Author Archives: Cynthia Lenz

NANOWRIMO…to do or not to do.

NANOWRIMO starts today.  Many aspiring novelists around the world will begin writing their books.  They have until the end of November to write 50,000 words in order to be considered a NANWRIMO contest winner.

Last year, 402,142 people participated in this annual online contest. They filled out a profile on nanowrimo.org and started writing.  Throughout the month, they had the opportunity to earn badges for hitting certain word counts. 34,214 participants completed first drafts of their novels. Relatively few of these novels ever get published but I am not sure that matters. I think it would be an accomplishment just to complete a novel regardless of how many people read it.

So, will I be participating this year? Although, I feel like I have a novel in me, I won’t be a NANOWRIMO-er this year. It’s simply because I know a novel is not a sprint for me.  It’s a marathon and I have not trained properly.  It’s been a challenging year and I have had a lot of distractions which have kept me  from writing.

I am inspired to start getting my writing chops back though.  So, NANOWRIMO may have already helped me with its mere existence.  I’ll be happy if I have completed a novel by the end of NEXT November!

Good luck to all the NANOWRIMO-ers who are getting started today.  May you exceed your daily words counts and complete your first drafts by November 30th!  You can do it!

Delish Healthy Chocolate Chip Coconut Walnut Cookies

I like cookies! They are the perfect treat, delicious and portable. The problem I was running into was that I was really trying to stick to a Whole Foods diet. Also, I find that even though I love cookies; ones made with white flour and sugar don’t always sit so well in my belly. It looked liked my cookie days were numbered until I came across this Superfood Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe on The Whole Food Plant-based Cooking show’s channel on YouTube.

I was inspired by that recipe when I came up with this one:

Healthy Chocolate Chip Coconut Walnut Cookies

Dry Ingredients:

1 cup Glutenfree Oats (ground into flour)

1 cup Walnuts (ground or chopped very fine- think bread crumbs, as opposed  to flour)

Half cup Flaxseed (ground)

Half Cup Chocolate Chips (You can use vegan chips for fully vegan cookies. Use stevia sweetened chips if you want to avoid processed sugar altogether.)

Half Cup unsweetened Coconut Shreds or Flakes

Wet Ingredients:

Half cup Peanut butter

5 pitted Dates

Half Cup Soy or Nut Milk

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Ripe Banana

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Combine the oats, ground flaxseed and walnuts in a large bowl and set aside. Whirl up all the wet ingredients in a blender or food processor and then combine with the dry ingredients. Fold in your chocolate chips and coconut flakes.

These cookies do not spread when you bake them because there is no baking powder in them. So, whatever they look like when they hit the pan is what they will look like when they are done. Sometimes, I just drop spoonfuls and flatten them with the backside of the spoon. I also like to wet my hands with a little water and make balls. Then I flatten them with the palm of my hand for a smoother cookie. Depends on my mood!

Put the pans in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes. Watch them. They brown up quickly. Mine are usually done in 10. Yours might be closer to 20, depending on your oven. Let cool and enjoy.

I usually get 18-20 decent sized cookies out of this recipe.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  Let me know what you think or ask any questions by leaving a comment.

Time to Get this Garden Started!

It’s that time again!  One of my favorite things about gardening is watching seeds turn into plants. I am really excited about this year’s seeds because I purchased them from Seed Savers Exchange.

Seed Savers was founded by Diane Ott Whealy and Ken Whealy in 1975.  The mission of this nonprofit organization is to save and share seeds in order to preserve biodiversity for generations to come. They maintain a collection of more than 20,000 heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable, herb, and plant varieties, including over 1,000 varieties of heritage apple trees.  Their collection includes many organic seeds.

I am happy to support an organization with such a great purpose.  I have to admit though, I am even more excited about seeing what comes out of these seeds!  My tomato plants this year have names like Velvet Red and Black Krim! The peppers are Jimmy Nardello’s and King of The North. How cool is that?

Check out this description for Redfield Beauty Tomatoes: “Historic Variety introduced circa 1889 by H.G. Hastings & Co. of Interlachen, Florida. Flattened pink 3″ inch fruits with excellent full flavor.” When was the last time you ate a tomato from the Supermarket that matched that description? Never.

I think that one of the most marvelous things about gardening is the opportunity to discover something new (and delicious!) right in your own yard. There is a romance to gardening. You nurture these plants along on the promise of the rewards to come when they bear fruit.  The prize you end up with is largely determined by the seeds you have when you begin… like all great romances!

Are you starting your garden from seeds? Have you used Seed Savers Exchange? Please leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you.

 

Have You Got Hygge in Your Home?

Not that long ago, after many years of thinking I knew my ancestry, I discovered that my father actually has a rather substantial amount of Scandinavian blood coursing through his veins.  So, it stands to reason, my siblings and I do too. Perhaps, this is why I took to the concept of Hygge like a cod to water.

Hygge (pronounced hue-ga) is a danish word with no direct english translation.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means:

A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture.)

I can get down with being cozy especially this time of year.  I am a Spring-Summer kind of gal.  Winter makes me want to hibernate!  Since I can’t actually sleep all season, the next best thing is having little comforts to keep me warm and cozy inside when it’s cold outside.  Here are some of my Hygge-ly tips:

1. LIGHTING can make a big difference in creating a warm and nurturing atmosphere.  I like the soft orange glow from this Himalayan salt lamp my sister gave me for Christmas.  Candles can also provide beautiful soft light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. SCENTS provide a mood-lifting experience.  I like blending different essential oils in a diffuser.  This candle-powered one is great because it has  the added benefit of lovely candlelight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. A WARM TREAT can be just the right balm for a weary soul on a chilly day.  No further explanation needed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. CUDDLY FRIENDS are great any time of year but they are definitely more inclined to snuggle up in the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. DREAMING of Spring can help too.  Winter is a great time to plan what you would like to do in the balmier days to come.  Gardeners start planning months before the ground is warm enough to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you got any Hygge-like rituals to help get you through the winter?  Please share them by leaving a comment.

Learning to Love Life Again

I mentioned in my last post that my luck has not been so good lately.  As the saying goes, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”  At least, that’s how it has felt.  So, when I saw a workshop titled, Love Your Life, I thought, “I should probably take that.”

Love Your Life is based on a book, The Passion Test, by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood.  The gist of both the workshop and book is to help you gain clarity on what you are passionate about.  This is achieved through an exercise where you identify 10 things that would make your life ideal.  With the help of a partner you narrow it down to five through a questioning exercise.  You then set goals or markers to achieve those five items.

While I found that part of the workshop interesting, identifying my passions has never really been my problem.  The second half of the workshop was about commitment and overcoming obstacles.  I found this very interesting because I often get distracted from goals because of life circumstances and-this is hard to admit- fear.

Our facilitator, Christina Loggia, had us write down our negative self-talk.  Then she had us “re-language” these sentences into something more positive. As a writer one of my fears is that no one cares about what I have to share.  I re-languaged that negative statement into “the right audience finds and appreciates my work.”  I felt my mood shift when I read this new statement.  Feeling better about it, somehow, made it seem more possible it could be true.  Affirmations are not new to me but I had never made one that was so goal-specific before.  It was like a little fear-seeking missile!

My other big takeaway from the workshop was about committing the time and energy to achieve what I am passionate about.  Christina shared with the group that one of her passions is yoga.  She said that everyone in her life knows when she practices and teaches yoga and that they know better than to ask her to do something during those times.  I have been very sloppy when it comes to setting boundaries around my passions.  I intend to change that going forward.

The last point I wanted to mention was that I realized nothing has to be achieved overnight.  I think I have been inclined not to set goals in the past because I didn’t think I would have the time or financial resources to achieve them.  Our society is so inclined toward instant gratification, it can be hard to work toward something if you don’t when exactly it will come to fruition.      Christina gave an example about trying to sell her house and how it was taking longer than hoped.  It doesn’t mean it will never sell.  It just hasn’t been the right time yet.  The important thing is to stay clear on what you want even when success seems elusive.

 

My Reiki Experience

I was looking for a free QiGong class when I saw an event listed at a nearby library:

REIKI

Reiki is a Japanese technique for reducing stress and promotes healing.  Wear comfortabe clothing.

I thought with my luck lately, I could use all the stress reduction and healing I could get. As a student of yoga and meditation, I am somewhat familiar with energy healing but not Reiki per se. So, I really didn’t know what to expect in a group session.

I arrived at the library meeting room with the other early birds.  While we waited, our Reiki Instructor warned us about the dangers of consuming food a day after it is cooked, as well as processed food.  Something about nighttime altering the subtle energy of food.  Although, I agree about the processed food, today was the first time in months I bought soy ice cream!  I was looking forward to a little treat and really wasn’t in the mood for a lecture.

After everyone arrived, we silenced our phones as the lights were lowered.  We were told to sit with our spines straight in a comfortable position.  It was important to not cross our arms or legs; as this would interfere with the flow of energy.  Then we were asked to visualize a silvery-white cosmic energy a few feet above our heads.  A ball of this energy was to enter our crown chakra- “Wait a minute! Chakra? I thought this was a Reiki session.  Reiki is Japanese.  I know chakras from yoga and Ayurveda.  That’s Indian. Does Reiki use chakras too?”

Then I reminded myself that maybe it would be better to focus on the meditation.  I was after stress reduction and healing. It didn’t really matter how I got it.  So, I settled in and let her words guide my mind as she described this cosmic healing energy cleansing each chakra from root to crown.  It was very relaxing.  I also noticed that the cough from my allergies had abated during the meditation.  Pretty cool!

After the session was over, I thanked our instructor. I also mentioned I was surprised when she started talking about chakras and didn’t realize they were part of Reiki.  She said something like she does the Reiki and that was one of the forms she chooses to use.  I took this to mean that Reiki is the healing energy and you can put it in any vehicle you want.  She used a chakra meditation. Someone else might use sound and vibration for example.  Apparently, there are numerous ways to transmit this energy.  I am not sure.  Perhaps, I can write a follow-up if I learn more about it after a future session.  I do plan to go back.

I did find a QiGong class.  So, I will let you know how that goes.

An Opossum Primer

The other day I overheard a conversation about ‘possums.   (FYI, I wasn’t eaves-dropping. I was three feet away.  I couldn’t help it!) When a woman remarked that ‘possums are scary, I wanted to run over and exclaim, “they are not!  They are really misunderstood!”  I didn’t, of course, because it wouldn’t have been appropriate.

So, I figured the next best thing would be to write a blog post, just in case any of my dear readers may be laboring under the same misunderstanding about our friend, the opossum.  By the way, opossum is the proper spelling.

I can understand why people may make assumptions about opossums based on their appearance.  They look rather intimidating with their long thick, rat-like, bald tails and a mouth full of impressively sharp, pointy teeth.  However, oppossums rarely attack attack humans or other animals.  When threatened, they are far more like likely to go into a catatonic state, looking like they are dead or sick…thus the expression: “playing ‘possum.”  In fact, they can even secrete a foul-smelling liquid making them smell as if they have passed on.

Now that we know opossums aren’t scary, let’s address another common misconception: ‘possums probably have rabies.  Unlike raccoons, cats, foxes, coyotes and dogs, opossums are unlikely to get rabies because their body temperature is too low.  So, if you see one even during the day, don’t freak out.  It may be a hungry mother with up to 20 babies in her pouch.

That’s right-pouch.  Opossums are North America’s only native marsupial or pouched mammal.  How cool is that?  You don’t have to go Australia to see a marsupial.  Just watch your garbage cans at night.  Here are some other neat facts about opossums:

  • The opossum has opposable thumbs and weak nails, much like primates.
  • They use that rat-like prehensile tail for climbing and gripping things. They can even carry things with their tails, making it similar to a fifth hand.
  • They have a built-in venom antidote.  They can eat rattlesnakes without getting poisoned.  Personally, I am down with any creature who eats snakes.  (I know I am a vegetarian but snakes freak me out!)
  • Opossums actually eat a lot of insects and pests that you don’t want in your garden like slugs and snails.  So, you should be happy if you spot one in your yard.  If you have any blackened fruit, leave it out for their dessert.

I hope opossums will seem a little cuter, or at least, cooler to you now.  And if you see one that is injured, please contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center to see if they can retrieve the animal or advise you on proper way to capture the opposum and bring it to them.

* Photo by Norman Curtis

2017 Garden Moments

A week ago, it was in the 70s then Fall finally arrived for a few days. Yesterday, it seemed like Winter came early.  Brrrrrr!!!!

Here are some shots from my 2017 Garden to warm things up (Click on the photo to view a larger image.):

Tiny seedlings

Tiny seedlings turn into Great Starts

 

 

 

 

 

Waste not! Eat those thinned out seedlings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miles the Compost Pile is born!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Care and Feeding of Miles…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything in my little pocket farm was grown from seed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gotta have some ornamentals too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tillandsia (air plant) Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the tomatoes: Baby Beefsteaks, Baby!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zuke and Cuke Blossoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Zuke!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reaping and eating the harvest!

Zoodles! (Zuke Noodles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Cukes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home for the Bees 🐝

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunflowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for viewing.  I hope you enjoyed my little garden tour.

Many blessings,

Cynthia

We Forget We Are All The Same

I was watching Accidental Courtesy last night.  It’s a documentary about Daryl Davis, a black musician who befriends Ku Klux Klan members in his spare time.

I admired Davis for having the courage and open-heartedness to reach out to people who are determined to be his enemy because of his skin color.  Over the years, Davis has won over many white supremacists through his willingness to hear them and extend his hand in friendship.  Dozens of high-ranking former Klan members have even given Davis their robes when they left the KKK.  It was heartening to see someone succeeding at making the world a better place.

Near the end of the film, the mood shifted a bit when this peaceful, generous man was forced to defend himself by Kwame Rose of the Black Lives Matter movement.  Rose accused Davis of wasting his time with white supremacists when he could have been doing more to help his own people.  A heated exchange ensued and Rose stormed off, unwilling to listen Davis’ point of view.  It was painful to watch a young man be so disrespectful to this wonderful pacifist.  It was also difficult to see Davis lose his cool a little with Rose, when he manages to have civil dialogues with people who express deeply disturbing white supremacist views.

It seems to me that there is room for more than one approach when comes to dealing with hate and injustice.  Although, things will always break down when we stop talking to each other, deciding that our way is the only way.

Meet Miles The Compost Pile!

I have been feeling a little guilty ever since I put up this post, Naturally Resourceful: Getting Scrappy with Vegetables! I mentioned in that post that I was too time-crunched to have a compost heap even though it would be great for my plants and the environment.

Nothing has changed schedule-wise for me since then.  However, my passion for gardening is now completely unhinged.  (It gets me through the day, people!)   I found I was spending an enormous amount of money on compost which is so riduculous considering I was, guiltily, throwing away things all the time that can be composted.  So, I decided to save money, myself from guilt and, hopefully a little of the environment by starting a compost bin.

I decided to use this garbage pail because it has a lid and I want to keep creatures out of my bin.  I burned holes in the sides:

And the lid:

With a hot glue gun.  I do not endorse this method because melting plastic never seems like a great idea.  However, my cordless drill wasn’t charged (as usual) and I really wanted to get it done.  I waited until I could no longer smell melted plastic and then gave the can a good swabbing before I started to add compost ingredients.

There are so many good resources for what to put in compost and even more importantly, what not to, like Jeff Yeager’s Rotten Luv, I am not going to go into too much detail.  Basically, you want a 2:1 ratio of brown matter to green matter.  I used newspaper shreds for brown matter.  (I figured The NY Times was appropriate for a compost heap named Miles) and for the green matter, I put in coffee grounds, eggshells (No, I didn’t eat the eggs!), plant stems, veggie and fruit peels.

Yum!

I layered the ingredients and gave it a stir.  And that’s it.  I’ll keep adding the ingredients in that 2:1 ratio, and keep stirring it up.  Mostly,  I can just let nature turn it into Black Gold for me.  There are more significant holes in the bottom of the can.  I placed it directly on dirt in the hopes that some worms will find their way in and take up residence, further enriching Miles with their castings.

Why did I name my compost heap?  Jeff Yeager named his Gomer.  I thought it was funny.  So, I decided mine needed to be named too.  So, Miles the Pile was born yesterday May 27, 2017.  I am looking forward to seeing him and my garden grow!

Many blessings,

Cynthia