Tag Archives: gardening

A Tale of Kale, Tribute to My Sister

Kolorful KaleBy Gloria Loring

It’s everywhere! I have people sending me recipes for it, serving it to me in salads, soups, and stews. Bags of kale chips beckon to me at the Whole Foods checkout counter. But my favorite connection to kale is through my brother-in-law.

For those of you who don’t know one bunch of greens from another, kale is a crinkly edged cousin of swiss chard, yet meatier. As a friend told me, “If kale were a woman, she’d be a real broad.” She’s tough, I can tell you that.

Six days after my sister’s journey with cancer ended, three hundred of us celebrated her in songs, tears, and smiles. To my surprise, my brother-in-law Eduardo, his face taut with suppressed emotion, walked to the podium to speak of the love of his life. His son Ian stood beside him. Eduardo spoke of Peggy’s determination to do whatever was required in her efforts toward healing. Efforts that included eating kale (as part of a vegan diet). Eduardo choose kale as the metaphor for how Peggy would take what looked prickly, ragged, unfamiliar, and lovingly ingest it. He spoke of watching her pray over her plain steamed kale and then eat it happily, when to him it looked like a weed to be pulled from the garden. To illustrate, Ian pulled a large bunch of kale from the plastic bag at his side. Chuckles spread through the crowd. Eduardo ended by comparing himself to the kale, still a bit prickly, but softened by all he had been through and the great gift of twenty years with my beautiful sister.

Two weeks later, Eduardo was at home thinking about the organic garden that Peggy had mothered so tenderly. In her last months she was too weak, the watering system broke, and everything shriveled. Perhaps, he thought, “I should replant it as a tribute to her.” He began walking to the back of the property to assess all there was to do. As he approached, he saw a desert wasteland of raised boxes, except for one tall bushy plant that had sprouted, without water, without care.

Peggy's KaleYes, it was head of kale, growing, flourishing, reaching up toward the light, just as my sister’s spirit did, all through her life, through the hospital stays, the surgery, the radiation, through the difficult nights and quiet final days. Bringing the best of herself, in spite of anything, everything. If that bunch of kale were a woman, she’d be my sister.

* * *

The former “Liz Chandler” on Days of Our Lives, Gloria Loring is a singer, songwriter, actress and author. Her new memoir, titled with a quote by Albert Einstein, is Coincidence Is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous.

www.glorialoring.com, www.facebook.com/GloriaLoring, @GloriaLoring

5 Mother’s Day Life Lessons – Wisdom From A Wise Mom

The Beauty of Old AgeBy Jay Forte

As I write this, it is early – just after 6 am. I am in New England, in Putnam CT, at my Mom’s house. Today, she turns 80. And as in all good Italian families, my siblings are all flying in from around the country to celebrate – to celebrate her birthday, our family, her impact and her wisdom as a remarkable mother.

We tried to keep the party a surprise, but when you are the mother of six, you seem to have this natural ability to always know what is going on. Somehow, she knew things about her party that some of my siblings didn’t even know. This sets the stage to share some great wisdom from someone – from a powerful, loving and capable mother – who has lived a long time, has learned much and never misses an opportunity to share what she knows. Mom is a wonderful cook – so you’ll see that so much of her wisdom involves food. We’re Italian…what can I say?

1. You are as old as you think you are.

Though Mom turns 80 today, there is nothing about her (save some really gray hair) that makes anyone think she is 80. Her cooking, gardening and painting has her up and down stairs, in and out of the house, all around town and doing what she loves. When you wake up happy in life, you stay young. When you do things you love, you stay young. When you treat yourself with care and respect, you stay young. When you eat really good food (she means healthy), you stay young. Age is a number; being and feeling young is a mindset. As she says, the greater the age, the better the bragging rights.

2. Be interested in others.

Ask questions and be interested in the answers. Learn to listen. Show up and be present with the people in your life. Not only do they have information to help you learn how to “do life well,” but they are also the treasures of life. It’s the people in our lives, not the things, that make life amazing. Remember the important things in others’ lives. Stay connected, send a card, make a call, bake something, share some soup…

3. Treasure your family.

Our families are in our lives for a reason. They keep us supported and strong; we learn respect, manage our emotions, share, support, love and celebrate. Families are the training ground for living a great and happy life. We learn how to successfully be in the world from our time with our families. And in the process, we find those we can rely on and count on in every day of life.

4. Do great things with your life.

Each day we have the opportunity to bring our best to the world. Never miss it. Learn what you are good at by trying new things and experiencing life. Then show up with your A-game to all that you do. Since you do not get this day back, make each day outstanding by improving any part of the world you touch. Inspire people to step up and stand out in life.

5. Be grateful for whatever you have.

There will always be those who have more and those who have less. It isn’t what you have that matters; it is how grateful you are for what you have. This is the reason to say grace or thanks before a meal. It is the same reason why every time you look at your spouse, partner, kids or friends, you should smile and think how blessed you are that they are in your life.

Though today is Mom’s birthday and we are celebrating her, we are mostly celebrating what she (and other mothers) have taught us to be ready to live our own versions of great and happy lives. Think young. Be great. Inspire others. Be grateful. Treasure people. And mostly live around the table – because all important things can be discussed, debated, invented or solved over some kind of pasta or roasted chicken and finished with biscotti.

Celebrate, applaud and learn from the powerful women in your lives.

photo by: VinothChandar

The 7 Reasons Why I Choose Gardening for Health and Happiness

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 3.28.19 PMThroughout the ages gardeners have known the secrets to longevity and health. They were the roots of mind/body medicine. Today scientific research is unearthing the major wellness principles for both physical and mental health to be found in a garden. Being crazy busy sets us up for chronic stress which creates a tipping point for illness. However, nature reduces the inflammatory response of stress which is damaging to all our bodily processes and sets us up for unhappiness. So wake up and smell the roses!

Why I believe gardeners are healthier:

  • Gardeners get terrific exercise, a combination of cardio and strength training. They can lose track of time because they enjoy this activity as opposed to constantly checking the clock. Also, medical research claims that gardeners do not tend to get osteoporosis because they lift bags of soil and heavy pots.
  • Gardeners restore their natural rhythm outdoors and do not suffer from technology overload. In addition, the nature of gardening is to single task as opposed to multi-task, so they are alive and alert to the terrain and its inhabitants. Their focus is superb as they are present to what they are doing.
  • Meditation has been shown to forge new neural pathways in the brain to help with sadness, chronic pain and stress. For many people sitting still to meditate is an overwhelming and daunting process. However, gardeners engage in a moving meditation – a multi-sensory experience of the visual, fragrance and sound. There is serenity in a garden. When I had sciatica, I was focused on the pain and impatient with it. The only time I felt a respite was while planting flowers. Soon the intervals of being pain free increased while the pain dissipated and ultimately left. Creativity replaced destruction.
  • Gardeners experience firsthand the cycle of life. Plants die and seeds sprout. They realize that new buds and seedlings have no consciousness of the past as they grow toward the light. This is a life lesson of hope. In my neighborhood the white pines were so damaged by the salt water from hurricane Sandy that they looked dead, yet now they are starting to regenerate slowly – what a miracle! I can transfer this analogy to my personal life in terms of my own metamorphosis.
  • Gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables loaded with phytonutrients. I love eating vine ripened tomatoes and crisp cucumbers that have not been bombarded with pesticides and picked the same day. Fresh herbs season my salads. If you don’t have a piece of land dedicated to planting, then consider potted vegetables like cherry tomatoes and dwarf zucchini on a patio or terrace. And if your city dwelling place doesn’t have the space, consider working in a communal garden or neighborhood beautification project. There is also indoor gardening like window sills to consider!
  • Tap into the sunshine vitamin D which is transmitted by sunlight directly to your skin helping to release serotonin to improve your mood. Exposure to sunlight stimulates the pineal gland to produce melatonin which plays a role in quality sleep, so that you wake up refreshed to start your day – without irritability.
  • Gardening makes you feel sexy. Playing in the dirt, warmed by the sun and watching the birds and the bees. Need I say more?

 

Photo credit: Flickr

6 Creative Ways to Green Your Life in Time for Summer

First out of the trapThere’s a lot of pressure these days to be sustainable superheroes with canteen-packing totes, perfectly organic diets, and pricey hybrid cars. Most people are lucky to have access to a grocery store that even stocks local, organic foods, let alone at a price that’s amenable to the average income. These issues aside, sustainability and environmental decline are real issues that every individual should feel it within their power to combat with simple measures in their daily lives. That’s why we’ve collected 6 online resources that will hopefully inspire you to green your home, live healthier, and feel confident in the contribution you are able to make toward a sustainable world. Have fun!

  1. Start composting: An oldie but goodie, if you haven’t joined the compost bandwagon yet then now is your chance! It requires a bit of effort in the set up, but once your compost is up and running, sustaining it will be a breeze. And you don’t need a big backyard or garden to make it happen. Here is the ultimate guide to urban composting.
  2. Make an alternative energy source: You probably never even thought it within your power to create your own alternative energy. But think again! Here is a super simple, efficient DIY video on how to make your own backyard wind turbine. Even if you don’t feel like building a whole wind power generator, consider the ways you can reduce electricity – make use of natural light, look into energy-efficient shower heads, etc.
  3. Try backyard farming: Please don’t buy a $1,300 chicken coop (unless that’s what you’re into.) But do let this fascinating article on chic backyard farming inspire you to try your hand at raising chickens, growing vegetables, making preserves, or whatever you have the time and energy for. You don’t need to spend exorbitant amounts on boutique tools and tailor made gardening gear – a bit of space, time, and love are the most important ingredients.
  4. Recycle creatively: Recycling isn’t just about throwing bottles and cans in the proper bin. Explore ways to get creative with your recycling, like by making gifts and household products out of broken bike chains, old clothes, empty jars, and more.
  5. Make your own clothes: You don’t need a degree in fashion to start making your own clothes, but let this new sustainable fashion program, recently launched by Buckinghamshire New University, inspire you to work good eco-habits into your wardrobe. Thrifting is a great place to start, or have a clothing exchange party with your friends!
  6. Green your office: Whether you work from home or in a big office, there are lots of ways to reduce your footprint (and save money) at work. This can include switching entirely to Googledocs and electronic files to cut back on printing, using recycled paper, instituting communal office lunches, and more.

We hope you feel inspired and empowered to incorporate some green practices into your home and work environment! Summer is a particularly great time to get outside and plant those backyard gardens, start biking to work, take a thrift store outing, and the like. What tips do you have for green living? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below!

Spring Clean Your Friendships

Summer StartBy now we all know the true meaning of “friends with benefits:”

* Improved emotional health
* Longevity associated with good life quality
* Helps prevent dementia
* Thinner people flock together

Since we are so busy and have little time for relaxation, this spring take an inventory of your friendships. Do what great gardeners do which is prune away dead wood, rip out weeds, agitate the soil and plant new seeds.

First on your list should be pruning a toxic friendship even if you have a long history with this friend since kindergarten. This kind of relationship is stressful and inflammatory to your health. Stress is at the root of many disease processes. You absorb negativity and hurt not just emotionally and spiritually, but on the cellular level. For example, a toxic friend might dwell on what’s wrong in your life reviving the drama to create a negative loop for you. This makes them feel better about themselves at a cost to your wellness.

Facebook encourages you to amass many friends like a badge of honor, diluting the whole notion of friends into acquaintances.  However, when you have too many plants in the garden, you obscure the special flowers – more becomes less. Weed out the shallow acquaintances and don’t spread yourself thin. Cultivate the special friends into flowering relationships. These are the friends you really want to confide your issues, seek their advice and return the favor: The balance of giving and receiving.  One friend affirms the other.

Sometimes you need to shake things up in a friendship which is not working like agitating the hard compact soil to make it more receptive for new growth.  If you feel hurt by what a friend did or did not do, maybe your friend has no idea of the resentment you harbor. This is the time to communicate instead of suppress. After a disagreement or misunderstanding, many friendships grow together towards the light.

Planting new friendship seeds can be the hardest, especially if you have moved to make a fresh start. You long for an instant friend, someone you have that immediate connection, the kind of connection you recognize instantly in the eyes. However, like a seed, a close relationship takes time. Many people are impatient and rush a seed by overwatering which causes that seed to die. In human terms this means sharing too much of yourself too soon or stalking than new friend. Others let a seed dry out because they have not watered it enough. In human terms this means being aloof, waiting for the other person to initiate, not sharing enough of your life story.

As any master gardener will tell you, it takes time, experience, love and devotion. You learn from your mistakes.  Even after a long rough winter, there is always spring. What will you do with this special energy?

photo by: vonSchnauzer

HOW TO: Three Ways To Engage Your Neighborhood

 

  

When was the last time you introduced yourself and said hello to the people who live next door to you?  Refresh Everything Neighborhoods Ambassador Kyla Fullenwider discusses three simple ways you can actively engage with the people in your own neighborhood.

Intent Articles On Engaging Your Neighborhood:

Accept The Challenge: Find Unity In Community

Host A Yard Sale That Stretches For Miles

Be A Real-Life Superhero (With Or Without The Cape) 

Build A Better Block

Paint A Neighborhood Mural

Turn Your Streets Into Sidewalks

Tag Your Neighborhood With A Skein Of Yarn

Build Block Watch 2.0 In Five Steps

The Ecology Around You: Finding Nature In Your Neighborhood

This video was inspired by Jay Evans, whose intent is to improve his community’s parks and recreation in Nanty Glo, PA and surrounding areas. Jay Evans was the recipient of the $25,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project. To learn more about the Pepsi Refresh Project and to get your own ideas funded, visit: www.refresheverything.com.

The Roots of Happiness: Summer Gardening 101

I am an avid gardener who loves the smell of the earth, the sensual feel of a velvety rose and the warmth of the sun on my skin.  Cleaning out the perennial flower beds which have finished blooming, pulling out weeds and pruning the dead wood makes me feel a part of the grand scheme of things. It’s a great exercise for body and mind, envied by many gym members. When the world gets messy, this is my retreat. Lately when I meet people, I’m pretty bubbly. “Why are you so happy? Are you taking something?”  I smile and say in a matter-of-fact tone, “I’m looking at shoots and not roots! How can I not be happy? How can you not be happy when you’re above ground?”http://www.intent.com/sites/intent.com/files/summergardening.jpg

Medical studies support my euphoria. The American Medical Association claims that just five minutes outdoors with nature can transform a negative mindset and reduce the stress response. Now if you could spend 30 minutes to an hour working in your garden…

A garden can look daunting when you first start. The temptation is to fill up every space especially when plants are little. Resist the need for instant gratification and think Zen. With a little patience there will soon be a great flourish. If you have overcrowded those variegated leaves, flowers and shrubs, you will need to transplant and thin them out – extra work for you!  

Even though it is mid-summer here in the Northeast, I am planting new flowers because my garden is a work in progress: plants bloom and fade and then the next surprise comes on the scene. Also, this is a good time to take stock of what is working and not working, especially since my garden is experiencing a drought; I can take note of these changes for next year.  To that end I am like the neighborhood busybody checking out other people’s gardens to get inspired, imitate or even do one better.

Not enough space for a garden? Think flower pots and containers. My best vine tomatoes are planted in  pots and my flower arrangements are grown in pots of various sizes, shapes and colors with surprising juxtapositions. I have taken an area which houses tools and equipment and transformed it into a courtyard with various pots containing passion flower, fuschia, New Guinea Impatients and red dracena.

While a mother adores all her children, here is a list of some of my favorite flowers which perform well whether in the earth or in a pot and do not need to be dead-headed (pinching off their faded blooms).

* Red Dragon Begonia
* Euphorba
* Oxalis
* Shrimp Plant
* Mandevilla
* Hibiscus
* Lantana

And like a mother, it is not good to overwater, over-fertilize and hover. The best blooms occur when you let nature do her thing.

  PHOTO (cc): Flickr / riot

5 Ways to Create Space and Release

The aura or energy of a human being extends 4 feet around him. This means that spending time with negative people in your life can adversely affect your positive outlook. This doesn’t mean we should judge others or put on a space suit before we leave the house.  But it does mean that we have the responsibility to ourselves to decide what or who’s in our best interest.  Sometimes it just means giving those in our lives some space to let their negative emotions subside on their own. In turn, we may also need that space to allow ourselves to receive much needed peace in our own lives.

Today, think about where you’re being negatively effected, and where you’re negatively effecting others.

Here are 5 ways to create some space and at the same time release any negative energy we may be holding onto:

1)  Rebounding: jumping on a trampoline (mini or full size) awakens each cell in our bodies as we feel a sense of weightlessness, even if for a nano-second each time. Release your inner child and jump!

2) Reading a meaningful book: Books that open our minds to the power of ourselves and the universe resonate within us; thereby, releasing our joy. I highly recommend The Game of Life and How To Play It, by Florence Scovel Schinn (written in 1925) and The Souls of Animals by Gary Kowalski

3) Walk your dog, or someone else’s:  Our pets live for us.  They don’t work or drive or hang out at the local bar (well maybe some do:).  They look to us for their activity of the day.  Mention a walk and there’s no turning back.  Their natural curiosity for life is something to be admired.  Going for a walk allows for a deeper connection with your pet as well as nature, two surefire ways to put a smile on your face.

4) Gardening: even if you’ve got a 2ft by 2ft dirt space in your front yard, plant something! Not only will you reap the fruits of your labor (whether it’s a juicy tomato or a beautiful smelling flower), you won’t even realize you’re releasing energy until you’re finished.  It’s that much fun!

5) Writing: Keeping a journal of your intentions for the day allows you to let go and let God do the work.  Keep in mind that once you formally and firmly establish your intentions in writing, the Spirit of the Universe will work with you and through you to manifest them in Divine Order—through specific actions you are to take and through positioning to assure you that you are in the right place at the right time to receive and express your good.

Negativity be gone!

 

 

8 Hard To Kill Houseplants

 Ah, yes, Spring. Makes me want to go outside and frolic in some flowers and enjoy some sunshine. You know, all the things our daydreams are made of! But more so than not, I am stuck inside my apartment staring at a computer screen or cleaning up after my kid (‘kid’, ‘dog’- same thing in this house!).

I am probably the least domestic person anyone I know knows. Famous for only eating frozen veggie corn dogs or blocks of cheese when left to my own devices, it’s also not uncommon to hear about me shrinking my boyfriend’s shirts or killing off my roommate’s hydrangeas. But this Spring, I decided it was high time I get some foliage to brighten up my space! So, what does the girl that can barely remember to turn in her Netflix plant in her house?

Here are some low maintenance and highly rewarding houseplants to consider:

Mother-In-Law Plant – "The plant that never leaves!" is known for its incredible life spans and its sharp, pointed tongue like leaves. The Mother-In-Law plant is tolerant of very low light environments and actually will rot if you love it too much- only one to two waterings a week!

Christmas Cactus – This plant just loves to give, apparently more the little you give! The Christmas Cactus does well in just about any light environment although bright, indirect sunlight will give you the brightest flower blooms. Also like the Mother-In-Law, too much watering is the one way to kill this guy. You should only water it when the top third of the soil is dry.

Pothos – I like these guys because they’re great for hanging! Pathos need low to medium light and only need to be watered once a week. The only set back to this plant is having to groom them. Just give them a trim when you’re cleaning up your bangs and you’ll be fine.

Dragon Tree – For those of us Black Thumbs with a predilection to Palm Springs motif, the Dragon Tree resembles a Palm Tree but can be trained to grow into braids or knots. They do well in bright sun and best if they actually dry out completely between waterings. And if you really are a Black Thumb and even let this resilient plant wilt, just some water will make it perk right back up again.

Bromeliads – The Bromeliad really gives you a chance to play hard to get with your household plants. You can ignore it for days on end and it will still give you glorious blooms that last up to three months. The Bromeliad is a tropical plant;, it does best in warm rooms with plenty of indirect sunlight and is one of the most tolerant of infrequent waterings. 

ZZ Plant – The Zamioculcas zamiifolia is about as complicated as the plant gets. This plant likes low light (it actually does better in shade) and needs little water because it stores water for months in its tuber leaves and thick roots. 

African Violet – This is one of the more high maintenance plants listed which I blame on its lovely flowers. These pretty purple bushels of blooms require bright indirect light as well as more moderating waterings- soil needs to be kept moist while the roots should be dried between waterings. Another quirk of the African Violet: getting water on the leaves will cause white spots.

Peace Lily – The Peace Lily, like the African Violet, requires more watering than the first half of the list. The soil must be kept moist but the roots should be dry before watering. It does well in low lights and does not do well with curious cats or children who eat things they shouldn’t (Peace Lillies are poisonous if ingested!). 

Orchids – I’m just going off my own houseplant know-how I have with this one, which is very limited (to Orchids). Every Orchid I’ve ever had, I’ve placed in medium in direct light without realizing I’m putting it in medium in direct light, water it every couple days (or when I’m writing an article on house plants) and it just keeps blooming! And if I can make a houseplant last and thrive, so can you. Promise. 

All of these plants all have the option to be soil planted so ask your local garden guy or Google which soil will fit your plant’s best needs. 

 

Photo: Flickr // NCReedPlayer

Spring Can Help You Change Your Habits

Spring time reminds us that just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. New growth is percolating underground at the root level. Ever wonder why we feel better, more alive with hope and possibility in the spring? Creativity breaks out of the ground and envelopes us, reminding us to start growing into unique individuals and to see the world with fresh eyes. Spring inspires us to go out on a limb and become something daringly different: “What’s gotten into you?”

For example, when you look at a rose on a stem, do you see the thorns? However, look again and you can see that the thorns have a rose on top of them. We have so many habits and knee-jerk reactions that have become like a second nature to us causing us not to notice a different angle or come at an idea from its opposite direction. Life is filled with mandatory changes, but our growth is optional. I don’t know about you, but I live one life consciously, and many more lives in my imagination. This is why I love spring because it reminds me to breathe the fresh air and appreciate what I can do well. And if I am feeling negative about my skill set because let’s say my sister or mother can do it better and get paid more for it, now is the time I can clear the air of my negative feelings to own what I can do as a unique individual.

Even if you believe that you have lost your identity because you have lost your job, this is the time to see how you differ from others. Distinction will lead to re-appreciation and vigorous new activity. Prune the dead wood in your life, clean out the clutter of your habitat in a frenzy of  spring cleaning and watch positive changes begin to take root in all other aspects  – like getting motivated to lose that winter weight and finally doing it.

Here is how to find what lies beneath your surface:                                                                                                                                                                                                        1.What makes me happy?
 2.What do I enjoy doing?
 3.What energizes me?
 4.What helps me to serve myself, so that I can better serve others?
 5.What can I clearly communicate so that others understand my needs?  

 In the spring many gardeners like me draw up a plan for landscaping including, small spaces and container plantings, to create peaceful settings. Similarly, do you have any sort of plan for finding inner peace in your life?

There is an integrative power in the garden. Both plants and our bodies adapt to their environment, transforming light into creative energy. A tree growing in the shade will alter its straight path to angle itself towards the sun, even if it has to distort its trunk. So too, will our path twist and turn in search of well being and enlightenment. Happy Spring!

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