What are you reading?

Sarah

I recently learned that some people post the covers of books that they are reading on their facebook page.  Doing that could give some insight into that person’s interests and preferences.  Do they read mysteries?  Science fiction?  Historical novels?  Romance?  Non-fiction?

I read a lot.  Sometimes I read books and sometimes I listen to them on Audible.    I happen to be a member  of two book clubs.  In one group we read Christian non-fiction; in the other we usually read novels.  Both clubs meet once a month, and all members have input in the selection of the books.

I just read Michelle’s Obama’s Becoming.  Her leap from a lower middle class family on the south side of Chicago to the White House is pretty remarkable.  I believe she would agree that education, a pursuit that her parents emphasized,  made that leap possible.

Another book that I’ve just finished is Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, an outstanding writer.  Her search is for a church home to replace the evangelical church in which she grew up.  She recounts with sadness the pain, frustration and confusion that some have experienced in the church.

I also read We Could Not Fail by Richard Paul & Steven Moss.  This is the story of the first African Americans in the space program–courageous men.  I learned it’s no accident that space program facilities are located in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.  Lyndon Johnson, president during the glamorous space race,  believed that poverty and racism are tied together.  He thought that alleviating poverty in the south would mitigate racism.  If we take the long view, President Johnson might be right.

I enjoy looking at Barak Obama’s & Bill Gates’ reading lists.  I’ve requested Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead at the public library, but I’m 34th on the waiting list.  I’ll probably listen to it.  I also want to read American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson.  I’ll look for that tomorrow.

None of these are book club selections.  Maybe I’ll suggest a couple of them.  Happy reading.–  I’ve got to get back to my book.

Meatless Mondays

Sarah

Have you heard of Meatless Mondays?  I have just learned of this effort and found the following history at the website www.meatlessmonday.com which I am quoting:

Meatless Monday is not a new idea. During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration urged families to reduce consumption of key staples to aid the war effort. “Food Will Win the War,” the government proclaimed, and “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday” were introduced to encourage Americans to do their part. The effect was overwhelming; more than 13 million families signed a pledge to observe the national meatless and wheatless conservation days.1

The campaign returned during World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt relaunched it to help that war’s efforts on the home front. In the immediate post-war years, President Harry S. Truman continued the campaign to help feed war-ravaged Europe.

Meatless Monday was revived in 2003 by former ad man turned health advocate Sid Lerner, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. Reintroduced as a public health awareness campaign, Meatless Monday addresses the prevalence of preventable illnesses associated with excessive meat consumption. With the average American eating as much as 75 more pounds of meat each year than in generations past, our message of “one day a week, cut out meat” is a way for individuals to do something good for themselves and for the planet.

Meatless Monday is based in the US, but this movement is spreading all over the world.  While we know that cutting back on the consumption of meat has health benefits,  it also has tremendous benefits for the environment as well.   In his book In Defense of Food, journalist Michael Pollan coined the phrase “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He has since cited Meatless Monday as a way to reach this goal. In April 2009 Pollan expressed the need for Americans to reduce meat consumption by saying: “even one meatless day a week—a Meatless Monday, which is what we do in our household—if everybody in America did that, that would be the equivalent of taking 20 million mid-size sedans off the road.”  Impressive.

Going Green

Sarah

For some reason I’ve become very attuned to the effects of climate change.  Because of this interest and because I’m a person who believes I personally have a responsibility and the ability to “make a difference”,  I think I need to do what I can to reduce my negative impact on the environment.  With that in mind I ordered a book (used) called The Green Book.  Now, I already recycle and limit my purchase of elaborately packaged items, but I’ve learned I can do more.

I have just unplugged my cell phone charger and TV (when I’m not watching it).  It seems that these items continue to use electricity even though they are not in use.  Who knew?  I believe this is also the case with the computer.

I’m also closing the fireplace damper.  (It’s July.)  Now, I should have known this.  Just failed to do it.  I plan to get rid of my cordless phone with answering machine.  (Of course, disposing of this gadget is somewhat challenging.)    Apparently cordless phones draw constant power during charging and standby modes.

I’ve learned I may have the wrong yoga mat.  I should have bought a mat made from plant based material such as natural rubber, jute or cotton instead of petroleum-derived plastics or other synthetics.  Not sure what I have.

I am not a bottled water drinker.  Shockingly, I drink tap water.  If you want to be sure the tap water in your house is clean, just install a water filter on your faucet or buy one of those filter pitchers to keep in your refrigerator.

I have resisted paying my bills online, but no more.  “If every household paid just its credit card bills electronically, it would save almost $2 billion a year in postage costs.”  Whoa!  That’s a lot of money.  I also registered with a site that removes your name from junk mail senders.  We’ll see if that works.

I think this is kind of fun, and it may make a difference.   It just takes a small group to get a trend going.  Join me!

 

 

Plant at Your Risk

Sarah

This is the time of year when I spend many hours in my yard.  It’s hot, but not too hot.  I try to avoid working in the sun–for lots of reasons.  After many years of experience I have discovered several plants to avoid because of their invasive nature.  Some of these are great plants and can be used in a controlled space which means an area where they can’t escape!

Several years ago I planted Wedelia which is a fast growing ground cover that has yellow blooms.  It went everywhere!  Before that I begged my parents to bring me liriope from their yard.  My plan was to edge my beds with it.  I will spend the rest of my life trying to get rid of it.  The reason I don’t like it is because it spreads by sending a shoot underground which pops up in the middle of anything and everything.  One year I planted indigo which blooms well in the shade.  (I’m always looking for that.)  It too fills a bed in no time at all.  And then there’s Ruellia.  There are several varieties.  You are probably most familiar with Katie ruellia which has purple, white or pink blooms.  They are all very hardy and tenacious.  I particularly dislike the tall, upright variety (which I coveted in my art teacher’s garden).  It has that same spreading pattern:  sending shoots underground and popping up who knows where–usually in the middle of another plant.  I also have reservations about Tahitian bridal veil.  It is a wonderful filler in shady areas, easy to grow, no pests, but it does take over if allowed.  One year I was interested in native Texas plants.  I searched for spiderwort, dug it up and planted it in my beds.  Another mistake.  Like most wild flowers it can show up almost anywhere. I just planted Monarda also known as bee balm.  Will I regret that?  Finally the bane of my gardening existence is Oxalis.  I did not plant it.  Somehow it migrated to my yard.  It is extremely difficult to remove.  If one little seed escapes when you dig it up, you have it again, invariably in the middle of something else.  I consider it a weed, but some gardeners actually cultivate it.  Seems risky to me.

Light green oxalis leaves growing in mondo.  Ugh!

Light green oxalis leaves growing in mondo. Ugh!

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Going Vegan

Sarah

Have you read Sapiens, A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Harari?  Maybe you’ve seen the movie, Earthlings.  I haven’t seen that movie, which was released in 2005, and I don’t plan to see it.  Earthlings exposes the suffering endured by animals at factory farms, research labs, puppy mills and more.  In his book Harari also discusses the manner in which animals (cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and turkeys) are used by big time farmers to meet our insatiable desire for meat and dairy.  This industry is big business and, of course, done for profit.  The conditions in which the animals live and the manner in which they are treated is unnatural and cruel.

I don’t want to be part of that.  I will no longer eat meat or dairy products.  This may sound drastic and difficult, but there are many alternatives, and most grocery stores and restaurants cater to vegans today.  Fortunately I like fruits and vegetables.  I’m using almond milk, eating lots of beans and nuts and trying recipes from Forks Over Knives.  

There are a couple of things I’m not sure about yet:  wild caught salmon and canned tuna.  Tuna is often criticized for containing mercury, and what about tuna farms?  I just read about canned light skipjack tuna.  Not sure what that is.  There’s also a new dietary label:   “seagan”.  It’s for vegans who include fish in their diets.  Maybe that’s what I am.  There are also climatarians.  Those folks buy locally to reduce their impact on the environment.   I think I’ll be a climatarian seagan or vegan.

Here’s a great recipe for anyone–vegan or not.

Green Chili Rice with Black Beans

1 poblano pepper

1 4 oz can mild green chilies

1 c coarsely chopped cilantro

1/2 c spinach

4 c vegetable stock

1 1/2 c brown rice

1 medium yellow onion, peeled & diced

1 t ground cumin

1 jalapeno pepper

1 can black beans, drained & rinsed

zest of 1 lime

Salt to taste

Add the poblano pepper, green chilies, cilantro and spinach to a blender & puree.  Add some of the vegetable stock to achieve a smooth consistency.  Add the mixture to a medium saucepan with the remaining stock.  Add the rice & bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook, covered until the rice is tender, 45-50 min.

Saute the onion in a bit of olive oil.  Then add cumin, jalapeno & black beans and cook for 5 min longer.  Fold in the cooked rice & lime zest.  Season with salt.

Serves 4.

 

Appearances

Sarah

We all know that appearances matter.  There are those who are paid quite well to design and create beautiful landscaping, stunning interiors, fabulous flower arrangements, elegant or snazzy table settings, and beautifully presented food.  We are touched by the creativity of those who put these things together so artfully.  We derive pleasure by experiencing their appearance.

So, ladies, what’s happened?  I realize that as we grow older, it’s more to difficult to look great.  Admittedly there are styles we just can’t wear:  sleeveless is out; turtlenecks are questionable, shorts reveal less than good features (those broken veins, yikes!), plunging necklines can be creepy (or is that crepey?) and unfortunately,  form fitting displays a form that’s not what it once was.    However, I just read a quote from RuPaul in O.  He said, “If you have the power to control how people see and interpret you, why not use it?”  Why not indeed?  With that in mind I’m asking how you and I want to be seen and interpreted.  Aging?  Matronly? Grandmotherly?  Carelessly comfortable?   Thoughtlessly clothed, made up and coiffed? Hmmm,  I think not.  How about Tasteful? Attractive? Well put together?  Youthful?  Well dressed?  After all, our appearance affects you and me as well as others.

Admittedly, as we approach or attain the age of 70 these goals are not easily achieved.  It’s much more difficult to find clothes in styles and colors that are becoming, but one of our original premises was to buy fewer clothes but better clothes.  In 2018 I again resolve to do that since I am reminded that I have the power to control how others see and interpret me. — Uh, oh.  About time for hair color.

 

Walking

Sarah

You are probably familiar with Diana Nyad, the woman who swam from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida (110 mi) in 2013 at the age of 68.  Since that accomplishment Diana and her partner, Bonnie Stoll, have launched the exercise effort known as Ever Walk.  The goal of Ever Walk is to get Americans up and walking on a regular basis.  If you take the Ever Walk pledge, you commit to walking at least three times a week.   My cousin who completed the Appalachian Trail (almost 2000 miles) in 2017 after walking several segments for a number of years walked with Diana and a group in New England in September of this year.  Those who walked the entire route covered 132 miles in seven days (about 20 miles per day).  They walked from Boston to Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

You may have heard that “sitting is the new smoking”.  According to The Science of Exercise, which was published as a special Time edition, walking lowers your risk for disease, extends your life, makes you happier and keeps you limber longer.  The wonderful thing about walking is that it’s an activity that’s available to almost anyone; it’s free; it can be done solo or with a partner or group at most times of day and in most settings.  While walking you can pray, think, listen to music, an audio book or a pod cast or exercise your dog.–Or none of the previous.  You can simply enjoy the scenery , the sounds and your surroundings.

All you really need is a good pair of shoes and maybe some sun screen.–Let’s make the pledge and get out there.

 

 

 

 

Garden Update

Sarah

My garden got off to a slow start.  There was so much to tend to in my beds at home that I delayed planting my vegetables.  Because of the very hard freeze a couple of nights in Jan., my neighbors and I had an abundance of dead plants,  branches, leaves, fronds, etc. to cut back and remove.  Something I did or failed to do conspired to provide excellent growing conditions for WEEDS–literally thousands of them.  A layer of compost and the product Preen has helped to keep them down, but they are a persistent nuisance.

Bell pepper

Can you see those little peppers?

Tomato

Looking forward to cherry tomatoes.

I finally planted tomatoes and bell peppers.  Herbs fill the remainder of the space.  Those include parsley, oregano, thyme, cilantro and basil.  A pot of mint will be added.  My neighbor has had a very large vegetable garden for several years.  He has already harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and onions.  He credits his success to “compost tea”which he concocts.  My garden boasts an incredible parsley plant, but how much parsley can one person eat?  I found a recipe for Parsley Pesto which I’m going to try.  It really calls for flat leaf parsley.  This is curly leaf; so we’ll see.

Parsley Pesto

2 c. parsley                                                                                                         2 T. toasted pine nuts

1 1/2 T. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shredded                               1 t. olive oil

1/4 t. salt

Combine all in food processor.

Joy–How to Achieve It

Sarah

The Book of Joy is a conversation between the Dalai Lama (Buddhist) who is exiled in India but continues to be the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people  and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Christian) who lives in South Africa and was a crusader against apartheid and worked for justice and reconciliation in that country.  Both men are over 80.

Among other things the book enumerates eight pillars of joy.  Four are of the mind:  perspective, humility, humor and acceptance, and four are of the heart:  forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity.  At the end of the book are a list of joy practices.  A couple of practices that I find helpful are (1) stating my intention for the day and (2) recalling three things for which I’m grateful every day.

Stating my intention for the day does’t mean listing my chores, errands and appointments for that day.  It could be something like, “Today is will I will be listen and engage  with every person I encounter.” Or “Today I will treat everyone with kindness and genuine interest”.  “Today I will be less judgmental and critical”.–You can see what I need help with!

At the end of the day it’s helpful to think of at least three things for which you’re thankful.  Those things could include a conversation you had, a meal you enjoyed, a sunset you witnessed, a book you read.  The list is endless.

Both the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop agree that the joy killer is “self regard”.  Focus on self, self interest, selfishness, self promotion,  me,me,me attitude is counterproductive.  Attaining, achieving, acquiring as a means of finding joy is pointless and ultimately leaves us feeling empty.

A quote from the book at the end of their time together tells us, “the more we turn away from our self-regard to wipe away the tears from the eyes of another, the more–incredibly–we are able to bear, to heal and to transcend our own suffering.  This was their true secret to joy.”

 

Almost a Full Time Job

Sarah

This blog is titled Women Approaching the Age of 70.  You may have surmised that by now I have attained that age.  Now that I’m over 70 I find that a large part of my time is spent trying to maintain my physical well being.  I walk two or three miles six days a week.  I participate in a yoga class twice a week and plan to join water aerobics again this summer.  I take calcium and vitamin D twice a day along with a multi-vitamin and ester-C.  To support a strong immune system I have a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV) every morning in a glass of tomato juice.   I drink five cups of coffee every day to ward off dementia. To avoid macular degeneration I take something called Macuguard and wear sunglasses.  I garden quite a bit but work only in the shade.  I haven’t eaten beef in several years.  White potatoes, flour and sugar have been virtually eliminated from my diet.  Carbonated drinks are off limits.  I avoid all fried foods.

Of course I color my hair.  I’m also having a series of three Skin Pen treatments to encourage collagen production in my face.  I just had the second treatment.  I look like a lobster!  I use retin-A religiously and just bought a new tube of sun screen.  I’m blessed with good teeth, but flossing and teeth whitener are mandatory.

I’m very careful about leaving an object in my path since a friend tripped over something in the dark and broke her elbow.  I still clean out my gutters but exercise caution on the ladder.   I have four pairs of readers stashed in my car, home and office.   I should have taken a pair into the nursery.  I thought I was buying a red bell pepper plant.  I later discovered (when I read the small tag) that it’s a mild jalapeno.  At that same time I accidentally (because I couldn’t see) took home a beef steak tomato when I wanted a cherry tomato.  Oh, boy!

As I said, this maintenance routine is almost a full time job.