Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Photo Recap

And there was one series of photos I especially loved.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Finals Stress by Proxy

Every year. Every single year. My college students and all the other college students I know and love make the first couple of weeks in December hard. I know they are going to think it's hard for them, but it's because they can't hear themselves:

My daughter just posted this photo with this as her status:  You know it's gonna be a rough week when you have to write "shower" (followed by a question mark) on your calendar. #gradschoolprobs #finalsweek #almostthere

Another recent one: 

Staring at a computer screen for 10+ hours at a time. Eating once a day. Crying in public. Clearly, the end of the semester is here. — at University of Memphis.

Here are a couple from the daughters of friends: 

Sometimes during the stress of finals I think to myself, "I'd be totally ok if Jesus came back right now." #finalsweek 

The toll of finals week has finally caught up to me... I just tried using my liquid face soap as shampoo. #finals #needsleep #almostover #onemoreday #delusional #needprayer

The worst year was the one where she had a wreck the week of finals. I had to drive her to and from all her classes. She whined. She complained. She criticized my driving. There was a mobile wailing and gnashing of teeth. The parents I know whose kids are away at school cringe when the phone rings. No one wants to answer it only to hear "I'm going to (pick one) die, fail, quit, give up, or become a migrant farm worker."

Hang in there, mom it's almost over.

You'll pass with flying colors.

Oh, and maybe it's a strictly female phenomenon. My son tweeted this last night:

 Brian Eno & Coffee. studying aint that bad.

Good. Can you call your sister and talk her off the ledge? 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cold Remedy in a Cup

Turmeric, ginger, peppercorns
We are about to enter full blast into cold and flu season. In my area we are bracing for an ice storm. Here's what to stock up on to be prepared.

Western medicine sends us off to the cold/flu aisle at the drugstore for something full of ingredients we can't pronounce when we don't feel well. Eastern tradition tells us we might be better off in the spice aisle at the grocery. 

 Right before my daughter's wedding she came down with a dreadful cold. My friend, and fellow blogger The Food Maven sent me a recipe for a cure. It seems her mother was traveling in Ireland and was in a pub with a cold (her, not the pub). The owner, a man from India, suggested a spoonful of turmeric and honey. Mommy Maven followed the advice and was all better the next day! My daughter got better so I never did make it. Earlier this week I was feeling a bit under the weather myself and decided to try it out, but you know I had to do some research first.

I came across many variations on several websites, they all seem to differ slightly. I liked one posted by blogger Arun Shanbhag, who remembers his grandmother making this for him.

I prefer to cook it on the stove
Here is the link to his blog post: Turmeric Milk: Soothing Elixir, in which he explains the history and science behind this potion. I changed a couple of things. I'm a firm believer in the power of green tea (Read about the health benefits here) so I made power packed infusion (1 family size tea bag to 1/4 C. water) to mix the turmeric in instead of water. I didn't have fresh ginger on hand but I did have some of the dried/candied sort, and I used coconut milk because dairy products are known to increase mucus production, something we are trying to lessen, and have other negative side effects for many. In an update on his site Arun added this comment: "Scientists have demonstrated that when curcumin is ingested along with a peppercorn extract, the ability of our body to absorb and utilize curcumin increases dramatically, up to 2000%. "

I made a cup complete with peppercorns and took it at bedtime. I woke up feeling much better, and yes--energized! So I'm a convert. The dried ingredients premixed would make a great gift for a friend who's suffering from a cold. The fact that it's home made and wasn't concocted by a pharmaceutical company is comforting in its own way. Here's my version but the internet is full of ways to tweak it; find one that you like.

The Housewife's Recipe:

1/4 C of very strong green tea
1/2 ts turmeric
Power it up with peppercorns! Delicious!

1 ts candied ginger
1 ts honey
a few peppercorns, whole
a mug of coconut milk

Dissolve turmeric in hot green tea, add to milk with ginger, honey, and peppercorns and stir over medium heat until hot. Let sit for 5 minutes before drinking.

Cheers to your health!

*Of course if you have a fever or cough that doesn't go away you should see a doctor.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

5 Things I Learned Walking 90 Miles in November

1. Starting is almost completing.  You have to start. Start as small as you want to but start. If your goal is to start walking then put your shoes on. If it's to get the house in order empty the sink and clean it or make your bed. Life has a certain momentum and if you just start it is easier to continue.

2. You must keep the end in mind. You must conquer the impulse of now. I know you don't want to; I don't either. None of us wants to get out of bed, or vacuum the house, or go to work, or discipline the kids but we do. We do because we can imagine how we will feel after. When we are dressed and the house is clean, we've done a good day's work and have grown children that we're proud of . We must look past the impulse we have to do what is comfortable and convenient now and imagine something better...later.

3.The discipline is in the doing.  You aren't going to wake up one day and have will power. You aren't going to love exercise or healthier food or studying magically one day. But as you do it, the next time becomes easier. Over the course of time it's part of your life and you need less and less discipline to keep doing it.

4.You have time for the things that you are determined to do.

My son in law is a police officer and I'm pretty sure he's never heard anyone say that they really wanted to smoke crack today but didn't have time.

"Yeah I was so busy at work and coaching my son's little league team, I really wanted to get high today but couldn't work it in."

You will make time for what is important to you. You will arrange your schedule to accommodate your addictions and weaknesses. The alcoholic always has time for a drink, the shopaholic can always stop at one more store,  the lazy person always has time to watch more television. If relationships, exercise, spiritual growth, education, eating right, and being productive are important to you, you'll find the time to do those things.

5. Publicize your goals and you are more likely to stay on track. Want to get something done? Make yourself accountable to someone else. I can't tell you how many days there were when the only reason I walked was because I told you what I was doing.  It also gave people a chance to encourage me. My college age son would even ask me how my 90 Mile November was going when he saw me, thanks to Twitter.

Overall I noticed a lot of health benefits during the month. When I started I'd taken a month off while I was renovating the upstairs and for the first week or so I thought the third mile would kill me. About 2 weeks in I missed a day and had to make it up by adding a mile and a half the next two days. My back hurt so bad I felt like crying and ran a good bit of the last mile because running hurt less than walking. But just the other day I missed a day and walked the entire 6 miles the next day to make it up. It felt great.

Remember that all health benefits aren't measured on a scale. My stamina increased by a great deal and I had a wellness check last week that included a whole range of tests that turned out very well.  I can get really excited about a nurse telling me the results of my blood work are beautiful. My mood improved and I felt less stressed and happier in general, some of which may be due to my walking outdoors. Research shows that there is a great psychological benefit to spending time in nature. Over the past month I got to enjoy watching the season change completely and note differences in the trees and animals. It meant keeping tissues in my pocket, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, gloves, and scarf in my car but the fresh air and sunshine were worth it. I also feel like since I was outside everyday for a 3 mile walk I acclimated better to the change in the weather.

What do you want to change? Use these 5 things and get started. You'll be a month ahead of everyone else come New Years!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Redefining Cozy

adjective: cosy; comparative adjective: cosier; superlative adjective: cosiest; adjective: cozy; comparative adjective: cozier; superlative adjective: coziest

giving a feeling of comfort, warmth, and relaxation.


 I love this word and the feeling it describes: snug, comfortable, warm, homey. It's the feeling of Christmas, cabin, or curling up with a book an a rainy day preferably with a fire and cup of tea. 


 It is the antithesis of putting on shoes (and a bra, if we are being honest) and going out to exercise. You may recall that I whined about it earlier in the month on a drizzly cool Saturday morning when I didn't want to leave the house. When I was sorry for letting you know about my 90 mile walking challenge for November. 


 I did go to yoga that day and for a walk. When I entered the yoga studio I realized that while sparse it was also cozy. Dim lighting, soothing music, yoga blankets and gleaming wood floors were just as comforting as my sofa at home. And nothing says relaxation like someone putting a warm cloth on your eyes and massaging your neck during Shavasana, the period of relaxation at the end of your practice.


 Later I bundled up against the elements and headed to the park to walk 3 miles. The sky was gray and the golden leaves blew across the path as I walked along. Squirrels also bombed me with acorns but that is another story. I could smell the wood burning in someone's fireplace. I noticed that the coots had returned from wherever they go in the summer. My hands felt warm inside my gloves. 


 When I sat by the fire later in the evening it was made more cozy by the fact that I'd been out in the weather. Like adding salt to a sweet dessert, it was the contrast that made the coziness of home more intense. 


 Remember that the next time you are struggling with putting your shoes on. The returning home and snuggling up will be all the sweeter knowing you loved yourself into a little action first. 


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Living Young Despite the Calendar

I have a birthday coming up in a few days: 49. It's one year away from my intended half way mark. 

I don't know about you but I'm terrified of getting old. Possibly because as a child I was never around older people and as an adult the ones I've been around haven't exactly been doing it well. Oxygen tanks, frailty, falling, and a lack of physical energy don't paint an encouraging picture and that is all without the nightmare of dementia.

I've been encouraged recently by a group of women I volunteer with at the art museum (you can read more about what I'm learning from them here). . The book, Blue Zones paints a brighter picture and gets down to how to live well over a long period of time. Then I found this video comprised of 6 women bursting with interests, style, and attitude: Fabulous Fashionistas.

One of the things I'm learning from paying attention to those who are aging well is that you have to keep moving. Even if it hurts. Your body was made to move and sitting down will eventually kill you. And not in a quick and easy way. In a slow, dull, painful way...possibly over quite a long time.

The second thing is that the people who live a long time are interested AND interesting. In the video Baroness Trumpington (isn't that the best name ever?)  says the secret is being "interested in life generally."

Judging from my friends at the museum, many of whom are old enough to be my parents (I get a kick out of listing to them tell stories about graduating from college the year I was born) and recent books and videos, here are the things that will keep you young:

Not smoking. I don't know any older people who are still on the move who were smokers.

Keep moving, even it means overcoming aches and pains. Sitting down, or worse yet, spending the day in bed will suck the life and energy out of you.

Do not allow yourself to get overweight. But don't do any unhealthy dieting, you'll ruin your metabolism.

Have a regular sleep schedule. I don't have evidence for this one, but I'm pretty sure you can ruin your circadian rhythm just like your metabolism.

Be interesting, which is likely to mean you are interested in lots of things, and are keen to keep learning. You should have something more interesting to share than the details of your most recent ailment. It's how you keep getting invited to parties.

Be social. Being connected is a huge key, you need a support network outside your family.

Ditch the negative attitude, grumbling, and complaining.

Refuse to be overtaken by fear.

Embrace change. Would you really want everything to stay the same?

Be grateful.

Volunteer. The most energetic people I know are not just focused on themselves. 

Plan on living to be 100 and start now to adjust your life accordingly. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Honey Season: Start to Finish

It's jarred. It's labeled. It's amazing. I sold my first two jars yesterday to someone who ordered it in September.

"I used to have a honey guy but I think he died."

When I'm in a tree with a sharp saw and my smoker (also known as a can of fire), in the rain, wrestling a swarm of bees, or laid up with a nasty sting on my ankle which is so swollen it feels like it might burst, or wearing a suffocating bee suit when it's 105* I think it might kill me too.

Let's recap the season. Here's where we started in March...

They swarmed. Which created this scenario...

You really haven't lived until you've tried to get 20 thousand bees in a box.

You can see the queen cells in the photo below. This means these bees are planning on swarming.

Hive check.

After being left in the box overnight, you can see that they had already started building comb.
And below, peace in the most organized sorority in the world.

 So productive. Above capped honey. Below the frame they started with.

 Love this frame where you can see their handiwork.

 Capped honey.

I uncap it and it looks like this.

 Next it goes into the honey extractor, which works by centrifugal force.  

In the middle picture above you can see what the comb looks like once the honey is "slung" out. The now empty frames go out next to the hives and the bees will clean them to perfection. Then they can be stored over the winter so the bees don't have to rebuild the comb next year. They can go straight to honey production.

Another way to extract honey is just to scrape it right off the frame into the jar. That's how I'm doing it since this post. People have been loving the raw unfiltered honey with comb in it.