Planting Seeds of Hope and Happiness

I was at Home Depot last week trying bring a project that was banging around my head to fruition when I spied the organic seed section…  Uh-oh.  It’s amazing how quickly seed packets can stack up in your cart.

Now, I have tried to grow plants from seed several times before. I haven’t tried indoor seeds in many years.  I tend to be more successful when I direct sow outdoors in the Spring but that means I never get to grow certain plants like tomatoes from seed.  So, with a heart full of optimism, here we go again…

Baby Tomato Plants

Baby Basil

Do you grow your own plants from seed?  I would love to hear from you.

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

The Day After Soup

Let me apologize for the somewhat dramatic and still somehow vague title of this post. I just couldn’t think of anything else…

I went out to eat last night. The Italian food I had was quite delicious and I didn’t overindulge -I didn’t even have bread or wine- but I am having the same problem I always do the day after I eat out, salt and oil overload! Even vegetarians can’t escape the liberal generous mammoth use of salt at restaurants. I am just not used to it and feel a bit off today.

My first attempt to rebalance was to make a large smoothie:

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An all fruit smoothie has a lot of natural sugar in it but I am not sweating that because it is packed with natural fiber, vitamins, micronutrients and a high water content … which I need right now.

My next order of business was to start up a nourishing vegetable soup:

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Making a veggie soup once a week is one of the easiest ways to improve your health. You don’t even need a recipe. Chop up a few cups of colorful vegetables, throw them in a pot and cover them with broth or water, add spices, add heat and wait. I like to throw mine in my little crockpot. Heat on high and it’s ready in time for lunch, on low for dinner. Add pre-cooked beans and you have a complete meal. (I would suggest waiting until the last 20 minutes before adding any leafy greens to avoid over cooking.)

So, there are two of my picks to stay healthy during the holidays.  How do you stay in balance this time of year?

Many blessings,

Cynthia

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New Dragon Egg

Just a quick post for fun and to remind you to explore your creative interests.  It’s easy to neglect your hobbies this time of year.  If you are a creative person though, you may start to feel cranky and out of sorts.  Sneak in a little time for yourself.

Newest Dragon Egg

I finally finished this Dragon Egg.  I started working on it in August!!!  I am pretty happy with the way it turned out.  The color changes significantly depending on the light.

Dragon Egg on HandIt looks much bluer here.  It’s sort of a silvery periwinkle with pinky-rose glittery accents.  Much girlier than my last dragon egg.

Two Dragon Eggs

Two Dragon Eggs

Here it is, side by side with the first one I made.  I have to make a stand for it.

Many blessings,

Cynthia

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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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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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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.

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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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