Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Surprising Uses For Lemons

Lemons are believed to have originated in China or India. They were a hybrid of limes and citrons. The lovely yellow color and unique taste made them attractive to traders who took them all over the world.

Today you can buy fresh lemons in almost any grocery store. There are also concentrated juices and frozen juices. Lemons flavor foods from appetizers to desserts and many in between. However lemons are good for much more.

Before we begin I must remind you that I am not a doctor. Any time you want to use anything for medicinal purposes you should check with your physician beforehand. There may be interactions with medicines or conditions that are already present.

Lemons are high in flavonoids and antioxidants. They help production of white blood cells.They are one of the few foods that have negatively charged ions (to balance all the foods with positive charges). Lemons are also one of a small list of foods that take more calories to digest than they contain.

Nutrients found in lemons include Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, Vitamin A, B vitamin complex, iron, copper, potassium, and calcium. You will consume 29 calories per 100 grams of lemon.

Ancient Egyptians believed that lemons protected against poison. They were at least partially right. Some insect stings can be successfully treated with lemon juice.

Lemon juice helps prevent and cure osteoarthritis. It is used to treat scoliosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Low cholesterol is something almost everyone strives to reach. Lemons will help with that. It means fewer heart problems, better circulation, and less chance of stroke. It strengthens blood vessels too.

Cancer is that ugly disease that we all fear. Lemons can help. They seem to be especially good for dealing with cancers of the mouth, skin, breast, stomach, prostrate, and colon. Lemons have been shown to prevent the division of cancer cells so that they do not spread.

Many of the nutrients in lemons act as antibiotics, antiviral agents, and immune system boosters. They help prevent colds and flu. They fight infection in the body. Lemon juice helps dislodge phlegm.

Lemon juice in your bath serves several purposes. Lemon is naturally cooling so it soothes and relaxes. Rubbing your skin with lemon juice acts as an exfoliant .It also helps clean and heal the skin. If you are drinking a bit of lemon juice every day it will help give your skin a healthy glow.

Even though lemons are acidic they quickly become alkaline after they are consumed. This helps keep the pH balance in your body.

Apply lemon juice to acne. It will dry eruptions and prevent new ones. It will also exfoliate the skin to get rid of dead cells.

For minor burns lemon juice is applied to cool the area. It will further prevent scarring.

Gargle with lemon juice to ease a sore throat.

Bind a slice of lemon tightly to a corn. Leave it on overnight for relief of pain.

Lemons are one of the few low glycemic fruits. They contain no saturated fats or cholesterol but are high in dietary fiber.

Anyone who has ever bitten into a lemon knows that the taste stimulates the salivary glands. Just thinking about it makes a mouth water. Digestive juices begin to secrete and bile production is stimulated. This aids in digestion so that you will not have so many stomach problems. No heartburn, no belching, no flatulence. They help prevent vomiting. Lemons will also help with elimination issues. Constipation could be a problem no more.

Lemon juice is a natural food preservative. Coating apples or bananas for instance will keep them from turning brown. This method is safer than using chemicals.

Vasco da Gama lost about two thirds of his sailors to scurvy on their way to India. Then it was discovered by James Lind that lemons cure scurvy. Even today ships carry lemons on board to keep the sailors healthy.

Other diseases cured by lemons are cholera, malaria, typhoid, and diphtheria. The reason is that lemons purify the blood and help cleanse the disease from the blood.

Dried lemon peel can be crushed and massaged into your hair to ease headache before a bath. Lemon juice as a rinse helps rid your head of dandruff. It makes hair shiny. As an astringent it helps close pours and gives skin a healthy look. It reduces wrinkles too.

Lemons are really good for the liver. They stimulate bile production as well as cleansing impurities. Lemons are good for the urinary tract too. They are a diuretic. They also keep crystals from forming in the kidneys that lead to kidney stones. They dissolve gall stones and calcium deposits. They help prevent gout.

Stomach and intestinal parasites are killed by lemon juice.

An ingredient in the peel of lemons has been successful in treating Parkinson's disease.

Sir Edmund Hillary said that lemons were the reason he was able to reach the top of Mount Everest. They help when there is insufficient oxygen and difficulty when breathing at high altitudes.

Eye disorders including retinopathy caused by diabetes can be eased by eating lemons.

Mouth sores are healed by rubbing with the inside of a lemon peal. Make sure to rinse thoroughly afterward. A little lemon added to toothpaste helps whiten teeth.

Lemon juice is used in a great many cleaning products. It helps things shine and leaves a clean freah smell.

Urinary tract infections and even gonorrhea can be treated with lemons.

Lemons help break a fever by causing increased perspiration.

Put lemon juice into your foot bath to soothe tired aching feet.

To lose weight drink a couple of glasses of lemon water every day.

The juice of one lemon in a glass of water several times a day helps check excessive menstruation.

The smell of lemons can make you feel better. Lemon scented candles or even strategically placed cotton balls with lemon can make everyone in the house happier. The scent also stimulates concentration. You will feel more alert as well.

Lemons have a mild bleaching effect. In your hair it will add subtle highlights. On skin it can lighten and even skin tones.

So as the saying goes...  if life give you lemons, take one and add its juice to six ounces of water and drink it. You will feel better.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Campfire Treats

Summer is almost over. Here in the United States we celebrate Labor Day at the beginning of September. Many of us go camping and many others have that one last barbecue before we put away the barbecue and dig out the tools for cleaning up the leaves that fall in autumn.

I came across some fun foods to make over the campfire and they should work as well on the barbecue. The kids will have a great time preparing these and an even better time eating them. It is a good way to keep them occupied.

I'll start with my youngest brother's absolute favorite. It is the exploding hot dog. Unfortunately not much is left to eat but it can be a fairly inexpensive way to provide a little excitement and a science lesson at the same time. Wrap one hot dog snugly in a piece of aluminum foil twisting the ends tightly. Make sure the whole hot dog is wrapped or it will not work. Then place it in the hot coals or on the barbecue. As the wieners heat up and the juices expand there will be no room for expansion. The aluminum foil eventually cannot hold and the hot dog blows up. I would recommend this treat be saved until other cooking is done. Remind everyone to step away from the fire until all hot dogs have exploded so no one is burned. The rest of these recipes will be safer.

For this one you will need approximately 10 oranges. Cut the tops off of each one at about one quarter from the top. Scoop the pulp out (it can be eaten by the children or used in a fruit salad). Mix a cake mix of your favorite flavor. I like chocolate. Fill the orange about three quarters of the way to the top with the mix. Wrap with aluminum foil. Place onto the coals but not the fire. Cook for about 30 minutes turning each one a couple of times. Unwrap, peel, and eat.

Strawberry shortcake is another easy recipe. You will need two pie tins. I use the disposable foil ones because the children can get a bit carried away when serving themselves plus there is no washing necessary. Grease them well. Make the shortcake batter from the recipe on the package of biscuit mix. Spoon the mix into the pie pans and cover tightly with foil. Place them on the coals. Turn them a couple of times while they cook for about 25 minutes. Take them from the coals, remove the aluminum covering, and top the shortcake with strawberries and whipped cream. If you have bben out berry picking that day, any fruit will be good.

Cherry cobbler takes a greased Dutch oven. Pour two 21 ounce cans of cherry pie filling into the Dutch oven. Pour biscuit mix shortcake batter over the top and cover with the lid to the Dutch oven. Place the pot onto the coals and turn every few minutes. In 30 minutes you can eat nice warm cherry cobbler.

Want a hot banana split? Cut a banana, peel and all lengthwise leaving the bottom of the peel intact. Place it on a sheet of aluminum foil. Gently open the banana and fill it with marshmallows, chocolate, caramel, chocolate chips, or whatever fillings and combinations you like. Squeeze the banana gently to partially close. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Place on the coals well away from the fire for about 10 minutes. Unwrap and eat.

For a slightly different flavor try filling the banana with brown sugar and cinnamon. I like this with hot chocolate but there are those who think it goes well with rum.

As you can see, none of these are difficult to make and do not take a lot of time. And they are all delicious. Try them before you put away the barbecue and before the end of your last camping trip of the summer. I would love to know how you like them. Better yet, I would really love to know how your children like them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

You Gotta Eat Your Spinach Baby

Bluto has kidnapped Olive Oyl again. Popeye pulls out his trusty can of spinach, squeezes it until it opens, and downs the spinach. His muscles pop and swell. He grabs Bluto and beats him a bit, then with one powerful blow Bluto flies into oblivion. Olive Oyl loves Popeye again and all is right with the world.

The Popeye cartoons have made spinach a popular vegetable. In fact, Crystal City, Texas, erected a statue of Popeye in 1937. Spinach is grown in Crystal City. They say that Popeye helped increase the consumption of spinach by 33% during the Depression.

In the 1930's people believed that the power of spinach was its iron content. Spinach is a good source of iron in a vegetable. One cup of cooked spinach has more than 36% of your recommended daily requirement, but the content is not as high as originally thought. The scientist who measured for iron placed the decimal point in the wrong place. He made the iron content 10 times what it actually is.

Spinach has more than 11 times the requirement of Vitamin K and almost 4 times the requirement of Vitamin A. Percentages of other nutrients are: manganese, 84; folate, 65.7; magnesium, 39.1; iron, 35.7; Vitamin C, 2934; Vitamin B2, 24.7; calcium, 24.4; potassium, 23.9, Vitamin B6, 22; tryptophan, 21.8; Vitamin E, 18.7; fiber, 17.2; copper, 15.5; Vitamin B1, 11.3; protein, 10.7; phosphorus, 10; zinc, 9.1; choline, 8.3; omega-3 fats, 7; Vitamin B3, 4.4; selenium, 3.8; and a mere 41 calories. No wonder they call it a power food.

Keep in mind that spinach contains oxalates. These are organic acids that inhibit your body from absorbing some of the nutrients in foods. As always consult your doctor if you might have adverse affects from spinach. Some of the concerns are kidney stones, gout, and gall stones. Do not use spinach to treat a medical condition without checking with your physician first.

Pesticides cling to spinach leaves. It is very difficult to wash off so make sure that you get them clean before using. Growing your own is best because you will not have to use the pesticides.

Persia (now Iran) was where spinach originally came from. Traders took it to India and it
was then taken to China. Eventually it was popularized in Europe. Catherine de'Medici was especially fond of spinach. Now it is found all over the world.

Glycoglycerolipids are molecules used in the process of photosynthesis in plants. Lab research has shown that they can help protect the lining of the digestive tract from damage, especially inflammation.

Research shows that of the green leafy vegetables, only spinach showed significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.

There are at least 13 different flavonoid compunds in spinach. These are antioxidants and anti-cancer agents. Studies show that they slow down cell division in stomach cancer cells. Reduction of skin cancer cells is another benefit. Consumption of spinach coincides with fewer incidents of breast cancer.

Spinach is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

The fibers, proteins, and body building compounds in spinach are what gave Popeye his big, strong arms.

Oxidative stress is a contributor to several blood vessel related problems. The antioxidants and peptides in spinach help decrease the risk of such problems as atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure.

Spinach is likely to aid in prevention of eye problems like age related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Folates, also known as folic acid make spinach a good food for pregnant women. It is good for preventing neurological defects in the baby.

Spinach helps prevent the activation of osteoclasts. They are the cells that break down bone. And bacteria in the intestines convert Vitamin K1 into Vitamin K2 which activates a major non-collagen protein in bone. Spinach assists in the strength and density of bones. Added to the calcium and magnesium in spinach to make it an excellent food for healthy bones.

Spinach helps regulate inflammation. Asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis are inflammatory conditions.

With it being so full of nutrients, spinach is great for dieters. It is plentiful, inexpensive, and filling. One cup of cooked spinach contains only 41 calories. It can be eaten raw, cooked, or mixed with other foods.

Spinach protects "entry points" into the body. Mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts are also more able to fight infection because white blood cells are stronger.

DNA damage and mutations in colon cells may be prevented. Spinach does protect the colon from the harmful effects of free radicals.

Consumption of green leafy vegetables like spinach may slow age related decline in brain function.

Spinach promotes healthy skin. It helps allow for proper moisture retention in the epidermis. It fights psoriasis, keratinization, acne, and wrinkles.

A protein is spinach directly prevents calcium from forming in tissue. This fights cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The brain and nervous system benefit from spinach. It provides an essential part for the synthesis of sphingolipids. Sphingolipids is a crucial fat that makes up the Myelin sheath around our nerves.

The magnesium in spinach helps prevent diabetes.

Spinach can help ease insomnia.

It can help your hair look smoother and shinier.

Spinach is a mild diuretic and a mild laxative. Regular consumption of spinach can help regulate your elimination system.

It can help eliminate intestinal parasites.

Because it is nutritive, tonifying, mineralizing, calming for the nervous system and also a good coagulant, spinach benefits growth.

Medieval artists extracted the green pigment from spinach to color ink or paint.

Spinach promotes blood coagulation.

Fresh spinach can be eaten in the same ways as you might use lettuce. Salad is a favorite for many people. A leaf or two on your sandwich is good. Shred it and use it in tacos. In southern US people make wilted spinach salad by pouring hot bacon grease on spinach. It is quite good.

Cooked spinach actually enhances some of the benefits of spinach while raw spinach fills other needs. Mix them up for maximum effect.

To cook spinach use a non-aluminum based pan. Steam the leaves with no more than the water left on them after washing. Do not wash spinach until you are ready to use it in order to keep the nutrients from breaking down as quickly. A little salt, butter, and pepper (if you like) is all you need for seasoning. However you can squeeze a bit of lemon juice on it for a variation of flavor.

Spinach is good in soups and stews. Shred it to use in pasta dishes. It adds extra flavor to lasagna. Spinach ravioli is a favorite of mine.

You can even drink spinach. Shredded leaves in hot water make a good tea. Add spinach to vegetable juices and smoothies.

Have you a favorite recipe or use for spinach? If so, please share it with us.It is in the interest of health after all.

Friday, August 19, 2016

10 Facts

One of the women that I admire most had a huge weeping willow tree at the entrance of the drive to her farmhouse. Sadly she is no longer with us but her magnificent tree still stands. Every time I drive by her place I see that beautiful tree and think fondly of her.

As a child I would often sit with friends beneath a different weeping willow tree on hot summer days. We would each take three of the branches that hung down and braid them into headpieces to make us beautiful. If flowers were available we would weave them into the piece. The tree was on the corner of my grandmother's lot in town. It was another gorgeous tree.

I thought it would be fun to ask ten questions about weeping willow trees. The best part is that I will also supply the answers to those questions. That way if you already know the answer you can feel a bit superior and if you did not know the answer you will learn something.

01. Why are they called weeping willows?

The weeping willow once stood tall and erect. A pair of young lovers met often and sat beneath the tree planning their lives together. Tragically the two died suddenly before their wedding. The willow tree was so despondent at the deaths that they drooped over and their branches hung in sorrow. They would never again be able to lift thieir branches after that.

02. Where will I see weeping willow trees?

They are native to China. Because of the beauty of the trees they were brought to North America and are found all over the United States and Canada. You will see weeping willow trees all over the world. They are popular in the UK, New Zealand, and Africa.

03. How fast does a weeping willow tree grow?

Once the tree is firmly established (after about three years) it can grow up to eight feet per year.

04. What type of soil is best to plant a weeping willow?

Weeping willows are hardy trees. They like a water source close by but they can grow in slightly drier places. You will often see them growing on the banks of a river or stream.

05. Is there any place you should not plant a weeping willow tree?

These trees love water; the more the better. They have enormous roots and root systems. These roots look for water. That means do not plant them near sewer lines or septic tanks. Also do not plant them too close to your house. The roots are big and strong and can cause damage to the foundation of your building.

06. Are weeping willows good for anything besides to look at?

Native Americans used the bark to treat headaches. The bark contains salicylic acid which is the major ingredient of aspirin. The sap of the tree is also full of salicylic acid. Because the acid from the tree caused so much stomach upset scientists devloped the first synthetically produced aspirin.
The bark is used to make anti-inflammatory agents. It can be used to treat articular bleeding, heartburn, and other stomach ailments.
Weeping willow wood is used to make flutes, boxes, whistles, fish traps, broom handles, furniture, baskets, and cricket bats.

07. Do you ever see weeping willow trees in art?

Weeping willows are often seen as symbols for death. Therefore a painter who wishes to portray sorrow or death often paints a weeping willow. Claude Monet made a famous painting honoring the fallen soldiers of World War I. William Shakespeare was fond of using weeping willow symbolism in his writings. Even the Harry Potter series has a weeping willow called the Whomping Willow.

08. What about weeping willow trees in mythology?

It is thought that a witch's broom is made from weeping willow wood and branches. Because the branches are serpentine many mystics believe it has sexual and fertile properties. Placing weeping willow branches in the bed of a married woman is believed to increase the chances that she will conceive. Some places believe that the branches will cause her to be impregnated by magical serpents. The child will have the gifts of the gods.

09. How can I grow a weeping willow tree?

In the fall or very early winter use sharp pruning shears to cut a straight piece from the tree. Cut from an area that newly sprouted within the last year. It should be 8 to 12 inches long. Use a container deep enough to hold at least half of the cutting in water. Keep it inside where it will stay warm and keep it in partial sunlight. Fill the container three quarters of the way with water and an amount of root stimulator according to the directions of the root stimulator. Do not disturb for 3 to 4 weeks. Roots will sprout. When the roots are about 3 to 4 inches long transplant to a container with soil. Do not plant outside during the winter. Weeping willows are hardy but these little shoots are just babies.
When planting outside in the spring make sure to stay away from buildings, septic tanks, and sewer pipes. Underground gas lines, electrical lines, and telephone and television cables should also be protected. Stay away from sidewalks and other slabs that could break from a large root in the future. Dig a hole about 12 inches deep and 18 inches across in unfrozen ground. Put fertilizer and top soil in the hole. Then put the cutting in with the roots just below ground level. Hold the cutting firmly in place and finish filling the hole with potting soil. Pack the soil firmly, stake the plant for support, and put a small wire cage around it to protect it from animals.
For the next few weeks keep the plant watered with a slow soaking. Remember these trees like water.
After they have firmly taken root and are starting to grow you should have very little maintenance on a weeping willow tree.

10. Is there a tree that is more beautiful than a weeping willow?


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Drink Up

If your doctor told you that you needed to drink more dihydrogen monoxide your first question might be Why?, and then you might wonder What is it?, and finally Where will I get it and How much will it cost. In most cases you can relax. Dihydrogen monoxide is water.

The earth is about 71% water. All known life forms on this planet depend on water to stay alive. Humans are no different. We need water to survive.

Our world is an almost sealed ecosystem. What is here stays here and what is not here has a real hard time getting in. That means that our water supply is the same water supply that has been here from the beginning of the world.

You may wonder how that is possible. Plants, animals, and all humans consume water. Is there a never ending supply? In a way, yes there is. The water cycle keeps recycling the water to replenish our lakes, oceans, and ground water. Water evaporates into the air. When the air is saturated with water and conditions are right the water returns to the earth in the form of precipitation.

Water is the only substance that naturally occurs in solid, liquid, and gaseous form. On the surface of the Earth it is salty, frozen, and fresh. Fresh water comprises about 3% of the water and less than 1% of that is available for plants and animals to drink.

The human body is about 66% water. It makes sense that we need to replenish the water in our bodies because we lose some of our water through urination, bowel movements, perspiration, and other bodily functions.

Our skin is about 70% water. In order to have healthy skin water is necessary. Studies have shown that hydrated skin has a healthy glow. Hydrated skin tends to wrinkle less and water helps flush toxins from the body so there will be fewer blemishes on the skin.Washing with water rids the top layer of skin of the dead cells that accumulate. If your skin still feels dry you can use moisturizer but you should always start with water.

Water is about 75% of the brain. It stands to reason that if you want your brain at optimum operating level, you need to drink water. Your brain controls all body functions. If it is not functioning properly the brain does not always send out the necessary signals for the rest of the body to do what it needs to do when it needs to do it.

Even bones are 25% water. If we want stronger bones water again is the answer.

Human blood is 83% water. Our blood carries nutrients to the cells and carries waste products to the proper organs to be disposed of. The correct amount of water is needed to push the blood through the body too. Too little water causes toxins to pool in lower regions and that can only lead to bad results.

Lungs are 90% water. Besides keeping the membranes moist, the water in the lungs help filter the air we breathe. It contributes to the absorption of oxygen and elimination of carbon dioxide.

Nursing mothers know to keep a glass of water close while they are breastfeeding. While the baby is feeding the mother loses a huge amount of water and almost immediately feels thirsty.

Endocrine glands make and release the hormones needed to make our bodies operate. Water is needed in all parts of the process. The production of hormones requires water. Then those hormones are released into the blood stream in a liquid form to be taken to the parts of the body that will use them.

Water is necessary to make saliva and other digestive juices. It keeps nasal passages and nasal cavities moist.Water provides the fluid that keeps our joints moving smoothly. It keeps our eyes and other mucous membranes moist and clean.

You get the idea. Water is necessary. We need to put water into our bodies. But how much do we need?

The old saying is 8 glasses a day. Actually the amount depends on so many factors. What is your size, how active are you, what is the weather like, and how is your health? Those are a few factors.

Larger people need more water because there is a larger body to hydrate. Often large people retain fluid in their lower extremities. Other people do too. It used to be thought that by limiting water intake you would lessen the pooling of fluids. The opposite is usually true. Drinking a bit more water flushes the fluids from the cells that retain. Clean fluids take their place to accept more toxins that are then flushed some more. The fewer toxins there are, the more the cells can heal themselves so they will not retain as much fluid.

People who play sports know that they must stay hydrated in order for their bodies to operate at the high levels needed to compete. For instance, baseball players who know they will be playing in a city that is usually hotter than they are used to will begin hydrating several days prior to those games. Then they drink more water as they are playing.

Active people perspire more than someone relaxing. Water needs to replace fluids lost in the process.

When the weather is hot and you are perspiring more you need to to replace the moisture with water. Gulping down several glasses of water all at once will not benefit you so you should sip often. Drinking copious amounts of water can overload your system and cause problems too.

If you are not feeling well water is extra important. Remember that flushing toxins is a function that water performs. Water also cools your body so if you have a fever water is the drink for you.

Many people will tell you that you can get water without actually drinking water. It is true that sodas, coffee, and tea are made primarily of water. And they will provide some hydration. The problem is that they also contain caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic. If you drink those drinks water might not stay in your system to do its work completely. Enjoy your cup of tea but remember to drink water too.

Juices and fruits and some vegetables have high water content and other nutrients too. By all means they should be a part of your diet but they should not completely replace water. Water does not need to be broken down into water in you digestive system before it can work.

Water contains no calories. Actually there are no other nutrients unless they are added. This makes it a good dieting tool. Drinking water instead of soda for instance means no empty calories have been consumed. Studies have shown that drinking a glass of water before and during meals makes you feel more full. Fewer calories consumed means weight loss.

How do you know when to drink? I have read that if you feel thirsty you are already beginning to dehydrate. Try to drink a glass of water every morning when you get up and another when you go to bed. Then keep water close by and sip it throughout the day. Usually that does the trick.

Often when you know you should not be hungry but you want something to eat it means that you are actually thirsty. When you get those cravings try drinking a glass of water to see if they go away.

To tell if you are getting enough water there is one simple test. If your urine is more clear than yellow you are probably fine. Now it is true that some medications and some foods will color the urine so the test is not fool proof.

Personally I think you will feel better if you are more hydrated. You will have more energy. Your skin will look better. Your eyes will be clear and sparkling. So drink up. It is good for you.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Rock The Fun

When you were a child did you ever find that perfect rock? You know the one. It was flat and felt just right in your hand. You knew it was a good skipping stone. You would hold it just right and then throw it in a certain way to see how many times it would skip across the water before it fell to add to the bed of the river. What fun!

There are other things that can be done with rocks that will last longer than the few seconds it takes for a rock to skip on the water. They will keep the children busy and give some lasting and cherished results. Most take little effort and a minimum of expense.

It has been my experience that children love rocks. If we went on vacation when my children were small their most prized souvenirs were rocks they had picked up along the way. I can remember my father-in-law being completely baffled when my son actually paid for a rock at a souvenir stand. After all you can pick a rock up off the ground anywhere.

So encourage the little ones to collect stones when they are out and about. Sometimes a rock will seem to call you. It wants to be yours. As long as you aren't raiding something that belongs to someone else it may long for a good home. Always wash them with soap and water to make sure they are not hiding anything harmful.

Another thing to keep in mind is that crafts are messy. The children should not be inhibited by trying to be neat. Make sure the work area is protected.  

How many of you remember pet rocks? They were a huge "thing" when my children were younger. They are so easy to make and imagination is the only limitation.

To make pet rocks you will need rocks, paint or crayons, and any other bits and pieces you may have left from other projects. These might include yarn, small buttons, etc. Craft glue will be necessary if you use any of these items.

Pick up your stone and study it for a moment. Try to decide what type of pet it might be. It could be a person, animal, or even a plant. Then use the materials you have to enhance the features you recognized. Perhaps the color will help identify it as a lion. Maybe a bit of yarn will make hair for a lovely lady. Create every feature until you have your pet rock.

Those who remember pet rocks will also remember that whole families and villages of pet rocks were made by enthusiasts. That meant they needed places to live and work. You might begin a passion if you are not careful.

Paperweights are easy to make and make wonderful personal gifts. There are several different ways to make them so different days can be used for different types of paperweights. Of course each begins with a solid weighty rock.

You could cut a small picture from a magazine or catalog. Then paste it to the rock with glue that has been watered down to make the paper more pliable. A small paint brush works well for smoothing the picture onto the rock.

Painting designs or pictures encourage creativity. After the paint has dried a simple coating of water with a bit of flour in it will give a glossy finish.

This one is a lot of fun. It will require a lot of supervision and care. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the rocks on the cookie sheet and let them heat in the oven for about 15 minutes. While they are heating the children can unwrap crayons of whatever color or colors they want to use.

When the rocks come out of the oven they will be very hot. Make sure the work area is heat resistant and especially make sure the children use pot holders or something similar to handle the rocks.

Set the rocks on the heat resistant work area. Sometimes they can be a little too hot right away so a testing might be wise. Touch a crayon to the hot rock. If it melts to a watery consistency wait a minute.

All you need to do to make your artwork is touch the crayon bits to the hot rock. They will melt. Many colors or one color can be used. The longer you hold the crayon to the rock the larger the swirl of color will be. You can also shred crayons onto the rock.

You can use these colorful rocks as a paperweights. Another way to display them is in a candy dish to add a bit of color to your decor.

Nice flat rocks are easy to stack. Take about 6 of them (more or less) and glue them one on top of the other. Add gloss if you like. You will have a small stack of rocks that make a good paperweight. It can be an interesting decoration on a bookshelf too.

Rocks make beautiful jewelry. To make a necklace you will need an interesting rock. It does not even need to be a shiny rock. One yard of hemp is fastened to the rock by using a glue gun. Then wrap the hemp around the rock a few times. Tie the ends of the hemp together and you have a necklace.

Magic stones or lucky stones are easy to make. Spread a little glue on the rock and sprinkle glitter on it. After the glue dries you can glue on other small colorful stones or paint a lucky word or something inspirational. Keep it with you at all times.

Speaking of lucky stones it is nice to have one with you. A fairly flat smooth stone works best. You must touch it often to make a bond between you and the stone. Keep it in your pocket and rub it often to ensure good luck at all times.

Working with rocks is limited only by imagination. They can be used to make almost anything if you put your mind to it and use a bit of ingenuity. If you have any crafts you can make with rocks I would like to hear about them. I do like to keep the little ones busy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

An Apple A Day

Apples will be ready to pick soon. Since they are so good for you and they taste so good I thought you might like a few ideas.

What smells better than something baking or cooking? The good smells permeate the house and make everybody hungry. The smells often make a person feel good. They might invoke memories of a happy occasion of something from childhood. One of the things I like to smell cooking is apples.

Most people immediately think of apple pie. I love it myself. But there are so many other ways to use apples. I would like to share a few with you. Perhaps you will share a few of your favorites with me.

Here is one of my favorite snacks. It makes an interesting thing to serve with tea or drinks. It is also something the children can easily make and they love it.

Cut an apple into four or eight pieces depending on the size of the apple. Cut the seeds from each section. Fill the space left with peanut butter. You can use smooth or chunky. Or you can use cheese. Children like those spray cans with cheese spread. Arrange attractively on a serving tray.

I like apple dumplings. The way I make them is to take pie crust dough and roll it out. Instead of the round crusts for a pie I cut them into 6 inch squares. Into the center of each square place a large amount of apple pie filling (homemade is always the best). Pull opposite corners of the crust together and pinch them tightly. Then pinch the sides so the juice will not run out while cooking. A few fork marks will allow steam to escape.

I sprinkle the top with a bit of cinnamon and sugar with a touch of nutmeg. Place them in a long cake pan or on a cookie sheet and bake just as you would bake a pie.

My favorite way to eat apple dumplings is to put one in a bowl and pour milk over it. The hot dumpling and cold milk make a fun feeling in my mouth. Some people like ice cream on top of the dumpling while others like cheese. You can even eat them plain.

Cut into bite sized pieces apples are a tasty addition to any salad. They add a nice crunch to fruit salads and a sweeter flavor to garden salads. Here is my favorite fruit salad.

I mix apple pieces with bits of grapes, oranges, pears, bananas, or whatever fruit I happen to have. Then I mix a chunk of cream cheese with Cool Whip or whatever topping of that type is on sale. When it is evenly mixed I add nutmeg (you could use mint instead) for flavor and pour it over the fruits. Gently combine. This is so good it can even be used as a desert.

Apple sauce is good by itself. It is a good fruit for babies. It mixes well as a side dish with meat.And it is easy to make.

Peel, core, and quarter 3 or 4 pounds of cooking apples. Add 4 strips of lemon peel, 3 inches of cinnamon stick, 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar, about 1/4 cup of white sugar (depending on your taste), 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. After removing the cinnamon stick and lemon peel mash with a potato masher. If you want to make it even finer for a baby food you can mash it through a sieve. Serve it hot or cold. It can be frozen.

Really the only limit to using apples is your imagination. If you gave my mother apples the first thing she would make is apple butter. It is so good on a warm slice of homemade bread. You can line the bottom of your cake pan with apples coated lightly with cinnamon and sugar before your pour in the cake batter. Apple upside down cake. If you want to mix a few small pieces of apple in with the cake batter I am sure no one will complain.

If you take bread dough and mix apples with cinnamon and sugar and deep fry chunks of it you have apple fritters. Place a few apple slices in the pan when you are cooking meat and it will add just a touch of flavor and juice. You can even mash an apple and add it to meatloaf. The list of deserts is too long to show here but I believe you get the idea. If you are the really ambitious type you can make jelly and can apples for later use.

Raw apples are probably the best nutritionally and they taste so good. But they add so much to almost any type of dish.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Superstitions Aboout Feathers

My granddaughter is constantly finding feathers. When she was small I repeated to her what I had been told, that when you find a feather, it means that someone who died is thinking of you. She often finds them in groups of three. She is certain that they are from her great-grandmother and two great aunts. They were very important to her and now she feels that they watch over her.

This is a superstition, right? What if it isn't? I began to wonder if there are more tales involving feathers. I did some research and I will share what I found.

White feathers signify either a guardian angel or a loving message from a loved one who is not alive. If you are gifted with a white feather you should save it and keep it close for good fortune. 

Peacock feathers are considered to be bad luck, especially in the house. Actors and circus performers do not allow them in the tents or on stage. Some believe that the "eyes" on a peacock feather are synonymous with the evil eye and can even be a sign of impending death. In the Mediterranean the feathers are associated with Lilith the she-demon said to be responsible for killing children.

In Greek mythology Argus was a monster whose body was covered with 100 eyes. Hera changed him into a peacock and his feathers were covered with eyes. The feathers symbolize the vault of heaven and all-seeing knowledge. Roman mythology sees peacocks as Juno's birds. The coins they appear on are to denote the female lineage of princesses.

The peacock is associated with Lakshmi for Hindus. The feathers represent fortune, compassion, kindness, and patience. Kwan-yin in Asian culture is a similar figure and the feathers have similar meaning. Buddhists associate peacock feathers with openness because of the display the peacock makes when spreading its tail. Because peacocks eat poisonous plants their feathers are considered to sustain the ability to thrive in times of suffering.

Resurrection, immortality, and renewal are what Christians see in peacock feathers. They also symbolize an all-seeing church. In Persia and Babylonia peacocks are thought to be guardians of royalty and feathers adorn thrones. Muslim legend uses feathers as a symbol in temples, the royal garden, and at the gates of paradise. Mongol warriors wore peacock feathers which caused Eastern Europe to view them as bad luck.

Sleeping on a bed that has peacock feathers will bring death to the person sleeping. Some women get tattoos of peacock feathers to show that they are protective of their children. Another myth says that peacocks slay serpents and transform the venom into solar iridescence that is seen in the feathers. Feathers of the peacock are used as adornment on clothing and hats. Those who wear them are considered to be vain. One last thing about peacock feathers... they are said to be bad luck if they are in the room at a wedding.

Just before 1880 a house was demolished in England. Found in the attic were a chair, four brooms, and a string of feathers. It was announced to be the house of a witch. The chair was for resting, the brooms for flying, and the string was called a witches ladder.

The witches ladder was speculated to have several uses. It was one and a half meters long and made of cock's feathers. It may have been used to help the witch to cross the roof. It may have been used to cause deaths. It was most certainly used to take milk away from neighboring cows.

Some thought that it was not a witches ladder, but a sewel. A sewel would be held in the hand to turn back deer while hunting. A second string of feathers was found with much newer feathers. And finally another form of witches ladder was found. It had feathers fastened loosely in a line of black wool.

Each feather was said to represent an ill feeling or bad wish. It was to be thrown into a pool where the feathers would eventually loosen and pull away from the wool, releasing the bad wishes and ill feelings. They would appear as bubbles in the water. Modern witches are said to use witches ladders for good wishes instead of bad.

A pillow with feather stuffing is believed to hold a dying person in this world. Replacing the feathers with another type of pillow will allow a peaceful passing.

The Voodoo religion makes wide use of feathers. Pillow magic is the practice of placing objects into the pillow of a person to cause wasting sickness and even death. Feather pillows are the best type to use because of feathers' magical properties. By using secret spells the "Voodoo" can cause bird or animal monsters to take shape out of the pillow feathers. It will grow slowly and only at night. When it is completely formed the person who has been sleeping on the pillow will die.

In another form of Voodoo pillow magic, a living bird is torn apart and portions of the wings are put into the pillow. Or charms or fetishes made of concoctions containing feathers, bones, hair, rags, and string are used.

Some believe that placing kernels of corn in a child's pillow will keep it from growing. Many Voodoo charms are made using feathers.

Many people associate feathers with Native Americans but they mean different things to different tribes. Even then it depends on the kind of bird the feather came from. Many Indians use feathers only as decoration. Plains Indian warriors were awarded a feather when they took coup or were particularly brave in battle. The females probably did not wear them at all.

The Crown of Feathers is another object having to do with pillows. They are made of down feathers of the same size, all swirled into a circle, and all joined at the center of the circle. When a person dies on a feather pillow and goes to heaven, the angels leave a crown of feathers in the pillow. The older the person, the larger the crown.

In England cock fights used to be great sport. Certain cocks with white tail feathers would show their white feathers and turn from the fight. They were said to be cowards. During World War I any male of appropriate age who was not in the military was also considered to be a coward. The White Feather Society was made up of women who would approach any such male and present him with a white feather to show that she thought him to be less than manly. The practice is thought to have begun during the Boer War.

If you find a white and black feather after a prayer, it is believed that the feather is a sign your prayer will be answered.

Feathers from a wren are used by sailors to prevent shipwreck. The wren must be chased, caught, and killed on Christmas Eve. Then it was carried on top of a pole with its wings outstretched. For a coin one feather was bought. At the end of the day so many sailors would have purchased a feather that the wren was practically featherless. It would then be buried on the seashore. The sailor would keep the feather on his person in order to make it home safely.

In East Anglia, it was a custom that anyone carrying a split goose feather must be given help and protection by the Fenmen. During the English Civil War King Charles I and his soldiers escaped by showing their split goose feathers to local Roundhead soldiers. Oliver Cromwell took no action against his soldiers for honoring the custom. However when King Charles was again captured, he sent a message to Cromwell along with his split feather asking for clemency. Cromwell ignored the plea and the King was executed. Cromwell suffered from guilt for the rest of his life.

Carrying the feathers of the kingfisher is good luck. It will protect you from negative energies and bring good health.

Pigeon feathers in a feather bed or pillow prolong the pain and agony of dying.

A swan's feather sewn into the husband's pillow will ensure that he will be faithful.

Wren feathers protect you from drowning.

The magical qualities of a feather can depend on its color. Here is a list of some of the magical properties by color.

WHITE: Purification, spirituality, hope, protection, peace,
blessings of the Moon.

GREEN: Money, fertility, growth.

BROWN: Health, stability, grounding, the home.

ORANGE: Attraction, energy, success.

YELLOW: Intelligence, blessings of the Sun.

RED: Courage, good fortune, life.

PINK: Love

GRAY: Peace, neutrality.

BLUE: Psychic awareness, peace, health.

BLACK FEATHERS: Not recommended.

RED AND BROWN: Healing animals.


GRAY AND WHITE: Hope, balance.

BLACK AND WHITE: Union, protection.

GREEN AND RED: Finances.


BLACK AND PURPLE: Deep spirituality.

The last thing to remember is that many birds and all of their parts can be subject to laws. In some cases it is illegal to possess a feather even if you find it on the ground. Make sure you know which feathers are okay for you to have before you decide to make a collection.

Do you have any feather beliefs that I did not find? I would love to hear them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Where the Deer And The Jackalope Play

Because I am on vacation I am reprinting some articles that originally appeared in Nature Center Magazine. This is one of my favorites. It was written by Copas who is no longer with us.

Late at night the cowboys sat around the campfire relaxing from the long day. Tall tales were told. Loved ones were remembered. Then the cowboys started to sing.

But what's that? In the distance something was singing back at them. Other cowboys? None in the area. Rustlers? They wouldn't let themselves be known. No... it's the jackalopes joining in.

Are you asking what is a jackalope? It's a supposedly mythical animal that is a cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope. It looks like a jackrabbit except that it has horns like an antelope or deer. Occasionally it might have a tail like a pheasant too. Is that a jackalopant? Nope. It's still a jackalope.

A jackrabbit is actually a hare. It is usually bigger than a rabbit and has longer ears. The babies are born above ground and able to see and have all their fur when they are born. They are able to fend for themselves.

Deer and antelope are much larger animals. They often have magnificent antlers. Often they are hunted for more than meat. The antlers and heads make trophies for the hunter to brag about.

How did these two kinds of animals unite to form a new animal? Nobody seems to know. Maybe the same way that other hybrid animals of mythology were made.

Now the jackalopes are able to make their own little jackalopes. They are still very rare because they mate only in a storm. Lightning is an essential ingredient to successful mating.

As I said before baby jackalopes are able to fend for themselves from birth. But they are mammals which means that milk from the mother helps the young grow stronger and faster.

Jackalope milk is valuable. It has many medicinal uses, including as a powerful aphrodisiac. It's hard to get though.

The female sleeps belly up so it's fairly easy to get the milk if you can get to her. The milk comes out homogenized because of the powerful leaps made by those strong hind legs. The problem is that jackalopes are either shy or ferocious depending on who you talk to. There aren't too many of them either so it's kind of hard to find them to begin with.

Jackalopes can mimic any sound. We've already learned that they can sing like us. When they are being chased they will often send their hunters on a wild goose chase by yelling, "There it is. Over that way!" It makes it hard to find them.

The best way to catch a jackalope is to set out a flask of whiskey. They love the stuff. They are easier to follow and catch when they are drunk. Just be careful. They're mean drunks and will fight to the end.

Jackalopes are found mostly in the western and prairie states of the United States. Cousins can be found in the alpine regions of Europe. Some of the names they go by there are Wolpertinger, Blutschink, Dahu, Dilldap, Elwetritsch, Hanghuhn, and Rasselbock. In Sweden there is the Skvader.

President Ronald Reagan had a jackalope trophy mounted on his wall. He said he had captured it himself. A senator from South Dakota gave him another one a few years later as a gift.

Douglas, Wyoming, calls itself the Jackalope Capitol of America. In June each year they have an official Jackalope Day. Celebration of all things jackalope to be enjoyed. In fact you can even purchase a jackalope hunting license. The season is short so you will have to be prepared. Only one day, June 31 (not a misprint) and the time is only 12 midnight to 2 in the morning. If you go hunting for jackalope, I wish you luck.