Category Archives: My Life

Friendship, Adventure and Wishes in Bend, OR

My friend Jules and I just returned from a long-weekend trip to Bend, OR.

Bend is going on my list of favorite places. It reminds me so much of Boulder, CO where I grew up, I felt very homesick while visiting. It’s ecology is considered high desert so I took comfort in the dry mountain air and the familiar flora. The surrounding mountains and buttes give ample opportunity to explore the great outdoors and the fresh mountain springs provide excellent conditions for brewing beer.

Photo Credit – Julianna Large

Here are a few things I learned throughout our visit:

  1. If the wine selection is limited to “the red one” and “the white one,” it’s not gonna be very good. 
  2. Beer can only be improved upon when brewed with pumpkin and served in a caramel sugar-rimmed glass.
  3. Ten 3-ounce samples of beer for $10 may sound like a good deal, but it’s still 30 ounces, no matter how you look at it.
  4. A hot beverage and a game of shuffleboard, even when you don’t know the rules, is the perfect way to spend your night when the wind and freezing air keep you indoors.
  5. Always check the map before heading out on a hike. It’s surprisingly easy to get lost on 100% of trails tested, even the one that only has one trail.
  6. There is no problem that can’t be fixed by a long soak in a hot pool. We all just want to be soup.
  7. Wishes can come true if you just ask.
  8. If you try to be cultured and take the round-about art tour, you should probably just pass. Get a cup of coffee, talk about life and love, read National Geographic and crochet a pair of bunny slippers instead.
  9. Take time to enjoy yourself. Go with the flow, balance some rocks, don’t plan every minute and hope that adventure finds you.
  10. And lastly, sometimes your soulmate might actually be your friend. There are thoughts you can only share with friends, there are things you can only do with friends and there are times that the only people you can count on are your friends. 
Photo Credit – Julianna Large / the rock the camera sat on

This Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for Jules. We’re new friends, and I’m a shy person, so it was really nice to have the opportunity to get to know her better in a one-on-one setting. 40-year friendships don’t just materialize, you have to invest in them. So Jules, here’s to a long and healthy friendship!

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30 Day Self Improvement Challenge

Swapping your closet can be exhausting, but going from summer to fall is one of the best times of the year. You get to do away with your flimsy, sticky tube tops that offer no support or protection and snuggle into cozy sweaters and things that make you feel warm and safe. And as an added bonus you never know what you’ll find from last year: a 20, your favorite lip gloss, an unopened lollipop, or a list of goals you made last fall.

My plan with this list was to discover characteristics within myself that I wanted to improve, work on these individually for 30 days (according to science, it takes 30 consecutive days to form a habit) each and discover an improved version of myself in about months. The reality was that I lost the list in my move to Portland and forgot all about my self-improvement goals. But it’s never too late to start again so now I’m sharing my list with you.

 “Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.” ~Buddhist Proverb
We all complain. Even if you argue that you are the happiest person in the world, you still complain sometimes. Sometimes we complain without even realizing it, but rarely is it ever helpful. Instead of complaining I will…
  • change the way I think about situations by seeing the positive instead of the negative.
  • practice yoga in order to become more mindful.
  • train myself to be less judgmental.
  • keep a list of things I am grateful for.
  • avoid fueling other people who are on the complain train by changing the subject or asking them to stop.
  • accept the situation or change the situation.
  • do more of what makes me happy and fulfilled and less of what makes me complain.
  • take care of myself so I am better equipped to handle difficult situations.

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
~ Henry James

Kindness is one of the simplest thing to give to another person, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and forget about it. Or maybe we don’t know how to be kind:

  • Express gratitude to the people around you for things they do.
  • Replace judgement with understanding.
  • Replace un-constructive criticism with encouragement and constructive criticism.
  • Just be there for someone – listen, hug, sit with them.
  • Offer to help someone practically with a household chore, when they’re moving, or when they’re carrying something heavy.
  • Remember the little things: little notes, letting someone merge into your lane while driving, holding the door for someone, helping someone with directions if they seem lost, a surprise gift.
  • Be kinder towards yourself.

 “No one has ever become poor by giving.” 
~ Anne Frank
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day to day life but it’s important to remember the less fortunate. I cannot volunteer every day for 21 days but my goal is to volunteer with an organization I feel passionate about once a week and for the remaining days be mindful of the important people in my life and think about how I can be there for them.

 “Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”
~ Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon: you have a deadline but instead are squandering your precious time on social media and cat videos. Break the cycle and get s**t done:
  • Organize your tasks into smaller steps that are more easily managed.
  • Change your environment to be more productive.
  • Create a detailed timeline with deadlines for each task to be completed by.
  • Eliminate the temptation of your favorite procrastination.
  • Surround yourself with inspiring people who take action.
  • Inform others of your goals, they are bound to ask about your progress when they see you.
  • Get advice from those who have already achieved their goals.
  • Revisit your goals to be sure they are still what you want.
  • Don’t make it complicated, there is no perfect time to do something.
  • Just do it – strategizing, planning and hypothesizing should not become your newest form of procrastination.
“Acceptance is such an important commodity, some have called it the first law of personal growth.”
~ Peter McWilliams

In dealing with situation and other people’s actions, we have 3 options: cut them out of our life, be frustrated or accept and embrace it. The only empowering option is acceptance. Why?

  • Life is too short for frustration.
  • You are forced to find the good. 
  • It creates realistic expectations for the future.
  • You likely do things that are just as frustrating.
  • It strengthens your relationships.
“As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.”
~ Robin S. Sharma

Your comfort zone may make you feel snug and safe but the boundaries leave little room for personal growth. Over time this once protective blanket may feel more like a straight jacket trapping you with boredom and fear. Stretch your zone a little and invite a little excitement and adventure in.

  • Make a fool out of yourself without fear of what others think.
  • Try something new, the worst that can happen is you fail.
  • Take a minute to discover some of the subtle fears that plague you every day and face them.
  • Become comfortable taking risks (not to be confused with being reckless). Your comfort zone is predictable to stretch it you have to do the unexpected.
  • Find comfort in the unknown.

-XOXO-

What’s on your list?

10 realizations that have changed the way I look at life

They say the key to being a writer is figuring out who you are, finding your voice. I’ve come to a kind of epiphany about life: you never can find yourself because you’re changing all the time. Every minute, every day, every experience is shaping your reality and your person. Finding your writing voice is the same, each piece you write allows you to grow. At least that’s what I see in my blogging experiment.

I like to think I have a unique voice, that I am funny and charming in my blog posts. I hope my readers perceive me that way. That’s why I’m so excited and nervous about participating in NaBloPoMo this month. In order to post something every day I need to write something every day. In order to write something every day, I need to have interesting things to write about. In order to have interesting things to write about I need to be interesting and I worry that I am not interesting. But this vulnerability is what makes NaBloPoMo simultaneously thrilling and crippling.

So I decided to examine my life, what have I learned in my 24 years that might be of interest and might be mistaken for life lessons?

  1. Accept responsibility – it has taken me 24 years to really appreciate what it means to make a mistake AND accept that I did something wrong, but I finally discovered that by taking responsibility for my actions, I learn more about how to act in the future.
  2. Look at things from another perspective – I have been known to be impatient, my schedule and my wants and needs often were the only things on my radar. By taking a step back and seeing the situation from another point of view I can let go of less important wants while making my needs known.
  3. Listen – it turns out that listening is not just waiting for the other person to stop talking so I can say what I’ve been thinking about the whole time they’ve been speaking. Listening is a learned skill in which you don’t just hear what is being said, you also comprehend and process it.
  4. Question everything – gullibility is possibly one of my more endearing traits but it is blind acceptance of information. Ignorance is not bliss: always check facts and research topics before believing them.
  5. Every moment is an opportunity – carpe diem (or YOLO if you’re a stupid person) is a great motto. Don’t let opportunities pass you by, because although life is the longest thing you’ll ever experience, it goes by fast.
  6. You are in control – my parents have always given me excellent guidance but at a certain point you can’t live your life based on someone else’s idea of what your life should be. Surround yourself with people who will guide and advise you but give yourself permission to make the final decision.
  7. Forgive and let go – Probably the hardest lesson I’ve learned: the only person I can control is myself. When someone slights me, whether it’s big or small, I forgive them and forget. Don’t let someone live rent free in your head.
  8. Don’t define your limits – You (like the limit of f(x) = |x|/x as x approaches 0) are limitless (the limit doesn’t exist, is calculus humor still relevant?) You can never stop growing in your career, in your spirituality, in your sexuality, in your relationships, in yourself.
  9. Practice make perfect – a horrible cliche, I know, but it’s true, you cannot become a master without trying something over and over again. Period.
  10. Be thankful – there will always be people who have more than you and there will always be people who have less than you. Focus on what you have and give thanks.

-xoxo-

What observations have you made about life that help you day to day?

NaBloPoMo

I seem to be just in time to participate in National Blog Post Month in which bloggers are challenged to post something new every day throughout the month of November. I’m excited to test my limits and try to get into the blogging spirit this month so it looks like you’ll be hearing a lot more from me.

I’m hoping I can commit to such a lofty goal (especially since I’ve barely committed to blogging once each week). I am easily distracted by shiny social media whenever I am sitting at the computer, so giving myself clear guidelines will help me focus back into the schedule I once kept like clockwork. Wish me luck!
It’s late on a Saturday now. And I’m not sure I’ve EVER posted on a Saturday, so I’m at a loss for what to write. Here’s a play-by-play of my day. I was called off work due to weather and a slow day at the restaurant so I ended up spending my day finishing a pair of crocheted teal and tan bunny slippers that I recently sold on my Etsy store

While crocheting I like to have a TV show playing in the background. My most recent series is The Carrie Diaries. I thought it was going to be a dumb attempt to stretch the story of Sex and the City but I actually am really enjoying watching it.
I got a little restless so I rode my bike to the park where my boyfriend, Dana, plays bike polo. If you don’t know much about bike polo, I would describe it as a cross between equestrian polo and roller hockey. Two teams of three bike-riding players try to score goals using mallets. It’s very exciting to watch, I have not participated. It was also draft night for Portland Bike Polo Bench League. I was thoroughly entertained hanging out with these passionate players while they took turns picking players for each of the 4 teams (Dana was one of the captains). 
That’s when I remembered, “It’s the first of November! I was gonna do that blog thing and I’m already failing.” And now you’re all caught up. Happy (late) Halloween!

I’m Back! (and hopefully for good this time)

Every website I’ve ever read about blogging says to never tell your readers that you took a break from writing because they either didn’t notice and now realize or they did notice and don’t need you to tell them. But it felt weird for me to return to the blog-osphere without at least addressing the multitude of changes that have occurred in my life. First, I graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Rangeland Ecology concentrating on Restoration Ecology in December.

Here’s me standing next to the portrait of the founder of Warner College of Natural Resources

I moved back to my hometown and I got a job as a hostess and expeditor at FATE Brewing Company in January. They opened in February in Boulder, CO and I have loved working here and making new friends.

This photo is from their website

In April, I visited Portland, OR…

…with my mom, Debbie…

This is at a lovely breakfast place called Cheryl’s.

…and my best friend, Alyssa, and her mom, Wendy.

This photo of Alyssa and I is taken outside our hotel, Hotel D’Luxe

We sampled some local cuisine and toured and fell in love with the city.

Voodoo Doughnut

Also in April I started my second job with Boulder County Parks and Open Space. I am working in Education and Outreach, which means I get to go hiking in Boulder County at least twice a week talking to people about nature and the like. And they pay me to do that.

This is me in my uniform.

I also get to eat lunch with adorable critters like this Eastern Fence Lizard

…enjoy the beautiful wildflowers like this Rocky Mountain Columbine

…and churn butter, do laundry by hand, play games while dressed up like a 19th century prairie woman (Summer Heritage Event next Saturday 07/20 at 5:30pm at Walker Ranch).

On June 6th, I turned 23 years old, and was lucky enough to celebrate with my family and friends.

In June, I pet sit for the two most entertaining hounds I’ve ever met.

The black on is Stella and Hank is the brown one

 And just last week at the beginning of July I visited my best friend Kristen in L.A., CA (Hermosa Beach)

This is Kristen and I at the only winery we made it to (we meant to go to more but you forget things like that when you share a bottle of wine).
In Venice Beach we tried to match the cover of the Jack’s Mannequin album Everything in Transit
The fish market at Redondo Beach

So far it’s been a fabulous year. Except for the part when I got attacked by a wild turkey. That was one of those times when I wish I were on a reality television show because I bet it would be hilarious to watch now that the trauma has (sort of) worn off.

So I guess that’s the end of this post, you’re all caught up now and you can look forward to a post with a new workout on Workout Wednesday and a post about buttermilk cake on Food Fun Friday.

What’s that you say? You want to hear the story about the turkeys? Well okay if you insist.

It all started back when I was about 5 years old. A goose at the Denver Zoo bit me and ever since I have had an irrational fear of large birds in particular, but birds in general as well. They fly by, near your face and eyeballs, with those sharp beaks and gouging claws. Let’s not forget how closely they are related to dinosaurs like T-Rex. And then I saw that Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds and it was all over.

But recently, due to my job with BCPOS most likely, I have had to make peace with this fear. I have started observing birds in the wild (instead of avoiding eye contact) and found humor in some of their actions. I was even was able to see the cuteness of a goose when I saw these goslings at Walden Ponds, east of Boulder.

One fine day I was patrolling at Heil Valley Ranch, just west of Longmont, CO. I was on the Lichen Loop enjoying the slight breeze and the gentle sunshine. I came across a group of wild turkeys. They were nesting in this area so I’d heard them in the distance on prior trips and had even seen them from a distance but this group was just off the trail.

They are the strangest looking birds, with the wrinkled, sagging skin around their heads and necks and they make sounds that I can only describe as a gurgling metallic bleat (whatever that means). I observed them, and took a few pictures as they walked away from me. Then I set off to continue my hike. The end.

Just kidding…

I was barely past the larger group of turkeys when I saw and heard a patch of western wheatgrass near the trail rustle. It startled me but I figured it must have been the wind. Regardless, I turned to look more closely and saw the feathers of another turkey. She had flattened herself to the ground probably out of fear of the strange creature that had approached her with quick, noisy footsteps. I turned to leave her alone but she decided it was time to protect herself (and her chicks).

In one swift movement she had made herself as large as she could by throwing her wings out and over her back and was merping (another turkey sound) her head off. I yelled in a frightened sort of way, which might not have helped the situation. Then in what I can only assume was an effort to make herself more aerodynamic she put down her wings down close to her body, lowered her head and charged toward me. I circled around a rock because I didn’t know what else to do (probably smart as since I’ve heard that turkeys have been know to puncture car tires so there’s no telling how my bare legs would hold up).

She reversed her charge and came back around the rock from the other side, still in the same head-down, wings-in position. My memory is a little fuzzy but I remember being chased around this rock multiple times before I began my mad sprint down the mountain, (away from the trail in the direction I wanted to go, toward the bit of trail I had come in on) backpack bouncing up and down.

She chased me about 20 yards in a herding matter and all the while I am hollering and yelping. I don’t know if she exactly intended to chase me right toward where her chicks were cheeping around on a bare patch in the grass, but I was forced to leap over them. I counted about three, possible four, adorable balls of fluff and feathers as I careened by/over them. My radio, clipped to my backpack belt, broke and fell, lost in the tall grasses. My ponytail fell out of its fasten as my hat blew off my head. I snatched the hat out of the air before it was carried away on the wind.

She stopped on a boulder, like a sentinel, ensuring I was gone for good. Then in a panicky way she scurried around collecting the oblivious chicks. I made it back to the trail with adrenaline, fear and sadness pulsing through my veins, tears splashing down my cheeks. I knew it was no good to go forward so I turned around and went back, defeated by a turkey.

And that is the end. Except I did end up finding the radio. I know that was concerning all of you very much; a poor radio left out in the rain with mad, wild turkeys on the loose.

Tell me about your experience with wildlife, domestic animals, children in the comments below.

It’s been a month . . .

I have officially been a Blogger blogger for one month after switching from blogging with WordPress and it has been quite a process to move. I’ve been recording all the things I did in order to make the switch because I could not find a straight answer all in one place during my move. This made it a very complicated, technical and sometimes stressful experience for me. However, I think I am down to the last steps in the move (tiny details that I am probably the only person who will ever notice), and I am very pleased with my decision to switch.

Why I switched:

  • Personal preference was a major factor. I have now used both the WordPress and Blogger platforms for blogging and personally I’m a Blogger girl.
  • Part of this preference for Blogger is due to the new design and seamless connection with all Google software such as AdSense and Google+
  • I didn’t like that WordPress only allows bloggers who own their domain to add advertisements. I am very new to blogging and I’m not ready to make that kind of commitment (It’s too soon, I’m too young!) I love that Blogger, and the affiliation with Google allows AdSense.
  • I am new to Google+ but I really enjoy this mode of social networking. It’s awesome to have it synched so easily to my blog.
  • Additionally, I believe Blogger is easier to use, or at least more intuitive, but this is personal preference.
  • Finally, a somewhat superficial reason, you can change color, font and background of words with blogger, something that is only available to domain owning bloggers on WordPress.
Router Freak [dot] com

A list of things to do:

  1. Research. Make sure it’s really what you want, like I said, this is a complicated process full of headaches, sadness and hair-pulling. Don’t go through it just to find out you prefered the old way better.
  2. Export old blog. In WordPress go to your Dashboard > Tools > Export > Download export file > Save. If you already have posted in Blogger go to Customize > Settings > Export blog > Dowload File > Save to be sure the new file won’t overwrite these posts (it shouldn’t but better safe than sorry right?). Use this application to translate your WordPress file to a Blogger compatible file. Then go to Blogger and go to Customize > Settings > Import blog > Select file > Import
  3. Check that all posts are correctly formatted (I had to go through and edit the captions and re-center all images).
  4. Set-up your new blog before going public with it. You don’t have to be super knit-picky about it but make sure things are generally the way you want them before informing your readers you’ve moved. That way when they arrive at your new home it will look lovely and clean, not like a construction zone with caution tape draping across every wall.
  5. Post a goodbye post to old platform to redirect followers to new blog. Also post to other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook your new blog location.
  6. Use a redirect program to automatically send people to new post when they try to go to old post. Unfortunately you can’t do this without owning the domain. Kind of a Catch-22 if you ask me, nobody ever seems to ask me though.
  7. Go through old pages on old blog and relink old posts to new posts. This took ages and probably isn’t completely necessary if you are willing to lose some page views. I wasn’t.
  8. Find link ups in old posts and link to new posts. Another very tedious step which I am still working on. All my posts in my new blog that were imported from the old blog link to posts that are on the old blog instead of to these same posts on the new blog. The links are just a web of lies.

    Gabriel Weinberg [dot] com

    Consequences:

    • Only hardcore readers will follow you to your new blog (thanks guys!) so expect a drop in your readership. The return to previous view counts did not take as long as I expected though.
    • I’ve said it multiple times throughout this post but you should really understand that this is very time consuming process. Add all of this on top of keeping up with new blog posts and you’re in for a rough couple of weeks.
    • Getting used to the new blogging platform takes time but when I go back to WordPress I find that it, while once the only way to blog for me, is now confusing and Blogger makes sense. Brains are weird. Give yours a chance to adjust before throwing in the towel.

    On the bright side, if you love blogging and have decided that you need to make the switch it is probably all going to be worth it. Keep your spirits high and remember why you started your blog in the first place.

    Cute Girly Quotes and Sayings [dot] blogspot [dot] com
    Which platform do you prefer and why?

    40 Real Food Kitchen Essentials

    As I am a poor college student, many of these tools and appliances are still but a dream. However, I have compiled a list of everything I either use currently or know would be useful to me in my quest to eat only real food.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: 40 Real Food Kitchen Essentials

    Tools:

    ziploc, food storage, lunch


    Ziploc Divided Lunchbox
    This is great for taking lunches to work or school. Cheap, comes in a pack of 2, and it doesn’t leak at least not between compartments. I bought mine from King Soopers but I’m sure is available at many stores.

    $6.78 on Amazon
    to go coffee cup


    Ceramic Coffee Mug
    It’s tempting to stop for coffee in the morning (especially now that there is a drive-thru starbucks on my way to school). I see these all over local coffee shops in all kinds of patterns. Save money AND no waste.

    $11.90 on Amazon

    thermos, soup

    Thermos Jar
    I will admit that I actually did buy this thermos jar with the Hello Kitty print. It’s awesome for taking oatmeal on days I get to school early, or when I want soup for lunch. Definitely worth it if you like a variety for lunches.

    $15.99 on Amazon

    popsicles, homemade, molds


    Popsicle Molds
    I love frozen treats but most store-bought are packed with sugar. I like to make smoothies and pour them into the molds for healthy popsicles (what a concept). I bought some very like these at a party store.

    $6.40 on Amazon
    colorful mixing bowls, food preparation


    Melamine Mixing Bowls
    My wonderful Aunt bought me a set of mixing bowls for a birthday present. They are somewhat like these: colorful, nesting and come with lids. I love them because I can use them for storage too (double-duty is a college girls best friend).

    $33.45 on Amazon
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    High Quality Pots and Pans
    Something I really want, but can’t justify the price tag when I have a set that cook just fine. These are very expensive but I bet they cook beautifully. Plan: gradually add a new pan as the old ones wear out.

    $239.99 at Kohl’s
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    High Quality Knives
    Another item on my wish list: knives. Chopping is a big part of cooking from scratch and higher quality knives last a lot longer. Keep them sharp with a sharpener.

    $179.99 at Kohl’s


    stainless steel measuring cups, cooking, food preparation

    Stainless Steel Measuring Cups and Spoons
    I have used five sets of measuring cups and spoons since I’ve been living on my own and it is so annoying when the painted measurement rubs off. Stainless steel sets usually have the measurement stamped into the metal and are more durable than their plastic counterpart.

    $7.15 on Amazon

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    Cast-Iron Skillet
    My fabulous grandmother bought one of these for me for a birthday gift. Sometimes a slightly high-maintenance addition to my kitchen, still one I could never live without. Don’t forget to season it! (Also BAM! cuz mine is from Emeril)

    $32.99 on Wayfair

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    Misto
    The newest addition to my kitchen, and I’m so excited about it! Fill with your favorite cooking oil and use in place of cooking spray (cut out all those nasty propellants). I bought this one at a local cooking store for $9.99. There were many options to choose from.

    $18.86 on Boncui

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    Mesh Strainer

    I bought this when I tried making almond milk last spring. Now I use it in place of a juicer (tried using a real juicer for a while but found it to be too messy and hard to save the pulp for making crackers). Also useful for making chicken or vegetable stock.

    $17.99 on Wayfair
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    Ice Cube Tray With Lid
    I use these for obvious things like freezing water (I don’t have a fancy refrigerator that makes ice cubes), but also for freezing small portions of pesto, chicken or vegetable stock, leftover wine, fresh herbs (for use in the winter), applesauce, and marinara sauce. The lids make it less messy.

    $5.52 on Wayfair

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    Apple Slicer/Corer
    A basic kitchen essential. I usually prefer to just slice apples with a knife since this doesn’t remove all the seeds usually but when I’m in a hurry this is perfect for quick jobs.

    $9.99 on Wayfair

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    Whisks

    Another basic kitchen tool, but one I use often. Just the thing for scrambled eggs, pancakes and mixing sauces, Don’t find yourself without one. (Before I bought one of these I just used a fork).

    $19.95 on Sur la Table

    An obvious addition to any kitchen that wants to protect their counters (I DO want my security deposit back). There is controversy over wooden versus plastic cutting boards, after some research I found that it really doesn’t matter (I have one of each). Just find one that doesn’t warp or stain.

    $18.32 on Amazon

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    Ladle
    An additional basic kitchen need ladles can be used for serving a million different dishes. Before I bought mine (which came in a set of spoons), serving dinner was a much messier task.

    $13.00 on Sur la Table

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    Spoons (Wooden and Plastic)
    One more kitchen basic. I have three of each (possibly a bit excessive but it happens when you combine kitchens with someone else). Wooden spoons sometimes stain so I only use them when cooking pasta or stirring dry ingredients.

    $15.99 at Kohl’s

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    Rolling PinA somewhat recent addition to my kitchen, I use this mostly for pie crusts (we love pie!) but it’s also essential during Christmas cookie season. I bought mine at target and there are so many varieties that it’s best to just find what works for you.


    $17.00 on Sur la Table


    tortilla press, sur la table



    Tortilla Press
    I’ve been told that tortilla making is easy, especially when you own one of these presses. I don’t yet own one but it is another item that you can find on my wish list.

    $19.99 on Sur la table

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    Tortilla Warmer

    Not just for Mexican restaurants anymore this tortilla warmer is perfect to keep homemade tortillas warm and fresh. (Not yet owned, on my wishlist).

    $9.95 at Sur la Table


    ceramic, mortar and pestle



    Mortar and Pestle

    I was so excited when I bought my little mortar and pestle at a spice store. I use it for crushing both dried and fresh herbs.

    $9.31 on Amazon

    tofu press


    Tofu Press
    I had no idea these were so pricey. If you have to cash they’re exceptionally useful when preparing restaurant worthy tofu (tofu tips to be published soon). Two cutting boards works well for me currently.

    $41.95 on Amazon

    salad dressing bottle, measurements, homemade

    Salad Dressing Bottle
    This is the best for making salad dressings at home. I don’t have one because we’re using up our vast stores of store-bought salad dressing (for some reason we buy one almost every time we go to the store).

    $6.74 on Amazon


    tea-rex, tea strainer

    Tea Ball
    I just have a regular old mesh tea ball, but the TEA-rex makes me laugh. I love these for loose-leaf teas you can buy at most tea shops (or collect herbs in the wild).

    $9.98 on Amazon


    Appliances:


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    Food Processor
    This is another recent addition to my kitchen (thanks to my grandma). I’m so excited to finally have one because I’ve been noticing a definite need for one. Salsa, pesto, hummus, and a million other things… here I come!

    $159.00 at Sur la Table
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    Mini Chopper

    I’ve had this for quite a while. It’s awesome for shopping ginger, garlic, or small batches of anything I would use the large food processor for.

    $59.99 at Kohl’s
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    Crock-Pot

    I am still amazed by (and learning about) all the things you can do with a Crock-pot. I love mine for days I know I’ll be home late. What a great feeling to come home and dinner is already prepared.

    $59.99 at Kohl’s
    george foreman grill



    George Foreman Grill
    I am a huge fan of grilled cheese so I love this appliance. Mostly I use it to make sandwiches more interesting but we have tried burgers and chicken on it with success. I actually found mine at a garage sale.

    $32.95 on Amazon
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    Ice Cream Maker
    There are not words to describe how badly I want one of these. After trying home-made ice cream on one of my ranch visits last summer I just don’t enjoy the taste of ice cream from the box (as much) anymore. Plus you can control the amount of sweetener and the flavor you add. One day I will have you my pretty.

    $59.95 on Sur la Table

    Bread Maker
    My boyfriend’s father has a bread-maker and he makes the BEST bread in the world. I would like to give bread-making a try and this model has caught my eye. My friend bought a bread-maker on Craig’s list for $5.00 (that actually works) so that’s probably where I’ll start looking.

    $141.99 on Wayfair

    waffle iron


    Waffle Iron
    Try as I might, I can’t live without waffles. I don’t like Belgium waffles though. It took me a very long time to find a non-Belgium waffle maker, but I love it very much!

    $40 at JC Penny

    Probably my most used appliance (at least before I got the food processor) because it did double-duty. I love smoothies in the morning so for me this is essential.

    $29.99 at Target

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    Food Dehydrator
    One more item on my to-buy list, a dehydrator seems extremely useful to me. I plan to use it for backpacking food, homemade fruit leather and homemade jerky and I’m sure I could come up with a few other ideas.

    $99.99 at Kohl’s

    Books and Movies:

    omnivore's dilemna, michael pollan, book cover


    by Michael Pollan


    in defense of food, michael polla, book cover


    by Michael Pollan


    food rules, michael pollan, book cover


    by Michael Pollan


    food inc., documentary, movie cover


    a Documentary


    quick-fix vegetarian, robin robertson, book cover, cookbook


    By Robin Robertson


    ancient grains for modern meals, maria speck, book cover, cookbook


    By Maria Speck


    my father's daughter, gwenyth paltrow, book cover, cookbook


    By Gwyneth Paltrow


    the future of food, documentary, movie cover


    a Documentary


    fast-food nations, eric schlosser, book cover, documentary


    by Eric Schlosser

    I’m moving! (in cyber space)

    I’ve had a wonderful time here on WordPress. I did not know about all the things that go into blogging. There is so much information out there and I’ve learned a lot in these past six months. This is my first experience with personal blogging, and overall it’s been a good one. But alas, it’s time for me to move on.

    Many of you will wonder, “Why leave the green pastures of WordPress in favor of that dusty old Blogger?” I won’t get into every little detail. The main point is that after playing with Blogger (and the new integration with Google+) I believe it is a much better fit for me personal as I push deeper into the blogosphere. Goodbye to you, WordPress. I will always look back on my time with you fondly and appreciate the stepping stone you provide me with.

    If you subscribe to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.

    Tour de Fat does bad things to good people

    This title is a quote thanks to Jessica and her Facebook status. Tour de Fat is a magical bicycle parade, which occurs but once every year. It is an event created by New Belgium Brewing Company in order to celebrate bike culture in cities across the U.S. There is music and other forms of entertainment, food from local restaurants and, of course, beer. It is one of those affairs in which pictures speak much louder than words.

    The parade started at 10am on September 1, here in Fort Collins, CO.

    This is me with a store-brand Otter Pop (and yes that is a small child’s Disney’s Cinderella dress)

    We biked and I took pictures (sorry for the blurriness/hair/angles, like I said I was taking pictures and biking at the same time)

    We then encountered THE MOB! (Run! Don’t walk! From the mob…)

    And this puppy in a backpack…

    And this really awesome bike…

    And Spongebob Squarepants, Patrick Star and Sheldon Plankton blowing bubbles…

    And The Addams Family

    And this sign: “$3-$5 to pee in the trees on Hitler/Stalin“…

    Really it was a pretty awesome collection of people.

    *Begin Part 2* The cast of characters switches at this point as I changed friends, (except that guy on the end with the pink boa… he is a photo bomber and definitely not my friend).

    This is Jenna, she wins best costume of the century…

    We went to Ben & Jerry’s

    Then we sat in the shade and people watched

    We met Tinky Winky

    Listened to the port-a-potty karaoke

    And my man thong quota for my whole life was filled (I am deeply sorry for having to expose you to this)…

    And that my friends, is what Tour de Fat is all about (well not the directly above ^^^ but the collection of ALL of the above).

    And after all this fun guess what I got to do?! If you said, “You went to Old Chicago, ate awesome pizza, and watched CSU beat CU in football,” then you are correct. The prize is I will remove the man thong image from your view. You’re welcome.

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    Have you ever participated in Tour de Fat?

    Tour de Fat does bad things to good people

    This title is a quote thanks to Jessica and her Facebook status. Tour de Fat is a magical bicycle parade, which occurs but once every year. It is an event created by New Belgium Brewing Company in order to celebrate bike culture in cities across the U.S. There is music and other forms of entertainment, food from local restaurants and, of course, beer. It is one of those affairs in which pictures speak much louder than words.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Tour de Fat doe bad things to good people


    The parade started at 10am on September 1, here in Fort Collins, CO.


    This is me with a store-brand Otter Pop (and yes that is a small child’s Disney’s Cinderella dress)


    We biked and I took pictures (sorry for the blurriness/hair/angles, like I said I was taking pictures and biking at the same time)



    We then encountered THE MOB! (Run! Don’t walk! From the mob…)


    And this puppy in a backpack…


    And this really awesome bike…


    And Spongebob Squarepants, Patrick Star and Sheldon Plankton blowing bubbles…


    And The Addams Family


    And this sign: “$3-$5 to pee in the trees on Hitler/Stalin“…


    Really it was a pretty awesome collection of people.

    *Begin Part 2* The cast of characters switches at this point as I changed friends, (except that guy on the end with the pink boa… he is a photo bomber and definitely not my friend).


    This is Jenna, she wins best costume of the century…


    We went to Ben & Jerry’s


    Then we sat in the shade and people watched


    We met Tinky Winky


    Listened to the port-a-potty karaoke


    And my man thong quota for my whole life was filled (I am deeply sorry for having to expose you to this)…


    And that my friends, is what Tour de Fat is all about (well not the directly above ^^^ but the collection of ALL of the above).

    And after all this fun guess what I got to do?! If you said, “You went to Old Chicago, ate awesome pizza, and watched CSU beat CU in football,” then you are correct. The prize is I will remove the man thong image from your view. You’re welcome.

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    Have you ever participated in Tour de Fat?

    President Obama Addresses Colorado Students About 2012 Election

    President Obama came to visit Colorado State University on August 28th. He was here in 2008 and I just barely missed him. He was a senator running for president back then. I was a scared freshman, and the Oval was outside of the comfortable bubble I had created for myself (dorm room, classes, Lory Student Center, and Corbett dining hall).

    This time around I was determined to see him. My President Obama adventures began around 10:30 am on August 27th. That’s when I just happened to walk by a girl handing out tickets on my way to carry out a completely different mission (Print flyers for the first meeting for the CSU Range Club). She was just setting up so I didn’t even have to wait in line to get this shiny blue ticket.

    Behind the scenes photos:

    Obama’s Helicopter
    Via @EllyCollins

    Security
    Via @SarahJaneKyle

    Secret Service
    Via @SarahJaneKyle

    Behind these curtains you can find metal detectors and a weaving maze on metal barricades to organize the line of people.

    The next stages of this adventure to see President Obama’s speech did not quite go according to plan. First off, I should have realized that the people I passed at 10:00am (some people camped out all night) were clever, instead of scoffing at their time-wasting ways.

    Secondly, I should have brought my ticket to school with me this morning instead of leaving it in my lunch box (yes, I am such a logical thinker). My poor boyfriend, Reid, was napping (he works nights now), and I woke him up to bring my ticket between classes.

    Third, I should have brought sunscreen and a hat and a parasol and a sunshade and a fan and about 8 gallons of water! It was approximately 5,000 degrees and standing in line in direct sunlight in that kind of heat is probably what death feels like (if you died in the desert of heat stroke and dehydration), especially if your not even sure if it will all pay off.

    Fourth, I should have left my backpack with Reid when he brought the ticket instead of lugging it with me to the back of the loooooooong line (My estimates say it was at least a mile long).

    Map courtesy of Google Maps

    • Blue box indicates location of speakers
    • Red box indicates security
    • Black line indicates direction of line (Where it ends on East dr. is not necessarily the end, this is just where I lost track of it.)
    • Yellow star indicates where I got into the line
    • Orange star indicates where I left it

    *Please Note: Colors have no correlation to party.

    After 30 minutes of waiting in line (I moved probably 20 feet in that time, at least I made it to some shade), I was told that IF I made it to the front they would probably send me to a separate line to check my bag before sending me BACK to the back of the line.

    I had nowhere to take my backpack AND my phone was dead. The extremely nice woman in front of me in line told me she would save my place in line if I wanted to run home to drop it off. She gave me her phone number and told me to call when I returned in order to find her. She joked that she would be hard to find, about 10 feet away from our current position in the 45 minutes it would take for me to return.

    There was a squirrel in this tree. I thought I got it in the picture but it must be a vampire. (squiracula)

    So I left my place…

    …chugged a bottle of the free H2Obama (witty)…

    … snapped this photo of the Elvis selling Obama buttons. I also saw a man selling Baronco shirts (Barack + Broncos = Baronco?)… and rode my bike home.

    I was so hot when I got home that I felt defeated and like I never wanted to return to that horrible line. I resigned my self to homework for the night.

    My sister, Erica then told me that she had green priority tickets, which gave me a second wind (with priority tickets you don’t have to wait as long in line). I called my friend that was saving my spot in line to tell her that I wouldn’t be returning and thanked her for her kindness. We decided to meet up at Wild Boar Coffee, a coffee shop across the street from campus.

    Images inside the Quad:

    Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian

    A few highlights from the opening speeches:

    John Hickenlooper, Governor for Colorado, states, “Barack Obama has your back. Do we have his back?” He then goes on to say “President Obama has more emotional depth than anyone I have ever known, and we are lucky to have him as our president.”

    Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, asks, “ Who will be the champion for the middle class? Obama, or the other guy who stands for the top 2%.” He also informs us, “It’s Barack Obama that helped you get into higher education.”

    CSU Sophomore Haley Damm-Hamblin introduces the president. Her speech represented her background as a young woman going to university and why this election is important to her.

    Finally, Obama takes the stage, and he got me just a jazzed as he always does when I hear him speak. One of his major points throughout the speech was the importance of voting. He encourages us to vote saying, “Your vote will decide where we go from here,” and “You choose the path to get to the future.”

    When he says that in the next few weeks his opponent will share his agenda, the crowd boos, to which he says, “Don’t boo. Vote. That’s the best response. Vote, and get some of your friends to vote.” He mentions an online voter registry, GottaVote.com, which he emphasizes the spelling and apologizes to English professors 😉 . He then says, “Young people came out in record numbers four years ago.” and “Understand your power. If you’re going to get cynical, wait till you’re older.” (hahahaha)

    A great moment was when Obama listed all the things WE accomplished in the last four years and a guy yells, “You helped!” to which Obama replies, “I helped a little bit” Hahaha Classic.

    He puts the power in our hands, “If we win Colorado, we will win this election. If we win Fort Collins, we will win Colorado.” and “America is counting on you and I’m counting on you.”  Pressure’s on! President Obama is counting on ME!

    Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian

    Another key point in President Obama’s speech was the power of education. He tells us that Mitt Romeny calls us the lost generation but we are not because Obama believes in us: “I believe in you. I believe in the American people. I’ve seen the passion of this generation.”

    He goes on to say that he and First Lady, Michelle paid off their student loans about 8 years ago. He says, “We know what its like.” He emphasizes his commitment to higher education saying that we shouldn’t be making it harder for students to pay off loans than it already is. My question for you: Should we keep college affordable or borrow money from our parents (as Romney suggests)?

    Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian

    A third point emphasized in his speech was ObamaCare, Obama explains that “We passed this law because I care.” ObamaCare has provided 7,000,000 young people with healthcare, given woman access to health care such as birth control, mammograms and pap smears, and has made medicine more accessible to the elderly. “Some of us can’t afford the healthcare we need sometimes, no matter how well we plan.”

    A particularly funny moment in my opinion was the reference to the “Romney-Doesn’t-Care plan,” the health care system we will be left with should Romney be elected.

    Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian

    President Obama also discusses the economy and jobs. Obama says that tax cuts should not be given to those who have already succeeded (if success is measured monetarily) saying, “Tax cuts should be given to the middle-class, small business and students not to those who have already made it.” He wants to “build the economy from the inside out.” “It’s about the middle class and students.” (Hey that’s me!)

    Obama tells us that his opponent believes, “Renewable sources of energy are imaginary,” Obama asks, “Do we want to be forever dependent on foreign oil or do we want to pursue renewable, clean energy sources?” and that “Renewable energy is the future.”

    Obama explains, “Here’s the bottom line, Colorado. If the other side has their way … it wont create jobs.” and “I want to make sure taxes are not raised a single dime on first $250k of income.”

    A few other great points from Obama include, “Help every American have a chance to better themselves.” “We don’t need to refight the battles of the past, we are moving forward, we don’t go backward!” Obama is not going to leave any Americans out in the cold, that’s what we’re fighting for.

    He questions why people who love each other can’t get married. His response, “The history of our country is not about how many people we can exclude.” and “Ignoring inequality doesn’t make it go away.”

    Obama on veterans: “We’re going to have to serve them just as well as they’ve served us.”

    He includes some inspirational ideas such as: “You gotta get on board. Its time for change!” (which was responded to by the crowd with a resounding, “Yes we can!”) One of his themes was that he hasn’t finished what’s he’s started, “We’ve got more work to do!” (To which the crowd began chanting, “Four more years!”). And he tells us, “We are greater together than we are on our own.”

    He exited to a little Bruce Springsteen, “We take care of our own.”

    (My dumb ole video of the motorcade from Wild Boar Coffee after the speech. Sorry I didn’t follow the limo. I was looking at it but my hands didn’t cooperate.)

    “Will this be an America where no matter where no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter who you love, no matter what your last name is, you can pursue happiness?”

    As a young person, I feel that Obama understands me. As a student, I believe that Obama appreciate me. As a Natural Resources student specifically, I recognize that Obama values me. As a woman, I know that Obama supports me. I am grateful that I can look back on today as a piece of history that I participated in, and I hope one day this piece of history will be considered the day everything changed.

    *UPDATE: Today is a new day and the Rocky Mountain Collegian (CSU’s student newspaper) has some interesting articles and things to say about Obama’s visit, that I would like to address.

    This article compares Obama’s 2012 campaign with FDR’s campaign in which he has re-elected for four terms due to the creation of the New Deal. These government programs forced Americans to rely on the government for their basic needs. I disagree with this comparison. While Obama did mention that he wants to finish the work he’s started, the programs he has introduced are not forced on every American, they give chances to every American. The choice to take these opportunities is left up to the individual.

    An article by Caleb Hendrich with the title, “Don’t Boo Get Out and Vote,” discusses why Obama is focused on getting more votes. Apparently, historically the greater the turn-out of voters the more likely the Democratic party has been to have a victory in both the executive and legislative branches. An interesting point.

    While the editorial rejoices in the 13,000 people showing up to support the democratic process, their view is that the fate of the nation does not ride on one day in history or the results of the election in November. They want to encourage people to monitor the government in order to ensure that what is promised also is put into effect.

    At the time of Obama’s speech there was a smallish (comparatively) gathering of Mitt Romney supporters who met at the corner of University and Meridian Avenues. A report in the collegian quotes one of their number in response to the idea of repealing ObamaCare, ” The idea that the government can force you to buy something scares me.” My response to you sir: “Where do you think roads and highways, public schools, wildlife protection, national monuments, public transportation, public libraries, open space protection, wetland protection, etc. etc. come from? Your tax dollars, that’s where. You’ve been forced to “buy” things your whole life. Even if you don’t use these things every day or they will not benefit you directly, you have to pay for them. ObamaCare simply creates an opportunity for some people in the same way all the other public service we know and love do.

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    Did you catch President Obama’s speech? What do you like, or dislike, about Obama’s campaign? Romney’s? Are you registered to vote? (Register here)

    President Obama Addresses Colorado Students About 2012 Election

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: President Obama Addresses Colorado Students

    President Obama came to visit Colorado State University on August 28th. He was here in 2008 and I just barely missed him. He was a senator running for president back then. I was a scared freshman, and the Oval was outside of the comfortable bubble I had created for myself (dorm room, classes, Lory Student Center, and Corbett dining hall).


    This time around I was determined to see him. My President Obama adventures began around 10:30 am on August 27th. That’s when I just happened to walk by a girl handing out tickets on my way to carry out a completely different mission (Print flyers for the first meeting for the CSU Range Club). She was just setting up so I didn’t even have to wait in line to get this shiny blue ticket.

    Behind the scenes photos:

     
    Obama’s Helicopter via @EllyCollins


     
    Security via @SarahJaneKyle


     
    Secret Service via @SarahJaneKyle


    Behind these curtains you can find metal detectors and a weaving maze on metal barricades to organize the line of people.


    The next stages of this adventure to see President Obama’s speech did not quite go according to plan. First off, I should have realized that the people I passed at 10:00am (some people camped out all night) were clever, instead of scoffing at their time-wasting ways.


    Secondly, I should have brought my ticket to school with me this morning instead of leaving it in my lunch box (yes, I am such a logical thinker). My poor boyfriend, Reid, was napping (he works nights now), and I woke him up to bring my ticket between classes.

    Third, I should have brought sunscreen and a hat and a parasol and a sunshade and a fan and about 8 gallons of water! It was approximately 5,000 degrees and standing in line in direct sunlight in that kind of heat is probably what death feels like (if you died in the desert of heat stroke and dehydration), especially if your not even sure if it will all pay off.

    Fourth, I should have left my backpack with Reid when he brought the ticket instead of lugging it with me to the back of the loooooooong line (My estimates say it was at least a mile long).

     

    Map courtesy of Google Maps

    • Blue box indicates location of speakers
    • Red box indicates security
    • Black line indicates direction of line (Where it ends on East dr. is not necessarily the end, this is just where I lost track of it.)
    • Yellow star indicates where I got into the line
    • Orange star indicates where I left it

    *Please Note: Colors have no correlation to party.

    After 30 minutes of waiting in line (I moved probably 20 feet in that time, at least I made it to some shade), I was told that IF I made it to the front they would probably send me to a separate line to check my bag before sending me BACK to the back of the line.

    I had nowhere to take my backpack AND my phone was dead. The extremely nice woman in front of me in line told me she would save my place in line if I wanted to run home to drop it off. She gave me her phone number and told me to call when I returned in order to find her. She joked that she would be hard to find, about 10 feet away from our current position in the 45 minutes it would take for me to return.


     
    There was a squirrel in this tree. I thought I got it in the picture but it must be a vampire. (squiracula)


    So I left my place…


    …chugged a bottle of the free H2Obama (witty)…


    … snapped this photo of the Elvis selling Obama buttons. I also saw a man selling Baronco shirts (Barack + Broncos = Baronco?)… and rode my bike home.

    I was so hot when I got home that I felt defeated and like I never wanted to return to that horrible line. I resigned my self to homework for the night.

    My sister, Erica then told me that she had green priority tickets, which gave me a second wind (with priority tickets you don’t have to wait as long in line). I called my friend that was saving my spot in line to tell her that I wouldn’t be returning and thanked her for her kindness. We decided to meet up at Wild Boar Coffee, a coffee shop across the street from campus.


    Images inside the Quad:

     


     


     
    Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian


     


     


    A few highlights from the speeches:

     


    John Hickenlooper, Governor for Colorado, states, “Barack Obama has your back. Do we have his back?” He then goes on to say “President Obama has more emotional depth than anyone I have ever known, and we are lucky to have him as our president.”

     


    Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, asks, “ Who will be the champion for the middle class? Obama, or the other guy who stands for the top 2%.” He also informs us, “It’s Barack Obama that helped you get into higher education.”

    CSU Sophomore Haley Damm-Hamblin introduces the president. Her speech represented her background as a young woman going to university and why this election is important to her.

     


    Finally, Obama takes the stage, and he got me just a jazzed as he always does when I hear him speak. One of his major points throughout the speech was the importance of voting. He encourages us to vote saying, “Your vote will decide where we go from here,” and “You choose the path to get to the future.”

    When he says that in the next few weeks his opponent will share his agenda, the crowd boos, to which he says, “Don’t boo. Vote. That’s the best response. Vote, and get some of your friends to vote.” He mentions an online voter registry, GottaVote.com, which he emphasizes the spelling and apologizes to English professors 😉 . He then says, “Young people came out in record numbers four years ago.” and “Understand your power. If you’re going to get cynical, wait till you’re older.” (hahahaha)

    A great moment was when Obama listed all the things WE accomplished in the last four years and a guy yells, “You helped!” to which Obama replies, “I helped a little bit” Hahaha Classic.

    He puts the power in our hands, “If we win Colorado, we will win this election. If we win Fort Collins, we will win Colorado.” and “America is counting on you and I’m counting on you.”  Pressure’s on! President Obama is counting on ME!

    Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian


    Another key point in President Obama’s speech was the power of education. He tells us that Mitt Romeny calls us the lost generation but we are not because Obama believes in us: “I believe in you. I believe in the American people. I’ve seen the passion of this generation.”

    He goes on to say that he and First Lady, Michelle paid off their student loans about 8 years ago. He says, “We know what its like.” He emphasizes his commitment to higher education saying that we shouldn’t be making it harder for students to pay off loans than it already is. My question for you: Should we keep college affordable or borrow money from our parents (as Romney suggests)?

    Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian


    A third point emphasized in his speech was ObamaCare, Obama explains that “We passed this law because I care.” ObamaCare has provided 7,000,000 young people with healthcare, given woman access to health care such as birth control, mammograms and pap smears, and has made medicine more accessible to the elderly. “Some of us can’t afford the healthcare we need sometimes, no matter how well we plan.”

    A particularly funny moment in my opinion was the reference to the “Romney-Doesn’t-Care plan,” the health care system we will be left with should Romney be elected.

    Via Nick Lyon of the Rocky Mountain Collegian


    President Obama also discusses the economy and jobs. Obama says that tax cuts should not be given to those who have already succeeded (if success is measured monetarily) saying, “Tax cuts should be given to the middle-class, small business and students not to those who have already made it.” He wants to “build the economy from the inside out.” “It’s about the middle class and students.” (Hey that’s me!)

    Obama tells us that his opponent believes, “Renewable sources of energy are imaginary,” Obama asks, “Do we want to be forever dependent on foreign oil or do we want to pursue renewable, clean energy sources?” and that “Renewable energy is the future.”

    Obama explains, “Here’s the bottom line, Colorado. If the other side has their way … it wont create jobs.” and “I want to make sure taxes are not raised a single dime on first $250k of income.”

     


    A few other great points from Obama include, “Help every American have a chance to better themselves.” “We don’t need to refight the battles of the past, we are moving forward, we don’t go backward!” Obama is not going to leave any Americans out in the cold, that’s what we’re fighting for.

    He questions why people who love each other can’t get married. His response, “The history of our country is not about how many people we can exclude.” and “Ignoring inequality doesn’t make it go away.”

    Obama on veterans: “We’re going to have to serve them just as well as they’ve served us.”

    He includes some inspirational ideas such as: “You gotta get on board. Its time for change!” (which was responded to by the crowd with a resounding, “Yes we can!”) One of his themes was that he hasn’t finished what’s he’s started, “We’ve got more work to do!” (To which the crowd began chanting, “Four more years!”). And he tells us, “We are greater together than we are on our own.”


    He exited to a little Bruce Springsteen, “We take care of our own.”

     



    (My dumb ole video of the motorcade from Wild Boar Coffee after the speech. Sorry I didn’t follow the limo. I was looking at it but my hands didn’t cooperate.)

    “Will this be an America where no matter where no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter who you love, no matter what your last name is, you can pursue happiness?”


    As a young person, I feel that Obama understands me. As a student, I believe that Obama appreciate me. As a Natural Resources student specifically, I recognize that Obama values me. As a woman, I know that Obama supports me. I am grateful that I can look back on today as a piece of history that I participated in, and I hope one day this piece of history will be considered the day everything changed.

    *UPDATE: Today is a new day and the Rocky Mountain Collegian (CSU’s student newspaper) has some interesting articles and things to say about Obama’s visit, that I would like to address.

    This article compares Obama’s 2012 campaign with FDR’s campaign in which he has re-elected for four terms due to the creation of the New Deal. These government programs forced Americans to rely on the government for their basic needs. I disagree with this comparison. While Obama did mention that he wants to finish the work he’s started, the programs he has introduced are not forced on every American, they give chances to every American. The choice to take these opportunities is left up to the individual.

    An article by Caleb Hendrich with the title, “Don’t Boo Get Out and Vote,” discusses why Obama is focused on getting more votes. Apparently, historically the greater the turn-out of voters the more likely the Democratic party has been to have a victory in both the executive and legislative branches. An interesting point.

    While the editorial rejoices in the 13,000 people showing up to support the democratic process, their view is that the fate of the nation does not ride on one day in history or the results of the election in November. They want to encourage people to monitor the government in order to ensure that what is promised also is put into effect.

    At the time of Obama’s speech there was a smallish (comparatively) gathering of Mitt Romney supporters who met at the corner of University and Meridian Avenues. A report in the collegian quotes one of their number in response to the idea of repealing ObamaCare, ” The idea that the government can force you to buy something scares me.” My response to you sir: “Where do you think roads and highways, public schools, wildlife protection, national monuments, public transportation, public libraries, open space protection, wetland protection, etc. etc. come from? Your tax dollars, that’s where. You’ve been forced to “buy” things your whole life. Even if you don’t use these things every day or they will not benefit you directly, you have to pay for them. ObamaCare simply creates an opportunity for some people in the same way all the other public service we know and love do.

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    Did you catch President Obama’s speech? What do you like, or dislike, about Obama’s campaign? Romney’s? Are you registered to vote? (Register here)

    Starbucks Passion Tea Lemonade

    As you probably know by now I love summertime and I have a lot of favorite things about summer. It’ll be at least four more posts before I stop saying THIS is my favorite thing about summer so bear with me. I love going to Starbucks in the summer for a grande passion tea lemonade with one pump; it’s a guilty pleasure. But I don’t love the price that could very easily empty my bank account.

    SO I asked them what tea they use in their passion tea lemonade and they told me (It’s Tazo the Starbucks tea brand and they actually sell it at the store).

    You can get this kind that’s iced tea ready (make a bunch at once and store it in the pitcher in the fridge). Or they sell a box of individual servings (make it one cup at a time). At Target it was $4.95 (same as a box at Starbucks) but in an online search I found it for a little cheaper.

    After drinking it a little I realized it was very similar to the Celestial Seasonings tea I bought at the factory for $2.85.

    The Celestial Seasonings version is already sweetened using Stevia, which I’m still not completely sold on but my research tells me that the claims are true. I’ll let you make up your own mind about it.

    Anyway, to make the Starbucks version of the delicious pink drink is quite simple. Make the tea according to the package, juice some lemons, add a little of your preferred sweetener (if you like it sweetened), chill in the fridge, enjoy!

     

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    Starbucks Passion Tea Lemonade

    As you probably know by now I love summertime and I have a lot of favorite things about summer. It’ll be at least four more posts before I stop saying THIS is my favorite thing about summer so bear with me. I love going to Starbucks in the summer for a grande passion tea lemonade with one pump; it’s a guilty pleasure. But I don’t love the price that could very easily empty my bank account.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//:  Make it at Home - Starbucks Passion Tea Lemonade


    SO I asked them what tea they use in their passion tea lemonade and they told me (It’s Tazo the Starbucks tea brand and they actually sell it at the store).

    You can get this kind that’s iced tea ready (make a bunch at once and store it in the pitcher in the fridge). Or they sell a box of individual servings (make it one cup at a time). At Target it was $4.95 (same as a box at Starbucks) but in an online search I found it for a little cheaper.

    After drinking it a little I realized it was very similar to the Celestial Seasonings tea I bought at the factory for $2.85.


    Anyway, to make the Starbucks version of the delicious pink drink is quite simple. Make the tea according to the package, juice some lemons, add a little of your preferred sweetener (if you like it sweetened), chill in the fridge, enjoy!

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    Eating Real Food

    It was June, it was HOT and I needed something with the word ice in it desperately to cool me down. I pulled into the local grocery store, headed for the frozen food section, relished in the cold air, and searched for that special treat. It came down to three things for me: price, flavor and whether or not my boyfriend would want to eat it too (he has a Who-sized sweet-tooth gene). I grabbed a 12-pack of Weight-Watchers dark-chocolate-dipped raspberry ice cream bars. They sounded heavenly, they were the cheapest for the number of bars and I thought Reid would at least not cringe at the thought of eating one or two.

    I will not lie; I got to the car and dug in. The chocolate bar was steaming with sublimation in the hot car and I enjoyed the heck out of every bite of it. When I returned home I put them in the freezer and left it at that. When Reid came home he was having a fit about having to watch TV commercials that day at work. We don’t have cable so we have forgotten about commercials (and I’m pretty sure they’ve gotten dumber since the last time they were forced on me, but that’s a story for another day). He described one commercial he had seen to me through gritted teeth. It was a commercial for some kind of metabolism booster that allows you to eat whatever you want regardless of calories or nutrition. You shake this substance on hamburgers or ice cream and it makes you look like the skinny girls in the commercial, dancing around in their bikinis.

    Then he saw Weight Watchers ice cream bars in the freezer. “I bet these aren’t even ice cream, they’re probably completely synthetic,” says he. When we looked at the label, he wasn’t ALL wrong.

    That’s when we, here at the Miller/Haseman Estate (HA!) decided that while something may be edible it might not be digestible. He learned in microbiology and passed his knowledge on to me that there are many “food” items we ingest every day that our bodies look at and say “dafuq?” then stores in fatty tissue if it ever has need of the foreign substance. Our culture in America tends to guide us toward the quick fix, the fast, and the easy, which leaves the wholesome and nutritious forgotten in the dusty cobwebs of our minds. Our society has become dependent on processed foods. They are an illusion of nutrition that lists claims such as, low-carb, no added sugar, high-protein, high-fiber, vitamin fortified etc. But when you take a look at the label you see words like “Polydextrose,” “Azodicarbonamide,” and “Natamycin.”

    Now, this has turned into a project that I have taken on: making EVERYTHING from scratch (almost). When we go to the grocery store we pick up items, look at them and I say, “I could make that.” And then… get this… I actually DO make it.

    I will admit that it definitely helps that I have an open schedule (especially this summer) in which to lull away the day. It has been nice to have something to fill my time that will benefit my creativity, deductive reasoning skills and my body all in one shot. (Side note: What’s that saying? Kill two birds with one stone. My mom always found this barbaric and changed it to feed two birds with one seed. End side note).

    Regardless of your schedule I believe it is possible to cut out most of this junk from our diets.

    Why cut out processed foods:

    1. Like I said before, processed foods are an illusion of nutrition.
    2. Healthier body, mind and soul… and a foundation for continued health in later life.
    3. Michael Pollan says it best when he explains food should be the product of nature, not the product of industry.
    4. Variety: 90% of processed food is estimated to be a derivative of corn or soy (Food, Inc.)
    5. Plain and simple, common sense: I’d like to know (and have the ability to pronounce) what I’m putting in to fuel my body, wouldn’t you?

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    I would love to hear from you. What do you do to cut back on processed foods?

    Eating Real Food

    It was June, it was HOT and I needed something with the word ice in it desperately to cool me down. I pulled into the local grocery store, headed for the frozen food section, relished in the cold air, and searched for that special treat. It came down to three things for me: price, flavor and whether or not my boyfriend would want to eat it too (he has a Who-sized sweet-tooth gene). I grabbed a 12-pack of Weight-Watchers dark-chocolate-dipped raspberry ice cream bars. They sounded heavenly, they were the cheapest for the number of bars and I thought Reid would at least not cringe at the thought of eating one or two.

    I will not lie; I got to the car and dug in. The chocolate bar was steaming with sublimation in the hot car and I enjoyed the heck out of every bite of it. When I returned home I put them in the freezer and left it at that. When Reid came home he was having a fit about having to watch TV commercials that day at work. We don’t have cable so we have forgotten about commercials (and I’m pretty sure they’ve gotten dumber since the last time they were forced on me, but that’s a story for another day). He described one commercial he had seen to me through gritted teeth. It was a commercial for some kind of metabolism booster that allows you to eat whatever you want regardless of calories or nutrition. You shake this substance on hamburgers or ice cream and it makes you look like the skinny girls in the commercial, dancing around in their bikinis.


    Then he saw Weight Watchers ice cream bars in the freezer. “I bet these aren’t even ice cream, they’re probably completely synthetic,” says he. When we looked at the label, he wasn’t ALL wrong.


    That’s when we, here at the Miller/Haseman Estate (HA!) decided that while something may be edible it might not be digestible. He learned in microbiology and passed his knowledge on to me that there are many “food” items we ingest every day that our bodies look at and say “dafuq?” then stores in fatty tissue if it ever has need of the foreign substance. Our culture in America tends to guide us toward the quick fix, the fast, and the easy, which leaves the wholesome and nutritious forgotten in the dusty cobwebs of our minds. Our society has become dependent on processed foods. They are an illusion of nutrition that lists claims such as, low-carb, no added sugar, high-protein, high-fiber, vitamin fortified etc. But when you take a look at the label you see words like “Polydextrose,” “Azodicarbonamide,” and “Natamycin.”


     


    Now, this has turned into a project that I have taken on: making EVERYTHING from scratch (almost). When we go to the grocery store we pick up items, look at them and I say, “I could make that.” And then… get this… I actually DO make it.

    I will admit that it definitely helps that I have an open schedule (especially this summer) in which to lull away the day. It has been nice to have something to fill my time that will benefit my creativity, deductive reasoning skills and my body all in one shot. (Side note: What’s that saying? Kill two birds with one stone. My mom always found this barbaric and changed it to feed two birds with one seed. End side note).

    Regardless of your schedule I believe it is possible to cut out most of this junk from our diets.

    Why cut out processed foods:

    1. Like I said before, processed foods are an illusion of nutrition.
    2. Healthier body, mind and soul… and a foundation for continued health in later life.
    3. Michael Pollan says it best when he explains food should be the product of nature, not the product of industry.
    4. Variety: 90% of processed food is estimated to be a derivative of corn or soy (Food, Inc.)
    5. Plain and simple, common sense: I’d like to know (and have the ability to pronounce) what I’m putting in to fuel my body, wouldn’t you?


    I would love to hear from you. What do you do to cut back on processed foods?

    Solving the Magic Cube: Helpful Steps and Tips

    The Rubik’s cube was invented by Ernő Rubik in 1974, taking inspiration from smoothed pebbles in the Danube River, in order to help explain three-dimensional geometry. I started doing the Rubik’s cube when I was in Germany in 2007. I was on a four or five hour train ride to Berlin from Oldenburg and had time to kill. A friend of mine could do it so she gave me a few hints to start me on my way. My fastest time is 53 seconds (which is a far cry from the world record) but it’s been ages since I had the ability to work it that fast. Recently, I only pull the cube out on occasion to impress people at parties or just to exercise my brain. Now I’m ready to lay some knowledge down for you to pick up.

    Stage 1: The Terminology

    Middle Pieces

    The middle pieces never move.  The cube will always appear the same when solved because the blue side will never touch the green side, the white side will never touch the yellow side and the red side will never touch the orange side (See Figure 1).

     
    Figure 1. The middle pieces are indicated with red white and blue. These pieces never move.


    Edge Pieces

    The Edge pieces are the 12 pieces that form the sides of each square on each side.  They have two colors and you can move these pieces (See Figure 2).

     
    Figure 2. The edge piece is indicated by red and blue. There are 12 of these moving pieces.

    Corner Pieces

    The corner pieces are the 8 pieces that form the corners of the square on each side.  They have three colors and you can move these pieces (See Figure 3).

     
    Figure 3. The corner piece is indicated by the red, blue and white. There are eight of these moving pieces.


    Up, Down, Right, Left, Front, Back and Inverted Turns

    For the sake of leaving confusion out of the equation the Up side will always refer to the white side, and the Down side will be yellow.  Up and Down can also be commands for turning the Up or Down side, respectively.  Right, Left, Front and Back refer to the side the user turns.  There will be no color associated with right, left, front or back because this changes as we progress.  All turns should be assumed to be clockwise unless indicated by an “i,” which represents an inverted turn or a counterclockwise turn. All turns indicated are a quarter of a full turn unless otherwise stated.  A full turn returns the side to its original position; a half turn rotates the side 90 degrees.

    Middle Row

    The middle row will always refer to the band of non-Up, non-Down side colors: blue, red, green, and orange.  It is the collection of edge and middle pieces in the middle of the Rubik’s cube (See Figure 4).

     
    Figure 4. The middle row is this band of edge and middle pieces.


    Position

    This is where the piece belongs in relationship to the cube.  For example the orange/green/white corner piece belongs in the corner where the orange green and white sides of the cube meet (See Figure 5).  Therefore a piece can be in the correct position.  This also refers to whether or not the colors are correctly aligned based on the colors of the middle pieces, which again don’t move (See Figure 6).  Therefore, the colors can be in the correct position as well.

     
    Figure 5. This piece is in the correct position.


     
    Figure 6. These colors are in the correct position.


    Other Helpful Information

    Specific examples will be used throughout this post in order to better explain the concept.  Because the Rubik’s cube is so dynamic, the one you are working on will most likely appear completely different from the one discussed.  The point is to see the pattern presented here, focus on the end result and don’t get bogged down with details.

    Stage 2: The Completion

    Step 1 – Solving the Down Cross

    The first two steps are the most important and the most difficult things you must do to solve the Rubik’s Cube.  Start by solving the Down cross.  As stated before in the Terminology section, the Down side always refers to the yellow side and the middle piece will never move from its current location.

    Take your Rubik’s Cube and hold it so the side with the yellow square in the center (the Down side) is facing up.  Locate on the cube all of the other edge pieces with yellow on them (ignore the yellow corner pieces for now).  Find the orange and yellow edge piece and turn the sides until the piece is on the edge of the orange and white sides.  Turn the Up side (the White side) one quarter turn, invert turn the left side and turn the right side.  Now invert-turn the orange side.  If you have followed the instructions, the yellow/orange edge piece should be lined up on the yellow/orange side (See Figure 7).

    Figure 7. The yellow/orange edge piece is in the yellow/orange position.


    For the rest of the edge pieces, you will have to use these steps, logic and reason to keep the yellow/orange edge piece in its place and solve for the other three edge pieces.  The end product should look something like Figure 8.

    Figure 8. The Down cross is complete. The edge pieces are in the correct position.


    Step 2 – Filling in the Corners

    Now hold your completed Down cross so it faces up.  Locate the yellow corner pieces.  Find the yellow/red/blue piece and line it up on the cube so that it is in the white/blue/red corner position (See Diagram 1).

    If the yellow side of the corner piece is on the blue side of the cube, i-turn the Up side, i-turn the right side, turn the Up side, turn the right side (See Diagram 1).

    Diagram 1. This shows the sequence necessary to solve for the corners on the Down side with the yellow side of the yellow/red/blue corner piece starting on the blue side of the cube.


    If the yellow side of the corner piece is on the red side of the cube, turn the Up side, turn the Left side, i-turn the Up side, i-turn the Left side (See Diagram 2).

    Diagram 2. This shows the sequence necessary to solve for the corners on the Down side with the yellow side of the yellow/red/blue corner piece starting on the red side of the cube.


    If the yellow side of the corner piece is on the white side of the cube, you must manipulate the cube so that it is in one of the above positions.  Continue following these steps and manipulating the cube until the other three yellow corner pieces are solved and the Down side is complete (See Figure 9).

     
    Figure 9. The Down side is complete. Notice the “T” shape on all sides of the cube.


    Step 3 – Working Out the Middle Row

    The next thing to do is to solve for the four edge pieces in the middle row.  Hold the cube so that the Up side faces up and locate the four-listed edge pieces.  Start by finding the red/blue edge piece.

    If the red side of the edge piece is on the Up side of the cube, line up the blue side of the edge piece with the blue side of the cube.  Hold the cube so that the red side is facing you, i-turn Up, i-turn Front, turn Up, turn Front, turn Up, turn Right, i-turn Up, i-turn Right (See Diagram 3).

     
    Diagram 3. This shows the sequence necessary to complete the middle row with the red side of the edge piece on the Up side of the cube as a starting point.


    If the blue side of the edge piece is on the Up side of the cube, line up the red side of the edge piece with the red side of the cube.  Hold the cube so that the red side is facing you, turn Up, turn Right, i-turn Up, i-turn Right, i-turn Up, i-turn Front, turn Up, turn Front (See Diagram 4)

     
    Diagram 4. This shows the sequence necessary to complete the middle row with the blue side of the edge piece on the Up side of the cube as a starting point.


    If the blue side of the edge piece is on the red side of the cube and the red side of the edge piece is on the blue side of the cube (in other words the edge piece is in the right position on the middle row but the colors are wrong) then perform either of the above maneuvers to free the piece.  Then line it up according to the above instructions and follow the method again.

    Find the rest of the middle row pieces and do the above maneuvers to complete the middle row until your cube looks like Figure 10.

     
    Figure 10. The middle row is complete.


    Step 4 – Solving the Up Cross

    If your cube looks like Figure 11, hold the cube so that the Up side is up and in the same position as it is in Figure 11.  Turn Front, turn Right, turn Up, i-turn right, i-turn Up, i-turn front (See Diagram 5).

    Figure 11. This shows one starting position for solving the Up cross.


    If your cube looks like Figure 12, hold the cube so that the Up side is up and in the same position as it is in Figure 12.  Turn Front, turn Right, turn Up, i-turn right, i-turn Up, i-turn front (See Diagram 5).

    Figure 12. This shows one starting position for solving the Up cross.


     
    Diagram 5. This shows the sequence necessary to complete the Up cross starting with any position.


    Once your cube has an Up cross you will have to position the edge pieces so that the colors line up with the correct side.  To do this line up the Up side so that only one color is in the correct position.  This will not work if more than one color is in the correct position (if all four edge pieces and colors are already in the correct position skip to step 5).

    Hold the cube so that the correctly aligned color is facing you (See Figure 13).  Turn Up, turn Right, turn Up, i-turn Right, turn Up, turn Right, turn Up, turn Up, i-turn Right (See Diagram 6).  Then repeat this sequence until all colors in the Up cross line up with the corresponding side and your cube looks like Figure 14.

     
    Figure 13. This shows the correct way to hold the Rubik’s cube before finishing the Up cross.


     
    Diagram 6. This shows the sequence necessary to complete the Up cross. Every other turn is a clockwise Up side turn with the last showing two turns. The Right side turns alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise starting with clockwise.


     
    Figure 14. This shows the completed Up cross with all colors and pieces in the correct positions.

    Step 5 – Positioning the Corners

    Look at all the Up side corner pieces.  Decide if any of the corner pieces are in the correct position.  If no pieces are in the correct position hold the cube so the Up side is up; it doesn’t matter which side faces you.  Turn Up, turn Right, i-turn Up, i-turn Left, turn Up, i-turn Right, i-turn Up, turn Left (See Diagram 7).

    Diagram 7. This shows the sequence necessary to position the corners properly. The outcome shown in the diagram is not the only outcome possible, there are many outcomes.


    Re-evaluate the cube.  Are any of the corner pieces in the correct position?  If none are, repeat the above sequence until at least one corner piece is in the correct position.

    When one corner piece is in the correct position hold the cube so that Up side is up and the piece that is in the correct position is in the lower right hand corner of the cube (See Figure 15 ).  Repeat the above sequence.  Check to see if all the corner pieces are in the correct positions.  Do the sequence until they all are.

     
    Figure 15. This shows the correct position for a corner piece and the way to hold the cube before positioning the remaining three corner pieces.


    Step 6 – The Big Finish

    Look at the Up side and the corner pieces.  Are any of the colors of the corner pieces in the correct position?

    If none are it does not matter how you hold the cube to do this sequence.  If one of the corner pieces does have it’s colors in the correct position start by holding the cube with the Up side facing up and that piece in the lower right hand corner of the Up side (See Figure 16).

     
    Figure 16. This shows the proper way to hold the cube before completing the cube if one corner piece has the colors in the correct position.


    There are two ways for two corner pieces to appear on the cube with the colors in the correct position.  The first way is shown in Figure 17 and should be held as Figure 17 appears.

     
    Figure 17. This shows the correct way to hold a Rubik’s cube before finishing the cube when two corner pieces have the colors in the proper position in the shown arrangement.


    The second is shown in Figure 18 and should be held as Figure 18 appears.

     
    Figure 18. This shows the correct way to hold a Rubik’s cube before finishing the cube when the corner pieces have the colors in the proper position in the shown arrangement.


    This final step is easy to get lost in, so PAY ATTENTION to the colors.

    Start by turning the Up side.  This is the sequence: i-turn Right, i-turn Down, turn Right, turn Down (See Diagram 8).  Repeat this sequence until the white edge piece and the white corner piece line up and they are on the Up side of the cube.

    Diagram 8. This shows the sequence necessary to complete the Rubik’s cube. This particular sequence is sometimes repeated a number of times, other times only one time will be necessary.


    Then turn the Up side again and repeat the above method until the Up side is completed.  If everything worked out nicely your cube may need a few turns to get the rows lined up, but it should be complete and look like Figure 19.

     
    Figure 19. This shows a solved Rubik’s cube. All color sides are completed.

    Stage 3:  The Tips and Techniques

    Seeing the Big Picture

    Solving a Rubik’s Cube is about noticing patterns and learning how to manipulate the changing sides so that the result is what you want.  You will never solve the same Rubik’s cube twice.  It may be the same device but the colors will never be scrambled in the same order.  Finally, keeping track of which step you’re on and knowing how to go back to where you made the mistake is key.  Pay attention to the way the cube changes when you turn a side.

    Decreasing Your Time

    There are many ways to decrease your time.  The best way is to practice; the more you do the cube the more likely you are to be able to solve it and to solve it fast.  Also when you practice you learn about the dynamics of the cube, how it changes, why certain maneuvers work, etc.  The more you know about the cube the more likely you will be able to skip steps or do more than one step at a time.

    Alternative Method

    The above method is meant for beginners.  Once you have been playing around with the cube for a while you begin to discover new ways to complete it.  The following way does not go into as much detail as the above method because it is meant for those who are familiar with the movements of the cube.

    Start by solving the orange/green/yellow 2x2x2 cube.  Then solve the red/green/orange/yellow 3x2x2 box.  Then add the blue side until you have a 3x3x2 box.  Finish by solving the white side in the same way you would solve in the beginner’s method.

    Other fun ideas include solving the cube with flowers on each side like in Figure 20, and mixing up one cube and trying to match it using another cube.

     
    Figure 20. This represents one of many other fun ways to solve the Rubik’s cube.

    Solving the Magic Cube: Helpful Steps and Tips

    The Rubik’s cube was invented by Ernő Rubik in 1974, taking inspiration from smoothed pebbles in the Danube River, in order to help explain three-dimensional geometry. I started doing the Rubik’s cube when I was in Germany in 2007. I was on a four or five hour train ride to Berlin from Oldenburg and had time to kill. A friend of mine could do it so she gave me a few hints to start me on my way. My fastest time is 53 seconds (which is a far cry from the world record) but it’s been ages since I had the ability to work it that fast. Recently, I only pull the cube out on occasion to impress people at parties or just to exercise my brain. Now I’m ready to lay some knowledge down for you to pick up.

    Stage 1: The Terminology

    Middle Pieces

    The middle pieces never move.  The cube will always appear the same when solved because the blue side will never touch the green side, the white side will never touch the yellow side and the red side will never touch the orange side (See Figure 1).

    Figure 1. The middle pieces are indicated with red white and blue. These pieces never move.

    Edge Pieces

    The Edge pieces are the 12 pieces that form the sides of each square on each side.  They have two colors and you can move these pieces (See Figure 2).

    Figure 2. The edge piece is indicated by red and blue. There are 12 of these moving pieces.

    Corner Pieces

    The corner pieces are the 8 pieces that form the corners of the square on each side.  They have three colors and you can move these pieces (See Figure 3).

    Figure 3. The corner piece is indicated by the red, blue and white. There are eight of these moving pieces.

    Up, Down, Right, Left, Front, Back and Inverted Turns

    For the sake of leaving confusion out of the equation the Up side will always refer to the white side, and the Down side will be yellow.  Up and Down can also be commands for turning the Up or Down side, respectively.  Right, Left, Front and Back refer to the side the user turns.  There will be no color associated with right, left, front or back because this changes as we progress.  All turns should be assumed to be clockwise unless indicated by an “i,” which represents an inverted turn or a counterclockwise turn. All turns indicated are a quarter of a full turn unless otherwise stated.  A full turn returns the side to its original position; a half turn rotates the side 90 degrees.

    Middle Row

    The middle row will always refer to the band of non-Up, non-Down side colors: blue, red, green, and orange.  It is the collection of edge and middle pieces in the middle of the Rubik’s cube (See Figure 4).

    Figure 4. The middle row is this band of edge and middle pieces.

    Position

    This is where the piece belongs in relationship to the cube.  For example the orange/green/white corner piece belongs in the corner where the orange green and white sides of the cube meet (See Figure 5).  Therefore a piece can be in the correct position.  This also refers to whether or not the colors are correctly aligned based on the colors of the middle pieces, which again don’t move (See Figure 6).  Therefore, the colors can be in the correct position as well.

    Figure 5. This piece is in the correct position.

    Figure 6. These colors are in the correct position.

    Other Helpful Information

    Specific examples will be used throughout this post in order to better explain the concept.  Because the Rubik’s cube is so dynamic, the one you are working on will most likely appear completely different from the one discussed.  The point is to see the pattern presented here, focus on the end result and don’t get bogged down with details.

    Stage 2: The Completion

    Step 1 – Solving the Down Cross

    The first two steps are the most important and the most difficult things you must do to solve the Rubik’s Cube.  Start by solving the Down cross.  As stated before in the Terminology section, the Down side always refers to the yellow side and the middle piece will never move from its current location.

    Take your Rubik’s Cube and hold it so the side with the yellow square in the center (the Down side) is facing up.  Locate on the cube all of the other edge pieces with yellow on them (ignore the yellow corner pieces for now).  Find the orange and yellow edge piece and turn the sides until the piece is on the edge of the orange and white sides.  Turn the Up side (the White side) one quarter turn, invert turn the left side and turn the right side.  Now invert-turn the orange side.  If you have followed the instructions, the yellow/orange edge piece should be lined up on the yellow/orange side (See Figure 7).

    Figure 7. The yellow/orange edge piece is in the yellow/orange position.

    For the rest of the edge pieces, you will have to use these steps, logic and reason to keep the yellow/orange edge piece in its place and solve for the other three edge pieces.  The end product should look something like Figure 8.

    Figure 8. The Down cross is complete. The edge pieces are in the correct position.

    Step 2 – Filling in the Corners

    Now hold your completed Down cross so it faces up.  Locate the yellow corner pieces.  Find the yellow/red/blue piece and line it up on the cube so that it is in the white/blue/red corner position (See Diagram 1).

    If the yellow side of the corner piece is on the blue side of the cube, i-turn the Up side, i-turn the right side, turn the Up side, turn the right side (See Diagram 1).

    Diagram 1. This shows the sequence necessary to solve for the corners on the Down side with the yellow side of the yellow/red/blue corner piece starting on the blue side of the cube.

    If the yellow side of the corner piece is on the red side of the cube, turn the Up side, turn the Left side, i-turn the Up side, i-turn the Left side (See Diagram 2).

    Diagram 2. This shows the sequence necessary to solve for the corners on the Down side with the yellow side of the yellow/red/blue corner piece starting on the red side of the cube.

    If the yellow side of the corner piece is on the white side of the cube, you must manipulate the cube so that it is in one of the above positions.  Continue following these steps and manipulating the cube until the other three yellow corner pieces are solved and the Down side is complete (See Figure 9).


    Figure 9. The Down side is complete. Notice the “T” shape on all sides of the cube.

    Step 3 – Working Out the Middle Row

    The next thing to do is to solve for the four edge pieces in the middle row.  Hold the cube so that the Up side faces up and locate the four-listed edge pieces.  Start by finding the red/blue edge piece.

    If the red side of the edge piece is on the Up side of the cube, line up the blue side of the edge piece with the blue side of the cube.  Hold the cube so that the red side is facing you, i-turn Up, i-turn Front, turn Up, turn Front, turn Up, turn Right, i-turn Up, i-turn Right (See Diagram 3).

    Diagram 3. This shows the sequence necessary to complete the middle row with the red side of the edge piece on the Up side of the cube as a starting point.

    If the blue side of the edge piece is on the Up side of the cube, line up the red side of the edge piece with the red side of the cube.  Hold the cube so that the red side is facing you, turn Up, turn Right, i-turn Up, i-turn Right, i-turn Up, i-turn Front, turn Up, turn Front (See Diagram 4)

    Diagram 4. This shows the sequence necessary to complete the middle row with the blue side of the edge piece on the Up side of the cube as a starting point.

    If the blue side of the edge piece is on the red side of the cube and the red side of the edge piece is on the blue side of the cube (in other words the edge piece is in the right position on the middle row but the colors are wrong) then perform either of the above maneuvers to free the piece.  Then line it up according to the above instructions and follow the method again.

    Find the rest of the middle row pieces and do the above maneuvers to complete the middle row until your cube looks like Figure 10.


    Figure 10. The middle row is complete.

    Step 4 – Solving the Up Cross

    If your cube looks like Figure 11, hold the cube so that the Up side is up and in the same position as it is in Figure 11.  Turn Front, turn Right, turn Up, i-turn right, i-turn Up, i-turn front (See Diagram 5).

    Figure 11. This shows one starting position for solving the Up cross.

    If your cube looks like Figure 12, hold the cube so that the Up side is up and in the same position as it is in Figure 12.  Turn Front, turn Right, turn Up, i-turn right, i-turn Up, i-turn front (See Diagram 5).

    Figure 12. This shows one starting position for solving the Up cross.

    Diagram 5. This shows the sequence necessary to complete the Up cross starting with any position.

    Once your cube has an Up cross you will have to position the edge pieces so that the colors line up with the correct side.  To do this line up the Up side so that only one color is in the correct position.  This will not work if more than one color is in the correct position (if all four edge pieces and colors are already in the correct position skip to step 5).

    Hold the cube so that the correctly aligned color is facing you (See Figure 13).  Turn Up, turn Right, turn Up, i-turn Right, turn Up, turn Right, turn Up, turn Up, i-turn Right (See Diagram 6).  Then repeat this sequence until all colors in the Up cross line up with the corresponding side and your cube looks like Figure 14.

    Figure 13. This shows the correct way to hold the Rubik’s cube before finishing the Up cross.

    Diagram 6. This shows the sequence necessary to complete the Up cross. Every other turn is a clockwise Up side turn with the last showing two turns. The Right side turns alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise starting with clockwise.


    Figure 14. This shows the completed Up cross with all colors and pieces in the correct positions.

    Step 5 – Positioning the Corners

    Look at all the Up side corner pieces.  Decide if any of the corner pieces are in the correct position.  If no pieces are in the correct position hold the cube so the Up side is up; it doesn’t matter which side faces you.  Turn Up, turn Right, i-turn Up, i-turn Left, turn Up, i-turn Right, i-turn Up, turn Left (See Diagram 7).

    Diagram 7. This shows the sequence necessary to position the corners properly. The outcome shown in the diagram is not the only outcome possible, there are many outcomes.

    Re-evaluate the cube.  Are any of the corner pieces in the correct position?  If none are, repeat the above sequence until at least one corner piece is in the correct position.

    When one corner piece is in the correct position hold the cube so that Up side is up and the piece that is in the correct position is in the lower right hand corner of the cube (See Figure 15 ).  Repeat the above sequence.  Check to see if all the corner pieces are in the correct positions.  Do the sequence until they all are.

    Figure 15. This shows the correct position for a corner piece and the way to hold the cube before positioning the remaining three corner pieces.

    Step 6 – The Big Finish

    Look at the Up side and the corner pieces.  Are any of the colors of the corner pieces in the correct position?

    If none are it does not matter how you hold the cube to do this sequence.  If one of the corner pieces does have it’s colors in the correct position start by holding the cube with the Up side facing up and that piece in the lower right hand corner of the Up side (See Figure 16).

    Figure 16. This shows the proper way to hold the cube before completing the cube if one corner piece has the colors in the correct position.

    There are two ways for two corner pieces to appear on the cube with the colors in the correct position.  The first way is shown in Figure 17 and should be held as Figure 17 appears.

    Figure 17. This shows the correct way to hold a Rubik’s cube before finishing the cube when two corner pieces have the colors in the proper position in the shown arrangement.

    The second is shown in Figure 18 and should be held as Figure 18 appears.

    Figure 18. This shows the correct way to hold a Rubik’s cube before finishing the cube when the corner pieces have the colors in the proper position in the shown arrangement.

    This final step is easy to get lost in, so PAY ATTENTION to the colors.

    Start by turning the Up side.  This is the sequence: i-turn Right, i-turn Down, turn Right, turn Down (See Diagram 8).  Repeat this sequence until the white edge piece and the white corner piece line up and they are on the Up side of the cube.

    Diagram 8. This shows the sequence necessary to complete the Rubik’s cube. This particular sequence is sometimes repeated a number of times, other times only one time will be necessary.

    Then turn the Up side again and repeat the above method until the Up side is completed.  If everything worked out nicely your cube may need a few turns to get the rows lined up, but it should be complete and look like Figure 19.


    Figure 19. This shows a solved Rubik’s cube. All color sides are completed.

    Stage 3:  The Tips and Techniques

    Seeing the Big Picture

    Solving a Rubik’s Cube is about noticing patterns and learning how to manipulate the changing sides so that the result is what you want.  You will never solve the same Rubik’s cube twice.  It may be the same device but the colors will never be scrambled in the same order.  Finally, keeping track of which step you’re on and knowing how to go back to where you made the mistake is key.  Pay attention to the way the cube changes when you turn a side.

    Decreasing Your Time

    There are many ways to decrease your time.  The best way is to practice; the more you do the cube the more likely you are to be able to solve it and to solve it fast.  Also when you practice you learn about the dynamics of the cube, how it changes, why certain maneuvers work, etc.  The more you know about the cube the more likely you will be able to skip steps or do more than one step at a time.

    Alternative Method

    The above method is meant for beginners.  Once you have been playing around with the cube for a while you begin to discover new ways to complete it.  The following way does not go into as much detail as the above method because it is meant for those who are familiar with the movements of the cube.

    Start by solving the orange/green/yellow 2x2x2 cube.  Then solve the red/green/orange/yellow 3x2x2 box.  Then add the blue side until you have a 3x3x2 box.  Finish by solving the white side in the same way you would solve in the beginner’s method.

    Other fun ideas include solving the cube with flowers on each side like in Figure 20, and mixing up one cube and trying to match it using another cube.

    Figure 20. This represents one of many other fun ways to solve the Rubik’s cube.

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    The Mandrake: Root of All Evil or Apple of Love

    I took a course called Plants and Civilization at Colorado State University in the spring of 2011. It was based around the book Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan and is where I think my love of plants became truly solidified. I wrote this piece for my final paper and am very proud of it so I now have it published on the interweb for those who, like me, love plants and how they relate to humans.

    Throughout history the mandrake has been given a reputation as both sacred and sinister in many aspects of human culture.  Evidence of both views can be found in language, uses and the rituals surrounding it.  The words people used to describe this plant include the ancient Greek word, “Love apples,” and the Arabic word, “Devil’s testicles;” (Thompson, 1968) other words in other cultures depended on the sex, use and part of the plant a person is referred to (Zarcone, 2005).  Various reasons are given for why this plant became a thing to cherish and a thing to fear; the mandrake was loved because it was considered an aphrodisiac and could increase fertility but it was also distressing due to it’s magic and it’s poison (Bennett, 1991).

    The mandrake is a perennial herb and member to a family that includes both foul and beneficial plants: the Solanaceae family (Simoons, 1998).  Some relatives include edible plants such as the potato and the tomato and poisonous plants like deadly nightshade. (Simoons, 1998).  The substances that make up a mandrake are also conflicting.  All mandrake species contain up to 0.4% alkaloids (Rätsch 1992).  The chief active ingredient is scopolamine, a hallucinogen and a poison (Bennett, 1991).  Another major substance in mandrakes is atropine, which is found in highest levels in the roots of flowering mandrake and is known to cause the pupil dilation and got it’s name from Atropos, one of three Greek Fates who chose how a person would die (Hanus et al., 2007).  The heavy, fruity, provocative odor of the fruit of a mandrake, which is mentioned in a love poem in the Christian Bible, comes from over 100 different components including ethyl butyrate, hexanol and hexyl acetate (Hanus et al., 2005).

    There were many rituals surrounding the collection of a mandrake, some due to the evils associated with the plant, others due to the good.  The evil associations begin in Europe where it was believed that mandrakes only grew beneath the gallows from the matter of the hanged person (Simoons, 1998).  Daleschamps went so far as to say that mandrakes only were produced from the sperm of hanged men or men crushed on a wheel but not from women because “female sperm cannot be prolific on its own” (Zarcone, 2005).  In Iran, it was believed that the mandrake was produced from the blood of a god or primeval giant that was killed violently (Zarcone, 2005).  Because of these beliefs, one rule for collection stated that mandrakes could only be collected beneath gallows or at crossroads, especially where suicide was involved (Simoons, 1998).

    New rules and formulas for digging up mandrakes began popping up in various areas of the world; the most common ritual involved the use of a dog.  In Roman, Greek, Persian and Turkish there are various forms of words that refer to the mandrake and mean human plant (Simoons, 1998) because it is thought to look like a man due to the thick, fleshy root’s resemblance to the human-form (Beahm, 2005), and the rootlets give the impression of hair for a beard (Zarcone, 2005).  Many cultures believed that the mandrake was a living spirit that would shriek when uprooted killing the digger (Rätsch, 1992).  In a Persian engraving a man is seen wearing a turban to protect his ears and pulling up a mandrake with the assistance of a dog (Zarcone, 2005) because dogs were often employed to pull up the roots.  The owner of the dog would starve the dog for a few days then they would tie a string between the dog and the plant and lure the dog with food (Thompson, 1968).  The dog would pull up the plant and die from the shriek; the digger would be safe to collect the mandrake (Rätsch, 1992).  In South Europe and Southwest Asia, the dog’s that were used to pull up mandrakes were sometimes honored, and the bodies were burned (Simoons, 1998).  If one wanted to avoid the loss of a dog when digging the plant, a pole was used instead.  If you stuck the pole deeply in the ground and bent it before tying a string between its end and the mandrake, the pole would pull the mandrake from the ground as it righted itself (Zarcone, 2005).

    Some good rituals involved circles, dancing and love poems.  The circles were used both to prevent the mandrake from fleeing and to mark possession over the mandrake (Simoons, 1998).  One rule said that the herbalist must surround the mandrake when trying to collect it or it will run away (Zarcone, 2005).  Theophrastus said that three circles should be drawn around the plant with a sword (Simoons, 1998).  One person should face west and cut the mandrake from the ground while the other dances around it speaking of love (Simoons, 1998).  In Romania, girls would collect mandrake in the nude, they would then prostrate themselves three times toward the east and walk around the plant three times while reciting magic formulas, each of these actions were meant to increase fertility (Simoons, 1998).

    Other rituals stated suitable times for collection including: midnight, on Fridays before sunrise, or on Tuesdays in December or March when the sun is shining (Simoons, 1998).  The collection of mandrake in Romania often required the assistance of a sorceress, or “old wise woman” and was conducted in secret at night when there was a full moon (Simoons, 1998).  Another ritual stated that to reveal the roots, or feet and hands of the mandrake, one must use an ivory spade (Zarcone, 2005).

    Mandrakes were heavily traded throughout Europe (Simoons, 1998).  The plant was rare and it was perilous to collect, therefore it was often extremely expensive (Rätsch, 1992).  The plants were so important to families that they were often passed down through wills (Simoons, 1998).  Mandrakes were carved to render them more lifelike, increase their value and to fool barren women who were eager to buy them (Gordon, 1977).  Soon, many false mandrakes began to appear on the market: ginger, ginseng, May apple, orchids, celandine and the English mandrake; (Rätsch, 1992) bryony and deadly nightshade were most often used as fakes especially in Romania (Simoons, 1998).  Often the falsifier would go to great lengths to create a false mandrake: carving, pressing, and wet-molding (Simoons, 1998).  After creating a human shape, the counterfeit was placed in the ground to hide any bruises and imperfections with re-growth; (Simoons, 1998) this practice was exposed in 1567 (Gordon, 1977).  For the next hundred years misguided people still bought the counterfeits and herbalists continued to speak out against them (Gordon, 1977).  Why did people want mandrakes so badly that they’d spend a fortune on one, even a fake?

    Uses for the mandrake, both the noble and the criminal, are found in many cultures around the world.  One such use was as an aphrodisiac and a fertility boost, therefore witches in medieval Europe used them in love potions (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889).  Egyptians believed that the mandrake increased fertility (Rätsch, 1992).  Jewish people used to lay a mandrake under the bed to ensure conception (Simoons, 1998).  The possession of a mandrake meant many things for the owner especially awakened love and fertility (Rätsch, 1992).  In Persia if you gave a mandrake to a person of desire without their knowledge they would return your feelings (Simoons, 1998).  Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love was often called Mandragoritis, which means “she of the mandrake” (Simoons, 1998).  The plant was also often worn as an amulet for purity (Simoons, 1998).  In Romania the mandrake was used as a charm or talisman, in bath water for washing, and in food and drink as well as many other ways; these uses resulted in early marriage because young girls received more invitations, became better dancers and aroused passions in young men (Simoons, 1998).

    The Christian Bible mentions the word dudaïm twice, which nearly all scholars now believe to mean mandrakes (Thompson, 1968).  Genesis 30:14 states “During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the field and found mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah.  Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’” Rachel was having a hard time conceiving and wanted the mandrakes for fertility (Thompson, 1968).  In the Song of Solomon there is a love poem that says, “The mandrakes send out their fragrance, and at our door is every delicacy, both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my lover”  (Thompson, 1968).  The mandrake is also mentioned in six of William Shakespeare’s plays and was a common theme in many German and French novels of the Romantic period (Zarcone, 2005)

    In the Physiologus, or “Naturalist” bestiary of the medieval times there is a story called “On the Elephant.”  In the story there are two elephants, one male, one female.  They go off to the land of paradise and the female elephant tricks the male into eating some mandrake.  The female then becomes pregnant (Simoons, 1998).  The story is reminiscent of that of Adam and Eve in the Christian Bible with the mandrake representing the forbidden fruit of knowledge.  A story about an ancient king, Hermanos, states that the king, who had no children and was not attracted to women, asked a sage for advice.  The sage told him to wait for an astrologically opportune time to obtain a mandrake and put some semen on it to create a child by alchemy.  In the legend this is how the king had children (Simoons, 1998).

    The mandrake, when used as a protector was worn or kept safe rather than ingested (Simoons, 1998).  The possession of a mandrake could mean that good fortune would be found in both business and play, health, protection from spells and ghosts, divination would become possible and immortality would be within reach (Rätsch, 1992).  In Silesia, Thuringia and Bohemia, the mandrake was connected to hidden treasure (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889).  In Turkey, mandrake was used as a talisman to protect the owner against blows, stabs, and bullets (Simoons, 1998).  It was also believed that the owner could become invisible while wearing it (Simoons, 1998).  In Southern Slovakia people bathed their mandrake in milk, dried it carefully and watched over the chest it was kept in (Simoons, 1998).

    In both Germany and France, where the mandrake was a popular theme of many novels of the romantic period, the owner of a well cared for mandrake would not become impoverished (Simoons, 1998).  In both countries, people washed their mandrake regularly in water or red wine, clothed it in silk or velvet, fed it and gave it drink twice a day and stored it in an upholstered box (Simoons, 1998).  They also believed that money placed beside a planted mandrake would increase or double (Simoons, 1998).  Also in France, the mandrake was considered a special elf called a main de gloire (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889).  Whoever found one of these mains de gloire was to give him food everyday and he would bring good fortune otherwise the main de gloire would cause the finder to die (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889).  In Saintonge, Bay of Biscay, France, fisherman would wear necklaces and bracelets of mandrake to prevent accidents (Simoons, 1998).  In Germany the mandrake was made into little idles (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889) and were kept in sealed glass bottles because they were believed to be familiar spirits that would bring good fortune and prosperity to the household (Simoons, 1998).  But the magic of the mandrake was also feared.

    Due to the Christian fear of the mandrake the writers of the Bible when writing the Song of Solomon lists plants that are associated with the Virgin Mary: grapevines, apples, figs and pomegranates.  Mandrakes are decidedly not on the list because of their poison they are associated with poisonous women such as witches (Bennett, 1991).  Witches were those women who were learned in plant lore, the mandrake was a common ingredient in witches’ philters (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889) and ointments, which allowed witches to go on magical internal journeys (Rätsch, 1992).  Black witches practiced dark magic and white witches worked toward good, there were also half-hearted gray witches; (Gordon, 1977) the Christian Church oppressed these women equally.  In France in 1603 a woman was hanged for owning a mandrake and in Germany in 1630 three women were executed, also for possession; mandrakes were also burned by order of Franciscans (Simoons, 1998).  The mandrake was one of many plants that were dedicated to Hecate, the Greek goddess who taught magic.  Mandrake is sometimes called “Plant of Circe,” circaea, circaeum or circaeon, because Circe is one of Hecate’s two daughters (the other is Medea) who used magic brews to turn men into swine, as seen in the Odyssey by Homer (Gordon, 1977).  Another use for the mandrake was for medicine.

    The mandrake was used both as a useful, healing treatment and a vicious, harmful venom.  It was thought to be a cure-all by medieval naturalist who believed it could heal everything but death (Simoons, 1998).  The roots, fruits seeds and leaves were used variously for juices, wine, oil, ointment, plaster, pills, etc. (Simoons, 1998).  Mandrake was applied externally as a painkiller, both internally and externally to treat snakebites, and internally to treat fever (Simoons, 1998).  Plasters and poultices made of mandrake were used to reduce inflammation; other mandrake mixtures were used as eye medicine, and to treat tumors, abscesses, ulcers, wounds and gout (Simoons, 1998).  Mandrake was also used as an emetic to expel phlegm, bile, menstrua or embryo (Simoons, 1998).  St. Hildegard of Bingen believed that if you had a sore foot you should eat the foot of a mandrake, if your head ached, eat the head of the plant, for neck or back problems eating the neck or back of a mandrake would restore you, etc.  (Simoons, 1998).  In many cultures the mandrake was believed to take a disease from the owner (Simoons, 1998).  The mandrake could recover from the disease if it was not well cared for but it could also pass the disease on to the next owner (Simoons, 1998).

    The juice of the mandrake was used as an anti-inflammatory for the eyes and as a means to regulate the menstrual cycle (Zarcone, 2005).  According to Dioscorides, the mandrake could be used to treat insomnia and to reduce the sensitivity to pain (Zarcone, 2005).  The mandrake leaves shine brightly at night, because of this it was often associated with the moon and used to treat illnesses associated with the moon such as epilepsy and possession (lunacy) (Simoons, 1998).  In the book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, mandrakes are the only effective cure for “petrification.”  When Hogwarts students are petrified from the indirect glare of a basilisk (a giant serpent) they are taken to Madam Pomfrey.  She uses a potion made from sliced mandrakes to cure petrified students (Beahm, 2005).

    Mandrake was most commonly used as an anesthetic and a sleep agent.  The words mandros means “to sleep” and agora means “an object or substance” (Bennett, 1992).  In Roman texts, there is a place called the “Isle of Dreams,” the harbor city was called Sleep and the trees surrounding the place were poppies and mandragoras (Simoons, 1998).  In early Greek and Latin writings it is said that the mandrake was placed under the patient’s pillow to induce sleep, a concoction of the roots and dried fruit was made into sleeping pills, a mixture of mandrake with wine or vinegar was another sleep stimulator (Simoons, 1998).  Dioscorides said that the mandrake “would send people to sleep during medical procedures” (Zarcone, 2005).

    Simoons writes of three stories in which the drugging power of the mandrake is prominent.  Plato wrote the first of a ship captain who’s mutinous crew drugged him and took over.  A Roman soldier and author told the second story of a soldier named Maharbal who led his troops into Africa to end a rebellion.  Marharbal knew of the African’s fondness for wine and staged a minor skirmish before retreating.  He left baggage and some mandrake wine behind, which the Africans drank.  When all the Africans were asleep Marharbal returned and took them prisoner.  Polyaenus, a Macedonian who lived in Rome wrote the third story in which Caesar escaped his kidnappers using mandrake.  Caesar had been kidnapped by pirates and requested to send a message to his troops demanding ransom.  His soldiers brought many treasures, including mandrake wine, to barter for Caesar’s life.  The pirates drank the wine and fell asleep allowing Caesar to escape with all the treasures and his troops.  To contrast these healing medicinal uses there are also harmful medicinal uses or side-effects of usage.

    Symptoms from ingestion of a tincture in a 19th century study included pupil dilation, vision enlargement and confusion, exaggeration of sound, brain fullness, hysterical excitement (Simoons, 1998).  A Welsh saying states that a person who uproots a mandrake (black byrony) will die within a year, while groaning, raving or reciting prayers for having committed the offense.  (Simoons, 1998)  An Arabic belief was that sufficient quantities could bring elation and agitation to the point of insanity (Simoons, 1998).  A Persian belief was if you give an unaware person mandrake they would develop a violent passion.  If you add some mandrake to lemon juice or curdled milk the person will go insane (Simoons, 1998).  In Southern Slovakia they thought that if a mandrake were cut open while being dug up the digger would go insane (Simoons, 1998).  Even today in Romania some people believe the mandrake brings madness (Simoons, 1998).  Other symptoms include increased blood pressure, an increase or decrease in muscle tonus and a decrease in secretion activity like saliva and gastric juices (Hanus, 2007).

    From the time it was introduced to Dioscorides by the Greek goddess of discovery (Thiselton, 1889) to present day when the mandrake is still considered sacred among Bedouins of Israel (Rätsch, 2005), the mandrake has had it’s ups and downs in human culture.  The mandrake is the oldest known narcotic plant (Rushman, 1996).  The fruit was found in the tomb of Tut Ankh Amun (Gordon, 1977) meaning it was important to that Pharaoh.  The decline of the mandrake can be attributed to the availability of better painkillers and to the fact that the claims about its powers were never tested or confirmed (Simoons, 1998).  Phillip Miller discovered that the mandrake did not scream when pulled up (Gordon, 1977), dogs were no longer needed and the magic of the plant was lost.  Soon after his discovery the mandrake became a mere good luck charm (Gordon, 1977).  After the mandrake was removed from the English pharmacopoeia in 1746 it was never restored.  In modern medicine it is completely obsolete and considered only in folk medicine (Simoons, 1998).

    Today mandrakes are still found hanging on the walls in Palestinian houses, but the meaning is unknown.   Both the use of a dog and a pole to dig up a mandrake were used in Italy (Zarcone, 2005) and in various Germanic countries the pole method was used within the last century (Zarcone, 2005).  The only medical use for mandrake today is that it is found in many eye drops that are used to paralyze the eye muscle and dilate the pupil (Kramer, 2007).  The former magic and mystery surrounding the mandrake, which made it so popular in so many cultures, is now gone.  This may not prove the mandrake to be evil but it is certainly no longer useful or good.

    Literature Cited 

    Beahm, G.  (2005).  Fact Fiction and Folklore in Harry Potter’s World.  Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing Company Inc.  Pg. 185-186
    Bennett, J.  (1991).  Lilies of the hearth.  Toronto, Canada: Camden House Publishing.  Pg. 65-66 & 74
    Gordon, L.  (1977).  Green magic.  New York City, New York: The Viking Press.  Pg. 36, 50, 97-99 & 102
    Hanus, OL.,  Rezanka, T.,  Spizek, J.,  Dembitsky, VM.  (2005).  Substances isolated from the Mandragora species.  Phytochemistry, 66.20, 2408-2417
    Kramer, MJ.,  (2007).  Harry Potter’s Garden.  National Geographic, 212.2, 32
    Rätsch, C.  (1992).  The dictionary of sacred and magical plants, London, Great Britain: Prism Press.  Pg. 121-124
    Rushman, GB., Davies, NJH. Atkinson, RS., (1996). A short history of anesthesia: the first 150 years. Cornwall: Reed Educational and Professional Publishing LTD.
    Simoons, FJ.  (1998).  Plants of life, plants of death.  Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press.  Pg. 101-136
    Thiselton-Dyer, TF. (1889).  Folklore of plants.  New York City, New York: D. Appleton and Company.  Pg. 101, 198, 271, 317-318
    Thompson, CJS.  (1968).  The mystic mandrake.  New Hyde Park, New York: University Books
    Zarcone, T.  (2005).  The myth of the mandrake, the ‘plant-human’.  Diogenes, 52.3, 115-129

     

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    The Mandrake: Root of All Evil or Apple of Love

    I took a course called Plants and Civilization at Colorado State University in the spring of 2011. It was based around the book Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan and is where I think my love of plants became truly solidified. I wrote this piece for my final paper and am very proud of it so I now have it published on the interweb for those who, like me, love plants and how they relate to humans.


    Throughout history the mandrake has been given a reputation as both sacred and sinister in many aspects of human culture.  Evidence of both views can be found in language, uses and the rituals surrounding it.  The words people used to describe this plant include the ancient Greek word, “Love apples,” and the Arabic word, “Devil’s testicles;” (Thompson, 1968) other words in other cultures depended on the sex, use and part of the plant a person is referred to (Zarcone, 2005).  Various reasons are given for why this plant became a thing to cherish and a thing to fear; the mandrake was loved because it was considered an aphrodisiac and could increase fertility but it was also distressing due to it’s magic and it’s poison (Bennett, 1991).

    The mandrake is a perennial herb and member to a family that includes both foul and beneficial plants: the Solanaceae family (Simoons, 1998).  Some relatives include edible plants such as the potato and the tomato and poisonous plants like deadly nightshade. (Simoons, 1998).  The substances that make up a mandrake are also conflicting.  All mandrake species contain up to 0.4% alkaloids (Rätsch 1992).  The chief active ingredient is scopolamine, a hallucinogen and a poison (Bennett, 1991).  Another major substance in mandrakes is atropine, which is found in highest levels in the roots of flowering mandrake and is known to cause the pupil dilation and got it’s name from Atropos, one of three Greek Fates who chose how a person would die (Hanus et al., 2007).  The heavy, fruity, provocative odor of the fruit of a mandrake, which is mentioned in a love poem in the Christian Bible, comes from over 100 different components including ethyl butyrate, hexanol and hexyl acetate (Hanus et al., 2005).

     


    There were many rituals surrounding the collection of a mandrake, some due to the evils associated with the plant, others due to the good.  The evil associations begin in Europe where it was believed that mandrakes only grew beneath the gallows from the matter of the hanged person (Simoons, 1998).  Daleschamps went so far as to say that mandrakes only were produced from the sperm of hanged men or men crushed on a wheel but not from women because “female sperm cannot be prolific on its own” (Zarcone, 2005).  In Iran, it was believed that the mandrake was produced from the blood of a god or primeval giant that was killed violently (Zarcone, 2005).  Because of these beliefs, one rule for collection stated that mandrakes could only be collected beneath gallows or at crossroads, especially where suicide was involved (Simoons, 1998).

    New rules and formulas for digging up mandrakes began popping up in various areas of the world; the most common ritual involved the use of a dog.  In Roman, Greek, Persian and Turkish there are various forms of words that refer to the mandrake and mean human plant (Simoons, 1998) because it is thought to look like a man due to the thick, fleshy root’s resemblance to the human-form (Beahm, 2005), and the rootlets give the impression of hair for a beard (Zarcone, 2005).  Many cultures believed that the mandrake was a living spirit that would shriek when uprooted killing the digger (Rätsch, 1992).  In a Persian engraving a man is seen wearing a turban to protect his ears and pulling up a mandrake with the assistance of a dog (Zarcone, 2005) because dogs were often employed to pull up the roots.  The owner of the dog would starve the dog for a few days then they would tie a string between the dog and the plant and lure the dog with food (Thompson, 1968).  The dog would pull up the plant and die from the shriek; the digger would be safe to collect the mandrake (Rätsch, 1992).  In South Europe and Southwest Asia, the dog’s that were used to pull up mandrakes were sometimes honored, and the bodies were burned (Simoons, 1998).  If one wanted to avoid the loss of a dog when digging the plant, a pole was used instead.  If you stuck the pole deeply in the ground and bent it before tying a string between its end and the mandrake, the pole would pull the mandrake from the ground as it righted itself (Zarcone, 2005).

     


    Some good rituals involved circles, dancing and love poems.  The circles were used both to prevent the mandrake from fleeing and to mark possession over the mandrake (Simoons, 1998).  One rule said that the herbalist must surround the mandrake when trying to collect it or it will run away (Zarcone, 2005).  Theophrastus said that three circles should be drawn around the plant with a sword (Simoons, 1998).  One person should face west and cut the mandrake from the ground while the other dances around it speaking of love (Simoons, 1998).  In Romania, girls would collect mandrake in the nude, they would then prostrate themselves three times toward the east and walk around the plant three times while reciting magic formulas, each of these actions were meant to increase fertility (Simoons, 1998).

    Other rituals stated suitable times for collection including: midnight, on Fridays before sunrise, or on Tuesdays in December or March when the sun is shining (Simoons, 1998).  The collection of mandrake in Romania often required the assistance of a sorceress, or “old wise woman” and was conducted in secret at night when there was a full moon (Simoons, 1998).  Another ritual stated that to reveal the roots, or feet and hands of the mandrake, one must use an ivory spade (Zarcone, 2005).

    Mandrakes were heavily traded throughout Europe (Simoons, 1998).  The plant was rare and it was perilous to collect, therefore it was often extremely expensive (Rätsch, 1992).  The plants were so important to families that they were often passed down through wills (Simoons, 1998).  Mandrakes were carved to render them more lifelike, increase their value and to fool barren women who were eager to buy them (Gordon, 1977).  Soon, many false mandrakes began to appear on the market: ginger, ginseng, May apple, orchids, celandine and the English mandrake; (Rätsch, 1992) bryony and deadly nightshade were most often used as fakes especially in Romania (Simoons, 1998).  Often the falsifier would go to great lengths to create a false mandrake: carving, pressing, and wet-molding (Simoons, 1998).  After creating a human shape, the counterfeit was placed in the ground to hide any bruises and imperfections with re-growth; (Simoons, 1998) this practice was exposed in 1567 (Gordon, 1977).  For the next hundred years misguided people still bought the counterfeits and herbalists continued to speak out against them (Gordon, 1977).  Why did people want mandrakes so badly that they’d spend a fortune on one, even a fake?

     


    Uses for the mandrake, both the noble and the criminal, are found in many cultures around the world.  One such use was as an aphrodisiac and a fertility boost, therefore witches in medieval Europe used them in love potions (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889).  Egyptians believed that the mandrake increased fertility (Rätsch, 1992).  Jewish people used to lay a mandrake under the bed to ensure conception (Simoons, 1998).  The possession of a mandrake meant many things for the owner especially awakened love and fertility (Rätsch, 1992).  In Persia if you gave a mandrake to a person of desire without their knowledge they would return your feelings (Simoons, 1998).  Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love was often called Mandragoritis, which means “she of the mandrake” (Simoons, 1998).  The plant was also often worn as an amulet for purity (Simoons, 1998).  In Romania the mandrake was used as a charm or talisman, in bath water for washing, and in food and drink as well as many other ways; these uses resulted in early marriage because young girls received more invitations, became better dancers and aroused passions in young men (Simoons, 1998).

    The Christian Bible mentions the word dudaïm twice, which nearly all scholars now believe to mean mandrakes (Thompson, 1968).  Genesis 30:14 states “During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the field and found mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah.  Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’” Rachel was having a hard time conceiving and wanted the mandrakes for fertility (Thompson, 1968).  In the Song of Solomon there is a love poem that says, “The mandrakes send out their fragrance, and at our door is every delicacy, both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my lover”  (Thompson, 1968).  The mandrake is also mentioned in six of William Shakespeare’s plays and was a common theme in many German and French novels of the Romantic period (Zarcone, 2005)


    In the Physiologus, or “Naturalist” bestiary of the medieval times there is a story called “On the Elephant.”  In the story there are two elephants, one male, one female.  They go off to the land of paradise and the female elephant tricks the male into eating some mandrake.  The female then becomes pregnant (Simoons, 1998).  The story is reminiscent of that of Adam and Eve in the Christian Bible with the mandrake representing the forbidden fruit of knowledge.  A story about an ancient king, Hermanos, states that the king, who had no children and was not attracted to women, asked a sage for advice.  The sage told him to wait for an astrologically opportune time to obtain a mandrake and put some semen on it to create a child by alchemy.  In the legend this is how the king had children (Simoons, 1998).

    The mandrake, when used as a protector was worn or kept safe rather than ingested (Simoons, 1998).  The possession of a mandrake could mean that good fortune would be found in both business and play, health, protection from spells and ghosts, divination would become possible and immortality would be within reach (Rätsch, 1992).  In Silesia, Thuringia and Bohemia, the mandrake was connected to hidden treasure (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889).  In Turkey, mandrake was used as a talisman to protect the owner against blows, stabs, and bullets (Simoons, 1998).  It was also believed that the owner could become invisible while wearing it (Simoons, 1998).  In Southern Slovakia people bathed their mandrake in milk, dried it carefully and watched over the chest it was kept in (Simoons, 1998).

    In both Germany and France, where the mandrake was a popular theme of many novels of the romantic period, the owner of a well cared for mandrake would not become impoverished (Simoons, 1998).  In both countries, people washed their mandrake regularly in water or red wine, clothed it in silk or velvet, fed it and gave it drink twice a day and stored it in an upholstered box (Simoons, 1998).  They also believed that money placed beside a planted mandrake would increase or double (Simoons, 1998).  Also in France, the mandrake was considered a special elf called a main de gloire (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889).  Whoever found one of these mains de gloire was to give him food everyday and he would bring good fortune otherwise the main de gloire would cause the finder to die (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889).  In Saintonge, Bay of Biscay, France, fisherman would wear necklaces and bracelets of mandrake to prevent accidents (Simoons, 1998).  In Germany the mandrake was made into little idles (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889) and were kept in sealed glass bottles because they were believed to be familiar spirits that would bring good fortune and prosperity to the household (Simoons, 1998).  But the magic of the mandrake was also feared.

    Due to the Christian fear of the mandrake the writers of the Bible when writing the Song of Solomon lists plants that are associated with the Virgin Mary: grapevines, apples, figs and pomegranates.  Mandrakes are decidedly not on the list because of their poison they are associated with poisonous women such as witches (Bennett, 1991).  Witches were those women who were learned in plant lore, the mandrake was a common ingredient in witches’ philters (Thiselton-Dyer, 1889) and ointments, which allowed witches to go on magical internal journeys (Rätsch, 1992).  Black witches practiced dark magic and white witches worked toward good, there were also half-hearted gray witches; (Gordon, 1977) the Christian Church oppressed these women equally.  In France in 1603 a woman was hanged for owning a mandrake and in Germany in 1630 three women were executed, also for possession; mandrakes were also burned by order of Franciscans (Simoons, 1998).  The mandrake was one of many plants that were dedicated to Hecate, the Greek goddess who taught magic.  Mandrake is sometimes called “Plant of Circe,” circaea, circaeum or circaeon, because Circe is one of Hecate’s two daughters (the other is Medea) who used magic brews to turn men into swine, as seen in the Odyssey by Homer (Gordon, 1977).  Another use for the mandrake was for medicine.


    The mandrake was used both as a useful, healing treatment and a vicious, harmful venom.  It was thought to be a cure-all by medieval naturalist who believed it could heal everything but death (Simoons, 1998).  The roots, fruits seeds and leaves were used variously for juices, wine, oil, ointment, plaster, pills, etc. (Simoons, 1998).  Mandrake was applied externally as a painkiller, both internally and externally to treat snakebites, and internally to treat fever (Simoons, 1998).  Plasters and poultices made of mandrake were used to reduce inflammation; other mandrake mixtures were used as eye medicine, and to treat tumors, abscesses, ulcers, wounds and gout (Simoons, 1998).  Mandrake was also used as an emetic to expel phlegm, bile, menstrua or embryo (Simoons, 1998).  St. Hildegard of Bingen believed that if you had a sore foot you should eat the foot of a mandrake, if your head ached, eat the head of the plant, for neck or back problems eating the neck or back of a mandrake would restore you, etc.  (Simoons, 1998).  In many cultures the mandrake was believed to take a disease from the owner (Simoons, 1998).  The mandrake could recover from the disease if it was not well cared for but it could also pass the disease on to the next owner (Simoons, 1998).

    The juice of the mandrake was used as an anti-inflammatory for the eyes and as a means to regulate the menstrual cycle (Zarcone, 2005).  According to Dioscorides, the mandrake could be used to treat insomnia and to reduce the sensitivity to pain (Zarcone, 2005).  The mandrake leaves shine brightly at night, because of this it was often associated with the moon and used to treat illnesses associated with the moon such as epilepsy and possession (lunacy) (Simoons, 1998).  In the book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, mandrakes are the only effective cure for “petrification.”  When Hogwarts students are petrified from the indirect glare of a basilisk (a giant serpent) they are taken to Madam Pomfrey.  She uses a potion made from sliced mandrakes to cure petrified students (Beahm, 2005).


    Mandrake was most commonly used as an anesthetic and a sleep agent.  The words mandros means “to sleep” and agora means “an object or substance” (Bennett, 1992).  In Roman texts, there is a place called the “Isle of Dreams,” the harbor city was called Sleep and the trees surrounding the place were poppies and mandragoras (Simoons, 1998).  In early Greek and Latin writings it is said that the mandrake was placed under the patient’s pillow to induce sleep, a concoction of the roots and dried fruit was made into sleeping pills, a mixture of mandrake with wine or vinegar was another sleep stimulator (Simoons, 1998).  Dioscorides said that the mandrake “would send people to sleep during medical procedures” (Zarcone, 2005).

    Simoons writes of three stories in which the drugging power of the mandrake is prominent.  Plato wrote the first of a ship captain who’s mutinous crew drugged him and took over.  A Roman soldier and author told the second story of a soldier named Maharbal who led his troops into Africa to end a rebellion.  Marharbal knew of the African’s fondness for wine and staged a minor skirmish before retreating.  He left baggage and some mandrake wine behind, which the Africans drank.  When all the Africans were asleep Marharbal returned and took them prisoner.  Polyaenus, a Macedonian who lived in Rome wrote the third story in which Caesar escaped his kidnappers using mandrake.  Caesar had been kidnapped by pirates and requested to send a message to his troops demanding ransom.  His soldiers brought many treasures, including mandrake wine, to barter for Caesar’s life.  The pirates drank the wine and fell asleep allowing Caesar to escape with all the treasures and his troops.  To contrast these healing medicinal uses there are also harmful medicinal uses or side-effects of usage.

    Symptoms from ingestion of a tincture in a 19th century study included pupil dilation, vision enlargement and confusion, exaggeration of sound, brain fullness, hysterical excitement (Simoons, 1998).  A Welsh saying states that a person who uproots a mandrake (black byrony) will die within a year, while groaning, raving or reciting prayers for having committed the offense.  (Simoons, 1998)  An Arabic belief was that sufficient quantities could bring elation and agitation to the point of insanity (Simoons, 1998).  A Persian belief was if you give an unaware person mandrake they would develop a violent passion.  If you add some mandrake to lemon juice or curdled milk the person will go insane (Simoons, 1998).  In Southern Slovakia they thought that if a mandrake were cut open while being dug up the digger would go insane (Simoons, 1998).  Even today in Romania some people believe the mandrake brings madness (Simoons, 1998).  Other symptoms include increased blood pressure, an increase or decrease in muscle tonus and a decrease in secretion activity like saliva and gastric juices (Hanus, 2007).

    From the time it was introduced to Dioscorides by the Greek goddess of discovery (Thiselton, 1889) to present day when the mandrake is still considered sacred among Bedouins of Israel (Rätsch, 2005), the mandrake has had it’s ups and downs in human culture.  The mandrake is the oldest known narcotic plant (Rushman, 1996).  The fruit was found in the tomb of Tut Ankh Amun (Gordon, 1977) meaning it was important to that Pharaoh.  The decline of the mandrake can be attributed to the availability of better painkillers and to the fact that the claims about its powers were never tested or confirmed (Simoons, 1998).  Phillip Miller discovered that the mandrake did not scream when pulled up (Gordon, 1977), dogs were no longer needed and the magic of the plant was lost.  Soon after his discovery the mandrake became a mere good luck charm (Gordon, 1977).  After the mandrake was removed from the English pharmacopoeia in 1746 it was never restored.  In modern medicine it is completely obsolete and considered only in folk medicine (Simoons, 1998).

    Today mandrakes are still found hanging on the walls in Palestinian houses, but the meaning is unknown.   Both the use of a dog and a pole to dig up a mandrake were used in Italy (Zarcone, 2005) and in various Germanic countries the pole method was used within the last century (Zarcone, 2005).  The only medical use for mandrake today is that it is found in many eye drops that are used to paralyze the eye muscle and dilate the pupil (Kramer, 2007).  The former magic and mystery surrounding the mandrake, which made it so popular in so many cultures, is now gone.  This may not prove the mandrake to be evil but it is certainly no longer useful or good.


    Literature Cited 


    Beahm, G.  (2005).  Fact Fiction and Folklore in Harry Potter’s World.  Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing Company Inc.  Pg. 185-186
    Bennett, J.  (1991).  Lilies of the hearth.  Toronto, Canada: Camden House Publishing.  Pg. 65-66 & 74
    Gordon, L.  (1977).  Green magic.  New York City, New York: The Viking Press.  Pg. 36, 50, 97-99 & 102
    Hanus, OL.,  Rezanka, T.,  Spizek, J.,  Dembitsky, VM.  (2005).  Substances isolated from the Mandragora species.  Phytochemistry, 66.20, 2408-2417
    Kramer, MJ.,  (2007).  Harry Potter’s Garden.  National Geographic, 212.2, 32
    Rätsch, C.  (1992).  The dictionary of sacred and magical plants, London, Great Britain: Prism Press.  Pg. 121-124
    Rushman, GB., Davies, NJH. Atkinson, RS., (1996). A short history of anesthesia: the first 150 years. Cornwall: Reed Educational and Professional Publishing LTD.
    Simoons, FJ.  (1998).  Plants of life, plants of death.  Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press.  Pg. 101-136
    Thiselton-Dyer, TF. (1889).  Folklore of plants.  New York City, New York: D. Appleton and Company.  Pg. 101, 198, 271, 317-318
    Thompson, CJS.  (1968).  The mystic mandrake.  New Hyde Park, New York: University Books
    Zarcone, T.  (2005).  The myth of the mandrake, the ‘plant-human’.  Diogenes, 52.3, 115-129

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a somewhat biographical coming-of-age story about living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the early 1900s. Mary Frances Nolan – Francie – is the central character and I was addicted to her from the start. I was surprised at how quickly I became fascinated with Francie. As a young girl Francie is keenly observant, and sensitive to the beauty of her world. Maybe I see myself in her. All I know is this was a book that was hard to put down.

    betty smith, a tree grows in brooklyn, coming of age, book review, book cover 

    “There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly . . . survives without sun, water, and seemingly without earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.” – Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


    Storyline

    At the opening Francie is 11 years old. She is the oldest child of Katie and Johnny Nolan. Her brother, Neeley (short for Cornelius) is 10. We are given a tour of their neighborhood as Francie runs errand for her mother, takes her daily trip to the library and watches her neighbors from the fire escape. We find out that Katie cleans houses in exchange for free rent of their apartment, and Johnny has unreliable income through waiting tables and singing.

    The story then flashes back to the summer of 1900 when Katie and Johnny first meet. Katie decides she will go through any hardship just to be with Johnny when they first dance together. Within six months they are married and support themselves by working as janitors at a school. Stress begins to set in when Francie is born in December 1901 and Neeley just a year and a week later. As the stress of living in poverty and having children eats away at Johnny, he begins drinking.

    Katie and Johnny are both second generation Americans. Katie’s family is a line of strong women from Austria. She has two older sisters, Sissy and Evy. Johnny, with Irish heritage, comes from a family of weak, yet talented men (he has three brothers).

    Neeley and Francie start school the same year, though they are a year apart in age. Francie, a lover of learning, always looked forward to the day she could go to school but finds it to be cruel and harsh. She changes to a school where there is no discrimination against poor children, though she still makes no friends. The flashback then catches up with the beginning of the story.

    The plot line continues with various events throughout Francie’s childhood. Francie’s first encounter with sex of any kind occurs around the age of 12. She comes face to face with the sex offender who has been terrorizing the neighborhood. Her mother saves her and Francie emerges relatively unscathed. Francie starts her period around this time and witnesses women of the neighborhood stoning a young girl because she became pregnant out of wedlock. This leads Francie to become more aware of the social taboos surrounding women and sexuality.

    Francie gradually sees her father’s problem with alcohol, which worsens as she grows up. He is set over the edge when he is dismissed from the Union. When Johnny discovers Katie is pregnant again he weakens further and finally dies of pneumonia (and alcoholism) on Christmas Day, five months before Annie Laurie is born.

    Johnny’s death changes Francie. She stops believing in God after a lifetime of Catholic faith. She stops writing the flowery compositions that had no relation to her life experiences but earned her high marks in English, replacing them with “sordid” compositions about her father, which concerned her teacher.

    Francie’s sensitive and caring nature is lost as she becomes more and more like her mother. Katie was once romantic and flighty, but turns hard and determined as she takes on the burden of earning money and sacrifices “luxuries,” such as heat and meals, for her family.

    After graduating from eighth grade, both Neeley and Francie must work because Katie cannot afford to keep them in school. Francie starts working at a factory then moves to a clippings bureau where she reads newspapers all day, learns about the world outside of Brooklyn, and desperately awaits the day she can return to high school.

    Unfortunately Katie, who can only afford to send one child back to school, sends Neeley instead of Francie. Although Francie never returns to high school she does take summer college courses and with Francie’s job the Nolans are able to live more comfortably.

    When the United States of America enters World War I, Francie first experiences romantic love. It comes in the form of Lee Rynor, whom she falls in love with within the first 48 hours after meeting. He leaves Francie heartbroken when he marries his fiancée before heading off to war. Then Francie discovers that she enjoys the company of Ben Blake, a boy she met in summer school.

    Officer McShane, a kind older man who has admired Katie from afar (and she him), asks Katie to marry him. He says he will make it possible for Laurie to grow up without hardship in exchange for the chance to be her father. He also gives Francie and Neeley a chance to go to college. Francie gets ready to attend college at the University of Michigan with Ben and the Tree of Heaven continues to grow in her backyard.

    Themes and Patterns

    Poverty is major themes throughout this story. Nearly every anecdote and character deals with poverty in some way. Poverty applies not only to a lack of food and heat but also results in the growing worthlessness of Johnny and ultimately his death. Resources are limited, people are exploited, but poverty is presented as the evil, not people. Everyone is thinking of his or her own family first.

    Class is another theme that Smith often shows through encounters between the lower class and people of privilege. Having money may lead to an easier life but the lovable characters are those who are or once were impoverished. The rich doctor who vaccinates Francie is presented as a villain and Francie’s English teacher, who claims to have grown up with hardship, misunderstands Francie’s compositions. Neeley and Francie pity Laurie for growing up with privilege because she will not have as much fun.

    A prominent theme in this book is education. Johnny, Katie and Mary Rommely (Katie’s mother) have very different personalities, but they can all agree on one thing: education is the way out for the Nolan children. Through a combination of schooling and life lessons they lead the children out of poverty; each generation receives more education than the last.

    Gender roles stands out to me as a further theme. Mary Rommely states upon the birth of Francie, “to be born a woman is to be born into a humble life of pain.” This comment can be applied to both life’s pains and the pain of childbirth. Women of all faiths and socioeconomic backgrounds experience the same pain in labor. However, all the women in this book are more than equipped to handle these pains and depicted as strong while men are generally shown as the weaker sex.

    Katie and Johnny are presented with the same life choices and Katie is determined to give opportunities to her children in the face of hardship while Johnny slips into a drunken dreamworld. Francie is more eager to return to school but Katie send Neeley because both women understand that Neeley would not find a way to go back where Francie will do whatever it takes to learn more at school. Aunt Evy is independent and tough and Uncle Flittman is inadequate.

    Since this is a coming-of-age tale it is only natural that a fall from innocence would be not only a theme but a motif. Francie learns more and more about the world, poverty, class, status, gender, and sex, which in turn causes her to become less and less innocent. Her appreciation of small material things as a young girl turns into her realization of their hardships. Often Francie presents her fall from innocence as feeling as if she is dreaming.

    The “fall” refers to both things that brought Francie pain and things that brought her knowledge. The Tree of Heaven can be viewed as a Tree of Knowledge. The tree grows up and out of very difficult situations in the same way that Francie learns through reading and life events in order to get out of poverty.

    Tree of Heaven

    This symbol is most interesting to me, perhaps because I love trees so much or perhaps because the idea is appealing. The tree in the title grows only in tenement districts, because it “likes poor people.” It represents perseverance in times of hardship. When Francie is born, Katie likens her life to the tree’s: Francie will keep living no matter how sick she becomes. All over Brooklyn this tree grows where no other can and out-competes those that do. When the Nolans have a fir on their fire escape they care for it with water and manure but it dies. The Tree of Heaven that grows from the concrete in their yard was cut down and a new one grew out of it’s trunk.

    The tree is abundant throughout Brooklyn and is familiar to Francie, who sees it every day. It isn’t stately like the sea or mountains majesty. It is humble, and this humility makes it all the more powerful.

    When Francie leaves Brooklyn, Florrie Wendy symbolically takes her place. The tree grew for Francie, it will grow for Florrie, too, as it must have for Flossie Gaddis before Francie.

    Do you agree with my analysis? What themes do you find in this story?

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a somewhat biographical coming-of-age story about living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the early 1900s. Mary Frances Nolan – Francie – is the central character and I was addicted to her from the start. I was surprised at how quickly I became fascinated with Francie. As a young girl Francie is keenly observant, and sensitive to the beauty of her world. Maybe I see myself in her. All I know is this was a book that was hard to put down.

    “There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly . . . survives without sun, water, and seemingly without earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.” – Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

    Storyline

    At the opening Francie is 11 years old. She is the oldest child of Katie and Johnny Nolan. Her brother, Neeley (short for Cornelius) is 10. We are given a tour of their neighborhood as Francie runs errand for her mother, takes her daily trip to the library and watches her neighbors from the fire escape. We find out that Katie cleans houses in exchange for free rent of their apartment, and Johnny has unreliable income through waiting tables and singing.

    The story then flashes back to the summer of 1900 when Katie and Johnny first meet. Katie decides she will go through any hardship just to be with Johnny when they first dance together. Within six months they are married and support themselves by working as janitors at a school. Stress begins to set in when Francie is born in December 1901 and Neeley just a year and a week later. As the stress of living in poverty and having children eats away at Johnny, he begins drinking.

    Katie and Johnny are both second generation Americans. Katie’s family is a line of strong women from Austria. She has two older sisters, Sissy and Evy. Johnny, with Irish heritage, comes from a family of weak, yet talented men (he has three brothers).

    Neeley and Francie start school the same year, though they are a year apart in age. Francie, a lover of learning, always looked forward to the day she could go to school but finds it to be cruel and harsh. She changes to a school where there is no discrimination against poor children, though she still makes no friends. The flashback then catches up with the beginning of the story.

    The plot line continues with various events throughout Francie’s childhood. Francie’s first encounter with sex of any kind occurs around the age of 12. She comes face to face with the sex offender who has been terrorizing the neighborhood. Her mother saves her and Francie emerges relatively unscathed. Francie starts her period around this time and witnesses women of the neighborhood stoning a young girl because she became pregnant out of wedlock. This leads Francie to become more aware of the social taboos surrounding women and sexuality.

    Francie gradually sees her father’s problem with alcohol, which worsens as she grows up. He is set over the edge when he is dismissed from the Union. When Johnny discovers Katie is pregnant again he weakens further and finally dies of pneumonia (and alcoholism) on Christmas Day, five months before Annie Laurie is born.

    Johnny’s death changes Francie. She stops believing in God after a lifetime of Catholic faith. She stops writing the flowery compositions that had no relation to her life experiences but earned her high marks in English, replacing them with “sordid” compositions about her father, which concerned her teacher.

    Francie’s sensitive and caring nature is lost as she becomes more and more like her mother. Katie was once romantic and flighty, but turns hard and determined as she takes on the burden of earning money and sacrifices “luxuries,” such as heat and meals, for her family.

    After graduating from eighth grade, both Neeley and Francie must work because Katie cannot afford to keep them in school. Francie starts working at a factory then moves to a clippings bureau where she reads newspapers all day, learns about the world outside of Brooklyn, and desperately awaits the day she can return to high school.

    Unfortunately Katie, who can only afford to send one child back to school, sends Neeley instead of Francie. Although Francie never returns to high school she does take summer college courses and with Francie’s job the Nolans are able to live more comfortably.

    When the United States of America enters World War I, Francie first experiences romantic love. It comes in the form of Lee Rynor, whom she falls in love with within the first 48 hours after meeting. He leaves Francie heartbroken when he marries his fiancée before heading off to war. Then Francie discovers that she enjoys the company of Ben Blake, a boy she met in summer school.

    Officer McShane, a kind older man who has admired Katie from afar (and she him), asks Katie to marry him. He says he will make it possible for Laurie to grow up without hardship in exchange for the chance to be her father. He also gives Francie and Neeley a chance to go to college. Francie gets ready to attend college at the University of Michigan with Ben and the Tree of Heaven continues to grow in her backyard.

    Themes and Patterns

    Poverty is major themes throughout this story. Nearly every anecdote and character deals with poverty in some way. Poverty applies not only to a lack of food and heat but also results in the growing worthlessness of Johnny and ultimately his death. Resources are limited, people are exploited, but poverty is presented as the evil, not people. Everyone is thinking of his or her own family first.

    Class is another theme that Smith often shows through encounters between the lower class and people of privilege. Having money may lead to an easier life but the lovable characters are those who are or once were impoverished. The rich doctor who vaccinates Francie is presented as a villain and Francie’s English teacher, who claims to have grown up with hardship, misunderstands Francie’s compositions. Neeley and Francie pity Laurie for growing up with privilege because she will not have as much fun.

    A prominent theme in this book is education. Johnny, Katie and Mary Rommely (Katie’s mother) have very different personalities, but they can all agree on one thing: education is the way out for the Nolan children. Through a combination of schooling and life lessons they lead the children out of poverty; each generation receives more education than the last.

    Gender roles stands out to me as a further theme. Mary Rommely states upon the birth of Francie, “to be born a woman is to be born into a humble life of pain.” This comment can be applied to both life’s pains and the pain of childbirth. Women of all faiths and socioeconomic backgrounds experience the same pain in labor. However, all the women in this book are more than equipped to handle these pains and depicted as strong while men are generally shown as the weaker sex.

    Katie and Johnny are presented with the same life choices and Katie is determined to give opportunities to her children in the face of hardship while Johnny slips into a drunken dreamworld. Francie is more eager to return to school but Katie send Neeley because both women understand that Neeley would not find a way to go back where Francie will do whatever it takes to learn more at school. Aunt Evy is independent and tough and Uncle Flittman is inadequate.

    Since this is a coming-of-age tale it is only natural that a fall from innocence would be not only a theme but a motif. Francie learns more and more about the world, poverty, class, status, gender, and sex, which in turn causes her to become less and less innocent. Her appreciation of small material things as a young girl turns into her realization of their hardships. Often Francie presents her fall from innocence as feeling as if she is dreaming.

    The “fall” refers to both things that brought Francie pain and things that brought her knowledge. The Tree of Heaven can be viewed as a Tree of Knowledge. The tree grows up and out of very difficult situations in the same way that Francie learns through reading and life events in order to get out of poverty.

    Tree of Heaven

    This symbol is most interesting to me, perhaps because I love trees so much or perhaps because the idea is appealing. The tree in the title grows only in tenement districts, because it “likes poor people.” It represents perseverance in times of hardship. When Francie is born, Katie likens her life to the tree’s: Francie will keep living no matter how sick she becomes. All over Brooklyn this tree grows where no other can and out-competes those that do. When the Nolans have a fir on their fire escape they care for it with water and manure but it dies. The Tree of Heaven that grows from the concrete in their yard was cut down and a new one grew out of it’s trunk.

    The tree is abundant throughout Brooklyn and is familiar to Francie, who sees it every day. It isn’t stately like the sea or mountains majesty. It is humble, and this humility makes it all the more powerful.

    When Francie leaves Brooklyn, Florrie Wendy symbolically takes her place. The tree grew for Francie, it will grow for Florrie, too, as it must have for Flossie Gaddis before Francie.

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    Do you agree with my analysis? What themes do you find in this story?

    Every Book In the Entire World

    Many of you might know that my first project this summer was my patio garden and the hanging gutter garden. Now that my only responsibility in the garden is to water once or twice a day and harvest what comes up, I’ve been working on my next project: reading.


    I was inspired to read ALL the books after reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (***UPDATE*** read the review here) to read because she has a goal to read all the book in her library starting with A and ending with Z. I’m taking the opportunity to start now.

    Over the years (since high school or maybe earlier) I’ve kept lists of books I want to read. Some can be found on odd bits of paper, other on my Pinterest board and still more in notebooks. I finally compiled all of these lists into one massive list, and I mean MASSIVE. It’s an excel spread sheet with tabs for which list the books came from and is conditionally formatted so that once I’ve read the book the box will change color (I have a lot of time on my hands).

    Some of the books are classics, some are modern, there are fiction and non-fiction, poetry and history and everything else you can think of and I will be reading, quite literally, until I die.

    I don’t just want to read the books; I want to analyze them as well. The way I did in high school, which is why I am also planning to write reviews for each book as I finish it and post it here, on my blog. The first one was Life of Pi (read it here). I also wrote a bit about Harry Potter (read it here). So that’s the plan.

     If you’re interested in my books lists…

    Books that were recommended to me by friends, family, professors and/or my own bookshelf:

    Websites with other booklists:


    What’s on your book list? What is your favorite book?

    Every Book In the Entire World

    Many of you might know that my first project this summer was my patio garden and the hanging gutter garden. Now that my only responsibility in the garden is to water once or twice a day and harvest what comes up, I’ve been working on my next project: reading.

    I was inspired to read ALL the books after reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (***UPDATE*** read the review here) to read because she has a goal to read all the book in her library starting with A and ending with Z. I’m taking the opportunity to start now.

    Over the years (since high school or maybe earlier) I’ve kept lists of books I want to read. Some can be found on odd bits of paper, other on my Pinterest board and still more in notebooks. I finally compiled all of these lists into one massive list, and I mean MASSIVE. It’s an excel spread sheet with tabs for which list the books came from and is conditionally formatted so that once I’ve read the book the box will change color (I have a lot of time on my hands).

    Some of the books are classics, some are modern, there are fiction and non-fiction, poetry and history and everything else you can think of and I will be reading, quite literally, until I die.

    I don’t just want to read the books; I want to analyze them as well. The way I did in high school, which is why I am also planning to write reviews for each book as I finish it and post it here, on my blog. The first one was Life of Pi (read it here). I also wrote a bit about Harry Potter (read it here). So that’s the plan.

     If you’re interested in my books lists…

    Books that were recommended to me by friends, family, professors and/or my own bookshelf:

    Websites with other booklists:

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    What’s on your book list? What is your favorite book?

    Summer Lovin’

    I was riding my bike over to CSU campus. My mission was to deliver my boyfriends Kindle Fire to him at work. It’s about a 15-minute bike ride from our house along a bike path. I was suddenly struck by inspiration on this ride, like lightening… it was electrifying. My discovery was that I love summer. I mean I already knew that I love summer but I never knew exactly what it was about summer that I love.

     

    I love riding my bike. There is nothing as freeing as riding a bike. The wind in my hair, my own two legs propelling me forward, a quick smile or a wave to those I pass along the way. Summer is the best time for bike rides, no ice, no rain, no gloves, no coat; only warm temperatures and sun on skin.

     


    I love riding my bike close to the edge of the grass, where the sprinklers miss their target and droplets land on the sidewalk. It’s a refreshing burst in the heat of the afternoon when those droplets hit bare legs and arms. There’s nothing quite like that feeling.

    I love the smell of a black as night, freshly re-paved parking lot baking in the sun. To me it smells slightly minty; I can’t describe it in any other way. Not the mint you smell in chewing gum or tea leaves, but it’s own unique kind of minty. And it’s so black you can almost see your reflection shining in it. The heat waves rise up from the tar, making everything look hazy. Some might say it’s so hot you could cook an egg on it. The air temperature above the pavement is noticeably warmer than anywhere else around you, and you let it embrace you as you race across.


    I love the greenness of the environment. Everything seems to be pulsing with life, growing and changing. I stretch out over grass in the shade of a big elm tree staring up through the leaves at the patches of a blue sky. Fluffy white clouds pass overhead creating shapes and telling stories.

    I love having an open schedule with full days I can devote to reading a book. Not a book required for my college education but one I choose to read for a different kind of education.

     
    Pinterest (original source lost)


    I love the heat bouncing off the sidewalk, the sweat running down my back, the tank tops and shorts, the sandals, the nighttime bonfires, the chilly showers after lunch, the pool days, my garden, picnics in the mountains, the smell of sunscreen, the frappuccinos, the flowers, the swim suits, etc. etc. etc.

    Ah, the joys of summer. What’s your favorite season?

    Summer Lovin’

    I was riding my bike over to CSU campus. My mission was to deliver my boyfriends Kindle Fire to him at work. It’s about a 15-minute bike ride from our house along a bike path. I was suddenly struck by inspiration on this ride, like lightening… it was electrifying. My discovery was that I love summer. I mean I already knew that I love summer but I never knew exactly what it was about summer that I love.

    I love riding my bike. There is nothing as freeing as riding a bike. The wind in my hair, my own two legs propelling me forward, a quick smile or a wave to those I pass along the way. Summer is the best time for bike rides, no ice, no rain, no gloves, no coat; only warm temperatures and sun on skin.

    I love riding my bike close to the edge of the grass, where the sprinklers miss their target and droplets land on the sidewalk. It’s a refreshing burst in the heat of the afternoon when those droplets hit bare legs and arms. There’s nothing quite like that feeling.

    I love the smell of a black as night, freshly re-paved parking lot baking in the sun. To me it smells slightly minty; I can’t describe it in any other way. Not the mint you smell in chewing gum or tea leaves, but it’s own unique kind of minty. And it’s so black you can almost see your reflection shining in it. The heat waves rise up from the tar, making everything look hazy. Some might say it’s so hot you could cook an egg on it. The air temperature above the pavement is noticeably warmer than anywhere else around you, and you let it embrace you as you race across.

    I love the greenness of the environment. Everything seems to be pulsing with life, growing and changing. I stretch out over grass in the shade of a big elm tree staring up through the leaves at the patches of a blue sky. Fluffy white clouds pass overhead creating shapes and telling stories.

    I love having an open schedule with full days I can devote to reading a book. Not a book required for my college education but one I choose to read for a different kind of education.

    Pinterest (original source lost)

    I love the heat bouncing off the sidewalk, the sweat running down my back, the tank tops and shorts, the sandals, the nighttime bonfires, the chilly showers after lunch, the pool days, my garden, picnics in the mountains, the smell of sunscreen, the frappuccinos, the flowers, the swim suits, etc. etc. etc.

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    Ah, the joys of summer. What’s your favorite season?

    Life of Pi

    I’ve never been shipwrecked, or out at sea for that matter. But author Yann Matel has written a story that made me experience the hunger, and the thirst, the cold, and the heat, the dryness, and the wetness, the fear, and the joy, the disgust, and the beauty of being lost at sea in his novel Life of Pi. The story, which is centered around antagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel is broken into three parts all told through the eyes of a middle-aged Pi Patel: Pi’s childhood, Pi’s experience in the open sea, and Pi’s conversation with Japanese officials.

    life of pi, yann martel, book review, book cover, philosophy, religion 


    I love this book because all the events throughout the story, set in 1977, are so unbelievable that you can’t help but want to believe them. The story-telling is so fantastic that even in the face of doubt you trust his story. I feel what Pi feels, see what Pi sees, smell what Pi smells, and I believe it to be true.

    In a question and answer session with Yann Martel, he says that he loves the idea of the name Pi as a nickname for Piscine. Pi tells us the story of his name: his uncle was a lover of swimming and talked of the pools in France, one called “Piscine Molitar“. Martel says, “I liked the irony of a boy named after a rational volume of water being adrift in an uncontrollable volume of water, the Pacific.” Pi spends years of his childhood teased about this name, (sounds like “pissing”) so that when he switches schools he decides to call himself Pi, after the Greek letter used by mathematicians to stand in for an irrational number. Martel says it stuck him that a number used to bring understanding could be called irrational, which is how he sees religion as well: something irrational that helps make sense of things.

    Pi was born Hindu, but at 14 he was introduced to Christianity and Islam. He follows all three of these religions because he just “wants to love God.” Pi is searching for meaning in the world and he looks through the lenses of these three religions to help him find perspective on this journey. He sees a portion of truth and a portion of error with each religion but all have similar messages for him.

    Pi’s father owns a zoo in Pondicerry, which has provided Pi with a gateway into animal psychology during his youth. When his family decides to sell their animals and move to Canada due to political concerns in India, they board a small Japanese freighter carrying some of their animals. So begins part two of the story.

    A few days after leaving India the ship sinks. Pi ends up in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, A spotted hyena, an injured zebra and an orangutan: the only survivors.

    During the first few days of Pi’s voyage in open seas he witnesses heinous violence from the hyena, which eats the still living zebra bit-by-bit. The hyena also kills the orangutan in a vicious manner. Then Richard Parker kills the hyena, leaving Pi alone with a 400-pound tiger.

    Pi finds food, water and supplies in the lifeboat; steadily the supplies run out and he begins fishing. Pi feeds himself and Richard Parker, he wants to keep Richard Parker alive to avoid complete solitude, but he also know that he cannot outlast Richard Parker and he wants to avoid being eaten. Pi refers to his knowledge of animal psychology and decides he must make sure Richard Parker knows that Pi is the alpha and Richard Parker the omega animal, this way he can keep his territory and hopefully stay alive. He goes through many training sessions with Richard Parker using a whistle, treats, and seasickness to drive the point home.

    The story gets very bleak when both Pi and Richard Parker become blind. I believe this was due to bad nutrition and excessive exposure to sun. During his blindness Pi encounters another blind seafarer, a French man with an obsession for meat. Pi naïvely welcomes the man into his boat where the man reveals his cannibalistic nature and becomes a snack for dear old Richard Parker. Two days, and much rinsing with salt water, bring back Pi’s sight.

    Then comes the strangest part yet. The pair encounter a mysterious island, seemingly constructed of edible algae supporting a forest and a large population of meercats. Each day Richard Parker and Pi venture onto the island and each night they return to their lifeboat. One night Pi decides to stay on the island at night and sleeps in a tree, which is quickly over run by meercats who also sleep in the trees. When Pi discovers a “fruit” in the tree with a single human molar at the center he discovers the carnivorous nature of the algae and becomes frightened of it. Richard Parker and Pi return to their lifeboat and continue on their way.

    Finally the lifeboat reaches the coast of Mexico where Richard Parker escapes into the jungle without so much as a goodbye. Pi is disappointed by this unceremonious departure but is quickly found by his rescuers.

    *****SPOILER ALERT*****


    *****Read on at your own risk*****


    ***You’ve been warned!***


    Part three of the story is written like a transcript of an interview (because that is what it is). Two official from the Japanese maritime department question Pi about the sinking of the ship. Pi tells them his story, which they do not believe. In hopes of having his suffering validated, he tells them a second story without the animals. He recounts a story of human brutality, being adrift on a lifeboat with his mother, a sailor with a broken leg, and the ship’s French cook, who killed the sailor and Pi’s mother and cut them up to use as bait and food. Parallels to Pi’s first story lead the Japanese officials to believe that the orangutan represents his mother, the zebra represents the sailor, the hyena represents the cook, and Richard Parker is Pi himself.

    After revealing that neither version of Pi’s story ascertains why the ship sank, and that no one can really know the truth, Pi asks which version the officers prefer. They both prefer the version with the animals to the version without animals. Pi thanks them and says, “and so it goes with God.”

    Martel shares that he wrote the story to become more and more unbelievable as it goes on. He says that he understands readers will have doubts but hopes they will choose the first story as the better story. For that reason he included something unbelievable in the story we choose to believe.

    To me it is interesting that Martel included a cannibalistic Frenchman in both versions of the story. If you interpret his appearance in the first story, when Pi is blind, he might appear to be a ghost of the French cook Pi killed in the second story. Just a thought.

    Have you read Life of Pi? What are your interpretations? 

    Life of Pi

    I’ve never been shipwrecked, or out at sea for that matter. But author Yann Matel has written a story that made me experience the hunger, and the thirst, the cold, and the heat, the dryness, and the wetness, the fear, and the joy, the disgust, and the beauty of being lost at sea in his novel Life of Pi. The story, which is centered around antagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel is broken into three parts all told through the eyes of a middle-aged Pi Patel: Pi’s childhood, Pi’s experience in the open sea, and Pi’s conversation with Japanese officials.

    I love this book because all the events throughout the story, set in 1977, are so unbelievable that you can’t help but want to believe them. The story-telling is so fantastic that even in the face of doubt you trust his story. I feel what Pi feels, see what Pi sees, smell what Pi smells, and I believe it to be true.

    In a question and answer session with Yann Martel, he says that he loves the idea of the name Pi as a nickname for Piscine. Pi tells us the story of his name: his uncle was a lover of swimming and talked of the pools in France, one called “Piscine Molitar“. Martel says, “I liked the irony of a boy named after a rational volume of water being adrift in an uncontrollable volume of water, the Pacific.” Pi spends years of his childhood teased about this name, (sounds like “pissing”) so that when he switches schools he decides to call himself Pi, after the Greek letter used by mathematicians to stand in for an irrational number. Martel says it stuck him that a number used to bring understanding could be called irrational, which is how he sees religion as well: something irrational that helps make sense of things.

    Pi was born Hindu, but at 14 he was introduced to Christianity and Islam. He follows all three of these religions because he just “wants to love God.” Pi is searching for meaning in the world and he looks through the lenses of these three religions to help him find perspective on this journey. He sees a portion of truth and a portion of error with each religion but all have similar messages for him.

    Pi’s father owns a zoo in Pondicerry, which has provided Pi with a gateway into animal psychology during his youth. When his family decides to sell their animals and move to Canada due to political concerns in India, they board a small Japanese freighter carrying some of their animals. So begins part two of the story.

    A few days after leaving India the ship sinks. Pi ends up in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, A spotted hyena, an injured zebra and an orangutan: the only survivors.

    During the first few days of Pi’s voyage in open seas he witnesses heinous violence from the hyena, which eats the still living zebra bit-by-bit. The hyena also kills the orangutan in a vicious manner. Then Richard Parker kills the hyena, leaving Pi alone with a 400-pound tiger.

    Pi finds food, water and supplies in the lifeboat; steadily the supplies run out and he begins fishing. Pi feeds himself and Richard Parker, he wants to keep Richard Parker alive to avoid complete solitude, but he also know that he cannot outlast Richard Parker and he wants to avoid being eaten. Pi refers to his knowledge of animal psychology and decides he must make sure Richard Parker knows that Pi is the alpha and Richard Parker the omega animal, this way he can keep his territory and hopefully stay alive. He goes through many training sessions with Richard Parker using a whistle, treats, and seasickness to drive the point home.

    The story gets very bleak when both Pi and Richard Parker become blind. I believe this was due to bad nutrition and excessive exposure to sun. During his blindness Pi encounters another blind seafarer, a French man with an obsession for meat. Pi naïvely welcomes the man into his boat where the man reveals his cannibalistic nature and becomes a snack for dear old Richard Parker. Two days, and much rinsing with salt water, bring back Pi’s sight.

    Then comes the strangest part yet. The pair encounter a mysterious island, seemingly constructed of edible algae supporting a forest and a large population of meercats. Each day Richard Parker and Pi venture onto the island and each night they return to their lifeboat. One night Pi decides to stay on the island at night and sleeps in a tree, which is quickly over run by meercats who also sleep in the trees. When Pi discovers a “fruit” in the tree with a single human molar at the center he discovers the carnivorous nature of the algae and becomes frightened of it. Richard Parker and Pi return to their lifeboat and continue on their way.

    Finally the lifeboat reaches the coast of Mexico where Richard Parker escapes into the jungle without so much as a goodbye. Pi is disappointed by this unceremonious departure but is quickly found by his rescuers.

    *****SPOILER ALERT*****

    *****Read on at your own risk*****

    ***You’ve been warned!***

    Part three of the story is written like a transcript of an interview (because that is what it is). Two official from the Japanese maritime department question Pi about the sinking of the ship. Pi tells them his story, which they do not believe. In hopes of having his suffering validated, he tells them a second story without the animals. He recounts a story of human brutality, being adrift on a lifeboat with his mother, a sailor with a broken leg, and the ship’s French cook, who killed the sailor and Pi’s mother and cut them up to use as bait and food. Parallels to Pi’s first story lead the Japanese officials to believe that the orangutan represents his mother, the zebra represents the sailor, the hyena represents the cook, and Richard Parker is Pi himself.

    After revealing that neither version of Pi’s story ascertains why the ship sank, and that no one can really know the truth, Pi asks which version the officers prefer. They both prefer the version with the animals to the version without animals. Pi thanks them and says, “and so it goes with God.”

    Martel shares that he wrote the story to become more and more unbelievable as it goes on. He says that he understands readers will have doubts but hopes they will choose the first story as the better story. For that reason he included something unbelievable in the story we choose to believe.

    To me it is interesting that Martel included a cannibalistic Frenchman in both versions of the story. If you interpret his appearance in the first story, when Pi is blind, he might appear to be a ghost of the French cook Pi killed in the second story. Just a thought.

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    Have you read Life of Pi? What are your interpretations? 

    1-Hour Total Body Workout

    I am not one of those people who really love to work out. I wish I were, because my life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to force myself to do things to keep in shape. I do what I have to in order to keep active but mostly I enjoy activities that are exercise plus something else, like yoga for relaxation and stretching, riding a bike to a friends house, walking the long way to the grocery store, hiking and backpacking, or running to the ice cream shop.  These activities have another purpose, and yet I still get some exercise out of it. I do have a few workout plans that I like to fit each in once a week (5-4-3-2-1 workout for one) and this one.

    I developed this plan for myself based on some Women’s Health Magazine workouts and an app I have for my Kindle Fire (as well as from my limited knowledge of what a good workout is). It takes an hour as is, but can easily be cut down to 45, 30 or even 15 minutes just by cutting out reps.

     
    1-Hour Total Body Workout


    For a printable version click the link below
    1-Hour Total Body Workout




    Check out my workout terms glossary. These terms are used in this workout:

    Butt Kickers
    Start in a standing position. Start jogging in place kicking your foot as close to your butt as you can with each step.

    Clamshell
    Lay on your side with both knees bent at 90 degrees. Keeping your knee bent and feet together, hinge your top leg open. Lower your knee back to starting for one rep.

    Crescent Lunge with Row
    Stand in crescent lunge position, one foot a large step in from of the other, the front foot flat against the floor and the knee bent 90 degrees and the back foot on tip-toes with the leg straight. Lean your chest forward slightly and with a weight in both hand, palms facing in, pull the weight straight up, elbows bending behind your body.

    Dog Lifts
    Start in a tabletop position, hands directly below the shoulder and knees directly below the hips, tops of feet against the floor. Keeping your right knee bent lift it from the ground up to the side until it is parallel with the floor. Slowly lower it to hover above the floor. That’s one rep, do all reps then repeat on the opposite leg.
    Donkey Kicks
    Start in a tabletop position, hands directly below the shoulder and knees directly below the hips, tops of feet against the floor. Keeping your knee bent lift your right foot up toward the sky, lower it back to hover over the floor with control. That’s one rep, do all reps then switch legs.

    Flutter
    Lay flat on your stomach. Lift your legs and arms from the mat, keep your forehead against the floor. Quickly alternate lifting your right arm with your left leg, then your left arm with your right leg.
    Froggy Lifts
    Lay face down on your mat with your forehead to the floor. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and flex your feet. Turn your toes out slightly keeping your heels together, lift your feet straight up removing your knees from the mat.

    Hamstring Curl
    Lay flat on you stomach, prop your upper body up onto your forearms. Attach ankle weights to your ankles or hold a hand weight between your feet. Slowly bend your knees, lifting the weight into the air. Carefully lower the weight toward the floor, hover above the floor, for one rep.

    Hip Bridge
    Lay on your back with arms by your side and feet flat against the floor, hip-width distance apart. Lift your hips from the mat until your body forms a straight line from shoulder to knee.

    Inner Thigh Raise
    Lying on your side pull your top leg forward into a 90-degree angle with knee resting on the floor. Lift the bottom leg a couple of inches and then lower it back to hover just above the floor. That’s one rep.
    Jog-in-place
    Pretty self explanatory, jog… but do it in place.
    Jumping Jacks
    Starting standing with feet together and arms straight by your sides. Jump up and spread your arms and legs wide as you land. Jump up again to return to center.
    Knee Ups
    Start standing and begin jogging in place lifting your knees as high as possible.
    Leg Extension
    Lie on back with knees bent. Rest your arms on the floor at should level, with palms facing up. As you lift your hips from the form to form a straight line from shoulders to hips, extend on leg in the air. Hold, then lower foot flat to floor and switch to the opposite leg.
    Leg Raise
    Lay down on your side, hip on the floor, and prop yourself up on your forearm. Lift your top leg straight up into the air. Lower it back down without touching your bottom leg. Repeat.


    Plank
    Set-up the top of a push-up position with your hands directly below your shoulder. A variation of this is to rest on your forearms with elbows directly beneath shoulders. Hold your body completely straight by engaging your abs. If you can’t hold the plank for the full duration, work up to it. Form is more important the length of time: don’t drop your hips or raise your butt.

    Quad Lift
    Sit with leg straight out in front of you, back straight. Place your hand on either side of your hips. Keeping your leg straight lift your right leg, lower it back to the floor, then lift your left leg, lower it. That’s one rep.

    Shoulder Press
    Hold a weight in each hand above your shoulders, next to your ears. With palms facing in life the weights straight up until your arms are straight directly over your shoulders. release to starting position.
    Side Kick
    Start in a tabletop position, hands directly below the shoulder and knees directly below the hips, tops of feet against the floor. Lift your right leg so it is extended straight back from your body. Slowly bring it around so that it is perpendicular to your body and parallel to the floor. Return it to straight behind you for one rep. Do reps then repeat on opposite leg.
    Side Plank
    Lie on your side with your legs straight. Prop yourself up with your hand directly below your shoulder (or on your forearm with your elbow directly below your shoulder). Your body should form a diagonal line with your feet stacked on top of each other. If you can’t hold the plank for the full duration, work up to it. Form is more important the length of time: be sure your hips and knees stay of the floor.

    Ski Hops
    Starting in a standing position with knees slightly bent and chest forward, quickly jump from side to side over an imaginary line. Land each time with feet hip-width distance apart. When you land where you began (2 jumps) that’s one rep.
    Squat
    Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms by sides, Squat slowly until both knees are bent 90 degrees and raise arms straight to shoulder level in front of you. Immediately rise out of squat, returning to standing with arms by side.

    Static Lunge
    Begin with right leg one large step in front of the left leg. Lower your body until both knees from a 90-degree angle. Don’t touch your back knee to the ground. Lift yourself out of the lunge. Do reps then switch to left leg.

     

    Triangle Pushup
    Do a pushup but instead of placing hand outside of your body, move them in under your chest with index finger and thumb touching to form a triangle.
    Tricep Dip
    Find an elevated surface such as a step, a coffee table over a chair. Place your palms on the surface directly behind your body. Hold yourself up and gently lower yourself down using your arms. When your arms make a 90-degree angle behind you lift yourself back up to the starting position.
    Tricep Extension
    Hold one 10- to 15- pound weight in both hands. Place it behind your head and with control lift it over your head.
    V-Lift
    Hold a weight in each hand, arms at your side with palms facing in. Lift with straight arms and open them into a v-shape until arms are parallel with the floor.  Hold then carefully release to starting position.

    Whether you enjoy working out or not, how do you keep in shape? Try the workout, tell me what you think; I appreciate constructive criticism.

    1-Hour Total Body Workout

    I am not one of those people who really love to work out. I wish I were, because my life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to force myself to do things to keep in shape. I do what I have to in order to keep active but mostly I enjoy activities that are exercise plus something else, like yoga for relaxation and stretching, riding a bike to a friends house, walking the long way to the grocery store, hiking and backpacking, or running to the ice cream shop.  These activities have another purpose, and yet I still get some exercise out of it. I do have a few workout plans that I like to fit each in once a week (5-4-3-2-1 workout for one) and this one.

    I developed this plan for myself based on some Women’s Health Magazine workouts and an app I have for my Kindle Fire (as well as from my limited knowledge of what a good workout is). It takes an hour as is, but can easily be cut down to 45, 30 or even 15 minutes just by cutting out reps.

    1-Hour Total Body Workout

    For a printable version click the link below
    1-Hour Total Body Workout

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    Whether you enjoy working out or not, how do you keep in shape? Try the workout, tell me what you think; I appreciate constructive criticism.

    Small Space Gardening on a Budget

    My Grandpa bought me a book called In a Japanese Garden by Charmaine Aserappa with original woodcuts by Akiko Maomura for my birthday. It is full of short phrases about each component of a Japanese garden and a corresponding image (woodcut).  At the end there is a description of Japanese gardens and what they mean, “not merely decorative, but meticulously designed and maintained as meditative spaces for contemplation, refreshment and reflection.” I hope I can find both refreshment and order in my garden space.

    If you’ve read my other posts you may know that this summer my biggest project has been my balcony garden. It all began with the Hanging Gutter Garden Part 1 and Part 2. While the gutter garden was certainly the most intensive of my projects this summer, it was not the only one.  You may remember this flower tower mentioned in this post; let me tell you how I made my version.

    My Version

    Materials:

    • Decreasing sizes of pots – you can use any number of pots I used four (they should have holes in the bottom).  I got the three terra cotta pots from Michael’s for fairly cheap (sale + coupons) and the big plastic pot from WalMart for about $7 bucks and I didn’t need to buy a water collection dish because it has it’s own draining mechanism built it.
    • Long metal rod – I used one of those threaded rods they have at Home Depot. I will be the first to admit that I have no idea what it’s actually for but it was cheaper than buying rebar (and I didn’t have to cut it).
    • Plants – I lucked out because the King Soopers had a big sale on flowers (10 4-packs for $10) I also bought the potato vines for about $2.50 because I love the way they look. Any annuals will do, you could even plant edible plants or herbs.
    • Soil – I used some with water beads since it’s been so dry, but any kind will do.

    You start by filling the base pot half-full with soil. Stick the rod in the center, slide the next pot down the rod.  Fill that pot halfway with soil and repeat the process with the remaining pots. If the rod sticks out the top, simply add more soil between pots. Then plant your flowers or what have you as you normally would. Simple right?

    “Be the bud. Prepare to blossom.”

    The remaining flowers are planted in flowerpots around the railings.

    “Be the gardener. Create order.”

    I also mentioned that I wanted to plant tomatoes and peppers in pots. I used water walls to increase their growing season. Here are my results.

    I used fallen branches as support (free vs. not free… I choose free)

    This is the third ripe tomato so far

    My First Pepper

    My strawberry plant is in a hanging basket. It’s been doing well, only the birds keep getting the fruit before I do. I would mind more if they weren’t so dang cute and didn’t sing such pretty songs to me while I drink my tea in the morning.

    I also ended up planting peas from seed using this tutorial. They started out growing like mad; I harvested two bowls of peas in their peak. However, it turns out container gardening is quite difficult.  I think I over-watered them causing their roots to run out of oxygen and rot, finally they started dying off. I’m too embarrassed to share the picture. On the bright side there is some re-growth now that the soil has dried out a bit.

    The final addition to my farm was sort of last minute. I had an extra pot and some carrot seeds so I planted them in the pot. I’ve never heard of this being done and this is crazy (but here’s my number, so call me maybe). Anyway we’ll see how it turns out; all I have at the moment is greens. I did a thinning last week so hopefully the carrots start being carrots.

    My watering can is in the front (isn’t it cute?). The carrots are in the terra cotta pot just behind the watering can.

    As for this project, I couldn’t figure out a way to stabilize it. I think the best way would be to drive the rebar deep into the ground.  Well I don’t have ground, I have concrete and a wooden railing.  I scratched that project but my grandmother found these cute colorful pots at the dollar store.  She bought a bunch and I am using them for herbs (I realize now this is better because I can bring them inside this winter). P.S. Notice the tomato on the window sill through the window. 🙂

    “Be the seasons. Welcome change.”
    From left to right: dill, cilantro (used to be cilantro), spearmint, lemon balm, oregano, basil, spring onions
    They sit on my air conditioner

    Rosemary Bush

    I wanted a way to enjoy my space so I have been keeping my eyes open for a small-ish patio set.  This bistro set caught my eye at Home Depot. At that point I told my parents about it and guess what I got for my birthday? Well see for yourself.

    It didn’t come with the cushions, those were a separate gift from my grandparents

    You can see the grill in the background; Reid has wanted a grill since, as long as I’ve known him (and we just celebrated our 3 year anniversary last week). We found this charcoal grill at a flea market in south (SOUTH) Fort Collins for $12.  One night he was grilling as the sun was setting and it started getting too dark for him to see. He used his camping headlamp that night but the next day he went out and got a strand of lights to hang from the ceiling. Now it feels like an outdoor café.

    “Be the moth. Seek the light.
    Be the lantern. Guide the lost.”

    We also found two wind chimes (and I made a third)

    “Be the wind chime. Let the breeze blow through you. Turn the storms into song.”

    Now that all the hard work is done I have had the chance to relax in and enjoy the space. We eat dinner at our café, I read books in the morning with my breakfast and tea, and I tend and water the plants (the best part of container gardening is that there are no weeds, only insect pests). Though it took most of my savings to set it up I have no regrets about the rewarding outcome. My first real experience with gardening has overall been successful, maybe not bountiful, but successful none-the-less.

    (***Update 09/05/12: Although I loved my time at WordPress, I found it was my time to move on. I am now at Blogger; I believe it to be a better fit for me personally. If you subscribe, or want to subscribe, to this blog, please be sure to subscribe to the new one. Here’s the link.)

    Leave a comment; I need all the advice I can get. What are your best gardening tips?

    Small Space Gardening on a Budget

    My Grandpa bought me a book called In a Japanese Garden by Charmaine Aserappa with original woodcuts by Akiko Maomura for my birthday. It is full of short phrases about each component of a Japanese garden and a corresponding image (woodcut).  At the end there is a description of Japanese gardens and what they mean, “not merely decorative, but meticulously designed and maintained as meditative spaces for contemplation, refreshment and reflection.” I hope I can find both refreshment and order in my garden space.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget



    If you’ve read my other posts you may know that this summer my biggest project has been my balcony garden. It all began with the Hanging Gutter Garden Part 1 and Part 2. While the gutter garden was certainly the most intensive of my projects this summer, it was not the only one.  You may remember this flower tower mentioned in this post; let me tell you how I made my version.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget My Version


    Materials:

    • Decreasing sizes of pots – you can use any number of pots I used four (they should have holes in the bottom).  I got the three terra cotta pots from Michael’s for fairly cheap (sale + coupons) and the big plastic pot from WalMart for about $7 bucks and I didn’t need to buy a water collection dish because it has it’s own draining mechanism built it.
    • Long metal rod – I used one of those threaded rods they have at Home Depot. I will be the first to admit that I have no idea what it’s actually for but it was cheaper than buying rebar (and I didn’t have to cut it).
    • Plants – I lucked out because the King Soopers had a big sale on flowers (10 4-packs for $10) I also bought the potato vines for about $2.50 because I love the way they look. Any annuals will do, you could even plant edible plants or herbs.
    • Soil – I used some with water beads since it’s been so dry, but any kind will do.


    You start by filling the base pot half-full with soil. Stick the rod in the center, slide the next pot down the rod.  Fill that pot halfway with soil and repeat the process with the remaining pots. If the rod sticks out the top, simply add more soil between pots. Then plant your flowers or what have you as you normally would. Simple right?

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget “Be the bud. Prepare to blossom.”


    The remaining flowers are planted in flowerpots around the railings.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget


    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget “Be the gardener. Create order.”


    I also mentioned that I wanted to plant tomatoes and peppers in pots. I used water walls to increase their growing season. Here are my results.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget I used fallen branches as support (free vs. not free… I choose free)
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a BudgetThis is the third ripe tomato so far.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget


    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget My First Pepper


    My strawberry plant is in a hanging basket. It’s been doing well, only the birds keep getting the fruit before I do. I would mind more if they weren’t so dang cute and didn’t sing such pretty songs to me while I drink my tea in the morning.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget


    I also ended up planting peas from seed using this tutorial. They started out growing like mad; I harvested two bowls of peas in their peak. However, it turns out container gardening is quite difficult.  I think I over-watered them causing their roots to run out of oxygen and rot, finally they started dying off. I’m too embarrassed to share the picture. On the bright side there is some re-growth now that the soil has dried out a bit.

    The final addition to my farm was sort of last minute. I had an extra pot and some carrot seeds so I planted them in the pot. I’ve never heard of this being done and this is crazy (but here’s my number, so call me maybe). Anyway we’ll see how it turns out; all I have at the moment is greens. I did a thinning last week so hopefully the carrots start being carrots.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget My watering can is in the front (isn’t it cute?). The carrots are in the terra cotta pot just behind the watering can.


    As for this project, I couldn’t figure out a way to stabilize it. I think the best way would be to drive the rebar deep into the ground.  Well I don’t have ground, I have concrete and a wooden railing.  I scratched that project but my grandmother found these cute colorful pots at the dollar store.  She bought a bunch and I am using them for herbs (I realize now this is better because I can bring them inside this winter). P.S. Notice the tomato on the window sill through the window. 🙂

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget 


    From left to right: dill, cilantro (used to be cilantro), spearmint, lemon balm, oregano, basil, spring onions
    They sit on my air conditioner


    “Be the seasons. Welcome change.”

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a BudgetRosemary Bush

    I wanted a way to enjoy my space so I have been keeping my eyes open for a small-ish patio set.  This bistro set caught my eye at Home Depot. At that point I told my parents about it and guess what I got for my birthday? Well see for yourself.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Small Space Gardening on a Budget
    It didn’t come with the cushions, those were a separate gift from my grandparents.


    You can see the grill in the background; Reid has wanted a grill since, as long as I’ve known him (and we just celebrated our 3 year anniversary last week). We found this charcoal grill at a flea market in south (SOUTH) Fort Collins for $12.  One night he was grilling as the sun was setting and it started getting too dark for him to see. He used his camping headlamp that night but the next day he went out and got a strand of lights to hang from the ceiling. Now it feels like an outdoor café.

    “Be the moth. Seek the light.
    Be the lantern. Guide the lost.”

    We also found two wind chimes (and I made a third)