Can’t Help It….


Hard to say that being a big supporter of your kids  or people that you love isn’t part of living in healthy balance.

This is awesome…. I actually watched Gage create the original sitting at the kitchen table with a plain black pen and a white sheet of paper. How’s he DO that???

I’m serious… this is worth watching….. you should.

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Saving a Life

This is information on saving a person’s life with the new CPR technique that EVERYONE should pay attention to!

I learned how to do this the old way a long time ago, but frankly, I did find it intimidating and I’d forgotten the timing and technique. This video is 6 minutes long and I think well worth the time…. better to learn it now than to be too late and wish you’d paid attention earlier….

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Fall…. gardens, bears, fishing, and seasonal eating

I think Fall may be my favorite season. My birthday is in the Fall, so maybe there’s some cosmic reason why I like it so much; but those crisp, sunny days with the beautiful foliage are just the best. Even overcast or rainy days are pleasing and comfy if you can build a fire and cozy up on the couch or take a break in your favorite chair with a good book and a blanket.

Also, everything about Fall signals a slow-down. The end of summer and very beginning of Fall are historically, evolutionarily, kind of stressful. Those are the jam packed days of trying to get ready for winter… finishing all of your to-do’s before the cold, rainy weather comes. Our “to-do’s” are pretty easy as compared to our ancestors’ to-do list. Preparing shelter and food for winter must have been really hard work, and mistakes in the planning and execution could’ve meant death. Pretty serious.

By comparison, I’m fairly confidant that if I forget to stock up on some sweet potatoes or apples today at the market, I’m not going to starve to death. I’ll just pop in the car tomorrow and pick up whatever I want.

Even so, there are Fall chores. Today, my veggie garden got the last of the tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions and jalapeno peppers pulled out while the kale, winter lettuce, arugula and spinach got a dose of fish fertilizer. I shut the water off for the sprinkler system and yard hose bibs.

The rest of the garden is still looking lovely with Japanese Anenomes and ornamental grasses swaying in the wind and hydrangeas that are so abundant they threaten to eclipse the front of the house.

Everything is waiting for all of the foliage to finish turning colors and drop to the ground, and then it’s time to cut everything back, dispose of the leaves and put everything to bed for the winter.

In thinking about this end of season frenzy of activity, I thought of the trip to Alaska that my friends Sue and Mort took last month.

The pictures they showed me reminded me of how this Fall frenzy is a normal part of the rhythym of the natural world around us. The sockeye salmon, on the last leg of their natural cycle of returning to their birth place to spawn and then die,  looked so abundant it seemed you could almost walk across the river on them.

And the bears….. !! What was it that Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz said? Lions and tigers and bears…. Oh my! Well, she got that one right!

Oh my! The grizzly bears that are gorging themselves on the salmon (FAR too close as far as I’m concerned !) were apparently so focused on stuffing themselves and getting ready for their winter hibernation, that they pretty much paid no attention to Sue and Mort or their fishing guide.

Are you believing those pictures? I would’ve been constantly thinking about another friend of ours who was bow and arrow hunting elk in Montana a number of years ago, when a mama grizzly bear came from around a tree and charged straight at our friend, Steve,  and his hunting companion.

Apparently Steve’s buddy went down in a ball, she ran right over him and nailed Steve against a tree, bit his leg (and broke his femur) and then gnawed on his head and ripped off part of his ear.

I’m pretty sure he would’ve been dinner if not for the fact that his buddy got up and sprayed mace at her. She didn’t like it and split. (Of course, in the excitement, the mace managed to get  sprayed all around and got in both guys’ eyes as well, so it’s a good thing she split, as they were staggering around and couldn’t see either!)

Bottom line, Steve did live, although I can’t believe he didn’t die of fright while sitting all by his lonesome with a broken leg, a little can of mace and a pistol while his buddy hiked out to get help; but I immediately thought of his comment when I saw Sue and Mort’s pictures….” You can’t believe how fast they are….”

Yeah…. that’s what I would’ve been thinking the whole time I was “sharing” my fishing experience with those grizzly bears if I’d been with Sue and Mort. Bottom line? I would’ve been huddled in the plane.

OK, that was a bit of a digression, but you have to admit, it was a pretty good story.

Speaking of bears, they hibernate… at least the ones in the wild.

We don’t, but I’m sure you’ve heard of Seasonally Affected Disorder, which kind of reminds me of it a little. I don’t think an absolute cause has been verified for SAD, but I do know that there is thought that it might have  something to do with the lower amount of light that we get in the winter, which signals the pineal gland in our brain to slow our metabolism and conserve energy, presumably to help make it through the winter when food is scarce and energy is needed to keep warm.

The pineal gland (also called the pineal bodyepiphysis cerebriepiphysisconarium or the “third eye“) is a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain. It produces the serotoninderivative melatonin, a hormone that affects the modulation of wake/sleep patterns and seasonal functions.[1][2]  wikipedia

I suspect it matters a great deal where you live, for instance in the rain forest of the Pacific Northwest vs. sunny Arizona. Living in the former, I’ve gotten what I think is seasonally affected disorder before. It’s really weird, because I don’t get it every year, so I don’t know how to really put my finger on what is going on.

When I have gotten it in the past, it seemed like one day I was fine and the next morning it was like someone flipped a switch and I could hardly drag myself out of bed in the morning. I didn’t feel like I got depressed, but I definitely had lower energy, and if I even looked at a cookie or ate too much one day, I’d gain 10 pounds ( an exaggeration, but you get my point).

At any rate, I suppose it’s possible to have different degrees of it and to get it some years and not others, at least partially because of the amount of sun you’re being exposed to. Maybe this is why so many people flee to sunny locations in the winter.

In many species, activity is diminished during the winter months in response to the reduction in available food and the difficulties of surviving in cold weather. Hibernation is an extreme example, but even species that do not hibernate often exhibit changes in behavior during the winter. It has been argued that SAD is an evolved adaptation in humans that is a variant or remnant of a hibernation response in some remote ancestor.[23] Presumably, food was scarce during most of human prehistory, and a tendency toward low mood during the winter months would have been adaptive by reducing the need for calorie intake. The preponderance of women with SAD suggests that the response may also somehow regulate reproduction.[23]             wikipedia

So although we may not be like bears and go off and hibernate, humans evolved over 100’s of 1000’s of years while being affected by the natural rhythms of their world. That our ancestors would’ve adapted to these rhythms in their environment seems at least logical.

Apparently Hippocrates felt the same way, as this is what he had to say about it: “Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly should proceed thus: in the first place to consider the seasons of the year.”

Hey! Maybe he’s the one who came up with  “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” AND…. speaking of apples….. since this is their season…maybe now is a great time to be eating apples and trying out new recipes using them (and not just in desserts… how about in salads, with veggies, juicing….)?

The following are all really cool links and should be helpful in finding good recipes for the seasonal foods to be eating now. Have fun!

Here’s a link to information about Light Therapy for SAD, which can also be helpful with sleep disorders or people who have a disrupted circadian rhythm pattern. You can go on Amazon and read the reviews on different kinds of lights ( I always read the negative ones as well as the recommendations, because I want to get both sides of a story). 

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End of Summer Bucket-List

OK…. I can feel fall in the air, but we’re having some glorious end-of-summer weather and it’s not time to pull out the wool clothes and jackets yet. There’s still time to accomplish some of your favorite summertime activities.

For me, it’s been working a lot more in my garden, hiking on the Wildwood trail, taking some week-end bike rides and also some day car trips to fun places with my husband.

I wish I was going on a real car trip, traveling someplace fun, taking my time with no real schedule and leaving all my worries behind, but that isn’t in the cards this year. We did take a couple of quick trips to Bend last month and had a great time… also stopped at Suttle Lake, which I’d never known about, and found it to be a definite destination to put on a future bucket-list.

While I wouldn’t really call it fun… maybe more like satisfying….there’s also been the pre-fall house projects like cleaning and staining the outdoor furniture and having the deck stained, the roof cleaned and the chipping paint around the windows fixed (next up).

I’ve been hearing about all kinds of fun things that others have been doing… just getting out and taking advantage of the season…. and it’s looked like a great time.

But as I said before, there’s still time…. in case one of the things you were wanting to do was to “put up” some seasonal produce, following are several great links for ideas to get reconnected to your food by harvesting, canning, freezing, drying your own as well as a couple of recipes highlighting a seasonal dish that can’t help remind you that…. it’s still late summer, you still have time…..

The following is a good post from Caroline at Verdura Gardens. It’s true that people who haven’t been used to growing their own food may find that they can plant it, but they make some real mistakes when it comes to harvesting and using what they’ve grown… so her post about harvesting your produce is a  good one.

Here’s a pic of my left-over spicy dill pickles that I made with my sister-in-law Ginann last year.

To be truthful, we ate all of the smaller jars LONG ago, but these big ones stayed on the shelf too long and maybe in too hot of a spot. The last jar I opened yielded some pretty mushy pickles…. so I’ve got them on top of my kitchen cabinets, more as decoration at this point, and to remind me to eat my produce and dream about what I want to do next year.

Following is a similar recipe to Ginann’s that I found at that calls for rolling grapeleaves and inserting them into the jar to keep the pickles crisp (although I’d add… don’t store in too warm a place for too long… doubt grapeleaves would counter the effect).

As for preserving questions? Remember that you can always call your local ag. extension agency hotline and ask to speak with a master food preserver who can most likely answer all of your canning safety questions and maybe even ones about grapeleaves in pickles!,vt=top,q=mary%27s+spicy+dill+pickles/181679

Tomatoes…. how could it even be considered end of summer without talking tomatoes? This Tomato Jam with Smoked Paprika sounds yummy and I’ve vowed to try this one out in the next week or two. I’ve only got sun-gold cherry tomatoes, which although the same orange/red color as the tomatoes in this recipe, they’re too small, so I’m going to have to get some bigger ones at the store or at the farmers’ market.

orange tomato jam with smoked paprika

Here are some great ideas for alternatives to canning if you want to put up some produce quickly…. while you still have time… or don’t like the idea of cooking the food so long that some of the food quality is destroyed.

YUM! Here it is Summer+ Corn+ Chowder…. seriously…this will be end of summer lingering in your mouth…. 

corn chowder

We’ve hit the mother lode with the Kelly family. First we lucked out last week-end by being invited to a fabulous bar-b-q (steak with olive aioli sauce for one… awesome) at Stephen and Kathy’s and now onto Kevin and Karen’s tomorrow night. These people are all great friends, great cooks and fabulous hosts, so I’m feeling pretty lucky right now.

I took roasted brown turkey figs stuffed with bleu cheese and drizzled with black currant balsamic vinegar last week-end as my dish, and tomorrow I think I’m going to take this dessert … Cornmeal Cake+ Sweet Rosemary Syrup+ Blackberries. SEE? That’s end of summer lingering in your mouth, yet AGAIN!

cornmeal cake


Posted in A Healthy, Balanced Lifestyle, Into the Garden, Reconnect with Your Food, Self-sufficiency (You Can Do It!), What to Eat and How to Cook | 2 Comments

Emily and Julia… Child

When she was in her 20’s, my friend Emily worked as an assistant for Simone Beck (Simca) for awhile in France. ( OMG! What kid out of college wouldn’t want this job??)!

Simca was a French cookbook author and teacher who co-wrote “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” Vol I & II with Julia Child, so it makes perfect sense that Emily’s path crossed with Julia’s.

Last week, on August 15th, were she still alive, Julia Child would’ve celebrated her 100th birthday. The occasion turned into a media frenzy of sorts, with everyone remembering Julia the person and Julia the icon who changed our humble American way of cooking.

She was the first to do her own cooking show, from which so many talented chefs have since carried on. If you’ve ever seen one of her shows, you know that she was, quite simply, unforgettable….as well as very funny and down to earth.

She was from Pasadena, California, which is where I’m from too. Well, really, I’m from San Marino, but the 2 towns are right next to one another and you pass over into one from the other while driving down the street, never knowing where one ends and one begins.

Being from the same area, I never understood Julia’s particular way of speaking, but then, you know what? She was so over the top in every way… height, personality, sense of humor and sheer determination… that I suppose it’s only fitting that she had an over the top way of speaking to go along with it all. Had she been the type to put on airs, it would’ve been too much…but she wasn’t, as Emily so fondly remembers below.

I asked Emily to share something about Julia as well as her favorite recipe. She said that her Creme Renversee au Caramel ( caramel custard, unmolded.. warm or cold) made her start to salivate just thinking of it. So, in remembrance on her birthday month, Emily shares her thoughts and favorite Julia recipe below, and I’ve thrown in some favorite quotes and also a you tube of Julia and David Letterman.. cooking hamburgers no less (which turned into steak tartare… just watch it..)!

From Emily, on Julia Child

“I worked and lived with Simone Beck and her husband, Jean Fischbacher, at their farm, “Bramafam”, in Chateau-Neuf de Grasse in Province off and on for several years.  Julia and Paul Child had a house on the same property and often they were there at the same time. It was usually during the fall.

I was working with Simca but, of course all of our paths crossed  throughout the day. We often ate dinner on the terrace  under the olive trees laden with their fruit.  

One afternoon I was in Simca’s house alone and when the phone rang, I answered it and was poised with pencil in hand to take a message for either Simca or Jean.  “Allô ”  and then came that distinctive, musical voice, ” Oh, Dearie, it’s Julia …… pause…..Child.”  She had no clue that there was never a question as to who was calling and  added her last name to distinguish herself from any other ‘Julias’ that I might know.  And she said it the same way every time she telephoned. I loved her humility. I loved that so much.” (see Emily’s favorite Julia recipe at the bottom).

This you tube video of Julia and David Letterman is hilarious… and showcases how she just rolled with the punches, no matter what.

Following are some of Julia’s most famous quotes… I particularly love the ones about how everyone is so deathly afraid of food and how one should learn how to cook….

“Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed — eh bien, tant pis! Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes.”

“I think one of the terrible things today is that people have this deathly fear of food: fear of eggs, say, or fear of butter. Most doctors feel that you can have a little bit of everything.”

 “I always give my bird a generous butter massage before I put it in the oven. Why? Because I think the chicken likes it — and, more important, I like to give it.”

“I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a Valentine as you can give.”

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients.”

“Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?”

“Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun.”

Emily’s Favorite Julia Child recipe: (so it’s a little wavy… the page numbers are 610, 584 and 585 , so you can look it up in your own copy of Julia’s most famous cookbook).



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In the Vegetable Garden

Raised beds ready for spring planting

I’ve had a lot of fun in my garden this year. Although I planted these 2 raised beds last year too, they turned into an under-utilized, overgrown mess. Of course, I was out of town most of the summer, but I realized that planting a garden is one thing… harvesting it and utilizing the food is quite another.

So this year, to make sure this turned into a positive experience, I had Verdura Gardens come out and install a drip system (major improvement!) and help me figure out my garden. We started with a 3 season planting plan based upon my family’s eating likes… (we’re getting towards the end of the 2nd season now).

Then we talked about soil…. I’m a huge advocate for healthy, organic soil…. but here’s the thing… turns out that even tho I completed the Organic Gardening course through Oregon Tilth (recommended), I was still an ignorant idiot (that’s redundant, isn’t it?).

My first mistake was asking my new garden guy to get me some organic top soil, which I planned to mix in with my own soil and some amendments. Hmmmm. Turns out, the soil he brought was very heavy, full of clay (typical Portland) and the amendments weren’t going to lighten things up enough to keep the roots from rotting and the plants from dying as they tried to grow. And even worse… it had shredded plastic in it!

This is a heads up…. NONE of us really has any idea where the soil we buy is coming from, and special care should be taken to find out how the company you’re getting it from handles their soil. I don’t know, I’m pretty sure shredded plastic doesn’t qualify as organic….

Some companies do a great job with this, but others use the soil that comes from Portland’s  garden recycling program. This is just people’s garden debris.  Seriously, after seeing the shredded plastic, I had to ask myself…. “who even knows if it’s been sprayed full of Round-Up or worse? What the heck is in here anyway?”. Sorry… but it’s true.

So…. in effort number one, I got an F.

THEN I said to my garden guy…. this soil is *#! Please get me real organic top soil (with no shredded plastic)… : (

OK… so he got talked into getting me organic mushroom compost from the same place he was buying his soil.

First off… you can’t plant new plants in straight compost. It can burn the plants, and second….guess why they call it mushroom compost? I didn’t want it in my rasied beds, so I had to have it spread out in my garden, which sprouted a gorgeous crop of mushrooms for about 3 weeks. That would’ve been just what I was wanting in my 2 beds instead of the lettuce, spinach, radishes, peas and kale (not!).

Finally, I did what Verdura Gardens had wanted me to do in the first place…. I got bags of blended soil from Pro Grow that consists of things like peat moss, pumice, fine bark, calcium, dolomite, etc.( to balance the pH) trace minerals. This way I knew exactly what was in the soil and it was the right composition for not drowning the new seeds and plants.

Then amendments like dairy manure, worm castings and feather-meal were added in along with some fish fertilizer, and voila! I ended up with healthy, light soil filled with good nutrients and minerals for my growing food to absorb.

I realize that getting bags of soil would not be realistic if you were planting a big garden vs. 2 raised beds… but even so, the comments about soil and it’s importance can’t be overstated.

Anyway, here’s a picture of my spring garden beds and produce. Who wouldn’t be thrilled with this?! We ate lots and lots of lettuce, spinach (SOOOO good), radishes and I think my favorite… peas and pea shoots. As for my summer garden, I think kale has been my favorite and it keeps producing more than enough to saute or add to salads.

Late Spring

Beginning snap peas and snowpeas

Best radishes ever

You may notice in the top picture that the beds are strung with string, making little squares. The method that Verdura Gardens uses is called square foot gardening... you may have heard of it before, as there are several books on it and there was a PBS tv series on it for about 8 years. It’s a great way to get a lot of produce in a small space, not get overwhelmed with your garden, and have it look absolutely beautiful too! Honestly, I think it looks better than a lot of people’s front yards.

Anyway, you’ll also notice the trellis. In my garden it’s for growing cherry tomatoes (sungold… yum!) and also cucumbers. I’m JUST starting to harvest them, so I don’t know yet if I’m going to end up with enough cherry tomatoes for my liking. But I do know that my tomato plants were absolutely out of control last year and I ended up with an awful lot of them on the ground and felt like I was fighting the tomato bushes constantly.

The rooster in the picture below is fake. Just can’t get up the energy to build a chicken coop and add that to my chore list right now…. but I’d gladly buy someone’s homegrown organic eggs anytime!

Posted in Into the Garden, Reconnect with Your Food, Self-sufficiency (You Can Do It!) | 4 Comments

This Little Girl Gets an “A+”… Why You Should Buy Organic

This is seriously worth watching! So cute… but powerful! ‘Nuff said…. (if it stalls for a couple of seconds at first, keep watching.. you’ll be glad you did).

My Potato Project; The Importance of “Organic”

By sbbartlett40| 1 video

Posted in Food Fight and Health Wars, Into the Garden, Reconnect with Your Food, Videos, What to Eat and How to Cook | Leave a comment