Thursday, February 25, 2010

Honey and cinnamon

My emails have thankfully thinned down to (mostly) notes from friends and family, with the occassional forwarded joke or chain letter. (See my earlier post.) I am no longer stressed to delete, delete, delete ninetynine percent of my inbox in fear of offending any person who expected me to send back a 'bouquet' or balloon bunch.

Tonight, however, I received an interesting email which I really hope has valid information since I love my raw honey and always liked cinnamon. Can anyone verify whether a mixture of honey and cinnamon, added to either hot tea or a glass of warm water, is effective against arthritis, cholesterol, bladder infections, colds, influenza, immune system, fatigue and upset stomach? Is there an online source to check the benefits of this natural combination?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One Small Change - February update and plans for March

I'm still writing 2009 on checks, which is understandable since I write so few checks in this e-commerce world. So it's hard to fathom that the second month of 2010 is almost gone. Time is flying, folks! Winter, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, will soon be a romantic memory of snowfalls and woodsmoke curling from chimneys.

It's also the end of the second month of Hip Mountain Mama's One Small Change Challenge. Here is how my two months have racked up so far....

I continue with my January goal of reducing my beef intake, having partaken in a total of three beef meals so far this year. Protein has been from grain, legumes, fish, and some chicken. Last week I bought a handful of filberts to experiment, and found that they are really good when ground (large pieces) and added to my morning oatmeal with honey. They're also good in a pancake made from mixed wheats with a heaping spoonful of cornmeal added in. I'm stepping outside the banana and apple life, that's for sure. :)

As a result of my February goal I packed my coffee maker away. I am so satisfied with cold-brewing that I put it away. 'Nuff said.

In March I will try some homemade deodorant recipes and/or this product . I'm concerned about the chemicals we use on our skin, which eventually are absorbed into our bodies and can affect health with long-term usage. Skin Deep, the Cosmetics Safety Database from Environmental Workers Group, gives this deodorant a hazard rating of "0". I've been a fan of the EWG for about six years, and subscribe to the Daily Green. Both are good references for healthy options. Now it's time to use their research for my well being.

I added another goal for March when I paid my cable bill for service through March 15th. After that, the cable will be discontinued, and the tv will be unplugged and put in the basement until I decide whether or not to post it on Freecycle. The elimination of that bill will not result in a great monetary savings, but there is currently this black box in the corner of my living room that is rarely used. Yes, I watched about four hours of Olympics coverage this past weekend, but mostly it sits....and sits. Which I certainly don't want to do with spring around the corner :)


Monday, February 22, 2010

Challenge!


Here I was, cleaning out the cupboard with my spices and dried foodstuffs, when I came across:




I bought these when one of those big-chain drugstores was trying to get rid of them for five cents per pack, late last fall. The veggies are for the containers on my deck, but the flowers were bought for something else entirely…..

I had read about a group in England who were brightening spots in urban settings by planting flowers in neglected spots; those little patches of land by the roadside that get filled with weeds or trash. Inspired by their accomplishments, groups have formed elsewhere to join in the project.

I’m currently living in a city. No two ways about it, it’s not filled with rolling meadows and beautiful vistas. It’s got mega-traffic, fast-food chains, and litter. There are some pretty spots like this median that is planted with perennials, but there are also some forgotten little spaces. My plan was to brighten a space or two with the flower seeds.

I put the packets back to wait until next month.

Blog-reading the next day, I almost fell of my chair when I clicked on Rob’s post, hinting about a Guerilla Gardener Challenge. Today he has explained that he’s planning a beautification project and is looking for others to join in the fun. Please take a look at the links he has posted for an explanation and ideas. And please consider joining in!

Almost like those seed packets were trying to tell me something.

By the way, I did get the cupboard cleaned out.

I think I'll be stopping at the garden center on my lunch break....

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yesterdays



There are the remainders of so many sheds and buildings that will someday be gone. They hold the dreams of past generations.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spirit





Easily visible from I91 in Massachusettes. I enjoy seeing this when I drive by....

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mmmmm....

This waits for me at work, and it smells soooo good! I wish I could share the scent with you. It was a birthday gift last week from a friend, co-worker, and biking pal. I actually look forward to going to work on Monday, because of this!







Coincidentally, her birthday was this past week, too. (I gave her a small azalea - she loves to putter in the flower garden!)

RR

While in Vermont last weekend, I took some photos of things I want to remember. Here are a few which relate to an earlier post, in which I tried to explain the importance of the railway system on the early families of northern Vermont. This more modern building is still in operation, however most of it is used by other organizations.



Behind it is this smaller building, still in use but not open to the public.



While across the street is this reminder of olden days. It appears to have been a hotel or boarding house in an earlier life, probably necessary for those travelling by rail. It has that 1890's era look.





Driving around this town, you'll see reminders of the rail lines, like this discarded freight car that someone salvaged for use as an outbuilding on their property. On the left hand side of the photo you can see the angle of the roofline and what was the sliding door that was used when loading the car. It probably carried everything from livestock to grain over hundreds of trips.





I can remember in the 1980's they replaced the timbers in a section of track and offered the used ones free, if you could haul them away. They went quickly.

New Englanders are thrifty folk. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Nothing goes to waste. A shed may look like it is filled with junk, but in that pile of "junk" is just the piece that you need to fix something, saving a trip to the hardware store on a rainy Sunday. More than once, I was helped by neighbors who had that perfect piece on that rainy Sunday....






Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Little red house










I first saw this house 26 years ago. Of course, it looked much better back then. Not so weary and time- and weather-bedraggled. It used to look as if someone had closed the door to go to the market, intending to return within the hour. Through the curtains I could see what appeared to be a console-type television and some furniture as I drove by. Or maybe it was just my imagination.

Within a short amount of time the grass took on a rough and wild appearance. What seemed to be large weeds turned into small trees. The glass windows became targets for rocks or other projectiles. It has seen the ravages of dark, rainy nights and unforgiving heat waves. And the paint quickly faded. For most of the year this decline happens behind the cover of overgrowth, but during the dormant months of winter the house is again revealed, tattered and alone.

Someday this house will be gone along with the memories that it was once lived in by people we never knew. There was, and still are the remains of, wallpaper in the front room. The curtains that were carefully hung have mostly turned to dust. Shutters still stand straight and tall, hanging on to the pride with which they were once painted.

This house is just a few miles from Rose’s house. I wonder if she knew the people who lived here, and what makes one house live on while another is forgotten.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday, stuff and such

Woohoo! 4 more inches of the white stuff today. It makes everything look so good! It seems a waste to have this beautiful weather when I'm sitting at a computer at work all day. So I'm daydreaming of the time when I can see this outside the windows of a little cabin in the woods....










The No Impact Man (book) arrived today, so you know what I'll be reading next! Thank you, Crunchy Chicken!




Back to painting this week. Next on the plate is the kitchen. Lots of nooks, crannies, and appliances to be pulled away from the walls. I'm saving the bathroom for last since it's small and simple. It will be an easy finish....

I'm looking for another Small Change for February. The coffee switch has been so simple and rewarding that I feel like it's cheating, that I haven't done enough. I'm thinking about cancelling the cable and freecycling the TV. I live without it for the months of May and November, and don't watch it much now..... Anyone have suggestions for something that I might not already be doing?



Oh, I forgot to tell you about these. I have one very good source for vintage patterns. I picked up twenty for one dollar. The sizes might be too big, but I can alter the pattern to fit. I love the last one!

Like I need another project right now :)





Monday, February 15, 2010

If you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills...



then you certainly weren't in northern New England this weekend! (*) I drove from Long Island Sound almost to the Canadian border this weekend, and I was stunned that there is almost twice as much snow here at home than at my son's house in northern N.E! But I have to admit, they've got me beat on cold weather!
(More snow in the forecast for us in southern N.E.!)


Saturday night was the Blue and Gold dinner, as my oldest grandson is in Cub Scouts. It was just like old times when his father was a scout. Boys are boys are boys! I had the honor of sewing on his new Webelos patch. Ah, it's nice to still be needed!








Saturday was oh! so cold. It kept most of the ice fishermen off the lake. Not all, but most. There are always those hardy fellows who trek out there for the sport.





Update on health issues up there: It wasn't as bad as I feared, but it's not that good either. This will be one of those lessons in patience that come into our lives when we least expect or want one.


I missed a few folks on this trip, but will catch them next time, once the weather warms up a bit.




* with apologies to Fleetwood Mac!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Out of office



I'll be spending the weekend with my four little sweethearts, ages 10, 8, 6, and 2, along with their mom and dad (my oldest son and daughter-in-law), my youngest son and his girlfriend, my dear friend, and possibly some others.


I may not have internet access, so just in case.....



Have a happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

More reading


Only recently did I begin to wonder about coincidences. Like, how does last year’s Memorial Day Parade in Vermont fit in with a book I just read last month? Things just seem to fit together. Bits of information, like puzzle pieces, are coming at me from many directions.

In January I read about the Dust Bowl in The Worst Hard Time, learning a little more about the Depression. The entire book was fascinating, but one interesting point was that the government would buy dried beans to give to the folks in the Midwest. They could not raise crops due to the erosion of the soil and lack of rain, so government provisions would travel by rail and be given out at the station for those in need.

The book I’m reading now, Memories of the Ups & Downs of the Island Line, was from the library book sale in Vermont, held on the day the town has the annual parade. (The grandstand is set up directly across from the library, and the book sale does well with folks waiting for the parade to start.) The book is a compilation of oral histories about the railroad, which was a very important factor of life in early rural VT. One narrator tells of how the farmers in the northern part of the state would grow and dry beans to sell to the government for money during the Depression. There was a building where they would sort and clean them, and bag them to be put on a freight car. Knowing the area, I imagine the farmers bringing wagonloads of beans to the rail yard. It is fascinating to think that the beans grown in the northern regions of Vermont (my home for 24 years) might possibly have helped feed families in the Midwest.

There are so many more resources for first-rate information on the Depression. What I need is the time to read them!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In the news

A few co-workers took a lunch time trip to the new dollar-type store that opened near work. I declined the invite to accompany, partly because I do very little shopping other than groceries. (This was the first “R” that I adopted years ago – “Reduce”. If I don’t really need anything, then why go shopping?) But mostly because my opinion of the products they carry isn’t very high.

I question the manufacturing process that produced all the plastic doodads, the wages paid to the workers who made them, the fuel to deliver them to stores in the US, and the landfills that they will live in forever. Or worse, the toxins released into the air when they are incinerated.

Coincidentally, this article about the dangers of lead and cadmium in cheap jewelry at Dollar Stores appeared in yesterday’s Burlington Free Press online. The trinkets are marketed for children (young girls) who would be susceptible to the carcinogenic effects of lead and cadmium. These items were tested and found to be many multiple times over the acceptable limit. It boggles my mind to think that any company CEO could willingly produce things that are known to be dangerous for children, or that these products will eventually sit in landfills, leaching out toxins for decades to come.

Thankfully, the Attorney General’s office is diligent about this, but it is sad that they should have to be. And I wonder how many items get through for each one that is found.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Updates

I think it's time for some progress updates on what's going on in my neck of the 'burbs:

One Small Change Challenge: I’ve continued with my January change, reduced beef intake and using legumes and grains for protein exchanges. My February change continues to go well. I’m making approximately 2 ½ cups of concentrate at a time and looking for a larger container to make bigger batches.

The Better List: Guitar lesson # 3 tonight. Doing well.

Painting the condo: Originally planned for December, but started in late January. Bedroom and living/dining room complete. Kitchen and bath to be done before March.

Packing and weeding out: Going well. Made several trips to Goodwill last month with extra “stuff”. Freecycled my rowing machine (boy, was that popular!) Almost done packing the non-essentials for everyday living.

Gym: Still only once per week, trying to go 2x/week to get ready for bike season.

Reading: That’s my next post!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Through a different pair of eyes

MyStory had some very interesting thoughts in her latest post about what we would do if we knew we were facing our own ending. When we are full of the business of life it is difficult to imagine. Have we crossed all our T's and dotted our I's? Have we done, or even attempted, everything that we really desire? Or are we behaving as we are expected, disregarding our own ambitions? Would we happily leave others behind, knowing that we have passed on all our love and life energy to them?

I am now looking at this very subject from the other side, since a phone call this week cut me to the core. One of my dearest friends in Vermont was rushed to the hospital. Skipping the complicated details, she is now waiting for biopsy results. Even though she is twenty years my elder, I did not expect this news or the foreboding that it carries. In my mind she would still have the coffee pot on when I move back to VT. Realistically, even if the results are good, her general health is not.

Now the clock has chimed the eleventh hour. Have I done and said all I should for her? Have I given at least as much as I received, in terms of friendship and help? Will I be regretful of neglect? This woman was a key person in my life at one of my "low" spots, encouraging strength and honor, and guiding by questioning.

I will be away next weekend. We will have a three day weekend from work and I must take advantage of this coincidence to visit my family and a friend.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In awe

For at least six months I’ve been driving past this billboard. Usually, they change the sign every month or so, but it is very noticeable when something that is expected to change – doesn’t.




I had heard of this professor in the news a few years ago. How he was diagnosed with cancer and had a very short time left. How he gave his “Last Lecture” at the college where he worked. Then I filed that piece of information in the back of my mind.

Last week I stopped over at Dewin’s blog to catch up on her postings. Imagine my eyes opening wide as I read her review of The Last Lecture written by Randy Pausch. Okay. With her recommendation I decided that this is a book that I had to read.

From the first pages the simple, straightforward honesty kept my interest and made it difficult to put the book down. Prof. Pausch details his life, in particular his childhood dreams and ambitions. But his message is how to encourage and enable your children (and others) to reach their dreams. His simple guidelines are so admirable.

He did not want sympathy, but only to tell the world about his happiness in life. By doing so, he gave us a “gift” of these guidelines that we can use to improve our lives and the lives of others.

When I looked inside the cover I saw how many times the book has been checked out of the library. It felt good to know that his message is still reaching so many people.



Monday, February 1, 2010

Grandma knew

My condo has a nice, thick wall-to-wall carpet in the large living/dining room combo and in the spacious bedroom. It was brand spankin' new when I bought the unit. (Wood floors would have been nice, but the carpeting keeps it warmer in winter.) Since I don't track in dirt (shoes come off at the door) it stays kinda clean, although my sewing machine tends to drop thread pieces and there may be a crumb or two around the table. I still can't figure out who's been doing that.....

But I only plug in my vacuum about every six weeks. Two years ago I found one of these in a Goodwill for six dollars, and it works great. I use it as often as is necessary. I don't have to empty or replace a bag, and it doesn't need electricity.





I remember, as a waitress, using a small carpet sweeper to clean up after the lunch rush was over and how well it would pick up the mess from under the tables. So I snatched this helper when I saw it in the shop.

As I get older I see how our parents and grandparents did okay without all the technofuss and bother that we accept as normal today. They kept busy, productive, and lived contented lives. And gosh!, they didn't have to go to the gym to get their workout, which is where I just came from. Please excuse me, I've got to shower and get ready for work.

Have a great Tuesday, no matter what Punxsutawney Phil says! :)

This was too easy!

I'm enjoying my second cup of coffee this morning. It took literally seconds to make. And it was in the fridge since yesterday.

This experiment is for my February One Small Change challenge, to waste less electricity used for making coffee in the mornings. I tend to leave the coffeemaker on for an hour or more while I get my caffeinated fix. I found several articles, advertisements, and even forums about cold-brewed coffee and decided to give it a try.

From what I have read online, the acid and oils in coffee beans are released with heat. In an article over at MSNBC Seattle's Best and Starbuck's were both tested for pH - the lower the pH, the higher the acid. Seattle (which cold-brews their coffee for iced drinks) had a 6.31 pH of while Starbuck's (which heat-brews theirs) was 5.48. Also, it is the oils which go *rancid*, and give that off-taste after sitting too long. So cold-brewing should lessen that, too.

So yesterday morning, after I finished my second cup of Capresso brewed coffee, I took out a canning jar and some inexpensive but acceptable coffee. I put one and one-half cups water in the jar.

Added one-third cup coffee.



Gave a gentle stir, just enough to get the grounds wet. And put it in the fridge.





After twelve hours I strained the grounds using a filter set in a strainer, and put it back in the chiller for the night. (The aroma was tempting, but I decided to wait until morning....)





This morning I mixed equal parts coffee mixture and water and nuked it. Really, takes no time at all.




AND, I think it has a richer, more pleasing flavor. For an inexpensive coffee, it put the coffee shop stuff on notice!
I've got enough for tomorrow morning, too. Now I'll have to experiment with larger quantities so I'll only have to prepare it once a week. Folks who wrote in the forums stated that their mix would keep up to two weeks.