Friday, August 30, 2013

The Benefits of Dry Brushing Your Skin

Do you dry brush your skin? It’s something I’ve done sporadically over the years, but after reading a recent Huffington Post article I plan to add it to my daily skin care regimen.


Dry skin brushing is an effective way to reduce cellulite. Not only that, but the process also buffs away dead skin, boosts circulation and lymphatic drainage and ultimately rids the body of toxins.

The method is easy and cheap. No more buying expensive creams that may or may not work. All you need is an appropriate brush and a few minutes of your time daily before your shower.

Choose the right brush
The bristles should be natural, not synthetic, and preferably vegetable-derived. The bristles themselves should be somewhat stiff, though not too hard. Look for one that has an attachable handle for hard-to-reach spots. I use a loofah, pictured below.



How often
Daily, or even twice a day. Dry skin brushing effectively opens up the pores on your skin. Your skin should be dry, so the ideal time is in the shower before you turn on the water. Don't get the brush wet.


Method
You should only brush towards the heart. Make long sweeps; avoid back and forth, scrubbing and circular motions. Start at your feet, moving up the legs on both sides, then work from the arms toward your chest. On your stomach, direct the brush counterclockwise. Don't brush too hard: Skin should be stimulated and invigorated but not irritated or red. 


Benefits
Body brushing promotes tighter skin, cell renewal and blood flow. This helps the lymphatic system release toxins and aids in digestion and kidney function.


There are numerous articles on the Internet about the benefits of dry skin brushing. If you go to the Huffington Post hyperlink above, various and several appropriate brushes are pictured at the end of the article.

Good luck to all of us and Happy Dry Brushing!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Work of Fiction -Fourth and Final Segment



To read previous segments, click on the links above.


July 2000

One week had passed since the dream about Priscilla. The other-worldliness of the dream itself was not as bothersome as the aftermath of feelings and emotions it generated. Most of my waking hours had been spent thinking about her and of our time together long ago.

Credit
All I knew about her since that time was that she graduated in 1968 from Randolph Macon College in Virginia. After high school she had married her sweetheart of several years,  the handsome and athletic Hunter Adams. The marriage was over in less than two years, after which Dr. Truley drove her up to Asheville and enrolled her at his mother’s Alma Mater.

During the summer of 1968, after her photograph and a brief write-up appeared in the local paper announcing her college graduation, news got back to town that she was among a large group of antiwar protesters who were arrested and jailed in Chicago at the National Democratic Convention.

Dr. Truley had flown to Chicago to get his daughter out of jail and bring her home.

Few people saw her the remainder of that year, and by the time I came home for Christmas she had left and her father didn’t know where she was, according to Annie Sue.

Mama said the gossip around town was that she was at the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969, where she had met and married a second rate musician and moved to California.

But over time, the gossip mill about Priscilla almost dried up. Dr. Truley died in the mid-1970s, and the behavior and values of a younger generation lessened the shock value of Priscilla's former behavior. The Age of Aquarius seemed to have fully arrived in the sleepy little town.

*****  

I moved to Atlanta after college to accepted a job as a reporter for the Atlanta Herald and my visits to my hometown became less frequent as I became absorbed in my new life. My grandparents died two months apart, during the winter of 1977. I drove away after the last item of business had been attended to and vowed I’d never return
.
******

I started working the telephone. I had cut my professional teeth on investigative journalism and knew how to find and work my sources. I called anyone and everyone in my hometown who might know of Priscilla’s whereabouts. I spent hours searching the Internet for some mention of her, knowing her last name would no longer be Truley, but hoping some nugget of information would turn up. Nothing did.

One of Mama’s old friends told me in one of the calls that so far as anyone knew, Annie Sue Brighton, the Truley’s longtime maid, was the only person Priscilla had stayed in touch with throughout the 1980s and 1990s. She said Annie Sue was in a nursing home and would be my best bet tracking down Priscilla.

Annie Sue.  How well I remembered that name! The little teas she prepared and brought out to the Summer House. Her loving care of Priscilla. The woman who took up the duty of raising Priscilla after Mrs. Mary Maycomb, the housekeeper, left.

I thought Annie Sue was Priscilla’s mother until I was about five years old. It made no difference to me that she had black skin and Priscilla’s was white. I saw her love and devotion and assumed that could be provided only by a mother, or a grandmother.

She must be close to 90 years old by now, I thought. Would she still be rational? Would it be worth my time to make the four-hour drive to see her? Would she even remember me?

I pondered the questions, and even asked myself why I was so obsessed in this quest to learn more about Priscilla’s whereabouts. I had a great life here in the city. I was the managing editor of a large metropolitan newspaper, lived in a luxurious condo in the heart of Buckhead, had a man in my life that I adored. My life was going quite well, thank you very much, so why was I trying to dig up bones from the past?

These questions I turned over in my mind for several days before I finally notified my newspaper staff I was taking a few days off to tend to personal business. I called Greg to say I wouldn’t be able to accompany him to the Arts Center fundraiser that night, that something had come up and I would be out of town for three or four days, that I loved him and would be in touch.


Then I packed a bag, dropped off my dog Penelope at the kennel, filled the BMW gas tank and headed west on I-20.

*****

This is the final installment here on my blog of a story that's whirling around in my head. I hope you have enjoyed reading it, and if so, leave me a note to tell me what you like, or don't like, about it.

As you know, first drafts are only the beginning. Much will change and much more will be written before the story is completed.

Will it become my first novel? Who knows? It all depends on where my search for Priscilla Truley leads me!!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Work of Fiction - Part Three


Note: The following is a fictional story. It does not depict my life, and any similarity to anyone either living or deceased is purely coincidental.

In case you missed previous posts,
Find Part One here 
Part Two is here

And so it began, my long journey with Priscilla.
Credit

She was punished by her father for her previous deed – that of luring a mere baby into the street. She never repeated that type of behavior again. Instead, she often came across the street to our house and she and I played in my backyard. She was kind, well-behaved and earned the respect and admiration of Mama, my grandmother, who raised me after my Mommie died.

As I became older, I was allow visits to her home and over time, became a regular presence there.

I was too young to remember many specific details of our early days together, but I do recall one seminal event – her 8th birthday party. I would have been six.

That was when Dr. Truley presented his daughter the little white cottage that became The Summer House. He commissioned it built and delivered to the mansion as Priscilla’s surprise birthday present.

I recall that late afternoon and early evening party so vividly. Lights were strung throughout the huge and ancient oak trees that shaded Truley mansion.  Tables and chairs were brought in and set up on the back lawn to accommodate the numerous invited guests; a special table was reserved for the mound of gifts brought by children and adults alike who attended the party. It was an event like no other I had ever experienced.

A bevy of maids in black dresses and white aprons served hot dogs to the children and fried catfish and hush puppies to the adults. There was grape Kool-Aid in Dixie cups and bottles of Coca-Cola in a tub of ice. A huge white cake with pink flowers and eight sparklers atop it was rolled out on a cart to the delight of the squealing children. There was peach ice cream dipped from buckets of hand-turned ice cream makers.

But most of all I remember the unveiling of the little white cottage Dr. Truley presented to Priscilla, and how she immediately christened it the Summer House. What a special and lovely thing it was, nestled among the trees, every detail attended to including red geraniums in the window box. 

All I hoped was that she would in time allow me inside her private sanctum.


*****

Mama said in later years it was the biggest bash the town had ever seen. “And all that for a child's party,” she would exclaim in exasperation. But this was Priscilla, the only daughter of old Dr. Truley and any indulgence he showered on her was simply accepted as a privilege afforded an old man in his declining years.

And he was, after all, still recovering from his traumatic experience with Priscilla’s mother, Constance.

His first wife -- the mother of his five older sons -- died in 1940 and the grieving widower was soon ensnared by Constance Bradley, a local girl who started working at Bennett’s Drug Store dipping ice cream following her high school graduation. She was younger than his own sons and definitely not in the Truley social circle. 

She was pretty in a cheap and gaudy way; her clothes were too tight; her heels too high; her red lipstick too thick. Her stocking seams were crooked, she constantly chewed gum, smoked cigarettes and talked too much, mostly about the movies she'd seen.

Constance had been telling anyone who would listen that she planned on joining up with the Women's Army Corp soon “just to get out of this one horse town."

Fate, however, dealt her a different hand. The grieving Dr. Truley often stopped by the drugstore after seeing his last patient. His walk home took him past the drugstore and he liked to stop in to have a friendly chat with his friend, the pharmacist. They would sit at one of the back tables and to have a chat over a fountain Coke, always served by Constance.

It started, so they said, when she lingered too long at the table, making small talk with the doctor. She was seen more than once reaching over to pat his hand as she served his Coke. Leaving the table, she was reported to have brushed against him on more than one occasion.

The next thing anyone knew the two had gone off to Iuka and got married. The townspeople were shocked. A gold digger, some said. Tricked, others whispered, as they marked their calendars. It was agreed by all that the good doctor had definitely married beneath himself.


*****

Life went on and everyone hoped that Constance would make him a good wife. Things seemed to be working out and Dr. Truley seemed his happy self once more. His happiness seemed completed when he announced to friends that he and Constance were expecting a child.

His married sons and their wives snorted with disgust. The townspeople clucked, consulted their calendars, said “I told you so” and waited.

Dr. Truley was delighted when, in 1944, Constance presented him with a beautiful girl child seven months after the marriage. He himself delivered the child and named her Priscilla, after her great-great-great-grandmother, the first woman to live at the Truley mansion.

*****

After raising five sons, a baby daughter brought Dr. Truley much joy and happiness. Nothing was too good for his Priscilla. He often took the baby out in the stroller during the cool of the early evening, rolling her along the streets of the small town, stopping to chat with friends and receive their glowing compliments about his beautiful baby daughter.

Constance mostly kept inside the house, although she often was seen driving away in the late morning and not returning until late in the day, before her husband arrived home.

It was not long after Priscilla's birth that Constance hired a live-in housekeeper, although she was told by Constance that her primary duty was tending to the baby. Mrs. Mary Maycomb, recently widowed and sorely in need of an income, was more than happy to be engaged to raise the child.

The Truly’s longtime maid, Annie Sue, continued her duties of keeping the house sparkling clean, Delia the cook made three meals each day and old Miles the gardener toiled daily to keep the lawn manicured and the flower beds free of weeds.

Over time Constance became careless, often staggering into the house smelling of alcohol and looking disheveled long after Dr. Truly had been served his dinner. Then one day the housekeeper told one of her friends there had been an awful row, after which Constance packed her bags and drove away in a cloud of smoke. Within a few days everyone in town knew she was gone.

But not a living soul ever heard the story from Dr. Truley’s lips. He suddenly looked older and sadder, but the sight of his daughter could light up his eyes in a way nothing else could.


*****

The child Priscilla grew strong and happy under the care of Mrs. Maycomb and Constance was soon forgotten by everyone. Her name was never again uttered in Truley Mansion.

....to be continued.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Work of Fiction - Part Two

The following is a work of fiction. This story and the previous installment, here, do not depict my life. I have written these, and future planned posts, purely for entertainment value. Sooner or later, I must give a title to this collection. Do you have a suggestion?


Priscilla Truley was a mystery. Girls envied her and wanted to be her friend, even though she could be cruel at times. Adults were impressed by her sweet demeanor and impeccable manners, but often were shocked by her outbursts. Boys wanted to own her but sooner or later were burned by her rejection.

She was a character of contrasts and magically cast a spell over all who entered her sphere of existence.

Born to wealthy parents – Dr. Truley and his much younger wife Constance – she lived in the town’s only “mansion,” a Georgian two-story brick columned house dominated by a monumental Tuscan style portico that spanned the entire 60-foot wide front facade.

Credit: wikimedia commons

The house was built by Priscilla’s great-great-grandfather, Andrew Truly, as the centerpiece of his 2,500 acre cotton plantation. The house was badly damaged in 1862 during the American Civil War, and almost demolished by a tornado in 1875.

Land from the plantation was sold off over the years to finance the house’s two restoration, and by 1955 the former Truley plantation consisted of just nine acres.

Our home, a modest one-and-a-half story bungalow built after the First World War, sat directly across the road from the Truley mansion. My great grandfather had taken advantage of the Truley land sale following the 1875 tornado, purchasing a prized two-acre lot with street frontage directly across the street from the mansion.

Credit: jamestownri.com

My grandfather, Theo, inherited the house from his father, married Georgia Ann and they raised their only daughter, Nelladean, my mother, in the house. Nelladean was married to Gunter Foster in 1943, before he shipped off to the European theater during World War II.

My father returned safely from the war in 1945 and I was born in 1946. When I was two, my father was tragically killed in a sawmill accident, leaving Nelladean penniless. And so it was that my Mommie and I moved in with my grandparents, across the street from Priscilla.

One of, if not the first, memory of my life was of Priscilla. I was less than two years old. Mommie is kneeling along the sidewalk that ran from the house front doorsteps to the street. She’s digging holes on either side of the walkway and planting verbenas. I’m toddling nearby. Looking across the street there stands Priscilla, two years older than I, wearing a green plaid shirtwaist dress with a white Peter Pan collar. She’s frowning into the sun, long golden curls softly framing her face.

She’s beckoning to me, using her index finger sticking out of a clenched fist as a sign to “come here.” I watch her, fascinated. Then I looked in Mommie's direction.

“Come back, baby. I don’t want you there. You know Mommie has told you to never go near the road. One of those mean old cars might come by and hit you.”

Mommie returned to her planting, humming a happy song as I continued to watch the little girl across the street.

I glanced around at Mommie. Her back was toward me, searching for her misplaced trowel. And apparently, even at that young age, I saw an opportunity and across the street I dashed.

Mommie turned and looked up just in time to see Priscilla reach down to take my hand and hoist me up over the slight slope and into the safety of her yard.

I remember running, being pulled along by Priscilla. Mommie was screaming, standing there waiting for a car to pass before she could cross the road. That gave Priscilla just enough time to dart around to the side of the house, pulling me along behind her. My arm was hurting, so I ran fast as I could to keep up.

Mommie was behind in hot pursuit.

Priscilla was headed to a trap door that led to a crawl space underneath the house. She jerked open the door, entered the crawl space and was about to pull me inside when Mommie reached us.

She picked me up, crying and scolding me all at the same time. That’s the last memory I have of my Mommie, who died in a car accident two weeks later.

And this was the story told to me over and over again by my grandparents, Georgia Ann and Theo, who raised me after Mommie died.

So do I really remember the incident, or has it been burned into my memory by the retelling of the story? But it doesn’t matter, after all. Priscilla would play a pivotal role in my life for the next 16 years. And there are enough memories to last a lifetime.

...to be continued.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Work of Fiction - Part One

Last night I dreamed about Priscilla Truley. She was standing on the edge of a cliff, beckoning me to come to her. But in the half conscious realm of the dreamer, I knew I couldn't reach her.




She was calling my name in that soft, whispery voice that had held me under her spell for so many years. She was imploring me to come back to the summerhouse, saying she was sorry, asking me to forgive her.

She held out her hand and I leaned forward to extend mine but the sound of the roaring water below frightened me and I pulled back. I was overcome with sadness, as it came to me that too much time had passed and we could never be reunited.



The summer house. That magical place of youth where we had fantasized and dreamed. First with dolls, tea parties and dressing up in adult clothes; later as teenagers giggling about boys, planning our wardrobe and listening to our favorite music. It was our place, mine and Priscilla's.

Until that day I stormed out in anger, vowing never again to return.

In this land of dreamers, a fog suddenly rolled in and Priscilla’s face was hidden from me. I could faintly hear her musical voice calling out to me, begging me. 

But more clearly I now heard Momma’s voice behind me, beckoning me inside for lunch.



Conflicted. Just the way it always was where Priscilla was concerned. I wanted to go to her. 

I wanted to reenter the summerhouse, to live again in the land of make believe where knights in shining armor and pretty princesses ruled the day; where little girls in frilly pink dresses and dolls with names sat around a tiny tea table and sipped Coca Cola from little bone china cups.

Where teenage girls had trouble deciding if they wanted to become a movie starlet, beauty queen or airline stewardess.

I wanted to go once more to the summerhouse where Priscilla called the shots.

But I was afraid. Did I fear the danger of crossing to the other side of the cliff, or fearful that Momma would be angry if I didn’t come for lunch on time?

No, the dreamer knew it was neither. It was Priscilla I feared. Of her being angry, rejecting me, casting me aside for other friends, just as it had always been.

I awakened in a sweat, the images and voices of the dream still clear. Why, after all these years, had I dreamed of those long ago days? Of the person who so greatly influenced my life but was now lost to me forever?

I jumped out of bed and grabbed my iPad. A quick Google search could perhaps help me learn where she was, or if she was even still alive. 

It wasn’t a road I was sure I wished to travel, but something inside urged me on. Sometimes the not knowing is best, I rationalized.  But the dream had been too vivid, and I couldn’t stop myself.

Stay tuned for Part Two.





I

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Meet Katie

She's here!



Katherine Eloise (Katie) was born August 19, not on her "due date," the 27th. Babies have a way of knowing when it's time to make their appearances, regardless of what the doctors say.

She was born on the same day as her great grandfather and is his first great grandchild!

On the very day I posted the quilt photos, we received a call that the time was approaching. So at 1 a.m. Monday, August 19, we headed out, arriving at the hospital at 6 a.m., just a few hours before her birth.

And what a precious child she is! All 7.5 pounds of her. She has a full head of dark hair and I'll have more pictures showing that later.

The new family is doing quite well and getting some much needed rest.

Thanks to all of you for your congratulatory comments.

And a BIG thanks to my sweet sister for coming to stay and take care of all our pets while we were away!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Quilt for Katie


We are counting off the days to August 27 – the expected arrival date of Katherine Eloise, who will be called Katie.



Yes, there’s soon to be a grandchild! Son Patrick and his lovely wife Jennifer will welcome their first child and the first grandchild in our immediate family. She also will be the first great-grandchild of my husband’s father.

So I have been stitching away all summer long, making a quilt for the precious girl baby. I bought the Laura Ashley pink prints many years ago, knowing that sooner or later I’d find the correct use for them.



I cut and sewed them into the nine-patch pattern, set them together with white fabric, placed batting between the top and bottom (also a LA print) and began the long and tedious process of hand quilting. That being completed a couple weeks ago, I made a straight binding, sewed by machine along all edges, and turned and hand stitched it to the back of the quilt.




The quilt back





Now it’s ready to deliver to the nursery at her new home when we make the four-hour drive once we get the call that she’s either on the way, or has arrived!

Anyone have any knitted bootie patterns? I’m sure I’ll be getting out the knitting needles soon.



Sweet Autumn Clematis

Each August as the days grow shorter, the Sweet Autumn Clematis makes an appearance.


This month has been quite unusual -- more rain than normal and much cooler temperatures. Perhaps that has contributed to the abundant display of this lovely plant.

A perennial, this variety of Clematis clings to anything it touches.

Here, it climbs up the gazebo: 




And up a tree:

And along the ground:

This is the time of year when the summer flowers and shrubs, save for zinnias and cosmos, have had their day. The riotous display of Sweet Autumn Clematis is a welcome sight.


Their white loveliness is a promise for springs to come, as the little seed heads are blown by the wind to take root throughout my garden.

Sometimes I just pull them up and discard them, as there are so many. But this year I'm thinking I'll just let them "overtake" the garden and grow where they may.

To enjoy them for two weeks in August would be worth it!


Friday, August 16, 2013

How Often to Replace Your Mascara

The Bobbi Brown Gel Eyeliner has received rave reviews, so I stopped by the cosmetics counter to purchase and give it a try.



Naturally, there is a special brush with which to apply the liner so I had to buy that as well.

A discussion about mascara ensued, and I voiced my frustration about clumping, caking and smearing by the end of the day. Naturally, she had a recommendation – that was, to try the Bobbi Brown no smudge mascara.

Because I’ve never found the perfect mascara – from the expensive to the drug store variety – I rarely wear it any more. I find that applying eyeliner and curling my lashes is usually all I need.

However, since I needed a new mascara I decided to give this one a try. 

But here was the new bit I learned: mascara should be replaced every six weeks? EVERY SIX WEEKS, REALLY? Now I’ve heard every three months or six months depending on who’s dispensing the advice.

So are we to toss it, even though it's only partially used?

I know, I know, bacteria, eye infection, all the bad things that can happen. But truly, I've never developed a problem by using a year-old mascara. Perhaps I've just been lucky.



At $25 plus a pop, who can really afford to wear it anymore?

Nevertheless, I’m going to test drive both gel and mascara to see if they deliver on the promise to prevent raccoon eyes by the end of the day.


How often do you replace your mascara? What’s your favorite brand?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

DIY French Flower Pots


Over the course of the summer, I've been "messing around" with making these French Flower Pots, in which plain terra cotta flower pots are transformed into the look of French Flea Market finds.

By adding paint, graphic transfers and a bit of time, you end up with antique-looking pots that look as if they've been around awhile.

This pot is my best effort so far.
I haven't quite achieved the desired results just yet, primarily because the typography graphics don't completely transfer to my pot. You'll understand what I'm talking about after you go to the two websites below where the complete instructions reside.

Heaven's Gate Blog

One Good Thing By Jilly

(I'm thinking the problem could have been that I applied too much Mod Podge. If you decide to make these, remember to go light when you apply it to the paper transfer.)

You can choose among many transfers for your pots at The Graphics Fairy. There are many transfers available for free.

The pot at left is a plastic pot I experimented with. I don't recommend using them; stick with terra cotta. The pot on the right is an old broken pot but this was an experiment to see what works!

You'll notice some of the design is missing at top left and bottom right. This is what I referred to above when talking about the design not completely transferring to the pot.

Another plastic pot.
I really like the idea of these pots. So I'll be trying another batch soon.

Does this look and sound like something you would try? Please share your results if you try them!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Today is the birthday of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896-1953), best known for her book The Yearling, published in 1938. It was the best-selling novel in America in that year and won the Pulitzer Prize the following year.

Rawlings, 1953
The Yearling is about an adolescent boy in rural Florida who adopts an orphaned baby deer named Flag, becomes really close to the deer, and then, in the end, has to shoot Flag because it's eating all the family's crops.

The Yearling was adapted for the screen in 1946 and was a favorite rerun during the early days of television. I loved the movie although I always cried when I watched it.



Cross Creek is a 1983 film based, in part, on Rawlings' 1942 memoir by the same title. The film stars Mary Steenburgen as Rawlings. I loved this movie as well.

Cross Creek is the name of a hamlet near Hawthorne, Florida, where Rawlings purchased a 72 acre orange grove in 1928. She brought international fame to the place through her writing. She was fascinated with the remote wilderness and the lives of Cross Creek residents, her "Florida cracker" neighbors, and felt a profound and transforming connection to the region and the land.



Her land at Cross Creek is now the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park.

Rawlings home at Cross Creek

Did you read the book or see the movie The Yearling when you were growing up? If you haven’t seen Cross Creek, you should check it out. I think you’d enjoy it very much, even though it’s now considered an “old” movie.

Rawlings wrote many more books about her experiences at Cross Creek. I noted that some are available free via the Gutenberg project. I think I'll check it out, as I've never read any of her other books.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Peach Time

I bought local peaches today and they are wonderful. Not all peaches are created equal and you don't always know what you're getting.



But when peaches from the local orchard are ready each year, I know they will be prefect.

Tomorrow I will use part of them to make peach shortcake, a dessert I've never made. I found a recipe and it's similar to strawberry shortcake, so how can I go wrong?


I think I'll have enough peaches to also make a peach cobbler pie, a real favorite.

What's your favorite way to use fresh peaches? Ice cream, perhaps? Yes, that's quite wonderful too!

But it doesn't get much better than just peeling one and eating it unadorned.



I'm thinking that peaches may be my favorite fruit. The season for them is relatively short so I need to get started and eat as many as I can.

Monday, August 5, 2013

How to Make Sassy Water and Other Cucumber Uses

Of all the vegetables I’ve attempted to grow, it appears I have the best luck with cucumbers. That’s a good thing, because during the summer, I put them to very good use.
One day pickings from my one cucumber vine

A couple of years ago I discovered the health benefits of Sassy Water, which I posted about hereCucumber, lemon, mint on a summer day. What could be more refreshing? And what’s not to like about these three healthful items added to our daily quota of water?

Sassy Water - Cucumber, lemon and mint added to a pitcher of ice and water, Keep in the refrigerator and drink throughout the day.


Mint, as you may know, is one of those invasive plants that will overtake an entire bed, which it has done here.

Today I ran across an article on Facts Gallery, an education website, that extols the many benefits of the lowly cucumber. The article is printed verbatim below. Now I have never tried cucumber in most of the ways given, but I’m willing to give some of these a try:

1. Fat busting: Do you ever wonder why women put cucumbers on their eyes to relieve puffiness? The photochemical in cucumbers makes the collagen in your skin tighten, thus the lack of puffiness. Did you know that you can rub a cucumber on a problematic spot of cellulite anywhere on your body to lessen the visibility of it? Did you also know that it has the same effect on wrinkles? Wow, it makes purchasing those fifty dollar creams seem a little silly, doesn’t it? You can also rub a little bit under your kiddo’s eyes after a long bout of crying to avoid that puffy ‘I cried for an hour straight’ look.

2. Defogger: Do you get annoyed when you get out of the shower and you have to fight the fog on the mirror? Who has time for that when the kids will be awake at any moment? Try rubbing a slice of cucumber on the mirror before you hop in and not only will you get a fog-free mirror, but you’ll have a nice smell that will boost your mood.

3. Headaches: If you suffer from headaches from chasing your babies all day (or pets or your husband), or had a little too much wine with dinner and want to avoid a hangover, eat half of a cucumber before bed. Cucumbers are high in B vitamins, sugar, and electrolytes, and they replenish the nutrients missing in your body to help you avoid a hangover or to beat that headache that’s been threatening to take over.

4. WD-40 replacement: Did you know you can get rid of a squeak by rubbing a cucumber on the hinge? Wow, now you don’t have to tear your garage apart looking for that little can with the red straw, and the baby won’t wake up when you slowly open the nursery door to check on him.

5. Crayon on the walls: Take an unpeeled cucumber and rub the crayon off of the walls in the event that your kiddo left you some art. You can also use this technique to erase a pen mistake.

6. Halitosis killer: Take a slice of cucumber and put it on the roof of your mouth. Hold it there with your tongue for 30 seconds. The photochemical that you love for cellulite and puff reduction will also kill the bacteria that is causing your bad breath.

7. Tarnish remover: If you’re finding tarnish on your stainless steel kitchen faucets and appliances? Rub it off with a cucumber slice. Not only will it remove years of tarnish, it will leave it streak free and your hands will thank you, and your kids won’t be put at risk from a dangerous chemical.

8. Energy booster: If you’re feeling tired in the afternoon, don’t give Starbucks your five bucks. Instead, grab a cucumber. There are just enough carbohydrates and B vitamins to give you a longer-lasting and healthier boost of energy than soda, coffee, or those health hazard energy drinks.

9. Munchy madness: Did you know that European trappers ate cucumbers for energy and to keep from starving to death? If those big burly manly men can eat a cucumber to keep from starving, you can eat one as a healthy choice when the munchies hit. Slice some up and take them in a small plastic container to the movies if your theater doesn’t offer healthy alternatives to munching on butter soaked popcorn.

10. Frugal facial: Slice up a cucumber and boil it in a pot of water. The chemicals inside of the cucumber will mix with the steam. Remove the pot from heat and lean over it, letting the steam hit you. Your skin will be more radiant and healthy, and you will feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

11. Shoe polish: Cut a slice off of your cucumber and rub it on your shoe. It will not only shine it up, but it will repel water.

12. Pest control: Put three or four slices of cucumber in a small pie tin and place them in your garden. The chemicals in the cucumber have a reaction that pests hate. You won’t smell it, but it will drive them from your garden all year long. Replace them periodically.

13. Sunburn: Sometimes sun block doesn’t always protect your little ones from sunburn. If you have burnt little kiddos you don’t have any aloe, rub some cucumber on them. Many doctors even use cucumber to treat patients with irritated skin and sunburns.14. Blood pressure: Cucumber has been long used to treat high blood pressure. If you have it, add cucumbers to your daily diet. There is also ongoing research into the use of cucumbers for lowering cholesterol.

15. Constipation remedy: The seeds of a cucumber are a diuretic. If you’re constipated, try eating a cucumber. If you suffer from chronic constipation, add cucumber to your daily diet.

Have you tried using cucumbers in any of the ways given above? I know about using them for eye puffiness, but the other uses were entirely new to me.






Friday, August 2, 2013

Manipulating Your “Circadian Clock” – Or Becoming a Morning Person

Do you get to bed too late each night and then have trouble getting up each morning?

Perhaps your circadian clock needs adjustment.

Each of us has an internal clock – a circadian clock -- inside our brain. It operates roughly on a 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness, telling our bodies when to sleep.

Unlike a wristwatch or other clock, the circadian clock is flexible. It can slow down or speed up depending on how much light is around. That includes rays from computers and phones.
In the first episode of Downton Abbey, the Countess of Grantham, played by Maggie Smith, complains about the newfangled electrical chandelier installed in her family's 1915 estate. "Oh, dear, such a glare," she says, shielding her eyes with a fan.

Too much artificial light at the wrong time (at night) can change sleep patterns and make us groggy in the mornings.

In a recent test, subjects (night owls) spent just one week away from electrical lights and computers and in that amount of time, their internal clocks became synchronized to the sun.

They got the same amount of sleep as usual, but their internal clocks jumped ahead two hours, on average. Thus, they went to bed earlier and woke up after the chemicals in their brains told them it was time to rise and shine.

Two factors contributed to the change. Everyone got exposed to about four times as many photons while camping than they did in town (because sunshine is much brighter than indoor lighting). And the timing of the light was different. They were exposed to more light early in the day and less after sunset.

Makes perfect sense to me! We know that back in the days before electricity, activities were determined by available daylight. Up early with the sun to get the work done, wind down when it grew dark outside.

A tip to those who aren’t morning people but want to be: Reduce exposure to light at night by dimming the lights or turning off computers and phones, especially important within an hour before bedtime. Conversely, get as much natural light in the morning as possible: Raise the shades, take a walk.

Sleep doctor Katherine Sharkey at Brown University says that's exactly how she treats one type of sleep disorder. "We use bright light in morning to advance circadian rhythms."

Learn more about the research on this subject at Current BiologyFindings also reported in a story at National Public Radio.













Thursday, August 1, 2013

Queen of the Night: Night Blooming Cereus

 "She will make the face of heaven shine so fine that all the world will be in love with night." 
    ----from William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."




What’s so special about a plant that would make you venture out late in the evening to pull up a chair and wait for it to bloom?  Become giddy with excitement as the petal opens to reveal a bloom big as a saucer and deep as a chalice?

These photos, taken with flash, were shot just after the bloom opened, around 9 p.m..




It’s none other than the Night Blooming Cereus, also known as Queen of the Night. Its immaculate white petals, exquisite as a royal wedding gown, emit a heady, enigmatic fragrance like none other, and last only one night.

People have been known to throw a party in honor of this plant that blooms but once a year.  Yes, when a night-blooming cereus blooms, it is indeed a special event.


A few nights ago, my plant, with its four blooms, entertained us for a few hours. While we didn’t sit before it to watch it unfold, I found a YouTube video that records the process over a 12-hour period. 



It's a rather unattractive and unruly plant that throws out tall, sturdy branches that are hard as nails. Large, leathery and strappy leaves emerge along the branches over a period of a few years as the plant develops. My plant was three years old before it bloomed the first time a few years ago. It isn't winter hardy and must be brought inside during cold months.


I repotted the plant into an old bucket this spring. Before bringing inside for the winter, I'll find a pretty pot (large!) and repot it again. Note that I had to stake the heavy branches to hold them upright.
I shot a few pictures on days after the buds formed and started to grow toward opening:










The morning after the blooms opened, they closed up as daylight came. Here's a picture of one of the blossoms closed and ready to drop off in a few days.


And here's Kitty Carl checking them out!



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