Sunday, July 31, 2016

Today we celebrate Lughnasadh and feats of strength ...

There are eight holidays on the Pagan Wheel of the Year. And today we celebrate Lughnasadh, also known as Lammas. It is a celebration of the first harvest. Wheat was the harvest that was highlighted in days of old, and that meant bread and beer! Hurrah!!

Lughnasadh is the only celebration on the Wheel of the Year that hasn't been usurped by the Christian church and other religions. However, after doing a little research, I did found churches in the early 20th century did in fact have celebrations associated with this day. It is considered a "cross-quarter day," one that falls halfway between a solstice and an equinox. Lughnasadh is halfway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox. Hard to believe, isn't it? Soon we will be at that balancing point, after which fall, early sunsets and then winter are upon us. Wherever does the time go?

So what were the Christians doing with this holiday in the early 1900's? Well, they did a couple of things, one being to climb a hill (notice they didn't say mountain, but I suppose if you had one handy, that would count). The other was to have contests displaying feats of strength. And there was always water involved in the festivities. So who could carry the heaviest pail of water up the hill? Sounds like a plan to me!

We're all set this afternoon. The river provides the water, there is a hill between the river bank and my house, and I'm going to get out my free weights for some feats of strength for the kids.

Well, I have to get back to work. I'm just finishing a lovely pork roast and hoping that someone will bring some buns (bread being so appropriate today). There is always a lovely spread here. We do love to cook - and to eat!

Happy Lughnasadh to you and yours. May life give you many harvests.

Blessed Be.

Happy harvest!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Yikes! What's a fat bomb?

I am a serious low carber and have been in ketosis for six and a half years now, with an occasional lapse. But I feel so bad, both physically and mentally, when I do lapse that it is happening rarely now, since I stick with this way of eating.

A mistake many people make when they try low carb is that they cut out carbohydrates and replace them with protein. Nope, not good! You replace your carbs with fat. Yes, you heard me right - with fat! And hopefully you will stay away from trans fats, and limit your polyunsaturated fats. Go for saturated fat, coconut oil being the number one choice, but butter and lard are not far behind. Try to get organic, or at least grass fed, butter and lard. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil are good, but one really shouldn't do more than a light saute in olive oil. Best leave it for dressings and that big jar of pesto, a staple for us low carbers.

So what on earth is a fat bomb? It should be something that is about 85% (or higher) fat, and 10% (or lower) carbs, the remainder being protein. They are satisfying, especially when you get the post-dinner munchies. They are so filling that one bomb should make most people happy, and you will quit thinking about food.

If you do a search on "fat bombs," you will come up with hundreds of recipes. I'm going to pass on two of them to you in this blog. The first is amazingly simple and amazingly satisfying. You can even indulge in two or three of them. But if you space them apart by a few minutes, you will not want a fourth.

#1 simple fat bomb:

Take two nice fat pecan halves, top one with a slice of cold butter, sprinkle the butter with a few grains of sea salt, top with the other pecan half, and chomp that baby down in one bite!

#2 more involved, but DELICIOUS fat bomb:

I like to make my recipes detailed enough that you are happy with the end products, and not confused while making them. So I will give credit for most of the ingredients for this within the recipe, but the methodology is all mine. It looks a little involved, but it's not. Start at the top with the "mise en place," which just means get everything ready before you start, then start measuring and mixing, and the whole process (once the fats have softened slightly from sitting at room temperature) from start to sliding the tray of bombs into the freezer should not take more than 15 minutes. And with practice, maybe only ten.

Please note the information about Xylitol at the end of the recipe, especially if you have dogs. It can be toxic to dogs, so keep away from them, just like you keep the chocolate away from them, and the potato peels away from your chickens.

All that being said, here is the complete recipe, from mise on place to finished product. Oh, one last note on this one. It really doesn't meet the requirement for ratios of carbs, fat and protein, but it's close. Remember, there is always that pecan bomb. It definitely meets them.

Finished product

Mise en place:
  • Put 10 mini cupcake liners into a mini cupcake pan and set aside.
  • I like to use weights rather than measuring cups, as it is more accurate and faster, so if you have a scale, get it out, and set to grams.
  • You will need a small bowl for the hulled strawberries (weigh after hulling) and a second bowl for the cream cheese and butter.
  • I use a 2-tbsp. ice cream “trigger” scoop for easy measuring. (See picture below.)
  • Get out your vanilla and a one-tablespoon measuring spoon. I love Mexican vanilla. Madagascar is okay, too. For the best taste, don't use artificial vanilla, but if that's all you've got, go for it.
Pan is ready. Trigger scoop for portioning out the bombs is on the right.

Now start measuring!

1/2 cup (2.5 oz or 70 g) strawberries, fresh is best, but thoroughly thawed frozen will do
3/4 cup (5.3 oz or 150 g) cream cheese, softened
2 oz (60 g) butter, softened (If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt.)
1-1/2 tbsp. Xylitol, put in food processor to make consistency of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Put butter and cream cheese on counter for about 30 minutes to soften slightly. Put the softened fats in the bowl of your processor, right on top of the powdered Xylitol. Blend, but don't over-beat. You do not want it to get too soft. Add vanilla and strawberries. Blend briefly. If you chop the berries a bit before throwing in the processor, they will incorporate faster and the batter will be stiffer – easier to measure out into the muffin cups. (You can always set the bowl into the fridge for a bit if the batter gets too runny to scoop out.)

Ready for the final step.
This makes 10 nice sized bombs. When frozen solid, unmold the fat bombs and place into a freezer bag. Keep in the freezer and enjoy any time. I think they taste best if you can let them sit out at room temperature for a few minutes.

Nutritional information per serving:

Carbs, 1.83 grams (14.6% of total)
Fat, 9.56 grams (76.4% of total)
Protein, 1.12 grams (9.0% of total)
Calories 106

I believe in giving credit where credit is due. I started with a recipe from a blog called
LOW CARB, SO SIMPLE.  That blogger got it from a guest blogger, Martina from KetoDietApp. My only adaptation of ingredients were 1) I used Xylitol for my sweetener, as it is one of the healthiest and I like the taste the best of any of them, and 2) I listed my choice of ingredients when given a choice. Go to the original recipe if you want to see other options, because I didn't include them.

However, for the method, I did change it considerably. Mine is a lot easier, and the end product is very nice. You will need a food processor. If you don't have one, then go back to that original recipe, which is linked in this post.

More info on Xylitol – Glycemic Index = 13. Calories per gram = 3. It works a little differently in our bodies and does not affect blood sugar significantly, the way other low carb sweeteners can. It is much sweeter than sugar, so when I substitute, I am quite satisfied using only half the amount of sugar called for in a recipe. If the recipe calls for another low carb sweetener, I reduce the amount by about a third.

It's for an occasional treat – like these fat bombs. Over-consumption can lead to diarrhea, so take it easy on these. One a day will make you happy.

WARNING: Keep out of reach of your pets, as Xylitol can be toxic to dogs!

Susan Siemers, adapted from recipe on Low Carb, So Simple blog
for Devonshire House Dishes

July 25, 2016

Ready to pop in freezer

Ready to eat, with low carb chocolate cookie.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Excitement on Linden Avenue - streets blocked!!

When I got home, with $100 worth of groceries for this week's baking plus stuff for soap room and for a few good suppers, I couldn't get to Linden. All of the turns off Lincoln Way were blocked. I had to overshoot by about four blocks to be able to get down to Linden. There were guys at the blockades on Linden, not allowing me to turn east onto my street to get to my house.

There was a lightning strike that struck a gas line. Fire! It was a mess. I parked as close to my house as they would let me and headed to the house with the bag of cream, butter and frozen shrimp.

I stopped to take some pictures. It's pretty impressive. The guy who moved the baracade for me told me that the lightning struck the ground and went right through the plastic pipe that carries the gas thoughout this neighborhood. They were in the process of shutting down the gas lines so that no gas was fed to the spot where the fire was burning. The fire trucks were very close to my drive and water hoses were in the street there. I couldn't get home.

I snapped a few pictures, got my perishables into the fridge and freezer and headed back to my car. One of the workers told me that they would be moving the hoses out of the way shortly. The fire was contained and all gas lines were shut off. I made it home about ten minutes later.

This all happened almost directly across the street from me. Phew! Glad it wasn't me. My neighbor has a mess - a tree that will be hard put to survive, and grass that is no more.

Nature's power is a marvelous thing.

Fire on north side of street - gas lines not completely shut down yet.
Mishawaka fire department on the job

Dousing the fire - again!
Still going!

Monday, July 18, 2016

The yard is getting a make-over

I am so happy. I finally found someone to do yard work. This is the year of "The Outside of the House," and it was sorely overdue. Foundation is painted, deck is stained, window ledges are covered in vinyl, front door is trimmed out, exterior lights are installed and the dog tunnel that leads into the basement has been sided and roofed.

Look to the left for dog run pre-makeover
All done! Hal did a great job of siding and roofing for the kids.
Now for the yard!

Down both sides of the foundation, tree stumps are disappearing, weeds and rocks are going, and Antonette's overgrowth of lily-of-the-valley will find a new home! The two old flower beds are going, will be seeded over with grass, low spots in the yard will be filled, and the only things remaining will be the apple tree and two flowering quince bushes. It will be much easier to mow, and my stacks of wood for bonfires, already laid for Lughnasadh and Mabon, are growing.

Nick and Jake working on west side of foundation
East side of foundation, where lily-of-the-valley will go
Old flower bed - it's gotta go!
Lily bed doesn't bloom much, this will be grass, but the flowering quince will stay.

The Rose Garden remains for me to work in. There is one rose bush in the mess that is worth saving. I'll buy new ones, and they must smell divine. Some of my favorites are Mr. Lincoln, Tiffany and Princess Di. I hear that Double Delight and Honey Perfume are intensely scented. I will be looking for them, have never grown either of them. The Rose Garden is my special place. Ayn Chee is buried there. She will be surrounded by tea roses. Miss you, AynChee. Not a day goes by that I don't think of you.

Where Ayn Chee was laid to rest. She will be surrounded by tea roses.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Are you ready for a new recipe?

I had two large chicken breasts in my freezer. I bought them for the skin! Did you know that NOBODY sells chicken skin? And I wanted to make this great recipe for crisp chicken skin with goat cheese and pomegranite seeds. So I bought four whole chicken breasts just to get the skin. LOL I'll give you that recipe later, with my adaptations. But for today, let's use up those chicken breasts! Low carb and delicious. There are a lot of details in this recipe. Those details are the difference between a nice chicken salad and a truly spectacular one. Serves 6.

So if you want, you can grab a roast chicken by the checkout at Meijers, shred it, mix some curry powder into some Miracle Whip and throw it onto the chicken. It's adequate, but if you want to wow yourself and your guests, try this.

First I thawed two chicken breasts, about 2-1/2 lbs. total weight, then put them in a foil lined pan with sides, just large enough for them to fit. (If the pan is too big, they are more apt to dry out. Just another detail to make this recipe so good.) I drizzled some organic vegetable oil over them, about a tablespoon on each, then salted well. This is the only chance to get the salt into the meat, so don't be shy! I used about a fourth tsp. on each breast.

A very necessary kitchen tool for me is an instant read thermometer. You can get them at Meijer or Target for around $8. Here's why you need that thermometer. I baked the breasts at 400º for 30 minutes, then checked the temp. One was done ("done" is 160º), the other, larger one, wasn't even close. I removed the breast that was done and put it on plate, continued cooking the other breast until it too reached 160º, which took nearly 10 more minutes. Be sure to check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast, and make sure the tip of the thermometer is not hitting bone. This is so important. Overcook and the meat is dry. Undercook and you are risking salmonella! Neither option is acceptable.

The chicken breasts need to cool until you can handle them. Pour any pan juices over them so they can be reabsorbed while the breasts are cooling. This makes for juicier chicken. Even if you are mixing it with mayo, veggies and spices, you still want each individual bite of chicken to be tender and juicy. I know, I'm going on and on, but these little differences are the things that will make a memorable dish.

By the time you are done making the dressing, the chicken will be cool enough to handle. And if it is still a little warm, I think it absorbs the dressing better. If you want to refrigerate the cooled chicken until later, though, you can delay making the final salad for up to two days.

Here are the ingredients for the dressing:
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 very thin slices of red onion from a medium onion, finely chopped (Onions have carbs, but finely chopping them will give you a nice burst of flavor from a minimal amount of onion.)
  • 3 tbsp. roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 C. real mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. raisins (They are full of carbs, even more than the onions have, but if you chop them, you can get a surprising amount of flavor out of just one tablespoon.)
  • 2-1/2 tsp. good curry powder
  • 1 tsp. honey (leaving out the honey will save you 1 g. carbs per serving, but . . .)
  • 3 tbsp. roughly chopped walnuts
Throw all of the dressing ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine. Then shred or chop the chicken and add to the dressing. If there are accumulated juices on the plate from the chicken, by all means add them to the bowl as well. That is pure flavor!

Chill for at least an hour, and serve on a chilled plate with a few cilantro leaves and a wedge of lime for squeezing. The second picture shows the salad with half of a low carb roll. Recipe later for the rolls.

Update: Here are the nutritional values for this recipe, first line for serving 6, second line for heartier servings, serving 4. For only two more carbs, you can stuff the "serves 6" amount into a low carb roll, for a total of only 6.5 carbs. It's a meal. You will be full if you eat this on the roll. The recipe for the rolls is coming. I'm still working on it. I am not getting the texture shown in the pictures, so there is something in the recipe that they are not telling us. When I figure it out, I will post the original recipe with my updates so that you are happy with the end result.

                         Carbs/ Fat/ Protein/ Calories
Six servings:     4.5    36.0     22.5     438.5
Four servings:   6.7    53.9     33.8     657.8

Bon appetit.

Recipe by Susan Siemers, from Devonshire House Dishes.

Curried Chicken Salad

Curried Chicken Salad with half a low carb roll

Thursday, July 14, 2016

What is ketosis?

In a previous blog, SUGAR AND YOU (click on link to read blog), I maligned sugar and spoke about ketosis. I provided few details about ketosis in that blog, so here is a little more to chew on, including why a ketogenic diet might be just what you need to improve your waistline as well as your mental attitude.

Those following a ketogenic diet are doing so for a variety of reasons. For most people, it is to lose a few pounds, especially belly fat. For others it is a medical necessity. Children with epilepsy who are non-responsive to drugs to prevent seizures can be helped by a ketogenic diet - in fact it is successful in lowering the number of seizures in more than a third of such cases. In addition, some of them are cured - yes, I said cured - of ever having another seizure by staying in ketosis for two years or so. Of course, these children are under medical supervision.

When I had my farm, we had a raw milk association. In Indiana, you may not sell raw milk for human consumption, but if a person owns a share of a cow, then they can legally consume their own raw milk. One of our shareholders, when she learned of my ketogenic diet, told me that both of her sons had been plagued with epileptic seizures. They were both hospitalized to get into ketosis, and from that time forward, neither had another seizure. After two years, they were able to eat anything they wanted. It was as if their brains had been retrained during the two years of ketosis. Like I said, some are cured.

She showed me little cards she still carried in her wallet to warn well-meaning mothers that her boys couldn't have so much as a bite of cake or a spoonful of ice cream at the birthday party. She always brought their own "legal" treats, so they could participate without fear of a seizure.

Think of that, a diet to cure epilepsy! Some children are subjected to brain surgery. Wouldn't you want to try a diet first? So what is a ketogenic diet? Here goes, my explanation of keto diets.

We burn carbohydrates for quick energy. Our body pretty much doesn't have to do anything with the sugar - it goes right to our brain and sets to work. (If you are interested in the details, there is a good book called Life Without Bread. Chapter 3 explains how the body utilizes carbohydrates, and it is quite different from how it works with protein and fat. You will enjoy it if you are a wonk like me who likes to look at the mechanics of things.)

I hear many people say, "You have to have carbohydrates for energy!" And yet I have a friend, George, who is on a keto diet, has been for years, and he runs marathons. He went through an adjustment period, but now he has no lack of energy when running on bacon and eggs. No pasta for him!

So how is it that George can run marathons without carb loading prior to running? Our body is a wondrous thing! If we don't eat carbs, our body manufactures a replacement, something called ketones, derived from the bacon and eggs (fat and protein). Our body is more than happy to use these ketones for energy. Yes, you can cross the finish line on ketones.

Those of us on a ketogenic diet usually check our urine daily. If we are utilizing ketones for energy, there will be evidence of it because we throw excess ketones into our urine. The Ketostix (the brand I use) will turn color, and it will tell me that I ate right yesterday. And depending on the color, it will tell me just how right I ate.

I am on a ketogenic diet for mood control, and I usually know before I get out of bed what color the stick will be. If I'm in ketosis, I am not so restless, definitely NOT depressed, and feel focused. The stick rarely tells me something I hadn't already figured out. While some will argue that they are not very useful, I kept careful records of my keto readings for six months, which included a diary of my thoughts and feelings each day. I stand by the Ketostix.

Now on to ketoacidosis. When I tell people I have been in ketosis for over six years, I often hear, from people with some knowledge of ketones and/or diabetes, that I can ruin my kidneys by going too far and going into ketoacidosis. They are right, of course, but it is hard enough for me to stay at a reading of 5, 15 or 40, so I cannot imagine eating a diet that would get me all the way to ketoacidosis. What would I have to eat? Maybe a pound of Crisco? With a pound of hamburger? Not going to happen!

Stay tuned to this blog for more about low carb eating and how it impacts our health.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sugar and you

Energy from our food comes from three sources - protein, fat and carbohydrates. Most foods are a combination of at least two of them. Our bodies and our brains handle them differently. While fats and proteins follow one path, carbohydrates take a different one, a path that will influence your ability to think and how much weight you carry around your waist, to name a couple.

Why should you care? Remember that the carbohydrates in the food you eat has to be metabolized differently, you know, the "different path." What many people miss is that many supposedly innocent foods are loaded with carbohydrates - a.k.a.sugar! As a low carber, of course I avoid the obvious things like sugar, bread and pasta. But did you know that fruit is full of carbohydrates? Even fresh fruit, even organic fruit. I just don't eat it. Did you know that all root vegetables have a lot of carbs? We all might think about potatoes, but what about turnips and carrots? Full of carbs. If it grows beneath ground level, I just avoid it. And how about a glass of wine or beer with dinner? Nope. Both are full of carbs!

If your breakfast is a bowl of cereal, even without any added sugar, and maybe a piece of toast, washed down with a glass of orange juice, you are setting up your brain to tell you to eat more in just a couple of hours. You are whetting your appetite for carbohydrate laden food for the rest of the day. If you don't believe me, try this breakfast and tell me how long it takes for you to be hungry again.
  • Scramble three eggs in a tablespoon of butter.
  • Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Top with a little more soft butter
  • Eat and enjoy.
  • Have a glass of water and some coffee, black
  • STOP
I can almost guarantee you that you will not even think about food for four or five hours. Try it! Just for one day. Please!! And if you do, let me know how it works for you. (I hear how low carb diets are so expensive, but eggs are very cheap. Deviled eggs - yum! Egg salad, also yum. Mayo is pretty inexpensive as well.) While I'm not a fan of soy, black organic soy beans do make a great salad. (Don't use black turtle beans - they are FULL OF CARBS.) Drain and rinse, then add homemade vinegar and oil dressing (or check the label on the stuff from store to find some without carbs), crumbled feta cheese, cilantro or mint and a tablespoon of very finely chopped red onion for a little seasoning. Not too many onions though. They fall into the "root vegetable" category. Then salt and pepper to taste. It's an occasional treat for me.

Your will see references to "ketosis" and "ketogenic diet" in this blog. There will be more about that in my next blog. For now, it's enough to know that a ketogenic diet is one very low in carbohydrates and very high in fats. Details later.

Here are some good reasons to start cutting sugar and carbohydrates out of your diet - obviously not all of them, but virtually everyone should be able to happily live on 100 grams of carbohydrates a day. (You can record your consumption at - no cost to join for an eye-opening view of just how many carbs you are eating.) 
  1. Your brain will thank you. You will think more clearly. I know people who have been able to cut out antidepressants when eating a low carb diet. About 35% of epileptics will experience reduced seizures, and in many cases a complete cure, with a very low carb diet (under 50 grams per day). Although the study was very small, two women with bi-polar disorder were able to cease taking any medication with a very low carb diet. Children with autism are known to function better with a very high fat, very low carbohydrate diet. Don't take my word for it - start googling!
  2. Your waistline will thank you. Nothing will get rid of belly fat better than the good old-fashioned Atkins diet. You really don't have to pack the pounds around your waistline. Really! Go to the Atkins site for a lot of support and good recipes. It's free.
  3. Your heart will thank you. Your triglyceride level is a more effective measurement of heart health (or lack thereof) than your cholesterol reading. Speaking for myself only, when I went into ketosis with a very low carb diet, my reading fell from 105 to 53. Not too shabby! Yup, my total cholesterol reading went up, but my ratio of HDL to LDL is very good. 
  4. Your blood sugar will thank you. Google "the use of a ketogenic diet in controlling type 2 diabetes" and read all about it. Sadly, the average age of the onset of Type 2 diabetes is getting lower and lower. Soda isn't the only culprit. The hamburger bun isn't good, either, and French fries, and cereal, and pancakes with syrup, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Eating too many carbs increases insulin resistance, which of course leads to Type 2 diabetes, but also is a part of metabolic syndrome associated with heart disease. Can you imagine how much less this country would spend on medical care if we cut back on the carbs in our diet? It's going to be hard to do with the push for vegetarianism, the malignment of meat, and nutritionist encouraging the consumption of whole grains. There really are no "good" carbs, just foods with carbs that have offsetting advantages, such as kale, cauliflower and nuts, to name a few.
So with increasing publicity for paleo and low carb diets, why do people still eat all of the carbs? Because sugar a.k.a. carbohydrates make us feel good - at least temporarily. Short term pleasure vs. long term health? I know what most people choose. A friend of mine was on statins, knew how bad they were, but she loved her sweets, and she said she could eat more sweets if she took statins. Really? 

So if you want to try a low carb diet, here are some tips.
  1. Go to Atkins (or another is and record your food for a couple of days just to see where you are with your current diet. If you are doing this for weight loss, record your weight.
  2. Strive for a menu that is 10% to 15% carbohydrates, 65% fat and 20% to 25% protein. Don't make the mistake of replacing carbohydrates with protein. Replace them with fat, really.  And stay away from polyunsaturated and trans fats. Best are saturated fat and monounsaturated fat. If you want to fry something, using lard or clarified butter is better than olive oil because they can be heated to a higher temperature without damaging them. But by all means use olive oil for salad dressing or a light sauté of vegetables.
  3. Try eating this way for just one day. Don't decide about what you are going to do tomorrow until you get up tomorrow. One day at a time - it works. Really.
  4. Have some good foods on hand. Get eggs! You can buy a pack of 24 eggs at Meijers for less than $2.00. Cauliflower can be used for everything you would do with potatoes, including really good mashed "potatoes" and "potato" salad.
  5. Read the labels when you shop. Take your smart phone with you and look up carb count of fresh vegetables that don't carry nutritional labels. Don't bother to look up the fruit. Just stay away from it for the time being. When checking for carb count, you can deduct the fiber from it - so if something has 10 carbs per serving but 2 grams of fiber, your net carb count would be 8.
  6. I don't have to tell you not to eat between meals because you won't want to. But should you get the urge, have a BIG glass of water. If you still want something, eat a few nuts, walnuts being the best choice, or maybe a couple of Brazil nuts. You will be fine. Really.
  7. My biggest challenge is the desire to nosh in the evening. If you ate a "proper" dinner, e.g. a hamburger with no bun, mustard and/or mayo instead of ketchup, and a side of mashed cauliflower with plenty of butter, at least your stomach and your brain will not be telling you to eat. But the evening munchies is kind of a bad habit. Not sure what to tell you. Just bite the bullet, and eventually it will be time for bed. And BTW, you will sleep better on this regimen.
  8. Focus on what you CAN eat, not on what you can't eat. Steak on the grill topped with blue cheese and a side of greens swimming in olive oil? No problem! Here is another site with great recipes, one I use a lot. Linda's Low Carb Recipes
I would like very much to get a group together to hold each other up and give encouragement to stay on a low carb way of eating. If you are interested, be sure to send me a comment on this blog. And now, here is a picture of your brain on cocaine, and your brain on sugar. Really!

There are nice red spots in the middle of those green blobs in a healthy brain! I don't see any here. Do you?

Monday, July 11, 2016



I found the wasp nest. I thought I had checked out the grill and sprayed it well enough, but yesterday when I grabbed my spatula off the hook to flip my lamb burger, several wasps came flying out of a hole near the hook. I ran in the house. Couldn't spray while meat was cooking, but I sneaked out and got the burger off the grill and then sprayed the critters. Another little house since I took care of the last one a couple of weeks ago. They have been busy as bees -- or wasps. Sigh . . .


This Roomba is so much better than my old one! She is in the dining room now. Company coming for dinner tonight, so she is going to be busy all day. It takes her about an hour to do dining room and kitchen, then another hour to do living room. She has to go back to the charger between jobs. Last but not least, I will haul her upstairs. It will take her about an hour and a half to do my bedroom, bathroom and upper hall landing. Love her!!!!


I do at least one load a day. It will be two today because I'm about to go downstairs and make soap. I cannot imagine life without a good dishwasher. Bosch - they make the best. Quiet, and the dishes only need a quick rinse to get any loose bits off. Then it does what is supposed to do - wash the dishes. :)

Washing machine:

Only one load to do today. It's working on it. When I was a new bride in my 12-room farmhouse, I used a wringer washer, no dryer. Nope, I don't want to "make America great again." Men have no concept of what women contributed to the running of a household in the last century.

Soap Room:

There is plenty to do in the soap room today, but it is good to have it so well organized here. At the farm, not so much. Here, everything is close at hand. Even my soap molds are well organized now. Here is a pic of my new setup.

Soap molds - easy to find which ones I want!

So good to have my machines. Allen reminded me that I called my old Roomba Hazel, which will be appreciated by those old enough to remember the TV show that featured a maid named Hazel. My machines are my Hazel. So very thankful for them.

I'm watching the morning sun creep across the yards as I write. So beautiful!

Have a good day. I will.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Lamb burger hot from the grill!

Here is my recipe for Lamb Burgers. I sold lamb for a local farmer for a while, so wanted to develop some recipes, and IMHO this was my best. In the pic, it is served with black soybean salad and some organic cucumber slices. If served with no bun, this recipe is very low carb.

Lamb Burgers with Moroccan spices

Makes two large lamb burgers

12 oz. ground lamb
One fourth medium onion, sliced thin and finely diced
One small egg
2 tbsp. panko bread crumbs
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp. Ras el Hanout – purchase at Ceres & Co. Booth 50
¼ tsp. toasted and ground cumin seeds
¾ tsp. ground black pepper
¾ tsp. sea salt

2 tbsp. sour cream
2 tbsp. real mayonnaise
1 medium garlic clove, grated
¼ tsp. dried dill weed
Pinch coriander
Pinch toasted and ground cumin
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Mix together with hands all of the burger ingredients and form into two large patties.  Pat them out so that the centers are a little thinner than the edges so that they cook evenly.  They will flatten out as they cook.

Heat a heavy iron skillet and put a thin film of oil in it.  I use bacon fat, or you can use olive oil.  Heat the pan to medium hot and add the burgers.  Fry five minutes on each side, then remove to a large plate and let sit for about five minutes while you make the topping.

Mix all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.  Put one burger on each plate and top with half of the sauce.  Sprinkle with cilantro, if you like. 

These are very low carb if you eat them with no bun.

Bon appetit.

Recipe by Susan Siemers 

Hot off the grill!

I love living on the river.

This morning I woke up early and was lying in bed enjoying the thought that it is Sunday, a day I try to save as a real day off.

A boat motor reached my ears, and I settled a little snugger into my bed and smiled. I love living here, love the river sounds, and boat motors is one of them. I will go to church, and we have a new members picnic afterwards. Then I'm coming home and getting out the kayak.

The weather is magnificent today, still as a mouse, sun breaking across the expanse of lawns. No fences in this neighborhood, only lovely green lawns right up to the water.

Just flipped on the attic fan to bring in the lovely morning air. I can almost smell the dew!

Life is good.

The view from my deck

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Bee well . . .

I was cleaning out a flower bed a few years ago when I thought I had gotten into some stinging nettle. Fortunately I was wearing gloves, heavy shoes and socks. When I looked down, my left wrist and hand as well as my left ankle were covered with bees, and they were mad!

I immediately peeled off the gloves, shoes, socks and my jeans. But I was covered with stings, and I don't think I'm exaggerating to say there were 25 to 35 stings. I had been stung many times in the past with no ill effects, but this was pretty dire. I took two Benedryl tablets, put on fresh clothes and headed for the hospital. I didn't feel well, but there was no constriction in my throat, no trouble breathing.

It was Labor Day weekend, so there was no one around to take me to the hospital. I hopped in the car and called my son so that he was on the phone with me while I traveled the 10 miles to the hospital in Plymouth. I felt a bit sick to my stomach, but figured maybe it was just the pain, which was intense! Yes, I was traveling to the same Plymouth, IN that has a blueberry festival on Labor Day. When I got to the emergency room, I went to the desk and told her I had gotten multiple stings and was not feeling well. She told me to have a seat. I was sharing the room with people suffering with heat prostration, sick kids, and a couple of people with wounds of one sort or another.

Rumor has it that as many as 500,000 attend the Blueberry Festival over a four-day period. Do I have to tell you the waiting room at the hospital was packed? I sat there for 15 minutes or so, and went to the desk a couple of times and was told to go back and sit down. I finally asked the woman behind the desk, "If I am allergic to bee stings, wouldn't I be dead by now?"

She answered, "Probably." I went home.

The bees that got me were ground bees, not in a hive. Picture courtesy of Heather Valley Honey.

Not long after the bee incident, I noticed I was having trouble with my homemade skin care products. I went to a dermatologist. I experimented with the ingredients. But still, I could only use my night cream and moisturizer about once a week, or I could literally pull strips of skin off my face! Gee, a chemical peel for free!

Then I started making deodorant, and after using it for about a week, I noticed a ring of fiery red skin under each arm. I checked ingredients. The only ingredient it had in common with my moisturizers was - you guessed it - local beeswax! Being of a scientific bent, I then deliberately used a lotion bar, consisting of beeswax, shea butter and sweet almond oil, on my hands all day. By that evening, I had open cracks in angry red skin between my finger.

I told my dermatologist what I had done, and she suggested I get an Epi-Pen. If I was that allergic to beeswax, odds are that I would be allergic to bee stings as well.

I went years without being stung, and of course my Epi-Pen expired. Then last summer I fell in the yard and had the misfortune to fall on a bee. I had an angry and large red welt on my stomach, but that was all. So I figured I was okay, no anaphylactic shock to worry about. I didn't replace my Epi-Pen.

Two weeks ago, while cleaning up my grill on my newly stained deck, bees were humming around, and I ignored them. Until I got stung right below the eye, that is. I immediately put yarrow on it - which is a mild anesthetic and an anti-inflammatory. All was well.

When I undressed to get ready for bed, my chest was covered in blood blisters. I then got a severe case of intestinal distress, which bothered me for several days. I also developed hives all over my back. I lived on Benedryl for nearly a week! I also ordered a new Epi-Pen. This is not good. I will admit I am a little frightened of bees now, and I hate to mow lawn. No matter how hot it is, I wear a long sleeve shirt, gloves, and shoes and socks. I also carry Benedryl in my pocket while I am waiting for my Epi-Pen to arrive from the UK. $112 there, $700 in US. Medicare covers $250 of it, big deal. I'll wait and hope the bees leave me alone for the time being.

I still have hives on my back, and it was bad enough today that I just took a Benedryl. I really would love to take a nap about now!

Silver lining - I have developed a line of face creams without beeswax. I still carry my old stand-bys, wish I could still use them, mais c'est la vie.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Fourth of July!

We are blessed to live in a country as good as this one. Things aren't perfect, but when are they ever? But we keep trying, and it amazes me how well we do.

My 401K has done very well over the past few years, and being (semi) retired, that is very important to me. Unemployment is very low, and while I wish pay was better, we are getting there. Salary increases in 2016 are already exceeding expectations. In addition to feeling some pretty fair financial security in spite of the Great Recession, here are some things that our country has fixed.

I can remember when I was denied a job because there were no women allowed in the programming department at J&L Steel. That was in 1968 - and 1969 - and 1970. Can't say I didn't try!

I lived in a town that didn't allow African Americans within the city limits after sundown. A NORTHERN state town, not the deep South.

The child restraint system in my car was swinging my arm in front of my child, who was standing on the front seat beside me, when I braked too hard. I shudder when I think of that!

When I went to Illinois State [Normal] University in 1959, the African Americans were in the basement of our dorm, and had their own cafeteria. No intermingling allowed.

There was no EPA, and when my husband and I went fishing in the Illinois River, we brought the fish home live and threw them in a water tank for a few days to get the smell and taste of diesel fuel out of them before we cleaned, cooked and ate them. Now the Illinois River has won awards for its cleanliness.

When I was pregnant, I knew it because the smell of cigarettes made me sick, wouldn't even let my husband smoke in the house. Thank goodness! Of course, I started back up as soon as the babies came. I kicked the habit permanently on September 26, 1972, but not because the tobacco companies had fessed up. 1965 - 42.4% of US population smoked. 2013 - 17.8% smoke. Damn those rules, that political correctness. (I don't know the emoticon for sarcasm.)

I was pregnant with my first child when thalidomide was released - without proper testing! I had bad morning sickness, but my doctor told me to go to the drugstore for Dramamine instead of prescribing thalidomide. How fortunate I was! My friend was not so lucky. Her baby was born in the same hospital, one day after mine, and his hands were deformed.

Looking at the list, I realize how important the rules and regulations we often rail against have been in my life - and yours.

Happy 240th Birthday, United States of America! 

Warts and all, you have always been great, and hopefully you always will be.