Bzzzz January 3rd, 2008

For me, peace of mind includes being organized and having a plan.

That includes what I’m cooking and when. I find that if I have a weekly menu plan and shop for the week I face far less of a struggle at 6 p.m. when it’s time to start cooking dinner. (We usually eat at 8:15 p.m. – I know. An ungodly hour for most people.) The ingredients are all there. The recipe is there. I have everything that I need.

I also find that posting a glossy designed and printed version of the week’s recipes on the refrigerator minimizes last minute requests and grumbling. Everyone knows what the heck to expect–and looks forward to.

Of course, around here planning a week of food that everyone will eat is no small task. There are many food fetishes and dislikes. It takes some serious head-scratching and thumbing through my vast cookbook collection. Recently, I’ve hit on the idea of theme menus. We have had Greek Week, International Week and Vegetarian Week. This week is Power Foods Week.

The menus also give me an opportunity to introduce nutrition ideas into the conversation without being overly dogmatic–important for the receptivity of teenage guys. (Surprisingly, my 16-year-old son prefers “spa foods.” Imagine my surprise!)

Since I go to such lengths to plan and design the menu, I thought I might start sharing them. So here’s my menu for this week, the Power Foods menu.

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Bon appetit!

Posted In: Food and Recipes, Lifestyle

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Bzzzz January 2nd, 2008

It seems that most of the gardening bloggers I’m reading these days have been lavishing attention on their houseplants.

Well, it’s probably about time the indoor plants get their share of attention. I know that at my house, it’s no small task to keep everyone looking good and healthy when there is so much to do outside in the warm weather.

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Philodendron and Bamboo by Reading Chair

I took a quick census of the houseplants here. All of the plants are in the most-frequented rooms so that I don’t forget them. Those also happen to be the rooms with the best light in our north-facing house.

Here are the plant numbers:

21 – family room

4 – kitchen

2 – music room

10 – office light garden

3 – my bedroom

1 – my son’s room

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Kitchen Succulent

I’m sure there are some folks out there who can best my numbers, but this seems a good balance for me since I feel claustrophobic with too much “stuff” crowding in a room and most of my plants are of an impressive size.

I have been in love with houseplants since I was a teenager and discovered Jerry Baker’s Happy, Healthy Houseplants. Published way back in 1985, it was one of the first and best books on houseplants at the time. I don’t have a copy anymore, but I believe this is the book that included an illustration of a fellow peaking from behind a shower curtain where he is bathing with bunches of houseplants. For some reason this made a big impression on me. To this day I regularly bathe my houseplants to remove the accumulated dust from the leaves and give them an at-home spa treatment—although I rarely get undressed to do it anymore.

One of the reasons I adore my houseplants is that it gets me a bit closer to my dream of living in a house that seamlessly blends indoors and outdoors. Given that I live in Zone 7 Maryland rather than in the British Virgin Islands, that isn’t an entirely feasible idea.

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Crown of Thorns

People who love plants might appreciate a few plant stories…

Years ago when Benjamin was quite small our lives were overly-full with travel, jobs and just surviving. We couldn’t seem to muster the energy for a proper Christmas tree so I re-purposed a good-sized Norfolk Island Pine for the job, decorating it with lights and ornaments. Unfortunately, the tree was then top heavy, so we had to anchor it with one of Harry’s heavy running shoes. Well, one morning around 3 a.m. it all came a-tumbling down, spreading dirt and broken ornaments everywhere. (Why is it things like this never happen in the daylight hours?) Happily, the tree survived, but the decorations did not.

Another plant story (sorta) comes to mind. We had a beautiful Belgian Malinois named Winifred. If you’re not sure what those are, they are the dogs you see bomb sniffing in airports. They look rather like small-ish German Shepherds. Well, Winifred was going through a spell of intense gastrointestinal distress. I had taken her to the veterinarian numerous times for exams, x-rays and bloodwork. I followed all of the veterinarian’s recommendations and still, she was having major difficulties. I had assured the veterinarian that, no, Winifred did not get outside and eat anything she shouldn’t have. Well, I was right about that.

One morning at the height of the gastrointestinal distress episode, I was outside with Winifred on her morning distress call of nature. At the risk of your concluding that I have a poo fetish like my brother, I was examining her poo and discovered the problem. It was absolutely FILLED with little pebbles! They were the very same pebbles that I had used in the bottom of a humidity tray for a boxwood topiary! Winifred was eating the plant’s rocks!

One more…

My son Benjamin is quite smart. But like many boys he doesn’t always do smart things. When he was 13 years old he accidentally broke off a small part of an absolutely gorgeous cactus that I had sitting on the kitchen counter. Fascinated by the milky substance oozing from the plant’s wound, Ben decided to give it a little taste.

I wasn’t home at the time, but Ben apparently discovered that the milky substance was very very very HOT. Water wouldn’t put out the heat on his tongue. Milk wouldn’t put out the heat on his tongue. Panting wouldn’t help. He suffered for quite a long time until the heat passed.

Really, we’re lucky the houseplant wasn’t poisonous. But we still warn Ben “Don’t eat it! Just say no!” whenever we see a cactus!

The plants you see here are a few of my favorites. I bought the Crown of Thorns for a centerpiece for our wedding anniversary about four years ago. (My husband didn’t see the humor.) It didn’t bloom much after dropping its blooms the first time. But once I repotted the plant it has bloomed every since.

I adore the philodendron and bamboo by the red reading chair in my bedroom. I bought the bamboo as a teeny tiny thing at Wal-Mart about two years ago. It’s amazing how the little $2 plant has grown. And the philodendron is amazingly healthy climbing up a piece of wood for support. (It’s on my list of things to do to re-pot this one as soon as I can find a nice pot.)

The succulent is one I keep in the kitchen because I think it looks nice in contrast with our farmhouse table. The pot is one I found at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix last year and had shipped home. When she saw it, a family friend asked “What? They don’t have vases in Maryland?”

So there you have it…some of my houseplants and plant stories! They’re not much to look at right now but once my orchids are all blooming at the same time again I’ll share those too.

Happy indoor gardening!

Posted In: House Plants

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