Passionflower

I wish I knew why this passionflower vine stopped growing; it’s one of my favorites.

Did you know that passionflower offers healing properties? I’ve never tried it, but according to Dr. Andrew Weil, passionflower is used for stress reduction, calming without sedation, and overcoming insomnia when combined with other calming herbs such as valerian and lemon balm.

Studies suggest that passionflower may reduce anxiety in patients undergoing surgery. Another study found that passionflower had similar affects as an anti-anxiety medication in reducing general anxiety. The properties in passionflower are thought to promote calming effects by increasing the levels of the chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which reduces the activity of some neurons that cause anxiety.

Disclaimer: DO NOT take passionflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. For others, passionflower is generally considered to be safe and nontoxic in recommended doses and for less than two months at a time.

Santa Fe, Turquoise, and Zozobra

I always thought “turquoise” was the most delicious word to wrap my tongue around. So much is going on with its delightful twists and turns.

Some summers saw us travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico to spend time with family who lived in an adorable adobe house. I loved it there. It was dusty and hot and full of colors and sounds and smells that we didn’t have in Detroit.

Our family has a long history in Santa Fe. Before and during WW2, my parents used to hang out in Taos with Georgia O’Keeffe and D.H. Lawrence. I wish I could remember more of their fascinating stories but I was an extremely obnoxious eye-rolling teen and ignored mostly everything they ever said. About anything, haha.

During those trips to Santa Fe, of course I had to have an elaborate fiesta dress and lots of turquoise jewelry. This was probably when I first fell in love with this exquisite rock. I surely wish I still had my little fiesta dresses for Angel Girl, but all I have is my mom’s dress.

We would go to La Fonda and the Plaza where the Native Americans spread their treasures on blankets and we’d spend hours walking around.

This isn’t very PC but one day a little girl yelled at her mom and pointed to me and said, “Look at her, mommy! That’s a real Indian girl!” I always thought that was the coolest thing although I’m sure it was because I was very tan from being outside all day (no sunscreen back then) and my hair was plaited in two long braids.

Sometimes we’d be there for Fiesta and the Burning of Zozobra, an event to dispel the hardships and travails of the past year. Zozobra is the creation of Will Shuster, one of Los Cinco Pintores, a group of artists who made their way to New Mexico in the 1920s. Shuster’s creation first burned in his backyard in 1924 as a 6-foot effigy, and over the years, has grown to a towering 50-foot high marionette.

Photos of Santa Fe from SantaFeSelection.com

Somewhere there’s a photo of me (with pigtails) standing on the steps just beneath the not-yet-burned Zozobra but I couldn’t locate it. When I do, I’ll update this post.

UPDATE: My memory was inaccurate! This is a photo I was thinking of, but it wasn’t me, it’s my older brother and my parents, way before I was born…

Another photo, during another summer visit in Santa Fe with Zozobra…

The Burning of Zozobra has been called the first Burning Man, but I don’t like the comparison at all as the intentions of the two events are lightyears apart.

Every Little Thing

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault

Although I never before knew who originally created this quote, I always KNEW — deep in my heart — that a rainbow or a sunset or a whale, a Monarch butterfly, the sighting of a coyote or a bobcat, my hawks — the discovery of a rock or achingly perfect seashell — brings joy as much as a new Chanel or a stunningly crafted pair of heels.

The night when I was genuinely poorly, when I ALMOST thought I’d have to go to the ER, I was awakened by the conversational hooting of a couple of Great Horned Owls and felt comforted by their voices. In my feverish delirium, I believed they were telling me to hang on, it’ll be OK.

Thank goodness, they told the truth. As much as antibiotics bring their own set of issues with my little body (don’t ask), I’m on the road to recovery, as my RN mom would say.

This morning I have SUCH a strong desire for vegan hot chocolate, it made me think of her and start laughing. Simple joys, right?

When I was sick, as soon as I had a craving for anything chocolate, my mom said her nursey training told her all she needed to know to stop worrying about me.

I fully earned the title of Princess because I used to make her wear her nursey cap and drape her stethoscope around her neck when she answered the bell that was on my nightstand. And she happily complied while carrying a tray with ice chips, fresh flowers, and tea in the special antique porcelain tea pot.

At the end of the day, little things are undeniably all there is. Those of us who understand this surely are the lucky ones.

Downward Spiral

If you read about my non-conversation with a haughty school secretary, you might remember I had a bit of a mild cold, but NOT Covid.

Well…on Saturday night the landscape changed. I started to run a low grade fever, went to bed, woke up wracked with chills and my temp had climbed to 102. I was nauseous and developed a very ugly, very productive cough (TMI, I know.)

With my asthma and history of viral lung infections, I had an idea that I now had a secondary bacterial infection.

All day Sunday I tried to lower my temp with acetominophen since I can’t take ibuprofen but my chest wasn’t feeling particularly great.

Early Monday morning I was able to schedule a video appointment with the doc who ordered a chest x-ray.

And just like that, the diagnosis was bilateral pneumonia!

Doc said I was very lucky. My proactive attention to the symptoms stopped me from having to be hospitalized, that’s how bad it was becoming.

That is my WORST nightmare, for sure. With a mom for a nurse, I’ve heard too many horror stories to want to end up at the mercy of strangers, no matter how talented or dedicated they may be to the craft of nursing.

Being hospitalized also triggers memories of my son’s near death experience and I literally can’t stand the smell or the bright lights or the constant sounds.

So now I’m taking two kinds of antibiotics which I also hate because I don’t tolerate them well, but no steroids because I have even worse reactions to them. I’m also taking probiotics because I definitely don’t want to contract C-difficile, which is what my son suffered from AFTER his surgery. We almost lost my precious boy twice.

How it went so quickly from a slight sore throat and congestion to full blown pneumonia in two days, I’ll never know.

There’s always a silver lining though, right? At least the x-rays showed no pleural effusion or pneumothorax and the cardiomediastinal silhouette is stable. (You medical professionals will know this is good news.)

But the real life lesson here is to never stop being your own best medical advocate. I’m only giving myself permission to have one more day of feeling poorly (and slightly sorry for myself.)

Vegan Sweet Potato Brownies

Even if you’re not #vegan, don’t skip this recipe. I bet you’ll find it’s worth a try, especially if you love chocolate as much as I do.

It was so good, I’ve made it twice. The first time I used only five ingredients:

*Sweet potato, one cup cooked and mashed
*Nut butter (I used almond), 1/2 cup
*Maple syrup, 1/3 cup
*Vanilla, one teaspoon
*Cocoa, 1/3 cup

Blend all ingredients by hand or in a food processor. Spread in a pie plate or small square baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes. Let sit until completely cool. If you have the time, the flavors get even better if it’s refrigerated or even frozen. I cut them into bite-sized pieces ‘cos it’s really rich.

You don’t actually NEED frosting, but who ever said no to more chocolate? Here’s my best baking hack for that…https://enchantedseashells.com/2014/09/17/best-baking-hack-ever/

The results were a bit dense, so the next time, I added 1/2 cup flour, and that made all the difference. I used regular white flour, but it would be so easy to blend some oats for oat flour, so that’s definitely an option.

YUM. Delicious AND healthy!

P.S. This recipe isn’t overly sweet, so if you want to add more maple syrup or even a LITTLE sugar, go ahead. I thought it was perfect without any additional sweetener, but I’m a choco-holic.

Hopscotch | Life Lessons

How awesome is this new twist on an old game to encourage confident selftalk along with subliminal positive affirmations?

Veggie Tomato-y Tofu Soup #Vegan

Perfect for this cooler autumn weather…

Last weekend was my monthly refrigerator cleaning project and I thought I’d toss everything I could into a pot and create some sort of soup.

The good news is I have a scrumptious pot of healthy soup to last a few days; the bad news is that now empty refrigerator and a need to hit the grocery store.

Here’s what I found to work with:
-Mushrooms
-Red Pepper
-Carrots
-Celery
-Onion
-Broccoli
-Fresh chard and garden herbs
-Tofu

I first cubed and marinated the tofu in a little olive oil and Italian herbs with spicy dried red peppers.

I didn’t have any Better Than Bouillon  (vegan) which is too bad as it’s amazing, and I didn’t have homemade stock, so I pan roasted the veggies in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for a long time to develop fond on the bottom of the pan.

FYI: Fond are the brown particles found at the bottom of pans after browning vegetables. It adds flavor and moisture to a dish.

When I saw all those yummy little brown bits, I added a bit of water to make it easy to scrape up, then I added the marinated tofu, along with one large can of San Marzano tomatoes and one can of water.

FYI: I like to use the best Italian tomatoes because I think it really makes a flavor difference, especially when they’re the star of the show.

I added one scant teaspoon sugar and sea salt/pepper to taste along with these garden herbs:

Thyme, bay leaves, sage, oregano, and a lot of basil, saving some to sprinkle on just before serving.

Such vibrant colors! Simmered for about 45 minutes, pulled out the stems of the herbs as the leaves had fallen away as it cooked.

Before serving, I used my immersion blender to make the texture velvety and creamy.

YUM!

Options: Add cooked beans, lentils, pasta. croutons

Serve with fresh basil and vegan parmesan shreds.

Always Wear Sunscreen! A Cautionary Tale…

I just got home from having surgery for a spot of basel cell carcinoma on my shoulder. The anesthetic is wearing off and my arm is sore and achy.

Even though the cancer was caught early thanks to my amazing dermatologist, let me tell you that it’s NO FUN to endure a biopsy and the subsequent treatment.

I’ve had Mohs surgery before for basel/squamous cell skin cancer on the back of my neck and that was even less fun because they had to dig deeper and my movements were limited for a longer period of time.

Since then, I’ve been more diligent about staying out of the sun, wearing a big floppy hat and UV sleeves to protect my arms while gardening.

There will be no more four-hour suntanning marathons at the beach with baby oil or cocoa butter.

According to my doctor, the damage was done decades ago when that was all we did during summer vacation; lie out in the sun. Because I live in Southern California, there’s a LOT of sun and lots of opportunities to attain that deep bronze-y glow.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time I have to endure these kinds of procedures. I also had about five pre-cancerous spots removed from my face and chest, but so far none of the suspicious areas are melanoma, the scariest diagnosis of all.

While I’m indoors on the sofa, out of the sun, I thought it’d be a good time to remind everyone to use sunscreen and wear protective clothing when you’re outside.

Another good suggestion is to visit a dermatologist and get checked out so you’ll have an established baseline for the future.

Now I’ll head over to Amazon and look for adorable things to buy for the almost three-year-old Angel Girl. Whatever it is MUST be pink and she loves Hello Kitty. She’s definitely MY little one, that’s for sure!

Best Mantra for 2022 | Mercury Retrograde, Full Moon, Total Lunar Eclipse, Oh MY!

I can’t believe I didn’t post this! It’s been hiding in my Drafts folder since January. We have seven more months of 2022 and we’re not quite halfway there, so I think there’s enough time to meditate and set positive intentions.

With all of this frenetic “as above” planetary activity; Mercury retrograde AND a full flower moon on May 15 AND a total lunar eclipse at the same time, there’s more than enough reason to take a giant step back and BREATHE.

In my area, the lunar eclipse will be visible on May 15 from 7:30 p.m. until 11:50 p.m.

Here’s a great mantra: “Sat Chit Ananda” (Truth, Consciousness, Bliss)

Sit or lie comfortably and take a few moments to relax. Pay attention to your breath as it moves in and out. Soften, let go, and surrender to the quiet.

Silently repeat to yourself, “Sat Chit Ananda (Truth, Consciousness, Bliss).”

Set a timer for ten to twenty minutes, and try not to watch the clock. Allow all feelings and sensations to emerge; feel the power that rises up, and ENJOY!

After you release the mantra, remain still for as long as you can and listen to your heart, where lies all truth.

Namaste.

Later, reflect on this beautiful words by Patrick Graven:

Our hearts full of depth, Life in every breath, Beauty that blooms in our hearts, An infinite love that never parts.Destined to find our way, Will make us live only for today, Guiding the path for beauty to follow, To leave behind the pain and hold the hopes of tomorrow. The wind is blowing against the trees, And the moon shines forth with its glow, Even your own light never to be extinguished, Through life and all its growth. All we have is this space between the poles, As the stars shine with sense renewed, Beauty is seen again as petals unfold, A light that found a way to shine through. Everyday that it takes to feel alive, Believing in our hearts that there is a way, All we need is to shine from the inside, And embrace the meaning of our living grace.The glory of new things to come, The essence of all you will achieve, The purity of all you will become, When you look within and believe.

https://patrickgravenwriting.wordpress.com/

Lemongrass Tea

I have a healthy lemongrass plant in my garden and never thought of doing anything with it but cutting a stalk from time to time for Vietnamese or Thai dishes and thought I’d experiment a little since it I learned it also offers healing benefits. Too bad it can’t fix my broken bones!

Lemongrass tea has a wonderful, lemony, delicious taste. Add to boiling water for only fifteen minutes and it’s a perfect hot or cold refreshment!

If you don’t have fresh lemongrass or you can’t find it in the store, you can use dried lemongrass Be sure to strain or use a tea caddy.

  • 1 stalk lemongrass including leaves (1 tbsp dried lemongrass)
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • Optional: Piece of ginger or sprinkle of cinnamon.

Boil for 15 minutes, steep, strain, and enjoy!

I added a cup of my freshly made lemongrass tea to Yogi ginger tea (which has lemongrass listed as an ingredient) and it tasted yummy!