Thursday, April 9, 2020

A Sampler Trio Sale


Do you need something to brighten up your day? A little light-hearted distraction?

How about a book sale that includes a superhero weenie dog, a grumpy Scottish chef, an ill-fated Thanksgiving dinner, and a missing garden gnome? Also...plenty of delicious food, "mature" romance for folks over 40, and a touch of glorious Vermont.

For grown-ups:

A TASTE OF HEAVEN

APPLES SHOULD BE RED


For kids of all ages:

LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE


All ebooks are on sale for 99 cents. Available at Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Amazon.

Check out the book page for more information and all purchase links.

To all of my readers: Stay safe and healthy and take care of yourselves!

Please share this book sale link on social media if so inclined. Thank you very much!

xoxoxoxoxoxo

Love,

Nina/Penny

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Positive Changes for a Healthier Life


I thought it was a good time to post some updates about my health.

Last summer I mentioned that my blood sugar was too high, and I was dieting to lose weight and bring down my A1C.

What happened?

BEFORE: CHUNKY CHEEKS




AFTER: 30+ POUND WEIGHT LOSS



Well, here's what happened. The doctor put the fear of God in me, and I went gangbusters with a low-carb diet.

It's eight months later, and I'm still losing weight (albeit at a slower pace). I also brought down my A1C. Yipppeeeeee!

How'd I do it?

First of all, here is my truth: exercise has NOTHING to do with my weight loss.

I walked when I was chunky. I walk now. I walk every day for about an hour. It's good for my heart. It's good for my mental health. 

However, it doesn't have anything to do with my weight loss. That's the truth.

My weight loss is all about THE FOOD.

Here are my TOP FIVE TIPS FOR LOSING WEIGHT:

1. The Snack Shelf

It's really important to have low-calorie, healthy snacks ready to go. When you get home from work and you're starved and there are cookies on the counter (kids gotta eat, too!), it's way too easy to grab that cookie.

You gotta make it easy to grab a mini carrot!

Every Sunday is "prep day" for me. I hard boil about 6-8 eggs and put them in a bowl in the fridge. I chop up carrots, celery, cucumbers, red/yellow/orange pepper, radishes, and add cherry tomatoes to a bin in the fridge for quick snacks. I have cheese sticks and low-carb yogurts on the shelf, too. I also prep fruit and have a "fruit bowl" in the fridge. On the counter, I have a variety of nuts, like walnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc.

I have a favorite blue cheese dressing I use as a dip. I also recommend hummus, ricotta cheese, and baba ganoush.

Set yourself up for success! When you have low-calorie snacks ready to go, it's a life-saver. You can also use these pre-cut veggies on a salad anytime. Make your life easier with a little weekend prep work.

Homemade hummus and dippers

2. Put Food Away: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

I realized I was doing a lot of "mindless" eating. If there was a bag of open chips on the counter, I would grab a handful when I walked by. Same with plates of cookies, snack foods, anything there for the taking.

My kids still need to eat, and they love chips, cookies, and other snacks.

I move ALL THE FOODS into the pantry, which is in another room off the kitchen. Everything is wrapped up and put away to prevent mindless noshing.

If you don't have a separate room, use a drawer. Or even wrap things up in tin foil to make it harder to access. 

The only thing I have in the kitchen for constant access is my water cup. I fill it up all day long. That's a good habit!

Add citrus slices to iced water for a bit of flavor.

3. Eat Early and Light.

Are you hungry at 5 pm? Eat dinner. Don't wait. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to overeat.

I realized I was eating TWO dinners each night. The first one was mindless snacking which added up to a lot of extra calories. And then I would eat with my family. TWO DINNERS! 

Now, I eat when I'm hungry, which is around 5 pm. I make a big salad of greens, toss on some protein and cheese and nuts and homemade salad dressing.

I'll still join my husband for dinner later, but I don't eat a second meal. Maybe an orange and some water. Or just tea.

Sometimes you need to make the right choice for yourself, and that might mean eating alone at 5 pm. It's okay!

Homemade Caesar salad. Don't forget the anchovies!

4. Cut Your Food in Half, Cut the Recipe in Half.

When I realized I needed to watch my carb intake every day, I made a point to read the labels on all my food.

That was shocking!

I was probably eating 3 times the recommended serving size, which adds up to way too many calories and carbs.

Instead of eating a whole sandwich (bread = 40 carbs), how about half a sandwich? 20 carbs. That works.

Stuff the 1/2 sandwich with tons of veggies, and add a small fruit salad for dessert.

Cut your serving in half, cut your calories in half. Lose weight. Fill up on salad, veggies, super low-calorie, high-fiber food. YOU CAN DO IT!

I also stopped making full recipes. Full recipes mean you have way too much food--too much for individual servings, and too many leftovers which can lead to overeating.

Make a single serving. Make 1/2 or 1/3 or 1/4 of the recipe.

Do whatever you need to in order to control portion size. That's key for weight loss.

Home-grown cuke, tomato, and edible flower salad.

5. Grow Your Own Food.

There is nothing better than getting up in the morning, heading out to your garden, and picking fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, cukes, and arugula greens for breakfast. Drizzle on some olive oil, and you're ready for the day.

I highly encourage folks to start their own kitchen garden. If you don't have space, use pots. Growing fresh herbs, veggies, and fruits is a fabulous way to invest in good health.

Grow your own raspberries!

These are my top tips for losing weight. This is not an easy process. December was tough...so many cookies and sweets. I weigh myself daily and check my blood sugar daily. These things hold me accountable and keep me on track.

How are all of you doing with health goals? Any good suggestions? Let's chat!

Wishing all of you good vibes with your health in 2020,

Nina/Penny

Monday, February 17, 2020

Hard to Kill: NO, not James Bond, Tough Indoor Plants!


You'd think since I have degrees in plant taxonomy, horticultural science, biology, and floral design, that I would have an extremely green thumb with my indoor plant collection.

You'd be wrong.

I'm embarrassed to admit that my indoor plants have a greater than 50% chance of death. 

I like to call my plant collection "Darwinian" in nature. No prissy, high maintenance plants survive here. They need to be tough and able to thrive in less than perfect conditions (erratic watering schedule, iffy light situation, fertilizer--what's that?, temperature extremes, dachshund interference, etc).

This also applies to my outdoor garden, where plants must deal with enormous weeds, hungry bunnies, and at times, overly zealous lawn guys with weed wackers.

I thought it would be nice to give a shout-out to the big winners at my house: the plants with a truly Darwinian nature. 


The survivors!

Survivors! Yee haw!
Before we get to the survivors, let's talk about the failures.

Ferns.

I love ferns.

Ferns, however, do NOT love my house. I've tried Boston fern, button fern, maidenhair fern, bird's-nest fern, Blue Star fern, Rabbit's Foot fern, and more.

They always croak.

Their need for high humidity and fairly constant moisture makes them vulnerable at my house. I have a tendency to bring my plants to the brink of death, and then revive them in an exciting manner! (My husband has another way to describe this process).

After another sad end to my latest fern attempt, I made the decision to ONLY BUY SUPER TOUGH PLANTS.

These are the ones that are crushing it at my house...

1. PHILODENDRON SELLOUM


I adore this plant. It has a great color, hardy foliage, a cool leaf shape, and you can basically ignore the crap out of it and it doesn't mind at all.

Every once in a while, I plop it into the sink, water it until it drains, give it a nice misting, and then ignore it again.

Grade: A+

2. HAWORTHIA FASCIATA "CONCOLOR" or Zebra Cactus


My daughter started a succulent collection in our office, and this is one of the best. It has a rich dark green color with a funky white dotted surface, nice spiky foliage, and I swear, it would survive the zombie apocalypse and look fabulous. As with most succulents, if you forget to water it for a few days, weeks, months...don't worry about it. IT WON'T DIE!

Grade: A


3. ALWORTHIA "Black Gem"


Another wonderful succulent that is actually a cross between an Aloe and Haworthia. It creates lots of offsets ("baby Alworthia plants") which can be repotted if you are so inclined to create an Alworthia dynasty. This does well with bright light, and again, will survive dry conditions. I have a "mini" version of this in a tiny pot--and thus it dries out very quickly after watering. God bless this sweet little plant...she doesn't care. Will go for months without water and still looks fantastic!

Grade: A

4. PACHIRA AQUATICA, Guiana Chestnut, or Money Tree


This plant is incredible. No matter what kind of light, how infrequent you water it, how much you ignore it...it grows like a weed and looks amazing!

Right now I have it squeezed on top of a kitchen counter where it gets low light and it seems happy as a clam. I water and mist it maybe once a week? It's also in a teeny tiny pot, and I do think I will repot it soon although if it grows anymore, I will probably have to move it to the floor. Love this one!

Grade: A++


5. NORFOLK ISLAND PINE TREE (Araucaria heterophylla)


This adorable indoor evergreen is a popular item during the Christmas season, but honestly, it's a great indoor plant all year long. It has the potential to grow quite big, so if you're interested in that, you can repot it. I water/mist weekly. The foliage is a bit prickly, so beware. I recommend adorning it with fairy lights and ornaments in December. *wink*

Grade: A 

TOTALLY UNEXPECTED BONUS PLANT:

Most of the time, poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are "disposable" throw-away plants. After the holidays, they usually end up in the compost pile. They seem pretty wimpy, right?

Well...



Shockingly, my adorable poinsettia planter is still going strong! I'm impressed. Will keep this going as long as possible. I also think the white ones are less "Christmas-y" looking and are perfect for year-round decor. 

My indoor plants are definitely helping me get through the long and painful New England winter. However, I am still dreaming about SPRING and my outdoor garden!

I had a weak moment at the farmer's market recently, and bought all of these seed packets...


Almost time to plant! Not really.

Only a few more months to go, right? Sob.

Do any of you have recommendations for super tough, hard-to-kill indoor plants? Let's chat!

Dreaming of spring,

Penny/Nina

Friday, January 3, 2020

Happy New Year 2020!


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I have some plans for this blog in 2020. I will be adding more frequent posts about a variety of topics, including wellness/health, simple living, gardening life, book reviews, film reviews, travel photos, etc.

Coming up soon...a review for STAR WARS: The Rise of Skywalker.

Yes, I saw it.

You all know I'm an obsessive sci-fi girl who watched my first Star Wars movie in 1977.

So, the question is...what did I think about the final installment of this series?

Stay tuned to find out...


HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

xoxoxoxo

Love, Nina