Thursday, July 26, 2012

Simply Delicious

For the past few months, I have decided that I am not going to eat meat.  I am not calling myself a vegetarian, as I still eat meat, but I have just chosen not to.  When I approached my husband about this, he being the meat and potatoes kind of guy was quite reluctant.  However he said as long as I made it taste good he was willing to eat that way. So as a result I have been doing a lot in trying to make this new eating plan work for both of us.
I went to Wegman’s to get some things the other day and ran across their Natural Selections section.  They have refrigerated section with all manner of soy products including a product called Smart Cutlets from Lightlife.  The cutlets are made to look like grilled chicken and they suggest sautéing it in a pan with some olive oil for about 2 minutes on high and then reducing the temperature, cooking it in the microwave, or grilling them.  I chose the skillet method but since my stove has only one setting, high, it was cooked on high for more than the two suggested minutes (whole new blog entry on that issue).  I basically browned them and then served them with some basic pesto.  They were absolutely delicious!  My husband raved about it all through dinner.  I served them with roasted asparagus with garlic and corn on the cob.  He was in heaven.
I usually don’t like a lot of processed foods, but this doesn’t have a whole lot of fake stuff in it.  It did resemble chicken and I think tasted more or less like chicken, but it was not as dry as a chicken cutlet can turn out to be. The product line for Lightlife has several flavors of these cutlets and you can go to the website to see them.  They also made vegetarian hot dogs and beef-like patties for BBQs along with a large amount of tempehs and texture proteins in a ground beef like product. If you are a long time vegetarian, I am sure you know all about these people.  Otherwise, give the cutlets a try and see if you like eating meatless for a meal or two.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Total Devastation

I went out in the garden today for the first time in a few days and came upon a horrible sight.  My zucchini, which was doing pretty well a few days ago, was lying crumbled in the garden. The culprit was an infestation of squash bugs.  The bugs are all over the spaghetti squash too but plant is a little larger and there is still a vine or so there.  Not for long though.  There are hundreds of those rotten bugs all over the place and short of setting fire to the whole thing I am at a loss as to what to do. 

This year has been a terrible year for me as a gardener.  I was so looking forward to a beautiful garden after putting in the raised beds, and spring was a great time with a wonderful harvest of lettuces and radishes, but as soon as the weather turned, my garden went downhill fast.  Being a fairly new gardener this is very disappointing to say the least.  I have had some things come up, but if I was planning to be self sufficient and totally grow my own food, I would be starving by now.  About the only thing that has gone okay so far is my herb garden but at this point I am not so sure.  

Well there is always next year.  I will rotate the crops next season and see if I can’t put some preventative measures in place to avoid this from happening again.  I did get some insecticidal soap and sprayed that around the plants, more as a way to stop anything further but I am not sure if that is going to work.  I will have to do some research to see if I can salvage the rest of the what I have.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Be Part of the Solution

Aurora, Colorado, before Friday was more known for its sports than a massive shooting that happened in a movie theater at a midnight showing.  I am still stunned about what happened.  I have been reading several articles about the incident and several blog posts, and one hit me just right in their blog post on Friday “Something’s Wrong Here”.  It really speaks to me and I totally agree. We have a big problem with guns in this country, and something is indeed very wrong. 
Now I don’t believe that guns need to be taken away from everyone, but something has to be done and gun owners have to understand that and be a little more understanding.  You talk to your average gun activist and they act like a 3 year old and act like you are trying to take away their toy.  Yes, I know guns don’t kill people, people kill people and all that but something has to be done to prevent massacres like what happened in Aurora. They have to calm down a little and work with us to get a solution on the table.  They have to stop whining that we are taking away their rights and look around them at what’s happening.  Don’t bury your head in the sand.  Stand up and be part of the solution. That’s all I am saying.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sweet Smell

During my lunch break today, I went to a local seed and feed store for a bale of straw.  In order for it to fit in the trunk of my Passatt, I had to fold down the rear seats.  My car smelled so good on the way home I was picturing grazing horses in a field.  The reason for the bale is that I am going to be using it in my vegetable garden as mulch.
There are advantages for using straw for mulch according to what I have read.  First of all the straw mulch theory is supposed to drought proof the garden.  With these really hot days, most of my plants are being stressed out from the heat.  That could be the reason my tomato plants are not producing.  They are fruiting but the fruits are not large and are not ripening.  Adding the straw as a protective blanket around them will keep the soil moist and conserve a little water, which is very important this being the worst drought since 1956.
The second reason is that not only is the soil kept moist, but it is kept cooler and I am preparing the soil for my fall planting which doesn’t like soil over 85 degrees.  I am going to attempt this year for the first time to plant peas, lettuce, broccoli, brussel sprouts, for the fall and they don’t like the warm weather as much as the other vegetables I have growing now.
as I understand it, you have to remember to mulch with straw rather than hay as hay contains grass seeds and they could germinate in your beds.  You also have to remember to not put the straw right up the base of the plant as it allows slugs and other pests an easy way to get to them.  At any rate, in the next few days I will be putting down the straw, which I really should have done a few weeks ago.  I hope that my garden improves and that the sweet smell of the straw will also correlate to the sweet smell of success.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


There was an article in the paper recently about a protest going on outside of the Graterford Prison near Schwenksville.  They protestors are opposed to the $400 million proposal to replace the current prison with two new facilities and 800 new beds.  I am not sure if that is 800 in each or a total of 800.
The current facility has 3121 beds and was built in 1929, so the reduction is pretty dramatic and doesn’t make sense to me.  It is the currently listed as the largest maximum security prison. In 1989, they did a construction project to the tune of an $80 million that added a new administration building, a 28-bed infirmary and 372 additional cells.  According to Wikipedia, “SCI-Graterford Industries provides work and economic activity within the prison, including a garment factory, undergarment factory, shoe factory, weave plant, hosiery factory, carton factory, and a mail distribution center. Prison factories and industries employ 21 civilian staff, 315 inmate staff, and in 2003-2004 generated revenues of $4,450,940.01. The prison also conducts farming operations and educational programs.” I don’t know if those programs are still going on.
 In the budget Governor Corbet signed into law, he cut basic education funding $900 million across the state.  Part of these cuts included grants that were put in place for full day kindergarten.  In addition his $27.1 billion plan he cut state universities another 20 percent to 30 percent (on top of last year’s 20 percent cuts).  These cuts also trimmed human services — programs that serve children, homeless and the mentally disabled — by 20 percent.  Since we are grasping at funding for all manner of things, is this investment in incarceration a wise one?  What would happen if he took that $400 million and invested it in education?  Is it extremely possible that we could keep people out of jail.  Or are the revenues from the prisons and the fact that “that element” are locked away the point of prisons in the first place?  Seems like the priorities of our governor of out of wack.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dangerous Medication

I love my cat.  I mean who wouldn’t love that fat little furry creature.  But recently he has been having this elimination problem where we find a deposit on our kitchen floor in the morning.  So it was off to the vet to see what the matter was.  I knew he had fleas and the flea medication I got for him (Adams the first month and Pet Armor the next) didn’t seem to be working.  I figured maybe the reason he was leaving us presents was that the he was itching so bad that he couldn’t handle it.  I love my cat, but I really hate going to the vet because it’s always a $200 bill!  I can’t afford to keep running there all the time.

So to the vet we go and found out that the over the counter stuff is really dangerous!  They told us that a kitty just died after using that stuff.  Apparently the active ingredient used in the solution is an old formula and fleas are immune so it doesn’t work anyway.  I don’t know the particulars about whether this owner used the medication wrong, but that’s what they said.  I did find one article that talked about these issues prompting putting warnings on the boxes, and it said that there have been 600 reported deaths.  It also said that most death cases the medication was a larger dose that the animal was supposed to get, so that could be the problem rather than the chemical itself.  I did find an alternative, an organic product from Organic Products called Flea Free which you add to their drinking water.  I ordered a bottle and will see how that works.  As you may know, I don't like chemicals.
So the end result is that we got a chemical product, Revolution, from the vet along with his rabies and distemper shots.  We also did a stool sample to rule out any parasites, and he was given a tape worm pill because with fleas animals always have tape worms.  This morning?  Yes, my baby left us a present.  I can’t put the medication on him until Sunday because it was only last week we put the Pet Amour on.  Maybe after the meds the presents will stop.  As I said, I love my cat, but I don’t love his gifts.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Learning Experience

I have been constantly looking at gardening blogs and videos, since I started my garden.  In this way I am getting an idea of what my garden should look like, and I am sad to say that it doesn’t look anywhere near those pictures I see.  I did get things to grow a bit, but my yield was very low.  I planted tomatoes but the plants are not very tall and bushy and there is very little fruit coming in.  I have gotten two small cucumbers and I am not sure if I am going to get any more.  The lettuce was good and I got a fair amount of radishes.  I planted carrots and they came up okay, but I didn’t plant enough.  The Bok Choy came up really well and now is going to seed.  I planted too much of that and had more than I needed.  I will do that again, but just not as much next time around.  My green peas and snow peas were a huge disappointment.  I don’t know what happened there but perhaps I didn’t water well enough.
Now that the lettuces are pretty much gone and useless (they are going to seed and I haven’t harvested in a while), it’s time to plant more.  I have to rework that bed and amend the soil putting in fresh compost and rock dust.  I am saving the most of the center bed for those and I am going to build a cold frame or put hoops up so I can harvest into the winter.  This is the first time I have ever done something like that and I am excited to give it a try.  We had such a good time eating fresh salads in the spring so it will be great to do the same during the winter months.  Now that the summer is nearing a close, I can start thinking about where I am going to grow the lettuce over the winter months.  Well actually you harvest over winter and grow in the fall.  From what I have read, the soil is still too hot to use.  Lettuce will not germinate if the soil is over 80 degrees, so I have to prepare the bed by shading it first.  So I guess my weekend chores are mapped out as I need to get the seeds in my late July I think.
This garden is a learning process.  I can’t expect everything to happen exactly as planned.  We had a terrible spring and some things didn’t work as they should have but one of the greatest parts is that nature is very forgiving and plants sometimes survive when the conditions are less than optimum conditions.  I will continue reading and trying to apply the knowledge I get and with any luck things will get better. 

Friday, July 6, 2012


I hope that everyone had a great celebration of our nation’s birthday the other day.  The following morning, going through the pictures on my friends’ Facebook pages, I was struck with a pleasant sense of patriotism.  There were pictures of parades, cookouts, fireworks, and happy faces.  In many pictures, either in the foreground or background was a flag with its red, white, and blue sparkling in the hot sun. 
I was fortunate to participate in the local parade with an organization I belong to.  Aside from being very hot, it was a lot of fun.  Everyone was smiling, laughing, and waving flags large and small.  I was riding in the back of a pickup truck taking care of giving out supplies whenever anyone of our group on the ground needed a refill.  We also had a cooler filled with ice water, which was pretty much empty by the end of the parade. The other person in the truck with me was in charge of making sure everyone got water that needed it. 
Later that day, my husband and our biking buddy rode on the trail.  We ran into a career army officer who was home on leave from Iraq and had decided to ride his wife’s bike for the day.  He and his son, who was due home in a week, had been in Iraq for a couple of years.  We all chatted and compared wars as my husband is a Vietnam vet.  I was curious to know if the festivities of the day meant more or less to this solider because of his service to our country, however, I didn’t get to ask the question.  I did feel a mixture of feelings from gratitude to sorrow for all of our armed men and women who fight in these wars and reflected on our nation’s history of embattlements for all of the freedoms we tend to take for granted.  At the end of it all was a joyous display of fireworks and a remembrance that we have a lot to be grateful for living in this country.   

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Just Say No

I don’t know why but sometimes people feel the need to tell you all the reasons they can’t do something.  I did some work for a political candidate a while back calling people who have helped a campaign in the past. Many people who I spoke to were unable to help out and that's fine.  However, several people had to justify why they couldn't help.  They launched into a whole long saga about why they couldn't volunteer telling me how busy they were, or how sick they were, or even in one case saying that they are preparing for a colonoscopy so it would be impossible for them to help out.  It seems as if they can’t just say no and get on with it.

Some of the reasons are really quite amusing.  The colonoscopy thing was so funny I had to get off the phone to prevent laughing at the person.  I was calling to gauge their interest for volunteering and then work on scheduling a future date, but I couldn’t even get that out because I was so stunned by what they said.  All one really needs to say is I could say was no thank you and good bye. 

I suppose some people actually feel guilty for letting you down.   Maybe deep down inside they really want to help but are overwhelmed with the idea of changing their daily routine and putting one more thing on their plate.  Maybe their diatribe is really rationalizing it for themselves more than anything else, because they inwardly feel guilty they can't help.  Perhaps that’s why they just can’t leave it at just saying no.  But saying things like I have to sell my car, or my heating system needs to be fixed is really quite silly and only makes the person on the other end roll their eyes and laugh.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


A few months back, I had to go to the doctor because I was not feeling well.  She percribed blood work and it was reported back to me that my cholesterol was high and of course she wanted to put me on pills because that is what she does.  I refused and decided to approach it the old fashioned way – though diet and exercise.  So for the last two months, I have been eating clean, riding my bike (even in scorching hot weather), and taking a fish oil capsule or two daily.  I had blood drawn a week ago and the office called me yesterday to give me the results.  My cholesterol was down 30 points! 
I really don’t like my doctor because she thinks, as most doctors do, that pills are the only way to fix things.  I suppose that finding the reason for what I came in for is too much of a problem and would be too costly to fix, so she will prescribe a pill for what ails me.  Granted sometimes pills are needed but overall, there are many things that can be fixed by making a change in your life.  I admit that I have been faithfully taking the blood pressure medication because having the symptoms I have been having is very uncomfortable and having my blood pressure totally uncontrolled is dangerous, but I would love to find out the reason why my blood pressure suddenly shot up.  I don’t believe that it is simply because I am getting older.  Yes, I need to lose weight, but I have had a problem with my weight since I hit puberty and my blood pressure has always been low.  But that’s another post.
I am really glad that the clean eating has paid off.  My goal is to get off of the blood pressure medication at some point soon and have it under control.  I am not going to be one of these older people who take 20 pills a day and solely subsidizing the pharmaceutical industry.  Maybe after the next 20 pounds comes off.  For now I am going to continue to eat clean, eat much less animal products, continue to peddle like crazy, and work to find a new doctor.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Community Involvement

We each have a responsibility to the next generation. ~ Deval Patrick
Community or civic involvement is very important to do and there are many benefits, both personal and for the community, that are realized by being active.  However, these days less and less people are getting involved.  Whether it is because they lack the time or the interest, people are less likely to “work for free” no matter what the cause.  It seems as if this is not just an American phenomenon, as I recently read a blog from a mom in Australia who said the same thing. She remarked that we are turning into a ‘what’s in it for me’ society.

The company that I work for offers a volunteer day off as a way to foster community involvement in its workers.  I don’t take advantage as for the last 20 years I have volunteered and are currently active in several groups.  I guess being involved like that I wonder why others are not.  It offers a great sense of self satisfaction and the skills learned from working with others can help in my daily job.  Plus there is the networking aspect of it where you get to meet a lot of people that you might not have gotten to meet otherwise.

But the most disturbing thing about what is happening is that our future generations will likely suffer as a result.  Non-profit organizations that serve the needy, the hungry, the disabled, and so many other deserving individuals will surely suffer as a result.  They don’t have the money to pay for staff and the money they do raise has to go directly into the programs they are running.  We need to find a way to incentivize the aspect of community involvement without offering monetary or tangible gains.  Until people realize that doing good for others does yourself a lot of good especially with feeling good mentally, less and less people will be willing to do something for nothing.