Monday, October 25, 2010

Is that spinach in your teeth?

Guess what I’m drinking right now? If you guessed spinach, you’re right!!

Add to that, two leaves of kale, half an apple, a quarter lemon, a handful of frozen raspberries, one scoop of protein powder, a cup of water, two ice cubes and you’ve got yourself the makings of a green smoothie.

Of course, you’ll need a blender or food processor of some kind.

I’ve got the Ninja… as does Bonnie, and Nancy, and probably by now, Ruth, and several other members in my dinner group!

Our friends can really influence us, can't they?

Bonnie had the first Ninja in our group. I learned about it one morning a couple of months ago when I stopped by her house to return a book. Bonnie is a neighbor and also a member of my dinner group. There are ten of us. We've all been meeting for dinner the second Tuesday of every month for more years than I can remember. Bonnie is the most health-conscious among us, and so, without a doubt, the most in-shape. We’re all envious of her tight abs. She teaches yoga and is also a vegetarian. There’s not one ounce of fat anywhere on her body.

Anyway, Bonnie had just finished breakfast and her Ninja was still sitting out on the counter. I don’t remember how or why the conversation got around to what she’d had for breakfast (I probably asked) but we eventually got around to the Ninja.

For those not familiar with the Ninja, it is a very simple to use, yet powerful and very unique blender/food processor. I understand it is a hot item on many Christmas lists this year. It is unique in that rather than a single blade, it has dual blades, thus the name Ninja.  Is that cute, or what? It can make a green smoothie or a strawberry daiquiri faster'n you can say "Kung Fu Fighting!"

I know that now, after using it for two weeks. I can’t say, though, that I rushed right out after leaving Bonnie’s and bought a Ninja. The idea of drinking greens didn’t really sound all that appetizing. I did start noticing the Ninjas more and more, though, when I shopped. They were actually hard to miss once I knew about them. They were everywhere - Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Target, Belk’s, Sears, Bed Bath and Beyond. They were always around the same price, too - $59.99.  Then I got lucky and came across a Ninja on sale for $39.99!  I can’t even remember where I was.  Who knew if it would ever be that cheap again, so I bought it, brought it home, stuck it in the kitchen cabinet where it stayed unopened until two weeks ago.

Thank goodness for my friends...

It was our monthly dinner gathering. As usual, our favorite topic came up ~ food. Well, Nancy started talking about her new Ninja and how great it was. Then Ruth piped in that she’d been to Nancy’s for a demonstration and thought it was pretty special too.

"Hey, I have a Ninja!"  I spoke up.  But that's all I could add to the conversation. I couldn’t tell them which model I had, what color the Ninja head was, or even if mine came with two containers or three. All I could do was just sit there and listen to them go on and on about their fantastic Ninjas and the delicious green smoothies! I was getting left behind!

Well, that’s all it took. I stopped at Harris Teeter on my way home and bought all the ingredients for my green smoothie, and I’ve been drinking spinach almost daily since.

You ought to try it. I highly recommend it. That’s why I included the recipe at the beginning of this post.

The quantity for the spinach ~ a handful.  Just watch out for spinach in your teeth!

Judy's Mighty Ninja

Don't expect your green smoothie to always be green!  It seldom is. 
This one's green because I forgot the raspberries!

My Wonderful Dinner Buddies. This picture is a few years old,
but, hey, we all still look pretty much the same  (smile)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back on the subject of milk...

I seem to be spending a lot of time talking about milk lately, and not just me, my friends are talking as well.

I blogged about milk last time, or more specifically, the various mammals from which milk is obtained for human consumption. As you recall, the list just blew this city girl away ~ cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, zebras, moose, reindeer, llamas, etc. Who knew? And I'm not at all certain that this list is all inclusive.

Few of my friends have read my blog though, so I'm not the reason for this sudden discussion about milk among my friends.

Seems that several of my friends have switched from dairy milk to almond milk. I was greatly surprised to learn this, because I've been drinking almond milk for several months now. I love it, and haven't missed dairy milk at all!  Imagine my surprise during a discussion over dinner recently to find that at least 4 of my best friends are also drinking almond milk! (You'd think we'd know something that important about each other!)

I started drinking almond milk back in May. My husband Bob has a lactose intolerance and so was already drinking almond milk. (In addition to being lactose free, almond milk is also cholesterol free and high in protein and calcium.)

Being in a hurry one morning, I poured my Cheerios into my bowl only to find I was out of milk. Rather than pour the cereal back into the box and search for something else to eat, I decided to use some of Bob's almond milk.  It was delicious!  I've been thoroughly enjoying it ever since ~ and it's available in chocolate too!

Anyway, since we've recently discussed milking goats, milking donkeys, and milking camels, I couldn't resist this one ~ milking almonds!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

There are some things we city girls just don't grow up knowing - or doing

Just in case you haven't yet read Karen's blog since Saturday (Holes in My Jeans), you should take a few minutes and go there. She and Adam actually helped process over 650 chickens this past Saturday!

It's really quite an interesting read, as are all her posts, but just a little warning to my "city" friends before going there ~ there are such words as gutting, scalding, plucking, and beheading, just to list a few. Such words for us city girls can be nightmare-inducing.

Though I am a city girl, I've actually had a little experience myself with chicken processing ~ maybe not actual hands-on, but certainly eyes-on.  My grandfather used to raise chickens, and on most Sunday mornings he'd bring one of his chickens over to our house and actually behead it right there in front of us kids.  That headless chicken would then flop all over the place for what seemed like an eternity while us kids just watched wide-eyed and mouth agape. Mom would then put the chicken in a large galvanized tub and pour hot scalding water over it which apparently made plucking the feathers a lot easier.  She would then gut it and whatever else one does to a freshly-killed chicken before frying it up for Sunday dinner.

I never ate one of those chickens. Couldn't.  My chicken had to come from the grocery store. I guess it was easier for me not knowing the chicken personally.

I enjoy reading Karen's posts.  She make me think, and often times remember (as in the case above). I learn a lot too. Take those two earlier posts that addressed donkey and camel milking. Until I read those,  I never knew one could milk a donkey, let alone a camel, and then actually drink the milk.  Or maybe I just never thought about, thinking back, I really didn't know. There are just some things we city girls just don't grow up knowing. Heck, I really didn't know you could milk a sheep. Now I know that some of the best mozzarella cheese comes from water buffalo milk, and that milk from a horse (donkey too) is similar to woman's milk. Zebra milk is drinkable, but one of the least nutritious sources of mammal milk. Llama milk is lower in fat and salt and higher in phosphorous and calcium than even cow or goat milk, but unfortunately is produced in such small quantities that only baby llamas can benefit. Moose milk is commercially farmed in Russia; and reindeer milk, while drinkable, is very difficult to obtain. (Wow! Like that's a surprise. It can't be easy milking something that flies!)

Anyway, I've only ever tasted cow's milk, and fairly recently, goat's milk.  I owe my experience with goat's milk to Karen.  If you follow her blog at all, you know she has acquired quite a few goats in the last couple of years, and now starts and ends each day with goat milking.  It was because of our friendship that this city girl even ventured out to taste goat's milk in the first place. 

Now she has a donkey...

My Favorite Time of Year!

I love the fall!

I just came in from outdoors where the temperature this morning is a crisp 50 degrees. Couldn’t see my breath yet, but I know it’s just around the corner. My cheeks are rosy, so’s my nose, and the tips of my ears are a little tingly.

Back when I used to run a little, 50 degrees or lower meant ear muffs for me. While my hands seemed to warm up about a mile down the road, my ears never seemed to.

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it - the changing colors, the crisp air, the sound of the leaves as they crunch underfoot and the absence of mosquitoes!

Sweater weather, many call it, and another reason I love it. Cool weather clothes are my favorite ~ sweaters, sweatshirts, sweatpants, jeans, and big old wooly socks! Puts me in the mindset of both activity and relaxation. Put on a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt and you’re ready to walk a brisk couple of miles or throw a leg over an armrest for an hour or so of reading or napping.

Cool weather is energizing. Just the other evening, I met my walking buddies at the greenway for our Monday night walk. The air was cool. Everyone had on sweaters or sweatshirts. The energy in the air was undeniable. We walked more briskly, laughed and chattered more than usual, and even punched and hugged each other a time or two, something we don’t do much of when we’re hot and sticky and just trying to get our three miles in.

I think winter, too, often gets a bad rap. I actually prefer winter to summer. My husband is just the opposite. I don’t think it gets too hot for Bob. He says it’s too cold to do anything outside in the winter. I say it’s no different in the summer. We escape to the air conditioning to get out of the heat which I don’t find nearly as comforting as escaping to a warm kitchen to get out of the cold, or better yet, to a nice cozy chair in front of a nice fire.

Ahh! I’m excited! It’s my time of year.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jean's Garden

I visited my friend Jean last week to take some pictures of her beautiful flower garden. I'd found this perfect Smilebox garden slideshow, and since I didn't have a garden of my own, I borrowed Jean's.

I'd probably have gone to Jean's anyway. Hers is no ordinary flower garden. You'd find it in Better Homes and Gardens magazine if they only knew about it.

Jean works hard at it and puts a tremendous amount of love in every flower. She's done it for years and every year it just gets better and better.

I’ve read recently, that flowers have stories to tell and Jean knows them all. So just walking through all the fragrant, colorful blooms and leafy foliage is an amazing adventure. And the butterflies!! There must have been hundreds! They were everywhere! No wonder I never see a butterfly around my house!

Anyway, I've posted the slideshow below for you to enjoy. First though, let me point out that the picture above is one of the photographs I took. Jean cut some flowers for me while I was taking pictures and put them in the sour cream container to bring home. The overall effect was just so gorgeous, I couldn't bring myself to transfer the flowers to a vase after I got home. I think you will agree that a vase couldn’t have made the arrangement any lovelier! (You can click on the picture to enlarge it.)

Oh! One more thing…I use this little Smilebox program all the time to save and display my pictures. I enjoy it more than putting the pictures in a photo album. I tell you this only because my friends just go on and on about how talented I am, and it makes me feel a little guilty. I try to tell them how easy it is, but they refuse to believe it. So, just let them think what they will (Smile). Between you and me, though, it takes no special talent, and it’s a lot of fun. I recommend it to anybody who takes a lot of pictures.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

In The Mood

My husband loves to play the saxophone. He loves it just about as much as he loves me - or I think it's in that order. Either way, it's OK. It's not like it's another woman.

A few weeks ago, his swing band played at one of the fairly new retirement centers in town. I had to work the next day, so almost didn't go. Boy, would I have missed a wonderful night.

I had a ball! The place was beautiful, the food delicious, and the music, simply marvelous! To make it even more special, an old friend was there with his lovely wife, and they did a mean jitterbug to one of the tunes (In The Mood). I didn't get it recorded from the beginning, but I think I got enough that you can still appreciate the talent of both, the dancers and the musicians.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Spiritual Fast to Lose Weight?

I am currently fasting. I’ve got a cruise coming up next month and since my grandson Nick will be coming along, it’s inevitable that I’ll have to get into a bathing suit at some point during the cruise.

Trust me - this ol’ grandma in a bathing suit is not going to be a pretty sight, and about the only thing I can do that might help even a little is to purchase a couple of pretty cover-ups (which I’ve already done). It would probably help, as well, if I lost a few pounds – 10 at the very least. So, I am currently abstaining from wine, desserts, meat (except fish), soft drinks, and bread.

You might say I’m dieting – but I’m not. I can’t diet. But I can fast. The Bible encourages us to fast.

Oh, I know. The purpose of a spiritual fast probably shouldn't be about losing weight. It's even probably a good chance I'm committing some sort of sacrilege. But I can’t do it any other way. For some reason, the commitments I make to myself don’t carry the same weight as those I make to God.

I’m not Catholic, but I always give up something for Lent. I’ve even gotten where I actually look forward to it, especially now that I know that Lent doesn’t include Sundays. Nice – a reprieve every seventh day. But I didn’t learn that until this year, and so for the past several years, I’ve been giving up something for the full forty days. Most usually, it’s two or three somethings.

One Lent season, I gave up M&M peanuts and diet coke – a workday treat I had been allowing myself everyday at around 3 pm for months. I missed it too, but when you abstain from something for God, it should be something you’ll really miss – a sacrifice. Otherwise, it wouldn't mean squat.

Tuesday night, my monthly dinner group met at Nancy’s. My fast allowed that I could have everything but the wine and dessert. Well, the wine was not a problem, but Nancy is a great cook, and I knew the dessert would be to die for. And it was – an absolutely beautiful, mouth-watering ice cream cake!

Trust me when I say, just looking at it was a treat. It was absolutely breathtaking! The crust was graham cracker; the middle, layers of coffee ice cream and chocolate; and the topping, toasted marshmallows! Oh! My! Gosh! What a test of will power!

Well, that’s just it. I don’t have any will power - AND that’s the reason I fast, rather than diet. Had I simply been dieting, I would never have been able to say no. Besides, who in their right mind would even want to? Short of a health reason (and a very significant one, at that), I know of no good reason to pass up such an amazing dessert. To be quite honest, I was actually embarrassed! Everybody thought I was crazy – and rightly so.

But to break a fast? Not so easy. That feels too much like breaking a promise to God - and thank goodness, that’s never come easy to me. So, if ever I really need to reach a personal goal, break a habit, improve a relationship, be penitent, lose weight, then I fast. Because then, it becomes a promise between me and God, and I’m more committed.

God knows me pretty well, and He knows I can’t diet. So surely, even though a spiritual fast probably shouldn’t be about losing weight, it must make Him smile at least little to know that I can’t even lose a few pounds without His help; but with it, I can say no to a fantastic dessert that’s right up there with ‘s’mores and mud pie!

Nancy… next month maybe?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 91. She was one fantastic lady - a true Southern belle. Oh, the things she would say and do. I find myself telling the same stories about her over and over and over - and no matter how many times I tell them, no one enjoys them more than I. In this way, she is still making me smile.

I'd like to share just a few...

To say Mom was a little old-fashioned would be an understatement. Tammy Wynette didn't have anything on her. Mom believed God put woman on this earth to take care of her man - and she loved my husband Bob, and he loved her. She lived with us the last several years of her life in a downstairs apartment. Of course I saw her every day, but on this particular day I was finally off work after working several days of overtime in addition to my regular shift (I'm a nurse.) On this particular morning I went downstairs to tell her I finally had a day off. I could tell she was thrilled for me, but probably more thrilled for Bob. In her sweet soft voice, she said, "Oh honey, that's so nice. You should bake Bob a cake." Can you imagine? Here I've been working all this overtime, and she thinks I should bake Bob a cake? Heck, Bob should be baking me a cake! Mom didn't agree.

Bob really loved this about her.

Mom never sat idle. She was constantly cleaning and straightening things. While she loved living with us, she feared being a bother. So to pay her way, so-to-speak, she became the ultimate housekeeper. Because of her, we never had a dirty dish in the sink or a dirty piece of clothing in the laundry hamper. It was a joke in our house that we only needed two pair of underwear - the pair we took off and the pair we put on. Bob always bragged that the same pair of underwear he took off would be back in his underwear drawer by morning. (You can smile if you want, but it's true! )

Mom could clean off a table too, faster than anybody I ever knew. While she loved for all the family to linger around the dinner table after a meal laughing and sharing stories, she herself, did not linger. She was up immediately clearing the table - and if you spent too much time talking and not eating, your plate or glass would disappear right out from under your nose. We laughed many a time at the shocked expression on the face of the person who turned back and went to jab a fork into a plate no longer there - sort of a "gotcha" moment! While most of us did finally learn to always keep one hand on our plate and the other around our glass, thankfully, there was still an occasional slip up! We watched for it, too! It became a highlight of our holiday dinners.

Bob says I did take after Mom somewhat in this respect. He tells friends that sometimes he gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, only to find the bed made when he gets back. It's not true, of course, but I like the comparison.

Mom's health declined and after one short hospital stay she was sent home with a two-week prognosis. Hospice was called in and she was taken off all medications except those to keep her comfortable. Seven months later, Hospice informed us they had to release her. Now in seven months, mom had become quite fond of the young Hospice caregivers, so she immediately wanted to know why "those nice little girls" had stopped coming to see her. "Because you didn't die!" I told her teasingly. She looked shocked for only a moment before putting her little hands on her hips and exclaiming, "Well, if that's what they expected, I don't want to see them either!"

Age and illness made Mom very feeble and unsteady on her feet. In spite of us moving her bed as close to her bathroom as we could get it, she would still occasionally not quite make it back to bed. Instead, she would slide to the floor where she would have to remain until someone could help her back to bed. It was my fear that this might happen in the night and she would have to spend the night in floor. So I placed a baby monitor under her bed. Mom was very modest and very private, so I did it without her knowledge. I felt guilty about this, but needed a way to keep her safe. It worked too. I was awakened on several occasions and went downstairs to help her back into bed. On one such occasion, as I gently lifted her back to bed, she hugged me and said, "Oh honey, you always seem to know when I need you."

I never felt guilty about the monitor again.

And probably my most favorite...

It was near the end and Mom was in the hospital. She had been unresponsive for several hours. Staff was just trying to keep her comfortable. Around 2 am I decided to run home for a few hours. Not wanting to leave without saying goodbye, I leaned over her, kissed her on the cheek and whispered in her ear, "Mom, I could kiss you a thousand times." Much to my surprise, and delight, this little voice whispered back, "Well, you'd better get started then."

I would have loved to have been given the time.

Happy Birthday Mom!

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Moments in a Day

Well, I guess it's now obvious how difficult it is for me to "blog". My last post was 6/23. The ideas just don't come easily. Today, though, being a special day, I did have something to blog about and so I signed on. What do you think I found? Followers! I had followers! Not just one follower, but three! And three comments too! Do you hear what I'm saying! Three! And not a one of them my husband!!

Wow! Thank you to my new followers for all the kind words and encouragement! You inspire and energize me! I was going outside later to put a couple perennials in the ground, but now think I'll just stay in and write!! Ha! You don't know what you've done. Sometimes, a little encouragement...

Anyway, you got me excited. Maybe I can do this! After all, blogging is journaling, right? And my life is fairly interesting, at least to me. There are certainly moments throughout a day, every day, that touch me in one way or another. Why not blog about them? Even if they don't seem that big a deal to anyone else, if it's important to me...right?

Like last week when I drove over to Winston to shop. I turned into Lowes, my favorite store, and almost ran into a flock of geese! Yes, they were on the ground - walking straight toward me like they were on a mission. And they were in some sort of organized formation! One in the front, followed by two, then three or four, then probably a dozen! I had to stop! I couldn't do anything but stare! What a picture! Then I remembered my camera. It was still in my purse from an outing the day before! Yeah! It even crossed my mind, as I frantically searched through my purse, that this might be a blog story in the making! Quick thinking, right?

Well, by the time I found my camera, got it turned it on and focused, the Kodak moment had passed. The geese had dispersed and looked as if they were actually walking off in total disgust at my inability to capture the moment in pictures. I had blown my chance! I did, however, manage to get a picture of their retreat - nothing impressive, but at least a reminder of the moment.

...A thought occurred to me as I wrote this story. Had I not thought it to be a possible blog story when I first saw the geese, I probably wouldn't have given them a second look. I probably would've waited for them to pass and then pulled into a parking space and gotten on with my shopping. But instead, I spent some time in the moment and found it to be quite special.

There must be many moments throughout my day that come and go without so much as a thought. What special moments am I missing? Perhaps if I start looking for those special moments, if only to blog about them, I'll eventually become so adept at recognizing them, that fewer will pass without my noticing.

Could it be that blogging might just enrich my life?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Do I have anything to blog about?

Well, I suppose I could start off with a little something about me...

I'm female, middle-aged (cough), a wife and mother, a grandmother, sister, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, aunt, cousin and friend. Oh, I'm also a nurse. Until recently, I lived to work, which means I've never really had time to cultivate any major talent(s). Of course, I suppose I would have to have a talent to cultivate in the first place, which I don't - at least none that have been discovered yet.

I'm talking about "major" talents. Those you can see or hear, like singing, or playing a musical instrument, dancing, or being a great gardener or cook. Don't get me wrong. I firmly believe in an all-powerful God who created each of us uniquely. So I know I'm special in many ways and feel extremely blessed. But a major talent? I don't think so. That's one of the reasons I put off starting this blog for so long. What would I blog about?

I have at least two friends, that I know of, who blog ~ James and Karen. They are married to each other. They not only live an enviable lifestyle, but are also both multi-talented. The enviable lifestyle alone is probably enough, but when you have multiple talents, you have a ton to blog about...and people want to read it, too! It's an adventure!

So theirs were the blogs I was using as examples. Not easy. There is so much going on in their lives everyday, they sometimes have to blog more than once a day just to get it said! And they have videos of singing and playing music, of milking and collecting eggs, of grinding their own wheat and baking bread, of making their own cheese and wine - and did I say soap? Yes, they can make their own soap; and James is writing his second novel. I could go on and on and on, but hey, they've got their own blogs, and you can read them too. They're listed under "My Blog List." But hey, finish mine first, please, if you don't mind.

Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more I realized - what I lack in talent, I make up in having a boat-load of very special and talented people in my life. James and Karen are just examples. God's special gift to me. I guess you could say, I have a talent for attracting talented people. My life is filled with music and flowers and adventure because of the wonderful and talented family and friends that flavor my life. They will give me plenty to blog about! (Plus, it should also assure me at least a few followers since they'll have to keep an eye on me just to see what I'm saying about them.)

I didn't say I wasn't smart, just not talented!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm finally blogging - it hasn't been easy!

Well, I guess I'm finally blogging, although I am not at all certain what I'm doing or even what I'm gonna blog about. I'm just hoping one thing will lead to another and whala, an ok blog.

It hasn't been so easy for me, this blog-thing. I've actually attempted it a half-dozen times in the past, only to give up in total frustration. I've actually deleted and started over 3 times already today.

Just naming my blog has been a task. I probably typed in 5-6 names (which weren't easy to come up with in the first place, since the name should probably say something about the blog) only to find that someone already had that name. I had begun to believe that no matter what name I typed in, it wouldn't be available. I actually became a little nonchalant with the naming, and unfortunately, the typing; but lo and behold, when I typed in "Sugar...and other spices of life" I not only found the name available, but that I was now the proud owner! Wow! Yippee! Imagine that! Not really the name I initially went for, but, hey, victory was finally mine! Then I realized I had a typo in the URL address - ???

Sugan? What is sugan? Well, just go in under settings and correct it, I said. Well, it wasn't anywhere I could find. Seems I could correct just about anything and everything except the URL address. (I know, it probably is there somewhere, but I couldn't find it.) So I figured maybe I could somehow use "Sugan...and other spices of life" as my blog name and maybe have readers say to themselves "Wow! How smart is that!" (not meant as a question)

So a quick reference revealed: "Sugan" (sug an or soog an) - 1. a thick blanket or quilt used especially by ranch workers when sleeping outdoors; 2. a rope made of straw; 3. a chair with a seat made from straw rope.

Nope! Interesting, and while I do have a couple of very creative friends who could probably work wonders with that, it was not something I could identify with. So, another delete. Of course by now, Google wouldn't let me in back in until I confirmed my identity by cell phone. This was just about the last straw. Thankfully, stubbornness prevailed, and I trudged on. Much to my delight "Sugar...and other spices of life" was still available - thus the name of my blog.

Why that name? Well, no, I'm not a great cook, not by any standards, and while I won't say you'll never find a recipe on my site, it's not likely. The name fits though, since life and everything that goes into making it what it is can be likened to a recipe. So I figure with this name I can talk about anything and everything ~ God, family, friends, love, hate, happiness, sorrow ~ all the things that add the sugar and spice to my life...the flavor.

Now we've only to see if I can string the right words together.