Writing and praying

Hello my friends,

I am trying a new experiment - a bit along the same lines as a 'staycation'.

I am writing a novel that is about two-thirds done and needs another 20,000 words to complete it.  So I've put all other tasks to bed and am taking August to complete the writing, having undertaken to submit the manuscript to my publisher for their approval in September.

I'm pleased with what I've done on it so far, and want to really concentrate on getting this last third of the book right.

I will be so grateful if you have the time to pray for me in the writing of this book.

Most especially, if you are able to pray for me, what I need is the following:

1) Inspiration.  I know where I am going with the book - it's not ideas I need - but inspiration in the divine sense, so that what I write will be a channel of God's grace and goodness, capable of touching people's hearts lightly in a way that turns their lives to blessing.

2) Discernment, both in my writing and in my life choices.  Though I can put in place firm barriers between myself and most of the world, I always stop and pay attention when my family needs me.  Sometimes it is not clear to me when something needs my attention and when it does not.  The books I write are not for entertainment only, they are spiritual and therefore active - live - in terms of Holy Spirit ministry.  This means that I can guarantee that the minute I begin to really focus on writing, some new thing that wasn't even on the horizon before, and that I don't see how I can possibly get out of responding to, will come up and DEMAND my attention.  True to form, this is happening already.  Today is the 31st July.  I had worked as hard and fast as I know how to get everything necessary sorted and seen to by today, so that from August 1st I am absolutely clear to focus on writing.  And guess what?  This evening, something that was not even a whisper on the wind yesterday has cropped up in my family, urgently clamouring for my attention, that will involve me significantly, is requiring a couple of hours out of tomorrow, and will continue to do so for the next few weeks.   The problem is not so much the hours it will take up, as that writing fiction needs total concentration, and these random things that arise shatter my concentration completely, so that I can't write well if at all.  I will be grateful if you can pray for discernment in knowing how to turn down these interruptions without causing hurt and offence, as well as recognising them for what they are, and if you can also pray a forcefield around me to keep them from invading my ability to concentrate.

Thank you so much, friends.  May be in touch through August - if not; see you in September.

If anyone has read my new book The Hardest Thing To Do, I would be so grateful if you could spare the time to review it on Amazon.

xxx Pen

Nuts for Trail Mix!

Before I launch into my next recipe I'll share some very exciting news! I'm thrilled to say that I finally have some progress to report on the installation of our solar panels!! :)  Scott and I have been waiting to hear from the state that our info has been processed and we've been assigned a 'reservation number' for the rebate. That finally came and within hours we had an appointment set up to sign the papers for the lease. At this point our three days to rescind have mostly passed, and on Monday the state will be notified that we've closed on the lease and are ready to move ahead. Bob, the 'lease guy', told me that the state usually releases the money within a week or so and then it all hinges on how fast the contractors move along!! Woohoo ~ so close, and yet it still feels like I'm dreaming... :)

Anyway, on to my recipe...Several years ago when I decided that going vegetarian (and shortly after vegan) was the right choice for me, I did some research on protein. Based on the info I had at the time I wasn't sure whether or not to be concerned about the amount and source of protein from a vegetarian diet. Would I get enough? What were the repercussions if I didn't? How would I know if I eating too much? Too little?

As with most things I researched, I realized we've been fed a lot of garbage and hype in relation to protein. Not only is it easy to receive adequate amounts of protein in a balanced vegetarian diet (with no concerted effort), but most Americans grossly overeat protein, which leads to many of the health problems we see today. As a society we eat 50%  more protein than we actually need, leading to osteoporosis, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney stones and cancer. :P

I was relieved to find that it wouldn't be an issue. Eating healthy really seems to have much to do with common sense. Balance, in all areas, seems to be the secret to success and happiness. :) These are some of the great sources of plant based proteins that I found and now incorportate in our diet: whole grains, quinoa, beans, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, and nut butters (yes, peanut butter included, my girls probably get a days worth of protein with their peanut butter servings alone!! ;) Simple, right?

So, let's get back to nuts since they're the foundation of my Trail mix. Nuts are not only high in protein, fiber and good fats, but they've also been shown to have the capacity for lowering bad cholesterol, reducing inflammation and contributing to heart health. That's a lot of goodness packed into one little nut... ;)
In the recipe below I'll link each of the ingredients to a favorite company of mine. You'll find each nut is indeed organic. We eat almost 100% organic in my home for a variety of reasons, and nuts are no exception. Peanuts especially are very prone to fungus growth and are subsequently heavily sprayed with chemicals. Yummmm, tasty. ;)

And without further ado ~

Nutty Trail Mix
1 cup roasted almonds
1 cup roasted peanuts
1 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1 cup raw walnuts
1 cup raw, unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup raisins
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw cashew pieces

Roasting Almonds, Sunflower Seeds and Peanuts
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
On 3 separate cookie sheets pour 1 cup almonds, 1 cup sunflower seeds and 1 cup peanuts.
I put all 3 sheets in together although the different nuts/seeds require different cooking times. I roasted both the peanuts and sunflower seeds for about 15 minutes, shaking every 5 minutes or so. The almonds require a little bit longer, about 20 minutes. Just a warning, don't cook the nuts until they look brown and crunchy. They will continue cooking after removing them from the oven (the almonds pop for quite some time!),  and they taste terribly dry and yucky when overcooked! ;)

Waiting for the oven to warm up...
Much of this recipe calls for raw ingredients, as foods in their natural state retain most all of their nutrients and are at their healthiest. That being said, some foods just taste better cooked! Have you ever tasted a raw peanut? They taste like raw peas... not quite the flavor I was going for! And c'mon, roasted almonds are just plain delicious! In fact, I probably lean more towards a cup and a half of almonds in this mix, they're everyone's favorite! :)

Give the roasted ingredients ample time to cool and finish cooking. Then, in a large mixing bowl add

(The seeds on the left are roasted, there's very little visual difference between the two!)

Mix well and transfer to a container for storing. We eat our way through this mix pretty quickly, but if you don't think you will, I would store this mix in the refrigerator. Nuts and seeds can and will go rancid over time (especially in the heat!).

Of course, and you'll find I say this a lot, Americans do things to the extreme. And I state that more with resignation than pride. We overindulge in most everything, nuts are no exception. A healthy serving of nuts is only about a  handful, or a quarter cup. Nope, not a whole bag of peanuts. Not an entire tin of pistachios. A handful. :)  My perfect morning snack? An orange and 1/4 cup of this mix. Perfect balance and so, so yummy!

Before I leave you all for today I'd like to pick my next Gratitude Giveaway winner. I was late last week so these seem close together, but I think I'm right on track! Today's winner is one of my most favorite blogger gals. My daughter stumbled on her blog back when we were just getting set up and she's been such treasured follower and friend. Today's winner is.... Laurie from Energy Art and Healing!! She's funny, she's real and she's on an amazing journey of self discovery. I feel priviledged just to tag along for the ride. When you get a second Laurie, please visit my Gratitude Page and pick out a free goodie. Contact me anyway you'd like and I'll get it out to you as soon as possible. Thanks Laurie for all of  your kindness and support. :)

Want to be considered for future giveaways? Just keep on reading and leaving me comments so that I know you're here. I adore receiving all of your thoughts and respond to each and every one. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings, you are much appreciated. :)

Happy day all!

Peace & blessings ~ Melinda

Perfect Presence

Have you ever read something supposedly full of depth and meaning and walked away from it with only one thought, something along the lines of ~ “Huh? What the $#@&?’  For most all of my life that’s what all of those spiritual books and quotes said to me. Absolutely nothing. In fact, they often sounded like gibberish, foolish nonsense that I could never seem to wrap my mind around. My busy, chattering and frazzled mind. But, honestly, I wasn’t overly concerned, it hardly seemed worth the effort anyway. Besides, I had a diaper to change.

I understand now that I just wasn’t ready. I had neither the time nor the ambition to dig deeper. My life was full of nursing babies, barking dogs, mountains of laundry, meals to cook, school to plan. Sprinkle these chores with a generous dose of drama, sometimes self-induced, but more often "lovingly" contributed by those around me. I did not have the energy to figure out the cryptic words of Buddha. Or decipher the wise sermons of Jesus. It seemed much more pertinent to decipher the insistent, garbled ramblings of my 2 year old, or to comfort a crying newborn who has just realized that she signed on for this journey, and it was a lot more complicated than she initially thought…

I didn’t seek out spiritual or self help books. They didn’t appeal to me. But I’d still come across things like “Be here. Now. For this moment is all there is.” What? You could have fooled me. What about the next 7 days I’ve got jam-packed with play-dates, grocery shopping, plans…? This moment exists, but so does the next one, right? Right?

It just made me kind of dizzy to think on that for more than a fleeting moment. I was tiptoeing close to my truth, kind of warming myself up, but it was too soon. I was still busy constructing the saga of Melinda. The story of who I was, the definition of me. I was still too busy building opinions, forming judgments, cementing this image of myself. Little did I know it was all being done so that I could  one day tear it down, watch it crumble around me, and start over. Fresh.

A recent backyard visitor. A little too close to those peaches...
I get it now. I understand it in every cell of my being. They are no longer just words, but a way of living and approaching each day, each task, each breath. There is only now. There is only this moment. The rest, my past, my future ~ all stories in my head. All stories that aren’t happening in the here and the now. Yes, some are joyful stories that are fun to remember and cherish. Others may be full of heartache I’d rather forget. But none of them are happening now. They currently exist only in the realm of my overdeveloped and vivid imagination. Most certainly delightful to take out and admire on occasion (I do love a trip down Memory Lane!) , but not at the expense of this real moment that will be but a story soon enough.

I realized along the way that my present moments were always hopelessly tangled up in either thoughts of my past or the exhausting planning of a future that was unpredictable at best. I was especially good at this, the planning part. I’ve never been a worrier, but that’s only because I was such a detailed planner! I had an answer for every situation, what I would do if this happened, or how I would react under these circumstances. Yes, I know. I had far to go and much to learn. J

Sweet, termpermental Oscar
Some of you must know what I’m talking about, right? You’re folding laundry and instead of feeling the crunchy line-dried towels, or smelling the fresh sun-dried sheets, you’re lost in a drama in your head. What you should have said. Or should have done. Or will do next time. Sometimes I’ll rewrite the entire script, other times it’s just a matter of rehashing, reliving, tirelessly. Anger surfaces at words spoken weeks ago, or perhaps never at all. Guilt over actions performed months or even years ago. It feels as clear as if it were truly happening, but in reality? I'm folding towels. Most likely I managed to miss the joy inherent in that task while lost in thoughts of another time. Those joys, I've discovered, are woven into each and every chore, just waiting to be discovered. If only we could quiet that control freak of an ego…

Perhaps you’re walking the dog. Are you smelling the freshly mown lawn? Or noticing the brilliant blue sky dotted delightfully with popcorn clouds? Do you hear the bird song or the drone of insects? Sadly, at least for me, the answer was most always no. Emphatically no. My thoughts were more likely to take this ridiculous route ~ Hmmm, what’s for dinner? Do I have time to vacuum and pay bills before I start cooking? Oh! Don’t forget that Friday the chimney gets cleaned. Has Scott checked that dripping sink yet? Cuz that leak is pretty fierce you know. Think of all the water wasted, literally, right down the drain. How terrible of you, when half the world doesn’t have access to clean, disease free water,  wasting it like that. What kind of person are you? Yes, sweet potato fries would be good with dinner… ;)

Sugar ~ who could resist that ridiculous head attire?
It really is as silly as all of that. I thought I was planning a life, atoning for past grievances, righting wrongs. In fact I accomplished none of these things. All I did manage to do was clutter up a perfect, clean, clear moment with litter from the past, or debris from the future. I was trapped in the world of my thoughts, subsequently missing all the beauty and miracles around me. Actually sounds kind of sad, doesn’t it?

Well, you might argue, you do need to fix that leak. Sure, but not here, not now. This moment is full, because right now, I’m walking the dog. Period. My job is to enjoy this experience before I move onto the next. I had to learn to live each step, each breath, each breeze. There is great peace to be found here, underneath all of those stories, in the journey of this moment. The only moment. The perfect moment. J

Several years ago when things finally started to make sense, when those ridiculous quotes began to take on actual meaning to me, I began trying to live presently, or consciously. I was blown away. It was hard! There were almost no moments during the entire course of the day that just unfolded while I appreciated the perfection of it all. Even now, years later, and knowing what I now know, I still struggle to stay present.  There is one enormous difference between now and then, however. Now I know it can be better, so I constantly remind myself. Every time I catch myself floating off on the wings of an imaginary conversation I whisper the word ‘clear’.  It’s like I wipe the chalkboard clean. I begin again. It stops the train wreck of my thoughts and gives me at least a moment of clarity. One delicious breath of presence.

I’ve been working the past several days at bringing myself back to the peaceful state I have discovered and vowed never to leave again… (hmmmm, so much for plans!) J I spent yesterday in an active state of presence. Where the mundane, everyday chores become special. Become sacred.

Scott built me this amazing goat shed/chicken coop. I have the most talented husband ever. :)

Doesn't he just look like he's saying Thank You? ;)

My sweet and beautiful Tansy

What did I notice while cleaning the goat shed? I felt deliciously cool morning breezes. I smelled fragrant pine shavings. I felt cold hose water as I scrubbed water buckets as hot sun warmed my back. I then admired that clean water bucket filled with crisp, frigid well water, air bubbles clinging to the sides.  I noticed dirty windows, now sparkling clean. I saw freshly raked dirt, dry, hot and dusty. I felt happy goats, nudging my hands, knocking me off balance in their desperate bids for my attention.

I diced potatoes for lunch, what could I notice here? I smelled the earthy scent of a vegetable which lived its life underground. I felt soft chunks of potato slide across the glass cutting board. I admired the clean efficiency of my sharp knife, effortlessly slicing. I noticed the many veins in my hands and wondered when they arrived. I felt the ache in my shoulder from too many hours spent crocheting. I heard the soft music. I enjoyed the cool kitchen floor beneath my feet.

It really is amazing how vibrant life gets when you try to live consciously. Not just appreciating the moment, but living it fully and experiencing all of the details that surround and encompass it. I distinctly remember how vivid colors became when I first starting to become aware. It was like I was seeing things for the first time, clearly and deliberately.

It often turns things around for me, remembering to live consciously and be present for my life. It’s a practice that has become indispensible, almost habit. Perhaps these are things you’ve already learned and already implement. If so, than your life must be full of color, awe, joy. :) Perhaps this sounds like gibberish nonsense, and that's perfectly okay too. We're all here, figuring things out at our own pace, in our own perfect time.

I'll leave you now, because my body is urging me to 'be present' while I filll it with food! ;) So, I'm off to enjoy each crumb, each flavor, each texture... :)

Peace & blessings ~ Melinda

Regaining My Balance

Greetings friends~

Believe it or not, I'm unsure where this post will go today... this past week was so crazy for me, I'm still feeling a bit off balance and reeling ever so slightly. It served as a good reminder for me though, a reminder of exactly what I don't want in my life. All the plans, the commitments, the obligations filling every spare minute ~ they're enough to make my head spin. ;) So, today I'll reconnect with you, and share some gorgeous pictures that Jordan snapped. I hope you enjoy. :)

I did reach a conclusion in the madness of last week. For some time now I've been energetically blocking sales in my Etsy shop. I wasn't sure why, it just felt like something I didn't want to deal with. I knew at some point that a sale would sneak past, and how I felt at that moment would lead me toward some kind of decision. Well, a sale did sneak through, and tied up tight with  it, came my answer. What did I feel when I saw the infamous "Etsy Transaction" winking back at me from my inbox? Elation? Excitement? Nope. Anxiety. Pressure. Yup. Pretty clear, right?

So the affirmation that came to me during my meditation that morning meant that I closed up shop this past weekend. The relief that I felt as I did so tells me I made the right decision. It's kind of weird though, just a few months ago it was my biggest focus, my biggest energy outlet. Once I decided to put school back at the top of my priority list, the shift began. And here I am. In a new place, yet again. Good thing I like change. :)

Initially my mind tried to fill that void, that space, with plans and ideas. I became intoxicated on the idea of all that 'free time'. I quickly realized what I was doing and backed off. I'm simplifying my life, not complicating it. I can still feel things shifting though, something is brewing. It isn't even at a place where I can add words to this feeling, but it's coming. Am I surprised? Absolutely not, this seems to be the ride I've been on for months now. This slight discomfort, vague unease, will lead me to a better place. It always does. Patience is the key... :)

I'm still writing my intentions down each morning, and I believe it's what allowed me to sail through last week without a breakdown. ;) Right now I'm crocheting like crazy, my army of Lil Chums (so named by Jordan) is growing.  Four complet, six to go. The girls and I are still waiting on our dollhouse windows. I'm slightly disappointed. The company is only in Vermont (or New Hampshire ~ either way not far from Ct!) and our goodies still haven't arrived. Maybe tomorrow...

I decided they needed a tail, and have started added them on to my critters, newly named Lil Chums. :)
And, really, the main reason for this post today was to pick a Gratitude Giveaway winner, since I haven't posted in almost a week and I'm falling behind! Today's most amazing winner is the beautiful Sara from over at Simply Sarafina Paints . She's fun, she's vivacious, she's a gem, and I'm so glad she's one of my devoted followers. If you aren't a follower of her blog, you may want to consider it, she injects a flash of joy into each and every post. :) When you get a chance Sara, you can peruse the Gratitude Giveaway page and select a goodie. Either leave your choice in a comment below, email me, or send me a message through Simply Smitten. I can't wait to see what you pick... :)

And now I shall sign off. Sorry for the slightly random post as I regain my balance and purpose. I shall return soon with a much more cohesive post! :) Hope you enjoyed the photos, have a lovely evening.

Peace & blessings ~ Melinda

Does the name Erspamer mean anything to you?

OK - I know - I know - it's a tad early to be thinking about Christmas!  But bear with me; I can explain everything!

A few months ago I was given the honour and privilege of being allowed to become our church's Parochial Church Council secretary.  What does this mean?  Can you guess?  Right first time! Lots and lots and LOTS of paperwork.  Do I like paperwork?  That depends.  I do if it's pretty and it's fun - which it is if it has pictures.

So the minute I had been let loose on the unsuspecting Church Council, the name Erspamer came to mind.  Well, that's not strictly true.  I thought "Wait a minute... who's that guy... the one with the amazing clipart for every season of the church's year... the guy whose clipart Real Live Preacher always had on his website...?"

So I Googled and reminded myself of the artist's name - Steve Erspamer - then I Googled in earnest to find out where I could get his clipart.

I was a bit horrified to discover that it was going for the price of hens' teeth on Amazon, on account of apparently having gone out of print.  Steve Erspamer's clipart is sold in three volumes: Clipart for Year A, Clipart for Year B and Clipart for Year C, following the Scripture readings and the traditional feasts and fasts of the Catholic three-year lectionary cycle.

I managed to get Clipart for Year A at a reasonable price from an Amazon second-hand retailer, then found the Year B and Year C books for sale at Borders - again at a reasonable price.  Each book gives pictures of all the clipart, and a CD-ROM for use with PC and MAC so the clipart can be used for parish handouts etc - or, in my case, for the agendas and minutes of the PCC and the Standing Committee, being the limit so far of my playground.

Then guess what?  Borders went out of business.  Before they had a chance to process my order.  Oh no!  Back to the drawing board. At least I had the Year A book though, and as it actually is Year A at the moment, that was OK.

So nothing deterred I went and searched again.  And this time I found McCrimmons.  Oh, happy day!!  I searched their site for Erspamer and ta-da!  All three books cheaper than anywhere else!  Proper new copies, so no anxieties like you get with buying secondhand in case they've lost the CD or the presbytery puppy has chewed up the first 25 pages.

But that wasn't all I found under 'Erspamer' at McCrimmons.  I found Something Else.  They had this Advent calendar that he has made, wondrous and beautiful and amazing.  It is eighteen inches high (or you can get a shorter twelve-inch one), and folds into three vertically with a sticky tab to fix it, so that it stands up like a triangular house.  I am not describing this well.  Do you know what I mean?  Look:

And it doesn't have only twenty-four doors to open, because it's for Christmas-tide - the whole Christmas story of the coming of Jesus - not just Advent.  So it has forty doors to open!

In the triangular column you create by fixing it together and standing it up (though if you want you could just fold it out flat and fix it up against a window), you could stand candles (better the electric sort so you don't inadvertently reduce it to ashes halfway through the first week of Advent).  As you open each door, the beautiful pictures revealed are on paper like greaseproof paper, so they are like stained glass windows.  Here's one:

Can you see the writing revealed on the inside of the doors as you open them?  The right-hand one is a quotation from the Gospel of Luke, and the left-hand one is a quotation from Deuteronomy.  It's for Day 16.
From Luke 2:5-6
Joseph went up to Bethlehem to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.  While they were there the time came for her to deliver her child.

What I really like about that is that it says child.  Because it will be a child who is opening the doors - so, 'a child - like me!'

And from Deuteronomy 10:18-19:
The Lord loves the stranger, providing them with food and clothing. You shall love the stranger, for you yourself were once strangers in the land of Egypt. 

I haven't peeped into the other doors, because I want them to stay closed for a surprise when Advent comes - I just wanted to show you one, so you'd know what the calendar is like.

But wait - that's not all!  There's this as well:

A booklet of readings and prayers by Craig M.Mueller to use with Steve Erspamer's calendar, so the opening of each door becomes a short devotional ceremony.

The booklet starts with an explanatory introduction covering issues like different traditions in different churches.
Then there's a Note to Parents with some suggestions for enriching and extending the calendar devotions with candles, and Advent wreath etc.
Then there's a page headed 'Daily Prayer' which gives a very short liturgy to make a daily framework into which the prayers and readings will fit.
After that come the readings and prayers.

Here are the ones for December 16th:
Think of some trips you have taken.  How long did you travel?  Did you go in a train, car or airplane, or by some other way?  Did it take a long time to get there?
Before Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem.  When they got to Bethlehem, there was no place for them to stay.
Advent is a time to make room.  We pray that this Christmas there would be room in our hearts for Jesus to be born.

Let us pray.
Loving God,
prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus.
In our busy lives
help us to make room for your love.
In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen.

If you have a manger scene, put it up today.  Put out the animals and the manger.  Put the shepherds nearby, in the field watching their flocks.  Between now and Christmas Eve have Mary and Joseph travel closer each day to the manger.

Some days just have prayers and readings, and the opening of the calendar door. Other days have additional activities suggested.

Here is a close-up picture of part of the calendar:

And another:

Now - how fab is that?!!!

Oh - and my order from McCrimmons not only came really really quick, it was the best wrapped parcel I have ever had through the post - bar none!  And as the Royal Mail do a sterling job at mashing the corners of books sometimes, I felt very grateful to McCrimmons for that.

One thing I should tell you.  Because this is a Catholic publication, extreme Protestants who find Marian feasts offensive may not like everything in the clipart or the calendar devotions.  But you can choose and improvise, in such case.

Here's Joseph in his many-coloured coat from the Year B clipart:

All the clipart is free to copy without acknowledgement if you want to use it for a parish or school or similar.  But you have to write away for the publisher's permission if it's going to be used on something you will be selling.
The introduction to the clipart book says: Liturgical images can educate as well as illustrate.  They teach without words.  They tell stories, evoke moods, and remind us of things we almost forgot.  The images in this book do even more: they can lead us into the lectionary, into the scriptures and psalms and even the spirit of the liturgy.  They can lead us into mystery.

Well!  Is that all fab?  Is the Pope a Catholic?

The calendar is called the Fling Wide The Doors Calendar:

The copyright of all materials is with Liturgy Training Publications of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

"You whose day it is, make it beautiful"

The title of this blog post is a quotation, said to be Navaho, that I came across I can't remember where or when - only that I loved it; and I have always remembered it.

This day, my daughter Alice gave me a beautiful thing she made for me - calligraphy by Alice on paper made by Alice.  How fab is that?

The calligraphy is a quotation from a song called It Couldn't Be Better by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, whose music we love.  My children grew up with an album of theirs that we had - on vinyl disc in those days of course.  When they were little, they used to write and draw on the wall sometimes, and that was not surprising because so did I.

I took a big marker pen and wrote on the chimney breast in the kitchen, over the woodstove there, a quotation from that Ozark Mountain Daredevils album:
There's a fire in the stove
Keeping out the cold
Warming wine and winters and babies and home.
(song here)

Seems the habit runs in the family :0D

God bless you, Alice.  It's so beautiful.

And here on the south coast of England, it's a beautiful day.

Yesterday had something beautiful in it too.  The Badger's grandson, his daughter's child, has just arrived, a little further north in Kent, and we were able to visit him yesterday, just two days old.  May he walk in blessing all his days on this earth, may Christ walk with him, the Lord watch over him, and angels guard his way.  May he be happy in life, and may he be free.  May his home be full of love and full of laughter.  May peace reign in his heart, strength and wisdom in his soul, integrity in his spirit and shalom in his body.  Go, little baby!  The earth hath need of thee.

You, whose day it is - make it beautiful.



Ghost of the Future

I try to watch A Christmas Carol every year.  It intrigues me to see the possibilities of transformation that exist within Scrooge just as a result of getting to see the past (through present perpection), present (through extra pereception) and future (through present perception).  Now that Mother has been here over a week, I feel like Scrooge.  I look at her and see the future.  For me.

My prism is not Ghost of the Future, of course.  My prism is what is hereditary versus environmental, using my mantra, Serenity Prayer, as a regulator.  Ed once joked to me that he had read once upon a time a warning to prospective grooms that before you agree to marry a girl, look at her mother, because that is what she will become.  There are even current jokes in the catalogues:  "Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all!"  My sister and I have both had a few occasions where we discover some new little eccentricity or physical aberration of ours and say, "Oh, no!  That's just like Mother!"

I know what I want to inherit from my mom.  I want to inherit her sense that there is good in everyone at some level, her generosity, and her sense of humor.  I don't want to inherit tremors, arthritis, hypertension, macular degeneration, blepharospasm, dental problems, and having to use a walker.  The question I consistently have asked myself this week, using the Serenity Prayer, is how much of this is under my control?  Therein lies the necessity of dealing with the thing realistically and honestly, leaving fear at the door.

Everyone probably has ideas of what they want old age to be for them.  Our generation is certainly more mobile and fit and active than prior generations were in later life.  As Ed says, "My dad would not been able to saw and split wood at 64."  True.  And yet, I see myself in Mother and wonder what the next 30 or so years will do to me.  Will my fingers become misshapen enough that I can't transcribe  or play piano or harp anymore?  Will I too have to give up driving and reading and all the other things that make life convenient and fulfilling?  Will my hand start to tremble when I write my name or lift my fork to my mouth?  How long do I have to live fully and completely without having to park in a handicap spot or use a cane or walker, or, God forbid, wheelchair for mobility?  And more importantly, what changes can I make in my life today that would ameliorate or even eradicate these concerns?

We are all living longer lives, which, as Ed always says, is both a gift and a curse.  At a point, I guess, most of us just give up on the anti-aging creams and potions, dismiss physical appearance in a way, and just concentrate on good health, which is the main thing that will see us through our "golden years."  Mother told me ever since I was born, "If you have your health, you have everything."  I think she is seeing now the truth of her philosophy, and playing the cards life has dealt her in the best way she can (much of the time with humor).

Sometimes it is good to see the future.  Sometimes it is scary to see the future.  Of course, I'm not seeing the future at all; I'm just imaging the possibilities.  I've heard that 99% of what we worry about won't come true.  Yet, I have evidence every day now of many more things to worry about, and it's that 1% that troubles me.

Meanwhile, I have Mama here and I am truly enjoying her presence and laughing with her about old age.  We can both only strive to do the best we can.  I think attitude is the most precious tool we have to get us through.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

House Names

I wish we had a name for our house.

In Aylesbury I called our house Hagia Sofia (Greek.  Means 'holy wisdom'), though the name never really stuck with the Badger, so we mostly called it 27 Tindal Road.

When I lived in a tiny 2-roomed apartment in Hastings I called it Gezellig, because that's what my friend Carien, visiting from the Netherlands, said it was.  Gezellig, she said, means comfortable, but also like a place that has soul.  It used to be an Old English word too - going back into and before the Dark Ages now -  where its form was gesaelig, meaning ensouled, overtones of the holy.  'Saelig' morphed into 'silly', which meant innocent back then.  It came to mean foolish and lightheaded because people born with learning disability were seen as holy innocents - silly - soul-people.

When I sold my apartment I bought a lovely little house - cosy and homely and friendly.  The perfect house, I thought (still do).  At the time our Fi was working down in Dorset in a retreat house, and to get there we had to drive along Godsblessing Lane.  I loved that name.  So I called the new house Godsblessing House.  Grace lives there now (sounds appropriate!).

Then we came to this house.  I've had various ideas for its name, but it isn't just my house, and all my suggestions have been received with indifference at best. Hmm.

We were talking about this yesterday over supper, when I said High Dudgeon would be a good name for a house.  In fact there could be a whole street. Ivory Tower could be next door.  Hebe thought one of the houses might be called Coventry. Alice named one of them Side Partings .  I think one of them might be called The Sticks - or, for the classically trained and pretentious, The Styx.  And I suppose there'd inevitably be some nouveau riche honeymoon couple move in who would lower the tone of the whole street by calling their house Kenbarbie.

Eating For Victory

Now then, food!  What do I eat, someone asked.

I learned a lot from macrobiotics, but basically it was too complicated for me, and had too many of the tiresome characteristics of a fully-fledged religion, enough to bring on terminal hardening of the oughteries.  So I stashed its basic principles in a spare set of brain cells along with a note-to-self about miso soup, scallions and seaweed – all of which I, unaccountably, find delicious; and then kind of morphed off from macrobiotics and left it in the Admirable But Hard pile.

However Tom Monte’s book Unexpected Recoveries has a most brilliant section on eating for health.  If you ever see that book going at a reasonable price on the internet, oh buy it buy it buy it!  It is just the best.  His advice on food is full of macrobiotic wisdom, but like a bird regurgitating worms for its chicks because they’re too young to handle them in full-on wriggly format, so Tom Monte has processed the diet info we need to know and dished it up in a form the Normal Human Bean can understand.  He gives you the low-down on everything you need to know about eating to stay well – and the bottom line of that is, fruit, veg, whole-grains and beans.

Next I came across The China Study, which sings the same tune.  Colin Campbell recommends (in The China Study) what he describes as a ‘plant-based diet’, which for some reason I find easier to conceptualise than ‘vegan’ – possibly because ‘vegan’ has all kind of guilt-trip associations for me for reasons I’ll go into some other time or we’ll be here all night.  Asked wistfully by some enquirer if eating fish is OK, Colin Campbell says w-e-l-l…. not r-e-a-l-l-y… because fish is more like meat than it is like plants, and eating plants is what keeps you well.  However Tom Monte says a bit of fish is OK if you don’t go mad with it (standard macrobiotic advice).  I find this immensely helpful for eating out, because rare indeed is the restaurant that will dish up vegan wholefood, but fish and seasonal vegetables, or fish salad, or fish on wholegrain bread, are relatively easy to come by.  

I used to drink fruit juices quite a bit until I saw Robert Lustig’s YouTube video about fructose, that spells out unforgettably exactly why and how the body metabolises fructose like fat – so soda and fruit juice are contributing massively to the obesity epidemic of present times.  I haven’t had a glass of fruit juice or soda since I saw it.

So what do I eat?

I start the day with a cup of nettle tea if my long-suffering Badger is home to make it for me.  If he isn’t (and sometimes even if he is) I get up and do my WiiFit exercises, then have a glass of water and 4 Spirulina tablets (steer clear of the gag-worthy ghastly powder form of it) and do whatever needs doing before my body has chilled out again from the exercise and I feel like breakfast.  The Spirulina is g-r-r-reat!  Without it I get low and fretful and start wanting to eat meat and fish.  With it I hum along cheerfully with lots of energy and no cravings.   It has protein – as in, loadsa protein.  It laughs in derision at T-bone steak.

Breakfast – home-made muesli with a chopped banana and unsweetened soya milk.  I make my own muesli rather than getting a branded mix, because they mostly have wheat in.  I don’t want too much wheat because it swells up body tissues.  On the plus side, it does make you feel full.  But also oat grain is soothing in its personality, good for the nerves and calming all-round.  So I make muesli from 2 bags of what I call ‘horse oats’ (the chunky, uncompromising ones not the fluffy ones), one bag of best mixed nuts, one bag of mixed fruit and nuts, a couple of handfuls of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds – and, if I think to get any, some cacao nibs and some ground almonds.  It’s DELICIOUS!!!  

Lunch, I have a salad sandwich.  That’s medium sliced wholemeal bread, with the thinnest imaginable scraping of vegan marg, then some (but not loads of) houmous on top of that (on both slices of bread), then bits of tomato, radish, pepper, cucumber and lettuce.  Clamp it all together and nom nom nom…

Mid-afternoon my teeth get bored, but there is good news!  Nairns oatbiscuits are made of whole-grain oats and are small and not too sweet, and have only about 45 calories.  So I can have two, then, right?  With a cup of nettle or dandelion tea.  If I’ve eaten all the oat biscuits I raid the bag of dried fruit and nut from the stash ready for making muesli – but only a handful, mind!  Or I might have an orange or some cherries.

Then supper is something cooked.  Maybe a bean curry with brown rice, or steamed veggies with soya sausages in onion gravy, or wholewheat pasta with vegetables in a rich tomato sauce.  Something like that.  I never cook from recipe books because I can’t be bothered and probably don’t have the ingredients.


Marigold Bouillon mix is fab and tasty and good for you.  It’s our basic flavouring dooberry.

Fresh herbs are culinary salvation and grace.  We grow LOADS.  Tasty tasty yum yum.

The reason many people hate vegetables is because they buy the wrong ones.  They get the cheapest sort available in the supermarket.  Organic, home-grown, or farmers’ market veggies are a whole different ball game – they are of the most swoon-worthy delicion.  Yum yum with bells on.

A pressure cooker is good, especially for cooking the pulses in double-quick time.  The modern ones no longer come with inbuilt terror.

Sometimes a special luxury sinful treat is called for.  Here’s one.  Get the blender out (as is smoothie-maker type of thing).  Hoof into it a good big lump of vegan ice-cream (we have Swedish Glace because it’s delicious and the others are disgusterous), a slug of maple syrup, and a heaped teaspoonful of instant coffee granules dissolved in as little boiling water as it takes to do it.  Glug on some of your unsweetened soy milk.  Then whizz it all up together for about a minute.  Et voilĂ !  The world’s best coffee milk-shake.  But do not be seduced into drinking this every day!  Remember what Robert Lustig says about sugar, and tremble.

Drink a lot.  Sometimes when your body is whingeing at you, it means thirsty not hungry.  Eat a lot of soup and juicy stuff.

I don’t understand the body chemistry rational for this (the liver releasing glycogen?  The nervous system releasing endorphins?  I just don’t know), but I have found that a ten-minute run does the same as a snack; stops me feeling hungry, makes me feel energised and cheerful.  Why?  Dunno.  But it does.

OK I spec you’re bored now, so I’ll stop.

PS - I do know I mentioned The China Study, Unexpected Recoveries & Robert Lustig's video before - but they are pearls of great price to me and to you - worth reiterating!  xxx

Eco-Tip of the Week ~Plain & Simple Plastic Facts

This photo has absolutely nothing to do with this post, just thought I'd kick it off with another one of Jordan's awesome shots.What is more perfect than a spider web covered in morning dew... :)
Hello sweet friends ~

It's that time again ~ my Eco-Tip of the week. While I may not be maintaining a strict weekly schedule, it's close enough to make me happy! ;) I wasn't sure what I would be blogging about today, so I took a peek in my Green Binder. A year or two ago I decided that I was tired of digging through multiple books, searching various websites and riffling through miscellaneous papers every time I needed to find the answer to a question that either I, or someone else had. I like having the answers at my fingertips, accessible and ready. So, I created myself a binder, aptly (although not creatively) named "My Green Binder". Pretty sad name, but it stuck. Anyhoo, it's a collection of all the info that I would love to be able to remember with ease... but despite having a pretty decent memory, can't seem to always keep it all straight! It's broken into quite a few sections like, Food Facts, Everyday Living, Dangerous Chemicals, Vegetarianism, Recipes... all in one place, easy to find. Once the girls saw my binder, they each wanted one of their own, and how could I refuse them that request? And then I had to make my mom one... and a dear friend and her son who I knew would benefit from the info. It has been indispensable to me, and so after browsing through, I was able to decide on a topic for today's eco-tip ~ plastic.

My cherished green binder :)
Plastic. It's everywhere. Look around and you're sure to spot a dozen items, easily, that utilize this man made petroleum based substance. Granted, in some cases it does a great service ~ my storage bins made of recycled plastic are hugely helpful with organizing. The plastic misters that I use on all of my green products are very handy. But over the years I've made a concerted effort to rid my home of as much plastic as I can, especially when it has to do with my food.
These recycled plastic bins are great for organizing everthing from paper to yarn!
We seem to do this a lot, as a country and as a nation. We 'discover' something, something wonderful, and then with no thought to the future, we go crazy with it. Will it make our lives simpler? Quicker? Cheaper? Yes?  Yes? Yes? Well, then let's move ahead with no consideration of its future impact on our planet, our children, ourselves. (Can someone please tell me why we still manufacture styrofoam???)
My super handy plastic sprayers, used to dispense my all natural and organic Lemongrass cleaner! :)
At this point you may be wondering "What's wrong with plastic?" Let's begin with the disturbing fact that toxic chemicals are released during the manufacture of all plastics. This manufacturing process is unsustainable and extremely polluting. So before it even enters your home, it has polluted the air, water sources and probably the human workers who help manufacture these items. That last bit is speculation on my part, but I doubt it's far from the truth. ;)
Just one of the ways that glass has replaced plastic in my home. Delightful, delicious, organic herbs and spices all sit happily in cute glass jars! What a tasty little army!
 How about this ~ it can take plastic bags up to 1000 years biodegrade. 1000 years, can you imagine? It can take a plastic jug up to 1 million years to break down! A million? Will the human race even exist anymore? At the rate we're going, maybe not, but those plastic jugs will still be taking up space in the landfills and polluting the oceans. ;)  And while we're on the subjects of oceans ~ 

"A swirling, floating garbage dump in the North Pacific Ocean twice the size of the United States has been noticed in recent years and is growing at a swift pace. It is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The number of plastic pieces in the Pacific Ocean has tripled in the last ten years and the size of the accumulation is set to double in the next ten unless the use of disposable plastics is reduced." ( NaturalNews.com)

Not a peaceful, earth loving picture is it? As if that isn't reason enough to limit the plastics in  your life, how about the chemicals? Many of us have heard of Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA. It is a hormone disrupting chemical that can mimic natural hormones in the body (estrogen) and is linked to obesity, prostate cancer, breast cancer and hyperactivity. Should this concern you? Only if living healthy is one of your priorities. :) BPA can be found in the following items:
  • beverage cans
  • canned food containers
  • plastic bottle and containers
  • dental fillings and sealants
 BPA can leach out of these containers when you do any of the following
  • heat containers
  • fill containers with hot liquids
  • put acidic foods in containers
Stainless steel, wood, bamboo ~ these have replaced all plastic utensils. Aren't they pretty?
Not only is BPA a danger, but phthalates are also something you would  most likely prefer to avoid at all costs. Phthalates are linked to birth defects, and were seen to cause lifelong reproductive impairments in lab animals exposed during pregnancy and after birth. These chemicals lead to toxicity of the brain, kidneys, liver and lungs. They are linked to sexual dysfunction and male infertility. They are carcinogenic and toxic to the environment. Some phthalates have already been banned in the European Union... wonder when we'll catch on?

"A recent study conducted by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) found that all sorts of products -- including pencils, toys, shoes, erasers, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, paint, electric cables, snack bags, and clothing -- contain phthalates. According to a recent Reuters report, there are roughly 25 different phthalates used in various products, and while their purpose is to make plastics more flexible, their effects on health are devastating" NaturalNews.com
Open any cupboard in my kitchen and this is what you'll find! Row upon row of glass jars storing everything from popcorn and raisins to quinoa and lentils!
So, let's remember that I am not a fan of the fear factor. No, not the show, but the introduction of facts used to instill fear and panic. It's the main reason I don't watch the news nor read the paper. Information is just information, you can do with it what you please. Does this plasic info unsettle you? Then the power is yours to make a change. Just as the power is yours to do absolutely nothing. I refuse to judge either choice as right or wrong, it's simply a matter of what matters most to you. In what condition would you like to leave this earth for future generations? Or in what manner you'd like to treat this amazing body that was given to you for this journey. All choices. All up to you. :)
How can you make a difference? Let's start with the obvious, recycle. Recycle anything and everything you possibly can. Recycled plastic use 40% less energy than virgin plastics, that's almost half, and that's a huge difference!
Dump those terrible disposable plastic water bottles! Invest in a stainless steel, aluminum free or glass water bottle and use is over and over, safely. Those plastic bottles are not only a huge waste of water (it uses far more water to create one of those bottles than it does to fill it), but a huge drain on a non-renewable resource, oil. They are intended for single use only, so while it seems to be a green solution to reuse these bottles, for your health and well being, don't. They begin to leach chemicals over time.
Our beautiful stainless steel water bottles. Mine is the lovely white one, they travel with us everywhere we go! :)
I avoid most all foods and drinks in plastic or aluminum cans lined with plastic. You may not be ready for this step so learn what the numbers on the bottom of those plastic containers really means. Choosing a 1, 2, 4 or 5 is a safer bet. Avoid numbers 3, 6 or 7 at all costs.
How about slowly but surely dumping all of those plastic food containers and replacing them with glass? I did this over the course of weeks or months and was so relieved to finally throw away all of those plastic containers. Besides glass is so much prettier. :)
These come in tons of shapes and sizes. Invest in one or two a week and slowly over time see them build and replace that ugly stained plastic.
Okay, I'll wrap this up with some plastic facts. Boy, once I get started it sure is a challenge to shut myself up.... I keep wanting to add more and more! ;) Here's more info on the numbers and what they really mean. (Be sure to check out some of the uses for those dangerous plastics ~ bottles? toys?)

#1– safer plastic and widely recyclable
Used for: water, soda and juice bottles, peanut butter containers, shampoo bottles

#2—safer,  recyclable, doesn’t leach as much into foods, not as toxic to produce
Used for: bleach bottles, plastic bags, water jugs

#3– danger, carcinogenic, not recyclable (PVC)
Used for: plastic wrap, toys, bottles, water piper, cooking oil bottles

#4– safer, doesn’t leach as much, not recycled
Used for: plastic wrap, grocery bags, some baby bottles

#5– safer, possibly recyclable (Preserve.com will recycle this plastic) (polypropylene)
Used for: food containers and tubs, squeeze bottles, many bottle covers

#6– danger, not recycled- highly toxic to brain and nervous system, suspected carcinogen, may have adverse effects on ted blood cells, liver, kidneys and stomach
Used for: Styrofoam

#7– danger, not recycled, leaches Bisphenol A (BPA), mimics and disrupts estrogen, affect growth and puberty, affects the size of reproductive organs, decreases sperm production, can spark prostate and breast cancer, linked to hyperactivity, increased aggression and impaired learning
Used for: hard, plastic baby bottles, sippy cups, metal food can liners

And I guess it's time to zip my lips...that'll do it for today. :) Wishing you all a wonderful plastic-free afternoon! ;)

Peace & blessings ~ Melinda