Friday, August 16, 2013

More on the Continuing Saga of My Eyeballs (or How to Improve your Eyesight Like Magic)

Back in March of this year, I wrote a post telling you how my eyesight has been improving ever since I started drinking all these green smoothies. To recap, I went into the optometrist's office this past January because my eyes were bothering me so much; terrible headaches, having a hard time reading, etc. My prescription at the time was -400/-375. I left the office that day with a new prescription of -275/-275! What was the big change? The green smoothies!

Now, let's speed through time a few months. Happy me, happy cool retro glasses, no more headaches. For awhile. Then it started again. I noticed that at a distance, things were doubling up on me, and I just couldn't read with my glasses on at all. With them off, things up close looked crystal clear, and I felt much better. I found myself pulling my glasses off whenever I was at home, even though -275 meant I still tripped on stuff if you left it out there (apologies to my dachshund who blends with the rug). So in June I headed back to the optometrist.

I reminded her I was the smoothie gulper and that I suspected my vision had improved again. Not surprisingly, she was hesitant to believe that was the cause. So we did another full eye exam. Results? -225/-225! Incredible. We were both floored and ended up discussing smoothies while she wrote up a new prescription and I handed over my glasses for replacement lenses. I also told her my "magic" smoothie, the one I'm sure is doing the most of the work on my eyes: 1 banana, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 2 handfuls kale, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, about 2 1/2 cups of water. (This is my breakfast which I gulp while tending to the family zoo. I drink one or two other concoctions a day as well.)

Interesting side note here: I did a bit of research to figure out how to further strengthen my eyes. As I spent less time with glasses on, I noticed my eyesight was quite good close up, but only for short spells. Then they'd get all tired and I could no longer focus well. Figuring my eyes were just unaccustomed to seeing without the help of glasses, I dug around on the Internet for some help. I ran across a Dr. Oz video in which he discusses ways to improve eyesight. (Notice the last and most effective thing he mentions: a green smoothie! One that includes similar elements to what I drink each day: dark leafy greens, seeds high in Omega 3's, etc. And I use the blueberries, which are excellent for eye health.)

Now it's mid August, and guess what? My glasses are bothering me again. I keep pulling them off, and I rarely wear them in the house. I still need glasses in the house, yes, but the prescription I'm using is bothering me. So I stumble around as best I can, although my sight is drastically different than it was a year ago.

I recently got contacted by an online store that sells prescription lenses and would like to send me some glasses to test, so I asked for a -200/-200 pair that I'll be reviewing on dkMommy Spot soon. Because I gotta tell ya, replacing my lenses every couple of months is an expensive side effect!

Will I lose my need for glasses eventually? I don't know. I'd like to think that could happen, because so far there is no plateau in sight. In the meantime, I'm going to continue enjoying my smoothies and see where else this takes me. I'm thinking maybe x-ray vision would be nice. That or bending steel. Or I could be like Samantha on Bewitched! Yeah, I'd totally go for that instead. Wrinkle my nose, have a clean house, and sit around reading the rest of the day. Without glasses.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

News Flash: Vegetable Gardener Openly Weeps Over Blighted Tomatoes

Futile Cucumber Attempt
Perhaps you'll recall my unbridled enthusiasm over my vegetable gardening plans for this year. Per the instructions in a container gardening book, I built several self-watering containers out of big 5-gallon buckets I collected from local delis and bakeries. I drilled them and filled them according to instruction. I coddled seedlings until they were ready to introduce to their new self-watering homes. And I was pleased with the results. There were tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplant; radishes, lettuces, carrots; cooking herbs, too.

At first, things were very promising. Sure it was a big pain in the butt when we had a very cold June, one that required me to cover each and every one of my planters with plastic bags every night for a week while we went through an extraordinarily long frost. But I was sure it would be worth it. 

Eventually, I was able to harvest tomatoes. They were late, but then, everyone's were. Summer wasn't acting very summery, and tomatoes need warmth and sunshine. The pepper plants need lots of heat too, but I could see the beginnings of peppers. We got some jalapenos and some nice Hungarian wax, but things began to take a turn for the worse.

Pathetic Pepper (and a lousy photo, too)
For starters, the tomatillos dropped all their flowers and didn't fruit. Then the tomato plants stopped...tomatoing. Blight! Two of the four varieties aren't all blighty, but they've stopped flowering. The eggplant? Still about four inches tall. Radishes? We ate the first go 'round, and they were nice. But then they just shot straight up and didn't make anything resembling a radish. I also harvested a two-inch carrot which was tasty, but the others did nothing.

We could conjecture about the soil used (different pots have different soils, though) or the lighting (I picked the "perfect" spot according to seed packet instructions and books), watering (again, I followed instructions), etc. But the bottom line is: My vegetables aren't vegetables. They are pots of dirt with twiggy things in them.

A tomato...but no leaves
Here's the kicker: Two days ago I went over to the side of my house; you know, the side where my two large raised vegetable beds are, the ones I didn't use this year because they're so out of the way and I can't watch over my plants. I looked at the neglected beds full of weeds and -- lo and behold -- over a dozen tomato plants had reseeded themselves. They are TOMATOING! There are tomatoes. I did not grow them. I did not plant, water, weed, stake, or care for them. I did nothing. Through late frosts, cold nights, lack of sunshine, then a mean heat streak that had us all melting, the tomatoes thrived. Without my care.

And that, my friends, is why I am an herbalist. I get along great with wild plants. They like me. They hang out near me, they thrive, they grow. If I don't touch them until they are done doing what they need to do. Next year, I'm going to forage.
The Tomatoes that Grew Themselves

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Some of My Best Friends Are Plants: A Short Memoir

My memoir: Now available on Amazon

I have finally done it. I have published my memoir. Or sort of, anyway. This isn't the kind of epic tome that waxes poetic about a sullen childhood or life of crime or six marriages, three of which were to political figures who left me in puddles of tears. Although that would certainly make for interesting reading, it is not my story. My story is about plants.

As the title denotes, it is a short memoir, about the equivalent of 40 paperback pages. So as you can well imagine, it is not my entire life's story. (I am not so young as to fill only 40 pages with life.) Instead, think of it as a slice of pie, a little wedge of who I am and why I am such a bad gardener.

Come to think of it, the memoir does not answer the bad gardener question. That's because I have no idea why I am a bad gardener. But there it is in print -- or in e-ink -- admitting to the world my shortcomings and heartless (albeit unintentional) slaughter of many, many innocent plants.

Mostly, however, it's a story of how plants have been a part of my life from the beginning, and how my relationship with them went from one of perhaps confusion to one of tight friendship. Yes, I talk to my plants. There. I've said it. You can take that as a sign of lunacy, or you can accept it for what it is: a sign of lunacy.

Bottom line, plants don't talk back. They are very good listeners. And they never once criticized my out-loud readings to them. In fact, I do believe they rather enjoyed hearing my memoir recitations. I'm pretty sure I even saw my ficus smile, and that is no easy task. (He has cabin fever and is impatiently awaiting warmer weather so he can hang out on the back deck once again.)

So there you have it. The memoir is complete and is available on Amazon for the mere pittance of 99 cents. Why 99 cents, you ask? Haven't the Indie writers gotten over that whole 99 cent business? Yes, for the most part we have, but I felt like reminiscing. Besides, it's new and I'm excited about it and the ficus says that it's worth about 99 cents.

Here's where you find my new and profound work: Some of My Best Friends Are Plants.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Writing: The Surest Way to a Clean House

It is good to start writing early in the day.
If one is going to write anything creative, there are a few important steps one must follow. As an example, I will give my own account from just this morning. This should give any young and aspiring writer a good feel for how a professional writer starts her day.

Upon awakening, I think that I should indeed spend a good portion of the day writing. I have the first draft of a short memoir I am working on, and since we're not homeschooling this week in honor of spring (thanks to the snow, we're enjoying nature's little April Fool's joke right now), I figure I can really clean up that text and perhaps finish up on some essays. With all the good intent of the true professional, I first decide I must empty the dishwasher. Then I will be able to write with a clean conscience. Alas, a clean kitchen will be an even better motivator, surely. So I wash the last of the good dishes left from Easter's repast. Done.

Lo and behold, crumbs appear from nowhere beneath the dining room table. Certainly no good writing can get done with crumbs beneath a table. I sweep them up. Hmm.... what are those spots on the kitchen floor? Pomegranate juice? I must clean the floor now. Which leads me to dreaming about pomegranate juice and smoothies. It has been at least two hours since I enjoyed a smoothie. I must feed my brain if I am to be creative. So I prepare a delicious and healthful smoothie, drinking it all as I work through what must be written as soon as I.... totally scrub out the Vitamix container. And the drips on the counter. Oh, look. The sink is kind of icky from yesterday's cooking frenzy, and I can't forget to polish the sink's hardware. That would be neglectful. 

I now pass the laptop and make sure there are no new emails. I check my book sales. I browse Facebook to see if there are any new comments. Twitter? I must attend to any tweets sent my way -- it would be neglectful of me to not answer back. This is when I remember that my "Favorites" folder of website links that I kept on my old computer should be switched over to this one. After all, I've had this computer for about six months already. I must do this. Now. 

Good. Now my slate is clean. And it will be even cleaner if I throw in a load of laundry. 

It is now time for me to choose the location in which I will write. This varies greatly, depending on mood and weather and planet alignment. I have settled on the couch. No, I have not physically settled on it -- but I am standing before it, noticing that the cushion on which I most enjoy sitting is looking worn. It is a leather couch, and my husband is always begging me to vary my location so as to wear out the leather more evenly. So I decide to swap the cushions around, because I am a good wife that way.

You won't believe this, but there is a lot of change under there. And there are crumbs, some bird feathers which is odd because we don't let the parrots sit on the couch, and some construction paper. Oooh, look! A silver dollar. Vacuuming is necessary. With the cushions finally arranged the way I want them to be, I am ready to write. I fight the urge to clean and moisturize the leather at this time, because I am a responsible writer and I know the "butt in chair" philosophy. I have heard it many times. So I pick up my laptop and sit on the less comfortable but less worn cushion.

That, my friends, is when it is time for me to work on my book. And I will. As soon as I finish blogging.

Friday, March 22, 2013

You Probably Won't Believe This But I'm Telling You Anyway

Over the past year, something very strange has been happening to me. Not like scary strange, although my optometrist was kind of freaked out, but good strange. And I hope it continues to happen. So I won't have to wear glasses anymore. Because (and here's the part you're not going to believe) a few years ago, my eyesight was -4.0 in one eye and -3.75 in the other. Blind as a bat. Contact lenses since I was 15 because I refused to wear glasses anymore.

A few years ago, my eyes improved. Just a tiny bit. I'd been experimenting with all those weird eye exercises you can do where you cross your eyes a lot or look very far away, then very close, then very far away again. Then very close. I told the optometrist that was probably why my sight improved a wee bit, but she said "Uh huh" in that dismissive way that told me she wasn't buying it.

My eyes have stayed the same and unimproved for the next few years, and then I started drinking all those green smoothies, including my favorite breakfast one. (Here's where I could start to sound like an infomercial attempting to sell you my green smoothie recipe book, but I'm totally not. To prove it, I'm telling you my favorite breakfast smoothie recipe right now. And you don't have to pay for it.) See, every morning I drink a quart of smoothie that is made of one banana, about 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, and a few handfuls of organic kale. And about 2 1/2 cups of water. I don't really measure anymore.

Anyway, I have always thought that I should mix things up a bit, you know, not do the blueberries every single day. But it's cold and it's refreshing and it's so easy to make. So I risk the food rut and just drink it.

Then I started getting weird headaches when I was reading. I couldn't focus close up at all, and eventually I'd have to take my contact lenses out and read that way. I told my husband that when I look far away, like if I'm at Costco and I look up into the rafters, my eyes go in and out of focus really fast, in a "what if my contacts are too strong now?" way. He said "Uh huh" like people do when they're not buying it. So I figured I'm just getting old and my eyes are crappy. (In my head, I just heard my son say, "Mom, don't say 'crappy.'")

Finally, my eyesight was getting so horrendous and the headaches so bad that I went to the eye doctor. She sat me down and told me in as gentle a way possible that as we get older, we lose our vision more quickly and it was probably time to think bifocals. I felt like an 85-year-old getting her driver's license taken away. She told me all this before doing the exam, so I was prepared for the worst. Mentally, I was already thinking "transition lenses" and clenching my stomach.

After I did all that looking through the big funky eye tester thingie, she sighed and said surprised, "Well, Diane, here's why you're having trouble seeing." She adjusted the eye tester thingie while I looked through it. "Here's the new and correct prescription for you." Flip, flip. "And here's the prescription you've been walking around with every day."

Ouch! The difference was astounding. I thought my eyes had really taken a nose dive. (Can eyes take a nose dive?) But then she said, "Your eyesight has really improved. The contact lenses you came in with are waaaaay too strong." She said it like that: waaaay. Otherwise I wouldn't have written it with all the a's. It just looks weird.

THEN - and here's the kicker - she told me, "Don't worry. Sometimes this happens." Don't worry? Don't worry that my eyesight improved? Don't worry that I'm not getting old and decrepit, that I don't really need transition lenses??? I'm not worrying. I am dancing in the streets. But mentally. Because I'm still in her office.

I decided then and there, that after a good many years in contact lenses that I'd stick with glasses. I pretty much determined that all those doggoned blueberries, not to mention my leafy greens, were improving my eyesight and rapidly. So if it continued to do so, it'd be much easier to put on and remove glasses as need be, because I can't go replacing the lenses every couple of months. I'm not made of money.

So I got these really cool big frames, like 80's retro which probably doesn't look so hot on someone who's already been through the 80's. I figure I look more like I never got rid of the nerdy glasses of my youth. But they're dark brown (fake) tortoise shell, and they make me look pensive yet quirky, just like all those writerly types in movies, the women I dreamed about being like when I was a child. (Ever notice in the 80's every female writer in movies and tv wore big glasses? Never, ever did she go without. She could be all normal-person and then halfway through the movie discover her penchant for writing and suddenly she's got big glasses. And a cool typewriter. I still want a typewriter.) I feel reconnected with my inner nerd in my new glasses, but not to the point I feel laughed at. Not like 5th grade. That was awful. (Thanks, Whitney, for making 5th grade such a charming year in my life.) (Note: I just changed her name. I had her real name there at first, and then I worried she might read this, and that maybe she's really nice now and a nun, in which case I'd hate to hurt her feelings.)

BUT - there is a but - BUT I noticed that, despite the fact that my distance vision had greatly improved (over one point in each eye, holy cow), my close-up vision was still all fuzzy, which has been a newer development, slowly sneaking in over the past couple of years. Last night I was reading and noticed my eyes were feeling pinchy again, all tight and weird. I'm not sure how to describe it. But once again, I took off my glasses to read. I've only had the new prescription for maybe a month and a half, so the thought of my eyes improving again seemed highly unlikely.

Then this morning I was reading (I read way too much), and I had to remove my glasses again. At first I did not notice that I was hunched over the book, my eyes, like, six inches from the paper. Then I realized, "Hey! I'm six inches from the paper!" And the writing was crystal clear. I grabbed my free New York Times bookmark, the one they send you in the mail hoping you'll subscribe, and I looked at the teeny tiny print on the back. It was clear! I held it closer and closer, and then I realized that my close-up vision, whatever you call that, was perfect. Perfect!

So maybe you think this is some longwinded way of telling you to get my smoothie book, but it's not. Drink smoothies, don't drink smoothies, whatever. I just had to share that because as unbelievable as it sounds, my vision is way better. And I'm a little afraid of that because I'm really attached to these glasses. In fact, if my vision goes all 20/20 on me, I am totally putting fake lenses in these babies. And then I'm getting me a typewriter, and I'll start wearing big fluffy hair and long skirts and dancing to Gloria Estefan when I think no one is watching but really they are because suddenly I am the star of an 80's movie where the woman decides halfway in she is going to give up her big city job to be a writer, so she puts on large glasses. Or not. Maybe I'll just wear the glasses and shut up.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The "Beauty, Books, & Tea" Herbal Gift Basket Giveaway!

Giveaway Closed! Congrats to Jessica of Texas, the "Beauty, Books, & Tea" winner!

To help us all get in the mood for spring, I've put together a special Herbal Gift Basket Giveaway worth $75. This is sure to make the Easter Bunny wish he'd paid more attention in herb class. Here's what the winner will receive:
  • Autographed copy of "Beauty Gone Wild! Recipes for Gorgeous Skin & Hair"
  • Autographed copy of "Smoothie Power! Recipes for Weight Loss, Vitality, & the Occasional Superpower"
  • Autographed copy of "Nature to the Rescue! How to Build Your Own First Aid Kit"
  • Two tins of herbal lip balm, your choice of flavors, hand crafted by yours truly. (These also include handmade labels with my own odd, albeit original, drawings. You can't get this quality of labeling in stores. There's probably a very good reason for that.)
  • Tins of the following herbal teas: Spearmint, Yarrow, Wild Cherry, Marshmallow Root, and Catmint. (You'll learn how to use these teas in "Nature to the Rescue!")
  • Lavender & Rose Sachet
  • And a tea strainer to help you prepare your new looseleaf teas.
Here's how to enter:
1. Leave a comment below saying something. Anything. (Just make sure it's nice, like "Hello. I like your sweater." Or "Hey, how's it going?" I'm really not that picky. You can do this once a day for more entries, if you like.)
2.) Subscribe to this blog, then leave a comment letting me know you did.
3.) Follow my Facebook Fan Page, then leave a comment letting me know you did.
4.) Link to this giveaway on Twitter, Facebook, or your own blog, then leave me a comment letting me know you did.
A winner will be randomly selected on March 20, 2013. I'll post the winner's name here and on Facebook, so keep your eyes peeled and Happy Spring!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Back Room Gardening

My "garden" a couple of weeks ago, complete with dog toys.
In case you've been wondering where I've been the last couple of months, I will tell you that I've been right here, fighting off the winter gloom by gardening in my back room. Now, I'm no gardener. Houseplants I like, and they do well under my watch (except for the orchids - don't ask about the orchids), but outdoor gardening - vegetables in particular - is not my forte. I daresay I'm a brown thumb.

I understand that's a little unexpected, what with my herbalism background, but it's true. Every year I start a vegetable garden, and by every mid-July, it looks more like something out of Little Shop of Horrors. So why on earth would I start a bunch of vegetables in the back room of my house?

I'm wondering that myself. Perhaps I'm a glutton for punishment, or perhaps I'm a hopeless optimist. Whatever it is, this time it seems to be working. Maybe it's the combination of melding a sort of houseplant outlook with growing vegetables that is doing it for me, but the things growing beside my parrot cages are beginning to look edible. There they all are, little recycled containers filled with radishes, green onions, garlic, carrots, greens, even a couple of tomato sprouts, all happily growing beneath the glow of a shop light. I even got help from a guy in a local hydroponic store who I'm sure  wasn't growing any vegetables in his house. Herbs, maybe, but not vegetables. (It was rather psychedelic in there.)

Eventually, I'll plant vegetables in the garden again, and I'll try outdoor container gardening alongside the indoor variations. And no matter where this experiment leads, if it ends in big tossed salads or tears, I'll be writing about it for a new book I'm working on called Suburban Dirt. I'll give you occasional updates as to my progress, and I welcome your input! Perhaps something you say will end up in the book, so please do share your experiences and suggestions.