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Spacious rooms, high ceilings, beautiful and unusual decor, great hosts and a non-allergenic miniature schnauzer, named Alice, welcomed me to the award-winning greenRocks Inn in Ridgefield, CT. This is the place to stay for that special weekend in Connecticut. Kim Wanamaker and her partner, Barbara Simkins are certainly walking their talk. They offer three unigue guest rooms, fully equipped with not only the expected amenities but also organic bedding and towels, filtered water in each bathroom, shower filter, and air filters are part of your experience of their natural inn. They serve organic and natural foods for your breakfast. Your  vaccinated and house-trained pet (under 15 pounds) is also welcome and you can arrange for pet-sitting, walking and feeding! The inn is just up the street from the town of Ridgefield- good shopping, great restaurants, hiking, golf and outdoor activities. 

I stayed in the largest room called the Dance Suite. King size bed, beautiful linens, asian decor, quiet and removed from the rest of the house. 

Check out the special and rates. And if you are considering a wedding, Kim is a Justice of the Peace!

Giving Up Plastic Bags

January 13, 2009

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A million plastic bags are used every minute. That’s an inconceivable amount. Plastic bags take 1000 years to degrade in our landfills and though they don’t take up much space one by one, in the millions they certainly do.  There is a cute company making chairs out of plastic bags- they claim that one smart way to keep plastic bags out of the landfill is to sit on them. So what about paper? Some people make the case that paper is a renewable resource, why not use paper bags?The process to get our bags takes a toll on the environment even before the bag gets to you. Even though you can compost your bags, or recycle them- which is a huge chemical process, the damage is already done. But,  you can give them up, right?

Is it difficult to carry our own shopping bags? It really isn’t. I always have a god feeling when I reach into the back seat and tuck my bags under my arm. I also like that I get $.05 back for each bag I use at checkout at the grocery store…You can use cloth bags or reused paper bags until they fall apart. Carrying your food in a box will work, too. If you’ve made the switch to carrying your own bags have you ever gotten to the checkout line and realize…oh, no, my bags are in the car- and said, “hang on a sec and I’ll run out to get them”?  Sustainable Dave has his video on not using plastic bags. He says, ‘You don’t forget your wallet when you go to the store, right?” You just train yourself to take cloth bags with you. Also suggestion for making your own original bags by sewing up t-shirts. Whatever…

Here is a great site to buy reusable gear called reusablebags.com with “products that help people consume less” and where you can:

  • Learn – newsfacts and images showing how consumption has gotten out of control and what to do about it.
  • Take Action – Sensible ideas and tools to take action and spread the word about the reusables movement.
  • Shop – More than 700 high-quality, reusable products made from truly sustainable materials and supporting Fair Labor/Fair Trade practices.

This morning we realized we had no plastic bags in our bag collection. that was a bummer because we needed one, but also was a triumph because clearly we have cut down on our use. All except the big black garbage bags. My personal goal is to get our trash down to less than a bag a week. I’ll post about trash soon. Interesting subject.

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I’ve been away at Kripalu for the weekend. For the first time probably ever, in all the 20 some-odd years that I’ve been going up there for R&R or a workshop, the food was fabulous! Great variety and flavors, desserts that were gluten free, macro bar, everything organic. And now, I’m home, I want someone to cook for me! I am not really in the mood to cook, but I will.

Here is the fast and easy dinner (30 minutes) I prepared for my family tonight with whatever was in the ‘fridge:

Polenta with seaweed, sauerkraut and pesto, tempeh and veggies, and steamed kale

Start with the tempeh, since it takes longest to cook.

Slice one package of tempeh into triangles- cut the triangles, then stand them on the side and carefully cut in half, to make thin triangles. Place in oiled pressure cooker, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons or so of wheat free, low sodium tamari soy sauce, add 1-inch filtered water, bring up to pressure and cook 15 minutes, bring down pressure, layer 1/2 inch slices of celery and butter cup squash (any veggies will do) and cook 5 more minutes, or until squash is cooked.

For the polenta: 3 cups boiling water, add in 1 tablespoon crushed dried wakame, pinch of sea salt, 1 cup polenta (corn meal, corn flour). Turn the flame down, add the polenta slowly to the water stirring all the while, and be very careful because  it becomes thick and bubbles and can pop up. You can stir in a tablespoon of olive oil at this point or skip it. I skipped it tonight. Stir on low to medium heat until it thickens. When it pulls away from the sides it is about done. You can serve it from the pot or press it into an oiled pie plate and then slice. To serve, cut a wedge and then place a dollop of pesto on the top, and then a tangle of yummy raw, fermented sauerkraut.

I have a favorite brand of  organic Argentinian polenta flour called de la Estancia. It cooks in a minute, it is not pre-cooked- it is higher is protein and lower in starch than most corn because if where it is grown and it can be milled to a very fine consistency. 

The steamed kale is easy and fast, too. Wash the leaves in a bowl of water, then strip off the greens from the stem, tear or cut into smaller pieces and place into pan with about 1 inch boiling water. Cover for a few minutes and check to see if done. You are looking for the bright, vibrant green. Taste- is it too chewy? let cook a minute more. You do not want to leave the room when cooking greens. Stay present to the amazing process of transformation!

I know this blog took longer to write than it did for me to cook dinner. What was I whining about again?

Tea Time

January 8, 2009

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I’d like to highlight one my favorite herbs: Nettle.  Nettle is a nourishing herb that is high in iron calcium, magnesium and boron. It is know in herbal lore as a general tonic for improving overall vitality. When it is steeped, covered for 15-20 minutes it brews into a rich, green liquid. Delicious all day, warm or at room temp.

You probably know nettle; you’ve seen it growing in most green places in the US – river banks, along fences, damp places. If you’ve brushed against it hiking in the summer you’ll be looking for the bees who have stung you but it’s the tiny hairs covering the plant that sting and burn. Sounds terrible, it’s not all that bad and goes away in a short time. And if you know dock or jewel weed, that is the antidote and amazingly enough, those plants usually grow nearby, in companionship with nettles. I like to harvest the young leaves, clean, wash (with gloves on…) and parboil or steam the leaves. Very yummy greens!  Once they are cooked, the sting is deactivated.

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This is jewelweed, just crush it and rub on stings:

There is a great deal of information about how nettles was used in days of yore. Steve Brill, the wildman has alot to add about nettles and the healthy properties. He’s fun to read. He says: “As food, this tonic is good for rebuilding the system of chronically ill people. “Nineteenth century literature is full of so-called constitutionally weak people, who usually die on the last page. In Russia, they were given freshly squeezed nettle juice—a tonic loaded with iron and other nutrients—for iron-deficiency anemia. This often worked.” He goes on to add that the benefits can be attributed to the great amounts of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, sulfur, as well as chlorophyll and tannin, vitamin C, beta-carotene and B vitamins, not to leave out high levels of easily absorbable amino acids and are 10% protein (that’s high for a veggie). 

I found some recipes for nettle wine!?!

I’ve got to tell my brother, Will about this.

Gather the young, growing tops and wash and drain them as soon as possible. Measure them without packing. Nettle wine is said to lack character and may be infused with another base ingredient to make it better. The first recipe below is for “pure” nettle wine. The others contain second ingredients.

 

NETTLE WINE (1)

3 qts nettle tops

3-1/2 lbs granulated sugar

7-1/2 pts water

1 lemon

1 orange

1 tsp yeast nutrient

wine yeast

Thinly peel the lemon and orange while bringing water to boil. Juice the lemon and orange. Place nettles, juice and lemon and orange peelings in in primary with sugar and yeast nutrient. Pour boiling water into primary and stir well to dissolve sugar. Cover with sanitized cloth and set aside to cool. When room temperature, add wine yeast. After five days of vigorous fermentation, strain liquid into secondary and attach airlock. When wine begins to clear, rack into clean secondary and refit airlock. After 3 months, rack into bottles. [Adapted from Steven A. Krause’s Wine from the Wilds]

But I digress. I was talking about tea.

Isabel from HerbsareSpecial.com    reminded me of the varied goodness of nettle leaves. “They are a source of histamine, which helps to reduce the symptoms in any allergic response, including hay fever, asthma and sinus. Also, serotonin, which acts as a neuro-transmitter to the central nervous system and is helpful for relieving stress, fear, nervousness, depression, insomnia, and eating disorders; and melatonin, an antioxidant sometimes referred to as an anti-ageing hormone , that may give relief from chronic fatigue syndrome, seasonal effect disorder, depression and sleeplessness…. Nettle is valuable for strengthening the adrenals. Eating nettles or drinking the tea has been a folk custom to make hair brighter, thicker and shinier and the skin clearer and healthier. A healing ointment is prepared by steeping cut nettle leaves in oil. Sip nettle tea for its benefits as a mild diuretic to relieve fluid retention, and to stimulate the lymphatic system. It is also known to eliminate bad breath. Nettles increase excretion of uric acid through the kidneys, making them an excellent remedy for gout and all other arthritic conditions. The herb is used to reduce blood sugar, and a tincture of the seed is found to raise thyroid function and reduce goiter.” 

I ask you, can you think of any excuse for nettles tea NOT to be part of your diet? I can’t. So Here is where you can get organic, dried nettles for tea, in case you’ve run out. Avena Botanicals has a nice selection of loose, organic herbs and tea utensils. And this Spring, put on some gloves and go harvest that pesky stinging plant. Clearly I’m weary of winter although it has just begun with a vengeance. A nice green cuppa nettles is just the thing for cabin fever. With a bit of  honey from my neighbor, Carol.

 

Dance of Shiva-update 1

January 6, 2009

 

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I received my DVD from Andrey Lappa and Universal Yoga . This is a complex and amazing system. Although it is made of 4 + 4 basic arm movements, the creative ramifications are mind-blowing and mind-boggling. The CD has hours of theoretical information including diagrams of the permutations and combinations. Then there are looped practice sessions. After hanging on every word and instruction, I tried the first loop- just the arms. Day 1, 5 minutes, my shoulders were sore and I resolved to be gentler, softer and less interested in perfection in the future. Day 2, 5 minutes and I am being as gentle as I can and I decide that baby steps are the way to go. Day 3 and 4 I am so sore I can’t consider practicing at all and I have taken a few epsom salt soaks!

This is serious stuff. Considering I did very little and it was so intense for my body. I know I will become very strong, flexible and clear if I continue at it. But baby steps. So I’ve asked Havi, there is only one person who knows more than she does about this and its Andrey, and apparently he spends 6 months at a monastery in the Himalayas. AND she is one of only two practitioners in the world to have ever mastered the famed and dreaded Level 7. Check out her great video.

She says: — First couple days are the HARDEST by a lot. Everyone hurts the first few times and then it gets better. — Women about to get their period OR going through menopause tend to get a LOT more soreness. Sometimes good just to back off then. — H3 to H4 transition is the most painful. Especially if you’ve had shoulder issues, soften that up. You can try doing looser, more flowing movements and less exacting ones. — If that doesn’t help, take out #3 and substitute an easier position for you. As long as you’re making connections systematically between points, it’s okay if you change the shape until you recover. — Yes to epson salt baths.– Yes to stretching before after your practice. — Yes to slow practice with breathing.– Yes to massaging your arms after each round. Give yourself a bit of time to recover, and then take it slow. It’s definitely work, and this does happen and yeah, you’re working muscles that hardly ever get used, so also normal.

So there we have it.

Turn Down That Racket

January 5, 2009

 

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“If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, turn that racket down”- that would have been my parents telling me to turn down my music when I was young and now it’s my turn. As a musician, my ears are my ultimate instrument. Everything I play I need to have my ears. I don’t go to loud concerts. If I ever am at a party with loud music, out come the earplugs, or, I just leave. I used to be very strict with my boys when they were little about using headphones. Now I annoy them by asking if they have ear plugs. Micah caused me great pride when he told me he wore earplugs at Lollapalooza last year. My husband and I had dinner at a restaurant over the weekend and, in the middle of dinner, a live performer set up his guitar and amps and started blasting us. We had to shout to be heard and finally took our tea and coffe to the far end of the restaurant so we could have a conversation. Just read an article backing up all my warnings to my kids:

Dave Simons,  in Songwriter 101, paints a grim picture although he does list numerous possible ways to avoid hurting our ears. The Hearing Foundation of Canada has reported that people are losing their hearing 20 years earlier than the past, blaming a society that gets noisier and noisier each year. He goes on to say that “earbuds, are the worst offenders, since the closer the source is to the eardrum, the greater the chance for sustaining permanent damage — 30 minutes per day is tops. (So potentially harmful are earbuds, in fact, that Apple, maker of the iPod, is reportedly working on a software-based solution that can provide automatic “recovery periods” during extended listening.)” Well, I am really glad that Apple is taking this on. Most people don’t realize the damage they are doing until it’s done. So, listen up folks!

Song Du Jour 1/3/09

January 3, 2009

Susan B

from CD art•i•facts