Saturday, May 8, 2010

Second Hand Saves Money

Buying second hand is both economically and ecologically sound way to shop. You save loads of money while saving the resources that would be needed to create a "new" product.

Yesterday I purchased this table full of items for $3.45! Really! I picked up the baby Levis jean jacket for 25 cents. Three shirts, two pillows, a tart warmer and a pair of shoes were 10 cents each. The black sweater was $1.00. The Wrangler western ware shirt was 50 cents and the pocket knife (still in the package) was $1.00. The baby toys, scarf and magazines were all from boxes marked "free."

"But," I hear you hollering already, "I don't have time for yard sales and thrift shops!"

Sure you do! In the case above, it took about 10 minutes to stop at a multi family yard sale (that I happened to pass on my way home from the garden center) and snag these great deals.

Let's compare ten minutes of my time vs. working for the $$$ to pay retail:
The Levis Jean Jacket alone costs $34.95 retail, and the Wrangler western ware shirts, new, cost about $45. The last time I bought a new pocket knife I spent around 15 bucks. Etc. You get the point.

So, the question is, can you afford NOT to buy second hand?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Organization Made Easy

I try not to have a lot of things that serve no purpose. Though decorative right now, these baskets will be in full use when the garden starts blooming. If they break or become stained, no problem -I can find another basket for less than a dollar at a yard sale.

Just about any hardware store sells these multi drawer storage bins. Though sold and generally used as a unit to store nuts and bolts in a garage or workshop, they can be used to store any number of items and come in several sizes.
Note: Medice is kept tidy (and ot of the reach of little ones) in a small platic bin in the same cabinet.

I filled and labeled mine and gained three kitchen drawers! Now I have more storage in the kitchen and these items are organized and easy to find.

I don't sew much anymore but still keep a little box of sewing goods in the closet in case I need to repair a seam or sew on a button. This little plastic box keeps everything neat, tidy and handy.

We have a lot of videos and they take up a whole lot of room. This box stores 100 of them and takes up the room of about 7 boxed CDs. I need one more to clear that shelf of DVDs!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Meaning of the Yantra

by Sri Swami Satchidananda

Sometimes external images are used in meditation or worship to symbolize or express certain divine ideas and qualities. When mantras (sound formulas used in meditation) or divine ideas are meditated upon, certain images are brought out. It is something like liquid crystallizing into solid form. These geometric figures are actually crystallized mantra forms. A yantra is a physical expression of a mantra - a mantra being a Divine aspect in the form of sound vibration - yantra in the form of a geometrical figure.

In simple language, as I said before, our Integral Yoga yantra represents the entire creation. Each part of the yantra corresponds to a different aspect of the cosmos. According to yogic thinking, God or the Cosmic Consciousness, is originally unmanifest - just by Himself or Herself or Itself. As God begins to manifest, the first expression is as the sound vibration. The Bible explains it by saying, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Here "word" means sound.

In Sanskrit they say something similar but take it a step further. "Nada, bindhu, kalaa" - the sound, then the dot, then the art or rays. If God manifests as sound, you can't see anything. What is the smallest expression which you could see? The bindhu or dot. It should be the smallest possible particle. But, of course, if it is that small we can't see it, so in the yantra it is shown as a large dot in the very center. The bindhu represents the first physical expression, the very core of the cosmos. It is that dot which then expresses as kalaa. Kalaa means the different aspects or literally the different rays or different arts.

The next expressions are the three rings of different hues surrounding the bindhu. They represent the three gunas or basic qualities of nature: sattva (balance, rajas (activity) and tamas (inertia). In the yogic thinking, everything in this universe manifests uniquely because it results from a unique combination of these three. All differences in the phenomenal world are due to the variations of these three basic qualities.

Then you see the hexagon around the three rings. This can be very well explained with an example from science. If you take a photograph of a crystal, you will see that its normal shape is six-sided. That's why the yantra has the six triangles around the center. It means that the first speck of matter expresses itself as more complex matter like a crystal.

The six triangles are actually a combination of two larger triangles, one pointed down, the other up. As one triangle passes through the other, we get this six-sided figure. The triangle with apex upward represents the positive, or masculine aspect; the inverted triangle is the negative, or feminine, aspect. In Sanskrit this concept is called Siva-Shakti. It is a combination of the male and female, equally represented. There is no inferiority or superiority for either aspect; they blend perfectly together. Whichever way you turn the yantra, they remain the same. So it makes a complete whole, and this itself represents the entire nirguna (unmanifest) as well as saguna (manifest) aspects of the Supreme.

Once the triangles come together, the hexagon could then represent something else also: the six basic Tattvas or principles - the five senses and the mind as the sixth. The six-sided crystal then manifests outward in further expansions of the primordial energy and matter. Why and how does this happen? Out of love. So all the beautiful lotus petals represent the loving manifestation.

Another way of explaining the petals is that the eight inner petals represent the subtle elements, while the sixteen outer ones indicate their grosser manifestations.

Then you see the three large circles surrounding the lotuses. They indicate how these elements further express as the three worlds: causal, astral and physical. But even that is not the end. The Divine expression is unlimited. That is why the circles are framed by a square with gaps pointing outward, representing the infinity of creation.

Om Shanthi Shanthi Shanthi.

For more information on the teachings of Sri Swami Satchidananda visit

Monday, April 26, 2010

Grow Your Own Spinach

This spinach was planted last August. It grew through the fall and then through the freezing winter. It popped up through snow, survived underneath the wintry ice, and is continuing to produce leaves this spring!

It's not only a hearty crop, it's easy to grow.

This University of Illinois Extension web site contains in depth information on spinach varieties and information on growing spinach, as well as selection, storage and frequently asked questions about your new favorite green

Spinach Salad and A Kitchen Note

Simple Spinach Salad

4 cups flat spinach (washed and dried with stems snipped off)
1 2.2 oz. can sliced ripe (black) olives
4 oz. part skim mozzarella cheese

Place one cup of spinach on each of four plates. Shred or cube mozzarella cheese and add 1 oz. of cheese to each salad. Divide ripe olives among the four salads. Drizzle the olive juice onto salads as a dressing and serve.

Kitchen Note:

I hope you've tried and enjoyed this healthy spinach salad!

If you didn't try it merely because you don't like black olives or mozzarella cheese, this might be a good time to tell you that any recipe offered can be altered to your liking. Prefer green olives? Then use them! Don't like onions? Scratch them from the recipe!

Cooking isn't about following recipes to the T so we'll all get the exact same result. It's using a recipe as an guide. Changing it to suit your taste preferences is fine. Feel free to go wild and don't ever be afraid to experiment in the kitchen!

Kitchen Note

Let me remind you that to be a good cook or to have fun in the kitchen doesn't mean you have to have every top quality utensil on the market.

"Real" cooks prefer gas stoves because they can control the heat and temperature better, but I have an electric one and, though less flexable than gas, it does the job just fine.

Pots, pans, utensils, cutting boards, etc. all come in low end to high end price ranges. Get what you can afford and/or use what you have. Before I had a cutting board, I used a paper plate. When I bought one, it wasn't some high end piece, it's made from bamboo and cost $3.99.

It's not about being fancy, it's about eating healthy :-)

Chicken and Black & Mahogany Rice Soup

@ 1:00 Emperors, or black rice (turns royal purple when cooked)
@ 5:00 Bamboo infused rice (a light lime green)
@ 10:00 Black and mahogany rice (nutty, mushroom-like flavor)

Enjoy your rice with this simple recipe:

Chicken and Black & Mahogany Rice Soup
8 c. chicken broth
½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken (diced)
1 c. black and mahogany rice
1 c. carrots (sliced)
1 onion (sliced)

Put chicken broth in stockpot. Bring broth to a boil. Add chicken, rice, carrots and onion. Simmer for 50 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 8 one cup servings.

Pasta with Vegetable and Spinach Sauce

Pasta with Vegetable and Spinach Sauce

1 lb. any pasta of your choice
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 Roma tomatoes (they’re the firm, oval ones)
1 purple onion
2 cups curly spinach (washed and dried with stems snipped off)
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp. dried (or ¼ fresh) dark opal basil
Parmesan cheese

Dice Roma tomatoes and onion. Put aside. Pour 2 tbs. olive oil into a large frying pan. Layer the onions, tomatoes and spinach (in no particular order) into the pan with olive oil. Add broth and basil. Simmer on medium, stirring occasionally, while you make the pasta. Cook pasta via directions until al dente. Strain pasta and put into a large serving bowl. Turn off the simmering vegetable sauce. Carefully spoon the sauce over the pasta.
Serve family style. Individuals can add cheese to taste.

Note: For a vegetarian option, replace the chicken broth with 2 cups of water and ½ tsp. each of dried thyme, rosemary and sage. For a vegan option, follow the vegetarian option and skip the cheese.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chicory: more than a weed

Chicory is a hardy perennial with a long, fleshy taproot, a rosette of leaves, and a branched flower stalk topped with pale blue flowers. It can be grown from seed in the garden, but there is enough of it around our place growing wild that I have yet to bother putting it in the garden.

Though considered a weed by most, the plant has many uses. Chicory was cultivated in Egypt 5000 years ago and is mentioned in the oldest complete herbal written by the Greek physician Dioscorides. In the US, it served as cattle and sheep fodder and was added to salads and medications.

The leaves can be used fresh in salads or cooked like spinach. If you plant the roots in a dark area you can grow tender pale leaves, often called Belgian endive.
The roots can be collected in the fall, dried and ground and used as caffeine free coffee substitute. Though I haven’t tried this, I intend to this fall. If it tastes good and is easy enough to do, I may make a permanent bed of chicory in the garden.

Though the flower petals are edible, be warned, the pollen of composite flowers is highly allergenic and may cause reactions in sensitive individuals. Sufferers of asthma, ragweed, and hay fever should not consume composite flowers, and may have extreme allergies to ingesting any flowers at all.

Although I might sprinkle a few pedals over a salad to add some color, I mainly use these beautiful blue flowers to press for later use in hand made cards or framed the dried flowers to give as gifts.

Chicory can be also be used as a dye to furnish orange or blue colors in wool.

Though chicory is said to have medicinal uses, I hate to recommend a medicinal use that I am not sure is tried, true or healthy. If you consult a reputable source for directions and information, I am sure you’ll find many uses of this weed-herb-plant for teas and antiseptic rubs.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Planning a Dinner Party

I'm planning a dinner party; an adults only, on the deck, under a tent, with a whole bunch of candles dinner party.

I wanted the menu to be something simple, yet unique and sophisticated. Of course, the party food will revolve around fresh produce grown in our own backyard, starting with a salad of mixed greens and nasturtium leaves (for a peppery flavor). The dressing selection will include, Zesty French, Asiago Caser and French Vinaigrette.

In addition to the two recipes below –which use flowers as their main ingredient (how pretty will that be), we’ll be serving:

Filet Mignon & Shrimp Kabobs
Baby Zucchini (sautéed in olive oil, rosemary, mint leaves and chives)
Cucumber Salad
Fresh Jams w/ toast corners (just made wild black raspberry and rhubarb jams)

A Varity of Breads

For drinks I’ve selected-

Organic Pomegranate Italian Soda
French Berry Lemonade
Iced Tea
A Selection of Wines
Bottled Beer

And for dessert-

Mulberry Custard Pie w/ Vanilla Ice Cream

If my hot peppers are in before the party, I will make hot pepper jelly. A jar of this, whipped up with some cream cheese, makes and excellent sweet/spicy dip.

Stuffed Nasturtiums

3 ounces softened cream cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Salt to taste
30 large nasturtium blossoms

Mix together the cream cheese, heavy cream, chives, and salt until smooth. Spoon about a teaspoonful of the mixture into the center of each flower. Fold the petals up around the stuffing. Chill for up to an hour before serving. Makes 30 appetizers.

Battered Zucchini Flowers

18 zucchini blossoms

A pint (500 ml) whole milk, or a mixture of beer and milk
3 heaping tablespoons flour
An egg, lightly beaten
Olive oil for frying

Trim the stems of the zucchini blossoms, remove the pistils, wash them gently and pat them dry just as gently.

Prepare the batter by combining the milk, flour and egg.

Heat the oil.

Lightly salt the zucchini blossoms, dredge them in the batter, fry them until golden, drain them on absorbent paper, and serve them hot.