Thursday, March 28, 2013

Orcas Dreams 8: On The Fence Post

Do you notice something peculiar about this picture??  Here, take a closer look, . . .

Yes, those are my daughter's shoes.  My kiddo took her shoes off at her friend's house a few days ago, of course she didn't want to put them back on.  I must have left them sitting on the top of the car because that is the only way I can think that they got to sitting on this fence post--they fell off my car and somebody took the time to actually put them in a visible spot for me to see.  That would have NEVER happened in Oakland.

When I drove by this spot, two days later, I saw them out of the corner of my eye.  I stopped and did a double take.  "No way?" I thought, "Those couldn't be her shoes."  Sure enough, I reversed, and there they were, sitting on the fence.  When I realized what had happened I smirked; what a nice surprise, I definitely dig it here.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

She put it on the shelf for me.

A favorite photo I have with my mom and I from when I was a kid.

This April, it will be three years since mom died.  I can't believe I've lived that long without her.  In so many ways it still feels so fresh, in others, so much has happened that it feels like she passed long ago.  I think though, because of who she was and how so much of her was a part of me, in many ways it still feels like she is still with me.

I get frustrated at times when I can't just pick up the phone and give her a ring.  Sometimes I ask her aloud, "Mom?  What the heck do I do now?" or "Did you see that mom?"  Yes, she is a part of me.  Even though I can't actually hear her voice with my ears, I can hear her speaking into my thoughts.  This time of year always brings back more memories than usual.  I definitely feel inspired to write about her, she was an amazing women and touched the lives of many people.  My heart still aches for her, even just today, when I was feeling sick and moping about it, I looked at my hubby and said, "I miss my mommy."  Some things will never change.

On a sweet side of things, I have a cute story for you all.  It was an incident that showed me just how connected I still am with my mother; reminding me that she is still around, looking after me and my loved ones, just as she always did.  My sweet mom.

. . . .

As you know, this winter, Gary fell and cracked a rib (or two).  I was treating it with a comfrey poultice and trying my best to think of different herbs to help in his healing process.  My mom had taught me a lot of her herbal ways, I even sat with her week after week while she went through all the body systems and she told me what was good for what.  Of course, only so much of the knowledge has stuck, but it's only a note pad away.   After she died, I kept a lot of her own notes, she had binder's full from classes she sat through over the years.  It's nice to go through them and see her thinking, I rub my fingers over her handwriting.

I was wracking my brain as to what else I could give to Gary to help with his lungs.  He asked me to give him something to tonify and keep his lungs strong.  He had started to have difficulty breathing with the slightest exertion and it was worrisome.  I searched on the internet and came to a page that listed herbal lung tonics.  I landed on Elecampagne.  My mom had talked a lot about the herb, she had asthma and used it herself.  I even remember her pointing it out in the garden as she showed me all her garden herbs.  After my research I sat for a minute thinking where in the heck I was going to get Elecampagne tincture, since I hadn't used it before I didn't think I had any.  My mom had given me a little "first aid" kit with lots of different herbal "essentials" and I thought if I had it, it would be there.

I stood up and walked into my pantry trying to remember where the kit was.  Most of my herbs and tinctures were still in boxes from our move.  I was under the impression that I had only pulled out what I had needed thus far, I had really wanted to organize my herbal arsenal and getting all the bottles out of the boxes seemed pointless.  I was wrong about that though, somehow, this tincture, that I didn't even know I had, was sitting right in front of me for months.

The infamous bottle, I love her handwriting
I flipped on the light and there it was, right on the shelf waiting for me.  I hadn't even noticed it before that moment, and I go in and out of that room probably 20 times in a day!  It was the very first bottle I saw when I walked into the room, and a large 32 oz bottle at that!  As if my mom had put it there herself.  I could hear her voice in my head saying, "I made you do the work figuring out what herb to use, now here is the medicine!"

I smiled, then I cried, then I prepared some medicine for my husband and said allowed, "Thank you Mom."  I know she was with me.  I know it was her.  It WAS her!  Wether it was her ghost or her spirit leading me, whatever (!); somehow, she had given me the for-sight to figure out what was needed and then led me to the actual medicine that she had prepared for me years before.

Our dead are always with us, especially the ones we love.  They imprint themselves into our lives and onto our souls.  I see my mother everywhere I look--in the echinacea plants that are beginning to grow in our garden, in my sons blue eyes, in the things I say and do, in her favorite movies, in sayings I hear, and even in my very own pantry!  She is everywhere.  When I miss her physically, I only need to look around and there she will be, in one form or another, joining me along life's ride with her sweet smile and her words filling my heart with her motherly love.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Keep The Beet Salad

I love beets.  Aren't these just gorgeous?  I'm drooling just thinking about them.  I don't eat them too often, they aren't a favorite with the rest of the family, but every once in a while these thick skinned, rooty vegitables call to me.  At the farm stand the other day I noticed a big bowl of them for sale and I just couldn't resist. 

Today, as I was cleaning and cutting them, I was admiring their beautiful color, a deep magenta.  If you like beets, I hope you like that color, because it gets everywhere; on the cutting board, on your hands, on your tongue.  If you eat a lot of them, they will  even turns your poop and pee pink--a great incentive to get a 3.5 year old, who loves pink, to eat them, wink wink.  

Since I posted the picture, above, on my fb page a few people had asked me how I like to cook them.  So, I thought I would share with you one of my favorite beet salad recipes.  I wish I had a picture of how pretty this salad really is, but alas, I got carried away by my tummy grumbles and we all sat down to dinner before I remembered to snap a photo.  Regardless, this salad is easy, yummy and keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.  I usually have it as  a side to a meat dish, like roast chicken.  In the mornings it call me for breakfast and is usually gone by mid afternoon the following day.  FYI, the walnuts can get a little soggy over night, but I have never minded.  If it bothers you, pick them out and toast some more!  Here ya go!


5 medium sized beets
1 cup of walnuts
1/2 Red onion chopped lengthwise into long slivers
1/2 cup feta cheese
3Tbs of olive oil
1 Tbs of red wine vinegar
Salt to taste

First, cook your beets: (I usually do this in morning so there is sufficient time for the beets to cool down)
-Set oven to 400 degrees.  
-Wash them well, cut the heads and tails off them, you can keep the greens for stewing later.  
-Put beets in an oven proof, airtight, container with an inch of water.  You are going to steam them in there for about an hour.  You will know when they are done if you can stick a fork into the center easily.  
-When they are finished, set them on the counter to let them cool down.  
-Once cooled, you can easily peel off their skins, now they are ready!

Preparing the salad:
-Cut your beets into bite sized pieces, throw them into your salad bowl.
-Toast your walnuts in a medium skillet, or, you can do this in the oven while your beets are cooking (pay attention, they burn easy). 
-Add the walnuts and the onion to the bowl.
-Drizzle the olive oil first then the red wine vinegar on top of your mish mash.
-Add salt 
-Toss salad.
-Once everything is evenly coated crumble your feta cheese over the top and serve! 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Orcas Dreams 7: Fired Up

On one of the first nice evenings we decided to burn our christmas tree for the heck of it.  Why not?  It went up in flames fast and was pretty amazing to watch, see below for the video.

I've been wanting to write another Orcas Dreams for a while now.  Life has been so busy and I've been sick for the past two weeks so my computer time has been limited.  To be honest, as of late, I've been trying to pull away from the seductive glow of my screen and reach for the growing plants and mud that are in my garden.  I am itching for spring and it is (hopefully) right around the corner.  

It is beautiful around here.  As always.  There is something really refreshing about the new growth I am witnessing.  Never before have I been so connected with the seasons as I am now.  Back in California I noticed the flowering trees and the new buds poking out of the ground, but never so much as I do now.  I am suddenly starting to hear birds and buzzing bugs around me.  Last night, for the first time since we moved here, I heard the croaking symphony of frogs that live around our house.  For somebody that is so sensitive to noise when she sleeps, I wanted so badly to keep my window open and listen their music as I drifted off to la la land.  Not so, however, it is still too cold for this girl.  

We have been planning our garden, and I'll tell ya, I'm super excited.  We've already planted peas and garlic, on the list to go into our garden is carrots, quinoa, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, chard and kale.  Next weekend we also plan to go to a bare-root tree sale to buy a bunch of fruit and nut trees, we are thinking, apple, plum, apricot, almond and maybe walnut.   Since this is our first year here we want to get planting as soon as possible. Our hope is to reap the benefits of the land we live on sooner rather than later!  I also have medicinal plants on the list, we managed to get some calendula, we already have echinacea, lavender, yarrow, comfrey and yerba beuna.  Now I'm on the look out for St. John's Wort and perhaps some mullein.  My ma would be proud.  

All this said, I can't believe it's already the middle of March.  This month has flown by and I know the summer will be here before I know it.  We have some visitors planning on coming and we are looking forward to seeing some familiar faces.  I am also planning a trip to the bay area in April for my Dad's birthday.  It will be me traveling solo with the kids (not so sure about that!) and Ms. Serafin is so excited about going to some of our old haunts, i.e. Tilden Park, the zoo and the park that used to be down the street from us.  Our week will be full and fun.  

Silas gets his Hulk on!  He's so strong!
As for all of us, we are doing well overall.   This cold/flu knocked me off my ass, but thank goodness Gary is feeling better and he managed to take the kiddos off my hands for some extra (but never enough) sleep.  Speaking of the kids,  Silas is now a certifiable walker and is all over the place.  He has officially entered toddlerhood.  Ms. Serafin is asserting her independence in ways that continue to challenge and baffle me.  She is displaying so much more cognition and interest with things.  Spending time with her is a joy and I am really having fun seeing her personality develop.  I also see her struggle with trying to figure out her boundaries (as well as ours).  They are both so amazing to watch and continue to teach me about myself in so many ways.  Sigh.  Parenthood.

So that's all for now my friends.  I will leave you with a video of our "little" bonfire (picture up top).  All is good.  Peace.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Bath Toy Graveyard

I knew bath toys were a nasty germ collector, but these pictures, by The Cheese Thief, really hit home.  Do I really want my  kids to be playing with these in their tub?  No.  And, gosh darn it, over the years, we've collected so many of them!  So upon remarking to the hubby that I wanted to get rid of them, he looked at me and said, "Hmmm, how can we take them out of the system?  I mean completely."  He was right, if we gave them to The Exchange (which actually just burned down, however they are rebuilding), then some other kid would just be playing with our nasties.  If we threw them away, they would end up in a landfill!  Neither felt good.  Gary was right, we hat to figure out a way to put these toys to rest for good!

We toyed with a few ideas, I really liked the idea of gluing them to the ceiling of the kids bathroom or even hanging them from a tree, but somehow, "the bath toy graveyard" seemed the most appealing to me.  So this afternoon, I got some bamboo sticks and stuck 'em up the bath toy butts to make a lovely, depending on who you talk to, decoration for our garden.  Yup, it was all very highly amusing.  During the process, I did peak inside one of them, and yes people it was disgusting.  Regardless, here is my bouquet of sodomized bath toys.  Ha ha, now I'm making myself laugh.

After letting some glue dry, Serafin and I went outside to pick a good spot to "lay the toys to rest".  Now they peak out from underneath this tree and throw in a splash of color!  Now, what's next?  Gotta figure out what to do with those bottle caps we've been collecting!  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Serafin's Tree

The tree in her old room.
Since we moved out of our Oakland home, Ms. Serafin has been wanting a tree painted in her room. That's my girl, a tree-hugger, just like her ma.  In her old room, before she was born, we payed an art student to draw a tree mural on her wall, there were also clouds and birds, it was pretty awesome.    

My mission has been to make her room here fun and playful as well.  She has mentioned the tree on several occasions, so today I decided to give it a go, or, shall I say, give it a "grow".  Ha ha (laughs stupidly at own lame jokes).

It was a random and spur of the moment thing, this tree drawing business.  Perhaps it was part of a desperate attempt to herd the kids into Serafin's room and do something interesting.  Really, I don't know what possessed me, it was kind of a circus act.  Since Gary was out today, it was just me and the kiddos; once I got painting, every two minutes I had to pull Silas out of the way before he got paint all over his hands (then the rug, then everywhere else).  Still, I persevered.
Here's me getting ready to sketch (photo by Ms. Serafin), pencil and eraser in hand!

Now, when it comes to real-life drawing, I am no "Artist" (said with a french accent).  In fact, I hated drawing class when I was younger because whatever I tried to draw never came out how I pictured.  I used to get so frustrated.  As an adult, I can see that I should have had an open mind and consider all my jagged and squiggly lines Picassos (or perhaps that's what I will tell my kids if they ever have the same issues with art class that I did).  I grew up with such great artists in my family, my brother majored in art, my Dad was also very good and his mom, my grandma was actually famous in Greece for her painting.  Unfortunately it was just never my thing.  Today, however, I decided to make it my thing!

Originally, I had tried hard to get Serafin to agree to have somebody else to paint her tree.  But no, she wanted a tree drawn by her mama's hands, I suppose it serves me right for all our tree-hugging adventures.  So without really thinking about it, I faced my fear and got a pencil.  Before I knew it, I had paint, a ladder, sponges and I just went at it.  I even managed to do a little shading, ho ho!

 In retrospect, I think I got a little carried away with the foliage, yes, that is one bushy tree!  But who cares.  I like the colors, and what's more important is the kiddo think it's pretty (phew).  There was one moment there when she asked me why I was dabbing orange on the tree, with her inquisitive, unsure voice.  Really, I didn't know why I did that, I guess in my head it was fall time.  I bit my lip trying to think of an answer and then a moment later she asked me if they were oranges.  Yes!  They are oranges I thought but didn't say anything, just kind of looked at her and went, "ummmmm. . . ".  I was waiting for her next comment to be "But Mama!  I DON'T WANT ORANGES!"  Instead, she smiled and said "I want apples!"  So I pulled out the red paint and got at it!  Thank goodness for that!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

More Than Just A Little Fish

Here is a picture of some Betta Fish kept at a PETCO store in Seattle.  It makes me so sad.  How could anybody think it's ok to keep an animal in this type of a condition?  I don't care where they belong on the food chain, they are animals too!  Just look at them!  How miserable.  Do they look happy to you?  Isn't a fish supposed to swim?  They look half dead to me, I think some of them even were. And look at the sign!  It's not even straight!  Does this signify a company that cares about animals?  I don't think so.  

I snapped a picture in the moment and when I pulled the photo up on my computer, I just knew I had to do something.  I called to speak with the manager who at first gave me some spiel about them being Betta fish and that the fish was able to live in small reef ponds.  I stopped him pretty quick, and told him that there is no way that keeping these fish in a tiny pint sized container was any comparison to their natural habitat.  A Betta fish forum talks about the issue and says "You could probably keep a dog alive if you left it confined to a tiny, cold closet, but you could never expect it to be healthy or thrive."  So true and common sense.  Why do people do this? 

Towards the end of our conversation he had nothing to say accept agree with me and ramble on about how at the PETCO he worked at they tried their best to keep their animals in clean and healthy environments, i.e. changing the poor fishes water 2 times a week, instead of just once (which was what was recommended by source where the fish came from).  He gave me a number to call "corporate".   

I called.  After waiting and waiting (and waiting and waiting) to speak with somebody, all I got was some guy who couldn't speak very good English and a "ticket number".  "Yes mam, we will be inquiring about this and hopefully be resolving the problem (blah blah blah)."  So for now, the lively hood of these fish has been reduced down to a number.  What does this type of treatment to a live being say about our society?  ARGH!  I'm frustrated, so I here I am, writing about it.

After doing my own research, I have come to find out that a Betta fish actually needs a lot more than a pint sized jar.  If you're interested in finding out for yourself, you can read up about it out here, then you can see for yourselves everything that PETCO is not doing!  In fact, they are doing pretty much the opposite of what they should be doing to keep these fish alive and healthy.  

'Nough said people!  If this bothers you, spread the word!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Tasty Tea #6: Chrysanthimum

I spent last weekend in Seattle and made a trip to the herb store.  Our pantry has been thinning out in terms of our medicinal herbs and I couldn't help but stock up while I had the chance!  See all the wonderful goodies I managed to get my hands on?  Yum!  Amongst them are comfrey root powder, nettles, lemon balm, foti, elderberries, damiana, oatstraw and a few others.  Mmmmmm.  I was in some serious heaven and probably went a little overboard!

As I perused the shelves I caught a glimpse of a jar of Chrysanthemums.  I instantly went into my past and couldn't resist buying a small bag full.  I haven't had this tea since I was a young girl.  My parents used to take my brother and I to a Burmese Restaurant in downtown Oakland and along with my noodle soup, I would gulp down several glasses of Chrysanthemum tea.  Not only do I remember it being a delicious, but also a very pretty to look at--the white flowers expand in the water and stay floating on the top.  I could see making this tea for a small group of people and putting it in a glass kettle/tea strainer for all to admire.  It really is pretty.

Of course, after being out and about, the first thing I did when I got home was put the kettle on.  I was eager drink some tea! I quickly realized that it doesn't take much to flavor the water and you only need a 3-4 flowers per cup--not a dozen, or so, like I did, see below.  I think I just got over excited (and greedy)!  While the cup looked pretty, it did taste a bit on the bitter side.

In terms of medicinal properties, Chrysanthemums are anti-inflammitory and cooling.  The tea is great to drink during the summer and particularly if you suffer from heat stroke.  You can also use it to bring down a fever or reduce symptoms of cold and flu.  It's bitter qualities make it great for helping with digestion too.  The flowers themselves are rich in vitamin B and also have tons of calcium and phosphorus.  You can even soak some cloth in the tea to chill it to make a refreshing eye compress for the end of the day!

Drink Up!