Spring seemed to arrive in Missouri early this year. Grass and flowers bulbs sprouted up out of the ground, and we are not even to March yet. My vegetable and herb bed was prepped with rich organic compost, and spring greens and peas sowed on Monday, earliest ever for Deanna Greens And Garden Art. The pink tulip trees and yellow daffodils bloomed in color this week. And then … woo, the north wind blew in the arctic cold and snow flurries on Friday. Winter is still among us this weekend. Those daffodils swayed with the wind on Friday, but with hope they will continue to stand and bloom even in the chill of winter. Resilience. That is what we are called to this very day, and for a season. Isaiah 42:3 states “He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a dimly burning wick. He will faithfully bring justice.” Hot tea, a warm Sunday breakfast, and God’s Word keeps this wick burning this day.
The holiday weekend marked the baptism of our youngest grandchild, Elise. Beautiful evening ceremony. Lovely child. God with us. Labor Day seems to signify the end of summer. Colorful fields with changing hues of amber and purple for the harvest season. A whole summer of prolific arugula is about to end although my growing season continues with my herbs. I sowed more leaf lettuce and basil a month ago in hopes to yield a fall crop. See how mother nature takes her course. Next year I will introduce a new herb to my quilt of culinary herb patches. Lavender. So I will learn how to prepare the soil for my first crop of organic lavender. Lavender lemonade is my favorite summertime beverage, and a lavender tisane is a soothing, calming herbal tea enjoyed before nap time or bed time. This time next year I hope to harvest my own fresh grown lavender at the Deanna Greens And Garden Art plot seated in Boone’s Hollow Farm. Not sure if little Elise will be quite ready for a tea party then, but maybe soon in the many days that follow …
Our first snow of the cold season came this weekend. I could hear the snow flakes rustle the leaves on the trees. Some of our shade trees had their colorful autumn leaves left on their branches, with a 1/2-inch of snow yesterday and another 2 inches today weighing down the branches. So elegant like a lady at Sunday tea with a white lace shawl over a crimson blouson to break the cool afternoon breeze, our Japanese maple with its red leaves swayed in the wind with a layer of fluffy snow. Birds and squirrels gather under the bushes and feeders for seeds. An early snow for this season, I sure hope it does not prelude a long winter. Time for a cup of tea …
Dean and I delivered a trailer load mixture of compost and top soil to our greenhouse site at Boone Hollow Farm a few days ago. I inquired from a local farmer who I know from my childhood as this farmer uses sustainable practices at his top soil farm less than a mile from our home. Last weekend herb seeds were sown, and in less than a week we have garden cress seedlings sprouted. This warm, humid air has made the ideal conditions for my herbal bed. From what I read garden cress is very prolific. I seeded many culinary herbs such as parsley, sage, thyme, basil, chives, marjoram, dill. Garden cress is one herb I have not used in my dishes before, though I inherited a packet of seeds somewhere in my farmy networking. I do not discard gifts no matter how small or big, so I will come up with some uses for garden cress. I understand it makes flavorful tangy sprouts for salads and sandwiches. In England it is added to egg & mayo tea sandwiches. Sounds like a country tea party with my green garden tea plates & tea cups in a couple of weeks at the greenhouse.
I have found photos of such darling herb gardens these past few weeks. We have a retailer’s greeting card holder we bought for $5 from the local library moving sale. I want to repurpose it to a herb garden, particularly for my daughter who lives in an apartment with a balcony. Vertical gardens are trendy now, and very practical for urban dwellers. I will work with this idea later this summer into autumn. We went semi-traditional, a 12 x 6-foot bed raised 6-inches from the floor of our greenhouse on the screenhouse side. There is some protection from the sunrays with the black cover now. I need this for skin protection. I have battled basal cell cancer 2 years ago. The semi-indoor herbal bed will be protected somewhat from weeds as we have a landscape fabric under the gravel floor. We cleared most of the gravel before shoveling the compost-top soil mixture in the bed. We will see what happens in regards to pests and bugs. We found a 3-foot snake skin in our greenhouse last week. Critters can still get inside. Let’s hope Chuck, the groundhog who lives under the barn down the hill stays out! As well as his skunk, mole, and rat friends!
How do you grow your herbs? Containers? Raised beds? Vertical beds? Are your herbs for culinary or ornamental purposes?
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!
Hot tea has been the beverage of premium choice for the 3+ long months of winter. Wild cherry is my favorite, seems to cure whatever may ail my body. Then there is the tea garden green or pomegranante green tea that brings a bit of spring or summer into my day, healing to my mind. Of course, the classic Earl Grey with a tad of half & half brings me to my days as a young mother. My sister-in-law introduced me to this tea after spending a year in England. The more contemporary, spicy, citrusy flavor of Chai filled my tea cup several times as well this winter. The tea set in the photo is a gift to my daughter, Elisabeth who celebrated her 30-year birthday a few days ago. I want to share my love for tea. It can change the tone of a day after a few sips. It must be taking those few moments to savor that saves the day. The mentioned teas and tea set are all compliments to the Olde Town Spice Shoppe in historic St. Charles, a local small shop for all your teas, accessories, spices, and gourmet foodie items.
Spring visits Missouri again this week, and a spot of tea does not quite fit the bill. I make a change with the temperature of the day. It is a celebration drink with the good news. My bloodwork showed no auto-immune or cancer! Just an allergy to the cold, which this winter was the worst for me since this allergy appeared over 5 years ago. Pyrmid apricot ale is poured into a clear glass, sharing the bottle with my hubby as I am feeling a bit woozy-headed and tired this evening. The apricot ale pairs wonderfully with the sweet chili Thai noodles with sweet peas and grilled chicken. I think this ale would accompany a dark chocolate dessert very nicely. My Weight Watchers weigh-in is tomorrow, better hold off for another day when I feel up to baking and can work off the extra calories (or points) before weigh-in.
I sip a cinnamon vanilla herbal tea as I write. What is your choice of beverage? And what food do you pair it with? I would love to hear!
This Sunday was set before us with no real plans but hang around the house. The impending winter storm has kept us inside all day. We went to church last night, with sleety rain hitting our windshield enroute home. Warnings throughout last evening and today told us significant snowfall was to follow. I made a warm breakfast of French toast with a loaf of oat bread, veggie omelettes, and Canadian bacon. Hot tea and coffee throughout the day warded off the thoughts of the cold. I even pulled out some spring decorations for the fireplace mantle to replace the wintery decor. Homemade chicken veggie-noodle soup for dinner while the berry crisp baked in the oven. We forgot the whipping cream, so Dean walked to the corner store for some. Five years ago that would have been me with a welcome walk for 2 blocks there and 2 blocks back. I loved walking in the snow. Dean came back just as the timer went off with vanilla bean ice cream, no whipping cream at the store. I mentioned the wintery sky and beautiful snowfall to my hubby. He reminded me that the subzero wind chill temps would be too dangerous for me. I write …
Tinge pink sky aglow
The quiet hush of snowfall
Soft crunch tonight’s steps
March 2, 2014
More bloodwork has been ordered, hopefully with results in another week. The root cause of my allergy to the cold is being checked now. It has gone on for over 5 years with no real answer other than “your body changed”. The allergist/immunologist who originally diagnosed me is concerned about how bad it has been for me this winter. Is it the severity of the winter which has made the swelling so bad? Or the medical condition worsening? The antihistamine I take everyday now seems to combat some of the symptoms. I resort to the anti-inflammatory when the arthritis is real bad.
I remember the scriptures … “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14. The Great Physician knows, my holistic healer. Thank You, my God. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
At my full-time job I am inundated with wellness information constantly. Everyone and their brother have a new service or product to sell for one of the seven dimensions of wellness. I will expand on that concept in another post in the future. Working with employees on their wellness needs brings it back to me asking “what I am doing to take care of myself”? Creative ideas, programs, products, white papers, aggregate reports, diets, menus, and so forth pop in my head at any moment. Some of those ideas I apply to myself. Tai Chi and Weight Watchers At Work for this season in my life… This cold winter proves a challenge for many of us while we hibernate in our warm homes. Though this year I have devoted 10 minutes every morning to the 4-3-2-1 exercise routine … 4 minutes of cardio, 3 minutes of resistance, 2 minutes of abs, and 1 minute for stretches. This replaces the outdoor walks in nicer weather. Not only do I keep my body from idleness, in the evenings I fill the brain with articles, books, garden catalogues, blogs, poetry, art, and classic movies while curled on the recliner with a blanket sipping a cup of hot tea. In a few days the Winter Olympics will come to our TV screen after the Super Bowl hype is over. Meantime, I have picked up once again my copy of A Place of My Own
written by Michael Pollan. He writes about simple living in a place he built. This so relates to the greenhouse we built, thinking “look at what our hands have made”. No, look at what Dean has made. I credit my husband for his craft, skill, and diligence. My plants survive like I in the winter, but become vibrant once again come spring.
A couple of evenings ago I shared on this blog my healthy dinner menu and a recipe. (See “On The Menu”.) Last night we had comfort food, warm comfort to counteract the winter cold. I made a healthier version of chicken dumpling soup with a homemade veggie, herb,and chicken stock before spooning the herbed dumpling batter into the boiling brew. Did you know if you add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the liquid while cooking bone-in meat, more collagen and other anti-inflammatory nutrients will be drawn from the bones? This reserved liquid gold will be used for a seafood chowder recipe I have been mulling over in my mind for this weekend. My culinary vocabulary book cleared up the one question I had, “what is the difference between chowder and bisque?” Chowder has chunks of vegetables, and bisque has a puree of vegetables. Both often have cream in or served with. I will lighten my recipe with milk. I will make more stock from scallops. Cubed potatoes, shredded carrots, chunked celery and a medley of herbs will fill the soup pot just in time for the next arctic blast blowing Missouri’s way on Monday. This is my winter wellness. Cooking healthy foods, reading, writing, and those morning exercises.
The midwest blizzard and subzero temperatures have Dean and I snuckered in the past two days. Recovering from an upper respiratory infection, the cold air has kept me inside with hot herbal tea, fresh baked scones, fragrant glowing candles, and the love of my husband to keep my body and soul warm. Home is the place to be. Business comes to a halt as most offices are closed. We can choose to be stifled or set free. Cannot deny the snow is so beautiful, perfectly white. Snowflakes patterned a glittery shooting star on the kitchen window. Neighborhood Eurasian tree sparrows discover our cedar wreath blown under our wagon as a shelter. The berries fed our feathered friends. Photos were captured with Dean’s new digital camera. And then our red adirondack chairs contrasting with the white. The sunshine and wind cast everchanging shadows with snow drifts. Cannot wait to see the photos. “Photography… it’s the way to educate your eyes, stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop …” St. Louis born photographer Walker Evans has been quoted. We did not have to go for a hike in the country today as our home’s window panes framed the wintery scenes.
While our flat-coat/Labrador retriever mix perused the yard, sleety stuff pelted his double-layer coat this morning. Midnight’s forlorn gaze while Dean and I left for work today tells me we are in for the winter storm the meteorologists predicted a few days ago. Midnight loves this winter precipitation, so being indoors is not his idea for fun. Me, I hate being in this freezing weather due to my cold allergy. Those were the days of sledding and warming bonfires…
So other wintertime occupations have started indoors for me. Watching love birds sharing seeds with each other, along with the holiday movies and music specials, Scrabble games, and reading library books on snowy evenings are what I have in mind this week and the many others this long winter. And what about the wintertime foods and drinks? Well, that is all a part of it, too. Warming soups and pastas. Tea time every day at work. Tonight, Dean and I will indulge in some Bailey’s Irish creme while in front of the blazing fire of our kitchen fireplace. We will finish up the list of guests for the weddings next year. All three of Dean’s children are to be wedded in 2014! Maybe we will chat about our garden dreams for next year, as we cannot solve the cares of our jobs and of this world … “We have learned that more of the ‘earth-earthiness’ would solve our social problems, remove many ‘isms’ from our vocabulary, and purify our art. And so we often wish that those who interpret life for us by pen or brush would buy a trowel and pack of seeds.” ~ Ruth R. Blodgett.