The Secret of Life is enjoying the passage of time. That is the first line of a song by James
Taylor. I love his music and this song,
but I think the secret of life is really PEOPLE.
While we can all count so many examples of humans being
really awful to each other, animals, the earth, property, whatever, there are people
doing good things too.
At holiday times we hear all the news reports about good
things humans do to be kind and I think we should all make a concerted effort
to do more of that all year long.
In a previous blog I mention the two ladies who live down the street from us. There was a brother and his two older sisters and they lived all together in this little block house which is prone to flooding as it sits in a valley. I always worried about them. Gary, the baby of the family, was always putzing in his garage where he had a really nice Corvette, a cool old truck and lots of “toys.” When I would walk the pups down the dirt and gravel road to their house, we would often meet up and have a nice little chat then I would head back up the hill. I gave them eggs and lollipops every time I made a fresh batch. When I was tackling the landscaping around the house, I pulled out a ton of bulbs and they planted them all around their house.
On the visits I learned about their parents, the apple trees they used to have and we talked about the farm and what we were growing. They love fresh veggies and gave me a huge bag of green bean seeds to plant. I grew beans and passed them along.
Two years ago in the fall, Tractor Supply advertised that
they scheduled a farmer day where farmers would set up their wares in the
parking lots and I asked for a spot. TSC
management was THRILLED I wanted to participate in their event. I told the neighbors I would be there.
It turns out I was THE ONLY farmer to sign up so I chose a
good spot outside by the entrance, set up my table and tent and waited.
Nobody else that I told came, but the neighbors did. They bought a few things, I gave them some things
and it was just so nice that they CAME.
That was the last time I saw Gary. He died of a massive heart attack a couple of
weeks later at the age of 60 and on my next trip to see them I learned the
news. I was shocked. I asked why they didn’t call me. I
asked if they were alright. I asked if
they needed anything and asked what were they doing for Thanksgiving. Betty said, “We aren’t having Thanksgiving.”
I said, you must come and spend the holiday with us.
From then on in earnest I check on the girls. Neither one ever learned to drive nor marry. I’m
not even sure if they worked outside the home.
They were now alone. Gary was their EVERYTHING.
I learned they do have a nephew nearby but I have never seen anyone over there so I make it a point to check in and bring them soups and stews and whatnot when I cook and make sure they are ok. They sold all of Gary’s vehicles and arranged for a service to take them shopping and to doctor appointments.
The girls spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter holidays with us. They came for my dad’s birthday dinner this year too. Dad is in charge of bringing “his girlfriends” to the house and depositing them back home safely. I know he gets a kick out of it. I was really glad they came to the Fall Festival and it is a pure delight for me to see them smiling and having fun.
At Thanksgiving we were talking about the oil lamps that I collect
and one of the gals said they have a bunch of them.
A few days later I stopped in with eggs and they presented
me with 15 antique oil lamps and I swear none of them have ever been lit.
I have them filled with red and clear lamp oil and have been
enjoying the warm glow and that delightful smell lamp oil brings to the air
when it burns. They are so beautiful. I just LOVE them. I can’t
WAIT for Christmas day to show the girls.
They have little in property but
had something they weren’t using that I would appreciate and they gave. They GAVE.
This makes me weepy every time I think about it.
I asked my friends and family for examples of kindness they have experienced or given and I was overjoyed to read some amazing tales from a total stranger being present when my cousin lost her first husband and father of her children to a car accident and was crying in a parking lot. A man seeing her distress took her hand and said we both needed each other today. She still remembers that meaningful act of kindness 7 years later. Others spoke of the kindnesses their family has shown them and the support they get and some mentioned the little things I like to do and give that they have received from me. It is heartwarming.
Recently, I was at CVS and there was an older gentleman with a cane and he had these hearing aids he was trying to get to work. He was asking the clerk for help but she was busy. I took them and yelled in his ear that my husband uses hearing aids and I would try to help.
I found the batteries that would fit and assembled them. He asked me to put them in his ear. He told me his friend gave them to him. I was skeptical that they would work as hearing aids are personal and built to fit YOUR ear and your particular hearing needs, but I put them in his ears as best I could. Can you hear me better? He looked at me and smiled and said it was ok and went on his way. The clerk thanked me for helping and it felt good to help.
People, we all need each other. There are animals that need adopted and my
husband and I talk about how we could never volunteer at a shelter as we would
bring them all home, but we can do more and we SHOULD. We can brighten someone’s life, help people
load groceries into their car, be patient, consider what may be happening to
people and give folks a break once in a while.
We can pay a kindness forward and connect with people, give them some
time, LISTEN to them. Sometimes it just
takes a minute, a gesture, a touch on the shoulder to make a difference. It is a finite time we have on this earth. Let’s make the best of it.
I am teaching my Little Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters
to pick up a piece of trash when you see it, place things back on the shelf
that have dropped, do something to HELP others and the planet! I think by showing up and being a positive person
we can inspire ourselves and others. Let’s
Since the beginning of the world and life on our planet, we eat to live. We eat because we are bored, we eat for comfort, we eat as members of our communities at fairs and festivals. Many times throughout the year for all sorts of occasions, we gather with family and friends and EAT. We eat special foods or fast for religious reasons. Food is a huge part of our lives. Do you attend meetings for work or groups that you belong to? Inevitably, food will be available.
We are in the throes of holiday merriment now and
overindulgence is the rule, not the exception.
As I write this blog, I am also working on the list of ingredients I
need to purchase and prepare for a event I am catering next week. Food is on my mind pretty much all the
So, what kinds of food should we be ingesting? Do you find the bombardment of commercials,
news reports, documentaries, books, the news, magazine articles, food and
travel networks and cooking shows espousing their ideas contradictory and
confusing? I sure do.
Food is very important to me. I plan my gardens and crops carefully, tenderly tend to each plant hoping it reaches a delicious and nutritious end, and feel sad when things go wrong. After the plants are done producing, I save seeds to help propagate the next crop. I am always seeking new plants to grow and I rely on our bees to pollinate pretty much everything. As a cook I care deeply about what I prepare for myself, loved ones and clients alike and am always interested in what the newest science might be saying about the type of diet to which we humans should be subscribing.
I have read many books that discuss what we eat and why we
should avoid certain foods. For me it
started with Wheat Belly by William Davis MD and that book pretty
much convinced me that the wheat we consume now is not the same wheat with
which our grandmothers baked bread. The
wheat that most of our commercially produced food is made from has been
genetically changed. While in some cases,
there is a good argument for GMO foods, in this case the truth seems to be that
wheat as we know it, is a fast producing, disease resistant dwarf wheat which
has led to all these celiac issues.
So, after reading that, I started looking for sources of ancient grains and for the most part avoided traditional wheat products. I had stopped eating cereal years before.
Then my friend Amy gave me a book called Omnivore’s
Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan and I was
entranced. Read that book too. Both
books really delve into what we eat, how foods are produced and explores ideas
of what we should consider is food.
We all know that if you want to be a healthy person, you
should eat less (or no) processed foods, we know it. Yet, 75% of the grocery stores are filled
with packaged crap and new “foods” are being invented every day to keep up with
the demand we have for JUNK. Don’t get
me wrong. I have eaten A LOT of that
crap in my life. I still walk by Kraft Macaroni and cheese or Poptarts
(Cherry or brown sugar and cinnamon were my favs) and remember EXACTLY how they
taste. I enjoyed the heck out of those
things but now I care more about what that stuff does to my body that I just
can’t eat them anymore and I will encourage you to avoid such items as well.
About 18 months ago we watched a show on Netflix called The
Magic Pill. At the end of that
program we decided to make some big changes to what we ate. The gist of that show boils down to a few
simple things. Mainly, that SUGAR IS
EVIL. If we took only one thing from
that show, it was that cancer cells need sugar to reproduce. You eliminate sugar from your diet, you WILL
be healthier. Of course all the sugar
consumption in our country has resulted in an epidemic of public health problems,
diabetes being the main one.
Basically, they were touting the Ketogenic diet which recommends
70-80% of your daily calories come from animal or plant FAT, eating an adequate
portion of protein (fist size) and the rest of your foods should be plant
material. They were of the opinion that
we should concentrate on low carb veggies and limit fruits and with this diet,
we could heal our bodies and reduce symptoms of autism, cancer and more. It was REALLY convincing. Basically, you are training your body to burn
FAT for energy instead of the mass quantities of sugar Americans consume which creates
insulin resistance. Stop consuming the carbs
(sugar) and you will train your body to burn Fat for Fuel, a book
by Dr. Mercola. I read that book and his
cookbook and several others on the keto diet.
It is truly fascinating.
So, on our farm we harvest honey from our bees and tap maple
trees. That is ALL SUGAR. They are natural forms of sugar but sucrose
none the less.
I am a major purchaser of sugar. You may not know this but I am the Sugar
Fairy and I make all kinds of lollipops and confections. I don’t consume hardly any personally, but I
am a pusher for sure. I wondered if I
could still make all these sugary treats for others when I wholeheartedly believed
we shouldn’t be eating sugar.
By eliminating most things that contained or broke down in the
body into sugar, I learned a new way of cooking. I experimented with cheeses and almond flour and
learned to make a really convincing pizza crust. We did try the cauliflower recipes too but NO
ONE was fooled into thinking that was PIZZA.
My husband’s acid reflux disappeared with keto and as men will do, he
dropped 30 pounds like INSTANTLY. I
stopped drinking wine which is sadly all sugar.
I learned about Stevia, erythritol and xylitol and could use those to
sweeten items so we never felt we were missing out on treats. I can even make a grain-free cookie that will
knock your socks off.
As with anything, 21 days of doing something makes it a
habit so now when we are being strict, I just avoid most carbs and never feel
deprived. If eating out, there are tons
of low carb and keto-friendly options and if I am given bread, I take it home
for the dogs or chickens. My weight is
really good and I feel healthy. We eat a
lot of vegetables and in my opinion, we have a healthy diet. I control the food in the house and we eat
REAL food. I am proud of this.
Recently though, several of our friends from different camps
started talking about another Netflix show called Gamechangers. I knew it was about a vegan diet and
purposefully didn’t want to even see it as I could see no reason to not consume
meat, dairy and eggs. I mean, pretty much
the whole reason I wanted a farm is because I wanted chickens. I LOVE my girls and their eggs which are
Last fall we bought a half a grass fed cow from farming friends
in Erie and have LOVED the meat. We are almost out of that. The freezer is almost empty!
Right now, it is hunting season in PA and Mitch has been
hunting deer on our property for almost a week now. I’m reading a book on raising Dairy Goats and
had dreamed of making my own cheeses. I mean, we are pretty entrenched in
animal products around here!
But we watched it.
While we aren’t elite athletes which this show featured, the
report was compelling. The scientists,
researchers and doctors all had extremely good arguments for why we should not
eat animal products. Besides the
environmental issues which are real, it seems like our bodies would be
healthier if we gave up meat and dairy. Maybe
we should consider this.
We talked about how it COULD work. We are taking a trip to Europe for the new
year and I fully intend to imbibe in Portuguese foods which will include wine,
cheese, seafood and more, but we are
thinking when we get back that we will start with dairy. Slowly we can eliminate the cream, cheese,
cheese and did I say CHEESE? This is
going to be a hard one for me. With
keto, my snacks are nut butters and cheese with almond crackers. I currently have at least 7 kinds of cheese
in my fridge.
On the plus side, maybe we can have oatmeal again but use almond
milk in it. Hmmmm…. Maybe or would we just keep with the no
grains and eliminate dairy too? That
sounds so restrictive and would that be sustainable?
I personally don’t HAVE to eat meat. While I enjoy a few gyros a year, I could
stop eating meat. I did it once for
almost a whole year and it was a Primanti’s sandwich that brought me back. Corned beef egg and cheese….. fries on the side please!
Anyway, so Mitch has agreed we will start with the dairy and
finish off the beef in the freezer and then stop the meat. I think this will be
hard for him.
I am ordering The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100. I saw this featured all week on the Today Show. This National Geographic researcher went to different parts of the world where people have excellent health and longevity and learned what they ate. I am pretty sure it is mostly a plant based set of recipes so I will approach with a good attitude and report my findings.
I believe the plant based eating thing will indeed become A
THING and you will be seeing this everywhere.
If any of you try it, please drop me a line and tell me your experiences.
I am attending the school of life which is continuous learning. I’m up for any new knowledge on all things