Sunday, July 6, 2014

First Harvest

After planting mid-May, I had the pleasure of harvesting my first Royal Burgundy (bush) beans this weekend!

Beans and Basil 

The organic bean seeds came from Botanical Interests via Whole Foods Market. I transplanted the basil from its Cool Springs Organic container (grown in Evans City, PA and also sold at WFM), and it's been growing tall, producing new stems as I clip off the top leaves.

Apart from beans and basil, I'm cultivating some edible calendula flowers and 2 tomato plants- one red heirloom and one yellow cherry variety. My strategy was to start small and focus on learning just a few plants at a time, rather than go all out and forget how to properly care for some (as my past wildflower experiment showed). I think I might adopt the same approach for having children.

Just cooked up these babies and saw the "magic" color change! They may turn brighter green without the rice vinegar, which I added for flavor along with onions, oil and garlic. Will have to try steaming them plain next time to see if there's a difference.

Raw purple bean added for contrast

The smell of stir fry lingers in the room and the satisfaction of watching my garden labor come to fruition seeds more motivation in my heart.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Omega-3s For Dessert?!

Thanks to Sambazon, my new favorite food blogger Emily at A Nutritionist Eats and a timely Whole Foods coupon, I've been learning to make omega-3-rich açaí bowls.

We've heard about omega-3 fats' benefits for the heart, brain, skin and even hair, but food sources of this nutrient tend to fall under the routine categories of fish, seeds and nuts-- maybe coconut oil if you're being creative. Now we can add a tasty dessert (or breakfast) to the list!

OK, I confess I am eating this for lunch (Don't worry, it has protein powder in it). 

I call it the Decadent Açaí bowl, topped with Spectrum's Decadent Blend (Omega-3-rich chia, flax, cocoa and coconut). Sweetened by banana, vanilla almond milk and blueberries, there's no artificial ingredient in sight. Also, it's vegan.

I usually don't post recipes on my blog, but in case anyone is looking for inspiration, here goes:

-1 cup almond milk (I use unsweetened vanilla, Blue Diamond Almond Breeze- also a current coupon at Whole Foods)
-1 açaí smoothie pack (3.5 oz, Sambazon)
-1 ripe banana
-1/4 cup (ish) frozen blueberries
-1/2 scoop Garden of Life RAW protein powder

Mix it all in the blender, top with 2 tablespoons of the Spectrum mix and enjoy! (If you or your loved ones have sensitive tastes, I would omit the protein powder for better flavor, maybe add a little honey.) A great treat for a warm summer day.

The açaí/omega-3 craze gets even better when you read Sambazon's commitment to sustainable farming. You feel like you're giving back to the Amazon communities just by eating their product. Hopefully it's truthful marketing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

School Is Out But Life Is Not (always what we think it is)

Writing for the joy of the flow of words and also for the discipline of coherent thought.

Pick a topic, let's see... Science? School? Faith? ...I have exhausted the topic of turtles.

Chocolate, sourcing it any readers care about that?

There are enough blogs about food and recipes, and I don't have a good camera.

How about, what to do with a masters degree? The one that cost me the down payment for a house, that I'm not really using, economically at least. I do enjoy reading more, and I can ask more intelligent questions. That's one of my favorite responses to hear from people in conversation: "That's a really good question," like I made them think a little.

I really want to inspire people to think. To avoid getting sucked along by the mainstream, to recognize what's true, to be aware of nuance and presupposition. But I feel like I'm only just starting this journey can I lead others? Maybe I'll wait.

And in the meantime I'll write. Not just to declare answers and well-thought-out platitudes...whatever that means... but to enjoy the struggle of finding an answer.

I felt a bit cynical yesterday when I saw a generic graduation card for sale, emphasizing something to the effect of, "We can't wait to see what God has in store for you next year!" as if everyone graduates to a wonderful and exciting future. My thought? "Prepare to suffer."

Not because I think suffering is all there is to life, but it is a very real part of most people's journeys, and if graduates are under the illusion that every table is going to be made for them, it's going to be a shock to discover they really have to work and endure times of stress, confusion, mistreatment, even failure. My hope for them is that they will learn to suffer well, to endure challenges, to reap the reward of their hard-fought and focused efforts.

Sometimes I want to go back to school, where everything is defined for me, where it is easy to measure my success with a score or grade. But it's time to grow into the uncertainty of adulthood, to be comfortable with disaster, to lower one's head not in defeat but in the humility of a saint who knows better days are ahead, if only we do not despair, nor surrender to bitterness.

"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." Proverbs 18:2

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Remembering Haiti

This past April I had the pleasure of visiting my childhood home in Bonne Fin, Haiti. My family spent the week volunteering at the missions hospital there, reconnecting with old friends, and reliving memories.

Embraced by the warm greetings of the people and the familiar scents of mountain air, it really felt like coming home. It was a rejuvenating reminder of my roots, and at once a rediscovery of this remote place.

Nightly stargazing walks were rewarded with sights of the Southern Cross and Milky Way. I understood how beauty can comfort you in the middle of work that revolves around suffering.

Our hosts provided wonderful food: rice and beans, banan pezé, soup joumou, a variety of fresh fruit (mango, abricot, anana, zaboka), juices (chadèk, sitron) and vegetables (militon, chou, carrot, bètrav, épinard), fried goat, vyann bef.

During a couple afternoons we hiked and observed the local community and wildlife. I enjoyed seeing flowers I had gathered as a kid, and my sister indulged me with a few photos:

These small lavendar clusters were some of my favorite.

White something

From a bush near the door of our second house (top of the hill by the hotel). If my memory is correct, sometimes we would pick a flower and suck a drop of sweet juice from the stems.

I'm hoping to find the scientific names for these plants, maybe on Living National Treasures Haiti page. A few more plants:

Banana forests!


Zanglais beach. I remember opening these hanging pods to remove the seeds once they fell on the ground.

I forget if this is aloe or something else, but we would definitely pick aloe and rub it on injured skin, maybe after sliding down a hillside on a palm frond, or scraping our knees during games of tag or racing up the road.

We also found the same tree covered in thorns near the hospital.

We asked why?!
Lizards, birds, bugs, tadpoles, trees and leaves were one substance of our childhood: whether just observing, fort-making, collecting or hunting, we immersed ourselves in the life of this beautiful land.

Haiti remains part of us.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Farms Matter

I learned today that acreage of farmland in the US has been decreasing over the past 20 years despite our nation's growing nutrition needs.

The government is telling us to eat more fruits and veggies while it continues to subsidize junk food ingredients to the tune of about $1 billion per year. What if the government subsidized more green vegetables instead, to economically fill our plates and logically follow its own recommendations?

Or we could ask our congressmen to reduce subsidies, to combat poverty and environmental degradation--all while supporting local and small farmers--but that's a different conversation.

You hear stories of farmers losing their livelihood to urban development. My own great-grandparents' potato fields and apple orchards were converted to government property for schools in the middle of the last century. I studied for years and graduated from those schools, and I appreciate the government's support for education--along with the country's need for infrastructure, housing, and all the other good things that end up taking farmers' space. Let's just remember how to feed a growing nation, not only mentally but physically.

Let's continue to rebalance our land use. The American Farmland Trust advocates our responsibility to protect the abundant resources that quality farmland provides. We can learn a lot from groups already concerned with this issue.

What if the government took over a retail space and converted it to a vegetable garden? "Sorry, it's better for you!" Until more people realize how much food impacts our health and economy, they will keep doing the opposite.


1. U.S. EPA Land Use Overview

2. Produce For Better Health Foundation

3. U.S. PIRG, Apples to Twinkies 2013:

4. USDA ChooseMyPlate

5. American Farmland Trust, Farming On the Edge Report

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Turtle Diet Changes

Remy ate carrots two days in a row this week. He hasn't nibbled on the dandelion greens/flowers we gave him, despite recommendations from other RES owners. He sometimes eats romaine lettuce, other times preferring to shred it and let it float around his tank.

A friend gave us duckweed to help fight algae growth. We thought it would be enjoyable for Remy to also eat and hide under, but it mostly got sucked into his water filter... Thankfully the plant is prolific; all was not wasted.

Feeding time

ZooMed Aquatic Turtle Growth Formula pellets

We only feed Remy the pellets every other day, 2 or 3 teaspoons at a time.

Remy is 18 months old and his shell is about 5 inches long. His claws are getting long and sharp!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Roaming Remy

We are giving our turtle some "dry treatment" after his stubborn shell rot did not respond to iodine treatments nor to cleaner water conditions.

Right now Remy is exploring the room, diving behind furniture and crawling over obstacles. Much more exciting for him than being stuck in his regular containers. He's getting so big now that it doesn't take much time for him to climb out of the smaller bins anyway!

Not so happy about getting his picture taken

Remy on the move again!
I'm not sure how long to keep him out of water, but will make sure he doesn't get dehydrated!