Archive for May, 2013

The Evolving Garden

Posted on May 31, 2013. Filed under: Health, Plants | Tags: , , , , , |

Plants - Garden View 1        Every day I draw sustenance from my garden.  Summer has finally arrived in southeast Wisconsin, it appears (one must remain cautious about a declaration like that.)  Here is the back bed a few days ago with the fern leaf peony and cushion spurge in full bloom.  The giant alliums are preparing to open in the back and the weeds haven’t taken over yet!

Plants - Garden View 2

Here is the same bed this morning after heavy rain last night.  The alliums are in full bloom now, if a bit wobbly after their beating and the peony has become just its gorgeous foliage.

I am looking forward to the standard peonies coming into bloom shortly here and I put in 3 new varieties in fall which I am eager to see.

Just to go outside this morning and breathe….ah!  Great way to start the day with lower blood pressure, lungs expanded by fresh moist air, eyes relaxing amid all that green.  Praise for the morning!

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French Food Mindset

Posted on May 30, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, France, Health, Philosophy, Restaurants Worth the Visit |

Food - Lake Park Bistro 2We went to Lake Park Bistro in Milwaukee for lunch yesterday.  This is truly fine dining at its best.  Here is Bill’s:

Rillette de Saumon – Poached and smoked salmon salad with lemon-mayonaise, cucumber, bibb lettuce and preserved tomatoes.

Look at how that paper-thin slice of cucumber wraps the salmon stack.  It was beautiful and delicious.

Food - Lake Park Bistro 1Mine was the:

Thon a la Nicoise – Traditional salad from Southern France of tuna in olive oil with egg, peppers, olives and capers.

It was just gorgeous and also very luscious with just a little potato and green beans included.

Food - Lake Park Bistro 3Stephanie, Bill’s cousin had:

Steak Tartare – Chopped raw filet mignon with caper, Dijon mustard, egg yolk, red onion. Served with a petite salad and pomme frite.

She couldn’t stop saying, “Mmmmm.”

Nothing we had was a very large portion.  In fact, compared to American standards these were tiny.  The desserts were miniscule, but so rich only a few bites was really enough.  The French food mindset is so great because you are eating such enjoyable food.  Every morsel is exquisite and you are satisfied with much less.  They don’t avoid fat, in fact, they include only the fullest versions with all the delectable flavor intact, and therefore, when you eat this way you truly don’t need much.  We all left feeling well fed, but not even close to stuffed, just comfortable and satisfied.  The French have this perfectly right.

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Sorrel Delights from the Spring Garden

Posted on May 29, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health, Plants | Tags: , , , |

Plants - Buckler Sorrel           Plants - Buckler Sorrel 2

This pretty little plant, the sorrel, buckler variety, comes back every year and spreads itself in a friendly way.   When I’m out harvesting rhubarb these days I regularly grab a few handsful of this little plant.  One taste and you are wowed because it’s a quick slap of lemony brightness.  Salads are an easy place for them, but lately I’ve been whirring them into fruit/veggie smoothies right along with some fresh rhubarb.  The combination of the lemony and tart along with some sweet fruit is magical!  Next I want to try some in a fresh sauce for cooked beans or asparagus.  Doesn’t that sound good?  If you don’t have a buckler sorrel you might like to get one in this year.  It will pay you back for many years to come!

On a side note, today is my 100th post!  Thank you to all my dear readers and followers.  I’m delighted that anyone finds anything I write to be helpful.

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10 Enjoyment Tips for the Tour du Mont Blanc

Posted on May 28, 2013. Filed under: France, Italy, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB pie stop1.  Pace and progress are important, but don’t let them rule so much that you miss local delicacies, great photography shots, or a dip in a mountain lake!

2.  Don’t let someone else push you faster than you want to go or hold  you back.  Be ok with hiking alone some of the time in order to have the pace that is comfortable for you.

3.  Take a day off.  Plan for it and enjoy it.  Courmayeur is my vote for this one.  We ran into people doing double days, practically running the whole thing to get it done in 5 days.  Ok, if that’s what you like, but that would not be for me.  Our day off in Courmayeur was one of my best vacation days of all time because it felt so good.

4.  Make it your trip.  Whatever makes you happy, do.  Is it artwork, photography, local food, meeting new people?  Make time for it, be you, and make it your own.

5.  Expect unpleasantness and roll with it.  Stuff will happen or not happen as you planned.  Ok, try to find an enjoyable way in spite of it.  On our rain day when we took the bus to Argentière we weren’t happy to miss the day’s hike, but the warm fire in the lobby with big cushy chairs, coffee and books about the history of the mountains made for a very enjoyable morning!

6.  Appreciate the expansive beauty every day.  After a few days, it is possible to forget how amazing the views are!  Make sure to stop and really look, breathe the fresh air, and appreciate.Travel - TMB Issert

7.  Personal hygiene – don’t neglect it.  You will have more friends if you wash out that hiking shirt rather than wear it to breakfast and actually stink up the whole room.  Really.  You may not smell it but others will.

8.  If you have fears – ladders, water crossings, etc. – don’t dwell on them.  Just agree with yourself to handle it when it happens.  You will find nothing on the TMB turns out to be as scary as you think it will so don’t waste any energy worrying.

9.  The most dangerous thing I saw were the bicyclists.  Get out of their way early and stay put so they can maneuver around you!

10.  Relax, you are on vacation!

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Memorial Day Appreciation

Posted on May 27, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , |

Plants - Fernleaf PeonyYesterday in church I heard an amazing story of the WWII Exercise Tiger.  Our speaker lost a great uncle in this little-known event of the war.  It was a complete training exercise at Slapton Sands in England to replicate the D-Day invasion.  It was to prepare our troops, but it went very wrong with miscommunications and actual attacks by Germans resulting in 946 lost lives.  Then it was hushed up to keep the real purpose and plan a secret from the enemy.

Our speaker yesterday had traveled to England recently for a memorial complete with 2 survivors of the incident who spoke about their experience.  School children came and asked questions and the men explained the terror of that day.

Today I am appreciative of the sacrifice made on my behalf so many times by so many Americans.  Even this story brings me up short.  Exercise Tiger resulted in the end of 946 young men’s lives and was almost forgotten, but the military learned much from the exercise.  Maybe they learned enough to make the D-day invasion successful.  We can never know all the interplay of events that has brought our great nation to this point in history.  Sitting in church yesterday, enjoying complete freedom to worship as I choose, I am struck.  I drive around wherever I want to go.  I wear clothing of my choosing.  I speak my mind.  Most days I just enjoy these freedoms without regard for the great gift those warriors have given me.  Memorial day is a good day to pause and think about it.  These freedoms were not free.

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10 Safety & Health Tips for the Tour du Mont Blanc

Posted on May 26, 2013. Filed under: France, Health, Italy, Safety, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Safety

1.  Keep your valuables with you or your partner(s) at all times.  This would include passport (US or British passports are worth €1000-2000 each on the black market), cash, credit cards, camera, airline paperwork.  One would like to believe all the fellow hikers are just like you, but they may not be.  Acquaintances on our trip lost their British passports at a refuge when they left them in their packs to go to dinner.  They had discussed leaving them in the presence of a lot of other people too.  2 big mistakes.  This ended their trip because getting to an embassy and getting it all sorted out required a lot of time.  Take along some little bag that can hold your valuables when you don’t have your big pack and just keep everything in there so it’s easy to take with you at all times.

2.  Even non-valuables:  keep an eye on them.  At big stops along the trail with lots of hikers coming and going in both directions we assigned one of our group to stay with the packs/poles while others went for food/bathrooms, then we switched.  It’s just good common sense.

3.  Water.  Really, only get it from places that are clearly safe.  That hose hanging on the building right next to where the cows are standing, don’t fill your bottle.  3 days down with bacterial infection really takes a bite out of your trip.  I missed doing this by chance, but my friend paid for it.  Hind sight is 20-20, try to keep foresight in play and avoid problems.

4.  Think about daylight and how many hours you have left to get in.  You do not want to be out on the trail in the dark.  Get a move on if needed to get in before dusk.  The mountains become a lot colder, windier, and overall more dangerous in the dark.

5.  Pay attention to your pace.  You do need to do #4, but you don’t need to run the whole thing and miss the day just to get in super early!

6.  Address small health issues early.  A small irritation is felt in your foot?  Stop and inspect right away.  Treat and cover to avoid a blister or cover the blister to keep it from bursting and creating an open wound that is open for infection.  The sooner you address problems, the less likely you will experience a health emergency.

7.  Prepare for the unexpected.  Take extra cash, carry a first-aid kit and all-weather gear.  It will be fabulous if you don’t need any of it, and you will be congratulating yourself if you do.

8.  Be extra alert when you are tired.  Later in the day you are more apt to lose your footing, become forgetful, and less observant.  Know this and try to counteract it.  When stopping, look carefully around your pack before leaving to make sure you have everything.  Slow down a little to keep your footing sure.  Look carefully at signs to make sure of the way before you waste time down the wrong path.

9.  Watch your alcohol intake.  In the evening it can be tempting to celebrate too much.  Along with this is:  use a flashlight in the refuges.  Falling and hurting yourself isn’t worth wrecking your trip.

10.  Relax!  The TMB is fairly safe!

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Toaster Oven Pizzas Made Simple

Posted on May 25, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple | Tags: , , , |

Food - Tiny Pizzas What to make for a simple supper when you don’t feel like cooking anything and you’re even too lazy to go out?  A package of sprouted corn tortillas and anything else you can find in the fridge will do!  I just keep several packages of the tortillas in the freezer for anytime I can’t cope with cooking.  Pull them out and pop the whole frozen-together-stack into the toaster oven just for a few minutes until you can pry off a few tortillas.

Then decide if you want everything warm with melted cheese on top.  If so, assemble whatever you have:  sliced salami or summer sausage, fresh tomatoes, peppers, green onion or garlic greens from the garden, and put slices of cheese on top.  Pop into the toaster oven until the cheese melts.  The tortilla will get nice and crispy on the bottom at the same time.

For these pictured above I didn’t feel like having everything warm and melty so I just warmed up the tortillas in the oven.  Then I topped with all above and fresh avocado on top.  Bill likes to take a fork and smash the avocado so it stays put, but I like mine as is.  You decide!  Quick and easy and very delicious!

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10 Equipment Tips for the Tour du Mont Blanc

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Exercise, France, Italy, Photography, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Equipment 1

1.  Get your boots early and start wearing them immediately.  If anything isn’t right about them abandon ship and get a pair that is supremely comfortable.  If using boots you already have, get out in them and double check they still work well.  You do not want brand new, untested boots on this trip.  Also make sure they are waterproof; put them on and walk into water to test.  You will be crossing water on the TMB and wet feet inside boots spells trouble.  Also, socks are obviously equally important.  Sort out what works best for you early on.

Travel - TMB Equipment 2

2.  Get a functional backpack that you can wear with 20-25 pounds in it for at least 6 hours.  Don’t assume you know how to fit a backpack.  Go to a qualified outfitter who can fit you and find pack choices that work for your body size and shape.  As soon as you have your boots and pack get out in them as often as possible even for a half hour.  It is wise to get your body accustomed to the equipment on it while moving.

3.  Check out the equipment list at REI and think carefully about everything listed.  We did not take gaiters because we did not go early in the season when snow would be more likely, but you should decide if each item would be important for you to take.  It is comforting to look at this list from people who did the hike and know that you didn’t overlook anything.

4.  Get a scale and start weighing everything that goes into the pack.  When deciding between two similar items because you only need one, weighing them can be the deciding factor.  If you are training regularly as described in #1 and #2 above the genius of this will be self-evident because even 20 pounds is dang heavy!  Ounces become very important because ounces turn into pounds.

5.  Realize that no matter what time of year you are going you must be prepared for emergencies.  Weather in mountains is often unpredictable and severe.  Cuts, scrapes, blisters and hurt joints can happen.  You will carry items for these possibilities even though you may not use them.  We didn’t use our rain gear at all.  Seeing a day-long downpour in the mountains, however, I’m glad we had it along in case we were up high and needed to hike to get in.  I threw in a cheap dollar-store knee brace as a last thought, however, and this item proved indispensable to my husband when he hurt his knee.  Prepare a small first aid kit and make sure that gets packed to come along.

6.  Memory foam.  Get a few small hunks (buy a cheap pillow and cut it up) and bring along.  Tucking these under your backpack straps can be a shoulder-saver!  I brought 4 hunks and the extra 2 went to a hiking mate who was eternally grateful!

7.  Get trekking poles, a set of 2.  Figure out how you will get them there.  When we went they were not allowed in carry on luggage.  So we got a bag long enough for them (even collapsed they were pretty long) and checked that one bag.  In Chamonix we left that bag at the first hotel and retrieved it right before leaving when we checked it again to get the poles home.  Hotels there are very used to this and have a place to store bags.  Go on the airline website to find out the current rules for items such as this.  That multi-tool you want to bring along probably isn’t allowed to be carried on either.  And if you buy any of the wonderful Opinel knives in Chamonix to bring home (great gifts) you will have to check them also.

8.  Consider your camera.  How important is photography to you?  If at all important, don’t rely on the camera in your phone.  This is some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see.   My best camera which I would have loved to bring along is pretty bulky and weighed in at a whopping 2.5 pounds.  This was just unacceptable, but I didn’t want a tiny point-and-shoot either.  So I decided to invest in one of the more compact SLR-types, going with a Sony.  It saved me 1 whole pound and a lot of bulk.  I considered this well-worth the cost especially since this camera is now always my travel camera.

9.  Take time to pack everything in your backpack before you go.  How will you arrange it?  Once you have everything spend some time working out how to use the bag efficiently.  Put items used daily on top where they can be easily retrieved.  Plan to keep things used hourly on the outside of the bag.  My camera bag attached at my hip belt because it was out so frequently that made the most sense.  Find a good place for the guidebook and maps because you will want to refer to these often.  Temperatures and wind conditions change quickly in the mountains so having places to stow and retrieve jackets and fleece is something to plan for also.  It’s nice if you don’t have to actually take off the pack and open up the main compartment every time you want your jacket.

10.  Relax about the equipment!  You will not be totally away from civilization.  If you forget something or if a piece of equipment works really badly, you are not completely stuck.  The towns on the TMB cater to hikers with excellent equipment shops.   See my post about how I bought trekking poles in Champex.  It was fun and makes a great story, the hardships of a trip always make the best stories!

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The Vegan Who Ate a Pork Chop

Posted on May 22, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health | Tags: , , , , , |

Food - Pork ChopYou may remember that several months ago my new doctor wanted me to become a vegan for a few months to, “Give my body a break and reduce inflammation” in my body while my body was grappling with perimenopause.  She referred me to “The China Study” which I have since found out to be very flawed.  I made it one week and even that wasn’t completely vegan as I still enjoyed cream in my morning coffee.  Even the doc admitted there is no substitute for cream in coffee!

Since then I have been reading, “The Vegetarian Myth:  Food, Justice, and Sustainability” by Lierre Keith.  This book has rocked my world.  The author has thoroughly explained how industrialized food products are the real culprits in the standard American diet (SAD for short) which produce a whole host of illnesses including the inflammation my doctor was trying to reduce in my body.  This author also explains how agriculture which produces the foods vegetarians eat causes more environmental havoc than any way of eating before it was instituted.  I also now thoroughly understand how I developed a binge eating disorder in my young adulthood; a result of fasting, vegetarianism, and extreme dieting which depleted my brain of serotonin, a crucial brain chemical which can radically alter mood, cravings, and overall health and well-being.

And all this brings me to the luscious dinner I enjoyed the other night!  Just look at that pork chop above.  It was juicy and tender and full of fatty flavor.  My brain and body rejoiced to have eaten it.  I knew this by the great sense of well being I enjoyed afterward.  This is no small thing.  People in other places like France understand that the after affects of eating something are part of the overall food experience.  People here eating the SAD tend to equate the bloating, lethargy, gas, ongoing physical hunger, depression, achiness and more as completely separate from the low quality food that they are consuming, but the two are intimately connected.

So here is my super simple pork chop method:

Pork chops – locally produced, raised on pasture – this is crucial – pork chops from the average American grocery store are completely different – they are from tortured pigs raised in horrifying conditions, so cramped, they cannot turn around, force-fed industrial food waste-products namely corn and soybeans which are not the pigs’ natural food!

organic ketchup

garlic powder

salt + pepper

coriander + rosemary

Squirt a little ketchup on all sides of the chops.  Sprinkle spices and herbs all over.  Put into crockpot on low for 4-8 hours, longer just makes it more tender!  Enjoy with a big salad, complete with olive oil and vinegar.  Your body will rejoice when you consume gorgeous food like this!

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From Turtle to Mountain Sheep: Trekking Poles on the TMB

Posted on May 21, 2013. Filed under: Exercise, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Poles 1Not living in a mountainous region of the world, and planning a mountain hiking trip like the Tour du Mont Blanc, I relied on information about trekking poles on the web.  I found a lot of conflicting information.  Some sites said absolutely, get them, it makes you virtually a 4-legged creature instead of 2 which gives a lot of stability and eases the pressure on the knees.  This made sense, but then others said you don’t really need them.  Being a massage therapist I liked the idea of giving my hands and arms the fortnight off.  We did own 1 set of poles we got at a REI rummage sale of returned merchandise for a song.  We decided to take the one set along and share them.  This way we’d have a little help, but we wouldn’t have to use them.

Pretty rapidly I was given the nickname, “La Tortue” (the turtle) due to my slow progress.  Our friends had their poles and clipped along claiming I would be much faster with 2 poles.  I was very skeptical about this.

Then Bill hurt his knee.  Something sort of snapped and then he hobbled.  He took my pole,  my just-in-case knee brace, and some ibuprofen.  This worked for him, but now I had nothing and I really noticed the difference.  I was even slower.

Ok, I thought, a nice set of poles would be a great souvenir, my favorite kind, something really useful that I’d appreciate every time I’d use them.  We found a great outfitter in Champex, Switzerland.  The new poles are light, easy to change length (and the very helpful sales girl who had lived in the mountains all her life taught me the right length for flat, and then for uphill and downhill.  Changing the length for conditions makes a big difference and on the TMB it is easy to do because the terrain tends to stay up or down for awhile at a time.)

Travel - TMB Poles 2The result?  I became “La Mouton” the mountain sheep, sure-footed and swift!  I was put in the lead and didn’t hold anyone up!  I was amazed at the difference of having 2 poles.  It was significant.  I moved much more gracefully which, of course, saves energy and makes everything more comfortable.  Additionally, a nice extra is that my hands never swelled up like they often do hanging at my sides during hiking.  The straps on the handles are so well designed that I hardly have to grip at all so my hands and forearms are really still pretty much off-duty.

Bottom-line advice?  Get 2 poles, you will be glad you did!  The TMB is strenuous enough, anything that aids in your comfort while doing it is worth it.

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