What’s New for Spring Gardens?

SPRING PEEKS OUT from Winter doldrums.   It’s time to visit Spring Home and Garden Shows…to see what’s new and interesting for Spring 2016.

SPRING FLOWERS will soon be
Dressing yards and neighborhoods in  colorful finery,
Re-awakening senses to the world spread before us, and
Tugging on memories of playful Spring days with loved ones.

We see flowers everywhere on our visit to the Cabarrus County Home and Garden Show in North Carolina.

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Water features on display are varied and add soothing music to garden displays.

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Hummingbirds prefer a shallow water feature. This year’s show featured artistic hummingbird baths for the  colorful birds to dip their needle beaks into a garden art piece.

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Created-to-order wrought iron garden benches add sculptural beauty to any garden .

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The whimsical item plants smiles in the garden.

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And places to sit a spell and chat, or have an evening meal in artisan-crafted furniture, add comfort and style to outdoor garden rooms.

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OK.  Now, I really do have Spring Fever.  Cool Spring breezes, dining alfresco, flowering bulbs and budding trees, working in the rich earth.  What project do I want to tackle this year to brighten my garden?

Spring …bursts with all the relish of a sudden surprise.”
(Mrs. William Starr Dana, According to Seasons, 1894.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2016

 

I Ate Brain-Boosting Foods All Day!

THE ONE-PAGE ARTICLE*  EXTOLLED the virtues of four foods scientists suggest may have a protective effect to enhance memory and mental abilities into our senior years.  The headline on the magazine article promised we could maintain our cognitive brilliance into old age, if we ate these brain-boosting foods every day.

OK, I’M IN!  Today, I will eat all four (4) of the brain -boosting foods.

BLUEBERRIES

IT SEEMS THAT THE ANTIOXIDANTS in the blueberries may result in more oxygen-rich blood circulating to the brain. The goal is to eat a cup of blueberries daily. In one briefly quoted study of 16,000 women, researchers found the women who ate more blueberries had “younger minds”. .

I LOVE BLEUBERRIES, so this one is easy.  When blueberries are in season, I freeze several large containers for the freezer. Since they can be frozen without being washed, it doesn’t take much time.  They freeze in separate, sweet balls.  Throughout the year, I can grab a handful, rinse them well, and add to cereal, smoothies, muffins, ice cream, or salad.

FOR BREAKFAST TODAY, I add blueberries to wheat chex cereal, with strawberries, bananas and walnuts.  The wheat chex adds additional fiber for a healthy start to the day, and a breakfast so crunchy and sweet tasting.

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LOW-FAT YOGURT

YOGURT THAT IS FORTIFIED with vitamin D  will give us about 20% of this vitamin we need every day. It is suggested that vitamin D may help strengthen connections among the cells of the brain, and some research has found that a loss of cognitive ability is associated with lower levels of vitamin D.

YOGURT CAN BE USED IN MULTIPLE WAYS in the kitchen, such as: a yogurt and dill topping for grouper or talipia; added to muffins for moistness; fruit and yogurt as a dessert or snack.

I DECIDE TO MAKE A YOGURT smoothie today.  I blend the following ingredients in a smoothie blender: ice, yogurt, skim milk, blueberries, strawberries, vanilla flavoring, honey, strawberry Slimfast protein powder.   Hmmm.  So icy and creamy and very filling!

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CABBAGE

I DO LIKE CABBAGE, BUT I don’t know if I want to eat it every single day.  We could have cooked cabbage and potatoes, a favorite of my Scotch-Irish grandmother. Or, cole slaw with carrots and onions and a creamy dressing.

I COULD SWITCH OFF and prepare roasted cauliflower or Brussel sprouts, other cruciferous vegetables with health benefits.  Some studies suggest the glucosinolates in these vegetables may lower rates of forgetfulness.  Wouldn’t it be great if it really were this simple to lower the incidence of Alzheimer’s ? Anyway, it’s recommended we eat 2-3 servings a week to benefit.

FOR DINNER TODAY, I make one of my favorite meals, a hearty vegetable soup, more like a stew with thick vegetables and a savory broth.  In this soup, I cut up the vegetables I have on hand. I like to enjoy each of the different vegetables, so I cut them up in large chunks,…toss them in the crock pot and let them cook for 4 hours until done and the flavors blend: chicken broth, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, onions, zuchinni, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper, bay leaves (3) tomatoes, 1/4 cup red wine.

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THE HOT SOUP smells rich and savory as I sprinkle it with parmesan.  This is a satisfying meal.

ALMOND BUTTER

THE VITAMIN E IN ALMOND BUTTER may be a memory booster for the human brain, by reducing oxidative damage, according to a new study in The Journal of Nutrition , Health and Aging, quoted in the magazine article.  

I HAVE ONLY RECENTLY BEEN BUYING ALMOND BUTTER.  I use it in banana-almond butter smoothies or as an ingredient for an icing for muffins. This evening, I make an evening snack of almond butter toast, drizzled with wildflower honey, and a cup of English breakfast tea.  A spot of tea on a rainy evening with a good book, is a lovely way to end the day.

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WELL, I DID IT!  I ate all four of the brain-boosting foods heralded in the woman’s magazine article in one day.  Now, where is that crossword puzzle I couldn’t finish this morning?

(* Information quoted in this post referencing the 4 brain foods and quoted health benefits were based on: “Eat These to Keep Your Memory Sharp”, p. 63, Redbook Magazine, March 2016)

Sue Marquis Bishop, PhD
2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 Books of LOVE: The Ties That Bind Are Not Just Lovers

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LOVE COMES IN MANY FORMS. Human connections give life meaning.  We celebrate romantic love on Feb 14th. Seventeen (17) books reviewed briefly in this post, depict love and bonding in many different relationships and ages, and the grief of loss when it is gone.

An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer (2012).
How do I learn to live as a widower?  One man’s journey of  how he navigated his new life as a widower, following the loss of his beloved wife. The reaction of others in his community as they responded to his changed status as a newly single man, was believable and often humorous.  Realistic depiction of grief and loss; risking new relationships.  A charming man to invite for a dinner party.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013).  
Socially challenged man searches for love.  A funny, touching story about a brilliant genetics professor with Asperger’s who sets out to find a wife.  I laughed aloud in places as he meticulously plans his strategy, and as his plans often go awry.   Australian author.

The Republic of Love by Carol Shields, Harper Perennial, (1992).
Finding someone in later life: The author is a master at noticing minute details of living, both emotional and material.  Fay and Tom find love and connection in later life.  Story depicts human need to have a special someone to share life.

The Rockin’ Chair by  Steven Manchester (2013).
Leaving a legacy of love:  heart-warming story of love, family, forgiveness, continuity, place, home and creating a legacy.  Everyone should have a grandpa John to go home to….

Finding Home by Jackie Weger (1987, 2014).
Love of family, search for belonging:   A story about a quirky and determined woman … a good-ole-girl with a big heart… who sets in motion a plan to find a home for herself and her large family.  So many funny parts I laughed out loud…and rooted for Phoebe to get her man and her house…and find a place to belong along the way.

The Illegal Gardner by Sara Alexi (Greek Book Collection 1) (2012). 
Non-romantic  bonding between two socially different individuals based on interdependent needs:  Takes place in a small Greek village.  An English woman’s journey, along with her Pakistani gardener, an illegal immigrant refugee with limited options for his family. Their chance meeting and ensuing working relationship provides comfort and meaning to their lives.  Themes: gardens, human needs for connection, opportunity, mutuality of relationship.

Forever Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2009).  Young love and loss; bonding between women: A heart-breaking novel of two young adults who meet, fall in love and marry and hours later the bridegroom dies in a freak accident.  Is she a widow, when she hasn’t had time to even be a wife?  So truthful about the vagaries of grief. Hope and affection is discovered in unexpected places for mother and daughter-in-law.

Walk Me Home by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2013).
Bonds between sisters, connecting with strangers to create a new family:  Two sisters begin a long walk across states after their only parent is killed, to find an old boyfriend of their mother’s that they think would care for them now.  Their adventure takes them into Indian country where they meet a unique and no-nonsense Indian woman, who changes their lives.

11/22/6 by Stephen King, (2011).
Love story set in 1950’s: Time travel and attempts to right some wrongs in the past, e.g., killing of President Kennedy. Time travel to 1950’s is detailed in food, fashion, dance, customs, technology.  King must have been a jitterbugger by his detailed description of this dance 50’s style. Secondary theme is a love story.

Fortune is a Woman by Elizabeth Adler, Dell Publishing (1992).
Lifetime  bonds among three strong women: Settings from China to San Francisco to rural New Mexico. Story of how the lives of three strong women connected over years.  Unexpected events from start to finish  keeps you turning pages.  I didn’t see the ending coming.

Somewhere in Heaven: The Remarkable Love Story of Dana and Christopher Reeve by Christopher Anderson, Hyperion (2008).
A true love story.  This biography is a love story of two exceptional individuals whose lives continue to inspire.  Presents challenges of living every day paralyzed from the shoulders down… and what happens to the body.  Given this huge burden, it is amazing what Dana and Chris accomplished together!

1929: (Book 1), by M.L. Gardner (2009).
Bonding of friends during times of economic disaster to survive:  Story of three  American couples (all friends) who lose their wealthy lifestyle in the 1929 stock market crash, and must now find a way to survive poverty, and to rebuild their lives. Story focuses on what happens to them, their servants and in-laws during the years after 1929. Depicts the real life situation that many families experienced in our grandparents generation, as a result of the 29′ crash….the abject poverty for so many, the greedy who took advantage of events, and efforts to survive..   The  1929 series consists of 6 books, but I recommend only Book 1.

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969).
Family, Community and learning to love self.  Powerful memoir from African-American writer of her early years. Compelling narrative raises questions about love, abuse, racism, home, country and family.  I heard so much about this book, I wanted to read it.  I’m glad I did.  Maya died last year in NC.

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin (2008).
A haunting story of love and letting go.  A final journey of an artist and the love of his life, who is dying of a terminal illness.  They steal away from her possessive family (the Senator, ) and take a harrowing last trip (at her request) up the river from SC to Georgia, in a small boat.  Her body dies a little every day, but she radiates joy, as they meet interesting people and share experiences along the way. Would you have done it?

A Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith (2007).
Love comes in all sizes; appreciating differences.   A warm, fuzzy love story of rural life in North Central Florida.  Eccentric characters include lovable, mentally challenged and other unique and strong characters.  Rich girl seeking her birth parents, arrives at farm and quickly makes herself indispensable. You will cheer for main characters, even though you just have to overlook too many coincidences and just enjoy the tale.

The Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah (2011).
Adult-child bonding. A child arrives in a small town in the American Northwest, who can’t speak, and doesn’t show normal social behaviors. Major focus of story is the building of bridges of communication between a woman psychiatrist and the feral child.

Tuesday’s Socks by Alison Ragsdale (2014)
Risking first love at 64 years.  In the Scottish town of Pitochry, Jeffrey finds a path to change the ordered life he has led and risk change that will lead to big life changes.  His day socks, a loving mother and a mysterious dog urge him on his journey.  This story is slow moving, but fits the rhythm of Jeffrey’s structured life and the baby steps he takes to finally change his solitary life.  Characters are believable.  A first novel by this author. Some lonely folks may need a push, sometimes more than once, to take a leap of faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate LOVE This Valentine’s Day

“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get-
only with what you are expecting to give-
which is everything.”
Katherine Hepburn, Me (1991).

LOVE IS CELEBRATED annually with one special day set aside mid-February as Valentine’s Day. An entry in the Huffington Post estimates that Americans will spend over $17 billion to celebrate love this year.  If the print and TV ads are any indication, the emphasis is on lovers expecting grand gestures and expensive outings and gifts.  A review of TV sit-com stories suggests considerable storm and stress for characters planning or expecting extravagant Valentine’s Day gifts/events.

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Photo by SMB

YET … WE MAY BE MISSING SOMETHING, by not seeing the potential of Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to communicate our love and affection beyond our spouse/lover, to other  loved ones  in our personal social networks of mutual affection.  Who are the persons in your social world who bring meaning and joy to your life?…(e,g,  sons, daughters, siblings, parents, extended family members? ).  You might also include other closely held friends in your network of affection.

“To love deeply in one direction makes us more loving in all others.” Anne-Sophie Swetchine (1809).

ADS ARE PLENTIFUL this time of year for expensive gifts of jewelry/trips/evenings out.  In my view, something expensive is not necessary.  It really is the thought that counts.

IT’S A LOVELY TRADITION to receive a card with heart warming message, maybe enclosed with a special tea bag, or flowers (even one bud), or even a thoughtful  message that says, ” I thought of you on Valentine’s Day”.

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A MESSAGE OR SMALL GIFT tailored to fit the interests and likes of a special person…such as:

VALENTINE’S CARD with a touching message relevant for the relationship;
BOOK from a favorite author, favorite candy bar, or music CD;
POEM written by you, or published one expressing your feelings;
BOUQUET of flowers, or just one beautiful flower bud in a vase;
CANDLELIGHT dinner with the recipient’s favorite foods;
MOVIE to watch together that you dislike, but know he loves;
BREALFAST in bed;
SMALL GIFT the person needs (e.g., kitchen, gardening or garage tool);
THOUGHTFUL TEXT message on Valentine’s Day to siblings
NOTE in card or post-it on mirror recounting a shared funny or loving event;
CHEERY VOICE MAIL wishing the recipient Happy Valentine’s Day;
PLANS to take someone to enjoy a new experience
PHONE CALL to elder kin and friends who are alone just to chat and wish them Happy Valentine’s Day.

A GIFT THAT REFLECTS  the interests and needs of the recipient, and the nature of the relationship,  can send a strong and loving message that  communicates,
“I remember”,
“I know you”,
“I get you”, and
“I love you.”

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I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved.”  George Eliot (1875).

THIS FEBRUARY,  may you be the happy recipient and generous sender of affection to the nearest and dearest in your social network.  Valentine’s Day, and the month of February, can remind us of the importance of communicating affection to those close to our hearts.

“Love will not always linger longest,
With those who hold it in too clenched a fist.”
Alice Duer Miller (1931).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sue Marquis Bishop
February 14, 2016

 

 

Witness to the Fall Symphony

FALL SPILLS FROM NATURE’S SPIGOT, and robust reds, rust, yellow, bronze and cinnamon hues tumble out, painting the landscape low to high. The transformative symphony shouts to us like a toddler seeking his mother’s attention!  Look! Watch me!

AN ONGOING EXPLOSION of  sights and sounds fires our passion and stirs memories of our youth in the embrace of our family. Now listen!  The wind whooshes and the seasonal dance accelerates, then slows and picks up tempo again. Leaves twist and turn in the wind as the trees let go of warm weather attire that hid nests and wooded retreats.  Each step through the leafy carpet adds a crunch and snap to the Fall harmony of sights and sounds. Walking here is meditative…heart rates slow and endorphins soar.

THE MARCH TO THANKSGIVING BEGINS!

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TODAY, I AM THANKFUL  I am here in this place and time to witness the ushering in of the Fall season once again.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

Pumpkins Everywhere in Oatmeal, Smoothies, and …?

IT’S FALL!  PUMPKINS ARE EVERYWHERE, ..and they  offer so much more, than jack-0-lanterns for Halloween, and pie for Thanksgiving.  Aside from decorating our front entrances and hearths, pumpkins can be enjoyed in so many sweet and savory foods…and it seems they are healthy too!

THE TEMPERATURE WAS IN THE HIGH 60’S  and sunny early this morning… a great morning for oatmeal. As I opened the pantry to prepare breakfast, I noticed a can of Libby’s pure pumpkin puree. The label on the can suggests pumpkin is chock full of vitamins.  Pumpkin is an “excellent source of vitamin A and fiber” and is very low in fat (no trans fat or saturated fat), only “4 g sugar and no preservatives” added.  That’s a lot of healthy beta-carotene!

WHY NOT PUMPKIN OATMEAL?   I added a couple of tablespoons pureed pumpkin to each bowl, along with raisins, walnuts and a sprinkle of brown sugar.  Pumpkin oatmeal,  orange juice, whole wheat toast, coffee and the morning paper.  What a comforting way to begin a Fall day!

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AFTER AN AFTERNOON WALK walk with our dog Bear, I enjoyed an icy… rich tasting… pumpkin smoothie.
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons almond butter
1/4 tsp almond  flavoring
1 scoop vanilla slimfast protein powder
dash of pumpkin spice and Splenda
ice cubes
After blending,  a dash of grated nutmeg was added on top.   Hmmm. So refreshing.

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WHEN I WENT GROCERY SHOPPING LATER at Trader Joe’s store, I found that pumpkins had taken over the store! There was pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin salsa, pumpkin corn bread, pumpkin pita bread, pumpkin cereal, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin latte coffee, pumpkin ravioli.  pumpkin muffin mix, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin butter, …and more.  WOW. I had no idea.

I PLAN TO KEEP SOME CANS of pumpkin puree on hand this Fall to see where the pumpkin inspiration takes me.  For now, it’s time to savor the transition to Fall and plan a weekend in the beautiful North Carolina mountains.

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

Raising Seafood in the Midwest! What?

“Indiana could become the shrimp capitol of the world”, according to the  Brown family, who raises shrimp in a land-locked farm.  No!  That can’t be!  Can it?

My family moved to the flatlands of southern Indiana from the mountain state of West Virginia when I was a teenager. Neither of these states is situated near the coast for easy access to all kinds of seafood, with the exception of lake fishing.  In the Midwest, corn and soybeans are common crops.  Is Indiana, in the heartland of America, on the way to becoming a major center for farming shrimp? Really?

I didn’t know about the rich variety of seafood available when I was young, as there was a limited selection of seafood available at the local Kroger store  in Madison, Indiana where Mom did her weekly shopping. (Changes in distribution and frozen foods have increased seafood choices in the Midwest from the years when I was growing up.)

 I learned to cook a variety of foods from my mother who was a good cook.  Mom prepared a full sit down dinner every night, and our family of six ate together in the dining room. Our plates were stacked in front of Dad who sat at one end of the table, and he dished the plates with food and passed them around.

Our meat entrees included pork chops, roast cooked with vegetables, hamburgers, chicken and turkey.  Mom bought a lot of ground beef each week and we helped her patty them out with a wooden hamburger smasher.  My younger brothers were picky eaters and hamburgers were one thing they would eat without complaining. We had potatoes every meal – usually baked potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, or homemade French fries.

We also enjoyed mom’s desserts – pies, baked custard and ice cream most often, and she always baked each of us a birthday cake for our special day.

Our culinary fare in seafood was limited.  We ate our share of tuna salad sandwiches, baked salmon loaf made from canned salmon, and as children we seemed to like the fish sticks that mom heated from a frozen food package.  What did we know?  We were kids.  Grouper? tilapia? Never heard of them or knew what fresh salmon or tuna filets looked like .   Lobster? Never saw a live one up close.  We would have likely said “yuck” when we saw the insect-appearing critter anyway, just like we refused to eat frog legs someone gave our family.

When I moved to Florida, and later North Carolina, as an adult, my love affair with all things seafood began, and I learned to prepare a variety of delicious foods for my family that were harvested from the sea.  How wonderful that they are more healthy than the heavy dose of red meats I grew up eating each week.  In her senior years, my mother enjoyed new seafood dishes in my home that she had not tasted before.CIMG3146

Tonight, I prepared a simple dinner with baked tilapia… seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon, rolled in panko crumbs, baked and topped with sour cream/dill sauce.  We also had baked sweet potatoes, grillled zuchinni and cooked cinnamon apples. Comfort food on a cool September day.

New technology is creating seafood farming options for land-locked areas of the country. The Brown aquaculture farm, one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, is becoming a leader in the inland farming of shrimp in the U.S, and is one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, seven added just in the past four years. The Browns who previously raised hogs before switching to shrimp, hope to expand to tank farming of oysters, talapia and crawfish (Popular Science, 2015).

 An article in the October Popular Science (2015), entitled “The Midwest is Our New Ocean”, describes the low-tech methods developed by Texas A & M that is enabling land-locked areas to enter seafood farming. Basically, the tanks don’t need to be filtered, as bacteria held in a liquid suspension keep the tanks clean and with no need for antibiotics. The article states that this sustainable method of in-land farming may be critical for our future, as our “ocean is dying unless we change our ways”.

It’s exciting news that research has devised a way for in-land farming of seafood in cost-effective and healthy ways in the Midwest, with other possibilities on the horizon.  This new technology creates jobs and provides healthy food for a growing population.

But, I can’t be so cavalier about the oceans becoming toxic. It will not be so simple to have any quality of life on the planet if we destroy our oceans, even if we increase the farming of seafood in the Midwest. Reducing over-fishing and curbing pollution remain huge environmental concerns.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2015

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