Archive for June, 2013


Posted on June 30, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , |

Too Much StuffI regularly haunt resale shops.  I find it relaxing to be in what Temple Grandin calls, “seeking mode” in animals.  I think the same holds for humans.  It can be pleasant to be seeking.  Have you ever noticed that once you find you immediately want to return to seeking?

Perhaps this mental drive is what has gotten us into this mess.  Sometimes I am amazed at what people are selling at rummage sales.  I will literally say when I’m in a store, “I would like to have that, but I’ll just wait until summer when I’ll find one at a rummage sale.”  And then I do, for a song.  This is all well and good for me, but I just have to scratch my head.  Why do people obtain so much that they either give away or sell for next to nothing within a year of obtaining it?

This consumerism mindset, that we can and should have anything we want, is definitely getting us into trouble.  Yes, it’s not good for the earth and its resources.  But what kind of people is it turning us into?  Soft, that’s what.  And stupid.  We don’t need ingenuity or tenacity anymore.  We can just buy another thing that will continue to make life easy and enjoyable.  It’s what Laurence Gonzales calls our, “vacation state of mind,” in his book, “Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things”

I heard about Dave Bruno’s 100 Thing Challenge and I wondered what would happen if people seriously tried to pare down and think harder about accumulating more?   It’s hard to get everything you own down to 100 things!  But why not just buy less new stuff?

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Tour du Mont Blanc – The Middle of Nowhere

Posted on June 29, 2013. Filed under: France, Health, Italy, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Out in the Middle of Nowhere

One of the best parts of the Tour du Mont Blanc is getting out in the middle of nowhere.  This picture here shows you two really happy people because we have left our normal cares behind.  There is nothing like abandoning normal life to get out among giant mountains, fresh air and sunshine to get some perspective and a real break.  It was an arduous task we had set for ourselves, this 105 mile trek, but it was different work, environment, and people and just what we needed.  I loved the break myself and I was delighted to see my husband thoroughly enjoy himself as well.  If you are considering such an endeavor and you are under some stress in normal life, I would encourage you to do it.  The restoration a time like this provides to body and mind is priceless.

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Do You Lay Down or Lie Down?

Posted on June 29, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Lay/Lie Down

My mom took a lot of naps when I was a kid.  She wasn’t well and she would say, “I need to lay down” more than once per day.  I was astonished to find out later this is incorrect usage of the word lay.  This is surprising, because she was a stickler for spelling and grammar.    The English Club has a great explanation:

To lie:  to recline; to be in or to take a horizontal/resting position

To lay:  to put something down in a horizontal position

I found out it was wrong when I was a second grade teacher and being evaluated by an observer.  It was the only thing I did wrong!  She was incensed that I was modeling incorrect grammar for little kids.

So for a time I tried to say, “I need to lie down.”  But I have to tell you, to my ears it just sounds like I’m being hoyty-toyty, as though I think I’m royalty or something!  To this day I have trouble with it, so now I say, “Hey Charlie, do you want to take a nap?”  It sounds better to both Charlie and me!

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Jump Ship?

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

Woods Thanksgiving

I recently investigated and then abandoned a new business idea.  This can be discouraging and liberating at the same time.  Did I miss a great opportunity by deciding not to go ahead?  Did I dodge a financial disaster?   An article in the Wall Street Journal from April entitled, “How to Come up with a Great Idea” had some sage advice.  In the article Brian Spaly, Founder and CEO of Trunk Club, quotes his Stanford professor, Andy Rachleff who said, “Make sure you can fail fast and cheaply.”

About a third of new businesses fail by the second year and 56% fail by the fifth year.  So, the professor’s advice is sage indeed because if a new business is going to fail it would be better to jump ship earlier rather than later.  Much money is saved this way.  EhowMoney has a great article on this.

Still, one wonders what great possibilities are missed in spite of the risks.  Starting a new business is exhilarating because there is so much hope for a bright future, but it should also give one pause for the uncertainty.  It is this dichotomy which keeps most people in the status of employee, I think.  And having built one business from the ground up I know intimately what kind of dedication and sacrifice is required even when the venture is ultimately successful.

I admit I feel a weight lifted by jumping ship this time.  So maybe it was the right way to go.  It certainly was the right time to abandon, before any real money was even spent!

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Nature Does Not Hurry

Posted on June 26, 2013. Filed under: Health, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , |

Photography - lemon thymeNature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. 

Lao Tzu
Do you find yourself always in a hurry?  My mom used to say, “Haste makes waste.”  I am often in a rush.  There is so much to do, but beyond that, it is a way to foster the illusion that I have control of my time.  Maybe my haste is actually wasting my day in that I am missing the small miracles.

I need to think about that more.  I am beginning to have what I am calling, “A low-expectation day (LED).”  Some days the list of what I want to get done is so big.  I feel good at the end of the day when I’ve accomplished some of it, but also bad that it is not all done.  This can make me feel out of control and unhappy.

Why do I do this to myself?  I am finding I get just as much done on a LED but I feel better because I don’t focus on those things that remain on the list.  I am beginning to say to myself, “Let’s see what happens today.”

Years ago I heard a speaker presentation on “The Art of Leaving Things Undone.”  I have never forgotten it and only now I am beginning to understand the wisdom of it.  When I make peace with the fact that things can remain undone, then I am free to slow my pace, relax into the rhythm of the day, and enjoy whatever is happening.

Yes, I said whatever is happening.  Even when there are frustrations, delays, and disappointments I am beginning to see that just being alive even for those things is such a gift.  I cannot see this when I am hurrying through a day.

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Tour du Mont Blanc Snow Walking

Posted on June 26, 2013. Filed under: Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB snow trekking 2

We walked the Tour du Mont Blanc in September so there was less chance of snow on our trek, but we did find it in a few places.  We trudged through some white stuff at the top of the spectacular Tête Nord des Fours (2756m), but only right at the top.

Travel - TMB snow trekking 3

It was strange walking in snow with shorts on!









Travel - TMB snow trekking 1And then there was this short stretch where the trail went right through a big patch of snow.  I think we could only tell it was truly the trail by all the footprints of others before us!

We didn’t have snow on our trip, but there were remnants, and others told us that just the week before our trip there were a few days of snow.  Make sure to be prepared for snow at any time on this trip.  The mountains are beautiful and also unpredictable.

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Brownies Sans Wheat

Posted on June 24, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health | Tags: , , |

Food - Wheatless Brownies 6

They are a bit crumbly, but all-in-all I’m not too unhappy with these.  This is a nifty recipe I’ve used for quite awhile.  I will keep tweaking it with different flours until it resembles regular fudgy brownies but without the wheat.  I thought this would be a good one to try because brownies don’t need the fluffiness wheat flour lends.  The biggest mistake here was cutting the sugar.  These are good, but fully sweet ones would have been better.  Oh well, it was an experiment.  Feel free to use the recipe as is, it is great.  If you try changing ingredients and you get great results without wheat please let me know!!

BROWNIES MADE SIMPLE (my wheatless version in parenthesis)

1 stick butter (or 1/2 C. good farm lard, coconut oil or a combination)
4 tbsp. cocoa (or use half cocoa and half carob)
1 c. sugar (or pulverized dates, or date sugar, here I used 3/4 C. but I wouldn’t recommend cutting it down)
2 eggs
3/4 c. flour (or a combo of corn, coconut, and millet flours)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. nuts

Melt butter in saucepan and add cocoa. Food - Wheatless Brownies 1

Mix sugar and eggs together and add to mixture in saucepan.Food - Wheatless Brownies 2

Food - Wheatless Brownies 3

Add flour, baking powder and nuts to mixture and add vanilla. Food - Wheatless Brownies 4

Grease 8×8 inch pan and bake 30 minutes at 325 degrees.Food - Wheatless Brownies 5

I hope you enjoy one of these versions or your own!

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Posted on June 24, 2013. Filed under: Photography | Tags: , , , |

Photography - Supermoon

    …like the moon

                 it shall be established forever,

a faithful witness in the skies.

Psalm 89:37

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Lush Garden Views

Posted on June 23, 2013. Filed under: Plants | Tags: , , , , , , |

Plants - Garden 1

A multi-blues bowling ball has dulled up in the elements and found a perch in the front bed atop a concrete pillar.  It was found and for free; the pillar was $5 at a rummage sale several years ago.

I don’t think any bowling balls should end up discarded.  When they have served their original purpose to the end, they should get to retire in a beautiful garden.  Even nestled on the ground next to a striking plant they are fabulous.  I have a neighbor who has made a triangular stack of 4.  It looks great!

Plants - Garden 2

This bright grass below the stella d’oro daylilies and the tall native tiger lilies is so striking!

Plants -  Dahlias Plants - Garden 3

The dahlias are just fun.  I’ll be regretting them in fall when I have to shelter them indoors, but such fun now.  The succulent pot looks much better after last winter indoors when I realized the jade plant on the top had grown to proportions that covered up the rest of the pot!  I ruthlessly hacked it down with a sharp knife, rooted all the pieces, and sold them at our plant sale.  Now the smaller plant has grown all new leaves and is much more reasonably sized for this vessel.

Plants - Garden 4

Lastly, I broke down and bought wire half-rings today that got my top-heavy peonies off the ground.  With all the heavy rain we have been having the peonies just couldn’t take it anymore and they were all laying on the ground, ruined.  This looks so much better!

Summer has finally made it to Wisconsin, it seems.  I’m enjoying every minute.

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Misaka Itoh Peony

Posted on June 23, 2013. Filed under: Plants | Tags: , , , , |

Plants - Misaka Peony 2           Plants - Misaka Peony 1

I got the last Misaka (Beautiful Blossom) Itoh Peony at my local garden center.  I spied these beauties in bloom back in May, but I was not excited about parting with $80 for one then.  Now, they are finished blooming and harder to sell, so I got it for $50.  Still, a chunk of change, I know, but this is one of the peonies that has been crossed between a tree peony and a herbaceous peony making for beautiful 8-inch blossoms in unusual colors like this orange-peachy-yellow on very sturdy and hardy plants.  I tried a true tree peony a few years back and it almost instantly disappeared.  Quite literally, I mean that, it disappeared.  Not eaten down to the ground, not uprooted and dragged off to the side, not any of a host of problems that could have beset it.  One day I went out to admire it and it was gone.

So, driving home with this new treasure I was mulling over where to plant it.  The big bed in the back of the house was definitely out due to the past bad experience.  Right near the front door to our house is a great spot with some good sun, but also some afternoon shade so as not to stress the poor thing too much.  Unfortunately, the spot was occupied by a giant ligularia.  See this monster below.

Plants - Giant Ligularia

Geared up for a wrestle, I was surprised how easily it came out.  Then I used a big knife that has outlived its stay in the kitchen and has migrated to the garden.  I was able to slice this guy into 7 smaller hunks.  This solved my problem in the back on the side where it’s nothing but weeds and I was looking for shrubs or something to put in there.  Spread out in that area they will do fine.  Unfortunately they won’t do much this year as they are all now wilted and very unhappy to have lost their primo spot by the front door, but by next year they will settle in to their new spots.

It will be fun to see how the peony does after the first winter here.  I hope I get at least one bloom like above in the photo from the company that developed the plant.  Peonies are proven sulkers, greatly resenting anything so upsetting as being transplanted, so only time will tell!  I will dream about it all winter.

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