how to build a shed door when you have no idea what you are doing

I am in a stage of life where I have more available time than money. Again. My late teens and early 20s were like this, too, and when stuff broke I learned to either make do without or grab a screwdriver and start poking around until something happened. The screwdriver trick has gotten me much farther in life than I would have ever imagined. “Is that a poisonous snake?” Poke it a bit and take a look at the head shape. (I am not recommending you do this, dear reader. Even my dog knows better than to fool around with snakes. You should definitely take snake life advice from my dog rather than me, but that is a post for another day) Can’t quite reach the bowl or box on the tippy top shelf? Grab a screwdriver and poke at it until it starts to slide off. Screwdrivers are great for getting that flat lid off of a home-canned mason jar of pickles and also for banging the heck out of an olive jar lid to break the seal if you can’t get it open.

I like power tools, and yes, I did measure out the placement of each screw.

Let’s see, where was I going with that? Yes, more time. It is what we all want, don’t you think? Time, the one thing money cannot buy. Okay, besides love and homegrown tomatoes. So what do I decide to do with this time of mine? Build a door. Technically I have built two doors now. One is a barn door the don and I built together for our shed. We got the best price for the hardware from Amazon. Here is a link if you decide you must have a barn door for your own place. And when you see how easy it is to build one, you will want them everywhere!

This pump house door though, I built all by myself. the don had come out in late summer to Winter’s Hope with a plan to build a pump house while I was off in the big city with my daughters. Factors including torrential rain and a dog in a leg cast kept him from finishing it. Then I came to Winter’s Hope to manage some other projects and he asked if I could build the door and maybe get the siding picked out and installed, too. I don’t know if he was serious but the weather was so nice that I was happy to stay as long as possible.

In my Texas house I had looked at replacing a door. Long story short, it was going to be more than I wanted to get into because of old house settling and the area around the door jamb needing to be redone. For this, though, I do not have to fool with all that. I sat down with a glass of wine and start drawing out the plan. I know that the exterior of the door will be covered with siding so that part is easy. And I can certainly build a rectangle and brace it. Well, shoot, let’s get on it then! Well, maybe tomorrow because I have heard it said you need 8 hours from bottle to throttle and using a circular saw is probably in that same class.

it is actually a full size door, the wrap is covering the top half in this picture

When measuring the door opening, measure several points, the top, middle, and bottom. Never assume it will be square, which in building parlance means even all the way around. Square, in this instance, does not actually have anything to do with cool you are.

Here I am going to cut the OSB to the size of the door opening minus 1 inch. I am not tall enough to reach across this whole 4 foot sheet so I will make a race to run the saw along.

a race is when you have an edge to run the saw along. it usually results in very straight cuts… usually

Hmmm, that worked pretty well until I couldn’t reach any further. If you are short and can’t reach the whole way across, I would recommend lowering the board so you can kneel on it. If I had it to do over I would get some other boards and make a mini table to set this down at almost ground level, then make the race and just kneel on the board as it was being cut. That would give you more control than over-reaching and having the derned saw veer off and screw up your perfect cut.

Oh well, it is fixable. The veer is only a little wobble so when I frame it out, I can make the adjustment. This side of the door does not have to be visually perfect since it won’t be seen. Good thing I was wearing my lucky scrunchie. Luckily.

I had all these 2x4s laying around because, yeah, I am that kind of person who has quality wood left over from other building projects. It used to be that I had extra jewelry and lipsticks just laying around in my purse but now, in my new “western frontier” life I have wood. But dern it, where the hell are my hand tools? Shoot, I left them at the other house. Is this what it is like to have two homes? Kind of like when you are seeing someone and it starts getting serious and you sleep over for a few days at a time and then can never find anything because your place is a mess from never staying there to clean and half of every outfit is at a different location.

yet another addition to my hammer collection

Okay, I refuse to buy another set of tools so let us see how far we can get with said screwdriver and my Leatherman multitool. Dang, I left my hard sole shoes at the other house so there goes that idea for a hammer. (i really do have a little hammer shaped like a ladies high heel shoe) Maybe I can make do with a tree log for banging the braces into place and squaring up the door. No, I’m going to need something more than a log to affix siding, I am not a caveman, for goodness sake. There is a reason cave people lived in caves, you know. It was not until hammers were invented that they could affix siding to a hut, until then it was caves. I, for one, am not going back to caveman life, paleo be damned. Okay, yet another hammer is added to my collection. But that is it. Having 12 black skirts is one thing, that is normal. Having 6 hammers is getting close to needing medication.

For the frame of the door I ripped the 2x4s in half, making them 2×2. Though of course, the 2×4 is not really 4 inches wide due to planing. Doesn’t matter, this door is going to be braced with the 2×4 so this outer frame can be smaller. Ripping with a circular saw is not something I enjoy. If you have access to a table saw, use that. But probably if you have access to a table saw you do not need to read an article on amateur door building, so there is that. Ripping just means cutting a long strip off a long board. Go slow and it goes pretty well. Then measure the door sides and cut the frame boards to length. I made the top and bottom pieces first, clamped them in place, and screwed them to the OSB. Then I put the sides in, screwed them to the OSB and to their adjacent boards, and finally added the big guns of braces.

When you are screwing into OSB there will be some spots that the screw just spins and spins. It is like that part of the board strands are so randomly oriented that the screw can’t get a foothold. When this happens just take a breath and hold the screwdriver in place letting the screw spin. Do some kegels while you wait, the middle-aged you will appreciate this, trust me. Sooner or later the screw will start going in and you can move on to the next step, and have a better awareness of your pelvic muscles while you do. Can you say win-win? You could also drill pilot holes but then how would you get your exercise?

Breathe and squeeze. Repeat

I built this door 1 inch smaller than the opening. Yes, on purpose. I want the siding to be able to hang over the edge of the door slightly and the door opening because I am going to use a vertical board siding. There is a half inch opening on each side of the door so the siding can stick out 1/4 inch over the door and opening and give it protection from the rain and hide the weatherproof wrap. I placed a piece of OSB on the floor of the door opening to lift it up off the threshold, lifted the door (by myself, I’m kinda buff that way!!!) and hand fit the door into place. Another piece of OSB on the side away from the hinges kept that spacing, too. Now to get the hinges on. I started with the middle hinge because it was the easiest to reach. Prior to setting the door up, I marked where the hinges would go, making sure the long part on the door would be screwed into the bracings. This is why I made the three bar brace instead of a Z brace, because I am using three hinges that I want attached to the 2x4s. I am determined, this door will not sag. I had a saggy door on the shed at my house in Texas. I would fool with the two hinges all the time and it was always out of whack. No more, I say! And the door on Brighty gets a little out of whack sometimes, which is common for an RV. I mean, an RV is a house that is meant to wiggle. And when Brighty’s door gets out of whack, you know what I do? Yep, I grab the screwdriver that sits just inside the door and give it a whack. I f-ing love screwdrivers.

How nice, perfect margins, the hinges and closure are installed. All is well.

How nice that this job is finished. The door fit in perfectly and I can call it done until the siding gets delivered. In the meantime, I’ll build a threshold out of some flashing I have lying around. Ideally the threshold would not have a seam but a bead of caulk will suffice and I can use up the stuff I have rather than buy more. This is just a pump house, after all.

Well, that was fast. I actually was not expecting the siding to be selected and done until the don and I were back out here this winter. But I kinda know a guy with a saw mill and he decided to go ahead and do a rush job on getting the wood milled. Well, I guess I can try my hand at putting up wood siding.

Measure, cut, nail. That easy!

This style of siding is called board and batten. It is perfect for this situation in that the wood is still quite wet. If I had access to having it kiln dried, that would be ideal but I do not. And people were putting siding on structures long before kiln dried wood was available. I can expect this wood to shrink a bit as it dries and the battens will cover that shrinkage. One advantage to having dried wood, I discovered, is the weight. Wet wood is much, much heavier than its dry counterpart. This weight was really only a big issue when it came time to reinstall the door. The door now weighs so much that I cannot maneuver it very well! Phooey! Due to the weight the door keeps knocking out the wood on the threshold that is used as a spacer for installing, something that was not a problem without the siding attached. I tried using shims but they all broke off when the door would be adjusted. Maybe a metal shim… an axe is like a metal shim. After some fooling around trying to use the axe to wedge up the door into place I realized that this is not a one person job at this time. Let the wood dry a bit and/or get a second person to help lift the door onto the threshold. I thought about removing the siding, installing the door, then reattaching the siding and maybe just cut around the hinges or something. Unfortunately the wood splits when trying to get it off and thank God I thought to practice this on a back piece first. No, the job will just have to be not-quite-finished until I get that cute assistant of mine back here and that is that. Dang. It still looks pretty good.

Monty is cute but he isn’t that good at carpentry.

I hope that you have been encouraged to try something new today. Even if you do not know how, see if you can figure it out. Screwing up is part of the process!

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DIY $100 Truck Bed Camper

Do you have a truck and enjoy camping in the outdoors? Are you also either a minimalist, have little storage area, or on a tight budget? Read on, fellow outdoors-person. Have I got a solution for you!

I love camping and traveling. Many of the lovely undeveloped camp areas in my newly adopted northwest home are little more than pull-outs along the steep and winding mountain roads. Finding space to pitch a tent can be challenging. I do have a pull-behind RV (read about the RV rehab on Brighty here) but sometimes I do not want the responsibility of pulling an extra 20 feet of trailer behind me. The fuel mileage is also a consideration. As a friend said, with an RV it isn’t miles to the gallon but gallons to the mile. For a quick and no-fuss getaway, being able to sleep IN the truck would be ideal for my situation. I have spent almost a full year researching the issue of truck bed camping, some factors I considered for my truck camping solution were:

  • Waterproof and weather proof
  • Ease of set up and take down
  • Minimal storage footprint
  • Cost (under $100.00)
  • Space to live and cook inside in case of inclement weather

I have had the good fortune to spend many nights in a pop-top camper that slides into the truck bed. It is probably the primo way to camp for comfort and convenience. They are mostly waterproof, are easy to set up, and have fabulous living space inside. However, these campers are very expensive, averaging $20,000+ new and used ones cost around $15,000. Additionally, a camper requires a protected place to store it when it isn’t on your truck.

A Pop-Up Camper fits perfectly into tight spots but they are $$$!

Another possibility is to buy a topper or cab for the truck bed and build it out. I researched the various toppers extensively and determined that a topper is not a good fit for me because I actually need to use the truck bed for throwing stuff into and unloading. Stuff like gravel or mule manure for which I use this easy unloader which fits over my tailgate; neither of these items works well with an installed topper. Toppers are not very waterproof or road-dust-proof, either. They seem to always have a leak at this corner or that window. While they are removable, it isn’t a simple job to take it off, load the truck with poop or gravel or bikes or 8 foot long boards, then clean out all that stuff and put the topper back on properly aligned to minimize water leaking and dust infiltration. Toppers cost around $2500 new. You can find used ones for certain trucks, especially older trucks but you still have the leaking issue. Still, this is a very popular avenue, especially if you already have a topper.

Tents that are made to be set up in a truck bed exist. I got to see one at my truck dealer. Maybe if MSR made one I would have faith it would last through a hearty storm and winds. You could maybe fit two sleeping bags inside it but you would still be stuck cooking outside. It costs around $300

Finally I decided to build my own truck bed camping system. Inspired by the frequent references to the pioneers who blazed trails to homestead this area, I began to think of life in a covered wagon. Certainly I could adapt my truck to a covered wagon! I knew it would need side walls, easy enough to build a wood frame; lots of trucks around here have lumber frames for transporting wood logs that were cut in the forest. Next stretch a waterproof cover over the walls, and better add some sort of peak to let rain and snow slide off and not cause puddling on the roof. That would take care of the structure. I can build a sleeping platform and mini-kitchen for living.

I lucked into a pile of wood on BLM land that was about to get burned. Some structure was apparently decommissioned and dismantled. I scavenged almost all of the wood needed for this project. A super bonus was the wood had already been fully cured and the plywood outgassed all it was going to. My lumber rack was built entirely out of this scavenged wood and there was plenty left over to build a kitchen sink and sleeping platform. The lumber rack would probably have cost about $20-30 if I had to buy the wood.

Leah the Tundra with her new lumber rack.

After some deliberation between wood vs PVC pipe for the roof structure, pipe won out based primarily on how easy it would be to store. The pipe and holders cost $10. It is a simple action to arch the pipe for the roof structure and for the porch cover.

Finding a cover was a little harder only because I really wanted to keep this entire build under $100. I ended up using a 16×30 tarp that was cut down to 16×20. I would have preferred Tyvek or maybe ripstop waterproof nylon to make my own cover and put the grommets exactly where I wanted but one has to make do sometimes. The tarp cost $50. I used bungee cords to hold the tarp in place and also have some rope in my camp kit in case I lose a cord.

With $60 already spent, I decided to take my “Hillbilly Camper” out for a test of concept run. I made a simple and slightly-precarious sleeping platform for me and devised a way to extend the platform for my dog to sleep with me. He is the best heater for those long winter camping nights and his very short fur and stoic temperament means I can snuggle my icy feet into his tummy without him moving away. I made a lip on the edge of the sleeping platform and, using the sink as a base, put a piece of plywood abutting the sleeping platform. Since neither of us are violent sleepers, this set up worked well for a test run. Plenty of room inside the camper to move around and I can almost stand up straight inside it. Sitting on the platform was quite roomy and would allow plenty of space to cook or read.

Since it was such a nice evening, I cooked on the tailgate and then we sat outside and enjoyed a campfire. It was perfect for burning all the grass seeds and burrs that accumulated on my snow boot laces. However, not every night will be so fine as this one. I built this sink and counter for those icky times. The “Kitchen” was made from all recycled materials. The sink came from Brighty’s demo, the wood from the BLM pile, and the bucket for gray water collection was hanging around. The side counter is hinged to fold down when not needed. Upgrades are planned but this is the down and dirty cheapest way to make a kitchen. One upgrade will be to install a faucet (also saved from the demolition) and use a foot pump to get water flowing. This upgrade will be used only during the warmer months when I don’t have to worry about freezing water lines.

When it was time to turn in, I folded the tarp over the porch awning and held it closed on the inside with small bungee cords. The temperature at 6:30 that night was 37F. The Mr Buddy Heater quickly warmed the small space up to make it comfortable while I read and got ready for sleep. I ran the heater for about 5 minutes on the lowest setting and that was sufficient for the evening.

I had placed two mats on the sleeping platform for cushion and insulation. These in conjunction with the wood worked perfectly for keeping the dog and me warm and comfy. The next morning I appreciated the previous evening’s foresight in placing the JetBoil and coffee-making needs next to me. I didn’t even have to get out of bed to get a cup of coffee.

Breaking down the camper was just as easy as setting it up. Being curious how it might manage in rain, I did an accordion-fold on the tarp as it hung over the lumber rack and removed the pipe. I then tucked the tarp over all the camp gear and held it in place with a cargo net. This technique would help prevent all the bedding and kitchen gear from getting soaking wet in the event of rain during a travel day. I think that, provided no items were on the floor of the truck, everything would stay dry.

I have already started on building a proper sleeping platform that will accommodate either a dog or another person without any wiggles in the legs. I will share that when it is completed. For now, I wanted to show you how a decent truck bed camper can be made for less than $100.

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The tarp above is the size I wish I had gotten. I bought one from Walmart and had to cut it down so I do not have grommets on one side.

DIY Holiday Decorations for Free!

Yes, you can be holiday-decor ready for free! Or almost free, it will cost you a few glue sticks and some thread, floral wire, or fishing line.

The sweetest little house in the woods gets ready for the holiday season

There is nothing so vociferous as a new convert. You know this is true and if you don’t, just go talk with someone who just started:

Yoga, eating paleo, eating vegetarian, stopped smoking/vaping, joined a fitness bootcamp, found Jesus, renounced religion, became a parent/grandparent, or, in my case, adopted a minimalist lifestyle.

Yes, I am a recent convert to minimalism. This is in part because 95% of my stuff is 3000 miles away from where I currently live which helps the learning curve A LOT. This conversion is also in part due to living actually IN nature. My previous home was in the heart of a very large metropolitan area, an area known for worshipping MORE and NEW. Shopping was a recreational activity and fashion was held in high esteem. It was and is part of that culture to consume everything and save very little. But here in my rural home, I walk among the costs of that consumption. I see entire mountainsides denuded of trees, experience the cost of trucking items to the store, and most heart-wrenchingly, I see the pollution from various manufacture plants roiling across the canyons and prairies. I do not protest these practices but I can reduce the necessity of creating more. I can make do with less.

Minimalism, however, does not have to mean leading an ascetic life. It is part of the enjoyment of living for me to have pretty things to delight my eyes and warm my spirit. As such, with the holidays just around the corner, I choose to brighten my home with small touches. The winter nights are quite long up here, with daylight lasting about 9 hours right now, and the sun so low in the sky that my yard does not see any sunlight on the semi-rare cloudless days. I am not alone in this need to decorate as humans have been decorating during the winter for many thousands of years.

There are a couple of ways to get natural decor items. Easiest is to grow your own. An evergreen tree, a holly bush, and a few flower bushes that dry nicely will go a long way. If you have a national forest nearby you can get a permit to collect items. These permits may be free if you follow specific guidelines so check with your local forest office or online. I am lucky to have a few acres of backyard forest in which to collect.

Not everyone is so lucky to have a backyard like this. Exactly why we need to preserve our public lands!

Next you need to expand your idea of what constitutes decoration. Down south I used lots of dried and fake magnolia leaves, dried and fake fruits, and lots of shiny ribbon. Here I have changed to a natural look since bronzed and glittered pomegranates and magnolia blossoms do not exist on the mountainside. It is also good for your brain to have to come up with creative solutions, much better than soduku.

Below is a simple tutorial on creating a holiday swag and a wreath to enhance your decor and bring a bit of nature’s beauty into your home. You can personalize these basic instructions to fit your decor by making small changes to the items you incorporate into your designs.

For the Swag

After a lovely and healthy walk in the woods or in your garden, lay out your materials and heat up your glue gun. Here I have a couple of different evergreen branches, some pinecones, some holly, beargrass, some dead branches that have lovely white lichen that resembles snow, and some dried white flowers. You may also wish to check with friends and neighbors for cuttings from their yards. Who knows, you may be doing them a favor by thinning out an overgrown bush! Certainly our side yard bushes were happy to have me thin some of the tangle going on here! I got super-lucky and was gifted some lovely holly. Find and use what is available in your area. Tip: a padded envelope makes a nice cushion for kneeling on a hard floor.

You can do a trial run of layer items to get a feel for what to place where but don’t get too exacting. Things will probably change as you go along.

I used an evergreen bough as a base and placed some holly and some lichen branches along the bough to get a rough idea of placement. A few snips to trim the holly and branches helped them fit without being too perfect. These garden nippers are an absolute necessity! You may also wish to use some gloves if working with prickly things. I finally gave up working with the gloves and just accepted the occasional “Owie!” that is inevitable in this kind of project. If you think you are going to get through the entire holiday season without having to deal with a few pricks, well… think again.

Start gluing! Begin gluing the bottom layer first. If an item doesn’t seem to stay glued to the foundation, tie it down using the thread/fishing line/ wire. If using thread or fishing line, place a dab of glue over the thread to secure.

You may need to scrape off a bit of bark before gluing sticks. Just use the backside of your nippers or a fingernail to clean off the area that will be glued.

Keep building the layers up. Adding pine cones worked best for me when I tied a thread around the base of the cone and then attached that thread to the swag using a good helping of hot glue. To attach the bear grass “tails” I tied a bunch of grass together with thread and then glued that to the back of the swag.

Bear grass makes a lovely tail

For the bow To turn rags into ribbons, tear the rag into strips and tie as if making a bow. You can go very simple by tying the ribbon on the swag like in this photo.

But why stop there? I like big bows and I cannot lie… Usually I would have used a wired ribbon to make a bow but since I do not have any on hand, I had to figure something else out. Here I glued bear grass inside each loop of the bow to give the loop some heft.

The Wreath- Everyone’s Favorite

Everyone loves a wreath no matter what time of year. For this winter holiday wreath you can use some branches thinned from a bush or small tree. I prefer new growth branches as they are fine and easy to bend. The size of your wreath will also dictate the size of branches. A small dinner-plate sized wreath will necessitate finer branches whereas a large picture window size wreath like this one allows for branches that are as big around as a pencil.

Clear a space large enough for your working pile and your wreath and begin by placing some of the branches in a circle approximately the desired finished size. After you have them in place, tie some fishing line (I think this stuff is the best) around the wreath leaving the long spool end attached and place a dab of hot glue on the knot. Now wind the fishing line around and around the wreath as you hold the branches in place. Finish by knotting and gluing again.

You may choose to leave the wreath bare for a clean and sharp look, sometimes less is more. But not in this case. I began layer holly and lichen branches around the wreath, tucking them into the fishing line that is already in place. I found some branches with tiny pine cones and added then to the wreath along with some dried white flowers. After I was satisfied with the layout and everything was tucked in to the original fishing line, make a second fishing line wrap in the opposite direction to lock the branches into place.

Voila! A lovely holiday wreath to showcase the natural beauty of your area.

And, shoot, since that hot glue gun is out, why not make a few little touches inside with the left over bits? Hot glue some leaves and berries onto glass candle holders, stick some branches into a cool bottle or vase, and tuck branches here and there in your bookcase or mantle. Then step back and admire your handiwork as you sip a bit of eggnog*.

*What? You haven’t started your eggnog yet? Lordy, get a move on! You are running out of time to have the very best eggnog ready. Check out my dairy-free version here.

Here is a listing of the items recommended. You probably have all of this stuff already but just in case.

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yoga, down dog, 40 Days to Personal Revolution

40 Days- End Week 5 and Start Week 6

From Centering to Triumph!

Wow, can you believe the past 5 weeks have gone by so fast? Time does that, it continues on whether we are paying attention or not. I think that is why it is silly when someone says, “I wish I could ________ but I am too old now.” The world will continue to turn so go ahead and plant that acorn now. Not tomorrow, not yesterday, right now. As we have learned, right now is the only chance we have to do anything.

This chapter on Week Six may be my favorite. I appreciate Baron’s vulnerability in sharing how he came to learn what a real man is, how it takes “more strength to connect to people than to control them…” because this is so counter to what our culture speaks. He also reminds us to appreciate and celebrate every breakthrough, every time the light shines a little more on our experience of the world we need to find gratitude for the enlightenment. As we come to the close of this 40 Days program we are reminded that it “is not the end of anything. It is only the beginning of a flexible life.” I have been reading this book, The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D (it is on sale right now, too!) in which he discusses the biochemical effects of thoughts and beliefs. It is a scientific book written in a very easy-to-read format. We know there are epigenetic effects on DNA, this book begins to describe the “link between mind and matter.” Perhaps this flexibility of thought can change our bodies as well as minds!

Speaking of flexible, how was your yoga practice? Mine was going pretty good and then I found myself mid-week with tremendous muscle spasms and an inability to move due this darned herniated disc issue. I am the very opposite of flexible right now! I have a tendency to want to fix things, to try this exercise, that therapy, whatever… all just to make the pain go away and let me get back to living life on my terms. I have stuff to do, for goodness sake! There is also a niggling worry that maybe I will always be this way, unable to move, jump, twist, or even sit for a couple of hours. I am having to really put into practice the lesson of living centered, in this moment and not imagining the future, and especially of not thinking of my body as in need of “fixing.” I am using the lessons from previous weeks, Equanimity and Restoration, to allow my body to be as it is, to let the recurring pain speak and to really listen to what it has to say rather than jumping from one fix to another trying to quell it. Who knows, maybe there is a deeper lesson in this discomfort. Or maybe not. Equanimity means I will let it be and not flip out or get depressed. What a nice chance to practice the lessons further!

How was this week’s Balancing Diet for you? Any insight into your relationship with food, by chance? Wow, I could see, really see, how sensitive my body is to dairy and sugar this week. I moved into some more normal-for-me eating habits and could feel the difference. Most enlightening was the effect sugar has on my mood. I simply cannot handle a sugary or high grain-carb breakfast. I can enjoy fluffy pancakes, muffins, or toast as long as there is a quality protein. These things are so obvious but when you have habits or cravings, the obvious doesn’t matter. I love bread. I make whole grain toast and muffins but still I have to manage portion size to keep my body and mood on an even keel. I know this and am glad to have been reminded of how important it is, especially just before these upcoming holidays that tend to be laden with heavy foods and tons of carbs and starches. I remember as a young teenager eating stuffing sandwiches after Thanksgiving! Well, no more of that! I will take what I learned into my TRIUMPH week and beyond by having several meals, especially lunches, be similar to those fruit fast meals. This can help arrest the tendency to slide back into old and unhelpful habits by serving as a reminder of how good you felt during your mini-cleanse.  

Have you started using some of the meditation practices all through the day to stay centered? It is amazing how many times a day I realize I have not been completely HERE and instead had my head somewhere else. Those also happened to be the times I would misplace items or do the classic walk into a room and have to ask “What was I looking for?” These frequent mini-meditation practices go a long way to keeping us centered. I do not want to be that person who is happy and content only when sitting on the meditation mat, I want to bring that serenity into every moment of life. The practice of staying grounded and non-reactive is especially helpful during the holidays, whether at a family gathering or managing the stress of expectations that come during this time. It may just be time to let certain traditions go and replace them with new, healthier habits. Meditation helps guide the way.

How were your Excavation Questions and journaling? Do you trust yourself and your inner voice? That can be such a hard thing to do, especially if it seems to be counter to societal expectations and norms. Is there something calling to you, a little song in your heart that wants to be heard? What would it take to give voice to this heart-song? Just as important, what price do you pay to keep the song quiet and unheard? Can you be fully attentive and present when talking with your loved ones? What would it take to do so? I remember how challenging it was sometimes to work all day and then come home and just want to decompress but the family demands made that hard. I began to enjoy the drive home as *my* time and rarely even listened to the radio. Hitting traffic just meant a little more me-time. This reframing totally changed my experience of traffic from one of stress to one of peace and enjoyment. What can you do to reframe a situation to be more fully present and happy?

All-righty, my fellow 40 Dayers! Let’s keep up the great work! See you back here in just 5 more days!!!!

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40 Days- end of Week 4, start of Week 5

Wow, more than halfway through! How did your fruit fast go? Enlightening in so many ways, am I right? Naturally, there were some temptations but I knew enough to head a few of them off at the pass. Like this birthday cake that has been sitting on the counter. A couple layers of freezer wrap and a freezer door between me and it should silence that chocolate siren song. I will admit that the day before I started the fast I had a bit of a refrigerator Mardi Gras and indulged in things that were yummy and “needed” to be eaten. Or drank. No alcohol on the fruit fast since it has to be fresh fruit, not fermented.

Chocolate cake siren song SILENCED!

 I think my body would enjoy eating this light fare for quite a bit longer. I certainly enjoyed the simple meal prep. None of that, “what should I fix for dinner,” stuff. I know what is for dinner and can decide how I want to mix it up. My savvy daughter reminded me that guacamole can be made to fit the fruit fast. Last night I had my regular salad and a bowl of guac and I was stuffed!

I actually love how simple this style of eating can be. I have a lot of other things on my mind right now and simple food is such a relief. When you are managing situations that may or may not have a positive resolution it is so nice to know that at least dinner will work out the way it is supposed to. No wondering if the sauce will thicken, the middle will cook before the outside burns, if eating half a block of cheese is really that bad… (yes, it is, and yes, we have all done it), simple fruit fast meals let you relax. And you get to feel great about taking such good care of your temple-body for three days. What a great reset!

Delish! Zucchini noodles and jalapeno slices make this *feel* like a #realmeal

I will be carrying some of the fruit fast meals into my regular eating. I think a lunch of zucchini noodles is perfect. It fills me up and no after-meal sleepiness.

Lunch on the go, apples, tomato, cucumber, zucchini, pomegranate.

I have always loved carbs in the form of breads, crackers, and noodles. Having to bake gluten-free with all those processed flours has not been very appealing because I feel like crap an hour or so after eating. I am going to figure out how to do more whole-grain and add more fruit to my baked goods so I can feel this light when I go back to “regular” eating. For me, this fast has been one to help me push the reset button on eating. To be fair, I actually eat pretty healthy as compared to a typical American diet but I indulge in things that are good only for my taste buds too frequently. Like cheese. I love cheese so much I would marry it. My biggest challenge with cheese is how animals are treated in the industry. I was talking with my savvy daughter about cheese and my fantasy of having my own cow to make my own cheese. Then I would know she was treated well. Maybe goats would be easier, though.

I digress, as usual. Back to our topic. Restoration. Did those excavation questions bring up anything for you? Did you find any old ideas that no longer serve you? Are you ready to let it go? That is such a strange question on the outside. “Are you ready to let go of the things that hold you back, that keep you trapped, that prevent you from blooming?” What a silly question! Of course I am, why do you think I am doing this whole 40 day thing?

We are doing this 40 day thing because it is NOT easy to let go. The old ideas and stories are frequently a cornerstone of our identity. Many times we are not even conscious of how we are driven by those old stories. Recognizing them is the first step in releasing them. Meditation is the tool to recognition. It helps you recognize those false stories and beliefs and also helps you recognize who you really are. Tara Brach has a great meditation that has you imagine yourself 20 years from now and who that person is and how they interact with who you are now. Give this a try for a mini-meditation today. You don’t need to label anything about future you and present you, just feel how the interaction goes. Sometimes words limit our learning about the greater truths. We take unfathomable truths and try to make them fit into neat boxes of learning, naturally that is impossible. We can only understand small parts of the whole. Because of this, I suggest we not even bother trying to understand intellectually. Just feel what is and go from there. Our practice is to know the difference between moving forward under divine guidance and being driven by old fears and habits. I suspect this takes at least one lifetime.

The theme for this coming week is Centering. Our focus is to be and stay present in our daily life. Having practiced this a few times I can say that while it is grand to decide to be centered on every moment of your life, it is nigh on impossible. I recommend picking one or two times in your day that you will be 100% present. For me it will be when I brush my teeth and during meals. Phones are a huge distraction from the present so during these times my phone will be in a different room. I suspect the tooth brushing could become a meditation of sorts if I adhere to this centering action this week.

I will work to be conscientious of staying present in other moments of the day, as well, but anchoring to these two spots will give me pause. It is in the pause that everything is possible and God can be heard. That is my experience, anyway.

Big hug, my fellow 40 Dayer! Through ups and downs, we are making amazing progress in the very act of capital-B Becoming. Ride the ups and the downs, it is what makes us human. Oh, and I will be forthcoming and admit I didn’t journal from Tuesday through Thursday of this past week. No reason other than I didn’t do it first thing in the morning. For whatever reason, that is my struggle to do the daily journaling. I know what to do (first thing in the morning) and yet I skip that frequently. Looks like maybe this won’t be my last 40 Days journey! But that bridge will be crossed when it comes up.

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How to get your hands on the BEST gaiters for hiking

The best gaiters in the world cannot be purchased from a store. They are handmade.
Seriously. And you can make them yourself.

Cowboy boot gaiters in tall (and stabby) grass

I have worn many different gaiters over the years. Lightweight gaiters for my trip to the most gorgeous dunes in America,  lighter-weight DirtyGirl gaiters for my trail running days, and others that were supposedly for hunters. All this done in my quest to prevent pebbles and stabby grass bit from working into my shoes and socks and poking holes in my skin (and maybe avoid migrating foreign body which is a very real and potentially deadly issue for dogs and why not people?). I also like to wear comfy pants instead of heavy canvas-like things and those grass seeds just love to snag into the weave of said comfy pants.

Gaiters are supposed to prevent sand, rocks, and grass from getting into your socks and maybe also prevent the bottoms of your pants from wetting out while you walk on the dewy hillsides. Typically they tie around your calf and under your shoe. They offer, at best, moderate protection from all that nature that wants to glom onto you and little to no protection from thorns, snakes, and other ankle-biters.

I was ruminating on this issue with my judicious daughter as I picked grass seeds out of my socks and shoes. Anyone who has walked across a hillside in late summer or early autumn knows the potential extent of this job. “Judi” related an experience with a sage at camp who made gaiters out of cowboy boots. Sky has had a rather storied life and brings much practical wisdom to the people at this camp in the western desert of Texas. I was determined to try this new gaiter out for myself.

For anyone who has worn them, cowboy boots are amazing. Except on dewy hillsides or multi-mile hikes, or craggy rock faces. But really, the problem is the soles which are great for saddles but not for hiking. Sky had solved this problem by combining the best part of cowboy boots with the best part of hiking shoes. I knew I had to try this for myself. Just as soon as I got all the danged seeds out of my shoes.

Get yourself a pair of boots that will fit over your calf easily. The sole size doesn’t matter.

I searched for a couple of months at every thrift store I saw for a pair of boots with an inexpensive price tag for me to cut up. I finally found these lovely boots for seven bucks and commenced to cutting.

I found that my favorite pocket knife, a Kershaw, was the best tool for relinquishing the sole from the upper.

I chose to leave most of the foot covering attached because I frequently wear breathable shoes that grass seeds love to infiltrate.

After removing the sole, slip the boot/gaiter onto your calf before putting your hiking shoe on to try on the gaiter and decide where to trim. I found that trimming was better done with scissors.

Then slide the boot down over the shoe and head out to your favorite grassy area. Does it look silly? I don`t think so, any more than any other gaiter and actually quite a bit more stylish.

That night at camp around the lovely fire you can look silly as you kick back with a beverage while everyone else is picking grass seeds out of their stinking socks.

Chillin’ and warming up after the hike

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40 Days- Ending Week 3 and Starting Week 4

Equanimity and Restoration

How was your week? Were you able to focus on staying calm and non-reactive? Did you get many opportunities to practice Equanimity? Have you noticed any physical signals in your body that you are having a reaction rather than action? For me, when I feel a tightness in my chest and throat is a signal that I am beginning to move into a reactive state. Have you noticed any link between what you eat and drink and how well you stay in a balanced state of mind?  Like so many people, I love coffee. Yet I notice that caffeine can make me feel jittery, anxious, and irritable. Not a really great way to start the day. I found this coffee on Amazon that is the best decaf coffee ever and what a cute name, No Fun Jo! I prefer to drink it black to savor the depth of flavor and I make it 1 cup at a time using this little pour-over. I don’t bother with special filters, preferring either my permanent coffee filter as you can see here, even though it is a size larger than the pour-over, or making do with a paper towel. Minimalists can’t have everything.

All the delicious flavor without the anxiety.

There are many fancier pour-overs but I love being able to throw this into my bag when traveling without fear of breaking it. Lessening my caffeine intake certainly assists in maintaining equanimity for me. How about you? What have you found serves you best in your path?

Here is my favorite coffee set up. Click the links to learn more about them on Amazon. As usual, if you make a purchase from my link it will not cost you one cent more and Amazon tosses a few cents my way. (This is a required disclaimer on every post, btw.)


OKAY! This coming week is themed Restoration. Show of hands, who here is actually good about restoring when your body says it needs it? I know, hardly anyone does until we start feeling on the brink of collapse. Some of us push until we are exhausted mentally, physically, have stressed the relationships with those we love, and have even ignored our pets as we collapse each night in a quivering heap. So this week we will focus on restoring. I like to differentiate restore from relax. Restore is active and purposeful, it has a bigger view than the immediate fix and holds sway over instant gratification.

My biggest challenge to restore is sleep. I am not a good sleeper, never have been according to my mom who put up with a sleepless infant. I do all the things one is supposed to do regarding exercise, screen time, etc. Either I have trouble falling asleep or I sleep for a few hours then wake up for a few hours. I used to fret over this and kept trying to fix it. Now I allow the sleeplessness and use the time for what I call “beditation” which is mediation in bed. If I fall asleep, fabulous! If I do not fall asleep then I have gotten lots of meditation practice in. The end result is the same, I am tired and less able to focus mentally the next day but at least now I am not fighting the inevitable. Having been enmeshed in a struggle, I can definitely say that putting down the struggle and just letting it be is easier and has to be healthier.

During this week of Restoration we do get to do my favorite fast- the 3 day fruit fast. So why a food fast at all? Many of us have a difficult-at-times relationship with food. This fast will shake that up a bit and begin to shed light on how you use food in ways other than to nourish your body. You are not required to do anything about this relationship with food other than notice it. I do think that this week in particular it is good to bring multiple short meditation moments into your daily routine. There are tons of guided meditations. I really like this one by Jack Kornfield. I have used it since 2017 and, while it took a few moments for me to get used to his voice perhaps because most of my other guided meditations have been led by women, however the meditations were and are amazing. When I have a moment of craving I use a meditation to get really interested in the craving. Do not try and fight against it, we are working on restoring not tearing down.

Here is how I plan to eat during my cleanse. Yes, not all of these are fruits, it is true. But this is what works great for me at this time. Check out my foraged food post on rose hips to see an addition to the typical apple/banana/berry fruits that I will be eating.

Zucchini noodles with lemon-apple juice dressing. I love using this zoodler. Seriously, I like this so much I have one at home and one in my camper.
Grapefruit,lettuce, avocado salad with lime because taking the time to arrange a lovely salad infuses the food with love
Apple slices, carrot coins, and berries on a bed of spinach with a squeeze of lemon as much as you want to eat, eat. No limits to the amount of raw leaves in my opinion.

I will be eating the apples, bananas, grapefruits etc that are hanging out in the fruit bowl. Yet at least one meal a day will be composed.

Wow, did you really read this far? I want to give you a tool to experiment with during this restoration week. It just might be that you need to restore more than your physical body. You may find that there is something hurt inside and through this intense period of self-care and love that you make a space for that perhaps ancient hurt to rear its head a little. If this is the case, use what you have been learning in your meditations to hold a little space for it. Allow unconditionally. Just for 3 minutes. You are not broken or damaged. Try this journaling technique that is adapted from John Bradshaw’s book, Homecoming. Sit in a quiet meditative space and allow 20 breaths with loving focus on each breath. Next, in your dominant hand (for me it is my right hand) write in your journal something like, “Hello, (your name). How are you today?” Move the pen to your non-dominant hand (my left) and write whatever flows out of you. You can allow a back and forth conversation for a few minutes but remember not to get too technical, analytical, or explanatory. You want to create a space where the little voice inside can speak openly about anything and you will allow unconditionally. If you find you tense up or are no longer present with that little voice, restore the openness with loving quiet. Do this for a few minutes and then finish with a 20 breath round of maitri meditation*.

I will be thinking of you during this coming week of Restoration. Take care of yourself, Darling. And remember we are all in this together, even though it sometimes feels otherwise.

*What is maitri meditation? In short you breathe in your pain or hurt with an allowing and accepting heart, then you breathe out love and compassion for you and for all beings who share this same hurt. Pema Chodron is a wonderful teacher in many forms of meditation, especially because she admits that she has a busy mind and meditation is a challenge for her. Her honesty and authenticity is so welcoming! I have several of her books and CDs, this one is a favorite and will teach you how to do mini-maitri meditations.

Rose Hips- How to forage and use rose hips in your everyday life

or

I like big hips and I cannot lie…

Finally, I appreciate big hips!

Apparently Google does not appreciate wit and innuendo. As such, I try to clarify the post content in the title and use the subtitle for my own fun. I do this for you, darling, just because I want to make it easier for you to find this information that you so desperately need. I am always thinking of how to make it easier for you, dearest reader. I suspect that in this relationship, I like you better than you like me. I’m okay with that.

Let us glorify big hips!!! Yes, rose hips. Those glorious late fall to winter last bits of free food you can forage. They are found almost everywhere except Antarctica (sorry, you poor scientists and adventurers) and you can even grow your own. Best part, they show up just for doing nothing! If you have a rose bush and do not cut the roses then once the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, the rose hips arrive. They supposedly are best after a frost. I cannot validate that at this time because we had a freak snow in September up here in my new home of the Northwest which interrupted my experiment of trying rose hips before and after frost. Oh well, there is always next year.

The fruit and seeds of the rose, the rose hip is bright red when ripe. Usually.

In my former southern home I always cut my flowers. In part to bring in for enjoyment and in part to prune the rose bush and encourage more growth. This cutting prevented the formation of the hips to grow but, down on the southern coast hip foraging would have occurred around February rather than the October to December up here. Whatever the timeframe in your area, try going au naturel with your flowers this season. By that I mean do not spray them with any pesticides or fungicides and let the flowers bloom, then die on the plant. After those lovely petals are finished (and you should harvest them for potpourri and tea, by the way), the hips will form.

Why should you care about rose hips? Lordy! So many reasons! The first being that they taste good! Next, they have oodles more vitamin C than an orange and then they add in all those bioflavonoids that are super-uber good for you! Finally, they might be able to enhance skin tone and lessen stretch marks. (initially there was an exclamation point but it seemed a little too manic and I do not want to be the Richard Simmons of rose hips) Interestingly, rose hips don’t taste like roses. To me they have more of a melon taste that is quite refreshing for so late in the year. It is like a little vacation to Mexico in the winter. And when you concentrate the flavor in a rose hip syrup it just might make your eyeballs roll up in your head a little bit.

Now, I know what you are thinking. “Hello, I am not some hippie foraging queen or Martha Stewart who grows my own wheat just to make pizza.” And I am here to tell you that actually it is Karen Bertelson who grows her own wheat for pizza. Also, you do not have to be that “into the wild” in order to enjoy the fullness of rose hips. Plenty of people make tons of stuff from them that you can buy if you just don’t have it in you to make your own rose hip face oil or rose hip tea. So no excuses. Treat yo-self!

 

Written here, though, is how to forage and also how to use rose hips. Find them, grow them, buy them. It no mattah how you get them (but don’t steal them, for God’s sake) just begin to incorporate these powerhouse fruits into your daily life.

Firstly, if you are going to grow or forage for hips, wear gloves. Remember the thorns. If only one or two rose hips were sufficient, I’d forgo the gloves in a heartbeat. The truth is that you will need quite a few of these little guys and if you do not wear protective gloves you will get so scratched up you will be able to count your heartbeats as it pumps blood out of your hands and wrists. The rose hip oil can heal many wounds but why test it this way?

Next, wait until a really cold spell hits the hips for a night. Preferably something below freezing according to all the old people who tell tales on such things. Maybe I will do some research to see if anything has been published on vitamin content of rose hips pre and post freezing but let us not tarry on such at this time. Once you have had a cold spell, don those gloves and grab a container of some sort. I have used my jacket and also my hat as containers when out for a walk in the woods and stumbling on a bush with very large hips on it. Just can’t pass that by! But it is better to have something like a little bucket or bag that is impervious to rosebush thorns. Just pick the rose hips and put them in the bag.

Avoid any that are rotten-looking or are a pale pink. Ripe rose hips should be red, for the most part anyway. Sometimes a bush will make orange-ish hips and you can tell if they are ripe by picking and giving a squeeze. They shouldn’t be absolutely rock-hard. Maybe they will have a tiny bit of give or maybe they will be totally ripe and squish out a smidgen of sweet goodness like this. Do not over-squish or the hairs and seeds will come out. You don’t want those hairs, they are the key ingredient in itching powder.

Once they are home, you have to decide how many will become tea, how many will become an amazing skin oil, and how many will become a delicious syrup. I can’t help you in this department because I love all of them. All I can say is try a bit of each and see what calls to you.

For a quick and easy shopping if you already cut all your roses and can’t wait til next year, here are links to the items I recommend for tea, syrup, and oil so you can buy them. If you follow these links and make a purchase on Amazon, I will get a small commission yet it will not cost you anything extra. This way you can enjoy all the benefits of rose hips without waiting . Also, you should plan next year’s garden to allow for rose hip collection.

For tea you must dry the rose hips completely and then remove the fine hairs inside of them. Those hairs, by the way, are the main ingredient in that stupid practical joke itching powder. I recommend avoiding these hairs. I have dealt with them in two ways. First I sliced each hip in half and used a tiny spoon to scrape out all the hairs and seeds. Then I dried the remaining hips and crushed to make tea and syrup. Getting impatient with this process, I tried a new method which sped things up dramatically by using my Vitamix to crush the dried hips. Then I went outside and sifted the hips through a fine sieve to remove the ichy hairs. This technique was my favorite and made a lovely tea as well. Below is the picto-recipe

For the delicious rose hip syrup you need to cook the rose hips in water and then add sugar or honey at the end. Again, I did this in two ways, first by removing all the seeds and hairs and then second by filtering the hips through a paper towel or coffee filter. This syrup is outrageous, concentrating all the superb yumminess of the hips into a thick and delicious melon syrup full of healthy vitamins. I use this syrup to sweeten tea, as a flavoring agent in sparkling water, and cocktails. This is not rose water like used in some Indian foods, this is rose hip syrup. Both are delish but only one tastes like roses.

And if you want to get really fancy, you can make your own rose hip oil. This oil is purported to have amazing rejuvenating properties for skin. What I notice is that my skin is brighter when I use it. The Vitamin C in rose hip oil is reported to encourage cellular turnover in a manner more gentle but similar to those retinoic acid creams and without the redness and peeling. You can buy rose hip oil online here but making your own is pretty easy. It is recommended to keep the oil in a dark glass container. I couldn’t find one so I used clear glass. Since my oil is kept in a dark cabinet in a dark room, I am not too concerned with light degrading the Vitamin C. You make your own call on this. As a person working towards minimalism I must learn to make do with what I have on hand and educate myself about what I really and truly need versus what I want. (By the way, I want everything, especially if it is purple.)

Making the syrup and the oil use similar steps. The only difference is that you will put the rose hips into water when making syrup and into oil when making oil. You can use any oil you like but my favorite is avocado oil. Yep, the kind you use for cooking. It is great for hair, skin, and sauteed veggies. Okay, one other difference in making rose hip oil versus rose hip syrup is that for the oil you will soak the hips in the oil overnight at a very low temperature to preserve the Vitamin C. For making rose hip syrup you can overight soak or heat the hips in water at a simmer for about 10 minutes, then strain, return to heat and add sugar or honey and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. I’ve done 1/2 to 1 part sugar to 2 parts rose hip water.

I sure hope you will give rose hips a try in one or all of their many forms! There are even more things you can do, like make jelly or wine. If you have done that, let me know! And let’s continue to see the world through rose-hip-colored glasses.

journaling, personal growth

40 Days- check in for end of week 2

journaling, personal growth
Early morning is the best time to journal. Sitting by the window watching dawn wake the land is so promising.

Hello! How is your Personal Revolution going? If this is your first time doing the 40 days, you may have been excited to start, then wobbled a bit on incorporating the program in its entirety. Journaling, yoga, maybe a change in eating practices, meditation, all these things are probably new to your regular daily routine. Maybe you do some of them at times but all four at the same time for an extended period of time, it is a lot of change! I would say do not be hard on yourself if you falter. Get started again. I believe when we are trying to make a change, whether it is change a habit that is no longer desired (notice I did not say bad habit) or add a habit that is desired, you must attach the change to something that is already stable. And a reward system is not bad, either.

For example, I have a hard time incorporating daily journaling into my life right now. I will do the weekly excavation questions in a day or two and then “forget” to do my own daily journaling. Is it because I do not have anything specific to write about? No, it is because I keep thinking I will get to it later. This morning I have already spent time on yoga and meditation and eating a good breakfast. I want to get on with my day. I make excuses like, “Oh, it is partly sunny and not too windy, I have some outside work to do before the rain comes,” or “I am almost out of gluten-free bread, I really need to get that mixed up, I will journal while it is rising.” Lots of excuses but the truth is, I have the time. I spend it on other things. That is the truth. I have been feeling lonely so I check social media quite frequently as a way of feeling connected. I bet if I just sat down and journaled instead of checking FB that it would take the same amount of time. I want the quick fix, though. But that new lovely journaling book reminds me of my commitment to myself.

One of the funny things that happens when you make a decision to address an issue in yourself is the universe seems to come in and test your mettle and also maybe “help” you along. The first week is about Presence and coming into your body and boy, did I get some help in that! My herniated disk flared up and I have been in pain and restricted movement. I was definitely aware of my body! There was no way I could do the yoga practice as described. Instead of foregoing the practice, I adjusted and made a 5 minute practice that I could do several times a day as a way of enticing that disk to quiet down. I learned to adapt and meet the needs of this body at this time. That is perhaps the very essence of this lesson. The second week was a lesson about Vitality. I won’t go into the challenges I faced last week but I learned that my old stories can show up and sap my vitality. I learned how important Presence is in being authentic to my real self regardless of how the day’s events may go.

So this week the lesson is Equanimity. I will be honest, my first thought this morning when I read that was, “Oh shit.” I know that equanimity is a practice of not being over-taken by thoughts, that it is recognizing the ephemeral nature of thoughts and feelings and letting them come and go without fixating on them. I will be diligent in this practice of breathing in and letting go every moment. As Eckhart Tolle says, “Die to the past every moment.” And yes, I do not look forward to the lesson the universe will bring me to make sure I have learned about equanimity. It is okay to feel trepidation, to be tired of being tested and to still summon the courage to sally forth gaily into the experience. Or not so gaily, that is okay, too.

I’m thinking my reward for journaling each day will be a treat of gummy bears. I really like those chewy guys and only eat them on road trips. I have been known to eat a whole bag of gummy bears in one sitting so I will pick some up today and let you know how it goes. Maybe this time will be different.

Here are a few things I have been eating to incorporate more vitality into my week. Two brand new things that have made a huge change in my energy level are using blended cottage cheese in place of many creamy ingredients. My savvy daughter told me about this trick with cottage cheese and I was disbelieving but willing to try it. I placed a 16 oz container into my Vitamix and hit blend. The result is somewhere between sour cream, plain yogurt, and cottage cheese in flavor. I used it in many things this past week, healthy muffins (I will share the recipe once I get it perfected with measurements but as a teaser, it uses cottage cheese and chick peas!), deviled eggs, and a healthy alfredo sauce for steamed broccoli using cashews, cottage cheese, and about a teaspoon of parmesan per serving. Below you can see the evolved-alfredo, the eggs, a bean sprout salad, and quinoa-stuffed peppers.

A healthy alternative to alfredo and mayo, blended cottage cheese is my new go-to

I have also been using up those hibiscus flowers in several beverages, hot and cold. Below is a simple tea made from the hibiscus and lavender. It is important to use organic culinary lavender in your food and Kate’s Naturals (the link above) is a great source.

Hibiscus and lavender tea is my new favorite treat!

And the weirdest food I tried had to be this.

banana "bacon"
Vegan “bacon” made from banana skin. So weird and yet so good!

Yes, this was the absolute weirdest thing I have ever tried. It was brought to my attention by my friend through her Facebook share of a post at itdoesn’ttastelikechicken.com on banana peel bacon. What the hell? Well, why not? I spend the extra money for organic bananas, why throw that skin away? I am here to tell you, this crazy thing is yummy! I will play with it more in the near future while perfecting my crazy healthy muffin recipe and get back to ya.

Disclaimer: the Amazon links above will take you to the products I have purchased and recommend. If you follow my link and make a purchase, it will not cost you anything extra and I will get a small commission for pointing you in their direction.

Hibiscus Enchiladas- Two Ways

Hibiscus enchiladas are the bomb. Once you try these vegetarian delights, you will want to serve them to everyone! Who knew those lovely flowers could do so much?

This dish was begat by the gift of some dried hibiscus flowers. Other than tea, what does one do with these things? My savvy daughter sent me a link to loveandoliveoil.com where there are several recipes using hibiscus for more than just tea! I was inspired by the enchiladas recipe and have since added hibiscus enchiladas to my repertoire of favorites. And by “repertoire of favorites” I mean I no longer follow an exact recipe and these enchies become tailored to whatever my mood at the time desires. Sometimes I am “eating clean” and light and fresh fare that is colorful, uber-healthy, and gourmet. Would that I lived every day this way, filled with verve and vibrancy but the truth is that sometimes I have a bad day or rough week and I want comfort food. For me, comfort food is kind of heavy, it tends to be heavily sauced, have more than one kind of cheese in it, and it may tend toward mono-chromatic.

So here are two versions of the same Hibiscus Enchiladas, one for when you are on top of the world and the other for when the world has been riding your ass all week.

For both recipes you will need:

  • 6-8 corn tortillas
  • 1 Cup organic hibiscus flowers
  • 1 can chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 15 oz can chopped tomatoes or 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • Chopped onions and garlic, I do about ¾ cup of chopped onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic, then divide it between the sauce and the enchiladas
  • Julienned veggies of your choice to make about 1 to 1.5 cups(carrots, zucchini, potato, jicama, spinach, kale, swiss chard, yellow squash, and/or anything in the fridge that needs to be eaten). I tend to err on the side of too much veggie because the left overs can be saved for a quick addition to scrambled eggs or soup or as a sandwich filling so feel free to saute up extra to cook once-eat twice.
  • Cheese(s) of your choice (cotija, feta, cheddar, Monterey jack, cottage cheese are some suggestions)

*You may wish to add jalapenos into the veggie mix if you like a bit of heat.

Depending on the tortilla size and the amount of veggies you stuff into each, this makes about 6 healthy enchiladas which is 2 servings in my opinion but could serve 3 if you had lots of sides or were a light eater. If you are making the comfort enchilada version, it serves 4-6 people

Soak 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers in 2 cups hot water (as if making tea) for 30 minutes or longer. Drain and reserve the liquid for tea or for margaritas (see suggestion below for hibiscus cocktail recipes).

Thoroughly rinse the rehydrated flowers to remove any grit and set aside.

Meanwhile for the enchilada sauce (actually, start this first so it can develop the flavor), over medium heat saute onions and garlic and the chopped tomatoes, cut up 1 or 2 of the chipotle peppers and 2 -4 teaspoons of the adobo sauce and add to the mix with  1 tablespoon of chili powder (or not if you want a fresher, lighter flavor), some cumin, oregano, salt and pepper all to taste and cook about 15 minutes. Blend smooth in a blender. In a clean pot place some oil and heat, then add the sauce like you were going to saute it. Let cook about 15 minutes. It may seem like a hassle to re-cook the sauce but it really makes a difference in the flavor. Take it off the heat and keep it warm while preparing the remaining recipe.

To prepare the enchiladas:

For healthy enchiladas, saute onions until translucent. Next add garlic and stir around a moment until fragrant, then add the julienned veggies and hibiscus flowers and saute. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, ¾ teaspoon coriander, ½ teaspoon oregano, and salt/pepper to taste. I sometimes add some jalapeno slices to this mix as well. Saute until veggies are soft but still colorful and then keep warm until ready to make enchiladas

Place small amount of oil in skillet and heat corn tortillas on medium heat for 30 seconds to soften, placing on paper towel-lined plate. This heating also intensifies the flavor of the tortillas.

Assemble by placing a scant ¼ cup of the veggie mix onto a tortilla and roll up and place on serving plate. Top with enchilada sauce, avocado slices, sour cream or plain yogurt, and a sprinkle of the cheese of your choice.

Healthy Hibiscus Enchiladas with avocado and plain yogurt served with orange and candied jalapeno slices. Hibiscus margarita to round out the meal. Leave out the yogurt for a vegan version.

For comfort enchiladas, follow the vegetable saute and tortilla prep as for healthy enchiladas. Assemble in an oiled 8×10 (or so) baking dish that has a smear of enchilada sauce on the bottom of it by placing 2 tablespoons of veggie mix and 1 tablespoon of cheese (I like cottage cheese and Monterey jack mixed together). Roll up and place rolled-side down in baking dish, pour the enchilada sauce over and cover with cheese. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes before serving. You can use this time to mix up a cocktail with that hibiscus tea.

Hibiscus enchiladas comfort style. I was half-way through dinner when I realized I had forgotten to take a picture of the plated dinner. I really needed that “hug from the inside” this day!

For a yummy beverage, you can fix these cocktails or leave the alcohol out for a nice mocktail.

Hibiscus Margarita- place 1/3 cup of the reserved hibiscus tea into a glass, add 1T simple syrup, about ½ a lime of fresh juice, and a shot of tequila (gold or anejo is my preference). Adjust to taste, then add ice cubes. I like to float or place on rim some candied jalapenos. I tried adding one of the hibiscus flowers to the drink but it really just looked like a dead baby squid rather than a glorious flower.

Hibiscus and Huckleberry-Infused Vodka sparkler- pour about 1/2 cup of hibiscus tea into a glass, add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar and stir to dissolve, then add a shot of huckleberry-infused vodka, a few ice cubes, and fill glass with sparkling water. I love my SodaStream to have sparkling water whenever I want without creating more plastic bottles to deal with.

Wondering what to serve alongside the enchiladas? For the healthy enchilada sides, I’ve made salads. My favorite salad, of which there is no picture I am sad to say, had a base of romaine and tomato, then alternating slices of grapefruit and avocado and in the center were some cooked carrots with a raspberry-chipotle glaze. Dressing was grapefruit juice, olive oil and seasonings. To make the carrots, cook carrot coins in small amount of water until done. Add some real raspberry jam and some of the chipotle pepper in the pot and stir over heat until it reduces into a glaze. For the comfort enchilada sides I go simple and do a cucumber and tomato salad (and maybe a second cocktail). A little of Aura Cacia’s Chill Pill essential oil on the wrist also helps soothe the soul.

Give these a try and let me know what you think! Did you do the healthy version or the comfort version? If you buy the hibiscus flowers from the above Amazon link (or any other items that are linked in this or my other posts) it will not cost you anything extra and I will make a small commission that will let me make up other recipes to use up that bag of hibiscus! That is how the Amazon affiliate thingy works, I get a few cents for pointing you in their direction.