Monthly Archives: March 2013

Natural is Best

It’s lovely when someone pays you an unexpected compliment, as happened to me this week. It came from my phlebotomist when I went for my monthly blood test. I’d was made up ready to drive straight after to Reading to help celebrate my mother’s 87th birthday by taking her out to lunch along with my two sisters. The phlebotomist commented how nice my hair looked, asking if I’d had it lightened recently as it really suited me. I was thrilled someone had noticed, more so that the treatment I was giving it was working. She asked me what I used and was surprised when I told her it was nothing more than pure lemon juice.

I’m a natural blonde but over the years have turned to a mousy brown, latterly with grey highlights. Up until two years ago I regularly dyed it at home with a branded lightener, but when my hair suddenly became very brittle and matted, as if stuck with glue, my hairdresser explained the colourant was causing serious, permanent damage, and recommended I stopping using it immediately. Which I did. It took over a year and frequent cuts to grow out the damage, with fingers crossed all the while new hair growth would be normal. Thankfully, it was but the colour was dull, making me look and feel much older than my huh-humm years. I was at a loss to know what to use until we eventually get some decent sun here, which always lightens my hair naturally.

I remembered that years ago, long before we had all these fancy shampoos, conditioners and treatments, we used natural remedies for our hair:  lemons to lighten, egg yolk for protein and strength, vinegar to help shine and treat dandruff, and beer to condition. I simply rub the strained juice of half a fresh lemon juice into my hair and leave it for about 15 minutes before washing as normal. Not only is my hair slowly lightening, it’s in great condition and feels lovely to touch.

Back to mother. When we went to collect her, she was bemoaning that she really did not want to go out for lunch, saying she felt a mess because she couldn’t wash her hair that morning as she was out of shampoo. I reminded her she could always use washing up liquid, as we used to years ago whenever we ran out, or even a drop of shower gel as a last resort. Her hair looked perfectly fine as it was, we told her. She said she’d been tempted to use the old-fashioned, dry shampoo remedy: talcum powder, except she was out of that too.

Nowadays, we don’t know half of what chemicals we are putting onto and into our bodies, and I am sure a lot of the allergies, skin complaints and breathing problems we have are caused by these. Years ago, many such allergies were unheard of, yet now we are bombarded with witches brews, the air about us constantly pumped with chemical cocktails; goodness knows what they are doing to us.

It is refreshing to know that the old remedies still work. For the first time in years I’m happy with my hair, and hopefully before long, the mousiness will have reverted to at least match the ever growing population of grey, turning me into a proper silver surfer.

Warming up with Walkies

Since last April, it seems as if we’ve hardly gone a few days without being rained on here in the UK. Many places have seen flooding during the unprecedented rainfall, with homes and businesses being flooded over and over again. I can only imagine how depressing that must be for those people caught up in this miserable cycle, replacing carpets and furniture only to have them destroyed again as another deluge descends. Thankfully, the rain seems to have abated, and while we’ve had the coldest March since 1963, at least it has dried up a little and at times the sun has even peeked through.

We woke up to pretty chilly temperatures again this morning and they’re set to continue throughout the Easter weekend. Our favourite way to warm up is a visit to our local animal rescue centre where we are volunteer dog walkers. On the journey to the centre, we stop off at a farm shop for coffee/hot chocolate, sometimes accompanied by a tasty cake or bun. This morning we resisted the cakes as we’re both trying to shed a few pounds 🙂

Tricia with Daisy and CJWhen we reached the centre, we were greeted by Daisy, the German Shephard, and CeeJay, a Westie, two delightful sisters who are always eager to get out in the country lanes for their walk. They came to the centre when their elderly owner died and are absolutely devoted to each other. On the walk, if one of them stops to sniff or do the necessary, the other one waits patiently until they can both walk on together again. They are absolutely delightful, even if they refuse to look the same direction when having their photo taken 🙂 We were so pleased to know that they will soon be going home with their new owners who are thrilled to adopt them both. Such good news for these lovely girls.

TorWe also took Tor, a two year old Springer Spaniel and a real force of nature. Tor is very bright and gets bored very easily, so out on walks she’s all over the place searching for the next interesting thing.
AJ and Enzo 'Ferrari'Then there’s Enzo, who AJ has nicknamed Ferrari, because when he sits waiting for his walk, he’s like an engine revving for take off. He’s a beautiful two year old boy who is incredibly affectionate and really loves to be cuddled and stroked. A real delight.

What I love about these rescue dogs is that, regardless of the reasons they’ve come to the centre, often too harrowing to contemplate, they live in the moment. Even more amazing is how even after being ill treated they have this ability to let go of the past and put their trust in another human, often showering their love and affection even after a moment of meeting people. To continually put themselves on the line by giving their trust away so readily after it’s been broken, perhaps time and time again, is quite a thing and perhaps one of the reasons why dogs so easily capture my heart.

Photo0099Oh, in case you’re wondering, our guide dog puppy, Vinnie, has now entered full time training as it was decided that he’s basically too bright for his own good 🙂 We weren’t too surprised, believe me that boy is Oxford University equivalent material, but we were sad to say goodbye. We’ll be doing some boarding for guide dogs throughout the summer, so hopefully it won’t be too long to wait for our next charge.

Hope everyone has a lovely Easter weekend, and that the sun shines on you wherever you are.

Iguanas

IquanaI know these guys are popular as pets. For some people that is. I don’t know anyone that has them so my first encounter with one was recently in Cancun. They would come out on the walks and for me it was like seeing a snake. Something that makes the feet move while standing in place.

There were quite a few hanging out on the grounds of the resort we were in. When we got home I looked up some information on these critters and found out that Iguanas have excellent vision. They can see shapes, colors and movement from a long distance. Now that was something I think was better found out after I got safely home. Especially wearing flip flops. It makes my toes tingle just thinking about it.

We thought they were protected but I didn’t find anyplace that stated that they were. For me I’d rather not find them in my garden. Guess it’s one plus for living in a northern climate.

Book Review – The Chieftain by Margaret Mallory

TheChieftain

The Chieftain is the final story in a 4-book series I’ve purchased as soon as each story hit the shelves. I would have bought them for the covers alone, but after reading book #1, The Guardian, I was hooked. I had to know how the stories would end for these four fearless Highland warriors. (and I’ll tell you a secret—I don’t read many stories about Scottish clans. I think I need to read more, because this one pulled me in big time.)

This final story is Connor MacDonald’s. As the Chieftain of his clan, he must be strong, keep the clan strong, and marry for the good of the clan. That self-imposed edict leaves Ilysa, the keeper of his castle and the woman who loves him but doesn’t have the connections to be a “good” match, without much hope.

This story is a romance, but it’s so steeped in history that it feels like more. I followed clan happenings as much as I did the relationship between Connor and Ilysa. Margaret Mallory made these people seem real to me. In fact, I was in tears as this story wound down. It was a glorious finish. I’m both sad that it’s over and happy about the resolution. I think this is a series I will read over and over again.

Here’s the blurb from the author’s website:

THE RETURN OF THE HIGHLANDERS: BOOK 4

Four fearless warriors return to the Highlands to claim their lands and legacies. But all their trials on the battlefield can’t prepare them for their greatest challenge yet: winning the hearts of four willful Scottish beauties.

A WARRIOR’S HEART

Connor, chieftain of the MacDonalds of Sleat, holds the fate of his people in his hands. Rival clans are plotting to take over his lands, and duty determines whom he will fight, trust . . . even marry. Seeking guidance, Connor turns to Ilysa, a young lass with the gift of foresight, who reveals an approaching danger-and a passion that burns only for him. But the warrior must make a powerful marriage alliance, and Ilysa’s bloodline is far too humble.

With her powers to heal and see evil where others cannot, beautiful Ilysa dresses plainly, speaks softly, and loves her chieftain from afar. Yet when Connor finally stokes the embers of desire that have so long burned within her, Ilysa feels bliss unlike any she’s ever known. Now as he is forced to place duty before happiness, Ilysa senses Connor is in grave peril. Can she find a way to prove she is the woman he needs by his side?

And a link if you want to read more:   http://www.margaretmallory.com/index.html

Camellia

P1030041I knew I would enjoy watching the yard at the new house this spring and summer. And I am. One of the first flowers to bloom is this Camellia and it’s beautiful.

We’ve had a lot of rain but the flowers haven’t been affected much from it. Years ago, when we were newly married and had just purchased our first home Jack planted a number of camellia bushes. He alternated between white and red. The white ones had a lot of brown spots from the rain and I didn’t like them. Since then we’ve never had a camellia and I wouldn’t have planted this one but I’m so glad it’s here and so hardy.

I need to start thinking about what I’m going to put in the raised beds. Maybe a tomato and cucumber plant. Not sure yet. P1030043

Rue isn’t an outside girl preferring to stay where she can easily hide if she deems it necessary. But today when I took these pictures she poked her nose and front feet out the door. This will be a safe yard for her, now to convince her of that.

And Springs officially here. ☺ ☺ ☺

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It’s Spring–Really it is!!!

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I know it’s spring because I heard it on the news today. You really can’t tell from looking outside and I also heard we may get some snow this week. I can’t believe how fast this year is going, because … Continue reading

Moon Over Homewood

I’m in Birmingham, Alabama for a deposition today on a big case. I attended law school in this city back in the 1980s and so am very familiar with it. I lived here for three years in an area called Homewood. I lived in some post WWII townhouses that sat at the bottom of Red Mountain. On the top of Red Mountain is a statue that’s the largest cast iron one in the USA. It’s a massive thing that was built in 1903 for the 1904 World’s Fair by Guiseppe Moretti, it was to be used to show off the industrial nature of the city of Birmingham. The city was long a center of iron and steel working and the statue is a tribute to that.

The statue is of Vulcan, the Roman God of fire and the forge. The statue was placed on the mountain in 1936. Where I lived in law school was right near him. The funny thing about him is that his bottom is naked. I could see his derriere from my back yard. We always told people to come find us behind the Vulcan’s behind. Yes, we were easily amused.

They have an elevator where you can go up and get a nice view of the city and there’s also a visitor’s center. There are also some television towers up there keeping him company since it’s the highest place in the city. If you’re ever in the city, go by and check it out, it’s a nice little outing.

There’s also a little song about “Moon over Homewood” since the Vulcan seems to be mooning the area with his cast iron cheeks up there on the mountain. Sadly, I couldn’t find the words for you. 250px-Vulcan_statue_Birmingham_AL_2008_snow_retouched

399px-Vulcan_statue

If Easter Eggs Don’t Wash Their Legs Their Children Will Have Ducks by Valerie J. Patterson

That line is from a song aptly titled “The Nonsense Song”.  It’s a song I learned as a child.  Every once in a while I sing it for the bubbly hubby and—for my effort—he graces me with a smile, a shake of his head, and a squeeze of my hand.

Today’s blog is not so much about nonsense as it is about traditions.

St. Patrick’s Day and Easter—both holidays right around the corner—are steeped in tradition.

My grandmother—Dad’s mom—with the maiden name of Brady, was Irish and very proud of it.  St. Patrick’s Day was a big deal in her home.  Not because she liked green beer, but because she was a faithful Catholic and Saint Patrick meant something to her and the country where her ancestors lived.

The Wearing of the Green—commonly misinterpreted as wearing green for Ireland actually means to wear a shamrock on one’s clothing.  St. Patrick often explained the Holy Trinity using the three leaves of the shamrock.

Annually, Dublin, Ohio holds a huge Irish Festival that showcases fabulous Irish music, dancing, and dress.

Irish Truth—It is often that a person’s mouth broke his nose.  I don’t think that really needs interpretation, but just in case:  If one keeps his mouth shut, he removes all reason for someone to plant a fist on his nose!

March 17 commemorates the date of death for Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland.

Legend states that St. Patrick banished all snakes from Ireland by chasing them into the sea after they attacked him while he was fasting on a hill.

Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day is full of parades, celebration, and drinking all over the world, not just in Ireland.

Easter comes with its own traditions from the coloring of eggs to the wearing of Easter bonnets, spotless white dresses, and patent leather shoes.  From hunting for hidden Easter eggs to devouring candy found on artificial grass inside a straw basket, to looking for the Easter Bunny.

The Egg Bump—traditionally each player brings their own decorated hard boiled egg to the competition.  Two players stand across from each other and roll their egg into the egg of their opponent, bumping eggs.  The player whose egg cracks is out of the competition.  Play continues until only one intact egg remains.

Early Christians stained eggs red as a symbol of the blood Christ shed.  The egg traditionally represents life.

The Paschal Greeting is exclaimed on Easter Sunday.  Instead of “hello” it is customary to say, “Christ is risen” to which the response, “He is risen indeed!” is returned.

Easter also—for me and my family—celebrates the resurrection of Christ on the third day after the crucifixion, offering salvation to all who wish to accept it.

For you and your family, I hope there are traditions that are held precious and dear to your heart, that are steeped in meaning and sentiment, and that are shared with each new generation that arrives.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy Easter to all of you!

Until next time, take care and be happy.

Bring on the Sunshine…I hope.

Well, winter is winding down, right? At least, I hope it is. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve been blessed with a pretty mild winter. (And I say that tongue in cheek as I’m one who prefers a little snow each winter). I hope you have had a tolerable winter, also.

Now that Spring is around the corner, my husband is starting on garden projects. This year, we’re (oooh, I think I just used the royal “WE” there) starting some seeds in our newly enclosed greenhouse.  This structure has been there the entire time we’ve lived here, but we never took the time to enclose it.  greenhouse1

So now, what used to be a playhouse for our grandchildren is now called “the blue house”. greenhouse2And hopefully, it will give hubby a running start at the produce production. Not that he needs it. I don’t think he remembers there’s only two of us living here when he plants those seeds.

Dude, our 17 pound cat, is already showing signs that he’s coming out of hibernation. He’s not hesitating so much when you open the door to let him out. Cold weather will turn him around in a heartbeat. I think he spends half the winter curled up close to the wood stove. He’s now going outside for more than a quick potty trip. And, at 17 pounds, we’ve been able to talk him into walks around the property. Yes, that’s right. We have to take our cat for a walk. It’s the only way he’ll exercise. He’s such a lazy guy, but too loveable to berate. lol.

floors3

Happy almost Spring, everyone!

Cabbage Salad

chefpicI used to make this salad quite a bit and we all loved it. With spring starting to show it won’t be long before we’ll be ready to put our soup pots away for cooler fare.

Combine together

Half a head of cabbage
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 package Top Raman – crush (don’t cook)
3 or less green onions

Season with
The package of seasoning in the Top Raman
½ cup olive oil
3 Tlbs of salad vinegar
1 or 2 Tbls of sugar
salad elegance (important seasoning)
salt/pepper

Toss all together it holds well so can made in advance.