Thursday, August 13, 2020

Review of The Last of the Moon Girls

I downloaded the book The Last of the Moon Girls by Barbara  Davis when it was on the July list for Amazon Prime's First Reads.  I probably picked it because I wasn't sure what else to pick, but I was pleasantly surprise when it turned out to be one of the best books I've read in a long time.  In fact when I got to about 50% in the book, I ended up staying up half the night until I finished the book.  I found it to be a delightful read full of interesting characters, an unsolved murder, and some thoughtful messages on forgiveness and finding ones self.


Brief Synopsis of Plot

Lizzy Moon had left the family farm in New Hampshire 8 years before to follow her dream.  She now had a promising career in New York city and no intention of ever returning to the "family" business. The family farm was a "herbal farm" and generations of Moon woman had used their various skills as "healers" to run the farm. Lizzy was to be the last of the Moon girls.

All of this was before Lizzy got a call letting her know her beloved grandmother, Althea, had passed away leaving her the farm.  Still, Lizzy had every intention of returning to pack up the farm and put it for sale.

When Lizzy returns she is met with a farm that is very deteriorated and fields of lavender that are full of weeds.  She is also confronted with the unsolved murders of two girls from 8 years before and insinuations from the towns people that followed her grandmother to her grave.

The book has a wonderful series of twists and turns that causes Lizzy to take another look at her life and what she thinks she wants.

This is an excellent read and I would highly recommend it.  I also think this would be an excellent book for a book club discussion.  There are lots of interesting topics within the book that should lead to a lively discussion.

  






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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Handheld Steam Cleaner - Reviewed


Handheld Steam Cleaner Reviewed
My Handheld Steam Cleaner

This little handheld steam cleaner is a great way to clean around your house chemical-free. It's perfect for small jobs around the house, and you can rest assured you're cleaning and sanitizing at the same time.

I do a lot of grilling and smoking in my offset smoker during the grilling season. After a while, the inside of the smoker builds up with grease. This is the main reason that I bought this handheld steamer, but I found this little tool to have many other uses. By the way, you will find some great grilling and smoking ideas at Sam's Places my food blog.

Just like commercial steam cleaners, this handheld is perfect for removing dirt and grime while killing germs, but you are limited to smaller cleaning jobs.

How did it work on my grill? Well, it didn't completely wipe out the grease build-up, but it did loosen up the grease enough to make the job much easier. Bottom line I was happy with the results.

I also used this to clean the tire rims on my car, and it worked great. Below are the before and after photos of my car rims.

The top photo is before and the bottom is the after. I used no spray bottles of harsh chemicals or the garden hose. I just used the handheld steamer and then wiped the rims clean with a dry cloth.

I tried the steam cleaner on my glass shower doors and wasn't satisfied with the results. I think it's because the glass is beveled on my shower doors. This is not a big concern for me as it worked very well everywhere else that I used it.

Handheld Steam Cleaner: More Uses

  • Tile grout provided they are sealed and glazed
  • Glass shower doors and windows
  • Toilets
  • Ovens and stovetops
  • Microwaves
  • Pet cages
  • Small appliances
  • Kitchen and bathroom fixtures
  • Patio door tracks
This little steam cleaner has several attachments to handle just about any small cleaning job you may have. The brush is really handy for kitchen and bath fixtures and grates for your grill.

Clean and sanitize all of your kitchen cabinet door and drawer handles and all the doorknobs in your house. 






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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Famous and Infamous Celebrity Umbrellas

FAMOUS AND INFAMOUS CELEBRITY UMBRELLAS

Famous celebrity umbrellas. 
Yes, they abound. 
They are most definitely all around town.  
Here is a short list, in no way complete.
Just something to think about on a dark and rainy street. 

This page is dedicated to famous and infamous umbrellas including those from both the fictional and the real worlds.  

MARY POPPINS AND GENE KELLY


The first famous umbrellas that come to mind are often the umbrellas from the two classic movies shown above. That is, the magical parrot umbrella of British nanny Mary Poppins from the 1934 book and 1964 film of the same name and the more practical umbrella of American Gene Kelly in the 1952 romantic comedy, Singin’ in the Rain. 

THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG


THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG umbrella movie!

In 1964, Catherine Deneuve starred in the French language, Academy Award nominated movie, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This film is the middle one in a series of three. According to the Criterion Collection who remastered it, it was a “dazzling musical heart-tugger.” Deneuve was launched to stardom via this film but, for our purposes, it is noteworthy that she played an umbrella-shop owner’s daughter and that umbrellas were required because it rained a lot in the film. You will find the remastered version of this movie on Amazon by clicking here.

THE BEATLES


The Beatles Umbrellas

The Beatles appeared in many photographs with umbrellas, seeming to have used the iconic British symbol as props for many photo shoots. In the 1968 film The Yellow Submarine, the Eleanor Rigby scene features illustrations of the silhouettes of men with bowler hats, trench coats and, yes, umbrellas. I bet the fab five did not foresee the day when they’d actually appear ON an umbrella. You can find yourself a Beatles umbrella here on eBay. My favorite is the dome umbrella.

POISON-TIPPED UMBRELLA


In 1978, a poison-tipped umbrella was used to kill Bulgarian journalist Georgi Markov in London, England. This story is somewhat unbelievable since it seems like something we would see in the movies, but apparently it is a true story and the same umbrella was used but failed against another Bulgarian journalist in Paris. 

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO


My Neighbor Totoro umbrella scene.

In the 1988 animated movie My Neighbor Totoro from Studio Ghibli, a simple pink umbrella appears in a memorable scene. When Totoro is caught with only a leaf to protect himself from the rain, Satsuki offers him an umbrella. Judging by the difference in size of the characters as shown in this picture, that was a generous offer indeed!

LOST IN TRANSLATION


Scarlett Johansson's umbrella in LOST IN TRANSLATION

In Lost in Translation in 2003, Scarlett Johansson walks through Tokyo with a clear umbrella. I haven’t seen this movie but with regard to the purpose of this list, it is said that Johansson wanders the streets in Tokyo with water dripping off of her very simple, clear umbrella.A clear umbrella would definitely allow the streets to show more in the movie than if she had carried a solid colored umbrella. 

I wrote recently here about clear umbrellas. A clear umbrella will definitely be my next one. 

QUEEN ELIZABETH


QUEEN ELIZABETH'S UMBRELLAS are clear in order to see and be seen!

Queen Elizabeth has long carried a clear umbrella (maybe for about 16 years) so that she can see and be seen. Did you know that her clear umbrellas are designed with a colored band around the bottom edge with that color being carefully chosen to coordinate with each of her outfits. Yes, they are custom umbrellas manufactured by a company named Fulton that has the Royal Warrant, the acknowledgement that this company supplies umbrellas to the royal family.  If you are wondering, this means that yes, Queen Elizabeth has quite a collection of these beautiful umbrellas. 

Read more interesting information about the Queen’s umbrellas in Town and Country magazine

RIHANNA


In 2007, Barbadian singer Rihanna released an extremely popular and catchy song called Umbrella. It would go on to be considered one of the top ten songs of that year and the singer would receive several awards and nominations for the song and a lasting connection, in my mind at least, to the small but mighty umbrella. 

BRITNEY SPEARS


Also in 2007, the hugely popular American singer, songwriter and dancer Britney Spears deployed her teal umbrella in a fit of rage at the media when she attacked a car. It was not a shining moment for Spears, who could not stand the glare of the media any longer. However, her actions though not deliberate at the time, were successful in gaining her a bit of sympathy and reprieve from the public and the media.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA


In 2013, United States President Barack Obama was protected by an umbrella held by a marine in his roll as the Commander in Chief of the Marines. Since male marines were not allowed to carry umbrellas, this event was newsworthy and umbrella duty turned out to be somewhat controversial. You can read the whole story in the Washington Post.

THE KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE


In the 2015 spy movie The Kingsman: The Secret Service, a bullet proof umbrella is used by secret agents. Not only is it a shield but it has a built in gun and the handle can be used as a grappling hook. The umbrella was made by Thomas Brigg and the real version of this umbrella that you can buy from the company does feature a chestnut handle and shaft, a gold plated collar and a black nylon canopy but the canopy is not bullet proof. 

BLADE RUNNER


BLADE RUNNER Lampbrella Umbrella

In the 1982 movie Blade Runner, there is a pretty futuristic umbrella called the Lampbrella. It features a light-up shaft and and has since become a well-known prop from the film that won awards for visual effects. Since then, the umbrella has been recreated with varying degrees of success. You can find umbrellas that copy the Lampbrella style from the movie on eBay by clicking here

THE PENGUIN


THE PENGUIN'S UMBRELLA COLLECTION

In 1992, Danny DeVito brought the Penguin to life in the movie Batman Returns. Yes, as you might have guessed from this picture and the subject of this page, the umbrella is important to The Penguin. So important that he decorated his home with with an assortment of umbrellas that double as weapons. Why was the Penguin fascinated with umbrellas? His dad died from pneumonia due to a storm and he sees carrying an umbrella as protection. If you want to be safe in the world of DC Comics, you definitely need to carry one of the Penguin’s umbrellas!

----------------------------------------------------------

Well, my personal umbrellas aren't famous or particularly infamous, though they have lived a long, hardworking life and they are beloved. There are many other umbrellas that could have been on this list. Can you think of any that you would have added?

See you
under the umbrella!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Learn about Totes Clear Bubble Umbrellas.
Discover the Rainbrella Golf Umbrella.



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Monday, August 10, 2020

Favorite Bird Feeders Reviewed

It has been quite a long time since I fed the birds with a bird feeder! This summer I revisited feeding the birds and have really enjoyed watching the variety of birds which visit daily.



My Two Favorite Bird Feeders


Both feeders are affordable and lower priced. I chose the feeders based on the reviews and of course how well the feeders held up to the creative squirrels.

Am happy to report the feeders have survived a few attacks by squirrels and the squirrels have now decided the feeders are not worth the effort! Score one for the bird feeder.

However when I was filling up one feeder I noticed something very interesting in the bottom of the feeder.... a peanut shell! Obviously, someone... something... something furry must have somehow opened the top of the bird feeder to hide this little peanut treasure!



Lighthouse Bird Feeder


I like the lighthouse design of this bird feeder. While the cylinder design is a positive, there is also some waste when filling the feeder as the seeds can bounce out of the cylinder. Nonetheless lighthouses are a favorite so I recommend filling the feeder at the spot where the feeder hangs so the extra seed stays in the area under the hanging feeder.

I placed this feeder on a Shepherd's hook surrounded by foliage and the Shepherd's hook worked great!

Hanging Bird Feeder

After enjoying the lighthouse feeder I purchased a second feeder for another area in the yard to hang on a tree.

This is more the traditional shape of a bird feeder and thus far the squirrels have had no success in attempting entry. It is easy to fill the feeder as the roof simply twists off and the feeder can be easily filled.

Low Maintenance Bird Feeder


My friend relayed how she was feeding the birds outside her window with orange slices! What a great idea and perfect way to use leftover oranges.





Two years ago we had a robin build a nest on top of the porch light. It was a fun few weeks watching the robin family lay the eggs to the successful flight of the baby robins.
This year our robin family returned for another successful family event. Last year a robin built a nest on the same porch light, but the nest was abandoned. So this year the nest was a double decker as the 2020 nest was built on top of the 2019 nest.

The robins were again quite protective and became much more aggressive once the babies were born (thankfully the Amazon driver was on board and knew it was necessary to duck when heading for the porch.)

Review This Reviews writer and photographer Mary Beth Granger wrote a Review of the Facts And Photos Of The American Robin . Enjoy her wonderful photos of the American Robin along with the background of the American Robin. 







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Sunday, August 9, 2020

Three Country Music Songs That Might Be Off Your Radar

Three Terrific Country Music Songs to Add to Your Playlist
Being a fan of country music and the stories they tell has been a part of me since I was a little girl. Yah, that was a long time ago.
The tendency with country music is to think it's all about beer and trucks. However, there are a wide variety of songs from inspiration, love, wonder, hope to empowerment.

I'd like to introduce you to three country songs that might be off your radar.

1. The Most Beautiful Things, by Tenille Townes

Introspection and Reflection
I've been a big fan of this Canadian country music star since her first big hit, "Somebody's Daughter." What a great song! You can read more about that song here.
This latest song, 'The Most Beautiful Things,' pulls our heartstrings and reminds us what the most essential part of life is about.
Lyrics: "So why do we close our eyes
When we pray, cry, kiss, dream?
Maybe the most beautiful things in this life
Are felt and never seen"

If you're in the mood for reflection, listen to this one with a nice cup of your favorite beverage and cozy blanket. Embrace the calm. If viewing via mobile, here's the video.




2. One of Them Girls, by Lee Brice

Women Empowerment, Respect, and Individuality
This upbeat tempo country music hit delivers a message that's near and dear to my heart: Empowering women. Granted, it's about a boy who is drawn to 'one of them girls,' however one of them girls is one who is a responsible single mother and dedicated worker who 'ain't trying to meet nobody.' The straightforward storytelling aspect of this video portrays the song's message in a fun, truthful, and powerful way.
Here's one for the girls. If viewing via mobile, here's the video, here's the video.




3. Godspeed, by the Reklaws
Letting Go, Growth, Cosmic Understanding, Peace

The Reklaws are a talented award-winning Canadian country music brother and sister duo. They're one of my favorite groups! Their music tends to lean towards the fun and uplifting aspects of life. However, 'Godspeed' takes a softer cosmic turn.

Godspeed is a message of letting go and holding on at the same time. If you're having a bad day and need a little hope, this light and airy music may be just what your soul aches for. Turn up the song and just breathe.If viewing via mobile,  here's the video.




May you have a lovely day, filled with some measure of hope. Tell someone you love that you love them. To all those suffering during this unprecedented year, Godspeed.

Virtual hugs,
Barbara





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Saturday, August 8, 2020

How to Make a Healthy Version of Starbuck's Pink Drink

I'm going to review how I make a really delicious (and healthier) version of Starbuck's Pink Drink.

Make Starbucks, The Pink Drink at home - how to
Photo's by Louanne, template from Canva


Now I must confess I've never tried the Pink Drink, but I kept seeing posts about it all over social media.   I don't live close to a Starbucks, but when I saw a recipe doing the rounds that everyone swore was just like it I had to give it a try.

I fell in love with this drink and now I can understand the appeal of this drink.   My version has less sugar than the original Starbucks one and it also contains antioxidants, ginseng, B vitamins and chromium which means it will help you to reduce fatigue.

It also contains a blend of amino acids and adaptogenic botanicals that help to reduce stress and improve your mind balance.    Sounds perfect doesn't it?   And did I forget to say it tastes amazing!

Ingredients for a Healthy Pink Drink


12 oz coconut milk
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 scoop Arbonne's Inner Calm Powder
1 Arbonne Strawberry Fizz Stick

Directions for the Pink Drink (healthy version)


  1. Place the coconut milk, inner calm powder and strawberries in a blender and blend well.
  2. Pour into a drinks bottle (I use a sports drink bottle to drink this out of, but you could use a cup or glass if you like, but in that case make sure there is plenty of room for the drink to fizz up)
  3. Next add the fizz stick, if in a bottle give it a little shake before letting out some of the air and enjoy.   If you are using a cup or glass give the drink a stir before enjoying.
I've used fizz sticks on their own and also as part of my morning greens drink, you can check out my article about them here.

I am an Independent Consultant with Arbonne, you are welcome to contact me directly with any questions you may have about these products or to find out how to qualify for a discount.   Message me via Facebook or Instagram.

Have you tried the Pink Drink?



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Friday, August 7, 2020

Secondhand Lions (2003) Movie Review

Secondhand Lions (2003) Movie Review
Secondhand Lions starring Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, and Haley Joel Osment is a fantastic movie! It was released in 2003, but is well worth watching now. 

Each week, I take a little time to visit my parents.  We select a movie to watch together, eat snacks, and enjoy our time together.  This past week, Mom selected the movie.  She wanted to watch one of her all-time favorites.  While I remembered the name of the movie, I did not remember much about the story line.  After watching it again, that is pretty surprising.  Secondhand Lions is a fabulous movie! 

If you haven't seen it before, or if it has been a long time since you watched Secondhand Lions, I highly recommend seeing it now.  It is totally appropriate for mixed company of all ages.  I doubt it would be entertaining for young children, but I can't think of a single thing offensive in the movie, although it is rated PG.  I'm sure it got that rating for some reason.  


Secondhand Lions Movie Synopsis


 Secondhand LionsCheck PriceThe introduction of the movie starts with two old men having a blast flying a bi-plane around the countryside, through and into places not meant for planes.  This is the first, but not the last, moment of laughter for us.  

The story begins with 14 year old Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment) riding in the car with his mother, Mae (Kyra Sedgwick).  They are on their way to Mae's uncles home in Texas where she plans to leaves Walter for a few months while she attends court stenographer school.  Even at his young age, Walter is immediately skeptical of her plans.  Apparently attending court stenographer school is another questionable idea in a long line of bad ideas and decisions by Mae.   

Walter isn't very happy with this decision.  He doesn't know his great-uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine).  Until this trip, he has never even heard of them.  Mae explains that they had "disappeared" for many years, but have turned back up in Texas, believed to be quite wealthy.  Driving up to their home, the place doesn't look like it is owned by anyone wealthy, or welcoming.

Staying with his uncles, hearing their fantastical stories of adventure, bravery and extraordinary travels, plus watching the way they behave, Walter doesn't quite know what to make of Hub & Garth.  They seem to live by their own rules and don't care one bit what others think of them.  They even have a real lion brought in for a lion hunt.  Turns out the lion is not up for the chase, but that is as much about the lion as I am going to say. I wouldn't want to ruin the lion fun for you.

By the time Walter's mother returns to pick him up, Walter loves his eccentric uncles and he can clearly see the truth about many things. 


Secondhand Lions is a movie that will make you laugh often, perhaps cry a bit, and leave you feeling good.  This is a must-see movie!  Even if you have seen it before.




Check Out More Movie Reviews at
ReviewThisMovies.com



Secondhand Lions (2003) Movie Review by:
House of Sylvestermouse



 


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Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Garden of Small Beginnings - Book Review

Check Here for Lowest Price
Let's start with the harvest here.  Lest you think this is going to be a book about a widow who has had a breakdown after her husband's untimely and tragic death, and who is still struggling with that loss, let me assure you that this is a book where the reader reaps joy.  I found The Garden of Small Beginnings, by Abbi Waxman, to be a brilliantly written, and delightfully humorous, take on how we get through the gritty times in life.

It's not often that a book begins with whale genitalia.  This is when you know this is not going to be your grandmother's gardening guide.  No... not at all.  This is where the irreverent humor and quirky cast of characters begin to emerge.  

You see, Lilian Girvan is a textbook illustrator.  And sometimes, though perhaps not every day, you are called upon to draw things like a whale's, ahem, penis.  Am I allowed to use the word penis in a book review?  This is surely a first for this reviewer.  

Anyway, getting back to Lilian.  On the day of her infamous illustrating assignment, she is called up to meet with her boss.  Lilian has been assigned a plum project designing the illustrations for a series of vegetable guides.  In order to garner favor with an important client, Lilian has been volunteered to take a Saturday morning gardening class at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden.  This is where the plot (literally) thickens.

Over the course of six weeks, lives will be changed in beautiful and unexpected ways by an eclectic crew of aspiring gardeners.  Though this is not a gardening book, per se, it is a book about how we grow from loss, and grief, and other heartbreaks into who we will become in the next season of life.

I loved this book's characters and witty banter.  Lilian's young children are sheer delight.  This is my favorite kind of read: so well-written, clever, funny, and full of heart.  Highly recommended.





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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Totally Natural Healthy Ways to Increase Your Garden's Growth - A Garden Review


It's mid-summer and everyone who has a garden is starting to reap the rewards of their spring labor.  Now I must confess, I did not do a whole lot of back breaking labor.  I live on the 18th floor of an apartment building and digging in the ground is not an option for me.  So I have three Rubbermaid Tubs on my balcony.  These are my "garden" and that is my space to grow my tomatoes and cucumbers.  




Don't go feeling sorry for me, I like it this way.  I gave up my "home garden" a few years ago, but missed my fresh tomatoes so much, I had to find a way to grow some higher up.  

When we first moved into the apartment, I tried to grow tomatoes in smaller pots (10 inch diameter), I would water, feed (with fertilizer) and talk to them daily.  I was somewhat successful that first year.  My husband would eat his balcony fresh tomato and say, "that was a lot of work for this tomato, you can buy them cheaper at the farmer's markets now that they are in season!"  

He was right, the first year, even though I did my best at caring for these plants, they did not produce anything that would have made a gardener's heart go pitter-patter!  Our garden produced a few tomatoes that we did enjoy, but overall we were disappointed.

Fast Forward to today:  My balcony garden has been expanded (no more little pots) and I have found the secret (I think it's the difference between the first year and now) to keeping my garden happy, healthy and producing more fruits than ever before.  


So do you want to Know What Made the Difference?

As a gardener (we share what works and what doesn't work) I will tell you!  I have NOT used one ounce, tablespoon, teaspoon or any other measuring device, of fertilizer this year!  Yet, I have already picked, eaten and enjoyed at least 10 cucumbers since the beginning of July, and countless cherry tomatoes!

As you can see in the picture above and the ones below, there is no lack of little tomatoes for us to enjoy in the next little while.



Our balcony garden has been prolific in producing these cherry tomatoes for our enjoyment.  I attribute it all to the help I have procured for my containers.  The "help" is totally organic, pesticide free, natural and abundant.

What is this help that I keep mentioning? 

Red Wigglers (they get all the credit)  have made all the difference in my containers this year.  

As I mentioned earlier, I have used NO chemical fertilizers in my containers this year.  A dear friend of mine (Cheri Kochir Salt (owner and operator of  Mobius8Organics.) and I have been trying our best to minimize our carbon footprint on the earth.  Many people are interested in doing this and have no idea where to start.  If you are a gardener, you could start right here.
 
In many discussions with her, I found that red wigglers can make all the difference in the world to your gardens (whether in the ground proper or in a container). Helping the earth to renew, means (for me anyways) not adding any extra chemicals and getting rid of organic wastes, without adding to landfills.  

When you have red wigglers in your containers you can do both of these things.  Red Wigglers love to eat all your organic waste (peels, cores, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags and even your paper products).  Yes you should read that list again (and it's just a small list, there is much more they could eat if you have an outdoor garden and compost heap.)
These are just a few of my "Red Wiggler" family, who are enjoying their home on my balcony!  I have uncovered them for you to see how these guys and gals (actually worms are both male and female scientifically known as hermaphrodites) work.  Their home usually looks more like this picture below:

Red Wigglers and earthworms in general do not like the light!  They work best in a dark, damp environment.  So, I make sure that they are happy by covering the soil surface with damp cardboard or my weekly newsprint flyers!  You can also see coffee filters with the coffee grounds still in them on the surface of the soil.  My worms, like myself,  seem to love coffee.......

Now the only absolute must that you have to maintain is a certain level of moisture in your containers.  You cannot let them dry out, or your earthworms will dehydrate and die as well.  So far in my experimentation this year, that has not been a problem.  I water regularly and sometimes the rain helps too.  My worms seem to be happy and multiplying without any further help from me.  

What do these worms do that makes the garden grow so well?

Earthworms and red wigglers in particular are prolific at eating  organic waste.  When they eat this waste, the worms then expel the waste(worm poop) and if your garden is in a container, this waste becomes part of the soil composition. Vermicomposting is the "proper name" for working with worms in the garden.  For you homesteaders who are looking for a cottage industry growing  worms and selling Red Wigglers for both fishermen and farmers is a growing industry (no pun intended).  Once you have your vermiculture set up, there is nothing more for you to do!  

The worms will provide you with deep rich soil, full of nutrients and depending on how you set yourself up, you may even have worm compost tea to feed your plants.  This worm tea (my version) is the best fertilizer you could ever want.  It's rich in nutrients, has no odor and your plants will thrive. This worm compost tea won't burn the roots of your plants either.  I have a set up on my balcony that allows me to enjoy collecting this worm tea and if you are interested you can do this too. 

Behind the picture of my worm tea, you can see my garden tower.  It has 50 different pockets to plant and a nice tower in the center to add organic waste without disturbing your plants.  There is a drawer at the bottom which collects all the extra water and worm tea (again my version).  The castings remain in the tower for your plants to thrive on.  You can watch a video here and see the difference between this and other vertical gardening options: Garden Tower 2 Project

There will be no need for Chemical fertilizers!  Chemical fertilizers, if they are incorrectly mixed  can sometimes do more harm than good.  Save yourself the time and trouble by using an Earth Friendly Natural Way to fertilize your plants. I know that this has made the difference between my first attempts at gardening 18 stories up and this year's attempt!  We've had a great year so far and I'm sure it will continue to prosper and grow well into the fall.

If you want to know more about Vermiculture or Worm Farming there are several really good websites and YouTube Videos that you can watch. 
Basic Vermicomposting or 
How to Compost are just two of the really good sites to learn from. 

If you want to get started you will need a good bin.  I use these ones for both growing my garden and I will use these for my worm farm too! 

My own experiment will continue in the fall as I try to bring my worms indoors so they won't freeze over the winter months.  I will let you know how it goes come spring of 2021.
 
Stay tuned there is more good sound ecological information coming up!



***All of the pictures in this Post are from my balcony garden, taken August 4, 2020.  




 




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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two


Main image: More Ways to Prep for Success on a Keto Diet

This is the third in a series of posts in which I will be reviewing my experience and insights after following a very low-carb lifestyle for more than a year.

Quick update: Since my previous post on the importance of preparation in setting yourself up for success on a ketogenic diet was published 2.5 weeks ago, I was surprised to discover that I have lost another pound. So, my total weight loss since May 25, 2019 is now 58 pounds.

Choosing a Start Date

I was highly motivated to begin my new keto lifestyle, thanks to a medical scare that forced me to face the serious health risks of being both postmenopausal and obese, and of continuing to consume added sugar and highly processed foods. I understood the urgency of getting down to a healthy weight, and I was anxious to start lowering my risk for developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes or another serious illness as soon as possible. It was hard to resist the urge to just get started on keto as best I could, and figure things out as I went along.

At the same time, I knew how difficult it was going to be to overcome my food addictions, particularly to sugar and baked goods; cut out all grains, rice, and beans; and severely restrict my consumption of roasted carrots, parsnips, beets, white or sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables, which had been a staple of our weekly menus for years.

So, as impatient as I was to "get the show on the road," I understood the importance of preparing myself mentally, emotionally, and environmentally before committing myself fully to the radical changes that would be required—especially at the beginning, when my starch and sugar cravings would still be at their strongest.

Last but not least, I understood my need for a clear framework and road map to help me stay on track and make consistent progress toward any type of goal.

So, ultimately, I made the wise decision to choose a start date a few weeks out, so I could have the time to prepare myself properly and give myself the best chance of success.

When choosing the date for starting your own keto diet, I encourage you to consider your own fears and challenges, decide how best to prepare yourself to overcome them, and pick a start date that leaves you enough time to complete the preparations that will help set you up for success.

Deciding Whom to Tell, and When

The ketogenic approach to eating is widely misunderstood, remains controversial, and tends to provoke strong responses, whether positive or negative, whenever the topic arises. I knew that switching to this radically different approach to eating was going to be hard enough without the added stress of dealing with unsolicited, well-meaning, but unwanted opinions, advice, or criticism about my decision to follow a ketogenic diet. I chose to keep that decision private for as long as possible. 

When I started, no one except my husband (and my surgeon) would know. Once I became fat-adapted and overcame my cravings for high-carb foods, I would tell a handful of other people if, and when, they needed to know, e.g., telling my brother shortly before we flew across the country to stay with him for a week-long visit. Down the road, when I was noticeably slimmer and people began to ask about how I achieved my weight loss, I would need to decide what, and how much, I wanted to share about my new approach to eating. But I would have at least a month or two to make that decision.

Unless you live alone, the other people who live with you—your spouse, partner, children, roommates, etc.—will likely be affected by your decision to radically limit your food choices and, obviously, will need to be told. 

If you tend to be very social, you may prefer to tell your friends, family members, and co-workers up front about starting keto diet and ask them to cheer you on and help you through the rough patches. The important thing is to take a little time to think about and decide on a communication approach that will suit your individual needs and preferences.

photo of "ASK" sign hanging from brick building
Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Soliciting Support From Family and Friends

To achieve my health and weight loss goals, I knew I would need help from my nearest and dearest. What I couldn't be sure of was how my family, friends, and colleagues would react to my decision to adopt a moderately strict ketogenic lifestyle, especially given how anti-keto I used to be before I became better educated about this way of eating.

Fortunately, as I gradually shared my news with more people, as situations arose when they would need to know, they were surprisingly supportive, especially after I explained the medical necessity for me to lose my excess weight safely but also expeditiously.

Here's the approach that worked for me.

Think about the people whose support, or lack of it, could potentially bolster, or threaten, your commitment and progress the most, especially during the first few months, when you will be battling your cravings for sugar, baked goods, chips, candy, pizza, etc. before your taste buds adjust to enjoying and, perhaps, even preferring healthy, keto-friendly foods.

In my case, my husband would be my entire support system (other than online groups) during most of that crucial initial transition period. But since we also would be spending vacation weeks with my brother and, later, my husband’s parents, as well as joining my sister and brother-in-law for dinner from time to time, and going out to lunch or dinner with friends, when the time came, I would also need to enlist their support—or, at least, understanding—about my dietary restrictions. 

Think about what types of support you might want to request from each of the people in your inner circle, and be as specific as you can about the actions they could agree to that would help you the most. For example, if you have a friend with whom you go out often for brunch, and your favorite restaurant serves a brunch buffet featuring pancakes, waffles, French toast, bagels, and other tempting, off-limits foods you would find hard to resist, you might choose to ask whether they would be willing to change up your routine and meet for lunch instead, and suggest trying a different restaurant (one whose menu you’ve already vetted first so you know it includes a variety of keto-friendly options). 

If you need to tell someone that you’re following a ketogenic approach to eating and anticipate a negative response, you could try to explain up front that you have done extensive due diligence, educated yourself about the potential risks as well as benefits of this way of eating, and spoken with your doctor before choosing this path, and that it would mean a lot to you if they would accept your decision without challenge or criticism and, if they can, support your efforts to lose weight and improve your health.

Considering Ways to Get My Needs Met and Their Impact On Other People

Deciding to adopt a keto approach to eating also means accepting responsibility for making sure you have access to the types of foods you need to keep your commitment to yourself. At the same time, to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." So, throughout this journey, I’ve tried to think about ways to minimize the impact of my limited food choices on other people who had no say in my decision. 

As an example, six months after I started keto, by which time I had lost 50 pounds and my entire family knew about my ketogenic diet, my sister and brother-in-law invited us to their house for Christmas dinner. My sister asked me to help her understand my dietary restrictions so she could tailor the menu accordingly. After thanking her for her thoughtfulness, I asked what she would make if my diet weren’t a consideration. I was able to suggest fairly minor changes that would make most of those dishes keto-friendly, such as serving the salad dressing on the side, making a marinade for the pork that didn't contain any fruit juice, ketchup, barbecue sauce, sugar, honey, or molasses, and replacing one of the two high-carb side dishes with grilled, roasted, or sautéed asparagus or broccoli with butter and herbs. I told her I would bring my own keto-friendly salad dressing and dessert. When she expressed her reluctance to serve foods she knew I loved but would no longer eat, I explained that it was important to me that my decision to severely restrict my own food choices had the least possible impact on what everyone else was eating, and that it would give me pleasure to see my nearest and dearest savoring one of her decadent desserts while I enjoyed my keto-friendly sweet treat. The dinner was delicious, and a wonderful and festive time was had by all. A win-win!

Unless you live alone, minimizing the day-to-day impact of your dietary restrictions on the people you live under the same roof with can be significantly harder. Our household consists of just my husband and me, and when I was considering the keto diet as an option, I discussed the idea with him at length, and he said he would be willing to help me in any way he could in my efforts to get down to a healthy weight. I told him about the challenges and potential obstacles that concerned me the most, and we worked together to come up with solutions that would work for both of us. 

For example, I worried that having baked goods, chips, and other addictive foods in the house would be an unnecessary temptation, and we agreed that he would try to keep and eat those foods mostly at his office or outside the house without me. We also designated the lowest drawer of our refrigerator and the cabinets above the fridge as food storage “for John’s eyes only,” and he agreed to consume those foods out of my sight for as long as necessary, until I could see them—and especially, watch someone else eating them—without craving them. 

I’m blessed to have a very loving and supportive spouse, who was as invested in my success as I was. Many other people may have additional challenges, such as an unsupportive partner or having the primary responsibility for feeding the entire household, especially if it includes picky eaters, young children, or other people with different dietary restrictions. So, if you’re considering starting a ketogenic diet, it’s important to give some thought to what is and isn’t likely to be doable within the limitations of your individual situation, and to develop an actionable plan for how to get your own food needs met. 

It’s worth explaining to your family members how important it is to you to lose weight, give up sugar, lower your risk for developing a serious disease, or whatever other goals you have for starting keto, and ask the rest of the family participate in brainstorming ideas with you on what they can, and are willing, to do to help you succeed, including agreeing to changes in how their own food needs have been met until now. You might be able to negotiate making meal preparation a shared responsibility, for example. 

Be prepared for the possibility, or even the likelihood, that some or all of the other members of your household may be unwilling to inconvenience themselves or adapt to changes in the status quo to support your weight loss efforts. By the same token, they also might surprise you with willingness to help you achieve a goal that matters to you so much. your goals. 

Either way, accepting full responsibility for your own food choices will be the most important determinant of your long-term success. 


Exploring Online Keto and Low Carb Diet Support Communities

Since I had decided not to tell anyone about my lifestyle change who didn’t need to know, at least at the beginning, I checked out various keto support groups on Facebook. During the next few months, I joined eight or 10 of them, most for only a short time, and eventually winnowed those down to a handful that I still participate in roughly a year later, even after having met and surpassed both my original and "stretch" goals for losing weight. 

Searching for "keto group" on Facebook will return a dizzying number of choices. I recommend looking at the ones that have been around for a while and have successfully grown their membership, which is one indication that a lot of people have found the community to be valuable.
 
Screenshot of Facebook search results for "keto groups"

If you’re active on Facebook and are considering joining one of the many keto groups and communities, I suggest you start by thinking about which types of support would be most helpful to you. Are you most interested in: 
  • Learning more about this way of eating to help you decide whether to try it? 
  • Asking for and offering encouragement and help and celebrating success milestones?
  • Being with other people who are just starting out, or with a mix of newbies and people who have been following a ketogenic diet for a while? 
  • Getting meal planning or recipe ideas? 
Being clear about what you hope to get by participating in one or more Facebook groups will make it easier to find ones that might meet your needs. Reading the rules or membership guidelines as well as the "About blurb for a group you’re considering can provide helpful insight into its culture as well as its focus. Plan to try out at least a few different groups, and don’t hesitate to leave any that turn out not to be a good fit for your needs. 

Tip: Don’t assume that, just because a Facebook group is sponsored by a brand or other business, it will be less helpful and more self-serving than peer-run groups. When I began my keto journey 14 months ago, it really bothered me that the groups I found most helpful, informative, positive, engaging, and worthwhile were created or sponsored by companies and entrepreneurs whose primary business was to produce, sell, and/or promote keto-related products or services. My perspective has changed significantly, and I am grateful that the brands who make many my favorite keto-related products have chosen to invest financial and other resources to build, grow, and nurture a vibrant community of people sharing a common interest, create a continuous flow of new, informative, fun, and helpful content and activities, and provide knowledgeable, active, and helpful admins and moderators to vet posts, ensure compliance with the community guidelines, respond to questions and comments in a timely manner, and troubleshoot customer service issues. 

For example, Maya Krampf, who wrote one of my go-to cookbooks, The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook: 100 Simple Low Carb Recipes, 10 Ingredients or Less, and whose Wholesome Yum website is chock-full of helpful information and reference resources, as well as great recipes and her Besti line of sweeteners, has a terrific and very active Facebook group.

Screenshot of Keto Low Carb Support & Recipes - Wholesome Yum Facebook Group


Cleaning Out the Refrigerator, Freezer, Pantry, and Other Food Stashes

I systematically went through our kitchen cabinets, shelves, refrigerator/freezer, and pantry, the huge chest freezer in our garage, and anywhere else where there might be a snack, pack of gum, cough drops, hard candies, a chocolate bar, crackers, dried fruit, etc., including the pockets of my coats and jackets, my handbags, my bedside chest of drawers, the bottom drawer of my desk, and even the glove compartments and center consoles of both our cars. Then, my husband and I decided what should be done with each of those items to make sure they would be out of both my sight and my reach before my keto start date. 

Looking Ahead

Here's a peek at some of the topics I plan to address in future posts in this series:
  • My favorite keto-friendly food products and ingredients
  • My favorite keto cookbooks and recipe sources
  • Delicious ways to get enough fiber on a very low carb diet
  • Meal planning and grocery shopping lists
  • Avoiding the “keto flu” 


Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two 


Read the Previous Posts In This Series About My Keto Diet Journey:




Read Reviews of the Keto Diet by Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas):

My Personal Keto Testimonial

How I Stayed Committed to the Ketogenic Way of Eating


Read More Reviews About Health and Wellness by Our Contributors



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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