happy list

sunflowers, heavy and bright, uplifting


dragonflies

lovely iridescent glowing, being okay with just sitting awhile

bubble bath

time to just soak, think of nothing, or maybe page through a magazine full of glorious colors

kittens

nearly always way too cute when sleeping

quilts

both old and modern, my stash of threads and fabrics, creatively dreaming, making gifts of warmth, remembrance to come

orange

gentle rain and good chair

old books

I’m trying to be ruthless, even so I don’t find too many books making it to the pile for the used book store.

new journal and old fountain pens

June is nearly over. The humidity and the heat are steadily increasing. I find myself spending more time in my studio, writing and watching the hummingbirds from the window.

coffee

good morning

C​offee. Ahhh. First thing in the morning and life is never finer. Unless, you get a bad cup….you, coffee slurpers, sippers and mug collectors know what I mean. A bad cup of coffee sets the tone for the day, the burnt oily sludge can stick to your stomach for hours. My stodgy and dependable Breville decided to konk out on me- actually the pot cracked, leaking coffee brewed all over my morning routine and costing me pricey minutes in my commute. I checked allover, including with kitchen stores and the manufacturer as well, but this particular coffee pot is no longer made. Sigh. It had been an expensive heart-rending buy years ago after extensive research. But, I will admit I wasn’t 100 percent happy with it ever. Time to again time to return the search for the perfect cuppa. 

There are many coffee makers. The kind of equipment you choose will greatly change your coffee experience. Water is either dripped, steeped, or pushed through via pressure. Just looking through the SurLaTable catalog was giving me a headache.

T​here is the Steeping method. The French Press, the coffee ‘tea’ bag, and the vacuum pot all use steeping methods. I don’t recommend the coffee tea bag method, unless you’re out in the woods and want something hot and not necessarily good. It’s a step up from instant, barely. The French Press always makes a decent pot of hot and fast coffee, but you will have to clean the messy grounds out afterwards. The vacuum pot is like a beautiful science experiment. This method also requires a bit of work but on a lazy Sunday its super sexy and impressive. You can boil coffee with water as in Turkish or cowboy style coffee, but this is often a bitter choice.

T​he Dripping or Filtration method includes the electric percolator, the chemex, cold drip brewing, and nitrous coffee. 

P​ressurecoffee makers include espresso, mokaand aeropressmakers.

My kitchen has a French Press, a moka pot and a Chemex stocked and when I feel like a bit of fussy I use and enjoy them. The espresso cappucino machine has been in the pantry for a while and comes out for company. It is pretty but a bit too much for everyday use. I still wanted a machine – something pretty on the counter with a button to push and that would make wonderful coffee. I had looked at Keurig longingly a few times but I just couldn’t get my head around the pods. They have a large selection of pods but it seemed like too much waste for my habit. I had to admit though the coffee was sublime. It was fast too with minimal mess. I’m the only one drinking coffee on a daily basis in my home, so a single cup at a time seems like a good solution. I then met my first Nepresso. The crema on top of my first cup was impressive and tasty. The machine itself seemed to be heavier and more solid than the Keurig. The recycling program Nepresso has was the deciding factor. Keurig is aiming to get there by 2020, but Nepresso already has a program in place that is very user friendly.

aging

sleepy Sophia

This is Sophia. She’s 20. I know, that’s old for a kitty. Yesterday my husband made an appointment to have her euthanized. He thought perhaps she had gotten to be too much for me. I told him to cancel it. I have had animals euthanized. Every single time my heart and mind struggle. Somehow it feels wrong to me. Yes, hospicing an animal is inconvenient and sometimes very difficult. Sophia gets around okay though over the last year she has lost all her excess weight. She is still going up and down stairs, jumping up on things and even running after her toys though not often. Mostly she sleeps. Her eating is sporadic. I usually open her favorite and then wake her up. She isn’t too good at actually using the catbox though she doesn’t have any mechanical trouble. We’ve set down pee pads for her and most of the time she uses them, or the shower. That’s probably the worse of it- having to clean up the floor on a regular basis.

The last cat I ‘put down’ was ill, and had been getting worse due to IBD developing into cancer. There were times she was in obvious pain. I tried every suggestion I could find, but at only seven years old, she had enough. You could see in her eyes that she was so very tired. Even so, after I wondered if euthanasia was for her or for me. It took me weeks before I could stop feeling guilty.

People say euthanizing a pet is a kindness. They say they don’t feel a thing, though we can only say what we observe without any real insight into their consciousness. They say all kinds of things but I think it’s mostly because it is just so difficult dealing with aging and death. So things are said to make it seem smoother, bearable somehow, even righteous. Maybe, I will have to euthanize Sophia but for now, she will continue with us.

heating up

garden bounty

In just 30 minutes, my tee shirt was soaked with sweat this morning despite it only being 6:30 in the morning. Humidity is at 87% but it feels much higher, and with temperatures in the 90’s the heat index will cook the garden this afternoon. I am using some clay water spikes with upended recycled bottles of water to try to keep the roots watered. The tomatoes and peppers, especially the ancho and jalepeno types, are sluggishly producing still, there are a few skinny eggplants left, and one enormous to-be-later-stuffed zuchinni, lots of basil and oregano. The artichokes are putting off new leaves. The strawberries are done. The hummingbirds even seem more sluggish as they buzz in and out the gladiolus. Forget weeding much lately- I just can’t stay out there long enough to tackle much. This is zone 8b with super alkaline soils that make raised beds and container gardening the best solution. I planted a few presoaked yard long beans, okra and aramanth to take over where the wax and kentucky pole beans are petering out. Thinking about maybe some baby pumpkins too. If anyone has any gardening tips, I’d love to hear what has worked for you.

seven days

there are only seven days in a week

so that means I can wear seven outfits, maybe two, plus pjs or whatever

I wash clothes pretty much every week

and yet I have a ton of clothes

and so the cleansing has begun

before

to be fair, my work required wearing only black, white or solid gray t-shirts

three bags later

after
no one needs this many

and another three bags later

much better !

so six bags off to the church donation center

how did it get this bad?

sigh.

I plan to head into the rest of the closet and tackle the drawers as well. It’s amazing how long we hang onto things we no longer need or want.

The Penguin lessons

How could you not fall in love with a penguin especially when named Juan Salvador who listens with his beautiful expressive eyes? In just a bit over 200 pages, Tom Mitchell, explores his unusual true story of rescuing a penguin from an oil slick In Uruguay. As a young man, Tom wants to see the world and chooses a year work assignment in Argentina despite the fact that these are the turbulent 70’s. There is out of control inflation. The Dirty War is underway. There is kidnapping. And amid this unrest there is still lightness and incredible beauty. Juan was the sole surviver of an oil accident. Once he is cleaned up he refuses to leave Tom’s side. Tom then smuggles Juan back across the border where he becomes the school’s rugby mascot at the elite school where Tom teaches. Juan quickly ingratiates himself with the staff and students, becoming a friend to all. He becomes the catalyst to change and growth to nearly everyone that meets him, proving that great things can come in small packages.

America’s Deepest Lake

Formed by the collapsed Mount Mazana volcano 7,700 years ago, Crater Lake, Oregon is stunningly beautiful and serene. It has measured 1,949 feet deep, a level that only changes with precipitation, evaporation and seepage. It’s crystalline blue waters are worth making a stop for during the 3-4 months access isn’t blocked by snow. Be sure to check with the National Park Service for current conditions and up to date fees. A trip isn’t complete without a Park Ranger accompanied boat tour of Crater Lake. You will have the choice of exploring Wizard Island where you can hike or swim nearby before being picked up and returned to the dock. Be aware that both the hike to and from the dock is a steep 700 drop 2.2 mile trail. Reservations are highly suggested.

blue jean baby….

Jeans…easy breezy, dress them up, dress them down, durable, comfortable, just right, and just wrong, mostly, for the environment.

Cotton should be a great fabric to wear in you’re interested in both comfort and climate concerns. It is used in nearly half of developed textiles and employs about 7% of the population of developing nations to produce it according the WWF. 713 gallons of water go into making one, just one T-shirt. I don’t know about you, but t-shirts form a large part of my wardrobe. Ever hear of the Aral Sea? It’s mostly gone now but it used to be the world’s fourth largest lake. Soviet Engineers decided to divert it’s waters in order to grow cotton in arid regions. Today the lake has split itself into two and is a 10th of it’s former size.

If you aren’t buying organic cotton, then you’re also supporting a huge pesticide/fertilizer industry. Cotton is the crop that uses the most pesticides, dangerous neurotoxin. Most are known or probable carcinogens. And yes, these residues can be found in the finished product of many cottons. Next to your skin.

Jeans, or denim, have additional climate complications….that lovely shade of indigo, possibly additionally acid washed, bleached, distressed, or otherwise ‘treated”. Indigo dye used is now mainly synthetically produced from petroleum and oil byproducts primarily in China and India. Again huge amounts of water are also used in the dyeing process along with a toxic chemical cocktail, the sludge of which is often simply dumped into local waters.

The dangers to the environment, obvious as they are are only one aspect of this “fast fashion”. It doesn’t address the health of the workers involved in the production of jeans and t-shirts, or their working conditions. Around 450 million pairs of jeans are sold in the U.S. alone. The manufacture of denim and cheap cotton isn’t going to stop but certainly we can influence it’s direction by choosing to buy differently. Yes, your t-shirt and your jeans are gonna cost more by choosing ethically but cost can no longer be the only consideration when you get dressed in the morning.

Bread and circuses

One of my goals this week is to make bread. When I lived in Europe, I enjoyed all kinds of bread. I often walked to the bakery in the morning to buy a baguette or some soft seeded bread for breakfast. In the states, or at least where I currently live this is an impossibility and the bread I do eat often leaves me feeling bloated. I don’t buy white wonder, or any of its cousins, but try to buy bakery bread from the grocery store. When I was growing up, bread was often on a side plate at meals and considered a staple. No one I knew had celiac or gluten sensitivity. Now nearly everyone I know has some kind of sensitivity to wheat/gluten. I found I too was experiencing issues after an elimination diet and reintroduction of bread and pasta to my diet- both foods I enjoy eating but seem to leave me with a inflammatory response of achy joints and bloated gut.

Wheat and its production in the US has changed dramatically.

In order to eat grain, it must be milled or ground. This used to be done with stone rollers – think pestle and mortar type of action. Then around the 1870’s along came the steel roller mill. Instead of just mashing everything all together, the new milling process allowed for more separation of the components of the grain, creating a popular white flour. Clearly this was much more efficient at producing flour quickly and it became the new standard all over. In the 940’s bread became “enriched”, adding back in synthetic vitamins B and sometimes the bran, versus the germ for wheat styled breads.

Besides production methods, the wheat grown in the US has also dramatically changed being hybridized many times over to increase disease resistance and production ease and amount.

Ever hear of Norman Borlaug? Or the Green Revolution?

After World War II, there was a huge push to increase agricultural production. Much of the world had experienced severe economic depressions. There were and had been ideological differences that were magnified by agricultural hardships. Think of the Great Depression in the US (1929-39; the dust bowl years 1930-36; WW II 1939-45) This wasn’t a singular American event. Germany’s depression began too in 1929. The Great Depression affected all capitalistic economies to different degrees, but the peace reparations demanded of Germany by Europe caused even more hardship.

The Green Revolution was a movement that began in the 1950’s and through the 60’s …people worried about overpopulation and the possibility of World War III due to the intense political differences of governments (Cold War era; Korean War 1950; Great Chinese Famine 1959-61; Vietnam War 1955; Bay of Pigs 1961…etc). The Green Revolution sought to increase agricultural production as a response to these worries. They succeeded via modified seed, use of new pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, expansive irrigation projects. The Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundations were heavily involved. The simplistic hoped for result was food security and thus peace.

I don’t wish to get too involved in the histories and the politics, but as a unforeseen outcome the lack of diversity in agriculture is a negative. So back to my goal of making some bread this week. I plan to use a flour made from Einkorn wheat. My hope is to enjoy some bread without any reaction to it. Einkorn is considered an “ancient” wheat, thought to one of the first domesticated plants. It is considered to be low yielding (especially considered against “modern” wheat) but it is also able to grow in less than perfect areas. It is not gluten free- so it isn’t suitable for those with celiac disease, but does have more protein and other vitamins. It’s gluten makeup though is very different from modern hybrid wheat. I’m assuming it will taste different as well- perhaps heavier. I’ll let you know how it goes. Feel free to share your experiences and recipes….

ghosts

It’s the last days of 2013, and basically the year has been a blur.  Even as the season winds itself down, I am aware of only the periphery…lights on houses, an occasional holiday song over the radio turned low as I drive over to Tremont.  I think sometimes, I should be making a better effort at being “in the season”…but mostly, I am just happy enough to mark off one more day off the calendar.  Hospice sucks.  I know that my Grandfather has lived a long life and he isn’t in any particular pain.  Its just this waiting. Watching him get smaller every day, a bit more guant.  His wrinkles have turned themselves inside out, smoothed by the loss of underlying structure.  He has no strength to feed himself any longer.  I hold the straw near his mouth so he can drink and even sucking down the thickened water now seems to be a trial for him.  When he tries to talk, I bend over and wait as the stuggling words emerge, muted and torn.  We are both becoming ghosts – only parts of our living are being expressed….I want to feel but emotions push me over boundaries where I am free falling alone and full of fear, so I manage.  I watch him as he manages.  Image