Our Writings

Welcome Spring

Nothing speaks to spring quite like tree blossoms. We have several fruit trees in our backyard. The blossoms depicted above and below are from our pear tree, one of our youngest/newest additions. I look forward to blossoms every spring, a reminder that life reemerges every year from the frozen ground. In parallel to life, looks can be deceiving. After the harsh winter, death surrounds us, but life waits beneath the surface.

It has been a difficult year.  I watched the pandemic move across the country and, as a nurse, I knew the road ahead would be treacherous for a while.  I have not been a nurse at the bedside for years and after several weeks, I was released to work from home.  My heart grieved and feared for my colleagues as I watched people I have known and loved perish or become permanently disabled.  

Life as I knew it, looked and felt entirely different.  People and activities I cherished were no longer possible in this new COVID world.  I had taken them for granted, believing they would always be there. It never occurred to me that seeing my family or taking a hike would ever become a risky behavior.  

But here we are, and I must take a lesson from the pear blossom.  I see bits of normalcy emerging from the dust of past months.  Today I am hopeful, and it is this hope that fills my mind and heart this morning.  I hope you are filled with hope as well.

On a side note, I would like to welcome our new subscribers and thank everyone, newcomers as well as those who have been with us over time, for just being here with us.  We appreciate you.  It is nice to know others are out there, even when we cannot “see” them.  Give us a shout-out in a comment; let us know how you are doing.  Tell us what you like about our site and what you would like to hear from us in the future.

May peace and blessing be yours,

Deb

Mushroom Soup

There is an Asian grocery store on Refugee Road, not far from our favorite farmer’s market in Canal Winchester.  This small store has a great selection of mushrooms in varieties not found in the larger chains and at a fraction of the cost.  Like most of our adventures, we make the trip an all-day affair, stopping at the farmer’s market (if it is summer) and one of our favorite restaurants.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, mushrooms are a great alternative to meat.   Mushrooms are rich in fiber, protein, and antioxidants, low in calories and sodium.  Nutritionally, mushrooms are known sources of zinc, copper, potassium, and certain B vitamins.  If they are raised with ultraviolet light exposure, they also can be a good source of Vitamin D. 

After each trip, I can always count on mushroom soup.  Each time, the results are a bit different.  This time, John tried a new recipe.  Of course, he always gives his creations, his special magic touch.  The results are delicious, healthy, and nutritious. 

Note: You can find this recipe at https://www.theawesomegreen.com/vegan-mushroom-soup-for-a-comforting-autumn-dinner/.  Bon appétit!

The Not-So-Great Escape

According to the police report, the entire fiasco could have been avoided.  The day began innocently, a typical family of edamame out for a stroll.  They left the cool comfort of the refrigerator as they had done on countless days, trekking southward through lush green pastures of fresh spinach.  The fatal error occurred when they forgot to bring water.  With temperatures soaring, heatstroke was inevitable.

Police found the bodies beneath an avalanche of shredded butternut squash topped with tomato salsa.  As a last resort, the edamame family had taken refuge within the hollow of an avocado buried in the rubble.  Perhaps, they thought they would escape, but the fork had other ideas.

Not Your Typical Breakfast

Imagine it is breakfast time. What is on your plate? Is it eggs or sausage? Maybe you are a starch lover and opt for pancakes, grits, oatmeal, or potatoes. On a fancy day, perhaps you throw in a steak. You may decide on a certain food based on health or simply choose what sounds good.  

Many of you know that we (John and I) are plant-based eaters, so we forgo the animal-based options in our diet. Many days, I find whole wheat pancakes or steel-cut oats waiting for me at the kitchen table. Typical breakfast food, right?

Yet, on some days, breakfast is a source of amusement. Why? Because, on some days, not only does breakfast surprise me, but my surprise is also surprising.  Yes, I know. There were far too many surprises in the last sentence, but please bear with me.

(John’s Breakfast Cheese Sauce)

I am surprised (and delighted) by the fact that breakfast sometimes challenges my preconceived notions about food choice. Certain foods belong only to specific meals. Take our Monday morning breakfast fare – a colorful assortment of tomatoes, potatoes, salsa, avocado, broccoli, and mushrooms. Add a plant-based cheese sauce and you have all the fixins’ for an omelet without egg or cheese. My brain saw all the lovely vegetables and assumed we were having lunch at 9:30 a.m. 

I bet if you think about it, you probably have few “notions” of your own. Take the typical restaurant menu. If you were the breakfast customer, would you think it odd if the menu listed roast leg of lamb, pasta marinara, and bean burritos, but not omelets or waffles?

Why the nerve of those people!  Where is a good egg when you need one?

The eggs were set aside, of course, in favor of a more adventurous food choice. Breakfast was delicious and I was not arrested by any breakfast police because I broke established food rules. Honestly, it is a lot of fun to challenge these notions, opens a whole new world of culinary possibilities.  Try it!  You might be pleasantly surprised. 

A New Voice Beckons

A new voice beckons me.  She is quite annoying, calling to me in the middle of the night while I try to sleep, yet strangely silent when I ask her to speak.  Without discipline, she lives within storylines, ideas, and thoughts, a parade of possibilities eager for exploration.

I retired at the end of the day on December 31, 2020.  That evening, I asked Alexa to cancel my 4:30 a.m. alarm for the following day.  “Do you want to cancel all 4:30 a.m. alarms?” she asked. 

“Yes,” I replied. I had been looking forward to making that statement all week.

The following Monday, I woke up later than usual and texted my former associates, telling them I would be extremely late for work.  I still have not arrived and have chosen to blame my absence on mountains of snow.

John keeps asking me if I feel retired yet.  I honestly do not have an answer to that question.  I am not sure what retirement is supposed to feel like.

I spent the first week of retirement staring off into space.  Sometimes there was a strange screen in front of me.  I wrapped myself in sweats and watched babbling characters march across this strange screen, immersed in some fictitious event.  The cup of coffee laced with dark powdered cocoa warmed my hands.  Next to me, the poodle had already fallen to sleep. 

That new annoying voice reminded me that I promised not to be the old woman sitting in front of the television set eating Bon Bons and watching soap operas.  I told her to shut up; I was too busy to entertain such thoughts.  John asked me if I was talking to him.  “No,” I said, “I am talking to the poodle. 

In my defense, over the course of weeks, I have learned to pamper myself with hot baths and great books, allowing my mind to wander, ponder and reflect.

“You should do something with those thoughts,” the voice says. 

After six decades of living, what exactly do I want to say?  As I sit in front of the dreaded blank page writers always talk about, I wonder if I need lessons on how to listen.

Frankly, the freedom of retirement is both a blessing and a challenge.  After many years of tight schedules, one is left to build a daily structure from scratch.  I also am left to find my voice, one that is my own, beyond the dictates of my past.  The responsibility can be intimidating, especially if one wants life to matter.  

In the middle of the night, the voice comes to life and reminds me of dreams waiting for life, words yet to be written, art yet to be captured.  When most of the world is silent, the voice in my head is not.  I scribble some notes on the pad next to my bed to guide the coming day.  

“Where do I start?”  I ask.

“Just where you are,” says the voice, “at the beginning.”

IN MY BACKYARD (CREEPING CHARLIE)

I was out in the backyard observing some of the plants I have planted in the last two years. I noticed an evasive plant with a lot of scalloped leaves and pretty blue flowers. The plant seemed to attract bees and smells of strong mint.  When I pick it up, it comes up easily, as it is not a deeply rooted plant. It seems to always grow in clumps around the yard. Usually, this plant is found in the shady parts of the gardens around the base of other plants. It does pull up easily and with the regular pulling of weed plants around the flowerbed, it can be pulled up, but never goes away.  It comes back year after year. 

I looked up the plant in several plant guides and found it to have many names, and seems to be referred to as Ground Ivy most of the time. I kind of liked the one name, Creeping Charlie as this plant can quickly spread to take over any flower bed. Mowing does not stop it from continued growth. 

I like the plant as it is a wonderful green color with interesting leaves.  When it blooms with blue flowers, it is actually very attractive. I just pull some of it up when it starts becoming evasive. 

On the Scientific side of my research, I found this Ground Ivy ( Glechoma hederacea) has quite a history.  Historically, Ground Ivy was used as an herb, eaten in salads, and used to make medicines and tea. It was also used to flavor beer. The plant is very high in iron. Young leaves and sprouts are eaten like spinach. Tasting a leaf produces a very strong minty flavor. 

Although technically a weed, to me, Creeping Charlie is simply another interesting plant in the backyard.

IN MY BACKYARD (VIOLETS)

I will always wait for the blue violets to grow in my yard.  I do not have regular pruned grass; I just let it grow and mow it. In early spring, the wild violets congregate in my yard in various locations. Sometimes, they appear in one place in the front or backyard and sometimes in surprising places in the yard where I would not expect them. I like them; they would be unwelcome in a yard treated with chemicals. I just consider them to be gifts from nature.  

Science gives them the name, (Viola odorata). They grow in groups of heart-shaped leaves with beautiful blue flowers that just are so delicate. They continue to seed, low to the ground. What seems to be dead flowers really are the flowers reproducing seeds.  I noticed after mowing, they continue to grow.  The seed is spread so easily that they can get transported all over the yard. 

If you do not have a treated lawn with chemicals, an added feature of violets is that they are good for food presentations, and both leaves (heart-shaped), flowers, and stems are edible. I like to include the flowers on desserts or in salads to add that wild touch. This is also a plant you could pot grow, especially if you treat the yard with chemicals or have pets in the yard. 

I hope that your yard gives you a treat with these beautiful wildflowers.

IN MY BACKYARD (GARLIC MUSTARD)

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a plant that has two seasons, one as a small plant with heart-shaped leaves, followed by a second year with tiny white flowers and then seeds.  This plant is biennial, meaning it lives for two years. The leaf, when chewed in the spring, tastes like garlic.

I found out quickly from what I read just about everywhere, that the garlic mustard plant is very evasive and not a native plant; it takes over because of its ability to change soil conditions making it difficult for other native plants to grow.  Eventually, the Garlic Mustard plant crowds out native plants. Most insects and wildlife do not eat the plant.  It is so evasive, that the only way to kill it is to pull it up, bag or burn it.  Composting allows the seeds to survive and grow new plants so that just perpetuates the cycle. 

Sadly, the plant is edible and many recipes are out there that use the plant as a healthy salad herb. It also can be cooked and eaten as a side dish. It has a garlic flavor but should be cooked if you eat a lot of it.  The plant in large amounts raw can be dangerous as the plant contains cyanide. 

As history goes the plants were brought from Europe. The colonists used garlic mustard as an edible plant grown in gardens. It began to escape the gardens and run wild. It has not stopped and today is heavily concentrated in the midwestern forest and plains. 

I tried it and it is garlicky, but one should look up the recipes and then pull up the plants you are not using and bag or burn them. They die off in June, but they will come back if not pulled out by the roots.

Feeling Vulnerable

John found this lovely Butterweed plant in our side garden.  Tall, bright, and yellow, this small wildflower stood-out among peonies and daylilies struggling to bloom in an abnormally cold and gray spring.  I noticed the plant when a first single flower appeared at the top of the long stem, surrounded by several waiting blossoms.  I could almost feel the power in the plant’s sturdy stem.  On a damp and windy day, I snapped many images, trying to capture this wildflower as it danced in the wind. 

Spring has been difficult, with much more time spent at home in dismal and sometimes depressing weather.  We know we are among the vulnerable, seniors that are at a higher risk over our younger counterparts.  Our age can be a reminder of our vulnerability, the fact that time is sometimes unkind and limiting.  

Each day, I have visited this wildflower and am greeted by more flowers perched on top of a still wavering stem.  Somehow, this little plant makes me feel less alone, a companion plant for John and I.  This one is determined to survive.  So are we.

In my Backyard (Butterweed)

It still amazes me the number of plants that are in someone’s backyard. I had this one particular wildflower grow from a small plant to a foot tall in a few days.  I let it grow to see what it would look like through its stages of growth.  I was rewarded by my patience with a pretty cluster of flowers atop a very strong stem with kite-like leaves. It was very green and healthy-looking.  You might say the plant was, “Wild Strong!”  I encourage plants like this in my backyard.  I set up a mystery of search and learn using my skills of observation and research.  I find the plant in a book or on the internet and learn about its life cycle and how it fits in with other cycles. 

When my wife and I looked it up we found it to be classified as a Butterweed. You find this weed more to the South but seems to be evasive. Vacant farmlands are covered with fields of these yellow-colored flowers until the cycle of the plant is finished.  More than likely the plants get plowed under with the planting season. They always come back.

On the science side of terminology, the plant is named (Packera glabella), a name given by the followers of Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, who developed a classification system to name animals and plants.  So, the weed we know as Butterweed has a scientific name, and is more important than being just a weed. This weed is important to the South for providing food for crayfish; the flower feeds many pollinators that are attracted by its bright yellow flower. 

It is a happy reminder that when you want that perfect lawn, you are missing out on the beautiful weeds like Dandelion and Violet and many others that give beauty and natural life to our backyards. They can be tamed and sometimes used as an added floral to attract beautiful birds and helpful insects.