St. Elizabeth's Hospital window view

What I Learned this Fall

 

 

St. Elizabeth's Hospital window view

It’s one of the times I look forward to each quarter when I pause to look back and share what I’ve learned with you. I’m especially thankful to be linking up to Emily Freeman’s What We Learned post along with many other bloggers.

Life has been a bit crazy around here, what with the almost sudden need for my husband to have bypass surgery just over a month ago. Thankfully he’s recovering nicely and we’re getting a little closer to “normal” again, but needless to say many things have been shelved for the past few weeks. I’ve so wanted to write on my blog so many times and only managed once.

I’ve probably learned more in this intense time than I’ve had time to record, but perhaps this will help me to process some of my experiences as I write.

And so I’m thrilled to be able to share with you today some of the things I’ve been learning this fall, whether serious or silly.

*****

 homemade iced coffee

1. Iced coffee was NOT invented in the US (or New England, for that matter!).

For how much folks around here love  are utterly devoted to their iced coffee, I thought for sure that it was invented in the US, and surely somewhere in New England, but it isn’t true.

The first “iced coffee” beverage was probably invented in Algeria, and the iced coffee we know and love today in the United States came much later.

 

2. I will usually fit an activity or responsibility into whatever time-frame I have available.

I guess I’ve been learning this my whole life.

It started back in college when I would stay up some nights and write (freehand, of course; computers were rather new and hardly used), a term paper in one copy, because I had left it until the last minute, forcing me to get the job done in the most efficient manner.

Recently, I’ve been cranking out my quarterly posts in record time, causing this “recovering perfectionist” to throw caution to the wind and just do it, as life has been full these past few months.

 

3. I’m learning how to brew good coffee in a french press.

With the sudden “death” of our Kuerig coffee maker, I temporarily used my French press to make coffee several times. While I am certainly not a pro, I found some good help and succeeded in making some decent coffee before purchasing our new coffee system. My French press skills may still come in handy when we are without power or a decent machine.

I found an article containing a great detailed description of French press coffee brewing methods, and for a more simple approach, I found a handy guide. I used both in my quest for good French press coffee.

Bodum French press

4. I learned the difference between licence and license. 

“Licence” is a noun, while “license” is a verb. According to this article, it’s very similar to the difference between practice and practise (although not in the USA, where “practice” is used for both noun and verb). I feel like I must have been taught this in English grammar class at some point, though I don’t claim to remember.

 

5. I knew that almonds were good for you, but now I understand why.

In this article, Dr. Axe shares the details of why this nut is such a popular healthy snack. Almonds contain healthy fat and boast many other significant health benefits. Raw almonds (and almond butter) are probably my favorite snack along with an apple or some dried fruit.

 

6. I learned about wheat pellets.

I had never heard of this popular Mexican snack food, but something caused me to look it up online. It is made of puffed wheat and often flavored. I have yet to try such a snack, but if so many people like it, it might be worth trying. This blog post contains some helpful information along with some personal experience if you’d like to learn how to prepare this interesting snack.

 

Boat in the golden hours

7. The best lighting for most outdoor photography takes place during the Golden Hour.

I’ve been taught years ago that the best lighting for outdoor picture-taking is just after sunrise or just before sunset, but just recently learned that photographers have given it a name: the golden hour. Bright sunlight looks nice in real life, but it can be difficult to get a nice photo in such harsh, bright light. In the golden hour, the light is softer and warmer, and you’ll find it easier to get beautiful photographs in this light.

Pumpkins in the golden hours

8.  I was 10 when “Slime” was invented.

In 1976, Slime was born. This sticky, slimy, fun substance was thought up by some brilliant mind at Mattel, and was originally green in color and sold in a little green trash can. Over the years many variations were invented (such as Slime with worms), and people have even figured out how to produce their own Slime.

 

9. Jon Bryant is a Canadian musician I’d like to listen to.

I heard this song by singer and songwriter Jon Bryant, and learned he’s a Canadian based in the Maritimes.

From the sounds of this lovely piece, I think I’d enjoy listening to more of his music.

 

10. I researched a little more about the health benefits of oats.

I also learned the differences between some of the different types, such as steel cut and rolled oats. This page from LiveStrong contains several posts explaining everything from the different forms of oats, to health and nutrition benefits, to how to prepare them. I have been including oats in many of my breakfasts and enjoy eating them in many different forms, such as baked oatmeal, overnight oats, and breakfast cookies.

 

11. Here’s the “miracle” method of removing clear oil/grease spots from clean laundry.

In a recent phone conversation with my dear sister, we got on to the topic of laundry, more specifically those pesky little “grease” spots that seem to appear on too many freshly laundered items. I’m still not sure exactly where they all come from, but now I know one solution! (Thanks, Becca!)

Simply take an old (cleaned) toothbrush and gently work a little baking soda into the clear grease stain. Leave it in for about five minutes. Then brush out the powder with your toothbrush and either shake to remove more particles (or rewash if it’s hard to remove).

That’s it! I’ve tried this several times since she shared this simple trick, and am happy to say that it works like a charm. Good-bye you greasy little spots!

 

12. You can make decent mashed potatoes in a slow cooker.

On this year’s unique Thanksgiving Day celebration I was commissioned to make mashed potatoes for about 30 people. Since this year the job would fall mainly to me (with help from my sons while my husband was recovering from surgery),  I began to search the internet for ideas for making potatoes for large crowds and/or in advance, and came across several methods for making them in a crock pot.

The beauty of using a slow cooker is that you can make them ahead of time and they’ll stay nice and warm. The other big draw for me was that they can all be made in one pot, without the need to drain and wash multiple pots and sieves.

So I pulled out my two trusty slow cookers and set out to cook about 15 pounds of potatoes.

After perusing and pinning several recipes to consider, I finally settled on this more basic, but good slow cooker mashed potato recipe.

Making mashed potatoes in the slow cooker

Making mashed potatoes in the crock-pot

13. I finally learned the history behind why (my) part of Canada (and a few other parts of the world) enjoy their milk packaged in bags.

For a good part of my growing up years in Canada and to this day on our visits to Canada, I’ve had milk served from a plastic bag in a little plastic pitcher.

It wasn’t always this way; I do remember having a milk box for delivery of jugs (plastic, I think), but later it was mostly sold in bags. I don’t remember the change and certainly hadn’t thought up why this practice began. I guess it had mostly to do with converting to the metric system (which also happened in my growing up years).

I did always wonder if it was a practice for all of Canada, or more limited to the area where I grew up (in the Niagara Peninsula). Since my sister posted about this on Facebook, we were able to glean responses from many folks from all different locations. We discovered that it is not used in all of Canada, but even more surprisingly, that some rare parts of the United States and even different countries such as South Africa sell milk in bags as well!

I guess it’s really true that great minds think alike! 😉

 

14. I really can depend on my GPS and drive in difficult places.

Since my husband’s bypass surgery “adventure”, I’ve had to learn to depend on my GPS and drive where I’m not comfortable. I had friends go with me and even drive me on hard days, but am proud that I progressed beyond my driving comfort zone.

 

15. God provides the people we need just when we need them.

You can read more details in my last post, but it was confirmed to us again and again through this traumatic event that friends, family, acquaintances, and medical staff come through when you need them. We had such support in both prayer and practical ways all along this interesting journey. My natural family is far away so they could only pray and chat with me, but those who are near us surprised us with their love and help. We are truly thankful.

 

*****

 

 

Algonquin Park area lake dock

What I Learned This Summer

Where, oh where did the summer go?

Isn’t that the same question we usually ask at the end of August or when the calendar flips to September? It’s been good, I wish it had seemed longer, but I’m thankful all the same.

Here’s a list of some things I learned along the way, in no particular order. I’m pleased to link up with Emily Freeman’s What We Learned list again this quarter. Enjoy!

 

13 Things I Learned (June to August 2017):

 

 

 1. I learned the definition of “saccharine”.

It’s meaning of relating to or resembling sugar,or being sickly sweet leads me to the obvious conclusion that this must be where the name of a common (but not healthy, in my opinion), non-sugar sweetener, “saccharin” comes from.

 

2. You can eat radish greens.

When I acquired some nice-looking fresh radishes, I set about checking to see if the greens (like so many others, such as beets), are edible. It turns out they most certainly are, and here are some nice recipes, too.

I remember my Grandmother teaching us as children that there were certain weeds, found right in our yard or “accidentally” in our vegetable garden, that were also good to eat.

One that I thought I remembered her telling me about is Pigweed, but when I look at the pictures online I learned that the one I was actually thinking of is called Lamb’s Quarters.

Maybe our ancestors were wise to realize that while ridding their gardens of unwanted weeds, they were actually harvesting something healthy to eat.

 

3. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to type with all the correct fingers of one hand when you’re missing use of just one finger in the other hand.

I found this out the hard way when I cut the tendon on my left index finger this spring. It was some time before I could use my finger to type on a keyboard, even after the bandage and splints came off. (I’m still in the recuperating process, more than four months later!)

less hustle more grace

You would think that one could simply use all 9 remaining healthy fingers to type, and simply not use the one that didn’t work, but apparently my brain thought otherwise. I could either type normally with my right hand and pick out the letters with the left, or I could simply type with just one finger (like a kid who doesn’t know how to type yet). I became quite adept at pecking out the letters surprisingly quickly, but was relieved when I got enough strength and flexibility to carefully use my index finger to type again.

The brain is an amazing (and scary) thing!

 

4. I tasted my first cucamelon.

Last summer and fall I had the privilege of working on a local farm for several months. I planted, dead-headed and watered plants early in the season, and ended with helping to run the farm-stand when the vegetables began to be ready to harvest and sell. This year, although I have another wonderful job that I love at the library, I still have a day to work at the farm stand, a job I find rather peaceful and pleasant.

My farm boss and friend gave me a handful of these little fruits to try (and share with my family). Cucamelons look like tiny watermelons, but taste like a cucumber. I thought they tasted rather “pickle-y”, but they were fun to try. I love learning about and tasting new foods!

 

5. While visiting my sister this summer, she taught me the best method to keep berries fresh the longest.

We went strawberry picking and used this method, which she had learned and tried with great success. Using white vinegar to clean the berries and storing them carefully lined between layers of paper towels really does help to keep fresh berries for much longer than I had ever seen. Give it a try!

 

6. While the most calls are made on Mother’s Day, the most collect calls are made on Father’s Day.

While writing a short post awhile back, I learned this interesting fact. Do you remember, especially before cell phones, when collect calls were more prevalent? I’m sure I’m dating myself, but it was fun to revisit this method of communication.

It’s interesting to note that apparently people consider it important to take care of mom on her special day, but that they still rely on good old dad when it comes to needing assistance.

 

7. I heard a good tip for for making zucchini lasagna less watery.

I’m not quite sure where she learned this tip, but my sister told me that you can remove the excess liquid in your zucchini lasagna with a turkey baster, reduce it, and use the resulting thickened liquid it as a yummy lasagna sauce.

I may just try it!

 

8. (Apparently) Costco is a great place to work.

We recently joined Costco in order to purchase my new hearing aides. It’s one of those wholesale clubs where you can buy quality items at a good price, as well as many food and grocery items usually in bulk.

As a side note (and I’m not getting any commissions for this), it was a blessing to find that Costco offers great quality hearing aides at a fraction of the cost of most other vendors. (I’ve had a slight hearing loss since about second grade, and have worn hearing aides for close to fifteen years now. )

So we purchased our membership and drove a little farther than usual to take advantage of this deal.

As I was looking at some information about the store, I learned that Costco seems to be a great place to work! They appear to have figured out that if you treat (and pay) your employees well, it’s more profitable in the long run.

It’s just one more reason I’m happy to support this business.

 

9. Forelle pears are beautiful and tasty!

At one of our trips to the above mentioned warehouse store (see #8), we purchased some pears I had never heard of before. It turns out Forelles are a new favorite of mine, with their crisp but sweet flavor. I’m thinking they are more rare (and the following article supports this), as I’ve never seen them before or since.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for this delicious variety in the future!

 

10. I learned about the importance of “Whitespace”.

For many years now, my church has had the privilege of being a host site for a well-known leadership conference. When we are able to participate, we enjoy hearing from many amazing and wise leaders from many walks of life speaking on a variety of helpful subjects.

One of the seminars that impacted me the most was Juliet Funt’s teaching on Whitespace. I truly believe that this idea, along with so many others about “leadership”, could positively impact not only our workplaces and businesses, but our churches, homes, and families as well.

It shouldn’t be surprising that creating space in which to slow down and process information will cause us to be more creative and productive.

 

 

11. You can freeze string beans (and many other veggies) WITHOUT blanching first.

Did you know that you can freeze string beans without blanching first?

When I was growing up on two acres my family grew a large vegetable garden. Consequently, my mother filled a huge chest freezer with the products of our labours, to be enjoyed all year long. Corn, beans, beets, tomatoes, and strawberries were just a few of the things we enjoyed, even through the winters.

Back in the day as I recall, before freezing, produce had to be blanched. I was taught it was a necessary step, lightly cooking the vegetables in boiling water before putting them in the freezer.

As an adult, I keep learning that many of the vegetables I thought needed to be blanched first can certainly be frozen as is, without blanching!

Here’s a helpful post to fill you in on all the details of blanching string beans.

Anything that can save us valuable time and energy and still produce a safe and healthy product is a win-win in my books!

 

12. I clarified why I’m stuck somewhere between metric and Imperial systems.

I grew up with my family in Ontario, Canada, and consequently, at some point was caught up the the transition from the older Imperial system of measurement to that of the metric system. When I became an adult, I went across the border to attend bible college in New York state. There I met and married my American husband, and reside with him and our sons in New England, where he grew up.

I’ve had to use both metric and Imperial over my lifetime, and I find myself feeling confused and not completely on top of either system.

I remember learning metric in school and can easily work with this system on paper, but think mostly in terms of old Imperial measurements when it comes to lengths and distances. I’ve driven in both countries, so am familiar with both kilometers and miles, but understand distances in miles better. As for temperatures, apart from the more obvious freezing point (0 degrees Celsius), and boiling point (100 degrees Celsius) of water, in day to day life I only recognize temperatures in Fahrenheit. I have been told, but never remember the corresponding temperatures in Celsius.

So why do I find myself in such a quandary?

I recently looked up exactly when Canada made this change from one system to another, and low and behold, it all happened to me from the ages of about five to ten or eleven years old! 

No wonder I am so confused! Right through much of my formative years, I was in the middle of a giant, country-wide transition!

I’m not sure if it makes my reality any better, but at least I know I have a reason for knowing bits and pieces of each system, and being a master of neither.

 

13. I really NEED quiet times of peace, especially in nature.

I’ve always loved spending time outdoors and being in nature.

I grew up with a big, two-acre yard in the countryside, with farms and space around me. I also had a father who was a teacher and a mother who worked at home for most of my childhood, and because of this, we were able to do so much in the summer, including a long camping vacation (or sometimes more than one!).

As a married adult, my husband and I, and subsequently our family have always valued and loved most our quiet vacations spent in nature. We love being near or on water, and my favorite places are in what I would affectionately call, “cottage country” (or “up north”), where one can drive for miles through areas of trees and lakes.

One of my most favourite places on the planet (if not the most favourite!), is a large provincial park in northern Ontario known as Algonquin. I grew up going to this area for many of our vacations, then brought my husband there and eventually our kids. It’s a bit of a drive, but we love to spend vacation time there as often as life allows, often being joined by my parents and sometimes my sister and her family.

Even when home, I find that a simple hike in the woods, sitting by or boating on a quiet lake, or even enjoying the ambiance of a campfire are some of my favorite past-times. But not only that; I’m recognizing more and more that these types of activities bring life to my soul.

I cannot accurately describe the feeling I get when I am able to soak up the peace and beauty that nature provides. Something within me calms, rejuvenates, and releases a contented sigh.

On the way home from our early vacation to a cottage in Algonquin this summer, I was trying to express to my husband how much I’m realizing that I actually need these peaceful and life-giving experiences.

I want to intentionally include them more often, even daily in little ways. Things like taking the time to sit outside in the sun, walking peacefully through falling snow, or even sitting in my kitchen with a hot beverage in hand, gazing out of my window can bring needed revitalization in the midst of everyday life.

I’m so thankful for the blessing of God’s creation and times of peace and solitude.

 

Cottage neighbour's boat near Algonquin

 

Adirondack chairs at lakeside campfire

 

peaceful evening boat ride

 

Colourful evening skies on Oxtongue Lake

 

Wilderness lake near Algonquin

 

Flower on the water taken from canoe

 

fox near Algonquin road

 

firepit at Oxtongue Lake cottage

 

Morning quiet time view from cottage dock on Oxtongue Lake

 

*****

I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve learned this summer. Perhaps you learned a little something new or even something about yourself!

 

tubing at Darien Lake with family

The Serious Value of Play

Today’s short post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, and the prompt of the day is “play“.

*****

tubing at Darien Lake with family

Lazy River ride at Darien Lakes amusement park. (Yes, that’s me on the right.) 🙂

 

Children love to play.

So why is it that as adults, we find it so difficult to stop, let loose, and relax or have some fun?

I know we’re busy, especially if you have a spouse and/or a family. Our culture seems to thrive (or thinks it does) on being busy.

Perhaps you’ve learned along with me that we have to make time for the things that are really important to us. It will not just happen.

And I’ll bet that most of us as adults don’t appreciate the serious value of play.

Playing or enjoying leisure time and activities does much to relieve stress, helps our bodies (and minds, and emotions, etc.) to heal, allows us time to create and imagine, and rejuvenates us. It helps us to simply enjoy life.

Play and rest from work give us needed strength and renewed motivation to tackle our responsibilities, pressures, difficulties and joys with new vigor, both physically and mentally.

My personality tends to easily get caught up in getting things done, but when I don’t take time to stop and rest and enjoy my life, an important inner need is not met.

We just returned from a wonderful family vacation.

The weather was far from perfect, but we played indoors while it rained, enjoyed simply being together, and made a point of taking advantage of every sunny moment. We even went out to play under the clouds almost every time the rain stopped.

I was talking to my husband on the way home about how we need to work on taking time each day (even if it can only be a little), and more often each week or month to do fun things both individually and as a family.

My online Pilates group has a monthly health mission, and for July our assignment is to find time to play.

I know I need to purposefully create precious pockets of time (both big and little) to do things that refresh me and bring life to my body, mind and soul.

So forgive me if I sound like a kindergarten child, but I need to ask you a question.

Do you want to come out and play?

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite family photos from my childhood!

The Worth of a Father

 

One of my favorite family photos from my childhood!

Dad watching his upside-down daughters (I’m the older one), as we climbed a mountain trail on family vacation.

Today I’m joining the crowd at the Five Minute Friday link-up (a little later, obviously, since it’s Sunday already). The word prompt for this week is “worth“, and I’d like to dedicate my writing on this Father’s Day to my own father, and to include mention of some other important fathers in my life.

Special thanks to my sister for providing me digital copies of several old family slides mostly taken by my mother of us as children. They have brought me joy today and reminded me of many special childhood memories.

I may be pushing the five minute mark again just a bit (OK, a lot, but it’s important!), but will keep things mostly unedited in the spirit of the challenge.

Happy Father’s Day to you, Dad!

*****

What is the worth of a father?

It can’t be put onto words, but the value of a good father is reflected in his children and in how he affects the lives of those around him.

My Dad & I many years ago

Dad & baby Ann (many years ago!)

We can mostly agree that while a good father influences others for good, in the same way a father can negatively impact his children for the rest of their lives.  We’ve all seen examples of children who really struggle in areas of life or sometimes need inner healing as adults from the turmoil of a poor father-child relationship (whether “negative” or just nonexistent).

I’m thankful for my own good father, as well as some other special fathers in my life. Though imperfect, they have impacted those in their lives in a positive way.

My husband is a wonderful father to our now almost grown sons. He has led them through his life and changed them with his love. He manages to keep us all laughing and enjoying life in the process.

My husband’s late father loved his family and fought for them, both in family life and in the Second World War. His life ended after a valiant fight with cancer, but the honor of his memory and the love he shared will always bless his family as well as many others.

My sister’s husband showed up just at the right time, to “rescue” her after the death of her first young husband, and has brought much joy and love into her life, as well as being a superb father to their three sons. He is a gifted musician, and also “fathers” many other lives in his role as an associate pastor.

My husband’s sister also married a wonderful man, who has been not only father to their now-grown son, but has always been one to reach out and care for our family. He would do anything to help out using his talents in construction and house-building, and he has cared tirelessly for his wife for years.

Even though my father’s father (my grandfather) endured the fear and hardship of becoming blind as a young man, he was truly one of the happiest, most fun (even silly!) people I’ve ever met! He always found fun in each circumstance, and “saw” more than most of us with two properly functioning eyes. He would often jokingly respond in our conversations with the words, “I see”, accompanied by a smile and his usually peaceful demeanor. Even though he couldn’t provide for his family in the traditional sense, he gave them an exceptional example of joy and courage, and even creativity. He wrote and performed folk music for many years, even performing before the Queen Mother when she visited Ontario many years ago.

Now I’d like to focus for a few minutes on my own father on this Father’s Day.

My Dad was a big part of many of the family memories growing up that were shared in the post I dedicated to my mom.

Dad played a lot with us when we were children, and we enjoyed his being silly with us through the years. Laughter and fun seem to follow wherever Dad goes. He spent much time outdoors with us, either teaching us about gardening or playing in our large, two-acre yard, or taking us camping as a family (often twice in a summer; one of the perks of being in the teaching profession).

Dad pumping water for my sister and I to drink

Enjoying a cool camp drink.

He was always teaching us, whether it was the facts of science, the wonders of nature, or the things of God. I often had my English corrected in our home, but even if I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, I now realize the benefit of knowing how to speak correctly.

Dad was a lover of animals, whether that meant teaching us how to care for and enjoy our pets (mainly cats), instilling in us an appreciation for the animals of nature, or on rare occasions, having to “help” an animal by making the difficult decision to let them go.

Once when I was caring for my best friend’s hamster while she was on vacation, my dad was a great support to me. I walked into a room to find that yes, one of our cats had somehow got into the cage and killed her hamster. Although they were both peacefully laying on the floor, I was devastated at what had happened to my friend’s pet, especially under my care. I’ll never forget how Dad came and gently picked up the hamster, stroking his fur as we prayed (just in case God saw fit to bring him back to life).

We often had the benefit of enjoying his class pet at home (usually a hamster, but including chickens and other animals), to care for it over school vacations.

My mother did most of the Christmas shopping, but as a young girl, I vividly remember some of the special gifts that Dad picked out especially for me. He would buy us just one more thing that was just from him, even though the shopping was supposed to be finished. One such gift was a special scented soap (Yardley, I believe), in a yellow case that he chose for me one year. We also made it a fun habit to work on a craft sort of project since we all had time off during the holidays, even though many times it sat unfinished when school started again.

Dad liked to take impromptu drives to look at nearby Niagara Falls and then eat at Joey’s Pizza, and we sometimes drove the almost two hours to watch airplanes take off and land at the Toronto airport. We also drove to many provinces and states during our summer camping trips.

climbing a dam wall with my dad

Dad, Rebecca, and I climbing a water dam. Kind of depicts our personalities…

I have some fond memories of helping Dad to decorate his school classroom and make copies on the ditto machine. We also grew up drawing on the clean side of the many extra school papers that Dad brought home for us to use.

He has apologized to me as an adult, for trying to make me “too perfect”, to which I generally joyfully respond, “Well, you succeeded!” I never felt my parents were too strict; but rather raised me lovingly with firm values that I have carried with me all of my life. I appreciate the many times Dad would humble himself to apologize when he felt that he had failed, a practice that I have learned to do with my own children.

In my adult life, my dad has continued to be a support to myself and our family.

When my mother had cancer, dad loved her and served her well, learning to do many of the household chores that she usually did as a stay-at-home mom. Later he was a tremendous support to my sister and her first young husband throughout his battle with Hodgkin’s disease. He also thoughtfully cared for both of my grandmothers as they aged, often driving them to their appointments. He has been, and remains a faithful friend to many.

We still have a lot of fun together, and my father continues to be a support to us all. He has managed to remain sensitive to our hurts and griefs, yet always maintains an attitude of unshakable faith and almost childlike trust, through all of our difficult times. I know he has prayed for us throughout these many years.

He has kept himself “young” over the years by participating in magnificent church plays and singing in choirs and worship teams (carrying on in his musical father’s footsteps), by remaining active physically (riding a motorcycle and more recently a scooter); he’s participated in missions trips and run several businesses from home since retirement, and still enjoys driving a small school bus (enjoying the fun of the school children without all the grading and disciplining of running a classroom).

He continues to grow and learn and become a better husband, even as a senior. He has taken steps to overcome fears such as height phobia (such as flying in a friend’s little airplane and driving on scary mountain roads with steep drop-offs), as well as shown me that we can learn to not let anxiety (about medical things and blood), rule our thinking and emotions. When I was a child, he completed his Masters degree at night school while being a full-time teacher during the day, and still managed to spend ample time with his family.

I’m sure I will think of more I would like to share, but suffice it to say that I’m proud to be my father’s daughter. I am thankful that God placed me in this family, and that now my own family has been sharing in the blessing of knowing my dad.

Thank-you for the worth and value you’ve added to our lives, Dad!

You have helped us to appreciate both the silly and the important things of life. We look forward to continuing to learn, grow and love together, as we add to the special family memories we share.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

sky photo with white tree blossoms and daytime moon

What I Learned this Spring – March to May 2017

sky photo with white tree blossoms and daytime moon

Welcome to another collection of What I Learned, an assortment of things I’ve noticed or learned that are serious, silly, interesting or emotional. It’s been a busy spring, and I’m grateful to have another opportunity to link up with Emily P. Freeman on her quarterly What I Learned page.

I’ve somehow managed to record quite a collection of miscellaneous points (20 in all!), but since my finger is still healing from a tendon injury and typing remains tedious, I’ll attempt to work against my natural inclination to detail, and be concise. Links will often be provided for you to peruse further information. I hope you enjoy this read, and learn a little or laugh a little with me.

*****

potted mint

 

1. Mint really likes growing in a pot on my windowsill.

I enjoy growing fresh herbs, and have tried to keep some on my windowsill throughout the colder months, as well as planted some in my outdoor garden in the warmer weather. Previously, I put the herbs on my sunny windowsill in their original little green plastic pots. They lasted for awhile, but eventually died, not surviving the winter.

Last summer I worked on a local farm and took advantage of that resource, probably outdoing myself with the number of herbs I purchased or received. I turned a small garden at the end of my driveway into an herb garden, and proceeded to re-pot others to try once more to help them survive the winter.

Well, I think I either chose more cooperative herbs and/or they just needed more growing room, as they mostly made it through the cold months in their roomy pots. In fact, my mint in particular (chocolate mint and spearmint) looks really happy and thriving.

indoor herbs in sunlight

 

And to top it all off, most of my herbs (the perennials) came up again in my garden early this spring!

 

herb garden in early spring

herbs outdoors in late spring

 

2. We tried a Galia melon for the first time and liked it.

While grocery shopping with a friend at Trader Joe’s this spring, I saw a melon that looked very similar to a cantaloupe, but is called a Galia melon. The inside was lighter in color, and the flavor mild. My thoughts were that the flavor seems to be somewhere between a cantaloupe and a honeydew.  According to this post, I guess I was very accurate! It was the first time we had ever tried or even heard of a Galia melon, but it was tasty!

 

3. I finally learned the meaning of the word “paroxysmal”.

I’ve had some dealings with that unpleasant condition known as “vertigo” over the past few years. The type I have been diagnosed with and treated for is known as BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It’s basically a condition of dizziness caused by crystals in the inner ear becoming dislodged and moving into one of the semicircular canals, causing a feeling of dizziness when the head is moved.

Although I’ve known the name of the condition for some time now, I never understood the meaning of the word, “paroxysmal” in the title. A paroxysm is “a severe attack or a sudden increase in intensity of disease, usually recurring periodically”, which helps to explain the sudden and intense nature of this condition.

Thankfully there are treatments available to help ease or eliminate the symptoms, and most therapists or doctors will teach their patients to do these exercises at home. I’m sure thankful for these medical helps.

 

4. I’ve learned of a cheaper and therefore appealing online mattress company.

After experiencing confusing and less than satisfactory mattress shopping, Tuft & Needle was started by two men.  Their aim is to cut out the middlemen and unnecessary expenses, while still delivering a high quality product. It is delivered to your door in a compact box, and the mattress will expand once opened. They even give you 100 nights to test your new mattress!

Sounds like a product worth checking out!

 

5. The Baikal seal is the only true freshwater seal species.

One of the smallest types of types of seals and the only seal species that live exclusively in fresh water, the Baikal seal lives in the waters of Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.

 

6. I’m not sure the story about babies being raised without affection and dying is even true.

Haven’t you heard about a so-called experiment in which a group of babies had all their physical needs met but were not shown affection, and the result being that many of them died? Well, according to this writer, we’re not the only ones who have been told such an account. But apparently the tale is lacking solid sources. As I began to look into it, it appears that although there is evidence that humans need physical affection, there doesn’t seem to be an account of such an experiment.

How do these stories get started and passed around for so long?

 

7. There is a scientific reason why orange juice tastes bitter after brushing your teeth.

It is thought that it’s because of sodium laureth sulfate, which is used as a foaming agent in most toothpastes. Apparently sodium laureth sulfate suppresses or reduces the taste receptors that allow us to taste something as “sweet”.

It could be another reason to use a more “natural” toothpaste.

 

8. I’m learning a bit about how to care for succulents.

After purchasing two cute little succulents in pretty handmade clay pots from some local high school students, I realized that I know little about how to care for them. I found a blog, Succulents and Sunshine, that seems to be a great resource if you are interested in growing this type of plant.

plants from high school sale

 

9. The Giant’s Causeway is an amazing natural wonder.

It’s hard to believe that this amazing set of rock formations on the north east tip of Ireland was created as a result of volcanic action. It looks like a truly remarkable place!

image of the Giant's Causeway

 

10. I’ve been waiting far too long between coats of nail polish.

I’m no professional when it comes to painting nails, but I do like to keep my toenails colored during the warm months when they are exposed. I’ve always thought that it was necessary to wait a long time (like 20-30 minutes?), between coats of nail polish. Well, it seems I’ve been completely wasting my time! According to one nail expert, two minutes is all you need!

I also found this article useful for more nail polish mistakes and how to avoid them.

 

11. Sharp knives really are considered more safe to use than dull ones (but they’re still scary).

I really don’t want to dwell on this topic (I didn’t even want to look at a sharp knife for some time after it happened), but since I cut my tendon on my left index finger and had to have surgery recently, I had to do just a little research to see if sharp knives really are more dangerous. The incident happened when I slipped while cutting watermelon, and resulted in my having to return to the hospital for surgery to repair the severed tendon.

I had at least one person tell me that they learned that you should keep your knives a little on the dull side. I had always heard the opposite, and interestingly enough, the knife that hurt me had only been sharpened a couple of weeks before.

After watching this short video and reading this article, I still think having sharp knives is the better way to go. But needless to say, I will never again handle a knife without caution and respect, and encourage us all to learn and practice safe knife use techniques!

index finger in splint and bandage

 

12.  It’s amazing how many wonderful and useful things you actually can do with one hand…..and how many simple things you can’t!

As a result of my injury, surgery, and current recovery process of my index finger, I have been amazed and frustrated by how much I depend on the use of one little finger! It’s interesting to see what jobs I have adapted to quite easily, while so many tasks require more mobility and/or strength than I have yet regained and remain difficult.

Never would I have imagined the work and inconvenience caused by a simple mistake in the kitchen! I won’t take it lightly when someone mentions that they are in physical therapy (now that I know how much time, effort and discomfort are often involved!) And as I progress in my therapy, I am growing more appreciative of simply having a body that works normally.

injured finger

 

13. I now know the meaning of “fractionated” coconut oil (sort of).

I won’t even begin to try to explain the details on this one, but will refer you to the “experts”. This article does a great job explaining what fractionated coconut oil is along with it’s uses. Fractionated coconut oil is defined nicely in this post , which is also informative in comparing it with extra virgin coconut oil. Here it is in a nutshell, according to the same post:

“Basically, it is a form of the oil that has had the long-chain fatty acids removed via hydrolysis and steam distillation. Just this one change makes the oil liquid at room temperature, and extends the product’s shelf life.”

 

14. Chiffonade is a special technique used to thinly slice basil and other leafy green herbs and vegetables.

This method is used to slice basil (or other leafy greens) into pretty, thin, ribbon-like strips by stacking and rolling the leaves. You can read more details and view helpful photos here.

 

15. I have discovered that there are no federal laws governing food expiration dates.

This interesting article in the Los Angeles Times taught me that there no federal laws governing food expiration dates, many dates are not based on science, and that the resulting confusion leads to a lot of food waste (about 40 %!).

This is frustrating, to say the least!

 

16. Thankfully, cherries are really healthy!

I’ve always loved cherries. they are one of my favorite fruits! Over the years, I’ve been pleased to discover that these sweet, tasty treats have many health benefits as well. So when it comes to cherries, eat up!

 

17. Baby butter beans is another name for Lima beans.

A recent recipe I was making called for “baby butter beans“, which I had never heard of. It turns out that this is simply another name for Lima beans.

 

18. After 50 years, I’m still a bit of a “wimp” when it comes to injuries and medical procedures.

As mentioned in the above points (#11 & 12), I’ve learned a lot about myself through this experience with injuring my finger. I have always found  injuries and certain medical procedures frightening. I have had to learn to relax, believe the truth and trust the doctors and medical experts who have cared for me, but it hasn’t been easy.

I thought I had come so far (and I have), but like many weaknesses in our lives, I still have a way to go. It was disappointing to me to still feel so afraid and nervous at so many points in this process, yet I’m also encouraged as I see myself growing to trust God more and learning how to better deal with difficult circumstances. I guess we never really stop learning and growing.

 

19. I really liked sharing a different little part of my life with my (far-away) sister.

Recently, I participated in another free challenge offered by Robin Long of The Balanced Life. I have been enjoying doing her Pilates workouts for over a year now, so much so that I joined the Sisterhood (her online subscription service) and have found it to be a wonderful part of my fitness and health journey.

My dear sister and I live about 500 miles apart, and as a result, we don’t often get to participate together in many of the daily activities that we love. I invited her to join us for a free, simple healthy eating challenge, and it was so fun being able to connect online with my sister and do this challenge together. It was also special to “share” some of the community and resources that I hold dear and find so helpful and enjoyable in my life, as well as to have my many online friends (“sisters”) “meet” my own flesh and blood sibling.

I’m so glad we could do this together!

my new mug

 

20. It feels strange to have my youngest child graduate from high school (but good, too).

We just celebrated the high school graduation of my youngest child (my second son). I’m not even sure it has totally sunk in yet. It has been strange and wonderful and bittersweet all at once.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago when he was in his first week of kindergarten. I was waking him to get ready for school, and he said something like, “You mean I have to do this again???” I don’t remember exactly how I answered, but I was thinking, “Only about another 12 years!”

Well, here we are.

my son's graduation

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of the many things I’ve learned this spring. Life is full of wonder and changes and growth, and I’m happy to be able to remember some of these things and share them with you.

*****

What have you been learning?

 

 

 

Leaf piles in my side yard

11 Things I Learned in October & November 2016

 

Leaf piles in my side yard

I’m so happy and privileged to include this post with Emily Freeman’s What We Learned link-up. Since she is now posting this quarterly and I usually try to post each month, in order to get the full story please be sure to check out my 10 Things I Learned in September 2016 post as well.

*****

In 1 Samuel 7, Samuel set up a reminder for the people of God, so that they would not forget his help in triumphing over the Philistines (after they turned away from their heathen gods):

 Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” – 1 Samuel 7:12 (NLT)

I’d like to think of each, “What I Learned” post as a kind of “Ebenezer stone”, a place where I can stop and think not only of what I’ve learned each month, but what God is teaching me in this part of my journey.
My hope is that as I share what I’ve learned, you too will be encouraged, challenged, or even caused to let go of the stresses of life for just a few minutes.
So here’s what I’ve learned these past two months (serious or silly, in no particular order):

10 Things I Learned in October  & November 2016:

 

1. It has been claimed that egg whites will “heal” or protect burns, but in reality, it’s not the best (or even a safe), method.

So maybe this one should be classified as “almost learned”, since shortly after I heard of this idea, I also found out through minimal research that it should probably be avoided.

According to Snopes,

If egg white is at all effective in treating burns (and we’re not at all convinced that it is, 100+ year medical references to the contrary), it’s as an occlusive dressing that would keep contamination out of a raw wound, not as a magical curative of burned flesh. Its effect on the healing process wouldn’t have anything to do with its collagen content or that it’s a “placenta full of vitamins,” but rather that it’s a thickish liquid that would form a barrier. (In other words, motor oil — which has no collagen to it at all — would work equally as well.)

As to what to do with all this confusion, even when the burn is minor and the injury is fully cooled before anything else is done to it, there is a downside to coating such an injury with egg white. Raw eggs sometimes contain or have resident on their shells salmonella, a deadly bacteria. Introducing salmonella into an open wound would be a dangerous idea. Says a physician friend of ours, “Burn-injured, denuded skin is an excellent culture medium, and a contaminated egg white applied to his burn could readily cause severe damage or death to the patient.”

So before you get all excited to learn of another miraculous use for that extra dozen eggs you bought on sale, think twice! It would be wise to avoid the possibility of introducing a possibly even more serious issue into the burn in the form of salmonella.

2. My begonia plant is so much happier in a bigger pot!

begonia plant in small flower pot

Here’s the first pretty little pot to which I transferred my begonia (this photo is April 2014).

After perusing the web for information and pictures, I am fairly certain that my plant is a (somewhat) common wax begonia (or Semperflorens Begonia). I received this cute little flowering plant several years ago when a good friend of mine got married. She was the leader of our church women’s small group, and we wanted to have a special, more intimate wedding shower for our dear friend. Someone had the idea to give out these pretty plants for shower favors. We gave them to guests in a tiny little pot of some sort. Later, I re-potted mine into a bigger, but still small beautiful little flower pot where it lived and did surprisingly well for several years.

Fast forward to the end of this past summer, when I decided to give my poor, growing plant a little more “leg” (root) room. It seemed “happy” enough where it was, even flowering on occasion, but I could tell that it was really starting to outgrow it’s space. I found a larger pot in my basement, re-potted my begonia, and after a brief adjustment period, it started growing like a weed!

 

My bigger begonia plant

November 3, 2016.

My begonia - October

This is my happily growing begonia in a more roomy pot (October 31, 2016).

begonia

My happy, happy, thriving begonia!

 

 

As happy as I thought my plant was before, now I have a growing and really thriving plant! It is probably at least three times bigger and seems to never stop flowering now……it’s way of thanking me, I guess.

3. “Asking the right questions is an art form and it has a name: Social Jiu-Jitsu”.

In a world where online communication and social media is so prevalent, networking and building personal relationships face to face seems even more important. Whether we are just trying to connect personally with people we know and care for, foster good working relationships at a job, or build a brand or online business, making people feel you care and that they can trust you is critical.

I recently read this interesting and informative article online, which discusses this topic and describes the art of “social Jiu-Jitsu”, which is essentially asking someone the “right” questions to get them to open up. The author describes this as “getting people to like you”, and in reality it’s a really useful tool to learn to use if you wish to grow socially.

You probably can immediately think of someone you know who seems to naturally possess this gift. My mother and younger sister are two that come to mind right away. They both seem to be gifted naturally to ask others about themselves, whereas I and my oldest son have to purpose ourselves to interact with others in this less self-centered way.

It really seems to come down to just putting the other person first, which is something many of us (especially as Christians), aspire to do. Whatever our God-given personality, we can all learn and grow in this art.

4. Quinoa really is one of the most healthy and nutritious foods you can eat.

Have you been introduced to quinoa yet? (By the way, it’s pronounced, “keen-wa”, as recorded here, not “quin-oh-ah”, as I was apt to say at first.)

I tried this ancient grain for the first time several months ago, when I came across several recipes which included quinoa. It took a short time to get used to it, but now I enjoy it and even have a few quinoa recipes that I really like.

I had been told it is really healthy, but I really didn’t know why. In an educational article describing “11 Proven Health Benefits of Quinoa“, the author does a great job in explaining the many and very convincing traits of quinoa that make it uncommonly nutritious. It really is an extremely healthy food, and suggest you try it and join me in incorporating some into your diet.

5. Regretfully, there is a “sex mod” for Minecraft.

I came across this upsetting fact while reading a post one day online. The author is a parent and wanted to inform other parents of this news, so that they we can protect our children. She asked us to check it ourselves, and sure enough, it is true.

It’s really frustrating that even a good game like Minecraft has to have a negative counterpart.  It is disappointing that nothing is “sacred” anymore, not even an innocent children’s game.

However, after I expressed frustration about this to my husband (thinking it would ruin the game for kids everywhere), he assured me that a “mod” has to be purposely downloaded.

In other words, while it may be a temptation to older/more knowledgeable kids (who hopefully should know better or could be getting into far more trouble online already), it will not just pop up accidentally.

It doesn’t make me any happier about it, but at least many can still enjoy the game without incident. It also serves as another sobering reminder of the evil in the world we live in, and challenges parents and adults to be vigilant in teaching and protecting their young children.

6. Getting a good night’s sleep is so important (yet I’ve struggled with it for years).

I’ve been a night owl most of my life. Sometimes it’s fun and even productive, but overall it doesn’t serve me well. As most of my middle-aged friends can attest, good sleep doesn’t always come as easily as it did when we were younger. I’m thankful to not have insomnia or another more serious sleep issue, but I also find it frustrating and difficult that too often I struggle to get a decent night’s sleep.

Recently, I came across a free course online about how to sleep better. My almost immediate reaction was, “sign me up!” (You can sign up for it here too, if you like.)

The videos and lessons are short but packed with valuable information. What I didn’t know initially but found very interesting is how valuable naps can be. I’ve never been a good napper, but may need to try to utilize this form of rest more often.

My husband and father, on the other hand, have been experts at napping for years.

7. I can push myself (physically) harder than I thought, but it takes a lot out of me.

I’ve been exercising regularly now for quite a few years. I generally don’t go crazy, but am consistent and try to do moderate exercise several times a week. I also enjoy just moving, being outdoors and walking.

For the past several months, I’ve found great value and enjoyment in taking part in an online program for a Pilates exercise plan. We have a wonderful, sweet and knowledgeable instructor, and this program has helped me to become stronger and more disciplined, yet maintain a balanced lifestyle. (This is the website, if it sounds like something you’d like to check out.)

I decided to take a week-long “plunge”, and signed up for a more intense program which included recipes for a meal plan and longer Pilates workouts to be repeated for seven days in a row.

Well, I did it! It was difficult at times, but I’m proud to say that this 50-year old made it through!

I learned a lot about healthy and more balanced eating and a good deal about myself. Although I lost a few pounds and am definitely stronger, it did seem to take a lot out of me. It took me a few days to feel “recovered” and rested again.

It’s good to know that I can still push my body, but it needs to be balanced with rest and time to recuperate.

8. Poldark is my new favorite TV show.

My husband and I found another British television show we really enjoy watching together!

It’s really difficult to find good TV shows, (especially after my becoming a Downton Abbey fan). We watched the first season of Poldark by temporarily subscribing to the PBS website, then caught up and enjoyed the current season on television.

I hope the show continues to be mostly wholesome and enjoyable.

9. I finally learned the difference between white and yellow cake (and how to make your own mix).

Before now, I’m not sure I even knew there was a real difference between white and yellow cake (other than coloring).

One of my favorite blogs posted a wonderful new pumpkin dessert called “Pumpkin Dump Cake“, and I knew I had to try it. (It’s already become a favorite fall recipe in our household!) The recipe calls for a boxed yellow cake mix and I only had a white cake mix on hand. I decided to do a little research to see if my white cake mix would stand in for yellow in this recipe.

It seems that white cake is made with egg whites (no yolks), and sometimes a combination of butter and shortening (to keep it’s white, name-sake color). Yellow cake contains the whole egg and usually all butter, according to this post.

I also learned to make my own cake mix which will undoubtedly save money, be a healthier option, and save a trip to the store on occasions in which I find myself without a boxed cake mix on hand. (You can get that recipe here.) It’s too easy, and I actually know what the ingredients are that we are consuming. That’s a win!

10. I really like working at the library!

I am excited to share that I started a new part-time job! I’ve been in transition for the past couple of years or so, when my full-time job as an aide ended (after ten years). I’ve enjoyed several different jobs in the meantime that each ended after a few months, but all along I’ve thought that a library assistant position would be enjoyable and really suit me as my next job. I submitted many applications over the months, but never even got as far as an interview until now.

I’ve only worked about two weeks, and I can already tell that this is a near-perfect fit for me! While I still feel my most important “career” is housewife & mother (with a side of blogging), it feels good to again be doing a job that I think I’ll really enjoy!

tso-2016-2

11. Seeing TSO live is an absolutely phenomenal experience!

I apologize right now for those of you, like me, who will be slightly (or more) bothered by my not ending on # 10, but I had to add this one!

We were blessed and surprised this month by my husband purchasing tickets for a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert! We’ve waited for years for this experience, and I tell you, it was well worth the wait!

Talk about a production!

Lights, loud rock rhythms and guitar licks, leather and long hair (often swaying to the beat of the music), laser-light effects, real fire (whose heat you could actually feel!), realistic video and beautiful background media, incredible choreography, quiet and classical elements, all combine to deliver an incredible concert. The artful fusion of rock, classical and theater provides a holiday show like no other!

One of my favorite things about TSO, is that they do not hold back on singing about the true story of the real meaning of Christmas. Traditional Christmas carols are brought to higher heights (in my opinion), and the musicians keep moving and entertaining throughout the entire show.

If you appreciate theater, dance, different styles of music (including some rather loud rock), and a unique and unforgettable Christmas concert, I hope you get a chance to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra someday. I’m so thankful for this fun family experience together.

tso-2016-4

tso-2016-12

Do I have your attention yet???

tso-2016-3

(If you find this at all appealing, check back a little later, when I will attempt to post a video to enhance your listening and viewing pleasure.)

*****

It’s been a busy, interesting, and productive couple of months. I wonder what December will bring?

 

 

black and white mailbox

You’ve Got Mail

black and white mailbox

Do you remember that memorable movie line from the 1998 film?

That’s the first thing that came to mind when I heard today’s prompt, “mail”. We don’t watch a lot of movies, and certainly don’t endorse the material and values that many of them stand for, but there is something that stuck out to me about this particular movie.

I had to look it up to refresh my memory, but You’ve Got Mail is a movie about a man and a women who get to know each other online, but little do they realize they are actually business rivals. In the end of course they fall in love and it’s “happily ever after”.

The thing that stood out to me from the movie was when either person (on their now “out-of-date” personal computers), received a notification, “You’ve got mail.” It happened over and over throughout the movie as their relationship developed.

Well, guess what?

You’ve got mail.

I have it too. In fact, it’s written to the whole human race.

It’s a long, detailed love letter; one of the oldest, but greatest stories ever recorded. It’s recorded by many different authors, but written by the one, true God.

And the best thing is, the Bible stories are true.

Why not take a fresh look at your “mail”, and see what the One who created you has to say to you today?

*****

Today’s quick post was written for the Five Minute Friday link-up. Join me there to see what other bloggers have to say about the prompt, “mail”.

mums and pumpkins

10 Things I Learned in September 2016

mums and pumpkins

Another month and another ten lessons. I continue to be amazed at how near the end of each month I consistently feel that I will not have enough items to write about, yet by the time I’m done, I usually end up with a sufficient list. If I’m on top of things, I keep a running list of what I’m learning (the best way to remember all those little things we learn without thinking). But even if I create my list in somewhat of a last-minute fashion, it never ceases to amaze me how much new knowledge I’ve acquired each month!. It really is true that we should never stop learning!

 

10 Things I Learned in September 2016:

 

1. We are actually more productive when we take breaks.afternoon nap on couch

I’ve probably known this to some extent for a long time, but I never realized that it has been backed up scientifically. I will say that the longer I live, the more I know this to be true in my own life. While reading online this month , I came across a link to this informative article, which explains scientific reasons to prioritize breaks as well as other helpful tips on recharging to be more productive.

2. Chlorine is really bad for jewelry (the second worse element?).

I recently heard this while dropping off some jewelry for repairs at our local jewelers. You can read more details in this article (by a different jeweler online). Chlorine or bleach cause a chemical reaction that breaks down the alloys in jewelry. So before you stick your precious hands in a bleach cleaner or jump into that pool, please remove your rings!

3. I really, really dislike throwing out food and deciding if food is still safe to eat is one of my most “un-favorite”decisions.

Recently I had some ground turkey thawing in the refrigerator; two pounds to be exact. As life sometimes goes, I got busy and didn’t cook it quite as soon as I had planned. One evening I warmed up my big frying pan, got out the turkey, and threw a pound in to cook. It was already late and I was tired, but I figured at least if I cooked the meat, it would be safe to wait another day until I could make the recipe I was planning.

But when I opened the second pound to add to my hot pan, it didn’t smell right to me. Knowing that it had been out maybe a day or so longer than recommended, I immediately became worried that it may have been starting to go bad. I was so upset and confused! I hate wasting food; perhaps because we try to stick to a tight food budget, and also because of the way I was raised by my family. My grandparents lived through the days of the depression, and their generation especially learned not to waste anything.

I often work hard to scrimp and save and try to make do with what I have, so throwing a whole two pounds of meat did not make me a happy camper. Even if my money allowed, I would still have a problem with wasting food, as I aim to be a good steward of all God has blessed me with.

So this was really emotionally difficult for me, magnified, I’m sure, by the lateness of the hour and my tiredness. I finally just made the decision to throw out the whole two pounds, just in case it was unsafe to eat. I wrapped it all up in plastic shopping bags and immediately stomped it out to my trash. I was really upset.

I had to realize that the risk of food poisoning or sick stomachs is not worth a couple of pounds of ground turkey meat, yet I was surprised at how upsetting it was to me. It took me a surprisingly long time to get over the incident. This is just another example of something that needs to be in balance, and for which I need to allow myself some grace.

The time I burnt my chicken dogs to a crisp, however, it was obvious even to me that they were trash!

2016-05-22 Chicken dogs burnt to a crisp (literally).

My chicken dogs, literally burnt to a crisp!

4. When I go downstairs to get something, I almost always forget what it was.

Does this happen to you? (If you’re anywhere near middle age or older, I can bet that it has.) Since we’ve been middle aged, it seems that my husband and I, more often than not, completely forget the item(s) we’ve gone for as soon as we make it down the stairs to our basement.

Did you know that this is “a thing”? It really made me feel better when a few months ago an older friend at church told me that there was a logical explanation for forgetting things when we cross a threshold (or go downstairs, I guess). It’s referred to as the “doorway effect” or the “boundary effect“, and these articles provide a thorough explanation that will probably make you feel a little less crazy, as it did for me.

Now what was I saying?

5. I can do a two and a half minute plank (and probably many more things I thought were impossible).

At the beginning of September, someone in my online Pilates subscription group posted a challenge to do a plank every night in September before bed. On week one we were to start with one minute, and add thirty seconds each week, ending the month with a week of two-and-a-half minute planks! Well, I agreed and started doing one-minute planks. It was great, and by week two, I felt good, but also quickly realized that the two-and-a-half minute goal was going to be TOUGH! I kept going, though, and must have gotten physically stronger and more determined as I went along. By the last week, it wascat on exercise mat difficult, but I was able to manage a two-and-a-half minute plank for five total days!

So what’s my point? That I’m a super-athlete? Not even close!

My point is that often we can do much more than we think is possible! This is true both physically and emotionally/mentally/spiritually. Sometimes it will be hard; it may even feel (or appear) impossible, but more often than not it can be done. If we are determined, accept the help we need (from others & God), and do the hard work, we can do much more than we give ourselves credit for!

So go out and take a baby step and watch how much you grow.

6. Most commercially canned pumpkin is not made from the traditional carving-type pumpkins we are used to seeing, but is still real pumpkin.

According to this Snopes article, which gives a lot of interesting information about squash and pumpkins, most canned pumpkin is made from “a specific cultivar of pumpkin called Dickinson.” It is not as “pretty” as the pumpkins we associate with all things fall, but is still a variety of pumpkin and was specially cultivated for the purpose of canning pumpkin.

Furthermore, squash and pumpkins are not only in the same family, but can be used in most recipes interchangeably. In my summer/fall of working on a local farm this year, I’ve learned that certain people actually request Hubbard squash to make their “pumpkin” recipes.

What I really find interesting (and slightly disturbing) is how upsetting this has been to some folk. One person (quoted in the same Snopes article), who believed that canned pumpkin is really a mixture of squashes stated that it made him question everything in his life. Really?

I understand and agree with the fact that we, as intelligent, free consumers should know what we are actually purchasing, but if we’re losing sleep over which variety of squash or pumpkin resides in our store-bought can, I suggest we take up gardening, grow our own pumpkins and squash, and never have a worry again.

CSA farm share vegetables and fruit

7. Stored potatoes actually need a certain amount of humidity (and I thought they needed a dry climate)!

I just learned today that if your potatoes tend to begin to shrivel as mine often do when we keep them for awhile, it’s not because it’s too humid, but too dry! I guess I should have come to this conclusion myself, since shriveling is generally due to losing water, but somehow I missed that.

Our basement tends to be a little humid, especially in the summer months, so we generally run a dehumidifier. My friend who happens to be my boss this summer on the farm (also where we get our CSA farm share), told me that the dehumidifier is actually the problem when it comes to making my potatoes last! Hopefully this information will help us to store our potatoes better and not waste as much.

Here’s an article which includes some great potato-storing information, especially for winter-time. (Make sure you follow the link included for other innovative potato storing tips, even if you, like me, don’t have a root cellar or ideal storage area.)

8. The area which makes up the top part of our chest (right beneath our neck), is called the decolletage.

Well, that’s roughly how my friend described it. This came up in a conversation amongst a group of my woman friends the other night.

Accordingto Wikipedia, the decolletage is,

“the upper part of a woman’s torso, comprising her neck, shoulders, back and chest, that is exposed by the neckline of her clothing. However, the term is most commonly applied to a neckline that reveals or emphasizes cleavage.”

decollatage

Interesting. And this:

“Décolletage is a French word which is derived from décolleter, meaning to reveal the neck.”

Since it’s getting colder these past few first fall days, I think I’ll be keeping my decolletage under cover. I’m so relieved that I now know the correct name of the body part hidden beneath my infinity scarves.

9. We really do not care for turban squash after all.

As much as we generally like squash, and try to be open to trying and appreciating different types of foods, we as a family decided that we really don’t care for turban squash.  I’ve probably tried one each fall, as I like the variety and trying new foods, but I honestly don’t recall our previous experiences. All I can tell you is that I’m just not sure it’s worth the time and effort to try to find a way to prepare turban squash in a way that we enjoy.

It’s such a pretty, colorful squash, and there are many recipes that call for somewhat elaborately stuffing this interesting gourd. But since I’m still not convinced we will like it, I may just pass on that and call it a day. I learned growing up (and have continued to feel strongly about), not wasting food and learning to eat and appreciate as many healthy foods as possible, but I think in this case, I have to give myself permission to dislike or refrain from eating turban squash.

If you happen to have a favorite recipe for turban squash that you’re just dying to share, please let me know so I can give it one last-ditch effort…..or better yet, invite me over to your house and prepare it for me!

turban squash pile

10. “Among” and “amongst” mean the same thing and are both acceptable, but they may be viewed differently by others.

In writing this post, I had to add one more item (causing my “type A” personality to feel so much more comfortable with this nice, even number).

I’ve noticed that when I type the word, “amongst” on my computer, it underlines it as an incorrect word. So today I decided to look it up.

It seems that both words are valid and mean essentially the same, but according to this OxfordWords Blogs post, one may be more common depending on where you are speaking, and it’s even possible (at least in the US), that the word you chose may affect how you come across to your listeners. The post states that:

“in US English, amongst is now seen as old-fashioned, and even ‘pretentious’. If you are a US English speaker, therefore, and you don’t want to come across to your audience as out of date or, heaven forbid, linguistically la-di-da, then it’s advisable to opt for among.”

Well, that clears things up, and while I do not wish to appear haughty in any way, I just added the word, “amongst” to my computer dictionary. Now I will not have to be amongst those who are questioning whether it’s a word anymore.

*****

What have you learned this month? Do you have anything to share about vegetables, necklines, forgetting and/or taking breaks? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

 

part of watermelon house flag with sun rays

What I Learned in August 2016

I was hoping to publish this before I go to bed tonight. See, I didn’t realize what the date was until I got to church today, and where I was reminded that it’s 9/11. The thing is, at first I thought, “How can I publish a blog post today that’s not specifically honoring that first, fateful 9/11 day?” I will probably write a more specific, serious post on that theme in the future (when I’m not caught totally off guard), but today is not the day.

As I thought about it, I decided that this “looking back” post about what I learned last month is actually somewhat appropriate, even for a serious day such as this. I’m beginning to really like these posts, as it’s a lesson in stopping and considering what new things I learned in the previous month. I usually start out thinking there won’t be enough interesting things to fill a blog post, but then surprise myself by ending up with plenty. I enjoy this habit, as it causes me to reflect on my days.

So even though some of my points are less than serious, I’m thankful today for all the moments of my life, especially in light of all the sacrifice and loss that so many experienced on that unforgettable September 11th. In gratefulness to all those who came together in unity, kindness and strength on that day, I wish to stop and reflect on my own life; the troublesome and the mundane, the pleasant and the remarkable.

part of watermelon house flag with sun rays

What I Learned In August 2016:

 

1.”Unthaw” is actually a word, and means the same as “thaw”.

Recently I came across the use of the word, “unthaw” in a recipe, and proceeded to think that the author obviously did not have a clear understanding that the proper term should be, “thaw”. Logically, it makes sense, if “thaw” means for something to go from freezing to room temperature, then wouldn’t “unthaw” mean the opposite? And is it even a word? (My spell-checker doesn’t seem to think so.) I’ve seen others comment on this as well, so it’s not just me. But wishing to know the truth, I took a few minutes, and discovered to my surprise, that EITHER is acceptable, and they mean the same thing! Here is a dictionary explanation. So now we can stop judging others for their use of either term, and we can all be friends.

relaxing with feet up on kayak on lake shore

2. I really seem to “need” time in nature.

I’ve always known this, but I’ve really felt it recently, especially for the last half of this summer. Maybe it’s because we took an earlier vacation this year, or possibly because it was shorter and we jumped into “real life” again before I was fully rested. Either way, I have felt such a strong desire which can only be described as a “longing” to get away, or at least go out and spend some quality time in nature. Whenever I do so much as take a hike in the woods, or spend time near water, or even enjoy a simple campfire, I physically and emotionally give a sigh and feel relaxed. For the ultimate satisfaction for my desire or “need” to be outdoors, my preference is to spend a week or so in a cabin by a lake. (We have one favorite, in particular, but several that have been great.) I feel so refreshed when I have ample time for just “soaking it in”. The longer I wait between such lovely vacation visits, the more it seems I need my nature “tank” filled. I guess I just really enjoy and am thankful for God’s wonderful creation.

 

One bridge at Dufferin Islands

3. Raising young-adult children is more challenging than I thought.

Yes, I have two older sons, one 17 and one 19, and yes, it is physically much, much easier than when they were little. We really enjoy having older children, but have definitely noticed two things. One, our conflicts are much more complicated than when they are little, and two, it’s really hard to allow them to grow up and accept their own consequences in order to grow to maturity and not live “enabled” lives. It’s often hard to know when to require obedience because they live under our roof, and when to let them make their own decisions (as adult or almost-adult individuals), and let them fail or fall. Often, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but I now know that it all requires my trust in God and a great deal of wisdom and prayer!

 

4. When cutting ANY hot peppers, use gloves!

Why oh why, did I NOT remember this lesson from approximately this same time last year???!!! I got some little jalapeno peppers from the farm stand, and although we’re not avid “hot pepper eaters”, we occasionally enjoy recipes with a little “kick”. Knowing that jalapenos were not considered that hot (I have enjoyed them in restaurant recipes often), I proceeded to cut them up to freeze for later use……with my bare hands. After a few minutes, I started to feel the burn, and wondered if I should have worn gloves. As the minutes ticked by, I realized too late that it was starting to really hurt, but at that point there seemed to be no point of turning back. So I suffered needlessly (and stupidly, I must say!), even though I had already learned this lesson in the past. I guess that is a lesson in itself: Remember (or record?) the lessons you have learned, and don’t repeat the same dumb process that got you there!

 

5. When microwave reheating in containers with a plastic lid, if you don’t allow steam to escape, the lid will be ruined.

This is another simple lesson I should have known from past experience. If you don’t allow for built-up heat and steam to escape, the lid “sucks” down into the container and usually is bent beyond repair. (Sigh.) I did it again.

melted/warped plastic lid

glass storage with bent, melted lid 2

6. We really are not “beach people”.

My family loves nature and the outdoors, and we even really like spending time by water. When we do go swimming, we really enjoy it a lot. But the reality is we don’t get to as much as we’d like, and when we have a choice, going to the beach is usually not our first “perfect summer day” of choice. Sometimes swimming doesn’t seem to make it to the top of our list. This summer we swam a grand total of one time (unless you count “creek-walking”, in which case we’ve gone twice).

creek-walk with family

7. You can freeze tomatoes whole without blanching them.

I haven’t a lot of experience with freezing tomatoes. I’ve made some sauce and some homemade soup to freeze, but I don’t believe I’ve ever frozen plain tomatoes. This summer at my farm-stand job, a customer was looking for plum tomatoes to freeze. She said they are best for this purpose because they have less juice. I asked her about her method, and she said she just halves them and throws them in a freezer bag. Huh.

I went home and looked for more information online, and sure enough, this is a valid, and much easier method than the rather more time-consuming and complicated, “old-fashioned” process of blanching and peeling. Here‘s a nice blog post about this. (I actually just washed and halved mine, threw them a freezer bag in a single layer, and called it a day. A few of them stuck together a bit, but one little “clunk” on a counter and they’re good to go.)

frozen plum tomatoes without blanching

Frozen plum tomatoes “the lazy way” (no blanching or flash-freezing).

8. There is a better way to express the excess liquid from grated zucchini.

I like zucchini to cook and eat, but what I really like is to bake with it. This is definitely the preference of my non-zucchini-loving sons. I imagine you’ve enjoyed some nice, home-baked zucchini bread, but what you really ought to try is zucchini bread or muffins with chocolate! Adding chocolate chips to zucchini bread definitely takes it up a notch, and by adding cocoa, chocolate zucchini bread or cake is the ultimate in deliciousness!

This summer, I think I’ve discovered the best and easiest way to express the liquid from zucchini! You can read a more detailed description in this post. Happy zucchini-baking!!!

hand-grated zucchini in glass dish

 

*****

I hope you found today’s reflections informative or at least mildly entertaining. What did you learn this August?

 

water and sky reflection

15 Things I Learned in June & July 2016

It seems like such a long time since I wrote a “What I Learned” post. Well, it’s time for a look at the past two lovely summer months of June and July. Some points are serious, some are completely not serious, and some are just other “stuff”. Here goes!

 

water and sky reflection

 

15 Things I Learned in June & July 2016:

 

1. Turning 50 was both harder and better than I thought.

I guess you could say I celebrated a “milestone” birthday this June, as I turned fifty years old. I’ve never been one to mind much about my age or getting older, but I must admit that this half century mark did hit me a little harder than I thought it would. I had a few moments (like on the evening before, when I realized that I had only hours left in my forties), that made me feel “old”. But overall, I decided to live it up and make the whole thing into an ongoing party. I announced my birthday age online (on Facebook), and invited my friends who are also turning fifty this year to join me in celebrating…..all year long! If you can make a big deal out of any birthday, I think this is the one! I think I’ve earned a little extra celebrating for living for one half century.

50 Years Well Lived

 

2. An hour or so on (or by) water will make up for several hours of stress.

When I originally wrote this point, I had just spent a couple hours with one of my girlfriends, part of which consisted of a lovely hour kayaking on a local “pond” (think “small lake”). I don’t remember how I was feeling at the time, except that afterwards, I was so de-stressed! The combination of some good exercise, the relaxing atmosphere, and time spent catching up with a friend were invaluable and very therapeutic! I’ve always known this about spending time near the water, but especially noticed on that day what a positive change it caused in my body, mind and soul.

kayaking with water fowl in background

3. Bunnies are so cute!

OK, who doesn’t think bunnies are cute??? (Well, there are probably a few gardeners or farmers who are not particularly thrilled with their eating habits, but besides that…..) Each spring and summer, we seem to have a few rabbits who live in or at least near our yard. We really enjoy watching them. One evening while we were eating our supper, we saw one, then two…..then three bunnies hopping and chasing each other all over our neighbor’s yard. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. They seemed to be having an awfully fun time!

three rabbits on the lawn

 

4. I like almond milk better than “regular” (cow’s) milk.

A few months ago, I started regularly purchasing a small quantity of almond milk for myself. I think I had heard that it was easier to digest than regular cow’s milk, so I figured I’d give it a try. I quickly grew to like it. I also discovered that it has twice the calcium and less sugar than regular dairy milk (just read the labels), so it seemed like a good thing. One day when we had no almond milk, my son poured me a glass of 1% cow’s milk. I was surprised to have the realization that it tasted “different” now, and I no longer liked it as well as my almond milk, even though I grew up as a (cow’s)”milk drinker”. Luckily, my three men haven’t acquired the taste, so it remains affordable enough for me to keep on hand.

5. Some quality friendships are only for a season, but that’s OK (and it doesn’t make them any less special).

I’m not sure what made me think of this exactly, but it is a more positive way for me to think about relationships that seem to have grown “stale” or that are simply too distant in physical miles to maintain on a regular basis. I’m a faithful person by nature, and also feel very sentimental about any relationships I’ve had in my life, especially those with friends with whom I’ve been fairly close. I have come to realize that just because a close friendship seems to have “ended” or is just not practical for this stage in life, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a “real” or meaningful relationship; it may just have been special for a time. I can live with this.

2016-06-15 01.32.32

6. I really like my Himalayan salt lamp.

Have you joined the craze of owning a Himalayan salt lamp yet? I tend to be somewhat cynical of ads about products like this having real health benefits, but after a little research, it seems there may just be something to it. I read an article on WebMD that gives some interesting information, after my online Pilates instructor wrote a post about her thoughts on Himalayan salt lamps, and I decided to give one a try. Since it was birthday time, I asked for it for a gift, which my sons graciously purchased for me. I’m not sure, but it seems like I’ve awakened feeling a little less groggy after using it in our bedroom at night, perhaps. I am still formulating an opinion as to whether or not it really works, but at the very least, it creates a nice ambiance in our room (and makes a great “night-light” if one of us comes up to bed and the lights are already off).

7. A thoughtful surprise gift means so much to me.

When it comes to love languages, gifts has always been one of mine. I love to both give and receive gifts, and I’ve known this about myself ever since I was a child. Shortly before my fiftieth birthday this June, a friend I met through an exercise program online asked me for my address, and wouldn’t you know, on the exact date of my birthday, I received a small package from her. She learned about my special birthday and wanted to bless me with a piece of handmade jewelry. She sent me a cross necklace, with the words “faith” and “believe” on either side of the pendant. I was so touched and blessed and had to share my precious gift on social media. This is a great reminder to go ahead and just do that thoughtful thing when it comes to mind, because you never know how it could make someone’s day. I know that this gift sure made my day special!

surprise birthday gift in mail

(If you’re interested in seeing my friend’s line of hand-made inspirational jewelry, here’s a link to her Etsy shop.)

8. Almond milk creamer should NOT be used as infant formula.

I couldn’t resist adding this one! For the record, I do NOT have an infant right now, and furthermore, even as a young mom, I would NOT have tried this. But on the back of my almond creamer container (of a well-known brand), I noticed this interesting disclaimer in red letters:

warning on almond milk creamer

“NOT TO BE USED AS INFANT FORMULA”

Well, duh!

I guess someone, somewhere must have thought it was a good idea at some point…..or else the company is just proactively avoiding a crazy lawsuit. So just in case you’ve ever wondered, don’t try this one at home, kids!

9. You can pack a lot of fun into a one-week vacation. 

This summer our family vacation was special, but a little shorter than usual. Due to the fact that our sons were both working, we shortened our time to just one week away (while my husband and I took some extra time off during the next week at home). We were happy that they were able to take the time off to come with us, as we know that our family vacations with them are limited as they grow older.

To some, this may sound like plenty of time, but due to the distance we usually travel to visit with family (a day’s drive to get to my parents’ home in Ontario), we end up losing the two days spent traveling to and from our destination. This time, we arrived at my parents’ house before they came home from a trip in order to have some “alone” time with just our sons (and to keep an eye on cats and plants). When my parents arrived home, we welcomed them and enjoyed a couple days with them. Next we crossed back over the border and spent the last couple days with my sister.

In that single week, we managed to cram in a lot of pretty good stuff.

We relaxed and read some, watched a movie, visited my Grandma, shopped for special Canada “treats”, ate out a lot, drank more than our fair share of Tim Horton’s coffee, picnicked at Dufferin Islands near Niagara Falls, visited Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls (part museum; mostly tropical bird emporium), enjoyed a leisurely shopping day in quaint Niagara-On-the-Lake (including driving by the house where my dad’s parents lived), “caught up” with a dear friend,  shared a day out with my sister (out to a nice dinner for my fiftieth birthday, spending time near the lake, visiting and photographing my cousin’s church and eating wonderful homemade ice-cream), picked fresh blueberries, had a campfire, learned how to “creek walk” (see next post), made some cards, created some music, and enjoyed real buffalo wings at least twice. I can’t believe how much fun we packed into our vacation week!

Dufferin Islands sign

Dufferin Islands, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Entrance to Bird Kingdom, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Bird Kingdom

Niagara Falls barrel photo

homemade ice cream

Sisters together at Crystal Beach, Ontario

10. “Creek-walking” is a blast!

While visiting my sister and her family in the state of NY, we learned the skill of “creek-walking”. We piled into our two vehicles, made our way to an access point at a local creek, inflated several inner tubes, and began to take turns floating down the shallow river. It was fun, mildly exhilarating at times, and quite funny (the larger adults like me ended up getting stuck on the river bottom in shallow areas). Some of the older boys managed to get so far ahead down the river that we sent my husband and a helper out after them; not knowing they cut through and walked back, we nearly lost each other. But in the end it was just good, clean, country fun! We only lost one tube to the jagged rocks and sticks that were poking out, which was a fair trade off for a memorable adventure together.

floating down the creek in tubes

Learning to “creek-walk” with our family was a blast!

11. A good boss is better than a “first-choice” job.

This is a lesson I’ve been learning myself these past couple of years with my various job changes. My husband and I are also teaching this to our sons right now, who are training for one of their first summer jobs. Although there are parts of the job they do not care for, we have been discussing the fact that the good supervisors they seem to have outweigh any parts of the job that they currently “dislike”. Sometimes in work and even in life we have to accept the “bad” or “imperfect” along with the pleasant and the preferred. We are thankful to be working for bosses who seem to genuinely care for their employees and treat them well.

12. Amazon really looks like they’re “taking over the world”.

Here’s the photo “proof”:

three Amazon delivery trucks

It looks like Amazon is taking over the world! 😉

This was the view outside of our window one fine Sunday afternoon. We order a fair amount of product from Amazon, but not enough to justify three trucks showing up all at once in front of our house. Since there was nothing for us this time, we never did quite figure out what was going on that day. It sure gave us something to talk about.

13. It’s really important to check your sales receipt.

I can’t say that I always do it, but I try to check my sales receipt after shopping, especially for grocery orders in which I was supposed to receive a certain discount or cash back award. Recently, I have been shopping at our local supermarket a bit more, due to lack of time to travel to a further store, and because I seem to be getting some pretty decent deals (see next post, as well). I noticed that on several of the last few trips I did not receive the correct price or in one case, a sizable cash-back offer, but thankfully their customer service reps took care of it without question. It makes me happier to shop there knowing this, but I will still have to be sure to try to check each receipt. Mistakes can happen!

14. Getting a huge gas discount makes grocery shopping worthwhile.

One of the the benefits we’ve been taking advantage of recently, is the “gas points” earned for spending money at our local supermarket. They have a gas station next door, and depending on the amount you accumulate in purchases (along with some “special” awards for extra points), we have been able to save a decent amount on some fill-ups. The best one we earned so far was 90 cents off, and we just missed a whole $1.30 discount, because we didn’t realize when some of the points were expiring. I’m finding out that even if this is not always the cheapest store for grocery prices, the gas discount is a worthwhile additional savings!

15. Your poop reveals a lot about your health.

Sorry for the “TMI”, but recently I had seen this chart online, which I guess is frequently used in medical situations to determine the “quality” of one’s bowel movements. After the second time, the chart caught my attention, and somehow (please don’t even ask), I got to reading some interesting and informative posts about what our “poop” reveals about our overall health. It turns out this “everyday event” can be a real indicator of some health concerns. For some reason, it’s not something we ordinarily like to discuss, but it may be worth a read……especially if you are prone to reading in the bathroom. 😉

*****

Well, once again I have surprised myself with how many new things I’m learning. What have you been learning and discovering this summer?