Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Importance of Journaling

Lately I've been trying to remember when I finally became a life-long vegetarian.  I remember it began with a case of severe food poisoning which let me to researching our whole American food system, and ultimately ended with me examining some of my values.  But I couldn't remember when I started the journey.  So, I turned to my box of filled journals.  After some digging, I located the journal where I talked about getting food poisoning, so I was able to narrow it down to the fall of 2002, almost eight years ago.  I was surprised that I didn't make any more reference to it as it was a huge event in my life.  I suppose the fact that we had our house for sale (by owner, I might add) and were preparing to move to Virginia, while at the same time I was working part time and homeschooling both our children.  

Having pulled out all my journals, I started browsing.  I started "journaling" in 1997 and haven't really taken a break from it since.  Much of my life is contained in those books and I found myself going down the rabbit hole, reading large passages of writing.  There were things I had completely forgotten or my memory had slightly changed the details.  Plus, I saw recurring themes in my life, such as my desire to live more lightly on the earth and to move away from the consumerist culture.  I realized what a treasure I have in my journals.  

I encourage anyone who doesn't journal to consider keeping one.  Some people are intimidated by journaling and don't know what to do when faced with a blank page.  Just write - anything.  Most of my journals contain lists - lists of things I needed to do, lists of books I wanted to read, even lists of annoyances in my life at the time.  Once you get your juices flowing and feel comfortable with the process, you might find yourself like me, feeling something missing if you don't journal.  Of course, if there's a possibility of your journal being compromised by prying eyes, find a safe place to store it.  

I'm so glad that I have these almost 14 years of my life recorded, ever how imperfectly.  

Monday, August 30, 2010


I recently read a blog post that used the expression "editing" to describe decluttering or purging.  This use of the word really resonated with me on several levels.  First, having been, at various points in my life, especially as a legal assistant and a student, I've spent a lot of time editing documents.  Editing is not purging or throwing everything away, it's a process of perfecting.    Another reason I like this word is because it's a positive word.  To edit something is a good thing, whereas decluttering or purging sounds like you have a serious problem.

Now I'm starting to look at making the best of what I have as an editing process.  And it's something that's on-going, not a one time chore.  To edit your home or office or closet or any area of your life is to examine it, find what's working or isn't working, and make it better.  Editing doesn't have to apply to things you've already acquired or possess.  You can edit your shopping habits or eating habits.  It makes you more thoughtful about your purchases and may prevent you from bringing something into your home or office that you don't really need (and will actually have to purge at a later point).  Editing what you eat means mindful eating, paying attention to the types of foods you buy and put into your body.  By editing your life, you can save yourself from mental and physical problems.  An edited environment means less stress and fewer illnesses.  What's not to like about that.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them."

~Henry David Thoreau

Friday, August 27, 2010

Can You Say Gluttony?

Continuing in the same vein as yesterday's post, I'd like to share the following link that my daughter discovered:  9 Restaurants That Will Kill You.  These restaurants serve everything from a nine pound burger to fried twinkies.  And we wonder why we have a health care crisis.

Photo of the Quadruple Bypass Burger served at The Heart Attack Grill in Arizona.  Source:  http://www.funnyordie.com/lists/4f6fc2461f/9-restaurants-that-will-kill-you

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Obesity and Health-Related Problems in the U.S.

A few weeks ago, while reading the latest issue of Well Being Journal,  I ran across a startling fact.  45% of Americans suffer from one or more of the following:  high blood pressure; high cholesterol; and/or diabetes.  If these individuals were afflicted with H1N1or any other communicable disease, we would stand up and take notice.  Instead, this quiet epidemic is being covered up by experts who push prescription drugs.  In addition,  over half of us are either overweight or obese.  The numbers for overweight and obese children are frightening, as well.  Something is wrong with how we're caring for our bodies and it seems nothing is being done as these statistics are increasing.

Today I sat down and recorded some observations as to why people in the U.S. are experiencing these serious food-related problems.  Most of it seems to stem from mindless eating and convenience.  Here's what came to mind:
  1. Eating and watching television
  2. Eating and driving
  3. Supersized portions
  4. Using a microwave to prepare food
  5. Artificial sweeteners which actually make us hungry
  6. High fructose corn syrup in everything
  7. Habitual snacking
  8. Fear of wasting food
  9. Stress
  10. Dehydration due to lack of adequate water intake
  11. Temporarily dieting rather than a adopting healthful, permanent lifestyle changes
  12. Television and print advertisements for snack, convenience, and fast foods
We need to slow down, savor real food, and eliminate the negative influences in our lives.  Easy to say, sometimes difficult to do, but we need to put ourselves in control of our health.  No one else is going to do that for us and what we're currently doing is literally killing us.  Even worse, as the richest country in the world, we should be the healthiest.  Instead, we often have problems that are comparable to a third world nation.  We must become accountable for our own well being.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Not Buying It

When I was out of town last week, I feared that I was going to run out of reading material, especially for the flight home.  (Any reader will understand this fear.)  So while I was picking up a few items at the grocery store, my eyes fell on the latest issue of Prevention magazine.  Between Valerie Bertinelli being on the cover and the promises of greater health and fitness in the headlines, I decided to pick it up.  Growing up, my mother subscribed to Prevention and I owe a lot of my healthful ways to the things she learned in this magazine.  However, in a recent conversation, my mother said she didn't buy the magazine as it was just "junk."  I wasn't sure what she meant by that comment.

As I left Tampa and settled into my seat on the plane, I pulled out my copy of Prevention and started reading.  It had some good articles and I did learn some new things.  But what startled me was the sheer number of advertisements for pharmaceuticals.  I counted nine; not just nine small ads, but nine multi-page ads, some will pullout mail-in postcards.  One advertisement covered six - yes, six - pages.  I was stunned.  It seems that the drug companies are supporting this magazine.  As someone interested in and studying health and wellness, I just felt it to be wrong that a magazine emphasizing a healthier life-style and called "Prevention" would be supported by those companies.  To me it seems to be a conflict of interest.  How can you simultaneously promote preventative medicine and at the same time, sell pharmaceuticals that don't take prevention into consideration.  The drugs are promoted as the magic cure - that life choices aren't important.   Seeing that obvious conflict, I've decided I won't be buying that magazine again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Boudoir

The word "boudoir" recently jumped out at me and I became curious as to its true meaning.  Wikipedia defines it as:  "part of the private suite of rooms of a lady, for bathing and dressing, adjacent to her bedchamber, being the female equivalent of the male cabinet. In later periods, the boudoir was used as a private drawing room, and was used for other activities, such as embroidery or entertaining intimate acquaintances."

In my latest project of turning our "bonus" room into my own private retreat, I struggled with what to call it.  "Study" seemed too masculine and "my room" sounded like I was having marital problems.  But "boudoir" is a perfect fit as it is my own private drawing room, a place to retreat to when life gets hectic or I just need some alone time.  

Stay tuned as I will be revealing photos of the redo of my boudoir.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Quote for the Day

"The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been."

~Madeleine L'Engle

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Catching Up

Lately I've gotten very behind in my virtual life.  With all the travel and projects, I've had to neglect that area of my life.  While I've kept up on my emails and my blog, I've virtually abandoned facebook and have far too many blogs to catch up on.  I've decided that I'm going to make a better effort to not just read, but comment on more blogs as I know how much effort goes into writing one and how nice it is to get feedback.  With facebook, I'm not so sure.  I have mixed feelings about that social networking tool.  I think it has both good and bad aspects to it and I'm not sure if the positive outweighs the negative. 

While out of town, I have become extremely aware of how much time I can potentially spend on the internet.  Since I don't have an iphone (or similar), I'm at the mercy of WiFi when out of town.  At one point, we were able to piggy back off unsecured wireless internet at our condo.  However, it seems everyone had the nerve to secure their service so it's no longer accessible to me.  So, my choices are to take my laptop to a business with free WiFi, such as Starbucks or Borders, where I end up spending more money than I planned, or to use the public library's computers.  This last visit I opted for the library, where patrons are limited to a one hour time limit.  With this time limit, I found I had to prioritize my internet browsing.  It was quite an eye opener as the seemed to pass very quickly.

I'm starting back to classes on Monday - can that be possible? - so I'm going to try to continue using my internet time wisely.  Both email and my favorite blogs will be on the top of my prioritized list.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Out of Town Message

"The sun's so hot I forgot to go home."

~James Taylor (Mexico)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Homemaker Confession

I've been a homemaker for over 20 years.  Some of my daily and weekly tasks I enjoy, others I feel lukewarm about.  The one chore I have decided I really despise is cleaning the bathrooms, especially around the toilet.  There is just no way to clean around the toilet without getting your head down right next to it, that is to thoroughly clean it.  Ew, gross!  So often, I put it off, which only makes matters worse.

Years ago, while in Paris, I noticed some of the public bathrooms, called sanisettes,  were actually self-cleaning.  

After one uses the facilities and the unit is vacated, it cleans itself.  When I visited, there was a fee for the sanisettes; now they're free.  I never did get around to actually using one, so I'm not sure exactly how clean they are, but what a great idea.  I wish I could have one at home.

Photo source:  www.wsj.com

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fall Is Upon Us

Signs of fall are all around.  Some of the trees on our farm - the poplars - are starting to turn.  Yesterday, my hubby and I drove our son back to college.  He was fortunate to get a job working for the university, so he had to be there a week early for training.  In two weeks, we'll be helping our daughter move back to her school.  My classes will be starting soon, as well.  The days are clearly getting shorter, we've had a few days of cooler weather and our chickens have started laying more eggs.  (The poor girls really don't like laying eggs in 90+ degree weather!)  

Many people look forward to fall, both enjoying the changing leaves and the respite from the heat.  I'm not one of those people.  I love the summer and the heat and I see fall as moving me one step closer to the dreaded winter.  I'm very sensitive to both the cold and the lack of sunlight.  When I lived in Florida, I was one of those people who never took the (mostly) great weather and greenery for granted. 

Recently, I told my husband I probably came to enjoy the heat due to my family's vacation habits when I was growing up.  My father loved to camp and we spent many weekends and weeks during the summer camping in the Mojave Desert.  Of course, we didn't have air conditioning in our RV, so we just acclimated to the extreme heat. In addition, having grown up in the Los Angeles area, I never was exposed to traditional winter weather.  The few times we visited colder climates and experienced snow and ice, I was miserable.  

 I think when you have this kind of history, the heat doesn't bother you.  For me, like the Greek myth,  winter is the time when Persephone goes to the underworld and I just wait for her return.

Photo credit:  www.wikipedia.org

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Do something wonderful, people may imitate it."
~Albert Schweitzer

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Harvesting on the Farm

We're in the midst of an over-abundance of food on the farm.  Although it sometimes becomes overwhelming, it's been good for two reasons:  1) healthier bodies because we are eating mainly fresh vegetables (how can we eat anything else with such a windfall?) and 2) I've been cooking a lot more and even branching out and trying new (and sometimes exotic) recipes.  
Yesterday I roasted a dish of diced eggplants, onions, red peppers, and cherry tomatoes then topped it with an egg fried sunny side up in olive oil.  Turned out very delicious.  For lunch today I had homemade gazpacho and a watermelon, feta, olive salad.  The salad was new to me and I wasn't sure how it would turn out.  I really don't care for watermelon as it's too sweet for me; I'm more of a savory person.  I commented to my hubby that I also feel that watermelon is the most unladylike food ever created, what with all the juice and seeds.  Since hubby planted a number of watermelon plants, I decided to find a way to incorporate it into my diet.
My enthusiasm for new recipes is due to my tiring of the same old recipes,  So I decided to challenge myself by locating and preparing new recipes.  For the most part, the experiment has been successful and I've found some new favorites that I'll make again next year.  What seemed to be a problem last summer (I got SO tired of eating the same things over and over again!), has been a blessing this year.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Animals in Our Lives

My blogger friend Deanna recently lost both her dog and her cat.  Having lost many pets and farm animals over the past year, I understand her pain.  On her blog, in the comments section, she remarked how such small creatures can leave large holes in your life.  I've often marveled at that same thought, since pets occupy so little space and yet have a huge presence.

This past year has been very painful for me.  It started with several bad snow storms.  The bad weather was hard on our farm animals.  We raise goats and a number of our ladies were pregnant over the winter.  Of the sixteen kids they carried, only eight made it.  Most were still born; one only lived a day.  Then one of our female goats, Marla, who had given birth to stillborn triplets, took a turn for the worst.  I called out the vet but it was too late.  Around the same time, I became attached to another of our goats, Layla,  because I had nursed her through an upper respiratory infection.  In the spring, my hubby found Layla down in the pasture.  Her face was swollen and we later realized she must have been bitten by a snake.  Again, despite all our efforts, we lost Layla and her unborn kids as well.  

To add insult to injury, we also lost several of our chickens to a coyote that the neighbors called Stubby due to his stub tail.  One afternoon, I stumbled upon one of his attacks which left one of the chickens barely alive - and she didn't make it.  Stubby also took our roosters, one of whom, Tonto, was one of our original roosters.  We suspect that our handicapped chicken, Honey, disappeared into the jaws of this same coyote.  

In the meantime, we lost Jack, our easy-going basset hound/beagle mix, to what was probably cancer.  Most recently, my sweet barn cat Zelda had a severe case of ringworm that was just a symptom of an underlying condition that ultimately took her.  

Anyone who knows me understands why I include the farm animals, not just the pets.  Not only do I think of animals as people, I come to know them as individuals, even the chickens.  They have their own unique personalities that I've learned to appreciate.  Each of the named animals had qualities that made them special.  Although pets and some farm animals are physically small, they have big personalities.  They provide many hours of entertainment, companionship, and, yes, love.  Losing them really does leave a huge void.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is It Just Me?

I'm really starting to detest "crackberries."  Call me old-fashioned, but when I'm in the company of someone else, I expect their attention.  It's annoying to me to be having a meal in a restaurant with someone and have them pull out their phone to check email.  Even brief phone calls I can understand.  But email isn't urgent.  I think someone checking email in a social setting is the equivalent of a man spotting an attractive woman while on a date.  The other woman may only attract his attention for a brief moment, but his date knows it and the damage is done.  

Years ago I felt the same way about call waiting.  I had a friend who was one of the first people I knew to get that option - and it came without caller ID so you wouldn't know who was calling.  So, if I was on the phone with her and another call came in, she would put me on hold to get it.  And then she would usually tell me she had to go and that she would call me back.  She would never ignore the beep.  Another comparable situation is being waited on in a store.  The phone rings, then the sales clerk answers it and proceeds to wait on the person on the phone.  In all these scenarios, the message is you are the least important person in the triangle. 

Often, when someone pulls out their phone to check emails, I think how rude it would be for me to pull out my ipod or (if I had one) my eReader, or even just a book.  Really, how often is email urgent?

Parents often complain about children playing handheld games or teenagers texting while in family settings.  But how is this any different than checking (and sometimes responding to) email?  Again, the person using the electronic devise is putting it over the relationship at hand.

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's yet another sign that we're losing our civility.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Condo Kitchen Reveal

Finally!  I've returned from Tampa and ended the six week odyssey that was the restoring of my condo kitchen after an unfortunate plumbing incident.  Regular readers of this blog may recall how the condo looked after the recovery company came in to clean up the damage:

The result of the catastrophe was that all the kitchen cabinets and countertops had to be replaced.  In addition, I had to have a new sink and faucet installed as it made no sense to put 20 year old fixtures in a brand new countertop.  In addition, a previous owner had replaced the vinyl flooring with white and grey marble tiling that had seen better days by the time we purchased the unit.  Again, putting in new countertops and cabinets with the old tile would be akin to putting lipstick on a pig so I made the decision to redo the flooring when the old cabinets were removed.  Other items were also affected:  moldy drywall and baseboards had to be removed and replaced; some of the carpet padding was damaged and discarded, so that had to be replaced and the carpet restretched and cleaned; a plumber had to install the sink and reconnect the dishwasher.  Coordinating the recovery effort and the assorted deliveries and trades was a bit involved, especially since I had to do much of the planning long distance. 

Our condo isn't very large, so when the kitchen cabinets were delivered, we lost half of the main living space:

Last week I was in town for the final clean up and install.  I think it was well worth all the work and the wait.  What do you think?

Now, all I have to do is paint...the entire condo....

Monday, August 9, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Peace is always beautiful."

~Walt Whitman

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wrapping Up

My condo kitchen is finally coming together.  The cabinets and countertops were installed on Monday and I have the contractor finishing up some of the details today.  Since I'm out of town (and not at all technologically savvy), I can't post pictures just yet.  

In the meantime, I'm enjoying being back home, visiting old friends and old haunts.  Instead of dwelling on the negative in the situation, I've looked at it in a positive light.  The kitchen is now brand new and I've got some extra time with friends.  Life is good.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

R.I.P. Zelda

We lost our beautiful cat Zelda last night.  She put up a brave fight but yesterday evening I realized her condition involved more than just a fungal infection.  Not only had she lost a lot of weight, but my son noticed only one of her eyes was dilated.

Zelda was a sweet, shy, and most unusual cat.  In her younger years, she was part of what our family called "the Homeward Bound crew."  Homeward Bound was a movie my children watched growing up.  It featured two dogs and a cat who set out on an across-country adventure.  When our family would go for walks on our farm, we would often be joined by our two dogs and Zelda.  She would walk long distances, sometimes to the point she would start panting and I would have to carry her.  Zelda loved a good walk.  She would also join me when I walked to let out our chickens in the morning or when I had to check on the goats in our back pasture.  In addition, Zelda loved her best friend Ginny, the black lab pictured with her.  Ginny tolerated Zelda but Zelda really loved the dog and would sometimes be found sleeping on top of her.

We're going to miss you Zelda.