April came and went. I realized I have not posted any pics or words about my gardens in over a month. I have been occupied with the employee wellness program at work, Easter, family birthday parties, mowing, and caring for the gardens and the yards between the rain showers and storms. We sowed lots of seeds the last week in March and first week in April. My first crop of arugula, Mizuna lettuce, and mustard greens were ready on Sunday, just 39 days after its sowing. What a lovely and refreshing salad it has made for Dean and I. Today I added boiled egg and roasted turkey for protein to a bed of my fresh greens tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette to make a chef salad for our lunches. Cannot wait.
In my Missouri town my furry hat and leather gloves are needed when I get out and about this week. Winter’s chill is here to stay for a few months. It came before the winter solstice and Christmas this year. A fire in a wood stove or fireplace is welcomed, but the chillest of December days seem to warm up with good food, drink, and fellowship. Holiday celebrations are underway. The inner chef in me loves the holidays. With last week’s office party I made a traditional tiramisu to go with the Italian luncheon of pasta con broccoli and lettuce salad. For the extended family gathering last weekend, I prepared a 11-lb ham with a Bavarian-style glaze of brandy, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard with each family member pitching in with a homemade side dish or dessert. A cheese platter like this photo from Cabot will be designed for another celebration, with spirits served at each gathering. I want to connect with those I love, and those I need to love more … warming spirits and hearts. Tis the season, reason for the season. Hibernation will come later. Curling under a blanket with a book, writing, and dreaming. “Ham and green beans in my evening rice, with a glass of that good blackcherry wine on the side. Hibernation is a fine art!” ~David J. Beard.
What an incredibly stressful two weeks for Dean and I with work and family decisions to make. Nothing earth-shattering. Just bang, bang, bang, constant pounding. Questions to ask ourselves: What do we want now? Five, ten years from now? What is the the best thing for us? How does this decision effect others around? Who might we offend with the decision? How do I handle a class of whining employees that their favorite yoga instructor has been replaced by another fully certified yoga instructor? Again, do not want to offend, but sometimes impossible. What educational program can be created to teach 4,000 employees about smart food vending choices? Can I get another flu vaccine clinic scheduled last minute for the new police department building? What are some bariatric options for our employees and their dependents? So on and so on. With work, family, and life in general, you cannot please everyone. Ultimately, the decision you make has to be one you can live with. “Own it. And then move on,” as one of our daughters told me this week. I like how role-reversal happens as your children get older. It is listening to your own advise, is it not?
I found reprieve this work week, daily all 5 days. I have decided to take my full lunch hour despite what telephone calls, emails, or projects I have waiting in my office. With the milder temperatures I have been walking at least 6 blocks each day. On my walk on Monday, I began to pass by the church 1-1/2 blocks from my building, and then stopped. I decided to climb the stone stairway and go into the church to pray. Lo and behold, there were at least 20 other people, some local residents and other business people like myself sitting in the pews and praying. St. Joseph Catholic Church in Clayton has prayer everyday before the noon Mass. My lunch hour cannot be adjusted to go to Mass, but I can join in prayer everyday. Yes, an answer to my prayers for stress-relief during the work day, a prayer and meditation date at 11:30am. I know I can, and I do pray anywhere and anytime. God hears our heart without words even spoken. But there is something oh so special when a group of believers come together to pray. The church bells chime as I leave those stone steps each day. Their echoes are heard as I continue on my walk before returning to the office, a reminder of the prayers I just prayed.
Dean and I’s budget is tight with regular bills, a room addition project, and retirement accounts to keep at. But every now and then you have to treat yourself. Simple pleasures. Let me preference the following words with “I am not a lush”. I drink a beer, glass of wine, or a spirit of some sort maybe one evening a week. Today I indulged in an orange mimosa long before noon on this September Saturday. A suppose well-deserved mimosa. A pitcher full would have been divine, but I refrained. After running errands, my husband and I patronized one of our favorite local eateries, the Main Street Diner in old town St. Peters, Missouri. Tables were taken, but the cafe bar was open. We hopped onto a couple of the bar stools, placed our orders for Uncle John’s egg scramble and Cousin’s Jeff’s breakfast plate, and I began to watch the entertainment of the wait staff. These 4 ladies gave each other the business the whole time, leaving a few jabs for their loyal clientele. Dean noticed as well. We laughed along with them. We also noticed cocktails being served from time to time. I had not known liquor was served on Saturday mornings at this eatery. Oh my, a mimosa was being prepared! I love me a mimosa! My sweetheart ordered me an orange mimosa! By the time the delicious breakfast food was consumed, I was ready for that mimosa. Dean watched as my cares went to the wayside. He took full advantage of my relaxed state with a smooch right on the lips, and immediately afterwards received a smack on the arm and a “stop that PDA” by the “everybody’s mom” waitress. Too funny!
I am definitely ready for a Saturday of cleaning and laundry while Dean works on the Jeep. And I think I am ready to tackle another week of decision-making with prayer and God’s guidance. And 1 spirited drink!
Of course you have heard of the saying “April showers bring May flowers”. I always added to the end of that saying “and May flowers bring June bugs.” Well, I have refined that saying to “April showers bring May flowers and May flowers bring June critters.” Missouri’s humid summer is here to stay for at least the next 3 months. The warmer season attracts the bugs as well as other critters to our plants. My two potted daisy plants were coming along finely near the front porch, watching each day for a week anticipating a blossom to open any day. Dean and I came home from work one evening this week with the two daisy plants knawled down to the roots! The neighborhood rabbits or squirrels must have had a mighty fine lunch of daisy leaves. There was plenty of other green vegetation to eat! The critters tossed the one lone daisy stem with a blossom to the water splash block setting under the front porch gutter. These furry critters must not like the daisy blossom, but I do. Not to eat, but I admire their simple beauty. I snatched the blossom and set it in water to co-exist with some airplane plant shoots. A repurposed medicine bottle found at the Chandler Hill Vineyard grounds while marketing last year now makes a lovely vase. The daisy blossom graces our kitchen and opened this last day of May. Lovely!
A half plate of veggies, a quarter plate of protein, and the last quarter plate are the carbs at lunch and dinner every day should not be an issue. It can be if the time and food budget is tight. So what is a person to do if the doctor or dietician advises this? So, I am that person and I have begun watching my carbs and protein counts and having that 1/2 plate of veggies at every lunch and every dinner. BTW ~ Everyone’s plate should look like the illustrated. ~ And my 2 snacks a day need to be a carb with a protein every time. My recent blood work shows I am no longer in the pre-diabetes category, but diabetes category. I have 3 months to take off some weight and have my glucose levels below that 100 threshold or I am placed on oral meds. I have to be a good girl for my sake, take care of myself! So my creative juices begin to flow and a practical plan begins. I am a wellness coordinator, look after employee wellness programs at my full-time job. I will be a wellness guru when it is all over. Singer Dale Watson says, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you always got.” So here are the 5 major changes I have made …
First, I have had my ah-ha moment, reality check, whatever you want to call it. I am a diabetic! If I keep on this same road I have been on, I will be diabetic the rest of my life. Who wants that? Not me! I started back to Weight Watchers before the holidays and have that support group. Though Weight Watchers is a great weight management program, the Points Plus system treats fruits equally with vegetables. Fruit has a high sugar content, so I need to treat it as a carbohydrate with the diabetic exchange program. Now that the half plate of veggies illustration is stuck in my head, that visual is what I live by today and everyday the rest of my life.
2nd change, I am daily using a booklet my doctor gave me as well as go online to http://www.calorieking.com for my carb counts. Those winter time pick-me ups like hot cocoa, chai latte, or a pumpkin muffie brought me over the threshold from pre-diabetic to diabetic, I am sure. One hot chocolate from your friendly neighborhood Panera Bread or Quik Trip is over 50 grams of carbs, more than I am to have at one meal setting! I have to “weigh” the immediate gratification to the overall outcome. Believe me, the sweet hot drink is not worth it!
3rd change, herbal tea is my everyday fall to beverage when water is not satisfying my thirst. Soda, diet or sugar-loaded are not good for anyone. Beer and wine are reserved for special occasions like the cocoa and latte. This week Stash coconut mango oolong tea is awesome hot or iced. There are so many other teas to try, of course unsweetened. Many have medicinal purposes as well.
4th change, the dollars I am saving each week from no hot or cold beverage runs I apply to my gardening habit, with this year’s focus on more vegetables and herbs. If I can freeze or dehydrate a supply of vegetables and herbs for the next winter, I will be that much more ahead budget wise. I will literally reap what I sow.
I have upped the ante from my 10-minute 4-3-2-1 fitness routine I started in January as my New Year’s resolution. So the 5th change is if I do not get a 30-minute walk in during the day or gardening is not part of my weekday evening, I will exercise with a swim at the Center of Clayton indoor pool or a DVD exercise tape at home before the day is over. I cannot afford any more excuses for lack of exercise.
I will share recipes for my half plate of veggies in the What A Dish page on this blog. Please share yours!
The winter time blues will not beat me. I live and dream of my garden with tonight’s menu: Crunchy Kale Chips, Baked Sweet Potato, Crushed Peppercorn Medley-Crusted Beef, and a glass of Mencia Roble, a red wine made from the Mencia grape grown in Spain. A home-cooked dinner this blustery night. The kale recipe can be found on my What A Dish Recipe page. Kale is a vegetable I never tried until working with EarthDance Farms as an apprentice in 2011. Nothing beats the bursting flavors of organic kale, except maybe arugula. The power-packed veggies I ate this evening were grown by someone else, though organically. My readings this week include a blog written by a Kentucky woman who gardens year-round. Much of her garden survived the subzero temperatures earlier this month. She used a plastic liner and low tunnel fabric to protect her plants. Several varieties of kale, arugula, and mustard greens beautifully survived the arctic air. I am growing three heirloom tomato plants in my semi-heated garage this winter. They are still producing delicious fruit. This week’s Purple Cherokee tomato will be sliced for tomorrow’s lunch accommodating my beef patty sandwich. This is not quite like the gardener in Kentucky, though a start. Locally grown greens … I am so inspired to expand my growing season here in St. Charles County, Missouri. So what are you growing this winter? How do you beat the winter? Please share your story.
Freshly picked, organically grown asparagus and bok choy are my highlight purchases at the weekend farmers’ market. This evening I will put together an asparagus quiche for our breakfasts and lunches this week. And I will stir-fry the bok choy in sesame oil with garlic, and then toss with a bed of rice noodles for our gluten-free, low-fat tasty dinner on Tuesday. I cannot wait! Dean and I again are provoked to stay on this path of healthy eating with local foods, minimizing pre-packaged foods.
Last week we attended the St. Louis luncheon and celebrity appearance of Michael Pollan, author of many food relationship books. In the company of other locavores, foodies, and activists the menu included locally grown produce, raised pork, and freshly baked dessert. His newest book, Cooked came with the ticket price, and Mr. Pollan made himself available afterwards for his signing. Other books Michael Pollan has written are Second Nature, A Place Of My Own, The Botany Of Desire, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense Of Food, and Food Rules. These books range from gardening to food processes to food policies to food politics. I have already read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and now have in hand Cooked and A Place Of My Own, which a bit different of Mr. Pollan’s other writings. The latter is about the need for space, minimal but your own. I am anxious to get this one read. I have reserved from the local library the author’s first book Second Nature , which promises to be another excellent read. It is his personal relationship with the earth story. His famous film Food, Inc tells all in regards to food processing. I recommend this eye-opening documentary.
All this leads to Deanna Greens And Garden Art once again. What are we growing in our greenhouse? With the long winter and unheated greenhouse, we finally were able to sow some herbs a couple of weeks ago. Repellant flowers last week. Edible flowers this week. All organic methods. And this is just the beginnings … so much more to accomplish with this quest to good health.
My morning lingered and I languished until the lunch hour. I could not wait any longer to get outside to take in the spring air and 70 degree weather. I set out to walk a bit, but did not get too far. Well, this Haiku poem says it all.