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What works for me

Any day can be a fairly good day

What works for me, might work for you, as well. It just depends on what type of person you are. The global media invents some days when one supposedly has to feel really bad, and then, which days are going to be better. Really? What a nonsense. Lots of people do not like winter, the unpleasant winter – with strong, chilling winds, snow piling up to the window sills, sleet, ice, freezing rain and bitter cold. No, there’s nothing adorable about all of that. I am in Southern Ontario which is sort of across the lake from New York.

Winter snow shoveling

The Ontario Lake is what can cause all kinds of troubles or bring relief. Thankfully, we didn’t have any snow all January. That’s up to the last days. I’ve been shoveling for about 4 hours a day in average this week. And snow keeps coming, and I keep shoveling. One might see that as a disaster. I agree, there are better ways to spend our time. But then again – all the exercise I get and all the fresh air which enriches the blood stream with oxygen? The rejuvenating effect of movement, clean air and great mood?

For mood and soul

That’s what we get from doing something useful not only for ourselves, but everything and everybody else. Plants will thank me in the spring for care I took preventing them from freezing out. Everybody who arrives in the huge backyard, is happy they don’t have to get wet feet walking through high snow drifts. I am happy because of all the great views which, no, I won’t paint.

Immersing oneself in colors

Painting works for me in many different ways. During cold and snowy months, I paint spring, flowers, rivers, creeks and forest where the spring flowers come up. I think I was born as an artist and gardener. Everything else sort of lines up around these two main passions of me. I love green color. I adore blue color, and there’s nothing better than bright pink flowers. I create this uplifting reality in my art.

Reading for pure pleasure

The other things to take mind off, are books. I only read at night something thrilling, absolutely consuming. I do research and learning during the day, therefore, the relaxing reading involves authors which can do that: write something realistic enough, but with feeling of mystery, thrilling and suspenseful. The range of writers is huge; however, I do prefer male writers. Their perception of events and the ways they resolve crime stories and display personalities resonates with me better. I do read female authors, as well, but frequently some books leave me disappointed. I feel like, I was promised so much, but didn’t receive it.

The green air purifiers

Room plants are next in line of life improving things. I do not have enough space, and my potted plants simply cannot do gorgeously without enough light, but they still grow and make me happy. I stuffed some in the basement at two tiny windows, the rest is in the art room. As you know, some plants can live well enough with hardly any light. They purify and moisten air. They also require little attention, just some watering. Green onions are doing nicely in a small cup. Many Canadian houses are like that: no place for doing something and no place for plants. I should know since I’ve been moving so many times and living in so many houses. Small windows, low ceiling, a place to eat, sleep, watch TV and shower. A place for people who prefer doing nothing.

Cooking from scratch

Finally, I’m a very good cook, but I don’t usually make complex meals. I go Latvian style: few ingredients, preparation requires little time and effort. I see sometimes recipes which need like twenty or more ingredients. Definitely not for me. We also do not use ready-made, half-cooked, etc. stuff. It makes more sense to do everything from scratch. We love soups and vegetable salads in all kinds of combinations. Not the common things, but specifically ours, like beet, carrot, leak, bean, etc. We love layered herring salad with potatoes, carrots, onions, beets and egg.

Simple is good

I am Latvian, and I stick to my own recipes. Therefore, we do not have heartburn, stomach issues or digestion problems. We are pension age, but slim and energetic. The fewer and more natural ingredients, the better for digestion. We do not snack. We have 3 meals a day and don’t eat anything in between. I suppose, any adult can do that. I believe that lots of people gain excess weight due to snacking, consuming fancy drinks, adding all kinds of things to tea and coffee. There’s nothing wrong with black and strong coffee. To be honest, our digestive system needs longer breaks, like 12 hours and then 3-4 hours between the 3 meals. And nothing more.

It’s doable

Winter will end. Spring will come with its own chores. I’ve suffered so much from seasonal affective disorder all my life that I decided to just put an end to it. I changed my view at it. I made myself not feel sad and upset. I literally push myself outdoors and once I have the shovel in hands, I won’t stop until everything is clean. I sometimes have to make myself want to paint or teach an art class. However, after the reluctant start it all happens. The resistance is huge, but I am able to overcome it. At the end of the day, I list in my mind all the good things I have done. They can be small things, but I have managed to stay on top of them. Big achievement.

Many years ago, I wrote numerous good articles which make a lot of sense today.

Wishing you pleasant winter experience and thanks for reading!

Featured

Opening the door to the new year

The door to a better future is not that far away. We just have to find it and courageously step in. Do we dare refuse from unnecessary buying things that get thrown out after a few days or weeks? Consumption is killing our planet, our health and is decreasing the odds for survival with just every passing year.

In our very materialistic world, there’s little space left for art and creativity, imagination and dreaming. Due to degradation of values, we are pretty much a society which has returned to bread and entertainment. Capitalism is most likely the wrong way to be. The more we produce and consume, the more we damage and destroy the nature and climate gets worse and less predictable. The nature fights back, and it’s about time we review what we do and don’t. However, is it possible to convince the consumer society that we don’t need lots of that we’ve put in our shopping cart?

The local Walmart and grocery chains have implemented practice of not giving customers any plastic shopping bags. Canada is discontinuing import and manufacture of plastic straws, utensils, plates and similar items. But look at the shelves. Everything is packed in plastic. Every smallest pack contains some or a lot of plastic. Look around in Walmart. There are so many plastic items, that discontinuing shopping bags isn’t even a drop in the ocean of plastic products and contamination of nature.

Here in Ontario, the Christmas season was very messy, numerous flights cancelled, even train couldn’t take, fallen trees stopped rail traffic. People stayed at the airport for days, not hours. We feel very happy we didn’t intend to travel this year. Well, we haven’t travelled for quite many years now. Nothing bad has happened because of that. Stay at home, enjoy cozy lights and tasty meals, silence at night, sparse winter light during the day. And it’s really fine.

We are lucky to live in a detached house surrounded by old majestic trees, lots of wild plants and grasses and there’s so much space outdoors that I can take a walk not even leaving my house. At the same time, it’s a town with everything close by. It’s great to live in a huge city, but then again living high up from the ground causes health problems. Add the air pollution and traffic jams, and it becomes quite tough way of living.

The landscape of my surroundings is quite eternal. Majestic trees disappearing in the distance by moonlight, by sunlight.  By late evening, the sunset colors them pink and orange. Summer dresses everything up in fantastic greens and flowers have all colors of the rainbow. Nothing to complain about if you like I do, feel trees breathing and grasses whispering. Flowers just sing in soft voices. The fall comes, and every leaf burns with bright orange and red flames.

While we have more or fewer choices, it sometimes doesn’t work out in our favor. Well, I quite like this place, although, it has numerous shortages, and great things as well. Every year when we have to move is not a good year. Packing, moving and unpacking takes not only a few days. For me, it usually takes rather months. I am better organized now than I was in spring, but there are still unpacked boxes, naturally so.

The door to a better future and life is not that far away. It’s still within our reach, or so we believe. We’ve got to stop admiring those with thousand pairs of shoes, but start rather figuring out how everything can be recycled, refurbished, repurposed and reused. It’s also so that one can sleep only in one bed at a time, eat one meal and wear one outfit at one particular moment. The essence of our existence has been so far – grab more, get more, stack up more, have more of anything. Will it be possible to turn the reality around and make people try living with what’s necessary? That might take decades if at all.

I hope you have nature around you or at least, access to it. It’s a great cure for all kinds of illnesses. Fresh air, home-grown produce, trees for shade, path for walking. I see this world as an endless painting. I choose not to notice what doesn’t fit in it. Just for now, for a few days, let it be a flawless world with picturesque views and beauty which lives in every smallest detail of natural surroundings.

I wish everybody a saturated, successful and pleasant year! Thanks very much to all of you who commented, liked and re-blogged. All the best to each of you and everybody who reads!

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Time is a river

Time is a river, but once one is over 60, it feels like a waterfall. At least I experience time like that. Maybe it’s because everything takes longer to get done, maybe it’s because the flow of time has accelerated over the last years, but I’m very sure it feels as if the week consists of just a few hours. It was Monday, and all of a sudden – it’s already weekend. I was absent from this blog for quite a while.

Love the leaves and blooms!

I’m simply too busy catching up. The world has also changed with all major events rushing over us. The seasons have changed. We have fall season here in Ontario already, and I jumped over the summer completely. Half of the summer I was suffering from bad pain due to an accident and so I couldn’t do anything else, but read. As you know, I read only real books since I would love to spend no time online and no time staring at screens. I’m not addicted to devices and I use them only if absolutely necessary.

Cucumber blooms, delicate shape, beautiful color!

Nothing much has happened also during the last 3 months. I’m still just at home here, haven’t seen anybody, haven’t been anywhere. The garden I started in spring was doing ok, but we basically had no rain, none whatsoever all summer. Well, there were too many cucumbers and I have too many tomatoes at the moment. I don’t feel like making preserves this year and I also don’t have jars.

Summer colors

The internet and everything being online has made life extremely complicated. Dealing with paperwork isn’t easy and I plain and simple hate paperwork, just like many other people. However, I don’t think there are many people who didn’t get married because of paperwork. I managed that, back in Europe, and I was actually very happy later that I didn’t get married. It’s because the distance of time revealed the true face of that person.

Black-eyed beauties

The other thing I absolutely cannot take is meetings. It’s supposed to be great attending meetings, but I just dislike them so much that if you want to never see me again, just invite me to some meeting. This is because during the soviet times, up to 1991 while Latvia was in the USSR, we were always in meetings, preparing pointless and useless reports, plans and schedules. The paperwork was overwhelming and, I have to admit I have missed probably a lot of good opportunities since they required plenty of paperwork. I simply do not apply to shows, art associations, exhibitions and so on.

Middle of summer

Living is tight for most people nowadays. My ability to do numerous things on my own helps. Being a good cook helps, too. However, it’s been so much cooking while staying only at home that I’ve lost the spark for doing that. Thankfully, I’ve never changed my size or weight after 21, therefore, I have a wide choice of outfits. I am wearing pants I had sewn in 2004 when I just arrived in Canada, jackets and skirts from 90-s. I have sewn them myself, therefore, the fabric is excellent and doesn’t wear out or lose color like the readymade clothes.

More of flowers, more color

While I am on some social media sites, I really cannot stand them. Facebook is a necessity for art classes and other art events, but the most I can spend there is about 5 minutes a week. I just look at Facebook, and it takes no time at all to become nauseated. I think I was already too old when social media became a must for whatever we want to promote and put out there, so I never felt social media as an organic part of me. I lack that chatty style and I’m way too realistic and honest to spread lies shamelessly. I never engage in small talk either, also in real life. Or give out fake compliments. Or watch weird videos.

Hibiscus bloom

Nothing of that makes my life better, therefore, as I mentioned before, I rather read real books. Or some blogs, or my own blogs. The problem is that most people don’t have time to even look at the actual post. They click on “like” from Reader and then leave a comment – please, visit my site. While I have quite many followers, I know well those few who read my posts. I hope I will stay in touch and be more present during the upcoming months, but my art site and art blog definitely take priority since art is what I do, and I want it to stay that way. Making income with art is very tricky. It’s also time- and resource-consuming business. Well, time will show how I survive doing what most people would say is a futile effort.

Start and finish in bright yellow, it sure is going to brighten somebody’s day!

Meanwhile, I’d like to remind that time is a river, and it never gives us back anything. Float, swim or fight the flow – that’s up to each one of us. As long as we are above the water, we can do lots.

Have a decent fall season!

Emotions and feelings in winter colors

We’ve been frequently mentioning how important it is to stay calm, relaxed and keep our mind clear. When things go our way and nothing bad shatters our daily routine, everybody is fine. Yet, life is always a mix of all kinds of events. That means, time to time, crisis is inevitable. Usually, the scale of crisis differs: it can range from personal and individual to global, as it has been for the last 2 years.

One good indicator of mental health is staying well and managing your life properly in good times and in bad times. All generations get to experience a crisis, whether personal, local, country-wide or global. There are no exceptions, however, severity of crisis might be at distinct levels. Severity of crisis is a mental assessment we create for ourselves. Therefore, our reaction could range from panic and feeling of being destructed to quiet planning of preventive measures and execution of them.

Older people generally would take on events in a calmer manner because of their previous experiences. When we are past 60, we’ve seen, heard and experienced a lot. We know that the world owes us nothing, this is us, who act, react and decide. Statistically, we could have an average person in every group of temperament and personal features, but in reality – reactions are as many as there are people on Earth.

Our thoughts are slower than our emotions hence emotions take their roots in subconscious experience and depth of brain and body system interactions. It’s quite impossible to calculate the exact chemical brain processes and the precise amounts of all countless neurotransmitters which accompany one or another emotion and do that for an exact level. As humans, we are either upset, depressed, exhausted or happy, satisfied and altogether fine.

Passion and engagement play a big role when it comes to turning our desires into reality. We use to say: to the bottom of my heart. That’s exactly what matters. If you wish for something just because you were told that repeating some affirmations is what takes you closer to achieving whatever you want, it’s unlikely to happen. This depends on the degree of your passion and whether you feel it, whether your emotional state is an exact match in intensity.

Curses and wishes come true not because of the words, they come true because the involved emotions hit sky-high intensity. Bad emotions, like rage, envy, anger, hate or good emotions like admiration, excitement, joy and elation, they all matter more than words. The deeper and stronger the emotion, the more impact on our life. The more we reside in one emotional state, the more it is going to affect us. Change is good, even when it doesn’t feel right and being the best one.

So, who is feeling better about the pandemic and who manages its impact better: a person who is in a total rage and hates masks and lockdowns to the bottom of their heart, or a person who believes it’s way easier for everybody to just increase their immune reaction via vaccines and stay out of social gatherings for the common good? Some people find it nothing extremely unpleasant or difficult, some – as the highest sacrifice. Sure, the frontline workers face the worst, but there are millions of personal situations, and everybody of us individually always has a choice. We make it for better, or for worse, but, indeed, there’s is a choice. If you say, you don’t have any, I don’t believe you. Depending on situation, we have less or more choices, but in the worst case – at least one.

My personal world has shrunk a lot during these more than two years. I haven’t been too active, and usually during the winter, I am not. It’s not even pandemic, it’s just me. It is my choice because I could have been doing a lot more, yet, my energetic storage feels empty and my motivation is at a low point at the moment. This all changes over the year and reaches the top during warm and sunny months. It’s a good time to contemplate, plan ahead, and here and there, take a few steps towards executing my plans.

To raise the energy levels, we really need to be outdoors more – get some clean and healing air, watch birds in sunny days, enjoy squirrels working and playing unstoppably. We had a bad storm last weekend, and the weather is very chilly, it reaches minus 20 Celsius. I hear kids screaming and playing outdoors, and this sounds very pleasant to me. As soon as the air temperature raises a bit, I will resume the outdoor walks.

The room plants are doing great this winter. Well, they have my full attention. It’s a pleasure too look at them, and I never stop admiring the winter blooms, the bright green of leaves and their wonderful, gracious shapes. Room plants feel like a great green oasis in almost every room. They certainly help with air and mood, as well.

Altogether, I think emotions affect life more than our thoughts and words. For observant people, that shouldn’t be any news. We do mask emotions often because nobody wants to appear harmful and destructive to others. However, in everybody’s life, we can see also moments when their emotions come through and they reveal their true nature. I hope you know people who simply make you feel good without saying a word. I hope you have met somebody whose closeness doesn’t require you to speak to feel comfortable and safe.

Whether we know it or not, the emotional aura walks ahead of us and signals to others who we are. It’s good if you are a magnet to good people and push away the dishonest and evil ones. On subconscious level, we do not make choices with our mind, but with who we are. The true selves. Thankfully, being honest and genuine is always rewarded. One can pretend behind a screen, hide under their online image, create absolutely stunning internet personality, but time comes and the true colors become visible. That’s the power of emotions. They break through the protective layers and reveal the truth.

Last night I got news, that we have to move again. So, it’s been moving and moving, and now – once more. I hope for April, but that remains to be seen.

All the best until I decide to write more!

It’s a brilliant day

Today, it is. The heat has decreased and the humidity torture is less depressing, as well. My blog posting gaps have increased, though, thanks to all kinds of unexpected issues. It is a time when I am aware of all things I still have to tackle and bring to some conclusion, yet, I don’t do anything here and there. The privilege of older age is that you can mentally sort through the urgent things and make a reasonable decision: there’s hardly anything that cannot wait for a bit longer. For instance, posting a new article which won’t be seen by that many anyway.

It’s a wrong decision from the point of being present on the internet, but a very beneficial from the view of general feeling-and being-well-aspect. Ever since we became billions on every social media site and every blogging platform, the importance of one single post lost its meaning. Life is not long enough whatever way you look at it. I’d prefer much longer stretch of feeling like in 35-50 period. I find that around 50 it was when I had still huge energy and motivation to fight every internet battle and to squeeze myself out like a lemon to grab attention. Over time, the need to be present everywhere has really lost its attraction.

Being present in moments which matter for me personally has become more important. Sooner or later, we all realize that there will be things which we aren’t destined to do, learn or pursue. Time limits our ability to perform everything at the same level of devotion and achieve the same level of success in all areas which appeal to us. It takes huge time to achieve adequate skills in any area nowadays. However, the abundant numbers of experts and people who do counselling means there’s too much advise about everything. 

Let’s talk about how-to posts. Mainly, there are 2 groups. The first group, usually, in technical aspects of using software, app, social media or blogging platforms, writing or drawing and painting tools are helpful. The second group is where the heading says “how-to”, but the article lists reasons why and immediately takes you to the button to purchase something. We already know why, if we are looking for the practical application of this new whatever it is. I’m really interested in finding examples of using a tool, a strategy, I want to see how it looks in reality, but that’s not possible. There are immediately ads and all kinds of offers to buy. Food takes very much space on the internet, as well, too much for me personally. I stick to the old and extra simple recipes, better yet, the ones which consist of a few ingredients. That’s also very beneficial for our digestive system.

Then there are the numbers articles: 10 things what to eat and 10 what not to, 7 ways to wear an outfit, 6 ways to relax, 5 ways to prepare a particular food and to exercise. Very often it is “how to be happy” in numerous ways. It’s usually a list of things which we all know, have or do not intend to have, do or do mind doing. It’s something which we are aware about, but we have a reason not to engage in it, or we are already mastering that aspect. This type of list provides with no discoveries. One advice can never suit all. The most interesting articles for me are about personal experiences, the diverse ways we live.

Today, it is a really brilliant day. Just with the right amount of heat and sunshine. With well-formed attractive clouds sailing the bright blue sky. With bees still working blooms and butterflies hurrying from one flower to another. With tomato branches almost touching the ground because of the heavy fruit. With fantastically orange and perfectly round pumpkins. I also saw hummingbird 2 times this year. That’s so cute for my location!

The summer has been too short as always. It was too hot, we had too much rain, it was too dry sometimes, too stormy here and there. And it will be definitely too cold in the winter. No perfect weather for us, and here I laugh a little. Our feeling of entitlement has spoiled us. I personally do not complain, I take summer over winter any time. The virus has had big impact on our life here in Ontario, as I suppose, in the place where you are at. We thought it will be a fairly swift battle and we would be done with it. Maybe you have lived as you wanted, but I here couldn’t. Restrictions are still all in place, except, there is no lockdown.

I have such insanely huge amounts of produce, I’m not sure what to do with it. We are giving away part of it to husband’s colleagues, sometimes to anybody who will take it. I am seeing all benefits of growing vegetables and flowers from my own seeds. These plants are very strong, they practically do not suffer from the regular plant diseases. It makes a lot of sense to take care of your own seeding material. Since I haven’t been anywhere, only at home (almost 2 years already!!!), I am attaching a few pictures of my garden. It can be enough, but dreams and memories take me to other places; where I have been, which I will visit and what I’m not going to see. Well, the Earth is small and big at the same time, just like this life: so uncomplicated and manageable one day, but absolutely stunning or overwhelming the next.

Have a good September which is just around the corner! Thanks for reading!

At the doorstep of 2021

The year is white from ends

with flourishing green in the middle

The year

The year is what we have chosen to be our reference point. The year starts and ends in winter in places where I have lived and still live. The end and the start of the year happen to be white very often or about 85% of the time, sometimes with snowdrifts and shiny snow blanket over grasses and frost on trees, sometimes – with only ice patches and mud, sometimes bitterly cold, but always in winter. I am aware it’s not everywhere like that.

The green part of year

I am a fan of the middle: from early spring till the last green grass stem is still growing. I stop painting winter right before Christmas, and in the recent years, I am trying to stick with my decision not to paint any snow. It is easily explained: I cannot wait for the first flowers and plants to come up. I will be digging soil in the backyard when it hasn’t even completely thawed yet. That is my gym and my exercise and always has been.

Sinful idleness versus meaningful doing

The age impacts the flow of time and our perception of time settings to a great extent. The older one gets, the more serious they are about using time wisely, at least I am. I do measure my days by accomplishments, not by hours. If I haven’t managed to get anything meaningful done during the day, I’ll be upset. Therefore, spending time just exercising or walking aimlessly while I can also get done something useful in the garden, is a sin for me. Just like idle sitting around or having small talk.

No small talk for me

I avoid small talk, I certainly do as much as possible. Walking is fantastic, and I add usually a target to it: one store or another, appointment or visit. If I’m in the middle of painting, I simply cannot answer the phone. That frequently involves making small talk. Paint dries quickly, ideas vanish and mood changes. We never paint with the brush and paints only, there are a lot of other factors which go into my art.

Nobody has all answers

It’s good to believe that we know all the answers as our age grows and gets past 60, but it’s not true. The more we know, the more questions arise. I am very thankful for my medical knowledge, pharmaceutical and diagnostic skills and clinical experience. That has really helped and not only me. It keeps making life easier. I’ve also discovered how Canadian doctors are not always up to standards and protocols, and how much their diagnosis can be affected by rush, generalized assumptions and plain misunderstanding or inattention.

Superficiality

Superficiality is very widespread. The justification is that nobody has time. That is the biggest paradox of nowadays: everybody has plenty of time for fruitless scrolling through the internet on any screen that happens to be around, but no time for the good and meaningful things which make life worthwhile. Most people don’t ever read anything that’s under the picture or within the actual text, or the first 3 words at the best. Superficiality leads to sloppiness, disorganized and careless attitude in other areas of life.

Lack of quality

Quality is very quickly disappearing as the result, and lack of quality actually applies to absolutely all areas of our life. For instance, while I know that restaurants are having tough times, the restaurant and takeout food is just not for me and my family. We have gotten takeout meals a few times, and most of this food went to the garbage bin. It had no taste, no flavor, and there was certainly no love applied when cooking. High class workmanship and good skills in whatever walk of life we are looking for, are just not there. It makes no sense trying to get somebody’s help when it’s pretty clear you will have to do it over.

The year 2020

Everybody of us applies our own ratings and our own measuring tape based on experience, age, knowledge and so forth to whatever we are evaluating. Comparatively, I cannot complain about this year. The previous one, the 2019 was much worse since I lost my mom that year. Garden was doing extremely well this year. I put in many jars of preserves for winter. I had no live art classes from March to December, therefore, I was able to paint many more of my own paintings. Some of them are really excellent. Washing hands, disinfecting all items and areas, wearing a mask and staying at home was not a problem for us because we are a tiny 2-person family. Financials could be way better, but, unless one is a billionaire, that’s always an area which could be better.

December: snow and more snow
December: white and pure snow all around
Magnolias
Early spring magnolias, they blossom in my backyard
Spring lettuce
Lettuce comes up and produces early
Summer cucumbers
We were enjoying our own cucumbers in the summer and later pickles in the fall and winter
I had tomatoes from June to November, some got used in preserves
Summer flowers
Flowers in full bloom, this is already October
Bell peppers
Bell peppers or paprika were doing fine also, late October here
Last nasturtium
The last nasturtium blossoms, direct before the strong November frost
January sometimes comes with sunny days

Be patient

The COVID-19 pandemic probably will take quite a while to resolve. As we have seen, this virus mutated very quickly, thus, causing to establish whether the available vaccines still work for the new variants of this virus. It’s uncertain that more new variants won’t appear before everybody has received their immunization dose of vaccine. Only time will show how long we are staying safe and how long the vaccine actually helps keeping one safe: a year, 3 years, more years? Time is what we didn’t have so far. Being patient is very important, hence, everybody contributes to putting the COVID-19 pandemic behind us.

Wishing safe, healthy and good New Year!

Thanks for reading if you did!

Water and fruit

Make good choices to quench thirst and avoid harmful chemicals

Deal or health

While standing in the line at grocery store, it’s impossible not to notice what people are putting in their shopping carts. There is pretty large crowd which walks around the store with flyers in their hand looking for deals and discounts. Well, it’s not that the best products or the freshest ones get into this flyer, but we can sometimes get promotional products at very reasonable prices. At least at my local grocery store, the most deals are offered for unhealthy and processed food and drinks.

Soft drinks are banned in European schools

I would say there’s a reason why soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi and energy drinks are banned from schools and their neighbourhoods in quite a few European countries. My native country Latvia has always been strict with such foods and drinks, the positive side is that we didn’t even see them or knew they existed until the borders were opened in 1991. The Latvian market was flushed with North American type of chemical foods and fast food places appeared then.

Clean food means more health

We had practically no obesity and related issues until the era of imported food begun. Believe or not, real dairy products are still available in Latvia. It’s always up to consumers what choice to make because manufacturers will try to meet the demand. When consumers show their dissatisfaction with chemically enhanced food, manufacturers and food producers have no other way, but to offer food and drinks which are in line with healthy eating guidelines and which are compliant with restrictions in use of chemical ingredients.

Think again

I read an article how people, who told Coke was a total poison and Pepsi was a pure junk, were attacked online. That makes one wonder: are there really too few obesity, type 2 diabetes, digestive, heart and blood vessel associated diseases and cases yet? Isn’t there proof enough that not real food, proteins, carbohydrates and fats make a person sick, but their chemical substitutes and surrogate ingredients?

The choice is ours

Nobody would need to ever diet or fight the unwanted pounds if all of a sudden fast food, processed food and chemically produced food and drinks disappeared. However, that is not going to happen because profits always come first. There is a wide range in standards for chemicals and their maximum contents in food products. Therefore, the choice is ours: we all can exclude chemicals, fast food and processed foods from our menu. At least to some extent, because vegetables, fruit, berries, herbs and organic products are still a subject to standards. These standards allow for plenty of variation. “Organic” on a label does not mean the product is completely free of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers. “Organic” means the amount of harmful chemicals meets the stated limits.

Hydration for heat

It has been abnormally hot in Canada, Ontario for the last 2 weeks. We are expecting one more heat wave. Everybody will need to quench their thirst, and everybody will have a choice: to use pure water, mineral water or fruit flavored water for hydration, or just grab some soft drink, milkshake or juice.

Water is the best

When we talk about hydration, there is nothing better than pure water. Water is the best for quite a few reasons: for its chemical formula, for the fast absorption rate, for its friendly attitude towards our cell structure and for its lack of chemicals. Be careful with tap water. It can can contain too much chlorine, even antibiotics, metformin which is blood sugar lowering drug, and residues of very harmful chemical elements. Anything which does not degrade naturally and fast can find its way into tap water.

Moderate and balanced amount of water

It’s enough to use moderate amount of water because overdoing anything has bad consequences. Abnormal amount of water can cause kidney failure and hyponatremia or deficit of sodium in the bloodstream. If you do not use water, but other liquids, you must be aware they contain things you might not want to overdo with: juice is high in sugar, soft drinks are high in sugar and chemicals, milkshakes and ice-cream based drinks have lots of calories. The only thing we actually need in heat is to hydrate ourselves and maintain a good functionality, isn’t it? We don’t have to intake as many calories as with meal for this purpose.

Early childhood habits

How about kids? Kids will use whatever their parents are offering them from early childhood. If a family does not use soft drinks, kid will never have cravings for them. When a family is not addicted to sugars and fast foods, kid will never know such disorders as type 2 diabetes. Some parents are very worried that child does not eat enough. Normal kid will not starve himself to the point when some disorders occur. Kid could be reluctant to drink enough water, though. I also told this in my previous post: making fruit flavored water with colorful slices of citrus fruits is a good idea because this type of drink does not raise the content of sugars much, but hydrates well and looks great. Nobody has appetite when the blood glucose level is too high. If your kid has had some sugar-rich food or drink before meal, they will refuse to eat normal meal.

My photos of fruit flavored water and ice

Adding colored ice to such drinks is also fantastic. I didn’t have time, but it’s possible to freeze any juice and make colorful ice cubes. We can place small mint leaves, berries or parts of fruit in water and freeze them, we can freeze tea and any liquid. It looks very attractive

Add fruit and ice to regular bottled water, new
Add fruit and ice to regular bottled water

For people, who want to stay away from alcohol, using sparkling water with lime and mint and ice allows to get rid of cravings for alcohol. You can also use simple water, lots of ice cubes and small bit of lemon juice.

Still life with water and fruit, new

Fresh and delicious: what’s not to like?

I never like when we have to stop on the roadside for some snack while travelling, that the catering places always push one to have a Coke or Pepsi with food. When I ask whether they have sparkling water or mineral water, they quite often don’t. Well, I usually survive by asking for water with slice of lime.

Stay hydrated and use healthy water to quench your thirst!

Patch up life, live nice during pandemic

Patched up with hope: life during pandemic

If we are lucky enough to live in some country like Canada where we have social security, fairly affordable health care and chances to get a job, some job, not always what we wish for, we stop believing in our own mortality. We know we cannot avoid passing away and it will happen sometimes, but that is a far-away event. We first enjoy, savor and are happy. After some very long time or possibly eternity, that might happen. That might happen after a great life which we have filled up with all kinds of achievements. We have fulfilled our dreams and everything is sunny in our peaceful valley of joy and pleasure-rich entertaining space. Slightly utopic, but internet says we all can do that. This doesn’t apply to time of COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately, with everything being turned upside down and inside out.

The generations before cancer treatments, diabetes cures, artificial joints, artery stenting and transplanted organs, as well as efficient antibiotics, chemotherapy, fast and slow acting insulin, NSAIDs and steroids, blood pressure and cholesterol adjusting medications and antidepressants had to be more down to the Earth. Any health issue could have resulted in bad sequences and premature passing away. Therefore, people relied more on afterlife. If we didn’t have enough time to enjoy this life, we were quite sure that the best possible life awaits in a space which we had been told about depending on religion and personal belief. The shift nowadays is that we all want to experience the best possible life right now and here. We are not going to put up with anything less than paradise. This isn’t possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put extra pressure on most people. We hear often they cannot afford to wait; they cannot afford to buy one essential thing or another, they definitely cannot live as they used to. We also find out that virus has destroyed many lives, caused family conflicts, domestic violence and many people have succumbed to it. This might be the first time for somebody to realize that they are not bulletproof, I mean, that they, too, can become infected and have to undergo harsh treatment or even worse. The reality which threatens practically everybody, who slightly slips and stops observing the strict protocols of hygiene and physical distancing, has caused a gigantic wave of mental disorders.

While TV, social media and numerous internet sites remind us that we are not alone, that help is within easy reach, it can quite frequently remain only nice and cheering call without any follow-up action. We have to take into account that person, who is completely depressed (I am talking about clinically severe depression episode, not upset mood for a few days in a row), will take no steps to improve their condition. That is the nature of this condition: a complete ignorance of oneself, surroundings, situation and advice. They cannot do anything because they are unable to and they need some major break to become alive again.

The worst thing in pre-depressive state is analyzing everything: every word one hears, every glance, every message, every move and every reaction to what somebody else does or says. This leads to overwhelmingly negative self-assessment. The second worse thing is scrolling through social media and seeing how well everybody else is which leads to comparing one’s condition, situation and overall wellbeing to somebody else. If you do this for half a day or even longer, it is going to cause some reaction. There are usually only two types of social media messages which rise to the top: extremely attractive, extremely inspiring, extremely positive or plain bad and tragic. People will always look at a disastrous outcome. By numbers of statistics, that will be even more often than at something great and good. Have you seen how all traffic stops when there is a car accident on the road side? That’s exactly the same reason: it’s good to know that’s not our car and not us in it.

The best thing to do in a pre-depressive state is make oneself tired with physical work. Physical work with readily visible results beats physical exercise. Physical work which shows that we have achieved something immediately brings pleasant tiredness. We can look at spotless floor, bright and fresh laundry, planted flower bed, weeded garden, organized and clean room or house, sparklingly shiny windows. It’s good to split wood, dig soil and submerge hands in it. The only problem is to make that happen and start doing, overcome resistance and sometimes simple laziness.

Living in never-ending rush people forget about the energy which everything has, gives or takes. Let’s look at TV, computer, laptop or similar devices. While we believe we have got good energy watching something inspiring, uplifting and calling to activity, the radiation and energetic waves of devices actually deplete energy. The contemporary English version of ancient religious text says: “We are made from earth, and we return to earth.” I do interpret it so that also during our presence on the Earth we can draw all energy we need from the Earth. That is literary making our hands dirty with soil, walking barefoot on the grass and along the garden path, hugging tree which speaks to us and planting seeds in order to enjoy the harvest.

Patch up live, live nice during pandemic

Hug a tree, kiss a flower

The tiredness which comes from working at computer is completely different from tiredness which originates in working outdoors or indoors. More than ever, we need to clean our mind, decrease pollution in our head and let our brain enjoy fresh air. That decreases chance of shifting from upset mood days into severe and clinically treatable depression. Acting on it early, might help a lot, tremendously, in fact. Instead of scrolling through daily data and death reports, instead of spending hours reviewing progress of medical treatments and vaccines (it is a slow process anyway), one has to turn their mind to completely unrelated things.

While we might not be living the best life, we deserve, we cannot start feeling like a victim of circumstances, global or local events, pandemic and virus. Victim’s mind uses destructive energy and suffering since they believe it is inevitable and unavoidable. The reverse chain sets in, and we literally start causing what we would prefer to never happen to us. Whatever path we apply to our current situation, it will help, although, not permanently. That is fine, too.

We do have a choice: to work or refuse to work with all sequences that this decision causes, stay alone or go out, use caution or show off how brave we are, take unnecessary risks or avoid being childish. It is good to be recognized as a hero, and some people will embrace it. Most of us for different reasons will not because we are not willing to pay the price. One choice is not worse than the other. The outcome is different, and we might or might not like it. Choice always stays with us. We can call it whatever we want but it’s in our hands to manage our only life.

Patch up life, live nice during pandemic

This is a path which takes to better times

Stay well, be firm in your decisions and do not follow any doubtful trends which threaten your safety or safety of people around you!

Love, grow and eat red radish

Backyard grocery store: love, grow and eat red radish

Cold climate is perfect for radish

Maybe you love gardening just as much as I do. Maybe you love fresh vegetables and sprouts?

Maybe you just want to save money while eating top-quality food. Whatever the reason, radishes are great starting plant in the backyard. It grows in quite cold soil and it will grow even when it is almost minus degrees. In fact, radish likes cold climate. Once radish comes up, you can consume also the young leaves since they have the same nutritional value that the vegetable has.You can start radish as soon as the soil is ready to use. It only takes a few weeks and you can already consume it.

Greens and red radish: picturesque and delicious combination

Radish goes well with other early spring greens, for instance green onions or chives. Chives are up as soon as snow melts and the soil has just somewhat warmed up. Chives are also perennial, and you will enjoy them every spring once they are planted. Chives and green onions grow like weeds, no special conditions are required. The only requirement all these plants have is generous watering unless you have many rainy days. Radish will never be at its best quality if it has suffered from dry conditions.

Grow red radish

Great nutrients without much effort

What is the value of radish and greens? Huge. It not only tastes fresh and great, but it is also very low in calories, but very high in minerals and vitamins. Red radish contains vitamins E, A, C, B6, and K, and it is high on antioxidants. Radish has also fiber, zinc, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, copper. Young radish has milder taste, overgrown radish turns into fibrous indigestible matter. Therefore, we consume the red radish while bright red and juicy with bright white flesh.

Grow, love and eat red radish

Undeniable health benefits at no cost

Any fresh spring greens, especially absolutely organic greens as from your own garden, will contribute big time to immune system and provide with necessary vitamins and minerals. As I wrote before, each vegetable, each herb comes with its own unique, digestion-friendly complex of beneficial nutrients. Therefore, greens and early vegetables 100% beat the benefits one gets from synthetic and artificial supplements. Plus, they are clean of harmful chemicals and pesticides.

If you live in a large city

I feel sorry for everybody, who cannot keep distance from others during this pandemic. Especially, if your place is in a high rise, there is much less opportunity to have fresh and clean air, fresh (as from garden) vegetables, fruits and herbs. People with balconies can still devote some large pots, plastic bags (large size with holes for air) or boxes for planting herbs, greens and easy to grow vegetables. It depends on many things whether it will turn out as a great undertaking. Container gardens do not take much time. It’s spent mostly on planting and later regular watering.

Use time wisely and go for vegetable gardening

Most people have plenty of time this spring. Why not to go outside, dig up some area, add fresh top soil and seed something good for you? It is a nice exercise, fresh air and good food. Perfect combination!

Radish seeds can be also colored or attached to a tape, but they are not that tiny and quite easy to put in soil. Radish seeds should be spaced right away because it will not like being taken out and replanted.

Extra simple and extra healthy recipes

I like extra simple recipes which save me time and efforts.

Thinly sliced radish is great as topping on bread which you cover with some butter, cottage cheese plus cream and pinch of salt and pepper.

It goes well in any salad which contains lettuce and cucumber, dill and green onion.

You can always add hard boiled and sliced egg.

Love, grow and eat red radish

Extra simple salad of radish with leaves:

10 radishes with leaves, we use just the freshest and smallest; sliced, but radish leaves, dill and green onion are finely chopped, pour over kefir dressing, add 3 quartered hard-boiled eggs on top of mixed salad

All greens and radish salad

Bunch of carefully rinsed and washed chickweed, young dandelion leaves, soaked in strong salt water for 0.5 hours, washed; arugula or lettuce, 6-8 radishes with small, young leaves, dill, green onion, 1 clove garlic, salt, pepper to your liking. We thinly slice radish and finely chop any greens and garlic. Very small leaves do not need any chopping. Stir, pour over kefir, mix of kefir and sour cream or mustard dressing.

I never measure anything and use any variations of ingredients depending on what I have. Basically, one needs to feel what goes with what and use common sense. These recipes are what I would make for us. I haven’t included extra detailed handling instructions because I believe that everybody knows how to make some salad.

Mustard dressing

5 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp mustard, I use Keen’s hot mustard because I like it, but you can replace it with any other you prefer

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp liquid honey

Salt and small bit of paprika powder

Feel free to improvise with radish and any early greens, including weeds.

I do add radish to quickly broiled smoked salmon salad along with cucumber, greens, arugula, dandelion leaves or baby lettuce. Extremely delicious! Use balsamic vinegar dressing.

Broiled smoked salmon salad

Only benefits

That is such a vitamin boost. It will contribute to your immune system which we need right now and leave feeling more energized every time you have eaten it. Early spring greens with radishes will also cost you nothing if you put seeds in soil right now.

Never eat lots of radish since eating huge amounts might irritate stomach. Realistically, never eat anything in large amounts.

Stay safe and healthy!

Find remedies in the backyard

Backyard pharmacy and grocery store: spring

Stay safe during virus outbreak and take good care about your health!

To boost our immune system and overall health, weeds and plants from our backyard and nearby forest or park come at no cost and with extreme benefits.

I hope you are self-isolating and you can do so without worries, since due to nature of their work, many people still need to be out and working.

You have time now, so, use it in a meaningful way!

The COVID-19 outbreak reached Canada in late winter and early spring. It is quite sensitive time for many Canadians because our internal resources get somewhat depleted during the long winter months when there is lack of sunshine and we stay indoors a lot. Now with the outbreak, we must stay away from other people in order to be safe and to prevent virus from spreading. Since we stay home, we can do many things which improve our immune system and provide ourselves with healthy extras.

Nature has taken good care that we always have a wide range of vitamins and minerals available to us. The best part is: everything that we require to sustain good health can be often found in our backyard, nearby forest or park. All we have to do is use our imagination, experience and knowledge and utilize the natural resources to our benefit.

Early spring is the best time for taking advantage of natural resources and also seeding and planting. Nature has everything, and that includes all health boosting substances, all minerals and vitamins in the most suitable and most balanced form with high bioavailability.

This year, I’m suggesting you keep nettles and dandelions in some garden corner. Especially, while their leaves are young and soft, they are a fantastic addition to either meals or preventive measures and therapy.

To survive without watering, many weeds have developed extremely widespread and long roots. Thanks to such roots, weeds can absorb a lot more nutrients than our cultivated plants. Weeds are also stronger and more resistant to plant diseases. They grow without fertilizers and greenhouse conditions. Biologically active substances which we can obtain from wild plants and weeds are also in greater concentration, in a ready-to-use form. Weeds are survivors among plants and they can withstand any harsh conditions. This is a very good reason to use wild plants and weeds for our benefit and for our nutrition.

Strong immune system means a lot for our health at any time, but especially during virus outbreaks. Weeds boost our immune system like nothing else. Weeds are also the first ones which come up as soon as the soil thaws. We collect different parts of wild plants and weeds: leaves, roots, flowers or the entire plant. The best time for collection is early morning or late afternoon before dusk. That is the time period when plants have absorbed nutrients and their content is high.

My family was living in the countryside, not far from a small Latvian town during 60-s of the last century. We didn’t have any pharmacies or drug stores in the area, and, therefore, we didn’t use any synthetic medicines. How did we manage any health issues? There were not many, and we used lots and lots of herbal remedies which were available in extremely wide variety and in abundance. At a very young age, I learned how to recognize each grass, plant, flower and herb and memorized what it does, how much and what way to apply it. Therefore, I am not sharing that much clinical trial findings, but my personal findings and Latvian traditional herbal recipes.

We collect wild plants and weeds only in safe, clean places, definitely not along roads or highways with lots of traffic. Parks, where people walk pets, are also not a good idea. For immediate use, we collect healthy looking, undamaged parts of plants and we definitely blanch most of them. Blanching will also prevent from consuming any undesirable insects or germs.

Each plant comes with its own complex or set of useful biologically active substances. These substances are available in a well-balanced way. You can use wild plants and weeds in salads, soups, green smoothies, stews, pesto, on bread together with other vegetables or specifically for health purposes as herbal tea, extract, tincture, infusion or mixture.

Nettles are definitely a champion among natural treatments and health boosters: stinging nettle Urtica dioica, small nettle Urtica urens L., white nettle or white dead-nettle Lamium album. They grow in almost every backyard. The same goes about dandelions. Quite soon in our area, it will be time to start collecting birch buds and pine-tree buds. I planted specifically a few healthy nettles in a small area where they will be controlled from taking over other plants, hence my backyard does not have rich soil and nettles do not grow there naturally.

Nettle has everything for health

Some properties of nettle

Dried and fresh common nettle and small nettle leaves and roots, as well as white nettle flowers and leaves (they are not as rich as common nettle) can be used for numerous conditions and overall improvement of health. Common nettle is high in iron, contains vitamin C, vitamin K, group B vitamins and practically any vitamin which is useful for humans. Nettle contains numerous minerals, carotenoids and fatty acids, as well as various essential amino acids, chlorophyll, tannins, carbohydrates, sterols, polysaccharides, isolectins. Nettle roots contain oleanolic acid, sterols and steryl glycosides. Nettle seeds have also high content of these nutrients. The amount of useful compounds in plant depends on location, season, daytime of collection and how young and healthy the plant is.

Using nettle benefits any body system, but especially the immune system, nervous, respiratory system, hematopoiesis (blood formation at cellular level), cardiovascular system, muscles and bones, improves also gastrointestinal health, treats kidney, liver and gallbladder problems. We traditionally used them for joint pains, as well.

Nettle can help with blood sugar stabilization in diabetics. It has been observed that nettle tea lowers blood sugar. Using nettle makes person stronger after exhaustion or treatment of disease. Nettle is an important herb for treatment of anemia caused by iron deficiency.

Nettle juice and tea has been used orally as an additive for treatment of tuberculosis, bronchitis, cough, whooping cough and other respiratory symptoms. Latvian traditional herbal treatments use nettle to stop bleeding in lungs, abdomen and uterus, to treat upper respiratory problems, and especially for cleaning blood and for removal of toxic substances from the body. Nettle stops also wound bleeding, and not only that: nettle also possesses highly efficient antibacterial properties.

Nettle boosts metabolism within the body, increases hemoglobin and red blood cell levels, constricts blood vessels (thus, you cannot use nettle in hypertension), facilitates blood clotting, development of epithelial cells and tissue granulation (wound treatment, bleeding), normalizes menstrual cycle. Nettle has antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, calming, anti-allergic and diuretic properties. Nettle can be used with many chronic conditions when immune system cannot fight and protect us from harmful impacts.

Who cannot use nettle products and supplements or must be otherwise cautious?

People, who have hypercoagulation, e. g., excessive blood clotting disorder, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, bleeding caused by uterine tumors, cysts and polyps, people with kidney failure and those, who suffer from blood clot formation in veins (thrombophlebitis), as well as during last months of pregnancy.

Some medical literature suggests that nettle hardly affects blood coagulation (content and form of vitamin K), and other literature warns to observe caution. I would always go with moderate use which applies to absolutely everything we introduce into our diet or health routine. Always proceed with caution when it comes to health.

In April, and if it is warm, also at the end of March, we can usually collect new and bright green nettle leaves. We pick common or stinging nettle and small nettle leaves with gloves, and they also require blanching before we use them in salad, soup, omelet, stew or simply as tea or compress. Some sources advice to keep nettle leaves in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. We watch that leaves do not lose their bright green color. Then, we use a strainer and quickly submerge the strained leaves into ice-cold water. We dry them in paper towel and use as we please. Stinging or common nettle goes well with anything that uses spinach as an ingredient. Therefore, similar recipes can be used. We prefer them with green onions or chives and yoghurt, kefir or citrus dressing, plus our favorite herbs.

Find remedies in the backyard

There have been clinical trials about herbal treatments. Review of some clinical trials about properties of nettle Exploration of nettle properties

Recipes and more suggestions will follow if there is any interest. Please, comment if you think you could make use of such addition. Since most people do not read anything, I’d just like to see whether it makes sense to post an article about nettle juice, nettle tea or some simple salad recipes and also dose suggestions.

Any herbal supplement can cause sensitivity or other reactions. I’d advice always try tiny amount (as with food) first or discuss it with your doctor in case of a chronic condition. Using herbal tea or tincture, as well as infusion requires to follow instruction about daily dose.