Monthly Archives: March 2012
My husband and I have a problem.
And it’s embarrassing.
We can’t seem to keep any of our houseplants alive. Sure, the sturdier stuff outside, like our perennials and bushes, seem to be doing alright. And we have these mysterious tropical-looking flowery things in the backyard. They’re glorious. We are also succeeding in nurturing our young apple tree into adulthood. But when it comes to our indoor plants it doesn’t take long before they bite the dust.
We are two reasonably intelligent people. And our home doesn’t inevitably spell doom for every living thing that shares a home with us. Our well fed and very spoiled rotten dogs love it here and pretty much run the show. So what’s the deal?
Growing up, I remember my mom always growing beautiful plants inside. And I always appreciated the feeling the lovely greens added to our home. Everything seemed so much prettier and healthier. My mom was so good at growing houseplants, several she began growing in Hawaii survived our family move to California, and they continued to thrive for decades under her care in a new climate and home. To this day her house is filled with gorgeous plants. I don’t know her secret, but I would love to get in on it.
I love Whole Living magazine. On the day it comes in the mail I have my ritual. After making a pot of herbal tea, I pour a cup, curl up in my big chair and read the issue from cover to cover. Husband knows not to disturb me. The dogs haven’t quite figured that out.
It can take me hours. There are that many good things to read. The photography is always beautiful and the message is always inspiring. I was really happy when the March issue arrived. It was nice and thick, the cover was beautiful and the headlines splashed across it were right up my alley: pesto recipes, healthy skin secrets from around the world, and natural beauty tips. And then one other headline on the left of the cover caught my eye. Power Plants: Breathe Health Into Every Room. Exactly the information I was looking for. Perfect timing, the arrival of my favorite magazine, and my houseplant dilemma. It was kismet.
The six page article went on to talk about three different categories of plants: those that give off soothing and mild fragrances known to reduce stress and promote happiness (think jasmine and orchids), plants known to purify the air (such as ficus, ferns and bamboo palm), and plants that restore and provide healing energy. My favorite feature? How the author explained the maintenance level of each plant and the water and light requirements they called for.
The Whole Living article got me thinking all over again, and reminded me of our failures. I think to a point it has to do with ignorance on our part. We aren’t aware of what’s temperamental and what isn’t. My husband will be at Lowe’s or the grocery store or whatever, he will buy something because it’s pretty and he thinks I will like it, but then throws away the little instruction manual it comes with. Then we have no clue as to how much water it needs or how much sunlight it prefers. Our other problem? We don’t communicate on watering schedules, and end up drowning them. I know. No excuses. Like I said, we are reasonably intelligent people. With the internet and other resources out there, we have the power to educate ourselves. There isn’t a reason in the world why we can’t be successful houseplant “parents.”
After reading the Whole Living piece, I was particularly interested in the houseplants that are known to promote good and healthy energy. And I was really excited to see that one of the featured superstars was the succulent jade plant. It is interesting and low maintenance, just what I need. And the good news? My mom grows jade very well, and has an abundance of it. All I had to do was head over to her house, snip a few small branches off her healthy plants, pot my new little friends with fortified soil, and take good care of them.
I went online to get a quick tutorial on what it required of me to be a good jade plant mom. Very little water and good light. If I move my plants from darkness to light, I must allow the plant to acclimate and give it the environment it needs. And to get it to bloom, if I feel so inspired, I need to keep it in darkness for one month and then move it into light gradually.
The principles of feng shui suggest the jade plant nurtures abundance, opportunity, prosperity, and good luck. It is thought to usher healing energy into its environment. It is also known to neutralize unhealthy magnetic fields. In order to maximize its power, these types of healing energy plants should be placed in the wealth center of the room. This would be the far left corner.
I have had my jade for about two weeks now, and so far, so good. And the best news for us? Low maintenance! If we fail at this, there may be no hope for us. But I am confident we will do great. My two plants are very happy. My husband doesn’t really buy into the feng shui-good energy thing, he thinks it’s all a bit ridiculous and humorous. I for one believe in keeping an open mind. I also believe in stacking the deck. My jade has found a cozy spot in the far left corner of our family room. I enjoy looking at it, a beautiful living touch of green in our home. And I can’t wait to see it thrive.
Photo Source (Green Shoe): From my own book Blahnik by Boman
The day didn’t start out too hot. My days usually don’t, but it was different this time. I woke up with a tummy ache, sore throat and a pounding head. My body felt stressed and toxic after nine crap hours of sleep.
Slowly getting over the feeling that I had been hit by a truck, I crawled out of bed and made it to the bathroom mirror, to be met with my very tired face. I used my pH test strips over the potty, and they showed I was running very acidic, way below of where I need to be on the alkaline scale.
Why was this happening? Yes, I do battle fatigue and general malaise on a daily basis. But the ante had been upped, so to speak, and I had my theory.
I hadn’t been eating well. And with my health the way it is it really shouldn’t be that way. I need to be smarter, better, and most important I need to be more kind to myself.
‘Tis the season for chocolate and sweets. At least in my house. It seems from Halloween and straight through Easter, they have a constant presence in my world. Actually, it always seems to be sweet season, regardless of what the calendar says.
I made two chocolate cakes with homemade buttercream frosting last week for my husband’s birthday. Count ’em: two cakes. And that’s just for us. With so much chocolate buttercream it would make you sick. Two pounds of butter and fifteen cups of sugar in all. Ugh. And with Easter right around the corner, Cadbury creme eggs are a mainstay in my house. Gooey, straight up sugar fondant encased in milk chocolate. It’s so bad. And Husband also likes to have the big Reese’s peanut butter eggs around. I helped him polish off a fresh 6-pack just the other night. My two to his four.
I get into this really destructive pattern. I do really well and eat clean until the evening hours. And then for some reason after dinner I just fall apart. Any semblance of self control just flies straight out the window. I eat things loaded with fat and sugar, telling myself all along that it is so delicious (it really is) and tomorrow is another day. Before long the self loathing begins and I swear up and down I will be an angel from that moment on. But it never turns out that way. I was going on a solid ten days of this habit.
I can’t blame my mate. This problem lies entirely with me. Granted, I am not thrilled with all the crap he eats and what it means for his health, but that’s a battle for a different day. It was time to focus on moi and getting her back on track. I would work on him some other time.
I thought foregoing sweets would turn out to be an easy task, at least for one day. On day one of the new me, Husband started his day at the crack of dawn with half a package of Double Stuf Oreos, about ten spoonfuls of my homemade cake frosting and two ice cream chocolate brittle bars. At 6 in the morning. Who does this? The sight was enough to make me queasy.
I spent my morning taking it easy over a few cups of herbal tea, but I knew I would have to face it soon. What to eat? How could I keep it clean? At noon my tummy started talking, ready for food. I grabbed a carrot stick out of the fridge, with no clue as to what my grand plan was after that.
When I am naughty for days on end, find myself in the throes of yuckiness and then have my “epiphany”, my first step on my road to righteousness is usually a run to Trader Joe’s. I was ready to grab my car keys and spend a good hour roaming the aisles for all things healthy. But surely I had to have something on hand I could already work with.
I opened the fridge and had one of those moments that can best be compared to opening my jam packed closet. Just like telling myself I have nothing to wear, I swore there was nothing to eat. Even though I had bright and colorful fruits and vegetables staring back at me. I compelled myself to look again, and accepted that I may actually have to think (not my strong suit) and put forth more effort than I want to. I am looking forward to when I am rich and famous. My first order of business? Hiring someone to do this crap for me.
I had beautiful bell peppers, squash, cucumbers, even broccoli on hand. And hidden on a shelf in a corner of the kitchen I spied a box of plain organic quinoa. From none other than Trader Joe’s. I must have bought it when I was coming off one of my many legendary sugar benders. Tucked away and forgotten.
Quinoa has been getting a lot of good attention lately. Read any health minded magazine or online resource (like this one) and you will find recipes and articles touting its virtues. It was a staple in the diets of the ancient Incas and remains popular in South American cuisine. Its flavor is delicate, it contains more protein than most popular grains, it’s high in fiber and a decent source of iron. For many reasons, quinoa is a good grain to get acquainted with. Think of it as an exotic and equally healthful alternative to the more familiar rice or couscous.
So what to do? Well, given what I had to work with, why not try a salad? Time to get to work. I didn’t have a specific plan. But with something as versatile as quinoa, even someone like me couldn’t screw this up.
As I chopped my peppers, onions and cucumber, I spotted a half eaten box of Milk Duds on the kitchen counter. Yes, I actually thought about it for a minute. Then I grabbed the damn box and threw it in a drawer. Out of sight, out of mind.
Here is my first quinoa creation, a delicious salad with black beans:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups organic vegetable broth
2 medium size cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1/2 large onion (I went with white onion-finely chopped)
1 15 oz. can black beans (drained and rinsed well in my colander)
1 cucumber, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup fresh parsley (chopped, and optional)
Level Of Difficulty: Easy
In a saucepan I sautéed the onion and garlic in vegetable oil under medium heat until browned. Then added 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups veggie broth. I brought all ingredients to a boil, and then reduced heat to simmer, covering for 20 minutes. Once cooked, I fluffed with a fork and added my drained and rinsed black beans.
Once cooled, I added my red bell pepper, cucumber and parsley. I would imagine that steamed broccoli and squash would also be delicious additions, but I really needed to keep it easy. It was one of those days.
I threw together a quick impromptu dressing just to make the salad a bit more interesting. The dressing part is certainly optional, the quinoa and its buddies taste great on their own, and whatever dressing you do use can cater to your taste. What I came up with below is very mild when mixed in with the salad. I whisked together all ingredients and then poured over my salad and tossed:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (I think apple cider vinegar would work nicely, too)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
The juice of one lime wedge (large lime)
With my healthy detox tea, filtered water with lemon, and this quinoa salad as my late lunch, I felt much lighter and more centered. My tummy was settled and happy, and I felt less crazy. I resisted the urge to eat candy. I really didn’t want it after the hell I had put myself through. Instead I enjoyed a crisp Granny Smith apple smothered in flaxseed almond butter. And my almond butter had no added sugar, for those of you who are wondering.
The salad was surely delicious, easy to make, and it would be the perfect thing to pack for lunch and take to work. I ate my share, and Husband enjoyed it, too. Together we plowed through the bowl.
I realized I had over half a box of quinoa and half of my organic veggie broth left, and my first salad was already gone. Why not make another one, just different? This time I thought I would put a Mediterranean twist on it.
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups organic vegetable broth
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small orange bell pepper, chopped
4 medium sized stalks celery, chopped
1 cup black olives, sliced
1 cucumber, chopped
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese (I go with full fat cheese every time)
1 medium tomato chopped (I had tomatoes on the vine handy, I would imagine cherry tomatoes would be especially delicious)
Salt and pepper to taste
Level Of Difficulty: Like the first one, easy
I brought the veggie broth to a boil and poured in my uncooked quinoa, then reduced to simmer and left covered for 20 minutes. Once done, I removed from the heat and allowed to cool in a large bowl, just as I did with the first salad. While my quinoa cooled, I chopped all my veggies, olives and tomato, and prepared a simple and light dressing, whisking all ingredients together:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 quick splash red wine vinegar
1 large garlic clove finely chopped
Juice of one small lemon
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped basil
A few twists of my freshly ground pepper
I added my chopped veggies, olives, tomato and feta to the quinoa, then drizzled my dressing over it, stirring well before refrigerating. Like the first salad, the second one was more delicious after it sat for a while, allowing all the ingredients and flavors to blend.
After two days I am still waking up tired, but I’m always tired. My head isn’t pounding, my tummy is less upset, and I don’t feel like I am carrying that heavy, toxic feeling inside of me. I have slept better, too, and my pH testing shows I am more alkaline than before. Granted, I think all of these good things have less to do with the power of quinoa and more to do with me eating less refined sugar. But it feels great. And I have made two very easy and delicious salads I can whip up anytime, perfect for lunch or a side dish to a main course.
It is empowering to feel more disciplined, knowing I am putting good things into my body. I hope to keep up the good habit.
Easter will be here soon. Let’s see if I can get through and escape the seductive wiles of the chocolate bunnies, gooey Cadbury creme eggs and anything Reese’s. Just under two weeks to go.
May the force be with me.