Today marks a very cool happening, a total solar eclipse. (Unless you've been hiding under a rock or playing WAY too many video games, I know you know this!) The eclipse will be visible across the entire contiguous United States from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean... From Sea to Shining Sea! The last time a total solar eclipse was visible across the ENTIRE contiguous United States was in June of 1918! Imagine! Most of us walking about will NEVER have shared this event! THAT is pretty cool!
What to do?
Well, be careful! DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT stare directly at the sun without protective eyewear and even then be careful and make sure they are the correct "protective" eyewear! Eyesight is something precious to be treasured, don't be silly and damage your eyes by staring at the sun. It takes mere seconds for damage to occur! The eyewear should be ISO 12312-2 compliant. At this stage it will be difficult to purchase them but there is hope, some libraries are offering them and you can also make an eclipse viewer with a cereal box quite easily so get snacking!
Now that your peepers are taken care of, what about your tummy? I know you're full from all the cereal you just ate so you can make a viewing box but there's always room for pizza and cookies. Grab a frozen pepperoni pizza (the one we all have in case of emergencies) and move all the pepperoni to one half. Voila! You have just made an "Eclipse-Themed" pizza you clever you. How about making a quick batch of black and white cookies? (Don't roll your eyes at me!) Use a mix or a pre-made silly! You could use a slice and bake, a dry mix or an off the shelf and dip those little guys in chocolate! Since, classically, black and white cookies are made with a sugar cookie base, just dip one side. How about popping into a donut shop, buying a few cake donuts (or even jelly donuts) and dipping those? There is also the option of dipping circle-shaped rice crispy treats. That would be fun. Put your "thinking cap" on and see what you have in the house. Let the kids help with the dipping. Right about now the kids are all sugared up anyway from the all the cereal, donuts and rice crispy treats, so let them burn off some of that energy!
Ok, now you need a drink. There is actually a drink called an "Eclipse" but depending upon when you see the solar eclipse (for me it's early afternoon and I have to work) the Eclipse may be a tad strong for the kids... Here is another idea, pour orange juice into a glass. Use the back of a spoon to carefully and slowly pour a little cranberry juice cocktail on top, so it floats. DONE! No-one needs to know yours has vodka! Remember, no judging!
Please share your photos of the eclipse in the comments section! Remember, your phone's camera needs protecting too! Use the eclipse glasses over the lens so you don't ruin your phone!
Most everyone enjoys a crispy something. Extra crispy potato chips and fried chicken are just the ticket. (I love a crispy bit of chicken skin.) One of my favorite things to eat is crispy bread crust, especially when it is garlicky. YUM! I especially enjoy a thin, crisp cookie. Can someone say, 'Got milk?' But, today's post is not about something "extra crispy" to eat. (Well, I guess it could be you sicko!) Today's post is about too much of a good thing called, sun, that causes an "extra crispy" sunburn.
We all know the best way to avoid sunburn is twofold; one, avoid overexposure and two, apply sunscreen.
Now, I don't about you, but even though the "real world" right now is not a super fun place, I still live in it and although ideal, I cannot always practice the twofold sunburn avoidance method. What to do?
Below I offer a few easy tips and home remedies for those times you over indulge in the sun.
1. Hydrate! I cannot stress this enough! If you feel thirsty, you are already probably dehydrated so drink! (Water I mean, jeez!) In fact, drinking alcohol while indulging in the sun is a no-no. Not only will you become more dehydrated but your sense of time is slowed so you stay out in the sun longer. (Think the lobster-like couple we have all walked past on a beach.)
2. As soon as you can, take a cool, NOT cold shower and then apply cool compresses to the burns.
3. Apply lotion... to the sunburn. Better yet, have someone else apply it. (No-one said sunburns had to be boring.)
4. I am not a big 'taking bathes recommender' but, adding some powdered oatmeal (the kind that soothes itching) and/or a cup of apple cider vinegar could help.
5. Apply cool, again, not cold, milk or yogurt to the burns. It is soothing, especially if someone else applies it. (Wink. Wink.)
6. Apply freshly brewed and cooled tea (with mint is good also) to the burns to draw out the heat. You can even apply the cooled tea bags directly to the burns to reduce swelling.
7. Make a chilled cucumber paste and apply it the burns.
8. Make a cornstarch paste and apply it to the burns too.
The main thing I do for myself when I work in the yard is wear an adjustable visor ( I am prone to headaches so this way it's not too tight on my huge cranium) and I always wear polarized sunglasses. I buy the visors for cheap and they are also washable and keep my eyes out for end of season sales for polarized glasses. I think a lot of people forget to protect their eyes. Overexposure to the sun can promote cataracts so put those shades on! Wear them on cloudy days too!
I hope some of these suggestions help take you go from extra crispy to a little less crispy and soothe the sting of overdoing it. To make yourself feel better, there's always tequila; but shhhh, that's just between us. Remember, there is NEVER any judging here are Mary's Kitchen.
Summer is coming to a close. It's unfortunate but true. My summer was filled with wonderful visits, too much eating of yummy things, travels and some local explorations. I made a few ticks on my birdwatching list, fattened up some mosquitoes and thus far, have avoided both the dreaded chigger bite and being stung by anything that has a stinger. I managed to not get too sunburned and (more importantly) managed to keep my children from getting too sunburned! I placed in a national contest The Create Cooking Challenge Winners | Create TV (https://createtv.com/challenge/winners) and managed to keep all my limbs and appendages intact! I drank my share of Mai Tai's (I am still working on this) and some of some other peoples too. The balance scale was only mildly tipped toward absolute laziness with something "productive" accomplished each day. My garden, closets, pantry and basement are in good order and donations were made to help keep us organized and rid of clutter. Wow! My summer looks good on paper!
With one week to go until school begins, it's time to enjoy days in the sun... It's time to stop and smell the roses. It's time to stop. Period! Taking time to "have a day in the sun" is important. In this crazy and rushed world we live in, it's important to connect with our family, friends, Mother Nature and most importantly, ourselves. By stopping and taking a day to just "be" we become centered and more connected to our family, friends, Mother Nature and most importantly, ourselves. The proverbial "finish line" of life will be there. Don't rush to it but instead, embrace a day in the sun.
Days are getting shorter which means nights are getting longer. Our last days of binge-watching Netflix while popcorn falls between sofa cushions, bottomless bowls of ice cream and nightly Mai Tais are over; well, at least the first two are over... One must NEVER give up nightly Mai Tais a minute before September 21st! Even though "bikini season" is coming to a close and "baggy pants" season is screaming up on us, we still must pay the piper for our lazy days of summer.
Before you click away, this is not a lecture. No one ever is judged here, ever. I'm just sayin it's time to move and eat a little better. That can mean walking the pooch (or the cat if you're channeling your sadistic side). That could mean weeding - I mean gardening. That could mean taking a long walk along the shore. Maybe frisbee is your thing or kite flying. Perhaps playing tag or hide and seek in the yard with your children would be fun. Joint a group that meets for workouts. This is the classic "two birds." You move and make new friends! You could even, now don't hate me, vacuum. Come on! You know it needs doing! The point is, moving in some form is the goal. I work out each morning and stretch each evening. By doing the later, I get to rationalize having popcorn in my cushions and by doing the former, I rest better.
Some simple baby steps toward eating a little better, or least moving toward that direction, could be adding lemon to your water. Lemon enhances your immune system and has both antibacterial and antiviral goodness and with kids returning to the Petrie dish system called "school," we all need a little immune system enhancing! Lemon also helps with inflammation by decreasing uric acid in joints. Since most of us have been lazy, once we start to move again we have swelling and lemon can help. Yay! Another great thing about lemon is it enhances digestion. If that doesn't entice you, it also helps with bloating and heartburn for when we have too much of many good things. Double yay! Lastly, but not really because there are many other great things about lemons, they taste yummy. Yumminess alone is great thing.
Changing small behaviors is the best way to permanently alter a lifestyle. Reward yourself and never judge yourself. Judging can lead to lazy and/or unhealthy binge-type activities but sometimes those activities are just what we need that moment or that day. The trick (and the real challenge) is not to indulge too much too often. If you know you are entering a stressful time (like finals or school beginning or a new job) stock the pantry with smart treats. Treats that are good for you and not as difficult to work off as other treats. For example, dark chocolate, dark chocolate-covered nuts or dried fruits, peppermints, ginger chews, crispy sesame candies, hard candy, natural licorice, sweet cereal, tequila... Remember, no judging. Just treats that satisfy you after only a few (or one shot). I try only to take a few pieces of something instead of the whole container because then I HAVE to get up, walk my lazy keister into the next room and have time to rethink having more. (This does not always work but at least I'm moving.) The point is, it's easier to pay the Piper in installments rather than all at once. The Piper wants what's coming to him so find what works for you and do it.
Sending our children off to college is difficult yes, BUT, it comes with perks... Visiting our children at college!
Our older daughter, Alyssa, attends Penn State University. The campus is gorgeous. The attending student body kind and helpful and the surrounding city is full of stuff to do.
Usually, my visits at school with Alyssa are a bit rushed. I typically just spend one night with her and there is always organizing, repairing and shopping to do. I am tired and sweaty by the time we crawl into bed. (I know what you're thinking, how is that different from any other night?)
Well, it's different because Alyssa is returning to her off campus place of residence, not moving in for the first time. There was still the doing and such that accompanies a parent visit; but, we got it done on the day I arrived! Our second day together was spent being tourists and discovering the area as two, relaxed friends. It was glorious! It was as if a perfect day was given as a treasure.
We awoke, leisurely to a clear, blue sky with only puffy clouds and humidity to remind us we were in the East. We began with good, strong coffee (as ALL good days should) and headed out to the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center just a few miles off campus. Next, onto The Arboretum at Penn State where we saw this guy in the photo and many of his cousins. (Yes, I believe this Monarch Butterfly is a male because he has visible wing spots but we were not formally introduced. Lets just call him, Jeff.)
After playing with Jeff, we went to the Centre County Historical Society to tour the Furnace Mansion and learn about the who, what, where, when and why of Penn State. It was fabulous!
All that walking and exploring built up our appetites and, since I pushed us a past our lunchtime, a bit cranky, so on to Alyssa's favorite sushi and ramen restaurant before heading to the mall for some retail therapy. (We wanted to visit the Palmer Museum of Art but it is closed for renovations so that and the winery will have to wait for my next visit.)
All that shopping made us crave ice cream so we went to Meyer Creamery for Cookies and Cream ice cream because you cannot leave Happy Valley without eating ice cream!
We are mother and daughter. We are companions. I am blessed to proudly say , we are friends.
This week our older daughter, Alyssa, returned to her Engineering Science studies at Penn State University. She lives off campus in a nice little apartment where each tenant has their own room and bathroom. The tenants share common spaces that include a living room, kitchen and laundry room. The rumors are true about how some college students live... In fact, they are worse. That is not what today's post is about however; today's post is about reveling in the awesomeness of our children.
As a parent, you do the best you can. You work hard. You try to teach "right" from "wrong." You try to teach your child/children to embrace their imagination, new experiences and to be open-minded. Your greatest hope is your child/children will mature into kind, responsible and fun adults. Sounds easy enough... Right? Well, parenting is is two things, work and worry. Neither is "easy" and never stops.
I am a grown woman and speak with my mother, Ellen, most every day. She knows the ins and outs of my life and our children's lives. She is my dearest friend and trusted confidant. She over steps now and again but what parent doesn't make a mistake here and there. None parents that's who. We as parents seem to forget something key about being a parent, we are HUMAN!
When our children are young they see us a "Super Heroes." The person who can make a castle out of blankets and sofa cushions. The person who can make the "hurt" stop or squelch a bad dream. As our children grow into adolescence, we, as parents, go from Super Hero to Enemy. We morph, seemingly overnight into the destroyer of ALL things fun! We possess all the power of one little magic word, "no." Finally adolescence passes and you and your child/children enter into their adulthood. With this journey comes new definitions of what your relationship is. You will always be their parent but your sword and shield are put away and you expect them to stand on their own two feet (not your toes) and conquer their own "battles" and seek out their destiny.
As we pack up our children and send them off to school (be it elementary, middle, high school or college) remember, they need to go just as much as you need to to let them...
This summer I got to spend 2 1/2 weeks with a beautiful young woman! Did I mention I got to spend 2 1/2 weeks with a beautiful young woman in Greece?
I told both of our daughters that when they turn 20 years old they get to pick a "Dream Trip." (Our daughter, Alyssa, turned 20 years old this past June.) Anywhere in the world, just her and me... Sounds pretty incredible doesn't it? Well it was!
You see, I am Greek. It comes from my mother's side. It is the part of my heritage I connect with the most. Both sets of great grandparents immigrated to the United States via Ellis Island. Both sets of grandparents settled in the San Francisco Bay area and both sets of grandparents established and ran restaurants. See! Food is in my blood!
Like me, Alyssa has always dreamed of visiting Greece. We have relatives in Athens and the islands. My grandfather's family comes from a southern island called, Samos. When I was about Alyssa's age, I backpacked all through Europe for nearly 7 months! It was a life-changing experience. I realized my dream of visiting Greece then. The six weeks I spent island hopping culminated in a visit to Samos. It was my "dream," to visit this island, just like it was Alyssa's...
Thanks in large part to Facebook, I am now connected to several Greek cousins. As I have posted in the past, if you're family, you are "in." This is how Greek's roll. A very helpful cousin, arranged meetings and helped book a room and car, sent directions and even itinerary suggestions! Our Samos relatives welcomed us with open hearts, arms and homes. We had a magnificent and magical time!
English is not common place in the village of our people but kindness is. Kindness flows as freely as the waves that lap the Grecian shore. We connected over food too! we were welcomed with true Greek coffee and delicious cherry spoon sweets. (Spoon sweets are sort of like sweet preserves and a very traditional Greek delicacy that are a gesture of hospitality.) Later, we had a glorious al fresco lunch with salads, barbecue and Samos wine. We got to see the house where my great grandmother lived too! The feelings that came flooding in as I crossed that threshold were powerful! We returned a day later to gorge on loukmades (like little donuts served with cinnamon, nuts and honey) and more Greek coffee before dinner in a nearby fishing village. We ate and laughed while the sunset and the sky turned from gold to dusty-rose to violet.
Do you, Dear Reader, have a "Dream Place?" I only have one word for you, "GO!" Life is quick and life is full of the unknown. Eat that yummy something. Tell someone they make your heart sing. GO to your dream place...
I flip and read the products I bring home. Why? Because manufacturers are liars Dear Readers! That's why! Products are labeled "Pure Vanilla Extract," for example. Someone please tell me what the heck corn syrup is doing in "Pure Vanilla Extract?' huh... OR, why brown food coloring is in balsamic vinegar, just sayin. Another product that can be labeled in a tricky way is sugar. Sugar comes from many sources such as cane or beets. Some people are allergic to one or the other so, what do I do? That's correct! I read labels!
I also read labels for sodium content. The same "exact" product can vary A LOT so read, read, read! In fact, don't just read, compare too! While we are on the subject of comparing products, compare prices too. I know you know this but I love an opportunity to lecture. Now, speaking of lectures, don't get enticed by labels that label products as something they already are; for example, "gluten-free" potato chips or corn chips. Dah! Potatoes and corn are gluten free. (A word of caution about "gluten-free," do your research and know what grains and flavorings are "gluten-free." This is important knowledge because you do not want to make yourself or anyone else ill.)
Additionally, know which products are actually organic and know the terms associated with organic. "Organic" is a very controversial term. The more I read, the more I question what is and is not organic. For example, I read there is really no such thing as a truly organic strawberry because all strawberries are grown from conventional seeds. Oh gosh... Strawberries are a "dirty food" so I still pay for organic and usually purchase them as a treat. (I grow them too.) Milk, meat and poultry products are another one I try to purchase labeled "organic." The problem is, I recently read about how these products are classified as "organic" and its kind of sneaky. What about MSG? Talk about sneaky. Know what MSG is and what other ways it's labeled. Hint, there are over 40 ways!
Bottom line? Read the fine print. Read anything you can about products and how they are produced. Get to know your local farmers and producers. Get to know your local Farmer's Markets. It's not just your money, it's your body too!
There was hugging and kissing. There was awkward silence. There was pinching and squeezing. There was heat and sweating. There was laughing, pointing and pantomime. There were promises to return and make memories together. There was forever bonding...
All this, over sunshine and food.
Food is such a powerful uniter. It awakens memories, brings us closer, soothes us, makes us happy, and most importantly, connects us. Food, glorious food...
I was raised to appreciate, value and respect food. Food came hard in our family. My mother raised my brothers and I alone. She did the best she could. My grandparents helped us in every way they could. They would bring us groceries sometimes and you'd have thought it was Christmas morning! Food...
I keep several staples in our home at all times; namely, flour, sugar, milk, eggs, yeast, chicken and cheese. Why? Because, as Scarlett O'Hara said, 'I will NEVER go hungry again!' These meager ingredients can be turned into most anything through a glorious, magical process called cooking, add love to the mix and you have something "special." That is why I my motto is "Meals Made Special with Love." Savvy?
Anyway, why all the enticing food photos? Well, they were taken in a place called Marathokampos in Greece. Marathokampos is the little village of my family, on an island called Samos. Samos is an island full of "my peoples." Samos is an island where arms are open to me and tables where I am always welcome. Why? Because I am Greek and that is our style. I am family; therefore, I am "in." That is how we roll.
We (my daughter Alyssa and I) visited some cousins and on the day of our arrival. Our cousins planned a sumptuous feast of grilled pork chops, herb and rice-stuffed treats, fresh garden salad of cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and herbs (true Greek salad does not contain lettuce, forget what you think you know) different cheeses, fresh fried potatoes, bread and lots of Samos wine. (I thought the table would break from all the dishes!) We sat outside on a patio overlooking the village with the sea in the distance... it was pure heaven... Here is the funny part, they spoke no English; sadly, we spoke no Greek. Thank goodness for a touch of language knowledge and translation apps. We made it work. THAT is "Greek Style".
That little itch might be telling something... you NEED ice!
My husband and I had a bug bite off this morning. For the first time in recent memory he has more bug bites than I do. I am happy to concede a win. His end of summer bites look more like chicken pox than bug bites actually. Between the biting flies and the mosquitoes, I'm nearly anemic!
I posted some tips about bug bites once before but all this itching and scratching got me to thinking, 'what to do' about it so here are few home remedies that might prepare you for the garden, the beach or wherever.
According to Parents Magazine at http://www.parents.com/health/bug-bites/home-remedies-for-soothing-bug-bites/ here are some home remedies:
Ice which helps constrict blood vessels.
Green Tea which is an anti inflammatory.
Vinegar and basil, both applied topically to neutralize and cool the area.
Lemon Balm and Milk to soothe the itch and reduce the swelling.
Tea Tree Oil to prevent bites in the first place.
Head into your bathroom to grab the tea tree oil, apply it to your skin (be careful applying essential oil directly to the skin) then head into the garden to harvest some basil and lemon balm if you have it (I have both.) When you come in, brew some green tea, tea bags and place them in the refrigerator for later. Drink the tea from the green tea bags because it's good for you. Dilute some vinegar and apply to the bug bites you got because you omitted the first direction... (No judging here, ever.) Collect some ice from the freezer and apply it wherever those little suckers got you but draw the curtains in case they nibbled your tail-feather. Curse those little suckers because cursing is a great stress release. (I added this step.) Make a paste with the basil you went outside to harvest; heck, make a quick pesto too! Feel excellent about yourself because you made something for dinner! Yay! Woot! Woot! for mulit-tasking! (I added this step too.) Apply a bit of milk to the bitten area and drink some too because you have not been consuming enough calcium...Try not to itch or pick... (This is the most difficult instruction, I know, believe me. I have a doozy on my face right now I messed with and cursed about so I feel a bit better.)
Take a nap! You must be exhausted from all that!