Summer Solstice 2020

June 21, 2020

Week 14 of COVID-19 self-quarantine

Greetings of peace and renewal on Summer Solstice 2020. And what a year it’s been so far!

Six months of constant changes and challenges. Most of us are learning how to adjust to life in the pandemic era. And, it’s not over yet folks, so stay cautious.

‘Summer solstice occurs on the longest day of the year, usually on June 21. Although, the sun’s position remains in pretty much the same place for a few days either side. For Neolithic people, sunlight would have been crucial – for warmth for them and their animals and for helping their crops to grow!’

Last night, I watched a live video of the sun setting over Stonehenge. There’s also a live video of the sun rise. Both videos are posted on the English Heritage Facebook page.

I toasted to the sun with a glass of wine and a few tears as I tried to wrap my head around the immense history of the human race represented here. Sometimes I wonder what will become of us. We take three steps forward and two steps back. We destroy the natural world which was created to sustain us. Let’s do better!

 

June is the month of five birthdays in my family. I celebrated mine at my dog-sitting job. There was a pool and a lovely view—along with sweet, cuddly dogs. I call my overnights ‘sleeping with the dogs.’

 

So here’s to however many more weeks it takes for us to figure out how to ‘lower the curve’ of COVID-19 infections. We miss seeing the grandkids!


Aging: forgetting to remember

December 10, 2019

I’ve noticed the older I get, the more I have forgotten. I also think I misremember a good deal. Merriam Webster defines misremembering as “to remember incorrectly.” I think you’ll agree this seems a ubiquitous trait for any of us who have the opportunity to live into ‘old age.’

Last week, my brother, sister and I went on a road trip to attend the funeral service of our last aunt, our mother’s only sibling. It closed the door on that entire generation of our family from both sides. People we loved and grew up with. None of us cousins from either side are particularly close. And, some of us have already reached, or are nearing, whatever our expiration dates are.

The many conversations we had unearthed precious memories of our childhood into adulthood when our grandparents and parents were still with us. We commiserated the loss of them and held dear the love and the amazing upbringing they gave us. Each of us had different perspectives, but common memory roots.

As I age, I am apprehensive of loosing all the parts of me. It’s important to be able to share with friends and/or families those significant memories which shaped us and now hold us together.

Now, if I can just remember why I came in the kitchen.


Sacred Space

July 28, 2019

meditation, stones, pond,prayerHey y’all, it’s Sunday and time for a little reflection regarding sacred space.

A sacred place is, first of all, a defined place, a space distinguished from other spaces… A sacred place focuses attention on the forms, objects, and actions in it and reveals them as bearers of religious meaning. Encyclopedia.com

Sacred space is any space or area that has been dedicated to a sacred (holy) purpose. An emphasis on sacred space is found in all of the world’s religions and traditions and they all have places set aside as holy, that they use for worship, prayer, and important rituals. The School of Magical Living

Many of the definitions I found on the internet tie sacred space to a specific religious meaning or place. But I like to think it’s simpler than that. A physical sacred place may allow you to reach the ethereal sacred inside yourself.  It’s not necessary to be associated with any religious ritual. It’s just spiritual in and of itself.

When I think of sacred space, I think of experiencing moments where the world seems to stand still and the cosmos aligns itself in perfect harmony.  These experiences might last for a few seconds or several minutes.  But, before the gears of chaos engage again, I always have the overwhelming feeling “Woo-hoo, life is good!”

aiea heightsWhen I was in my early teens, we lived in a house located next to a state park on top of Aiea Heights, Oahu, Hawaii.  I would hike by myself up the trail to sit on a patch of green grass beneath a big evergreen tree that overlooked Pearl Harbor and the ‘Punchbowl’ Cemetery. Even at a young age, I knew this place was a conduit to the spiritual. The view alone is enough for anyone to appreciate their innermost sacredness.

In my twenties, music was the vehicle for many a trip. I’ll never forget the time I was laying on the floor listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer through headphones. I’m sure I was transporting somewhere groovy until I opened my eyes at the end of side one and there were two Doberman Pinchers staring me in the face.

 

As an adult, I enjoy sitting by the pool. Watching the clouds drift by, listening to the birds, I feel my body and soul warming, the tension washing away, and I experience “the eternal happiness of the spotless mind.”

Oh, I could go on, but I encourage you to find your own path to a sacred space whether it is physical or metaphysical.


Sunday Morning

April 21, 2019

Back when my husband Richard and I first got together, our respective children were very young. My son JB was 11, his daughters Maria was 6 going on 7 and Linda was 5. Every weekend we were challenged to find free or cheap activities to keep them occupied.

It wasn’t too hard 35 years ago to rent videos from Blockbuster, go to a ‘free day’ museum visit or head across town to the $1 movies. In the summer we spent lots of time at the apartment pool. Somehow we got into the habit of every Sunday morning heading out to Friedrich Wilderness Park.

We’d pile into our little Ford Fiesta with a bag of snacks and take a hike. This was the days before IH10 had Fiesta Texas theme park, the Rim and a s**t-ton of other developments.  We’d usually take the medium level trail. JB and Maria ran around the course leaving Richard, Linda and I in the dust. But, that was OK. We’d meet at the bottom and have our picnic.

Sitting on top of the tallest part of the trail–in the shed which was home to hundreds of daddy-long-leg spiders–I’d proclaim “This is our Sunday church. We should contemplate the beauty and be thankful.”

This Spring, Richard and I have been taking Sunday strolls around the San Antonio Botanical Gardens 

These are some of the pictures from today’s nature church visit.

Read more about my ideas about what Church means to me.


Plastics–a small lesson about a humongous problem

August 6, 2018

Every bit of plastic ever made still exists somewhere.

“One word…Plastics” Anyone remember the 1967 movie “The Graduate?” I’ll never forget when Dustin Hoffman’s character Ben Braddock, cornered by a friend of his parents at his graduation party, was given that advice. Indeed at that time, plastics was a burgeoning industry.

Little did we know the pervasiveness of plastic would become a huge environmental concern–choking our oceans and landfills, even showing up in the seafood we eat.  “The miracle material has made modern life possible. But more than 40 percent of it is used just once…” states the recent articles “Planet or Plastic” in National Geographic.

Plastic waste takes from 10-1000 years to break down. Here’s a handy reference to how long it takes for all kinds of garbage to decompose–nothing short of generations for most everything we don’t reuse, repurpose or that actually gets recycled. When the planet dies it could very well be because it’s been buried in trash.

This year, when Plastic Free July rolled around, the hubby and I made a concerted effort to dramatically reduce our use of household plastic. Not that we hadn’t made efforts in the past several years, but sometimes plastic is unavoidable, even if it is not your choice.

In the picture are some of the good products that work for the ‘use less plastic’ efforts:

BeesWax Wraps covers bowls, wrap leftovers and is washable for reuse.  Wooden handled tooth brushes.  I think these reusable produce bags are terrific. All of these plastic alternatives are available on Amazon.com.

It took me a long time to find a refillable water bottle I liked. These from Target are great, sturdy and affordable.

Glass spray bottles (not plastic) are available from Grove Collective. Please visit their site for a growing list of natural cleaning, health, and personal care products. You can become a member and get free shipping. Their website is user friendly and you can ship gifts to other addresses.

Give it your best shot at using less plastic. Your Mother Earth will thank you!


the boundlessness of divine love

May 20, 2017

I’m just guessing, but I think I came to embrace the joys of living in a multi-ethnic society during the three years my family and I lived in Hawaii.

Each year the school I attended, Radford High School, celebrated Aloha Week by electing Kings and Queens representing their various “racial backgrounds” gathered in their “racial costumes” Hawaiians, Samoan, Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Samoans, Negro, Portuguese, Korean Caucasian, and Cosmopolitan. Despite the dated terminology, it was a respectful celebration of the many peoples who made up the Hawaiian population–the very definition of a melting pot.I wonder if they still do this.

Pew Research Center’s recent article gives credence to ‘Mainland’ America’s march towards its own modern diversity “…one-in-ten married people in 2015 – not just those who recently married – had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. This translates into 11 million people who were intermarried.”

Right after I read the above article I saw a reference to an article by Paul Salopek, The Case for Xenophilia. Salopek explains, “For the past four years I have been walking across the earth. As I retrace the paths of our species’ first Stone Age migration out of Africa, I’m writing about my encounters along the modern global trail. ” His walk takes him through many different countries in Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Turkey, to name a few, on his march towards Tierra del Fuego.

He includes this lovely thought.“The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world,” wrote the 12th-century French theologian Hugh of St. Victor. “The strong person has extended his love to all places; the perfect man extinguished his.”


An elephant never forgets

August 24, 2016

According to Mental _Floss website, there is a great truth to the old adage “an elephant never forgets.” However, I seem to be more and more forgetful as time marches on, and my brain cells flicker and die a little at a time.

I missed World Elephant Day which fell on August 12 this year. I had a little story about this hand-carved elephant my dad brought me when he returned home in 1956 from a two year tour in Pakistan.

elephant carving

It came with two beautiful real ivory tusks. They fell out somewhere along our many family moves. I had over the years tried different types of materials to replacement the tusks. But nothing really looked or felt right. Ivory was not a option for ethical reasons. Also for a long time it’s been illegal to import elephant ivory into the US. And, on July 6, 2016, a new rule extended the ban to cover the sale of ivory that’s already in the US.

Then it dawned on me to leave them off as a reminder of the destruction of  thousands of elephants still being slaughtered for their ivory tusks.

Elephant numbers have dropped by 62% over the last decade, and they could be mostly extinct by the end of the next decade. An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts, leaving only 400,000 remaining.As of 2016, there are still more African elephants being killed for ivory than are being born. . . elephant populations continue to decline. World Elephant Day.

From Mother Nature Network:

1. Elephants around the world are disappearing. African elephants are classified as vulnerable to extinction, and Asian elephants are classified as endangered. There are only about 40,000-50,000 Asian elephants left in the world today.

2. Since 1950, African elephants have lost over 50 percent of their range. They once roamed the continent, but they are now relegated to a few small areas. Less than 20 percent of this remaining habitat is under formal protection, according to World Wildlife Fund.

3. Poachers killed 100,000 African elephants for their ivory from just 2010 to 2012, National Geographic reported last year. According to a study, roughly one of every 12 African elephants was killed by a poacher in 2011 alone. There were around 1.3 million African elephants alive in 1980. In 2012, there were only an estimated 420,000 to 690,000 elephants left.

4. Most poaching today is not done by poor farmers needing an income for their family. Instead, poaching is done by well-organized and well-funded criminal traffickers. The money gained from poaching and selling ivory funds wars and criminal organizations.

5. Elephants play an important ecological role, including creating trails that work as fire breaks during brush fires, fertilizing the soil with manure, digging holes that create access to water for other animals, and much more. Without elephants, ecosystems are thrown out of balance.

A 2014 article in National Geographic stated:

Ivory-seeking poachers have killed 100,000 African elephants in just three years, according to a new study that provides the first reliable continent-wide estimates of illegal kills. During 2011 alone, roughly one of every twelve African elephants was killed by a poacher.

In central Africa, the hardest-hit part of the continent, the regional elephant population has declined by 64 percent in a decade, a finding of the new study that supports another recent estimate developed from field surveys.  The demand for ivory, most notably in China and elsewhere in Asia, and the confusion caused by a one-time sale of confiscated ivory have helped keep black market prices high in Africa.

The morale of this story is to never forget the elephant and support legislation and those efforts to save these beautiful animals for our planet.


Healthy Eating Redux

May 29, 2016

First let me say, my mother was a superior cook. Every night she cooked a family meal and we all gathered around the kitchen table eating and talking. Many of our family favorites were from the Southern cooking repertoire she learned from her mother. Cornbread dressing, black eyed peas, pecan pie, tomato aspic, etc. She made the best fried chicken ever. So good that when she included a leftover piece in my lunch box the next day, it still tasted awesome. I remember she had a special container on the stove to strain the drippings from the breakfast bacon with which she used to flavor many of her dishes. What horror that sounds now, right? Her Red Velvet cake recipe is what the hubby uses to great raves.

chinese cook book

Lula Belle’s original Chinese cook book

Mom also made it a point to learn how to cook cultural food dishes from wherever we lived with Dad on his Army assignments. In Hawaii, she learned to cook Asian food including wontons and spring rolls and delicious rice dishes. When my dad was stationed in Pakistan, and we couldn’t go, she still learned how to create Pakistani dishes to serve my father when he got home so we could share the food culture.

Another component of my foodie upbringing was through my dad. Everywhere we lived, he had a garden. He loved tilling the dirt and learning the plants that would grow well in whatever climate we were in.

I specifically remember the garden in Hawaii. It was a rather large garden on a hill on one side of the house in which we lived while waiting for base housing. Much to his chagrin, there were many types of tiny beasties that will infect and eat your produce in that climate. While our native Hawaiian landlord gave him some advice, Dad managed to invent a tomato saver using my mom’s old stockings. The result of all this gardening is that we were privy to fresh seasonal veggies on the table most of our growing-up lives. He continued to garden until his last year on this earth.

When I began my life in Austin as a hippie babe, I too became a darn good gardener. In both homes I had there, I maintained a large, prolific garden. I grew squash, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, beans (scarlet runner were my favorites) melons and more. Our resident neighborhood food guru, Clay, was already a vegan and among other dietary examples, fed his twin baby daughters almond milk after they got too big for nursing. We ate a lot of good fresh produce, turkey eggs, raw milk and other healthy foods. We shopped at Good Foods, the store which was actually the precursor to Whole Foods, and then at Whole Foods original store on Lamar Blvd. I made healthful cookies and other baked goods and stayed away from white sugar.

Somewhere along the way of life, I deterred from this path. Smallish incomes and three kids led the family to make the unhealthy mistakes many people in the same financial situation make—beans, potatoes, bread, pasta are cheap, fresh or organic produce not so much. If your teenager works at Church’s Chicken, you love the free leftovers every night.

Oh and did I mention I married a pastry chef? Most the weight I gained from this era is still with me.

Little by little I got back on the right path. I just started saying “no” to the pastry, cookie, cake stuff. I began eating gluten-free for my intestines’ sake and there went the pasta, crackers etc. The hubby and I shopped at Central Market for the great assortment of fresh and tasty produce.

Delivery produce box

For a year or so we had a weekly box of local, seasonal produce delivered to our door. It stretched our ideas of what exactly is eatable Yes! to beet greens and strange sprouts and big black radishes. We finally cancelled, feeling it was not economically in our favor to continue.

On our back patio, we created a small, but productive, container garden. We’ve had good luck with tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, peppers, chard, herbs and even okra. Plus, the house came with two tangerine trees that keep us in fresh tangerines for about 6 weeks every fall.

tomatoes

Container garden tomatoes

We tried shopping at some of the latest wave in ‘new’ farmer’s market offerings. I confess we slipped some.

What got me back on track is reading a non-fiction book by Barbara Kingsolver, a terrific fiction writer–Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The author and her family enter a life-changing adventure by moving full time to their farm in Virginia. They committed to eating only local, seasonal, organic, homegrown, homespun…well you get the idea. Albeit, they have a large growing area, already producing fruit and nut trees and a farming communityavm icon that grows, raises or makes all products which fit in the parameters of this foodie life. It’s an interesting and inspiring tale.

Granted, our budget is limited, but we are trying to eat better and cook with more healthy ingredients. So, it’s back to the farmers markets for us for fresh, local, seasonal produce, eggs and other products. Last week, I got some wonderful beets and blackberries. This week a sweet, sweet watermelon and a jar of honey. Semi-retirement is a boon for time to search for healthy, economical food options and hubby is excellent at cooking them into delicious, interesting dishes.

Garden eggplant, pepper, herbs stew/sauce

Garden eggplant, pepper, herbs stew/sauce

20160424_171050

A chard frittata with pear from CM


Gardening on Cement

February 28, 2016

If you’re as old as I am, you might remember the Beverly Hillbillies TV show. The Clampetts, a family of hillbillies–obstinately from Tennessee–found oil on their land, got rich and moved to Beverly Hills, California. Elly Mae, the blond and buxom daughter, called the swimming pool their “cement pond”. I call our back courtyard garden our “cement garden” in remembrance of Elly Mae.

2015 garden

Last year’s garden

For the past several years we have planted veggies in tubs and large pots. We’ve had good success with tomatoes, peppers, okra (bred for containers) eggplant, Swiss chard and a variety of herbs. This year we are trying onions. We also replaced the lime and lemon trees as the previous ones froze two years ago.

20160228_133004

2016 Spring garden just planted

We also have two fabulous, 10 foot tangerine trees in a real dirt patch on one end.

tangerine tree

Last fall’s crop of tangerine totaled about 170

As you can see we also have cactus plants, a Bird of Paradise and about a dozen Plumeria trees in various stages of growth. Our small front courtyard is a plethora of plants and a volunteer Loquat tree, which we think is cool.

20160228_142634

This is what you can do with a little space and ingenuity.

 


Confessions of a Streaming Addict

August 30, 2015

OK, I admit it’s true. I am addicted to streaming.

Several years ago we cut the cable TV and bought a ROKU box. The ROKU is a magic box that allows you to watch a variety of streaming channels including Netflix, Amazon Prime, news and movie channels and a whole lot more on your TV set.

My first favorite was watching TV shows in binge mode. No commercials, pause when you want to, watch a whole season in back to back episodes. Who could ask for anything more. I started out with “The Tudors” and nip tuck“Nip Tuck” and progressed to “Mad Men.” Recently, I watched all 196 episodes of “Supernatural”–not all at once, silly.

My grandkids share their favorites and they have surprisingly good taste. Or, at least we agree on genres. My granddaughter and I watch horror movies–the old classics and the new not-so-classic like “Paranormal Activity”.

One grandson suggested “Six Feet Under” six feet underHe said it had the best ever last episode of any series. I watched it and agreed. I like “Hell on Wheels” and lots of the BBC murder mystery series–some of which are many years old. And, of course, “Downton Abbey”. Nature and science programs also show up on my recommended list.

orange is the new blackThe new Netflix originals are a great addition to the already amazing amount of choices. “Orange is the New Black” and “Sense8” are super.

Another really nice feature, for a person hard of hearing as I am, is to activate the closed captioning. It has made a world of difference in my viewing pleasure.

I list more of my streaming favorites on Pinterest and books I read too, if you are interested in more recommendations.