Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I used to think squirrels were cute.  However, these ears of corn that are pictured, are the only ears of corn that I got this summer.  Why?  I had planted several rows of corn back in cold March and some more in April - which the malicious little rats with bushy tails quickly attacked and dug up.  The plants got nice and tall but one by one they disappeared at the hands of those nasty creatures in my yard. For a while, the corn bed had a fence around it, but part of the fence was a cast off metal one and my husband noted that the squirrels could sit on the top and munch as the ears were at that level.  So we took the fence down.  Bad mistake. The next day - after I picked these four - the rest of the bed was destroyed.

Most of my gardening life is centered around trying to fend of various animals who are intent on devouring my food.  I throw out scraps plenty of times but I suppose they are not enamored of those even though the food quickly disappears.  No, if they can get into my garden, they love to nibble most anything that I have planted.  I did resort to shrouding my fruiting bushes with netting to protect the berries from the birds, and my vegetable garden is surrounded by construction fencing that is stapled to wooden stakes around the beds so that the groundhogs won't get in under the fence. But this year's corn was kind of open until we put the makeshift fencing up. Next year we plan to cover it completely in either netting or a thin row cover.

The squirrels are the bane of my gardening life.  They also dig in the flower gardens, as well as flower pots.  I have a large planter of day lilies and after I had added some bulbs in it, huge chunks of dirt, along with the new bulbs were missing shortly thereafter.  Of course they get at my bird feeders and almost completely destroyed one that was made of wood.  They dug up my tulip bulbs despite my little piles of small logs on top of the newly planted items.  Short of getting a gun I am kind of at my wit's end. I may just end up posting recipes for squirrel at some point.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mindful Eating

Yesterday I had an engaging conversation on Facebook about a product that contained mostly chemicals. My husband had brought the container home because a coworker drinks it and he wanted me to check out the label.  The third ingredient in this powder is propylene glycol.  I looked that up online and found that  which is used as an antifreeze and to absorb water, which I posted online asking the question "Why would anyone in their right mind want to ingest this?"  My Facebook friends and I went back and forth about what people should be eating.

As you know for the last year or so I have been advocating, and trying, to maintain a whole foods diet.  Occasionally I do "fall off the wagon" and eat something that is off the track for that, but generally I am pretty good about processed stuff.  When you think about it, most of what we eat is processed, i.e. cooking, or prepared, even meat is processed to a point as we don't just sink our teeth into the side of a cow or something.  But I am pretty good about staying away from foods that have chemicals in them because I try to read the labels for the foods I buy.

Some of these chemicals that are in the foods on the shelves at the grocery store are really scary when you read about them. Sure they don't generally put a whole lot of the stuff in, but even a small amount can change your internal balance.  The human body is an incredible system with a delicate balance that should be maintained by giving it the fuel it needs.  While I sometimes I would love to just take a pill that supplies all my nutritional needs, purely as a matter of saving time used in food preparation, the body needs to have its fuel delivered the way it was designed.  And while I am not where near the image of ideal health I think I am moving toward that direction rather than away.  The standard American diet is killing us IMHO and it is time to get back to basics.  This means voting with our pocketbook and not buying crap to eat.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Historic Day

I wept with joy as I read the many tweets and Facebook posts about what D. Bruce Hanes did yesterday in Montgomery County, PA.  But the one that really got me going was the interview on the Rachel Maddow Show that a friend posted there.  Mr. Hanes granted marriage licenses for five same-sex marriage in despite of Pennsylvania's ban on Gay Marriage. My tears were not only for the historic event this was, but for the freedom that the county I live in is allowing everyone who lives here.

Same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue plain and simple.  It is right for a couple in a committed relationship to be able to have that relationship recognized by the law like anyone else's.  The right to allow survivor benefits, the right to provide medical decisions for each other, the right to raise a family, among others. It is just unthinkable to me that those couples would not be allowed those rights simply because they are the same sex.

I know this incidence is not going to be a one day story.  As I write this one of my good friends is planning his own wedding.  He and his partner have been together for 28 years and they did have a religious commitment ceremony several years ago.  He told me that when they stand before their minister and recite their vows on the steps of the county courthouse that it is an act of civil disobedience more than anything else. But I think it is so much more and I will weep tears of joy again as I witness their legal union.

Monday, July 22, 2013

No Mow Lawn

Today a friend of mine came into the office and I suddenly noticed that he was looking all tan and summer-like.  I had not seen him in a while so I asked him if he got the tan on a vacation or in his backyard mowing.  He sighed and said the later, to which he added that he hated doing the mowing.  He made some jokes about being an elected official and therefore should be easy to find someone to do the lawn for him to which we all laughed.  I then brought him over to my computer and proceeded to show him site after site about the lawn reform movement.

There are many people who have decided that turf is not all that desirable any longer.  There is too much work for very little benefit, and I totally agree.  I personally don't mow the lawn because a) I don't have the time, and b) am allergic to grass.  But my husband does this job and even though he complains bitterly about it I think we secretly enjoys doing it.  He not only mows our lawn, but helps out our elderly neighbors and others who just don't do it right in his opinion.  I have been trying to convince him to make the big change, but he is reluctant to do so.  So I have been slowly adding things to the backyard which reduces the amount of grass we have.

I think the whole concept of a golf-green lawn is so totally overrated.  For one thing in order to get all that green grass, one has to put chemicals on it which greatly affects the ecosystem and could possibly be making the environment poisonous. But there are far more pleasurable ways to spend the afternoon IMHO, and one way would be to plant plants which will create a more beautiful yard than all that grass.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


From the what have they done to our food section, the article I read this morning puts a lot of questions in my mind about the safety of our food.  Christina Pirello presents things about the wonderful summer corn that we all enjoy this time of year, and what GMOs have done is truly disconcerting.  I am not sure I want to engage in this game of Russian Roulette on my health.  I am taking the time to buy organic corn, when I can find it, and growing my own.

I have never grown corn before and this is really more of an experiment than anything else, but I can see little ears starting on my stalks.  The corn is sequestered in this new little raised bed surrounded by fencing so the squirrels don't get to it.  This picture is weeks old and the corn is now much taller than the fence.  My husband remarked when he got home from work the other day that the corn fields he saw were as tall as mine is, so we are on track.

I am excited to be able to pick my own corn that was grown under conditions I know about except whether the seed was actually organic because I bought these before I knew about the dangers of GMO seeds.  But next cycle when I plant more, not having had some experience, I will make sure to plant organic corn rather than treated corn.  Again, as I have said before, we need to speak with our wallets to make sure we are getting food that is helping us to survive and not making us sick.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Whole Foods

When I was at my last employer, they provided an online course for their employees on the Mediterranean Diet Plan with Dr. Will Clower. If you don't know the program it is a way to lose weight and get healthier by eating better food, also known as the French Don't Diet Plan.  I blogged about this previously. I came across another nutritionist recently named Patrick Quillin, when my mother gave me the book Wisdom of Whole Foods.  I read this over the weekend and fell in love with the premise.

Many of you may know that for a while I have been touting the benefits of eating real foods; those that don't have preservatives in them or at the very least without high fructose corn syrup.  This book really goes into the reasons why those things are so bad for you and also talks about the benefits of certain foods including things to eat to prevent cancer.  For example, I had no idea that pineapple and mushrooms reduce inflammation.  This book is quite detailed on those benefits.

I urge you to read it, or at least review the website.  There is so much in the foods that nature has provided us, rather than ingesting so many chemicals.  Why wouldn't you try something that could extend your life longer and live healthy?  I am so convinced that we are killing ourselves as a nation by all the crap in our food system.  We can vote with our pocketbooks by not buying it and sooner or later the manufacturers of food will realize we no longer want their products. We have the capability to reduce illness in ourselves and I think we owe it to ourselves to try.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bale Gardening

I cam across an article about bale gardening the other day. It is a method where you condition a bale of straw and then plant in it.  The picture in the article showed a bale strapped to a city apartment railing with all kinds of vegetables growing out of it.  It is an ingenious way to contain plants on a balcony and grow your own food in the city.  I don't have an apartment, but it would be cool to try this method in my garden for some of the things that I want to grow.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Green Smoothie

A couple of weeks ago, my mother bought me a Vitamix blender.  It is a very high powered blender that can do much more than a regular blender.  I had seen them demonstrated at Wegman's when I went and they were doing all kinds of things with it.  The thing is pretty costly, and I was not going to buy one for myself, so when my mom called and asked me if I wanted one, I accepted.

This morning I made myself a green smoothie made from a frozen banana, two large kale leaves from the garden, some almond milk (also made in the Vitamix), a teaspoon of flax seed, and a half a mango.   It was delicious and I understand very nutritious.  My only complaint is that the bottom does not come off unless you have the special tool and that makes it a little hard to clean unless you make something that is mostly liquid.  My regular blender does that and it is very convenient for cleaning.

I have not done many of the things that the rather lengthy instruction manual suggested and I may not ever use it totally to its potential.  For example, you can even grind grains, which I may try if I ever grow wheat. But it sure grinds up a frozen banana quite efficiently.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hurt Finger PIzza

Several of you know that last week, while trying to make pizza from scratch, I cut my finger badly on the blade of my mandolin slicer. I decided that I wanted to make pizza again and this time I was unwilling to wait for it to rise.  Besides I have been trying to find fool proof recipe for flat bread pizza so I thought this would be a good opportunity to experiment.  I looked through various cookbooks to find a flat bread without yeast and found one that just had flour, salt, and water.  Since my finger is still in the bandage, not to mention sensitive to touching things, I was somewhat unable knead the dough.  What to do?  Ah, the Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook to the rescue!  The resulting dough was very sticky but it seemed to work out pretty well.

I cooked the toppings for the pizza because I didn't want too much moisture from the tomatoes on the crust.  Besides, I have read that cooking tomatoes reduced the natural acids in them and helps with digestion.  I also don't like raw-ish veggies on pizza.  I sliced up one plum tomato and one regular tomato because that's what I had, one yellow onion, diced one large clove of garlic, and segmented one slice of roasted red pepper and cooked them in a little oil until the onion was translucent and then spooned it out onto the crust. I added some fresh basil leaves and slices of fresh mozzarella to the top.  You can use anything you want for the toppings.  I usually use what I have left over in the fridge.

Anyway, here is the recipe for the crust:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees.

Put all the ingredients into the mixer and fit it with the dough hook.  Mix until the dough is coming away from the bowl.  You may need to add a little more flour.

Coat a pizza stone with olive oil and also two rubber scrapers.  Turn the dough out from the bowl onto the stone and spread it to a thin circle leaving at least 1/2 inch of a boarder on the stone.  You may need to put more oil on the scrapers as the dough is very sticky.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the flat bread is somewhat brown on the edges.  Remove the stone with the dough and add your pizza toppings and put back in until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.  Let cool after removing for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cell Phone

I recently upgraded my phone plan and acquired a Samsung Galaxy Stratosphere cell phone.  I thought long and hard about an iPhone, but that would have been $100 more and I think my data plan would have changed.  I wanted a physical keyboard and the Samsung was free with my upgrade and was one of the few models that has a slide out keyboard. I have had the phone for a few weeks now and really like it.  Typing on it is much easier for me than it was on the Motorola Droid X that I had previously so I haven't used the slide out keyboard that much at all.  The phone is 4G and is quick and responsive for the most part.  In addition, since my tablet is a Samsung, the interface is pretty much identical so the learning curve is very slight.

There are several things I like better on this phone than the Droid.  As I mentioned before, typing on the screen is easier but typing on the slide out keyboard is not.  The layout is slightly different than the Droid and my fingers have not gotten used to that yet, but since the typing - especially with the Swpe interface - is so easy, I don't have to use it.  I have noticed that the camera on this phone is better than the Droid and I can zoom before taking the picture by pinching the screen until I get the ratio I want.  I also like the screen resolution; it is bright and very easy to see.  The phone is slightly larger than the Droid, especially with the protective case, so I am still getting used to the size difference and how it fits in my pocket.

Most of my apps downloaded "automagically" when I set up the phone, which I also noticed on the Droid after I had gotten a replacement phone; but not all of them.  I am not sure why, but that is kind of a pain as I go looking for the app and then have to download it again, and in some cases find it on Google Play and then download. In one case, when I went into Google Play it gave me the option to uninstall or update which meant it was on the phone already and then I had to go looking for it.  I think the phone has a search option for apps but I haven't found it yet.  The home screen set up is really nicely and allows for three different "pages" for your most frequently used apps but I think I noticed that when I download a new app it creates an icon for that new app on one of those pages so now the pages are somewhat disorganized.  I don't really use them as they are intended, so it is not really a big deal. It kind of annoyed me that there were some apps that Samsung included icons for that I really don't want like Amex Store and some games.  They are not the apps, they are shortcuts to download the apps, or demo versions of the app, and they take up screen real estate.  When you go to remove them, the phone gives you a scary message that deleting them will somehow cause your phone to have issues.

Today, however, the phone got jammed and rebooted itself.  I did notice that I had gotten a notification that an upgrade was due so maybe there was some small memory thing that was going on as to why it did that. When the Droid was getting older, the phone would freeze up often so I am hoping there is nothing wrong so early on.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Teach a Man to Fish

There was another cleanup this weekend.  This one was on a block that is well known for problems both because it looks so bad, has several vacant properties, and has a lot of crime.  I arrived a little late because I wasn't really sure which intersection everyone was meeting at, and I parked further away than I wanted.  There was a slightly smaller crowd this time and I only saw four people who were at the last one.

During the time I was there, I took a small break for a cup of water and to get out of the blistering heat for a bit.  I sat down next to a man who was sitting under the canopy drinking water and talking to some of the people there.  I introduced myself and he said that he lived on that block and had come over looking for work but when he found there was no pay he was uninterested.  I was floored.  This was his block, I explained.  What happened to the "pay" of doing a good job for the community?  He just looked at me probably thinking I was daft.  Later that morning, another man came over and asked if there were jobs available and when I said no and asked if he was a resident of the block he said he was not interested.

I was hoping that part of the project was to get the neighbors to help themselves after the first initial push.  I know the young man who is heading up this project and he has gotten some volunteers to sign up from the neighborhoods where he is working, but I don't understand the whole mentality of keeping you own block clean. Isn't that what a neighborhood is all about?