Coffee. It’s my drug of choice. If you know me you know I don’t just drink coffee, I experiment with it around the world. And through that experimentation I have learned to appreciate the cultural aspect of coffee, the history of coffee and the fierce competition of the world’s best coffee. And so my Book Review of The Devil’s Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee fell right in my coffeehouse.
This book is actually old, published in 1999 and the story beginning in 1988. At that time, author Allen embarked on a around the world trek to research and get caffeinated and answer the question: Did the advent of coffee give birth to an enlightened western civilization?
Allen traveled from Yemen and Ethiopia to Europe and India and the United States and in his journey he not only drinks a hell of a lot of coffee, he finds himself in some interesting and hair-raising situations. All for the love of coffee.
The book has some great cultural history and Allen’s witty writing helps us follow the bouncing bean. Funny and interesting, but a tiny bit dated.
****Four stars for The Devil’s Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee
We are all a bit anxious these days about our health and well-being. Remembering the important recommendations for social distancing, mask wearing and washing your hands A LOT remains super important. But what we choose to eat in our lockdown lives is another important factor in staying healthy. Immunity boosting foods for healthy life is something we should learn to do all the time, not just when the world is fighting a pandemic.
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Choosing to add immunity boosting foods to your diet is really easy, without giving up the tasty comfort foods we all are enjoying during these anxious days. Over the past few years I have been working on a diet that is rich in both immunity boosting foods, anti-inflamatory foods and foods that are good for gut health.
I am not a dietitian or a nutritionist, just a lay person who has experimented and found some things that work for me. And maybe they will work for you too!
Last summer we purchased a sauerkraut maker, manufactured by a company called Cultures for Health. Now we eat a few tablespoons of homemade sauerkraut every day. Homemade sauerkraut is full of good bacteria for your gut. Unrefrigerated store-bought sauerkraut has been pasteurized. Pasteurization kills all those good bacteria and so you lose the healthy benefits. You can use this sauerkraut maker for other fermented foods too like pickles, beans, radishes. Eating fermented foods adds good bacteria and enzymes to your gut! And they taste good too.
Here is our fun video on how to make your own!
Now I know you’re gonna want your own fermenter. Here is the one we recommend.
Our daily breakfast nearly every day of the week includes a lot of immunity boosting foods for healthy life. Each morning we eat a bowl full of blueberries (antioxidants, phytoflavinoids & Vitamin C), spinach (fights cardiovascular and chronic disease), almonds or walnuts (packed with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals) and other fruits like apples, bananas, mango. We mix this with homemade yogurt.
The probiotics in yogurt (live cultures) are really good for your health. Yogurt is a great source of low calorie protein, as long as you aren’t eating the sweet and fruity kind. We make our own yogurt very simply in a yogurt maker we bought from a manufacturer called Euro Cuisine, through Cultures for Health. It’s really easy. All you need is a live-culture yogurt starter and milk. We make it once a week at night, and when we wake up in the morning it’s ready to eat. You can get one at the link below.
Eat the Rainbow
The rest of our daily diet includes a variety of immunity boosting foods for healthy life like ginger (free radicals build a defense system), garlic (anti-inflamatory), dark greens and broccoli ( full of good vitamins and anti-oxidant goodness) peppers and citrus (nothing like the Vitamin C in these foods to strengthen your immunity) and apple cider vinegar (used in small quantities is a great anti-oxidant boost).
We eat meat including beef and pork, although most of our meat consumption is chicken and fish ( watch for a seafood blog coming soon). We try to have salmon, canned sardines and responsibly fished canned tuna regularly, all foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Although I am a coffee lover, I often take a cup of herbal tea before bed. I love a ginger tea which helps me sleep as does chamomile, and I’m also fond of peppermint tea as a pick me up in the afternoon. I don’t drink green tea very often, but like the teas I mentioned above, these all are high in immunity boosting anti-oxidants. The world of tea is actually very fascinating…there are entire books written about it and tea is definitely a immunity boosting food for healthy life. For me, just an herbal cup each evening is both delicious, healthy and relaxing.
Staying healthy isn’t just about food of course. Finding ways to stay active, get lots of rest, drink lots of water and engage in activities we love during these stressful times are all part of keeping your immunity system thriving despite the stress. It’s okay to have that brownie, or burger too. It’s not about depriving yourself. It’s about making good choices, adding immunity boosting foods for healthy life to your diet, the things science knows help our bodies fight back anything from the common cold to an uncontrolled virus.
Take care of yourself my friends. Choose healthy options and be well.
I wasn’t sure I liked this book in the beginning. In fact I put it aside to read another book and eventually came back to it and started again. And I am glad I did. I really did enjoy this story.
We are introduced to Vale, a young woman living in New Orleans but raised in Vermont. Vale is estranged from her mother, but when her mom Bonnie goes missing during the 2011 Tropical Storm Irene, Vale returns to Vermont and her roots.
Returning home for the first time in eight years, Vale rediscovers the poverty stricken region of Heart Spring Mountain, home to three generations of women before her. Through her search for her mother, Vale will find lost family history and secrets, understanding of pain and love from the past, and a love of her own. Vale will see for the first time the connection her ancestors have with the mountain, how it shaped them and thus her own life and the life of her missing mother.
Beautifully written story of family ties, fractures small and deep, and healing.
****Four stars for Heart Spring Mountain by Robin MacArthur
I’m living in a new neighborhood and have inherited a garden quit different from anything I’ve had before. The neighborhood is beautiful and the landscape is focused primarily on native woodland plants. In addition to our wonderful landscape we inherited something else…dozens of deer. Our new neighborhood is brimming with deer and other wildlife. So I have been studying all about deer resistant plants for both container gardening and landscaping.
The deer in our neighborhood are so used to humans they will come right up to the front porch and eat the flowers there. Oh the nerve. What’s a girl to do? Well the deer were here first…so I need to adapt to them.
My friend Kim, who is a local Master Gardener, came over and brought me some lists of some of the tried and true plants and remedies to turn deer away from my yard. There are a lot of plants deer won’t eat, although even some of those they might take a nibble.
After my help from Kim and lots of research on Pinterest I headed off to my local nursery and stocked up on lots of plants that are supposedly deer resistant and I bought a couple of other things to try as a gamble.
I planted eight pots of flowers, planted four pots of tomatoes, and added several things in the ground. After three weeks here are my success stories and the fails from A – Z;
I planted 12 astilbe in the ground. The deer took a few nibbles in the beginning, mostly just nipping off the new flower shoots, but have essentially ignored the astilbe ever since. However, the astilbe is planted around a small Japanese Maple, and the deer keep walking on the astilbe to nibble on the Japanese Maple.
Last fall I put eight peonies in the ground near the front of my house. The deer do not have any interest in them and the plants are flourishing beautifully. I think I will add some more.
I planted a couple of mugwort in a pot last year but they got so big I moved them to the ground this year. Mugwort has a strong odor of curry and the deer stay away. It’s not my favorite either but I’ll learn to live with it. I’ve grouped it with some lavender.
Another great plant the deer find offensive is lavender. Deer usually will stay away from most herbs, and although we love the smell and texture of lavender, deer do not. I now have six lavender in the ground, all healthy.
We inherited many mature Rhodies and were gifted some more from a neighbor and the deer have no interest in these beautiful and easy shrubs.
I got a little carried away at the plant store and, without checking my list, picked up three hosta to go under my maple tree where we removed some unsightly heather. Only later did I read hosta is deer candy. So, the hosta are there, and so far the deer haven’t eaten them but I am prepared for that to happen. Then I will try something else – maybe Bleeding Heart.
I put two Bleeding Heart (one of my favorite shade plants) in the tiny garden near our front door and they are doing great. For as delicate as Bleeding Heart is I am surprised the deer don’t like it, but apparently they hate it. More Bleeding Heart coming up.
I have a healthy Shasta Daisy in a pot from last year and the deer ignore it completely. I’ve added some Dahlias around this daisy for color and contrast.
It’s been years since I grew dahlias and this year I bought several from a local dahlia farm (Papa Paul’s Dahlia Farm). I put them all in pots. As of this writing they are emerging strong and healthy and so far the deer walk right by. I’ll need to wait until later in the summer to see if they ignore the blooms.
Canna is one of my favorite plants and I have four in two different pots. The deer are staying away so far. The other great thing about canna is it overwinters well in the Pacific Northwest.
I actually am not a huge fan of day lily, but they make the list of deer resistant plants so I have added two yellow ones to one of my pots. So far, no deer.
This purple flower falls into the deer resistant category of “usually”. So I put a nice healthy one in the same pot as the day Lily. The deer immediately nibbled off the tips of each oncoming bloom. Since then I have not seen any more damage. Fingers crossed.
One of my all time favorite flowers of summer, delphinium also falls into the “usually” deer resistant category. Last summer the deer ate all my delphinium, so this year I planted three in a pot closer to the house. So far they have taken a nibble on the petals of one of the plants but nothing more.
I planted several cone flower in with the canna and a Black Eyed Susan from last year. These have been great performers in my pots and the deer have been pretty ambivalent.
In addition to the lavender I have some sage, lemon thyme and oregano scattered around my yard and pots. I think I’ll intersperse a few more herbs like mint and parsley, as herbs certainly seem to work to offend the deer and keep them away.
My four pots of tomatoes and one pot of lettuce are just outside my kitchen and I have never seen a deer come up close to this door. All these plants are doing great.
I’ve never tried zinnia from seed before, but the odor and texture are a big turn off for deer (I’m sure you see a pattern here) so I sprinkled zinnia seeds in the ground and in one of my pots. I haven’t seen them even sprout yet, but I’m hoping for good color from these by midsummer.
That’s My Garden
Since we travel most of the year (well hopefully that will continue when the pandemic is over) I need a yard that doesn’t need a lot of care, but offers the summer color I crave when we are home. I will continue to experiment with deer resistant plants, and occasionally give a deer or two a good talking to when they visit.
There is a ton of information available online for deer resistant plants and how to approach gardening with wildlife. You can also try some old tactics. Irish Spring apparently works and I have some hanging near some plants, as does having your husband pee around plants you want the deer to stay away from. We haven’t tried that yet LOL. You can also purchase chemicals designed to keep the deer out. As much as possible I’d like to stay away from the chemicals, and instead learn how I can live peaceably with these rather annoying, outrageously hungry, but also beautiful creatures.
I have loved the other three books I have read by Sue Monk Kidd, and in this new novel she strays far and in doing so creates a compelling story of Biblical times with a twist. Here is my Book Review of The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd.
Kidd herself says she is audacious to write this fictional tale, based period of Jesus in the first century. But instead of following the practiced story from the New Testament Kidd gives Jesus a wife. Ana is the key character of The Book of Longings.
Imagining a world for women during this period we follow Ana from her upbringing in a wealthy but unloving family in Galilee, to her first meeting with Jesus and through their eventual marraige, which saves her from being forced to become a concubine for Herod Antipas.
In the ensuing years of marriage Jesus and Ana each develop their own spiritual beliefs, with Jesus setting off to follow John the Immerser and eventually declaring himself the long awaited Messiah, King of the Jews. Ana and Jesus are separated for several years during his pilgrimage and she finds her own voice in her spiritual writings, even while women are not allowed to do such things or be educated.
Followers of Jesus are unaware he is married, or that Ana and Jesus lost a baby girl at birth. In Kidd’s story these unknowns about Jesus are never recorded.
Despite much trial and a long endured separation, Ana and Jesus are reunited, but of course we all know how Jesus’ life ends.
I loved how Kidd takes the biblical stories we all know, elaborates with other historical facts we may not know, and then peppers the story with fictional detail that blends seamlessly and beautifully to round out the life of all the characters; most names we will recognize.
Particularly poignant for me was the focus on the Jesus as a human being not a divinity. The overarching message is one of bold and strong women of the time-period, who persevere despite strict control by males to keep women subordinate. The triumph of this story is Ana’s will and courage, a beautiful account of a woman finding her voice during a historical period where society wants to silence her.
I loved this book.
*****Five stars for The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
Read last week’s review of The Night Watchman
My current read Wolf Hall
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This is my system for organizing digital photos. It might not work for everyone but it works for me. I use an iPhone and a MacBook so if you are not using Apple products your system will need to be different. For those of you who are not Mac users, I have included in this blog information about Google Drive photos (see below). So at the request of some of my friends, I have put together this blog that lays out my system for organizing digital photos. I hope it can be helpful to you.
What Kind Are You?
I read an interesting article once that placed digital photo people into three different categories; casual, moderate or enthusiastic. My photo library has 59,000 photos and nearly 400 videos. I’m pretty sure I fall into the “enthusiastic” category. Or crazy. I think my husband would label my photo taking as crazy.
I was a Mac user before I was an iPhone user and the day I realized my two devices were going to be talking to each other was the day my life changed. I mean really. It didn’t take me long to give up my SLR camera altogether and use my iPhone as my sole camera. I currently have an iPhone 11x and it takes beautiful images. Even though I have a few complaints about the iPhone 11, photos are not one of them. So I take lots of photos every day and I need a good system for organizing my digital photos.
Before I get into storage let me talk briefly about editing. On the iPhone you can adjust the light level before you take a photo by tapping lightly on the screen and adjusting the up and down toggle for brightness. But often I don’t have time to do that if I need to capture a fleeting moment. And so I do it in edit mode after. The iPhone editor has a wide variety of options for lightening, brightening and adding color to your images. Sometimes I will turn a color photo into a black and white photo for dramatic effect. You can warm up a photo or cool it down. It’s all very user friendly.
Sometimes I use the bounce or loop feature on the iPhone and I really enjoy the long exposure feature. When traveling I find I love it for any water image, storms or even traffic.
Another cool feature with the iPhone is the live camera. I keep live on all the time. If I capture an image where the subject may have moved unexpectedly or a car moved into the frame, often you can go back to the live edit and skip back a frame or two to easily make your photo perfect. Super easy without needing to be a techno whiz.
The only other edit program I use is a very rudimentary app called Snapseed. In Snapseed I can add lots of dramatic color to a stormy photo. Or I can make an old vintage truck look even more old and vintage. I can make my photos look like they were taken on a Polaroid camera 40 years ago – or a number of other very simple edit options. I use Snapseed often and don’t find I need any other complicated editing software for the purposes I use my photos for.
Types of Storage Options
Not so long ago all my photos were printed and put into photos albums. I still have all those photo albums and one long term project goal is to eventually transfer those to digital.
Not so long ago I was storing photos on CDRom and thumb drive. I hated this system because I didn’t seem to be able to keep these organized or find them easily, needing to pop the CD or thumb drive in and out of the computer.
Today there are a variety of photo storage options available and everyone has their favorites. My photos are in iCloud, while other people prefer options like DropBox, Shutterfly, or Picasso. Amazon Prime has a photo storage program, but I haven’t been able to find anyone who uses it. From my experience the two most popular are Apple iCloud and Google Drive. Since I don’t use Google Drive I asked a fellow blogger, Slavka, to share a little about Google Drive:
Do you have a Gmail email address? If you do, Google offers other convenient services that you can access via your Gmail email account. Google Drive is one of them and it’s great cloud storage for your photos and other files.
So how to use it? First of all, you need to have or open a new Gmail email account. With this email account, you have 15 GB of free space. You can use this free space for any of the connected services such as Google Drive, Google Docs, or Google Sheets. You can access these by clicking on the 9 dots icon that appears in the top right corner next to your login icon. Click on the triangle icon of Google Drive. This is a space where you can store photos, videos, audio files, documents files, etc. You can group then into separate files and share them with others via a sharable link.
Google Drive storage is convenient for the temporary storage of recent photos or the ones you want to share. Older images and files should be downloaded to an external storage drive for archiving. Or, if you want to keep them available online, you might need to pay for additional cloud storage after you run out of free space. Currently, Google charges approx. $28 per year for 100GB of cloud space.
Thanks Slavka. Be sure to check out Slavka’s wonderful travel blog on the link above.
So, the iCloud photo storage works basically the same way. It’s free for the first 5G and then you pay monthly for additional storage. For a long time I paid $4 a month for 200GB but now I pay $10 a month for 500GB. My photos are automatically uploaded regularly to the cloud.
No matter which storage system you chose, keeping your photos organized is the challenge. For me it’s a big committment given the number of photos I have and my constant need to access them. Here is how I do it.
Organizing my Images
When you open the iCloud photo library, you can go to File in the top left hand corner. Click on File and you will get an option to create an album. In my photo library I have dozens of albums. I have albums for family, friends, house and garden, genealogy, cycling, hiking and camping, and of course cats. (LOL). Then I have an album for every country we have visited. Sometimes I will combine a couple of countries to save a little space. Additionally I have separate albums where I store art work for my blog, birthday funny memes, or things I might want for holidays on social media. I have one whole albums for Seahawks and Cougar football memes.
Creating the albums is the easy part. The hard part is continually moving your new images into the files. Here is how I do that:
Every few weeks I sit down and delete images. Ideally you should be doing this daily or minute to minute on your phone, but that doesn’t seem to happen for me. So I go through and delete duplicate images, poor quality images or other images I don’t want in one go.
I check the date I last moved images to albums and after deleting I start with that date and begin moving the images (click and drag) into the albums. Sometimes an image might end up in multiple albums (for example family album and hiking album). This way I can find it easily for future use.
The Big Delete
Since I’ve had A LOT of free time on my hands these past few covid months, I began a new delete project. Going to the overarching file called Photos, where all images are from all albums, I started with the oldest images and slowly am going through and deleting. I have found there are photos I don’t even remember taking or where I took them. Some photos that seemed important at the time, no longer have meaning for me (the first time I saw a wild baboon it seemed impressive…now so many thousands of baboons later who cares). And so I delete. This is very time consuming but will eventually help my overall storage issue. I am committing a few hours a week to accomplish this task by the end of the summer – it’s about ten years worth of photos, but an important goal for organizing digital photos.
So What About External Hard Drives?
For a couple of years before I went all Mac I used to have an external hard drive I would plug in to my PC and back up my photos regularly. But I haven’t done that since I went to 500 GB in the cloud, as I feel confident in the system I am using. However, I recently purchased a new external hard drive called Photo Stick that stores 128GB of data. I haven’t started using it yet, but I decided it was worth it to have it since it is very small (like a thumb drive), has a huge amount of storage, works continually and will help me clean up duplicates. It also will offer me even more peace of mind. Hopefully it actually does all those things. I paid $79 for it.
So What is Best for You?
Remember in the beginning when I asked what kind of photo person you are? Determining the answer to that question is your first step in getting your images organized and safe. As an “enthusiastic” photographer, as well as a blogger, travel writer and very active social media user, my photos are incredibly important to me in my day-to-day life. I consider myself a good photographer, after years of practice and a small amount of training, and photography is an important hobby in my life. So I spend both time and money making sure my images are protected, accessible, and good quality.
No matter what kind of photographer you are, you can start organizing your digital photos with a little knowledge and commitment. Good luck!
This is my third book I have read by author Erdrich, and unfortunately my least favorite of the three. Here is my Book Review of The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich.
Although the story, which is based on Erdrich’s grandfather’s life, was good, I found parts of the plot too mystical and fantastical.
However, I did really enjoy the characters Erdrich developed in this fictional story of Native American life and trails. Her grandfather is featured as one of the main characters, Thomas, a night watchman at the local bearing plant where he lives on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. Thomas, a tribal leader takes the fight agaisnt dispossesion form North Dakota all the way to Washington D.C.
The story follows Thomas and his struggle with the US Government, while also following Patrice, a young native girl who goes searching for her missing sister Vera. Patrice, somewhat coincidentally, falls in with a riffraff group of individuals, who know the whereabouts of her sister and her sister’s baby. On her search Patrice encounters a lot of horrible things, including some dreams and visions that guide the story.
Two young men who both have falling for Patrice figure prominently in the tale, as the impoverished reservation and it’s residents seek a life of love and compassion, amidst the toil and poverty and lack of promise they all must endure.
***Three stars for The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich.