Clean Eating Reboot- Help a Hippie Out

There are two things I learned about clean eating the last time I tried it: it works, and it’s expensive.

It’s also time consuming, but I knew that going in. Not so much a learned thing.

How do you people do this and make ends meet? I need some suggestions from folks on a budget who are making this a lifestyle.

It’s the ‘because it works’ part that I’m going back in. I’m tired of being overweight and unhealthy and I’m tired of my teenage girls feeling the same way. Time for a reboot. Beginning again isn’t going to be easy. I remember how hard it was to give up all the things that made this south Louisiana girl’s heart and tummy happy. My challenge will be finding ways to make those things clean. This could be tough.

Baking is the other tough one. Not so much that I love to bake. I actually don’t like it at all. What I like are baked goods that someone else made. And raw cookie dough. Baking seems to be where the major expense comes in as far as clean eating goes (other than meats). I mean, I can grill some veggies pretty cheap, but if I want a clean baked thing, there’s all sorts of odd and expensive flours and sugars that you need. Let’s face it, coconut sugar and almond flour aren’t cheap like white sugar and white flour are. I know why that’s true, but it doesn’t make the fact or the cookies any easier to swallow.

We are the family that processed foods were made for and clean eating laughs in the face of. We are broke and busy. Why is it that I can buy frozen pizzas for a little over a dollar each, but to cook a healthy clean meal for 4 people it may as well be a restaurant sit down dinner someone else does the work and dishes for? Why is that the way of the American grocery industry? Sure, I could grow my own food, and I do to some extent, but it’s going to be a long time before this container garden is adding anything to our meals.

Don’t misunderstand this to be a rant against clean healthy eating. It’s not that at all. My reboot, and the numbers on my scale, have just brought glaringly to mind the problems with clean eating that shouldn’t exist, because they are really problems with the American processed food industry and the other parts of feeding the American people that make healthy food out of the budget of the majority of Americans. That’s so wrong. It makes me wonder what countries in Europe are doing that we aren’t, and how we follow their example. They don’t have the land and resources we do, and yet, they eat much better than us. Processed food is rare. I remember coming back from trips abroad and wanting to keep eating the way I did in Europe. But somewhere along the way, I slipped back into the rhythm of convenience with processed food. I felt worse, but less broke.

Meal prep is a big thing with clean eating, too, and I get that it’s a good way to save some time over the course of the week, but what do people whose weekends are as busy as their weeks? I don’t have an entire day to cook and, frankly, I don’t want to eat the same thing day after day. Too easy to say, “I’m sick of burrito bowls. I’m just going to pick up something on the way home.”

So, another suggestion I need is quick and easy weeknight meals that don’t require spending a weekend doing meal prepping when there are ballgames and rehearsals that must be done. And variety. That would be good. There are tons of variations on cilantro lime chicken. I got that one down.

Cheap and quick clean meal suggestions. On your mark, get set, GO! Help a hippie out, please!

Much love!


Bunny Nest in Plain Sight: What to Do if You Find a Bunny Nest in Your Yard

A bunny under a bush isn’t an unusual sight this time of year, but one video making its way across the internet has thankfully brought the nesting habits of these peaceful creatures to the public’s attention.   My husband, who mows lawns for a living, was the one who brought me up to speed on the subject.

When your husband works nights and spends his off days mowing lawns for others, your lawn is often bottom of the list. (Like the plumber with the leaky pipes adage). As a result, we have some adorable wildlife that enjoys our tall grass even if the neighbors don’t.  One of the critters is Nugget, a fawn who hangs out with me quite a bit. (Another post about her to follow soon.) Mostly, we have the birds and squirrels that hang out on the deck with me, and the more cautious bunnies all over the yard.  This brings me to the subject of bunny nests.


Bunnies nest in some interesting places like gardens, but usually they nest under shrubs  like the bunny in the photo above. She’s just sitting there, right?  Maybe. Maybe not. She could be nursing a nest of tiny babies just below her.   Nursing looks like casually sitting around to the average observer- human, or predator.   Once she left, I was able to take a picture of what was underneath her:

Since she is in this spot a few times a day, it’s safe to assume the patch of dead grass is a nest. Not wanting to stress out babies or mama bunny, I didn’t disturb it to get pictures.  I just left some leaves of romaine from the garden for her to snack on when she gets back.  She seems to like that. I’ve left some for a few days and it’s always gone later.

Another place bunnies are known to nest is right out in the middle of the yard. Why?  Because predators don’t like to be out in the open.  Therefore, sometimes the best place to hide is in plain sight.  If you notice a patch of dead grass that seems packed down, chances are it’s a nest. We all get dead patches of grass once in a while, but these nests seems to appear for no reason in taller healthy grass and are usually thatched looking. Like this:

When I first found the nest, the edge at the top right corner of the photo wasn’t dead. With mama bunny’s repeated visits, its dying a little around the nest.


After some research, here’s what information I can pass on.

– Don’t disturb the nest.

Yes, baby bunnies are cute and we all want to look at them, but this can cause stress that their little selves don’t need.

– Protect it from pets and curious kiddos.

This is a biggie! If your pet finds the nest and disturbs it, they can easily harm the babies.  Some pets like to bring their owners ‘gifts’ when they find things like baby bunnies and this can be bad news for the babies.   To prevent this, you can put up a barrier around the nest to keep pets out, but make sure mama can still get inside to feed the babies.   Even a bucket over it with a hole cut for mama is better than nothing.

– Protect it from mowers.

Another biggie!  To prevent mowing over it, put a marker flag in the ground or something else that will remind you or your lawn people not to mow over that spot.  Give a good six-foot radius around the nest with the mower. You can use the weedeater to get the grass close to the nest.


Chances are you won’t see mama around the nest much if at all. She doesn’t want to draw predators’ attention to it. To see if she is indeed coming to feed the babies when you aren’t looking, you can place a few twigs over the nest like this:

If they have moved, then she has come back to feed them.  If they haven’t moved by the next day, you can gently lift the packed grass from the edge and check on the babies. If they are there and alive, call your local wildlife rescue service. Some will have a rehab and foster program for the little things so they can be released when they are old enough.


There are many helpful sites that can give more info on what to do when you find a bunny nest. Do some research and make sure you take the steps needed to make our outdoors a place where nature can do what nature does best. We are all sharing this world, after all.

To see the video from Ontario Wildlife Removal that started it all, click here.
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Much love!


Hand Pollination Tutorial -Squash Plants

My deck container garden is going gang-busters this year due to some lessons learned and an earlier start. This year, I started seeds in an indoor green house in April and had strong seedlings in time for early planting.   And along the way, I’ve run out of space on my small deck and have had to improvise a bit and use my grill. It only partially works and was destined for the dump until it became plant real estate. Yes, those spaghetti squash containers are sitting on the open grill.

Speaking of the squash, I thought I would do a little photo tutorial of how I hand pollinate my squash. I have spaghetti, yellow straight neck, and zucchini. The process is the same for all, but the huge spaghetti squash blossoms make for easy photographs.   Here we go.

First, you have to know the difference between female and male squash blossoms. The female are the only ones that produce fruit and have a bulge at the base of the flower itself.

The males don’t.

Squash blossoms only bloom for one day and females are most receptive in the morning.  With the shortage we are seeing in pollinators (few bees on the deck, even with flowers blooming, and it worries me a great deal) sometimes you have to take pollination into your own hands to make use of the female’s receptivity window.

Cut or pinch a male blossom off. Notice it even looks different on the inside from the female.


Females have a lot more going on in there:

I hold the male flower over the female and tap any loose pollen into the female before I start the more delicate work. Waste not, want not.

Then, gently peel back the petals to make the stamen more accessible. You will use this part to pollinate.

Now, all you do is gently touch the male stamen to the corresponding female part in the blossom and rub it around. (Sounds a little kinky, but get over it. It’s just nature. )

Then, leave the lady alone to do her thing.  By the end of the day, she will have closed up and whatever will be will be. Does it always work?  Well, that depends largely on outside circumstances like rain, and even wind.  Anything that causes stress on the plant can have an impact on whether or not your pollination efforts will bear fruit. But don’t give up.   I have some rather large proof that it works.

I hope this tutorial helps your garden flourish. Of course, it would be wonderful if there were enough pollinators to let nature do her own thing but it just isn’t the case all the time. Hand pollination will help ensure you have a plentiful harvest!

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Much love,


Happy New Year. Now Make It Count.

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How many of you remember the Summer of George?  Well, I proclaim this the Year of Me. And You.  If we are lucky, we will have 365 days on this lap around the sun.  What are you going to do with them?  We could sit back and watch them pass us by, or we could do something.

But not just anything.  While doing things for others is a noble thing and should indeed be done, don’t forget about you.  Here’s the thing: you can’t be your best for others if you aren’t your best.

You can’t give of yourself to others if there is nothing to give.  Put yourself first often.  Not in a snarky selfish way, but a loving nurturing way.

Take care of the body you have been given, whatever it looks like.  It’s only yours for a short time.  Be nice to it.

Your heart and soul you have for a bit longer, so take especially good care of them.

Make conscious decisions to be kind, but also be courageous and stand up for yourself when necessary.

Happiness a choice. Make that one.

Food is fuel.  Go with high octane.

Go outside and go inside. Yourself, that is. Let nature help you connect with who you are deep down.

Stretch. It just feels so good.

Do something creative, even if it sucks.  It still triggers a special part of your mind.

Keep a stream of consciousness journal.  You’ll be surprised at what your inner self has to say.

Always pay for the car behind you in the Starbucks (or other coffee place) drive through line. You could trigger a cascade of paying it forward and that makes coffee taste better.

Be brave, even, and especially, if it means going outside of your comfort zone.

Cultivate an interest.  Gardening, painting, woodworking, tarot cards,  yoga, knitting, whatever.  Just do it.

Read a good book.

Write a good book.

Whatever you do, wake up and ask yourself, “What will I do to make today count?”  Then, when you lay down in bed, ask yourself, What did I do to make today count?”  There may not be something everyday, but the more you consciously seek answers to those questions, the more you will make those answers reality.

Happy New Year! What things will you do to make it count?

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Much love!


Dragon Tattoo and Tending the Fire

There is something magical about a fire. Tending the fire is immensely therapeutic for me.   As a child, I watched my grandfather tending the fire in the winter and marveled at how he could stare into it for so long and so peacefully. As an adult, I see now what he saw then.

While there is power in the fire, there is also grace.  Flames dance and shimmer, swirling around other flames in a mad waltz of orange and red.  The wind spins and twists the flames into chaos and fuels them instead of extinguishing them. At the heart of the dance, blue flames burn with immense heat in their deceptively cool color.   The wood pops and crackles as it tells long hidden secrets, releasing its energy in its final purpose.   Smoke pours forth and slaps you in the face once in a while just to make sure you are paying attention. Ashes rise up, then drift down like snowflakes, twirling on the breeze like fairies.  As the flames die and the embers glow, they appear almost liquid, reds and deep oranges pulsing in the coals.  Well-tended and controlled, fire is a marvel. Uncontrolled, it is an angry destructive force.

Tending a physical fire is one thing, but keeping the marvel of the fire within going is quite another.  We all have that fire inside. Something that burns with purpose. How intensely it burns depends entirely on how well we tend it.   Often, the flame can almost go out from neglect until something or someone sparks it again.

My dragon tattoo, like most people’s, has significance to me that is more than skin deep.  The meaning of a tattoo is often a very personal one. My dragon tattoo is a representation of my purpose as a mother, writer, and teacher to light the fire within.

To that end, I must remember to tend my own internal flame so it can spark a fire in others. By tending the physical fire that serves as a meditation for me, I nurture the fire within. Experiencing the sounds, smells, and feeling of the physical flame, the mindfulness of the experience has greater internal benefits.

What lights your fire within?  How can you fuel that fire in the New Year?

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Much love!


Water Wednesday!  Are you drinking enough water?

Are you drinking enough water?

I will be the first to admit that I don’t drink enough water. There. I said it. I find it particularly tough in the winter months because I would rather be drinking something warm, creamy, and usually caffeinated.   Coffee is lovely, but it actually works against your body when it comes to its water needs. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means you are losing water, not using water.

Today, I challenge you, and me for that matter, to get your water in on this Water Wednesday.  I find that once I get a few days under my belt with drinking more water, I actually start to crave it!  Not only that, but I find I don’t snack as much. I’ve had nutritionists tell me that often we mistake thirst for hunger. That means we need to drink water but we end up eating instead. Their advice was to drink 8ounces of water first, then see if hunger signals were still there. Admittedly, I forget to do this.   An 8 oz glass of water can also help with a headache.  A school nurse taught me that one.

But how much water should you drink to stay hydrated?  Well, according to the University of Missouri (among others), there is a formula to figure it out as a starting point. So, how to calculate how much water you should drink daily looks like this:

your weight x 0.5 = ounces of water per day

That’s all well and good, but, like I said, it’s only a start. How much you exercise or your level of daily activity can change that number. Obviously if you exercise a lot or do a lot of physical labor, especially in the heat, you should factor that in. Once you figure out your ounces of water per day, you will probably be shocked at how far below that amount you get on a daily basis.  I know I was!
Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water. We’ve all heard that one, but how do we make ourselves drink it?  You make yourself drink it.  

Figure out how it appeals to you most.  Ice cold? Fruit infused? A slice of lemon or lime?  In a pretty glass?  In a cool water bottle? Fizzy?  What matters ,oat is that you have it available all the time. Make yourself take a few sips then a few more.

Don’t try to drink all your water at once, you silly goose!  That’s dangerous!  

There are even apps like Plant Nanny that remind you to drink your water. However you go about it, the important thing is to start. I challenge you!  Drink more water. Feel better. Simple as that.

Happy Water Wednesday!! Share what drinking more water has done for you (other than make you have to pee. ). Bottoms up!

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Much love,


When Do You Do Your Holiday Decorating?

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It’s that time again!  Time to deck the halls. Every family has their own traditions about when the proper time for holiday decorating is. For some it is a sin to decorate before Thanksgiving (tell that one to the major retailers and their ever-earlier vomiting of Christmas products) For others, the weekend after Thanksgiving is the non-negotiable time for holiday decorations.

Then there are those folks that wait on pins and pine needles all year for the first cold snap to signal the holidays have arrived and the tree and gingerbread houses are freed from their attic prisons to make things merry and bright.

And then there’s us. The non-tradition family. We have no real plans. We have had sushi for Thanksgiving dinner, after all. My attitude is this: whenever I have the time and the energy is when holiday decorations will happen.   That’s a tricky equation since I work, write, and have three kids. And a husband. Time and energy rarely collide.

When did we get our holiday decorations up this year?  The weekend before Thanksgiving because I conned the girls into helping me clean house by telling them I couldn’t decorate until the house was clean. It was a great bargaining chip- right up until they got everything done and I had to make good on it.   So, I put on some classic rock anthems and got my Christmas decorators to work fluffing tree branches, straightening wire ribbon that had been crushed from last year, and trying to make the smushed poinsettias look a little better.

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So, we did it before Thanksgiving.  Seems hypocritical since I’m always one to gripe about the stores rushing through holiday seasons.  But, it’s one more week to enjoy the twinkling lights and wonky silk poinsettias.  One more week to wonder if I should have had a Christmas tree theme or done away with the handmade Christmas decorations that are slowly falling apart with each passing year.  One more week to tell myself that no one really cares that my Christmas living room decor is a slapped together hodge pudge of hand-me-down and handmade things.

So, when to you do holiday decorations?  What traditions do you have when it comes to decking the halls?

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Much love!