Seasonal thoughts for end of July


Seasonal thoughts for end of July


24 July 2019, by Kate Harries


Top of Form

– Water. Leave saucers of water out at different levels for insects, birds, toads and other creatures, especially if your space and the surrounding landscape is largely hard-surfaced and lacking in water sources for wildlife. As for actually watering your plants, if they’re native and in the ground (pots are another matter) they are adapted to local conditions and under normal circumstances will survive just fine without you. So don’t waste your time and the Earth’s resources.

– Dead-head. Cut the spent flowers off and your plants will flower for a longer time. If you let them go to seed, they figure, job done and time to get into the next stage, which is storing energy to survive winter.

– Weed. In sharp contradistinction, weeds should not be allowed to go to seed as that’s just making more work in the future. Get them before they have seeds on them. Pull and lay the weeds on their side to decompose, return nutrients to the soil, and turn into mulch.

– Mulch. This moderates soil temperatures, conserves moisture and discourages weeds. The best mulch is leaf mould (well-rotted leaves from a previous year). Compost is good although if it’s your own (to be preferred) it may contain weed seeds, but that’s a small price to pay for the most balanced nutrition you can provide. Mulching is especially important for trees, so come fall, don’t rake your leaves away, they have nutrients your trees need and accumulated leaf litter provides protection against deep frost.

– Tolerate. As the saying goes, ‘If something is not eating your plants, then your garden is not part of the ecosystem.’ If insects are chewing up your ornamentals, consider that we need insects to survive the environmental crisis that’s upon us. Native plants recover from most insect attacks. If they’re competing for your veggies, try row cover. You weren’t thinking of using pesticides, were you? Larger competitors like rabbits and deer can be discouraged by physical barriers and planting strategies (plant what they won’t like). In the end, tolerance will lead to understanding and compromise.

Bottom of Form


Pressure-Cooker Risotto with Chicken and Mushrooms


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound sliced baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 carton (32 ounces) chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


  • 1. On a 6-qt. electric pressure cooker, select the saute setting; adjust for medium heat. Add 2 Tbsp. butter and oil. Add mushrooms and onion; cook and stir until tender, 6-8 minutes. Add rice; cook and stir until the rice is coated, 2-3 minutes.
  • 2. Stir in wine and lemon juice; cook and stir until liquid is absorbed. Press cancel. Pour in broth. Lock lid; close pressure-release valve. Adjust to pressure-cook on low for 4 minutes. Quick-release pressure. Stir until combined; continue stirring until creamy.
  • 3. Stir in the remaining ingredients and the remaining 2 Tbsp. butter. Select saute setting and adjust for low heat; heat through. Serve immediately.

5 Ways to Connect with Nature


5 Ways to Connect with Nature

by Sharlene Breakey for Real Simple, May 2020

  1. Stop and smell the wildflowers.  Wildflowers are everywhere.  Simply head to a state park, local field, or grove of trees and hunt for spots of color.  One spring, I was walking through a woodland area flooded with sunlight.  The whole forest glowed pink because the redbud trees were in bloom.  I couldn’t stop grinning.  Just be respectful:  If you pick a flower, it won’t be available to produce seed for the next generation.  And don’t trample the flowers on your way to a selfie.  Consider zooming in on a petal or seed pod and focusing on its unique markings.


  1. Find feathered or furry friends. It’s amazing to watch animals do what they do.  Creatures are going about their lives all over the place, which makes being outdoors endlessly fascinating.  Walk reeeeallly slowly and look for areas of motion.  That’s going to be a squirrel catching an acorn, a blue jay building a nest, or a mother deer walking with her babies.  Sit still, don’t stare straight at them, and animals will often come close.  If you find a bird that has fallen from its nest?  Assuming it’s not injured, carefully scoop it up and put it back if you can.  Contrary to what we’re taught, the mother bird will welcome it back.


  1. Climb into a kayak. Kayaking always re-centers me.  Even in hard white water, I find calm and serenity.  Worries and stress fade away, and I inhabit the moment—breathing fresh air and using my muscles.  Every time I feel a splash on my face or maneuver my kayak down a chaotic set of rapids, I sink deeper into nature, deeper into peace.  Gliding on a lake or a lazy river is also an awesome way to get outside and out of your head.


  1. Forage for food (safely). Foraging is the original multi-generational activity—ancient families gathered food together.  It’s better than hiking because you stop seeing the forest as a solid green wall and start seeing its details:  morels, ramps, edible flowers, asparagus, berries, nuts.  But don’t pick without permission—or try anything until a professional guide (there are many offering tours across the country) has told you it’s safe.  Painting or drawing your discoveries is cool too, and kids often love making spore prints with mushrooms.


  1. People-watch at the park. I enjoy seeing people in the park: there may be a garden, couples, people dressed up, runners, parents with little ones in strollers or teenagers playing soccer or basketball.  You feel a sense of connectedness when you’re surrounded by every stage of life.  That’s Community!



**Some olive oils fight heart disease and cognitive decline. But to get the greatest benefit, you need to pick the right stuff**

In normal times, Italians outlive Americans by an average of four years.  But in the Sicani Mountain region of Sicily, marked by rolling hills covered with olive trees, the locals live past 100 at a rate more than four times greater than Italy as a whole.

Sicani Mountain villagers eat a Mediterranean diet, snacking on olives and using the fruit’s oil to prepare dinner.  As a result, their arteries are as supple as those of people 10 years younger, researchers say.

“We’ve known for 50 or 60 years that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial for health, but olive oil is emerging as the most important ingredient,” says Domenico Pratico, MD., director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple University.  Among people in olive-growing regions, the incidences of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and even cognitive decline is very low.


Pratico and others have been exploring the effect of extra-virgin olive oil, or EVOO, on the brain. They discovered that compounds in the fat of this high-grade oil can flush out proteins that gum up the communication channels between brain cells.  That might delay, and even reverse, Alzheimer’s and other dementias.


Not all the EVOO sold at the supermarket is as potent as the oil that researchers use.  In lab tests more than half of imported EVOO purchased at retail failed to meet standards of quality and flavor (a marker of antioxidant content). Here are a few shopping tricks:


  1. Look for “extra virgin.”  That distinction means the oil is free of flavor defects.
  2. Pick a dark bottle. Dark glass or tins offer much better protection.  And Store in a cool, dark place.
  3. Check the bottle date. To find the freshest oil, look for the best-before date, which is usually 18 to 24 months from when the oil was bottled.  If the best-before date is just a few months away, find a fresher oil.  Once you open the bottle and expose the oil to oxygen, it begins to degrade.
  4. Buy from California. California began standardized testing in 2014.  One doctor had dozens of patients who took 1 to 2 tablespoons of EVOO daily and it had no effect.  Once he switched them to California oil, their cholesterol improved.
  5. Give it a swig. The more potent an oil’s flavor, the more powerful its protective effects.  If you feel a slight burn in the back of your throat, it means the oil has high levels of oleocanthal, the polyphenol that’s been shown to bust up Alzheimer’s plaques.


(written by Clint Carter for AARP Bulletin, April 2020)

Interesting Facts about the 4th of July

Many Americans look forward to the parades, neighborhood cookouts, and fireworks in celebration of July 4th each year to mark our nation’s independence. Why not be the bearer of interesting facts this July 4th?  Check out these fun facts about the nation’s quintessential holiday!


  1. Thomas Jefferson wrote a draft of the Declaration of Independence on the original laptop—a foldable writing desk that could fit on a person’s lap.
  2. Thomas Jefferson was the first President to celebrate the Fourth of July in the White House.
  3. Independence Day, celebrated on July 4th, only became a federal holiday in 1941.
  4. Only two of America’s founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776:  John Hancock and Charles Thompson.  Most of the men who signed this historic document did so on August 2, 1776.
  5. The Continental Congress voted on July 2, 1776 to become independent; on July 4, the representatives from the 13 American colonies ratified the Declaration of Independence.
  6. The Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence on July 6, 1776.
  7. The tradition of fireworks on July 4thactually began in 1777, on the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
  8. While Francis Scott Key wrote his “Star Spangled Banner” in 1814, it didn’t officially become the national anthem until 1931.
  9. Three presidents, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe all passed away on July 4.  Adams and Jefferson died within hours of each other in 1826, which coincidentally was America’s 50thbirthday.
  10. Calvin Coolidge, America’s 30thPresident, was born on the Fourth of July in 1872.
  11. 59 places of residence (cities, towns, counties…) in the United States contain the word liberty in their name.
  12. Nathan’s Famous hot dogs sponsors a hot dog eating contest every holiday in Coney Island; Joey Chestnut is the 8-time world hot dog eating champion, consuming 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes!
  13. Americans consume over 150 million hot dogs in celebration of July 4thaccording to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.
  14. The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans (both businesses and individuals) spend over $6 billion on July 4thcelebrations.
  15. New York City has the largest fireworks celebration of any U.S. city.
  16. Several countries modeled their own Declarations of Independence after the United States’ historic document including Greece and Poland.
  17. In 1776, nearly 2.5 million people celebrated the independence of the United States; in 2017, just over 324 million people will celebrate.
  18. America imports over $257 million worth of fireworks mostly from China each year.
  19. Firework colors depend upon the metals contained within the firework: copper burns blue, aluminum and titanium burn white, barium burns green, calcium burns orange, and sodium burns yellow.
  20. Sparklers burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit!



Remember “mother-in-law suites” or “granny flats”?  Those tiny housing units often located behind a suburban home until zoning laws shut down their construction.  Today they are experiencing a bit of a renaissance in U.S. communities—with real benefits to older Americans.

The contemporary term for a second, smaller home built on a parcel usually zoned for a detached house is accessory dwelling unit (ADU). To create affordable housing and slow sprawl, some cities and states have passed laws to remove restrictions that hindered such development.  

This is a potential boon for people who hope to remain in their homes as they age.  As people age, they sometimes want to stay in their communities instead of relocating.  


Types of ADU’s

  • Detached:  Backyard cottage
  • Attached:  Addition to existing home, with separate entrance and kitchen
  • Interior (upper level) Attic apartment
  • Interior (lower level) Basement apartment
  • Above garage:  Addition that serves as an apartment over the garage
  • Garage conversion:  An attached or detached garage made into an apartment


For years I’ve been going on long morning walks with my super smart and stylish friend Susan.  But lately whenever we climb a hill, her breath becomes labored and we need to slow down; sometimes we stop in our tracks until she regains her energy.  “This is what I get for smoking two packs a day,” she laments.  

Susan quit cigarettes more than 30 years ago.  But because of her former habit, at 67 she is now dealing with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an escalating lung illness that over time makes it harder and harder to breathe.


COPD is a blanket term for respiratory diseases characterized by an inability to breathe out fully.  COPD takes two main forms:

—Emphysema, a condition in which the air sacs of your lungs are damaged and eventually destroyed, causing breathlessness.

—Chronic bronchitis, in which your bronchia tubes become inflamed and produce lots of mucus, leading to coughing and difficulty breathing.


Symptoms often don’t appear until the disease progresses, but they can include:

—Lack of energy and/or shortness of breath, especially during physical exercise

—Wheezing, chronic cough and chest tightness

—Frequent respiratory infections

—Blue lips or fingernails

—Coughing up a lot of mucus from the lungs, especially upon waking

—Swelling in your feet, ankles or legs



In addition to not smoking, avoiding air pollutants and getting more exercise, the American Lung Assoc urges you to:

Get vaccinated every year against the flu and talk to your health provider to find out if the pneumonia vaccine is right for you.

Brush your teeth at least twice daily and see your dentist every six months.  Good oral hygiene can protect you from the germs in your mouth that can lead to infections.

Choose watercress, not lettuce.  Watercress releases a compound called phenethyl isothiocyanate, which helps block the progression of lung cancer and helps to ease respiratory inflammation.

Sleep slightly upright or on your left side.  These positions can help prevent acid reflux, which can exacerbate COPD symptoms.

Go Cold turkey on hot dogs.  Processed meats such as cold cuts, bacon and hot dogs can worsen COPD symptoms and increase risk of COPD-related hospital readmissions.

Take Vitamin D.  A 2018 study suggests vitamin D may increase our lungs’ muscle strength while lowering inflammatory response to respiratory pathogens.


My Favorite Things!

Well, we’ve all been through so much lately I thought I would share some of my favorite things with you (and it’s not “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens”…lol)…. I do hope you will write back and share some of your favorites with me!


Favorite Childhood Memory:  Riding bikes with Friends

Favorite Holiday:  Christmas Eve is big in our Family!  Lots of food and friends would come over. Lots of laughing & singing… Mom would put out a feast!  

Favorite TV show of all time:   I Love Lucy & The Sopranos (that’s quite a difference, isn’t it?)

Favorite place to travel to:   Cancun

Favorite “go to” Snack:   Celery with peanut butter

Favorite Binge Worthy Show:  Marvelous Mrs Maisel  (love the music & the clothes)

My Favorite Drink:  Perfect Margarita (from Applebee’s)  YUM! 

One meal I love to cook:   Italian chicken & potatoes…double yum!

I enjoyed sharing with you…so I want to hear back from you!  



Pour eggs into a nonstick skillet.  Cook, then flatten them with a rubber spatula. Flip, add mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, salami and salsa.  If the omelet comes apart, that’s OK.  Pizza scrambled eggs are delicious, too.


Make a very thin omelet and tuck ripe bananas inside.  Cover with powered sugar; drizzle with chocolate sauce.  It tastes like a banana souffle.


My go-to omelet fillings are simple:  goat cheese, ham and herbs such as parsley, tarragon or chives.  The combination makes a fresh and flavorful dish. Don’t overcook; it shouldn’t be brown or crisp.


Whisk eggs slightly, then fold in fresh herbs and a spoonful or two of plain yogurt, to add creaminess and tang to the batter. Cook in a mix of butter and extra-virgin olive oil.


Fry kielbasa slices in a shallow pan; remove them when they’re golden.  Use the oil in the pan to dry diced red potatoes and onions.  Next, add the sausage and pour eggs on top.


(April/May 2020 of

Finding Peace Through Meditation:

Stress has become one of those ‘things’ we think we simply have to live with. Some stress can be beneficial in motivating our “mind, body and spirit” to complete certain activities or meet the challenges we face in our every day lives. However, not all stress is good stress and people are searching for answers to help them conquer it. Many have found yoga to be a very effective way to reduce stress and work towards finding inner peace.

We can look at stress on two levels. The micro level is the individual stress from daily living and our own environments. On the macro level, we have the economy, overpopulation, global warming, obesity, disease, and those things that impact us externally, within society at large. All of these factors and variables begin to impede our “mind, body and spirit” and daily functioning. If we are not careful then our negative stress levels begin to increase.

What are we to do? How do we strive towards finding inner peace? And what exactly is having inner peace?

Most would define inner peace as a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep our “mind, body and spirit” strong in the face of discord or stress. Generally, stress would be the opposite of peace when dealing with the mind, which directly connects to our physical body. Stress comes from the unanswered, unsolved and difficult situations that seem to have no answer or no solution to the mind.

In order for us finding inner peace we have to be true to others and ourselves about what is important. Most importantly, it is important to look at life through an honest lens to see what is important, unimportant or knowing what we cannot change. Yoga teaches us to meditate and develop a connection with our “mind, body and spirit”. When meditating, the goal is to shed the excesses and worries of the day, and begin to focus internally; first with regulating our breathing patterns, and releasing the tensions from the body.

As with the majority of meditations, to begin this meditation first find somewhere quiet where you will not be disturbed for ten to twenty minutes.

Sit comfortably with good posture. You may wish to sit in the lotus position, with your legs folded, or you may kneel

Cup your hands together on your lap with the palms facing upwards. Lightly touch your thumbs together.

Focus your mind on your breathing. Specifically, focus on the area between your nose and your lips. Observe your breath coming and going through this area

You will notice that thoughts occupy your mind from time to time. This is okay. You do not need to resist the thoughts, but you should not attach to them or dwell on them either. Simply recognise that you are experiencing a thought and return your focus to your breathing.

You may wish to add a mantra to this practice. A mantra is a phrase that produces specifically feelings. For instance, a simple mantra might be “I am calm and at peace.” Recite this mantra, either out loud or in your mind, as you continue to focus on your breath.

Continue this practice for ten to twenty minutes. You will find your mind opening and your body and mind relaxing.