as if to say, “do you really think I’m the one who is holding you up right now?”  As we got closer to the exit, he leaned on his horn, at which point, I lost my temper, opened the window, stuck my left arm out high and saluted him with my middle finger.  He got so angry that he pulled up alongside me to curse me out.  At which point, I refused to look at him, stuck my right arm out and saluted him again.  Then this crazy, moth-  fellow human being pulled sharply to the left as if he was going to play bumper cars with me.  I managed to swerve around him, narrowly missing the car to my left.  Thankfully, he gave up at that point and sped away on the exit ramp.

My first thought was , “Holy crap, that guy was willing to literally use his car as a weapon and cause an accident.”  My second thought was, “Mom was right!”  I instantly heard her voice in my head saying, “Cindy, STOP giving people the finger!  You don’t know if that person is crazy or not.  Someone could have a gun.  Do what I do.  Leave the windows rolled up and yell at them.  You get your frustration out and no one gets hurt.”  I have been in the car with her when someone has cut her off.  Her language is very colorful, indeed, and would probably make a sailor blush.

So, here is the best Mother’s day gift I could ever give her:

“Mom, you were right.  Happy Mothers Day!”

Happy Mother’s Day to all my readers who are mothers (to humans and furry kids.)  All the best always!

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

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Naturally Grateful: Actually, I practice…

Gratitude is a very popular word these days. You can’t go for very long, it seems, without someone mentioning having, “an attitude of gratitude.”

I had been flirting with a gratitude practice for a long time. I mentioned in my birthday post that I wrote out a list of 100 things for which I am grateful. I also used to try to close my journal entries by writing three things I was grateful for but I didn’t always keep it up.

Last October, I decided that I wanted to establish a daily gratitude practice. A quick google search revealed there are a myriad of different ways to do it. Some people opt for the typical method of writing down what they are grateful and why. Others have come up with unique approaches like snapping a daily photo or shooting a quick video of what they are thankful for and then sharing it on social media. One artist, Lori Portka, expressed her gratitude over a two year period by making 100 paintings to honor people who have impacted her life in a positive way.

Combining your personal creative passion with gratitude is a beautiful daily practice! Since I am a writer… that pretty much brought me right back to where I started BUT with a few helpful changes! I bought an old school composition notebook. (By the way they are still only 99 cents. Isn’t that amazing?) I decided I wanted to keep a separate gratitude book because I like writing freely in my journal. I also wanted a cheap book because I wanted to make sure I wrote daily without trying to save space for truly sterling, eloquent expressions of gratitude. This practice is about being thankful for all things, big and small.

I do have a few rules for my daily gratitude writing. Each day gets one page. I write only about what happened that day. It’s easy to write about a bunch of things you’re perpetually grateful for but the idea is to train my mind to focus on the good I encounter each day.

I noticed during that first month that was exactly what occurred. I think knowing that I was going to do the ritual at the end of the day, kept me aware of good things as they happened. I was then able to pause and relish them, instead of rushing on to whatever bit of business to which I had to attend next.

Take Chauncy, for example, I am always grateful for him! However, this is how it shows up in my gratitude book:

“I am so grateful that I looked back in the window before I got in the car this morning to go to work. Chauncy was on the other side with his paws up on the window seat, watching me go with all the love in the world shining in his little face.”

I catch so many more of these moments when I maintain my notebook. At times, it has almost seemed like more good things were happening. Although, it’s more likely that my shift in awareness allows me to see more of these twinkly moments, that actually happen all the time to everyone.

Now, to be completely honest, I fell off this practice for several months after my dental disappointment in December. It can be hard to feel grateful all the time when you’re heartbroken. While I am always aware I have a lot to be thankful for, knowing it and feeling it aren’t the same. Sometimes, you just can’t force it and need to give yourself a break. I am pleased to report I am easing back into a more regular practice again… and I am grateful for that!

Many blessings,

Cynthia

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Must Presidential Hopefuls Stoop To Conquer Now?

I have never liked watching political debates. I found them annoying in past elections because candidates would rarely offer straight answers and found ways to attack their opponents on issues that weren’t even relevant to the question being asked. After I watched the first GOP debate last year, I quickly became disgusted watching and, unfortunately, listening to Donald J. Trump insult not only his opponents but moderators as well.

I stopped watching the debates after that and chose instead to seek out the highlights afterward from various news sources. After reading articles and watching clips of Thursday night’s debate, it seems clear that Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have chosen to join Trump in helping to degenerate these debates into little more than rank out sessions with the moderators acting as playground monitors. I was hard-pressed to find news content that actually focused on discussions about policies and what plans these guys would execute if they actually got into office.

What’s next? Televised “Yo Mama”-style diss sessions? Can we expect to hear things like, “Yo mama is so ugly if you became president, other countries would nuke the US, just so they don’t have to look at her.” It doesn’t seem that far-fetched compared to what these candidates are saying to and about each other. Donald J. Trump already thinks it is perfectly acceptable to refer to people as morons and losers. Marco Rubio focused a campaign speech yesterday on describing Trump getting his sweat mustache powdered during a commercial break and suggesting he may have requested a full-length mirror to “make sure his pants weren’t wet.”

I do find it somewhat ironic that Trump and Chris Christie referred to these new low blows coming from Rubio as desperate attempts to bolster a failing campaign. Considering Trump has built his entire campaign by continually showering these types of insulting remarks on his opponents, the media and anyone else he decided that he didn’t like when he had a microphone handy; what is it called in his case if not desperation? Is a lack of decorum and decency more appropriate coming from Trump because he is already a reality star?

Personally, I don’t like it coming from anyone, least of all, someone who may be the next recognized leader of the United States of America. Have we gotten so used to the horrific behavior of reality TV personalities that we not only find it acceptable but we think it is suitable and even preferred in a presidential candidate? The idea that it has somehow become necessary to stoop to Trump’s schoolyard style of attack in order to gain the attention of American citizens is utterly appalling and embarrassing.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton seem to be able to run lively and news-worthy campaigns without resorting to childish and nasty personal attacks. Why can’t the republicans? Donald J. Trump appears to be the reason. Perhaps it is not him so much as it is his marketing strategy. His team has tapped into an ugly little truth about our viewing habits. We want to be entertained all the time. Apparently, we are willing to sacrifice being informed for the sake of sating our inexhaustible desire to be constantly amused. Are we willing to deal with the consequences?

 


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