SPRING HAS SPRUNG

20140506_132217.jpgSpring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the flowers is.” This little ditty from my patent leather shoe wearing, crinoline slip showing, pigtails bouncing, hopscotch/jump rope playing days always comes to mind this time of the year. And like most nature loving folks, the balmy weather beckons me outdoors. Those of you who followed my original Blog in 2012 are familiar with my “Tales from the Garden”. So in honor of Daylight Savings Time and the official First Day of Spring (just a week away), I would like to provide you with some New Tales.

Unlike most folks who dig in the dirt, I started gardening for health reasons. Frankly, I was concerned about the food supply and all those unknown dangers lurking in the vegetable aisles of our friendly grocery store. News reports of packaged lettuce laced with bacteria, pesticides coating the gala apples, tomatoes processed in lye…it was enough to make me run screaming into the night. Instead, I decided to revisit a practice I had abandoned years ago…home gardening.

Even though we were city dwellers, my family always had a little home garden plot. My mother, a Southern girl, knew the importance of healthy eating and always made sure there was something good growing in that little plot next to the back door. I remember days spent digging in the rock laden soil, planting precious seeds and counting the days until seedlings pushed through eventually yielding their bounty of heirloom tomatoes, long pole beans, crunchy leafed romaine lettuce, bulbous cucumbers, and savory squash.

Gardening, I later learned, can be more than just producing food and flowers. It can be a cure to many of life’s ails such as depression and anxiety. Digging in the dirt is therapeutic and a lot cheaper than a psychiatrist. The increasing number of men and women city dwellers who are discovering gardening supports this theory. No longer is it necessary to own “the back forty” to grow a garden. Patios, porches, rooftops, window sills, and even ‘rent a plot” gardens make it possible for everyone to engage in this life giving practice.

After a particularly stressful period in my my life for which no amount of Xanax could help, I again turned to gardening. The pleasure I derived that first Spring from digging in the dirt, watching each day as tiny buds appeared and new growth unfurled followed by daily visits from the most glorious butterflies and birds in the area was indescribable.

Suddenly, my life became filled with hope and anticipation as I looked forward to the wonder Nature had bestowed just outside my back door. I started trolling thrift shops looking for gardening how-to-books, visiting Garden shops at 6 a.m., hauling dirt became my daily workout, seed catalogs filled my mailbox, and rainy days that filled my rain barrels (old olive barrels from a warehouse) became the source of quiet joy.

Gardening became the antidote for depression and the colorful bounty of flowers and luscious pesticide free vegetables it yielded… the cure.

 

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Beauty Fades, But Healthy is Forever

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Reader, It is March…officially Women’s History Month. The onewhowillremainunnamed remarked over dinner the other night… Women’s History Month is Every month…and there are some men who will readily agree with him. And why not. WE DO GIVE LIFE. Only the Creator can claim that feat.

In light of all the responses I received to the BRAGGing Rights posts, I thought I would follow with a list of a few natural products that most people will want to make sure they have in their toolbox. Like Bragg vinegar, many of these products were ones I used back in the 70/80s and because of their effectiveness they continue to reserve a place in my cabinet.

Black Soap – the best kind comes wrapped in plastic from your local African bookstore or Head shop. It looks like a block of dark brown clay sprinkled with herbs. Those bars sold in the fancy packaging from various companies often contain chemicals. I met someone recently who said that using Black Soap to cleanse her face was not only cost effective but cleared up her skin and literally took years off her face.

Shea Butter – Another product best purchased from said African bookstore/boutique type shop. Or find someone who has recently visited the motherland. I know an airline employee who has stock in this stuff and regularly brings it back as gifts for friends. Stay away from the fancy packaged kind though, as it contains unpronounceable chemicals. When you do find some (usually in a plastic baggie) remember a little goes a long way. The proof as they say is in the pudding. Look at all the commercial products from shampoo to body wash to lotion that now contain Shea Butter.

Henna – Many years ago when gray strands starting sprouting in my mane, I remembered how my former hippie commune friends had utilized henna for not only decorating their bodies, but washing away the gray. This product can be tricky to find, but worth searching for especially in the natural unadulterated powdery state. So far, no study showing any link between this keeper away of the gray and cancer (miz clairol or dark and luvly can’t make that claim).

Coconut Oil – this product has seen a resurgence lately. Not only is it good for your hair and body but can also be eaten! What will Mother Nature think of next?

Pumice stone – Yes, I have tried all those products that promise to make your feet baby butt soft including the one with the little razors that literally shave the skin from your heels. But nothing works as good as a little pumice stone which literally can be brought for under a dollar at where else…the $ store.

Oils – I could write an entire blog about the virtues of essential oils. Not only can they be used to improve your mood, rid you of headaches, help you sleep, ward off evil spirits in a room, kill mosquitos, soften your skin, massage aching muscles, thicken ones hair, perfume your body…ask an Egyptian. Those of you who are Aromatherapy subscribers already know the healing properties of oils. Just make sure you are getting the purest forms, a little costlier, but a lot goes a long way.
Hope these products become a part of your life. You will be richer and wiser.
As always, your comments are appreciated!  Next Post will be a tribute to the one and only Songstress …Ruth Brown. Thanks for reading/sharing!

BRAGGing RIGHTS

Okay, I hope this doesn’t sound like a commercial, but I’ve been spreading the word about the benefits of the Bragg Vinegar drink to my friends near and far, so I’ve decided to share this with you my dear Readers.

If you find yourself tired to the bone, sluggish, out of sorts, dread getting out of the bed, can’t put one foot in front of the other, wish it was Friday when its only Monday, then you need to learn about Bragg Vinegar. This product has been on the market well over 100 years-since 1912-and is the forerunner of the healthy products movement.

I won’t belabor the point here and bore you with the history, but Reader this is a product you need to add to your grocery list Today. Once you have it at home, the simple recipe to make it into a palatable, energizing drink can be found on the back label.

In a glass, stir together One to two teaspoons of Bragg +8 oz filtered water+ honey+ lemon juice, and chug. Take this upon rising, at lunchtime and for those of you who need an afternoon pick up (instead of heading to the office vending machine), down a glass of this drink.

The results are immediate. You will feel lighter, energized, clear headed. I suppose its that action of the unfiltered apple cider vinegar scrubbing your organs and releasing the antioxidants in your blood stream. Since the time of the Egyptians, ACV has been used for its amazing natural cleansing, healing and energizing health qualities.

I started drinking Bragg vinegar back in the 70s during my heady, almost a Black hippie, what sign are you, free your mind days of L.A. I was in my 20s and working three part time jobs And attending Paralegal School. Bragging as we fondly called it back then was at the forefront of the back to nature movement. And any bonafide card carrying member of the natural food/vegetarian/potsmoking movement was slurping this concoction at least 3 times a day.

As a Baby Boomer, the need to eat healthy, exercise, take supplements ( to avoid purchasing one of those lil pink pill box) has become a constant refrain from the media, AARP and Dr. Oz. I have always subscribed to a healthy lifestyle because it was ingrained in me from childhood. Having a grandmother who lived to be 100 plus and who drank vinegar daily and fasted on Fridays was something I took note of early. And while I would occasionally fall off the wagon (I am a Foodie and luv a good Restaurant), that small still voice would always bring me back to reality.

The ravishes of high cholesterol almost brought me to a crashing halt some  years ago when despite my regime of working out daily at 5 a.m in a fight gym (to fight the menopause 10 (pounds that is), before going off to teach a raucous group of middle schoolers, followed by feasting on copious amounts of bbq at the Extra Billy , I had chart topping numbers. No amounts of niacin, garlic, coq10, red yeast rice, policosanol, would bring those LDL number down below 200. I dreaded the thought of taking statins…the commericals listing all the side effects…that followed the glowing pictures of the healthy couple rowing a canoe… were frightening to say the least.

After much prodding by my trusted physician, I did, however, venture into Lipitorland, then Zetialand, then Pravastatinland only to have my body reject each of these manmade concoctions.

Finally, I had an epiphany…hmph wonder if she saw stars.. returned to my senses and embarked on a regime of healthy eating: more vegetables, less meat (Restaurants only once or twice a month), growing my own seasonal vegetables (fat tomatoes ,hot habaneros/jalapenos, crispy kale/collard/spinach, juicy romaine and spicy arugula, topped off with  fresh herbs- oregano, thyme, sage, lemongrass, mint and MORE),  together with exercising 3 times a week at the local Y or daily walking of the dog …you remember Lucky…and a  glass or two of Bragg every day, I was able to reduce those LDL numbers and keep them down.

Now that’s what I call BRAGGing rights. Feel free to comment with your thoughts/experience on BRAGGing and thanks for reading!

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HOT JAM

Some like it hot.

Boy, there so many ways I could go with that opening. But lets keep it PG for now. I’m referring to my penchant for hot, spicy foods.

No doubt, I inherited the gene from my dad’s side of the family. I still marvel at his 10+year old jar of peppers and vinegar aging in the kitchen cabinet, which he sprinkles liberally on just about everything he eats.

Must explain why he is approaching 94 in remarkably good health. And still drives, watches TV/ reads without glasses,takes the stairs,  refuses a cane even though he has arthritis in his knees, and has mastered email, searching, Skype and how to delete the history ( just in case snooping relatives are using his prized pc). But I digress.

The subject of this post is not my IwasaBuffalosoldier father, but rather hot foods and more specifically, hot peppers.

Many of you know, thanks to Dr.Oz and other health promoters, that capsicum is widely believed to be a “cure for much-of-what-ails- you.”

Hot peppers,particularly, are touted as a good source of Vitamins A,B, C, and high in potassium, magnesium, and iron.

A number of studies show a correlation between a person’s intake of foods containing capsicum and the decreased risk of certain cancers and diabetes.

Hmph.. I knew this child had a paralegal background, but now she  done gon and got some medical learning!

At any rate, as part of my quest to eat healthy, I have long satisfied my need for hot, spicy foods by cooking with a variety of peppers; selecting the starred** items on the Chinese, Mediterranean, Carribbean, and Indian restaurant menus, and, of course, growing peppers in my beloved jardin.

This summer’s bounty was unrivaled after I found some varieties of peppers beyond my usual habanero, jalapeño, and Serrano staples on a trip to No VA. I returned with a box of healthy seedlings that included: Tabasco, super hot chili, and a habanero guaranteed to light your fire.

I planted these among my perennials because the soil was richer in that area and it received the most sunlight (a few went in pots). Within 2 months, the Tabasco and Hottest Habanero had turned into 2 foot bushes and by August, were producing bucketfuls of these hot gems.

I decided to freeze some of the brightly colored heat bringers so I could use them in the winter and also experiment with some pepper recipes, namely hot jam and Tabasco sauce.( My foray into jam making thanks to my co-foodie JB aka flyboy was documented in my previous year’s blog).

A pic is worth a thousand words. The habaneros became  Pineapple mango hot jelly spread, and the tabascos that took the form of a science project (fermenting them for 30 days in a jar with salt/water in a dark cabinet) resulted in a hot sauce so hot I am almost afraid to eat it!

A few hardy friends and family received these treats for Christmas gifts. Most of them are used to getting my to-die-for banana bread and/or lemon blueberry bread as gifts, but this year I thought I would stimulate their palate and help ward off the Big “C” and”D” so pervasive among our community.

Dad even remarked on my last visit that… Its good on bread and chicken and everything ! When are you making some more?

Bon appetite, Readers

 

 

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