Saturday, June 30, 2018

It is staycation time

Once again, it is vacation time for me - my third one of the year. And, I have two left - one at the end of the month and one in September. The fiscal year for the company I work for is October 1-Sept. 30. 


As all of my vacations the past couple of years, I am staying home. The term for that these days is a "staycation." Here is how Wikipedia describes the staycation:

"A staycation is a  period in which an individual or family stays home and participates in leisure activities within driving distance, sleeping in their own beds at night. They might make day trips to local tourist sites, swimming venues, or engage in fun activities such as horseback riding, paintball, hiking or visiting museums. Most of the time involves dining out more frequently than usual."


I didn't buy these. It is an image to show the marbling.
Honestly, that sounds great, don't you think? During this staycation, however, the only leisure activities I will participate in have to do with our patio, the barbecue, some cold beverages and Alexa. And speaking of the barbecue, I bought some good-looking rib-eye steaks with just the right amount of marbling to cook on the "barbie" tomorrow. 

And why marbling, you might ask. Well, 
because "marbling is fat that improves steak's tenderness, moistness, and flavor," according to mychicagosteak.com.

But, the meat has to be cooked hot enough, at least at 130 degrees F. so the marbling starts to melt and coats the muscle fibers surrounding it, notes the website, which "produces a rich buttery texture and enhances the bold, beefy flavor of the meat," resulting in a "far tastier steak."

At 125 degrees F. or lower, marbling has an adverse effect on the quality of the steak, according to the website and "when cooked rare or blue rare, marbling fails to melt. The unmelted fat give the steak a slightly waxy and unpleasant texture."

Hmmm. I learn something new every day. 

I also stocked up on some cold beverages - alcoholic and non-alcoholic - fruit, veggies and more. The plan is to stay away from the grocery store while on staycation.

Yes, I cheated and bought some already-prepared vegetable kabobs. I am on vacation, and didn't Wikipedia's description of a staycation mention "dining out more frequently than usual?" Well, for me, buying prepared food falls into that category - sort of. 

And speaking of dining out. It has been a very long time since we had some Five Guys burgers and fries, so I placed an order online and we drove downtown to pick them up. How convenient. No standing in line, no waiting for the food to be cooked. The food was ready in the amount of time it took us to drive there - about 8 minutes. If you haven't tried their burgers, you should - at least once. They use fresh ground beef - though I doubt if it is organic. Their potatoes are from Idaho and are specially chosen for French fries. They use peanut oil which is modestly healthy according to fitness expert and life coach Jillian Michaels. Peanut oil has more saturated fats than canola oil, but it has high levels of beneficial polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, she writes on her website. 

While the Five Guys burgers and fries are tasty, they are high in calories and fat - two reasons we don't eat them very often - and they are very filling. I am still full and we ate them around 11:30 this morning. 




I had the cheeseburger with grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, tomatoes and lettuce. Steve had the cheeseburger with extra onions, extra pickles, tomatoes and lettuce. Mmmmm. They were delish. 

We ate them while watching the TV show "Cash Cab." It is a game show hosted by stand-up comedian Ben Bailey. When passengers get in his cab, he tells them they are on an instant game show. During their ride to their destinations, he asks them a series of trivia questions worth $25, then $50, then $100. If they have to stop for a red light, they get a "red light challenge" question for additional money. If they miss three answers, they are kicked out of the cab wherever they may be. They can get help from a mobile shoutout - call a friend - or the cab pulls over and they ask someone on the street for help. If they get to their destination, he offers one more question - a video question - to double their money. But, if the get the answer wrong, they lose it all.

Hubby Steve doesn't like game shows, but he likes this one. 

The rest of the day was spent cruising the Internet, although I managed to do two loads of laundry; and clean the bathroom - floors, toilet, countertop, sink. I made an Amazon playlist titled SANE's smooth jazz (SANE stands for Steve and Nancy Edwards - clever right? hahahaha) with some great songs, including "Return of the Rainman" by Paul Hardcastle, "Lily Was Here" by David A. Stewart, "Tango" by Kenny G, "Till You Come to Me" by Spencer Day, "Bumpin' On Sunset" by Wes Montgomery, "Lucy's" by Mindi Abair and many  more. If you haven't heard any of the ones listed here, I highly recommend trying them out. You won't regret it. 

And now it is nearly 6 p.m. The day certainly has gone by fast, but it has been a lazy and relaxing day. When it gets near bedtime, I think we will read in bed for a while before nodding off into dreamland.

Here's hoping everyone has a great night. 












Sunday, June 24, 2018

POTATOES

When I want to serve food quickly, I am tempted to dash over to the nearest fast-food restaurant, but I refrain myself.

By using fresh and wholesome ingredients, a delicious meal can be put together in about 30 minutes or less, especially if a potato is used as the base. My husband loves the taste of cooked potatoes. And, they are good for us as long as the tuber is not loaded with several tablespoons of butter, a handful of shredded cheese, large dollops of sour cream and several slices of crumbled bacon. But, oh man, it tastes so good, right?


Are you drooling?
If Steve could, he would have a baked potato with every meal, even for breakfast. Think about it. Why not have a baker with your over-easy eggs? Hmmm.

So, back to the tater. An average potato -- about 5.3 ounces -- with the skin contains 45 percent of a person's recommended daily requirements of Vitamin C, 620 milligrams of potassium, a minimal amount of sodium and no fat, according to the Washington State Potato Commission. That same potato also has trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and zinc. All of which is packed into 110 calories.

And, if the dietary dangers of carbohydrates worry you, think again.

"Carbohydrates are the body's primary fuel source," according to an article on the potato commission's website. "Muscles prefer them and the brain relies on them."

The commission claims scientific evidence indicates when consumed in normal amounts, carbohydrates do not cause weight gain and obesity; do not automatically cause blood sugar "spikes" and insulin "surges"; and do not cause diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

However, if we take in more calories than we expend, regardless of whether they are carbohydrates, protein or fat, we will gain weight, notes the commission.

Keep potatoes in a cool, dark place to maximize their shelf life. According to stilltasty.com, that is between 45 an 55 degrees Fahrenheit -- which is warmer than the fridge, but cooler than room temperature. Stored this way, they could last two to three months.

If that is not possible, store them at room temperature in a loosely closed brown paper bag so air can circulate around them. Extended exposure to light causes potatoes to turn green under their skins. The green is solanine, a toxin, that if eaten, can cause a headache, nausea, fatigue and gastrointestinal issues, according to Kyle Shadix at cookinglight.com. You can cut the green off the potato, but to be safe, if it is green, I toss it.

Stored properly at room temperature, the potatoes usually last about one to two weeks.

Lately, I have been buying more organic produce, including potatoes, and I have to say, the flavor is so much better than non-organic potatoes. I am reminded of the potatoes my parents grew when I was a child.

Before using potatoes, wash them under cold water to remove any dirt. Gently scrub them with a veggie brush if you plan to cook them with their skins on and remove any eyes or dark spots.

By utilizing some time-saving techniques, you can top, toss or transform a potato into a yummy dish.

Bake whole potatoes in the microwave, prepare a topping (chili or steamed veggies) and you have an entire meal. Cube potatoes, microwave them briefly and then saute them with beef, pork or poultry and toss them in a Parmesan sauce. Instead of boiling potatoes to mash, microwave them, mash them and mound them on top of a meat or vegetable concoction; or create a meal in a tin foil pouch.

If you don't like using a microwave or tin foil, boil and bake or use a casserole dish.

The following recipe by Marti Losasso of Arvada, Colorado, originally was published in the December 2006 issue of "Cooking Light" magazine. She notes a mixture of herbs can be used in this recipe, including basil and thyme. I found the recipe on myrecipes.com.


Photo by Randy Mayor at myrecipes.com
Roasted potatoes with garlic and herbs
Makes: 4 servings (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds quartered red potatoes (I like organic)
Cooking spray (I like olive oil cooking spray)
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I like to use a blend of peppers)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. 
Combine garlic and oil in a small pan over medium heat. Cook 2 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon; set aside.

Drizzle remaining oil evenly over potatoes in a large bowl, tossing well to coat. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Bake at 425 degrees F. for a half hour or until potatoes are golden. Combine reserved garlic, parsley and lemon rind in a small bowl; sprinkle garlic mixture evenly over potatoes and serve.

Nutrition information per serving: 196 calories (19 percent calories from fat), 4.2 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 2.5 g monofat, 0.4 g polyfat, 4.1 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 2.2 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.6 mg iron, 299 mg sodium, 7 mg calcium.

The following recipe is by Emma Christensen at kitchn.com (Yes, kitchen is spelled without the "e".)
Credit: Emma Christensen of thekitchn.com

Potato, red pepper and gouda frittata
Makes: 6 servings

1 large onion, diced
5 small red potatoes (1 to 1 1/3 pounds), diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried)
10 large eggs, whisked until frothy
4 ounces gouda cheese, cut into cubes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Warm a teaspoon of olive oil in a 10- to 12-inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and a pinch of sea salt. Saute until the onions are translucent and just starting to turn brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Stir in the potatoes and another pinch of salt and lower the heat to medium. Cover and let the potatoes steam for 4 to 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in the peppers and another pinch of salt. Lower the heat to medium. Cover and let the potatoes steam for 4 to 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in the peppers and thyme. Re-cover the pan and continue steaming for another 4 to 5 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Scatter the cubes of gouda evenly over the vegetables, then pour the eggs over the top. Shake and tilt the pan to make sure the eggs are evenly distributed.

Put the entire pan in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the eggs are completely set and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the frittata cool for a few minutes and then slice it into wedges.

Serve the frittata with a simple green salad and a crusty piece of bread. Leftovers will keep for five days and are excellent eaten hot or cold.

Nutrition information per serving: 268 calories, 6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 1.6 g carbohydrates, 2.5 g fiber, 3.8 g sugars, 17.4 g  protein, 331.5 mg cholesterol, 291.9 mg sodium.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

FATHER'S DAY

Memories are all I have of my Dad. 

In 1992, my beloved father suffered a heart attack and was taken to St. John Medical Center. From there, he was rushed to OHSU in Portland, Ore., where doctors performed an angioplasty. After the surgery, I was shown a film of his heart working - it was dying from the outside in. 

In 1999, Dad was taken to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning. When my husband and I arrived, Dad was in the intensive care unit. His blood pressure was extremely low and the doctors were struggling to raise it. They were not successful. His heart stopped.

As I grieve his physical absence, the talks we used to have, and the access to his life's experiences and adventures on this Father's Day, I remember the loving and nurturing home my brother and I were raised in. 
Me and Dad, January 1959
I was fortunate. My parents remained married until my mother's death in 1978. The pain of divorce and custody battles was foreign territory. 

Mom didn't work outside the home. I never arrived home from school to a cold, empty house. My mom greeted me with a smile when I walked through the door and asked me about my day. After a few minutes of chatting, I was shuffled off to the privacy and quietness of my bedroom to do my homework. 

School was a top priority in our household because neither of my parents graduated from high school. After my grandfather's death, my dad, at age 16, went to work to help support his mom. My mom quit school in February of her senior year to marry my dad. 

Meals were eaten at the kitchen table together, depending on Dad's work schedule. He worked three different shifts when I was growing up. One of my favorite meals was fluffy mashed potatoes, crisp fried chicken and gravy with green beans, a tossed salad with Mom's homemade Thousand Island dressing, fresh-baked bread and a tall, ice cold glass of milk. Mmmmm. 

Our lives had structure and routine. Whether we had the sniffles or the measles, a stubbed toe or a broken arm, my parents were there to take care of us.

They read to us. They played games with us. Indoors it was dice, card games and board games -- Crazy Eights, Solitaire, Go Fish, Yahtzee, Monopoly and more. As a young girl, I loved Chutes and Ladders and Candyland. Outdoors it was lawn darts, croquet, badminton. Sometimes we'd sit on the patio and talk, while marveling at Mom's beautiful roses.
Me and dad, 1980s


Until the day Dad died, we'd congregate around the kitchen table to share work stories and discuss current events. We'd laugh and we'd cry. From time to time, Dad would tell tales of his childhood. My husband and I still have that table and now we congregate around it.

Sunday nights were bath nights growing up. After our baths, we would be given a bowl of soft vanilla ice cream and, together we would watch "You Asked For It" and "The Wonderful World of Disney." Another TV show I remember watching was "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" with Marlin Perkins. Loved that show. 

We worked in the yard together, too. Dad mowed and edged the lawn. I helped Mom pull weeds; and my brother and I raked grass clippings and swept the sidewalks, patio and driveway.

Mom didn't drive, so Dad taught me how to drive a car and how to change a tire. He taught me to stand up for myself. He taught me to be proud of who I am, to love and accept myself; and that it is OK to make mistakes - and learn from them.

If someone needed his help, he would postpone whatever he was doing to give assistance, whether he was watching his favorite football teams (the Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings - he grew up in Minnesota) or rebuilding the transmission in the car.

When I moved from apartment to apartment, (before I married) without me asking for his help, Dad would round up a friend or two and they would move my belongings for me while I was at work.

After he died, I learned he left his mark on many people's lives.

Yep, that's my dad.

Happy Father's Day, Dad! Love and miss you tons. ❤




Sunday, June 10, 2018

Purging

One of my friends, Jenny, is in the process of moving from one home to another and while packing for the move, she is getting rid of some of her belongings.

While embarking on this journey, she also has been posting her progress on Facebook. Her new place is larger than the one she is in now. She had some money set aside, so she was able to buy a patio set, a new bed, a couch and a fridge (because the new place doesn't come with one) and had them delivered.

On Friday, June 8, she posted she was going to relax that night because the next two nights were going to be a free-for-all dedicated to more moving, prepping and reducing her footprint. The final day for that goal is June 13 when she starts living in her new home.

The morning of Saturday, June 9, she posted the meme below.

On Sunday, June 10, she posted: "Back at it... I have way too much crap. Note to self... do not repeat the old way of deciding what to keep. Ugh..."

Friends responded. They offered words of encouragement. One gave advice on what worked for her, such as if you haven't used something in two years, get rid of it; keep it if it is of sentimental value or an heirloom. Others noted they need to do the same thing and if Jenny discovered the secret to purging during her adventure, to please post the secret. :-)

One friend, Richelle, noted that when we were younger, it was all about more, more, more; better stuff and new stuff. But, at our age (we are in our 60s), less is so much simpler and freeing. She wrote she is going to tackle her garage this summer that is full of storage, including probably every greeting card given to her daughters as they were growing up. 

Another friend, Leslie, agreed and wrote "As we age, our priorities change. I know I have learned (maybe still learning) that I don't need those shiny things to make me happy." And, she wrote she promised herself she would never leave the mess her parents left her and her siblings to sort out, writing "But if I don't clean out, I'm on my way to doing just that."

All of this got me to thinking. Why do we hang on to so many material items?

Mark Banschick, M.D., writes on the "Psychology Today" website: "The answer is complicated because there are so many different kinds of stuff and there are so many different kinds of people. No two individuals are alike. No situations are alike. Each is unique in their environment, and although you may empathize, you cannot compare your situation to theirs, nor can you judge them."

Hmmmm. I never thought of it that way.

He notes some of the reasons people can't get rid of stuff: If it is out of sight, it is out of mind; we may need it one day; we can't waste things; someone else may need it one day; items have sentimental value; we are overwhelmed; we are unable to bite off small pieces to downsize; or we don't know where to start.

How many of these reasons are you guilty of? For me, it has been all of them at one time or another. 

Moving by itself can be intimidating, let alone trying to get rid of things at the same time. I remember one time when daughter Stephanie was going to move. She looked around at all of her belongings and froze. She was overwhelmed and didn't know where to start. I told her to get a box and start in the bathroom because it was a smaller room. Pick up one item at a time and put it in the box until it is full. Then, after the bathroom, move to another room. Family and friends helped, but that initial start can be frightening.

Oops! I'm getting sidetracked. This blog post is supposed to be about getting rid of "stuff." I should change my middle name. Just call me Nancy Sidetracking Edwards. :-) 

My husband and I have been in our current home for 25 years. In that 25 years, we have  had four garage sales. We have taken several van loads full to Goodwill. 

After my dad and stepmom died, we brought a lot of their belongings home with us -- and gave a lot away to family and friends. In the beginning, it was difficult to get rid of their belongings because of the memories. Eventually, we had to decide what was "necessary" to keep.

I have a cedar chest full of pictures in frames I still need to go through. Earlier this year, I finally shredded tons of paperwork dating back 15 years -- some even longer. Why was I hanging on to my parents' instruction manuals for the heat pump, sprinkler system, washer and dryer, and more? Was it sentimental? If I got rid of the papers and other stuff, did I think I was erasing their memories? Honestly, I haven't a clue. Once I got rid of the paperwork, I didn't feel like I was erasing their memories. <3

These days, we don't have garage sales. But, as I go through the kitchen cupboards pulling out whatever dishes, cooking apparatus, utensils, etc., we don't use anymore; the closet or any other area in the house, the clothing and all the other stuff has to go somewhere. So, we give it away. We put stuff at the end of the driveway with a free sign. Admittedly, some items, such as power tools (when switching from gas to battery power) we have sold, but in the future, who knows, they may sit at the end of the driveway with a free sign, too.

As for Jenny, well, she is progressing, and by the time she settles in her new place, I am positive, she, too, will feel "less is simpler and more freeing"

 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Coloring

Wow! It's been nearly two years since I've written anything here. What does that tell you? Life is busy? I am lazy? I have nothing to say? 

Life is busy, I am not lazy, and people who know me know I have plenty to say. Maybe too much sometimes. lol Work has been hectic the past few months, full of change and challenges which can be stressful. So, how do I relieve that stress? In one word: color.

About a month or so ago, a friend posted on Facebook a page she colored from an "adult" coloring book. As a child, I loved to color. When the kids were little, we colored together. It's been years since I colored. My friend, Susanne's, picture was from "Creative Cats" by Marjorie Sarnat. Susanne's drawing was beautiful.

Hmmm. Perhaps I should look into coloring, I thought, and off I went to amazon.com. At the site, I discovered so many coloring books to choose from - stress-relieving patterns, enchanted forests, cats, city-scapes, city skylines, flowers, mandelas, whimsical owls, fanciful faces, paisleys, dreamcatchers, beauty in the Bible and more. After looking and looking and looking, I decided I wanted something simple, so I chose "Floral Bouquets" by Charlene Tarbox. And, because I loved Susanne's picture, I chose the "Creative Cats" book. Next up was colored pencils.

People use Sharpie's, gels, pens, water soluble colored pencils and more. I chose USArt Supply pencils and Sargent pencils. When I get more creative, I'll look into some of the fancy-shmancy coloring tools and learn shading techniques.

In the July 10 "Parade" magazine is an article titled "50 Shades of Happy: The Joy of Coloring," by Hillari Dowdle. To read the entire article, go to http://bit.ly/1gbxhFl

Dowdle writes about being "in the zone" and how the "world and its cares have dropped away." I understand. The act of coloring is relaxing. As Dowdle notes, "work concerns, money worries, health concerns" and arguments with her 9-year-old son fade away.

"Others have caught on to the magical, mood-lifting power of their erstwhile childhood pastime," Dowdle writes, "and together we're giving rise to a craze unsurpassed since the days we had Donny Osmond fever" -- in my day, for me it was Davy Jones of the Monkees -- with a world of gorgeous coloring books aimed at adults. 

And guess what? We are "snapping them up like hotcakes," she writes.

By the millions. That's right, that's not a typo. An Associated Press article in the New York Post on July 15 claims Dover Publications has sold more than 3 million adult coloring books and Quarto Publishing will have 1.3 million books in print this year. And "Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt," by Johanna Basford, still is a top seller on Amazon two years after its initial publication.

At the time I ordered "Floral Bouquets" and "Creative Cats," I wanted "Secret Garden," but it was sold out. Now I know why.

According to the article,"adult coloring books occupied as many as eight of the top 20 slots" on Amazon's best seller list the week the story was published. Two of the best sellers were "Creative Cats" and "Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns."

Quarto's head of marketing, Amy Yodanis, said they cannot print the coloring books fast enough. "We are getting orders of 60,000 at one time from some of our biggest retailers," she said in the article. Wow! That's a lot of coloring books.

Coloring is therapeutic and choosing colors can affect our mood. Check out this image from the "Parade" article:


Coloring contests, coloring clubs and hundreds, if not thousands, of coloring posts are showing up on social media, including Facebook. I joined the "Coloring for All" group on Facebook where people share their work, offer information on coloring techniques and more. Check out the page at http://on.fb.me/1I0MKyH

If you want to try your hand at coloring, but aren't quite ready to buy a book or two, "Parade" magazine offers some free downloadable coloring pages here: http://bit.ly/1D1rDPW. And, in May, Dover Publications named Aug. 2 National Coloring Day. For a free packet of downloadable coloring pages, go to http://bit.ly/1MtrcAV


Flowers in Bloom by Nancy Edwards
Nice Kitty by Nancy Edwards
I admit, I am a coloring addict. It is soooo relaxing. And though I could go on and on about coloring, I won't. Instead, I am going to share some of my work. The image above left is my first attempt from the "Floral Bouquets" book. The image above right is from "Creative Cats." When I started it, I thought, "Oh my, too much detail," but once I got into it, that thought whisked out of my head. So much so, that I colored a second page - at left below.


Sleeping Beauty by Nancy Edwards
I Feel the Beat by Nancy Edwards
This morning I woke up at 3:45 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep, so I got up, washed my face, made some java, went into the dining room, sat down at the table with a steaming cup of coffee, picked up a colored pencil and ... can you believe it took nearly two hours to color what you see above right? Me either. As the saying goes, "Time flies when you're having fun."









Sunday, August 25, 2013

Patricia Cornwell - One of My Favorite Authors

Patricia Cornwell
The book that started
my liking for the
 Kay Scarpetta character.
    I have been in a book-reading mode lately. While dusting a while back, I stopped to peruse my collection of books by Patricia Cornwell. I have been a fan of hers since being introduced to her first book, "Postmortem," back in 1990 by a friend and co-worker. As I sat on the floor dusting the area with Cornwell's books, I recalled how I couldn't wait until one of her books was published and when it was available in the bookstores, I'd rush down, buy it and devour it from front to back - in one sitting.
     As the years passed, I was not as in tune to when her books came out. But, when Steve and I would stop at Barnes and Noble at the Jantzen Beach shopping center in Portland, I would look through the Bargain Books section where I would pick up one or two of them.  I would buy them, take them home and set them aside, telling myself I would read them one day. 
    In my job, I read a lot of words :-) so when I get home from work, reading is one of the last things on my mind and that saddens me. Instead, I veg out in front of the TV, getting whisked away into another time so to speak.  I enjoy the shows we watch - "Pawn Stars," "Storage Hunters," "Rizzoli and Isles," "Burn Notice," "The Bridge," "Under the Dome," "Major Crimes," "Suits," "Perception," ... and the list goes on - but since dusting off the Patricia Cornwell books, a nagging voice in the back of my mind kept telling me I need to read more. So ... over the past few weeks I have been working on getting back into it. After all, books can take me "away" just as easily as watching TV.
    Even though hubby and I still "veg" out in front of the TV while eating dinner, it doesn't occupy all my moments from the time I get home from work until it is bedtime. First on the agenda - when the weather cooperates (which it has for weeks now) - is to change clothes and head outside to sit on the patio or in the yard for an hour or so to decompress. With a favorite beverage on the table between our chairs, we talk about our day, pet the cat, watch the deer if they come into the yard, listen to the birds chirp, oggle at the butterflies and dragonflies and  enjoy each other's company. Then it's back in the house to prepare dinner and relax in front of the TV. About an hour before "bedtime," we head into the bedroom and read. :-)
    On a recent week off, I read the 492-page "The Scarpetta Factor." It was great - as is usual with books by Patricia Cornwell. I started "Blow Fly" and finished it yesterday. It was another 400-plus page book. And last night, I began "Trace."
   Of the 21 books in the Kay Scarpetta series, I have all but three of them - "Port Mortuary," "The Bone Bed" and "Dust," which is scheduled to come out in November of this year. I am not as far behind as I had thought in reading the books in the series. Of the 18 I have, I have four left to read. 
    In addition, Cornwell wrote three books in the Andy Brazil / Judy Hammer series. I am happy to say I have read them. I also read the two she has in the Win Garano series. 

    For those of you who have not heard about Patricia Cornwell, she was born in 1956 and began her career in 1979 as a crime reporter for the Charlotte Observer. She worked for the medical examiner's office in Virginia as a technical writer and computer analyst, and volunteered to work with the Richmond (Virginia) Police Department.
    Her character, Kay Scarpetta is a medical examiner, who solves crimes and loves to cook.
    Cornwell also wrote two books with recipes from the series, one is called "Food to Die For" and contains recipes from Scarpetta's kitchen. The other is called "Scarpetta's Winter Table," and is an intimate look at how the main characters in the Scarpetta series celebrate the week between Christmas and New Year's with recipes such as Pete Marino's "Cause of Death Egg Nog," Lucy Farinelli's "Felonious Cookies," Scarpetta's "Holiday Pizza," "Bad Mood Pasta Primavera," "Childhood Key Lime Pie" and more.
     Cornwell wrote a biography of Ruth Bell Graham, who was her friend; and a non-fiction work, "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Cased Closed," a "self-financed search for evidence to support the theory that painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper," notes several websites including famousauthors.org/patricia-cornwell.
    To read more about Cornwell, her work and her life, visit her official website at patriciacornwell.com.
    Below is a list of her books I found on Wikipedia in their appropriate "series" and in the order they were published. I highly recommend reading them.

Kay Scarpetta series
    1. "Postmortem" (1990).
    2. "Body of Evidence" (1991).
    3. "All That Remains" (1992).
Coming out November 2013
    4. "Cruel and Unusual" (1993).
    5. "The Body Farm" (1994).                                                        
    6. "From Potter's Field" (1995).
    7. "Cause of Death" (1996).
    8. "Unnatural Exposure" (1997).
    9. "Point of Origin" (1998).
   10. "Black Notice" (1999).
   11. "The Last Precinct" (2000).
   12. "Blow Fly" (2003).
   13. "Trace" (2004).
   14. "Predator" (2005).
   15. "Book of the Dead" (2007)
   16. "Scarpetta" (2008).
   17. "The Scarpetta Factor" (2009).
   18. "Port Mortuary" (2010).
   19. "Red Mist" (2011).
   20. "The Bone Bed" (2012).
   21. "Dust" (November 2013).

Andy Brazil / Judy Hammer series
    1. "Hornet's Nest" (1997).
    2. "Southern Cross" (1999).
    3. "Isle of Dogs" (2001).

Win Garano series
    1. "At Risk" (2006).
    2. "The Front" (2008).

Children's book
    1. "Life's Little Fable" (1999).

Non-fiction
    1. "A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham" (1983).
    2. "Ruth, A Portrait: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham" (1997 update of "A Time for Remembering").
    3. "Scarpetta's Winter Table" (1998).
    4. "Food to Die For: Secrets from Scarpetta's Kitchen" (2002).
    5. "Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed" (2002).






Friday, August 2, 2013

Using herbs and vegetables in homemade 'beauty' products

    The fall 2013 issue of "Herb Quarterly" arrived in the mail the other day. I love, love, love this magazine and have subscribed to it off and on for many, many years. The fall issue is number 136. Wish I had them all ...
Herb Quarterly
     Anyway, I couldn't wait to open it and devour every word. This is a magazine I can sit down and read cover to cover. It always contains tons of wonderful information. 
    My husband, Steve and I, enjoy reading. We have been known to spend an entire weekend day in bed reading, only getting up long enough to use the bathroom or get a bite to eat. We still read, but I don't read as much at home as in the past.
    In my job as Community Editor at the local newspaper, I read and write nearly the entire day. My food column, "On the Table," appears in the newspaper every other week. I spend a number of hours reading up on whatever that week's topic is going to be. When I get home from work, I usually don't want to read another word, but lately, we decided to head to bed an hour earlier than normal and spend that hour reading. And, I must say, I am certainly enjoying it.
    Back to the "Herb Quarterly." If you are not familiar with it, I recommend buying an issue. It costs $5.99, but if you like it, a subscription is $19.97 for one year, which is four issues - winter, spring, summer and fall. 
    Healing Children with Herbs, Herbs for Digestion, Elderberry: 2013 Herb of the Year, DIY Herb Oils for the Home, Transitional Gardening, A Vegan Holiday Table and Herb and Veggie Beauty are the featured articles.
    Regular features include Medicine Chest, Herbal Healthwatch, Herbalist's Notebook and The Organic Gardener, among others.
    One article I particularly enjoyed reading was "Herb and Veggie Beauty" by Janice Cox. Janice, a regular contributor to the magazine, lives in Medford, Ore.

    Janice is the author of "Natural Beauty at Home," "Natural Beauty for All Seasons," "Natural Beauty Beauty from the Garden." 
I own this book. :-)
    According to her website, her passion for home beauty started out of necessity ... natural bath and beauty products were hard to come by ... and it was an easy way to save time and money.
     "Get her book and you'll never look at fruit the same way again," notes the Times Picayune newspaper. "You'll also never pay high department store prices for creams and lotions that can be made simply and cheaply at home."
    For more on Janice, visit her website janicecox.com.
    Now, on to the "Herb Quarterly" article.
    Because vegetables have an earthy scent, Janice notes that pairing them with fresh herbs improves the vegetable fragrance in recipes. She recommends leaving the peels and skins on the vegetables when using them in the recipes.
    Here are some of the recipes from the article.

    Fresh Carrot and Clary Sage Mask
       1 fresh carrot, grated (approximately 1/2 cup)
       1 tablespoon fresh chopped clary sage
       1 tablespoon white kaolin clay
       1 tablespoon pure honey

   Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend on high until you have a smooth, creamy mixture.
    Yield: 4 ounces
    To use: Spread the mixture on your face and neck using your fingertips or use a small pastry brush. Let sit for 20 minutes then rinse with warm water followed by cool water. Pat skin dry.
    Store any remaining mask in the refrigerator for up to one week.

   Janice notes that carrots are rich in vitamin A. Fresh carrots and carrot juice have antiseptic qualities, and clary sage soothes, cleanses and adds moisture to dry complexions. Look for the clay, also called white China clay, in a health food or natural food store.

    Sweet Potato Facial Mask with Chamomile
       1/2 cup fresh sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
       1 tablespoon fresh chamomile or 2 teaspoons dried chamomile tea
       1 egg

    Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well until you have a smooth, creamy mixture.
    Yield: 2 ounces
    To use: Spread the mixture on your face and neck using your fingertips or use a small pastry brush. Let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water followed by cool water. Pat skin dry.
    Store any remaining mask in the refrigerator for up to one week.
    
Looks good enough to eat.
    Sweet potatoes - and regular potatoes - are an old folk-medicine remedy for cleansing skin and removing surface impurities, Janice writes in the article. They help with blemishes and eczema. Chamomile is calming and contains antibacterial properties useful for keeping a clean and clear complexion.

    I just whipped up a batch of this mask and put it on my face and neck, strategically avoiding where my reading glasses sit. The timer is on and I'm enjoying a glass of Kona Koko Brown beer. Let's hope the sweet potatoes don't turn my skin orange. 
    Timer went off. Rinsed my face in warm water, then cool water, then patted it dry. It feels soft and smooth. No discoloration. Will try it again tomorrow and for the next few days and see what happens. :-)

     Corn Oil Cold Cream
       1/2 cup borax powder
       1/4 cup distilled or filtered water
       1/2 cup corn oil (or vegetable, soy or canola oil)
       2 tablespoons beeswax

    In a glass measuring cup, dissolve the borax in the water and set aside. In another glass measuring cup, mix together the oil and beeswax. Place the glass cup in a pan on the stove with 2 inches of water, making a water bath. Gently heat the oil-wax mixture until the wax begins to melt (8-10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
    When the wax is melted, place the cup with the water and borax mixture in the water bath and heat until hot (do not boil). You want both mixtures to roughly be the same temperature.
   Add the hot water mixture to the oil blend to make the cream. You can do this by hand-stirring constantly, but a blender makes the process much easier and produces a well-blended cream. Place the oil mixture in a blender and turn on slow speed. Pour the hot water in a slow, steady stream and then process the cream on high. Spoon the cream into a clean container and let cool completely. You may want to stir one more time as the cream cools.
    Yield: 8 ounces.
    To use: Massage a small amount of the rich cream into dry skin spots. To use as a makeup remover, massage into your skin, then wipe off with a soft cotton tissue or cloth. 

    I read this recipe to hubby Steve and he wants me to make it for him to use. :-) 

    Cleansing Tomato-Parsley Hair Rinse
       1 cup fresh tomato juice
       1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
       1 cup pure water
       1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

    Place all ingredients in a blender and process until well-blended. Strain out the solids and pour into a clean container.
    Yield: 16 ounces.
    To use: After shampooing, pour the rinse over your hair and massage well into your scalp. Let sit for a minute or two, then rinse with the coolest water you can stand.

    Janice writes, "This cleansing rinse gets hair looking fresh and smelling sweet. Tomato juice is the classic cure for removing harsh smells, such as campfire smoke, from your hair. Parsley also naturally cleanses and deodorizes. This rinse will deep clean the scalp keeping it healthy and promoting new hair growth."

   This next recipe is such a good idea. The benefit of a loofah to scrub the skin with the soap "built in."

    Loofah Slice Soap Bars
       2 bars of natural soap such as glycerin or castile, chopped
       1 tablespoon water
       4 slices dried loofah sponge

    Find a small pan or plastic dish to use as a soap mold that's approximately the size of the loofah slice (muffin tins and candy molds work well). Place the loofah slices inside the molds.
    In a double boiler place the chopped soap and water and heat gently until the soap begins to melt. Remove from heat and continue to stir the soap until it's completely melted. Spoon the melted soap inside the loofah slice molds and allow to cool completely until hard.
    Remove from molds and trim the soaps with a sharp knife.
    Yield: 8 ounces, 3-4 bars of soap.
    To use: Enjoy as you would any bar of soap, but do not use on your face or other sensitive skin areas as it may be too harsh. 

Loofah growing on a fence. It does resemble a cucumber.
    And, did you know that you can grow your own loofah? I did not. Here is what Janice says: "... the loofah sponges available in bath and body shops are actually vegetables." Amazing, right? Well ... to me it is. The loofah belongs to a family of plants that includes cucumbers, gourds, melons, pumpkins and squashes and are the most closely related to the cucumber in appearance and growing habits.

Dried loofah.
    Janice notes that seeds - and sometimes the starter plants - are available at garden centers. Though I have never looked, I wonder if they are available locally. We have a lot of gardening businesses in our area. And, of course, they are available from online seed catalogs. 
    She writes that loofahs like to climb so they should be planted next to a fence or a trellis. A ripe loofah has a dark yellow or brown outer skin that needs to be removed. She notes that you need to "clean the inner 'skeletons,' removing all seeds. Then let it dry in the sun.

    Janice also offers several easy ways to use vegetables on the skin and hair.
    Artichoke hearts blended with a bit of lemon juice conditions the hair before shampooing and is an effective treatment for dandruff or flaky scalps.
    Blend chick peas and garbanzo beans with a little honey or olive oil to make a protein-rich and soothing facial mask. This is good for people with dry or sensitive skin.
   Lettuce juice is a good skin toner. It also soothes skin that has been sunburned.
   Mashed and cooked parsnips can be used on the feet and hands to help brittle nails and dry, rough skin.
    Use potato slices to reduce under-eye puffiness. Lie down and place a freshly cut slice on each closed eyelid. Leave them there for 5 to 10 minutes.
    Lastly, tomato juice can be used as a skin tonic and toner. Janice writes that it restores acidity to people who have oily skin.

          I think I've done enough writing for today ... two posts in one day. Wow! And that's after not posting for nearly a year. Shame on me.

Nighty night and sweet dreams. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!