Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dish Gardens Are So Hot Right Now

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What is a dish garden??  
A dish garden is a grouping of tiny plants arranged, you guessed it, in a dish.  
Think terrarium, only open air, not enclosed.  

I have seen these things popping up all over the place lately- featured in several magazines over the last few months, and I even noticed a display in the floral department of the grocery.  Surrounding oneself with live greenery indoors can really help to beat the winter blues!

The history of the dish garden:
 "For more than a century, Japanese gardeners 
have mimicked landscapes in miniature with the 
time honored art of hachi-niwa
or "bowl garden".  
In the West, the concept has resurfaced 
from time to time over the years."
from Martha Stewart Living, January 2012
Imagine the possibilities of the miniature landscapes to re-create... 
deserts, jungles, under-the-sea-scapes...   

My sister has a collection of funky shaped, clear glass thrift store treasures and she's been dying to stuff them full of dirt and tiny green things!  

How to make a dish garden:
  • Gather Supplies-
    • A fun dish 
    • Small rocks/gravel
    • Activated charcoal (related to fish tanks, we had to search a bit and finally found ours in the pet section of a big box store).  
    • Potting soil
    • Tiny plants
  • Put the first layer into the dish: the rocks/gravel go first.  This layer allows for some drainage.
  • Second layer: Add some activated charcoal.  This helps prevent mold, and keeps the garden smelling fresh.
  • Next, add a layer of potting soil and pack it down. (Note: if you use cacti or palm varieties, you can buy a special potting mix to help these little guys thrive)
  • Remove your plant(s) from their pots and add them to the dish.
  • Then, add some more potting mix to fill in around the roots and pack it down.
  • Finally, water your plants, and remember to water them about every7-10 days.
  • (So, I'm obligated to admit that when my sister mentioned that she had a squirrel figurine to add here... let's just say I was skeptical.  Looking at the finished product, I love it!)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sweet Potato! Stuffed with Sprouts, Nuts, Berries, & Cheese; Recipe and Helath Facts

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Sweet potatoes are a staple in our home, and after we happened upon this recipe in a Martha Stewart Living magazine, we devour them dressed up this way at least once a week!!

Dress up 1 baked sweet potato with:
  • Brussels sprouts (sauteed, roasted, or steamed; any way you like!)
  • Chopped nuts- we like pecans or walnuts best
  • Dried cranberries
  • Crumbled blue cheese

Why you want to put this in your body...
(Aside from the party in your mouth, of course)
  • Sweet Potatoes-  According to the book Eat and Heal, "Three of the toughest cancer fighters in the nutrient world- folate, vitamin C, and beta carotene (which turns into vitamin A)- are packed into a sweet potato.  One sweet potato gives you almost three times the recommended daily amount of vitamin A and almost half the amount of vitamin C...  Your body needs folate to build and repair its DNA, and if you don't get enough, experts believe you may increase your risk of certain types of cancer."  
  • Cranberries-  From Eat and Heal, "With powerful flavinoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, cranberries can protect you from urinary tract infections, heart disease and cancer.  They might even fight gum disease and cancer... prevents low-density lipoprotien (LDL) cholesterol, also called "bad" cholesterol, from becoming oxidized... A Canadian study suggests that cranberry juice might even prevent or treat breast cancer.  And a study from the University of Illinois indicates that cranberries contain certain compounds with anti-cancer properties."
  • Brussels Sprouts-  What's with the bad rap?? I love these little guys!  Brussels sprouts are filling because they are high in fiber, and packed with vitamins C, A and E- keeping free radicals in check.  From the website nutrition-and-you.com, "Brussel sprouts are storehouse of flavonoid anti-oxidants like thiocyanates, indoles, lutein, zeaxanthin, sulforaphane and isothiocyanates. Together these phytochemicals offers protection from prostate, colon, prostate and endometrial cancers... Brussel sprouts are incredibly nutritious vegetable that offers protection from vitamin A deficiency, bone loss, iron deficiency anaemia, and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and, colon and prostate cancers." (Plus they're kinda cute.)
  • Pecans-  Nuts are a good source of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants which is good for the body to lower LDL and help to prevent heart disease and strokes.  From the website nutrition-and-you.com, "Pecan nuts are rich source of many phyto-chemical substances that may contribute to their overall antioxidant activity, including polyphenolic antioxidant ellagic acid, vitamin E, beta-carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin. Research studies have been suggestive of that these compounds help body remove toxic oxygen free radicals and thus, protect body from diseases, cancers as well as infections... Anti-proliferative properties of ellagic acid are due to its ability to directly inhibit the DNA binding of certain carcinogens such as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, thus protecting body from cancers... The nuts are also rich source of minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium."
  • Blue Cheese- The creamy tang that the cheese adds to this recipe beguiles the senses and tastes more indulgent than it actually is.  Using the cheese sparingly, in order not to add too much fat, the cheese can be a good source of protein, calcium and potassium.

Eat and Heal, By the Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing.  2001

Friday, January 6, 2012

ON Your Body Is IN Your Body.

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What's in your soap?  How about your moisturizer, or toner? Your foundation, power, concealer, blush, or eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara?  Lip gloss?  Body lotion, hand cream, or foot cream?  Anti-wrinkle cream, and deodorant??  Think of just how many things that we (women especially) apply to our skin everyday.  Does the average gal tend to think past the beauty effect of the product?  Sure the magic anti-cellulite, anti-aging serum may erase some fine lines and minimize her pores, but what else is it doing to her??  She may not stop to think about her skin absorbing every single impossible-to-pronounce synthetic ingredient that went in to that potion. All of it going into her body, just as surely as if she'd eaten her cold cream by the heaping spoonful.

We would all do well to continue our mindfulness past the food we are forking into our bodies.  Thankfully, it is growing increasingly common for the average consumer to read the labels on her food, and more importantly, move away from any food wearing a label altogether.  As we are more mindful to eat from the earth, we now need to teach ourselves to be even more mindful and to live from the earth.

Let's begin to view our skin almost like a sponge covering our whole bodies.  A sponge soaking up everything it touches (not just the plethora of things we dump on it daily, but also what is in our environments too).  Think back to the beginning of this post; make a mental note of the list of topical synthetic products that are a part of your daily routine.  All of that is going into your body.  

I won't get into some of the truly terrifying effects and origins of some common beauty product ingredients in this post- my intent is not to scare. I don't feel that we should make decisions and live our lives out of fear.  What I do believe is that when you know better, you do better.  Let's be aware, and begin to live more mindfully.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Last Season's Lasagna Garden

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Even though we have had the pleasure of a relatively mild winter thus far here in Colorado this year, the gardener inside of me has a wicked case of cabin fever!  My hands are positively aching to get busy in the dirt.  So I find myself wistfully dreaming the days away with visions of the lush green backyard vegetable oasis we will enjoy come summer.

Our garden last year was small; we had a new baby and I was in school, and afraid to bite off more than I could chew.  Thankfully, last year was also the year that I "discovered" the concept of Lasagna Gardening.  The whole garden was essentially and experiment/study in the Lasagna method.  No chemicals, no tilling, almost no weeding, no expensive organic treatments for the soil.  It couldn't have been less stressful, or more successful!! 

I checked out the book Lasagna Gardening, by Patricia Lanza, from the library (you can peruse the website yourself here), and I fully admit that I did not read it from cover to cover.  As I leafed through the pages and studied the helpful images what I took away from the book was this: Gardening isn't as intimidating as I had thought!  There isn't some  dusty old rulebook of ancient rigid gardening laws that must be followed (As my mother would have had me believe, only she knew the secrets- and she sure wasn't sharing!).  As it turns out, in a garden, as with everything else in life, be creative, make what you've got work for you... and thrive.

The loosely adapted version of the Lasagna Gardening method that I used went a little something like this:
  • We re-purposed concrete forms from a job my husband had worked on into raised bed garden boxes.
  • I placed the first layer of "lasagna"- newspaper.  This layer works as weed control.  I lined the bottom of the raised bed with the newspaper, about 2-3 pages thick.  Then I soaked the paper with the hose.  Hint: The newspaper can be placed anywhere.  You can put it on top of hard packed dirt, as we did, or even directly over the grass).  Using newspaper with only black and white ink keeps the garden organic.  
  • Next, I added a layer of green yard waste.  We had a pile near the compost of leaves and grass clippings.
  • The next layer was from our newly started, not completely broken down compost.  I just tossed the food scraps right on top of the green yard waste.
  • Then I topped the previous layer with a bag of organic garden soil.

Another important lesson that I learned from this book was that the carefully planned and plotted rows I had placed in past gardens may have contributed to the never-ending weeding that I suffered from.  This time I just plopped seedlings and seeds as randomly as I could.  This resulted in the plants growing in their own sort of layers- as they would in nature, I suppose.  It seemed that the plants almost acted as weed control for one another.  I think I only weeded twice all season!  :)