End of a Season – Gardens and Life

Nature is cyclical. All seasons must end for a new one to begin. My grandfather’s passing has had this on my mind this week. Coming out to my deck for some quiet meditation brought me face to face with another example of a season ending. Summer is fading, and with it, my lettuce. I’ve tried to keep watering the plants and they keep fading. I’ve pruned and sill they fade. As some began to flower and go to seed, I realized it was time to let them go. 

It’s hard to let things go that you’ve  worked hard for. Whether it’s in the garden, or in our lives. Relationships that are one sided, jobs with no growth, whatever. We pour ourselves into these things and don’t want to admit when their season has ended. 


Clearly, the season has ended for my particular lettuces.  

I decided to make my meditation an active one and practice letting go of things whose time has come.  I’ve always said there’s something therapeutic in the act of getting your hands into the dirt.   Connecting with the roots of plants brings us closer to our own roots. And, so, I pulled the plants up, tossed them over the railing for the bunnies in the morning, and loosened the soil in the containers. 

While I enjoy the wildness of nature and her ordered chaos of creation, I’m also a sucker for tidiness.   After my lettuce purge, I sat back and admired the result. A collection of  garden containers ready for a fresh start. What will go in them?  Who knows?  So many possibilities. 


What will go in place of the things we finally bring ourselves to let go of?  Who knows?  So many possibilities.  

I’d like to think my grandfather is experiencing the same thing. So many possibilities and so much to experience in a whole new way. Unfettered by ailments and limitations.   The end of a season, but the beginning of a brand new one. 

Much love and light,

MCH 

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Pruning the Garden and the Mind

After a clumsy attempt to funnel some of a large bag of birdseed into my more manageable milk jug,


I decided to do a little pruning of the lettuce containers. 


Clearly, it has been a while as evidenced from the pile of leaves quickly building. 

Pruning plants is an important part of healthy growth. It makes room for new growth while relieving the plant of fading leaves that are sucking needed water and nutrients to no end.   As I sat there talking to the plants about how much better they will feel when they have room to stretch and grow, I realized that the same is true for me. 

You see, we humans tend to carry around a lot of energy sucking things. We get so used to this that we don’t even notice the drain it places on us until it manifests in something more serious. The fading leaves of our plant can be many things: a criticism at work, an extra pound on the scale after a holiday, or any number of little things that become big things in our mind. 

I’m reminded of the story of the psychologist speaking to a group of people about a half full glass of water. It wasn’t what they expected her to say. She asked how heavy it was, not how full it was.   She said if you hold the glass in your outstretched hand for a moment, it’s not heavy. For half an hour, it’s much harder to do. What about for days?  Impossible. But, wait, it’s just a small glass of water, right?  If we carry small things around and let them suck our energy, we lose energy and joy in our struggle.  But what happens when we set the glass down?  Relief. The same for pruning the soul sucking leaf things out of our lives. 

I am not advocating making large changes all at once. You wouldn’t hack down half a plant at once without risking the plant going into shock.  Don’t do that to yourself, either. Start with one small thing. What small thing or thought can you let go of?

Is overthinking and worry your fading leaf?  What can you release that you cannot control?

Is cleaning up clutter a constant fading leaf for you?  What can you purge?  Start with your closet.  Giving it to charity will add a little extra feel good energy to you. 

Are you over scheduled?  Or worse, are your children?  What faded leaf activity can you do without to make room for growing memories that matter?

Spend some time with yourself and take s good look at the growing living thing you are.   Notice where your wandering thoughts go. Are they positive?  Regrets?  Fading leaves?  Precious memories?  What can you let go of to make room for the love and light to grow and flourish?


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Much love and light!

MCH

What Colors Are Your Plate? ¬†Why We Fall For Brown


Nutritionists will tell you to “eat a rainbow.”  There is a very good reason for that when it comes to the fuel your body needs.   Much of the American diet is a shade of brown.  If shades of brown are the main palate of your plate, consider making a change for the vibrant. 

Fried foods, breads, gravies, pastas. All of these things are delicious or they wouldn’t have taken the country by a storm over recent decades. However, they lack nutrients and the energy boosting vitamins we need. They leave us feeling bloated, tired, and with cravings we seek to satisfy. Cravings are often our body’s way of communicating needs. How we interpret the signals determines what we eat or do to satisfy the need. Heading off a craving will always be a better choice than struggling to interpret our body’s craving. 

Consider a popular meal from an initialed restaurant chain: fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and Mac and cheese.   Once could argue that there are some nutrients and protein on that plate, and even a few colors: brown, white, yellow.  If you put that monochromatic plate next to the one in the photo above, which one is the better choice?  Simple, right?  Sure, it is.  The problem comes from a mentality of convenience. A drive through is a time saver in the short run, but can cost you dearly in the long run. Once in a while, we have little choice. Life happens. Our culture has evolved into something that sees convenience as the ultimate goal. 

This is sad.  We have over scheduled ourselves to the point where we don’t make time for preparing and sharing a meal with our family and friends. There was a point in history where meals where almost ceremonial in nature.  Generation after generation, the change from being present to rushing towards the future has avalanched.  We over schedule ourselves and our children. Think past this a bit and imagine what our grandchildren will be doing.  As a teacher, I actually have parents telling me their child didn’t have time to do their homework because they got back from dance lessons too late. Priorities have shifted dangerously.   What effect will this have in the next generation?  If we don’t slow down and make some positive changes, we are dooming ourselves and future family members to lives of unhealthy perceptions of what is a good life. 

Make time for a colorful meal. Make it important again. Make it ceremonial again. Make what you eat a conscious choice. A vibrant one. Eat with the seasons. I’m not saying these things will cause the overall ride to turn, but taking steps to instill in ourselves and those around us that we are worth taking time for can never be a bad thing. When we take the best care of ourselves, we have less weighing us down physically and spiritually which allows us to give more to build up those around us. 

Taste the rainbow, just not the candy-coated one. 

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Much love and light!

MCH 

Clean Eating To-Go: Dawn Harvest


One of the advantages to container gardening with a clean eating diet is the availability of clean ingredients.  Now that school is starting, this hippie teacher is happy to have ingredients for lunch on my deck.  Having time during the summer, it was easy to enjoy putting together clean meals. However, it does take a little planning to pack clean meals to go. 

This morning, as I took time to gather myself before my first day back, I harvested some of the lettuce to pack for lunch. 


After washing the leaves and chopping them, I began constructing my clean eating lunch. Here’s what I did:


I know, how Pinterest-y of me with the mason jar. Let me explain. The jar keeps the salad from getting soggy when assembled in the right order. On the bottom is dressing, then strawberries, turkey, walnuts, and finally lettuce. The lettuce stays crisp with the wet ingredients at the bottom. In the rectangle container are two smaller containers, one with raw honey, and walnuts in the other. Also some strawberry fruit leather.   The honey and walnuts are my favorite add-ins to my Greek yogurt. (After taste testing many, the Fage Total 2% is a winner.)  The container becomes a salad bowl.  Mason jars look cute, but they are super awkward to eat out of.  It’s much easier to dump it into a bowl, mix, and eat.  Some lemon slices in ice water, and you’re all set. 

Would it have been easier to eat the Chick-fil-A breakfast the PTO provided instead of bringing my green smoothie?  Maybe. Would it have been easier to go grab fast food for lunch?  Maybe. But I guarantee I feel better about what I ate today!

What clean eating lunches do you pack?

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Much love and light!

MCH

End of Summer Break?!


Already?! 

As I sit here this morning enjoying the deck, container garden, and wildlife an email pops in.  It’s from the school superintendent welcoming the teachers back next week.   Yes, today is my last day of summer break. Professionally, I’m prepared to head back to school, but mentally I’m not ready to give up my morning time on my deck. These meditative times have done my soul good.  

This morning’s meditation became about finding time to do this once the school year starts and my morning schedule gets hectic.  I always come out to feed the birds and bless the day, but it’s not the quality time like his summer has been. 

As women, we often feel guilty taking time for ourselves when we have other household duties to be done or others to take care of.  With some planning and a concerted effort, we can manage it.  My plan involves getting lunches ready the night before and paring down the makeup routine.  This summer I pretty much abandoned makeup and haven’t really missed it.  My husband said he prefers that I don’t have “all that crap” on my face and it does make getting ready a breeze.  I can also plan my clothes the night before. Such easy things that anyone will tell you to do to make mornings smoother, but the trick is actually doing them. 

What can you do to make more time for the things that do your spirit good?

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Much love and light!

MCH

I Don’t Know What I Made for Dinner: or Name That Dish

It was dinner time and I put some chicken in the microwave to defrost. I don’t know why. There was no plan, no thinking it through, no idea, no recipe. Just chicken breasts defrosting away. 

This was a problem. I looked around the fridge and pantry for inspiration and ingredients.  There were weird things. Mangos and kiwis. Yogurt and applesauce.  Sweet potato chips and blue popping corn. 

Then I spotted the tomato paste. Now, the whole eating clean thing doesn’t typically include tomato paste for all I know, but there was only one ingredient on the label (tomatoes) and I wasn’t about to slow cook my own tomatoes down to a concentrated paste this late in the game.  And there was spinach. And basil in the container garden. An idea began to form. 

Like I said, I don’t know what this is or have a name for it. Help!  Name this dish!

You will need:

6 chicken breasts

4 ounces cream cheese or mozzarella

2 cups baby spinach leaves 

1 12 ounce can tomato paste

1 cup chicken stock

For pesto:

1 cup fresh basil

1/2 cup walnuts 

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake

1 clove garlic

2 or 3 ounces Parmesan

1/4 cup olive oil (may need more or less to get to desired consistency)

Additional parm or mozzarella to grate on top

Preheat oven to 350. 

Place pesto ingredients except olive oil in small food processor. Pulse and blend into a chunky paste. 


Like this:


Then, drizzle in olive oil, blending into pesto. 

Place chicken breasts in a single layer in a dish.  Cover with baby spinach.  


Dollop cream cheese or mozzarella on spinach. 


In a separate bowl, whisk together tomato paste and chicken stock. Pour over chicken. Pour pesto over tomato sauce. 


Cover with freshly grated Parmesan, mozzarella, or both!  (Why not?!)


(I love my Microplane graters.  Clouds of cheese make me happy.)

Bake for 30-35 minutes.


I don’t know what this is, but the kids loved it!   I didn’t even fix a side. There’s spinach in it, so there was a veggie in there. Mommy cheat. 

So, this yummy recipe needs a name, I guess. Any ideas?

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Much love and light!

MCH

Experience the Storm: Learning From Mother Nature


If you hang around me, you will often hear me say that we can learn a lot from Mother Nature if we will only pay attention. Yesterday was one of those times.

 It was a lovely day out on Old Hickory Lake in a rented pontoon boat with family.   After hours on the lake, the weather did what it so often does in the summer. Pop up storms spawned over the water. Lightning struck in the distance so we got everyone out of the water and decided to head back to the marina. 

We hoped the storms were moving in a direction that wouldn’t hit us, and for a while it seemed to be so. But not for long.   As we came upon Drakes Creek (which is very wide at the point where we had to go) we came upon this:


A wall of rain. Heavy rain. You see, the point between the dark trees is the path we had to take. You can’t even see the long stretch of water for the rain. 

As we approached, the rain began to pelt us and it hurt. My brother slowed the boat that had been racing to get back to the marina to a crawl.   This kept the rain for stinging as much, but it also made me think. 

Sometimes we are rushing to get through a problem or a tough spot in life. So much so, that we miss the lesson we needed to learn. When we do that, life and the universe often find a way to make sure we learn it anyway. Perhaps, we should slow down and take time t experience the storm. Feel the hurt. Learn the lesson. Experience the change in us as a result. 

We came out of the storm drenched and a bit battered, but with a family story to tell. It made our big family day out on the lake even more memorable.  

Let nature teach you something today. Experience it. Don’t just rush through the lesson. Really learn it. 

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Much love and light!

MCH