Container Herb Garden — Organic in the City

Opie's pretty proud of my backdoor container herb garden, can't you tell? Sage, cilantro, basil, thyme. In the straw purse: marigolds are hiding the rosemary.

Opie’s pretty proud of my backdoor container herb garden, can’t you tell? Sage, cilantro, basil, thyme. In the straw purse: marigolds are hiding the rosemary.

My sweet little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Opie, is pretty proud of my container herb garden. You can tell how proud he is by the fact that he’s not totally asleep.

I’ve had all kinds of herb gardens — in-ground, in-house, in-container — and I’ve found that I do the best job with the herbs if they are right outside my kitchen door and planted in containers.

Since I’m a visual person, if the herbs are not right where I see them every time I go in or out, I simply won’t remember to water them. Or even harvest them. Truly. If it’s not in front of my face, I’ll forget it. Which is why my desk is always cluttered, I have notes all over the house, and the herbs are right next to the back door.

So, since I live in the city and have a concrete driveway outside my kitchen door instead of a huge fertile garden plot, containers are my best option for growing the herbs and keeping them where I’ll remember I have them.

Besides gardening, I also design and make purses, so planting the rosemary and a couple of marigolds in my aunt’s old woven plastic summer carryall adds a perfect, and whimsical, touch.

What herbs do you have the best luck with in your garden? What herb-growing secrets can you share? What’s your favorite fresh herb recipe?

Part of the container herb garden by Deborah's kitchen door. Pink container: sage, cilantro, basil. White impatiens waiting to be planted elsewhere. White container: thyme.

Part of the container herb garden by Deborah’s kitchen door. Pink container: sage, cilantro, basil. White impatiens waiting to be planted elsewhere. White container: thyme.


Paleo in the news — what it is, why it’s good AND good for you

I’ve been following some of the Paleo diet news, but it’s hitting the airwaves so fast I can’t keep up with all of it. I particularly love this article, though, and thought you might enjoy it, too.

Here’s the link so you can read it at the source, but I’ve pasted the article below, too. If you do, please share it with your FB and Twitter friends.

Paleo diet pulls up to the caveman’s dining table

Ashley Cline, (Cherry Hill, N.J.) Courier-Post10:14 p.m. EDT May 9, 2013

Fred Flintstone may have been on to something.

With the whirlwind of health crazes, wellness phases and diet trends — each one sporting a hipper name than its predecessor — fueling the fitness fire, it’s easy to get burned. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a complex equation at every meal. The simpler the better.

The Paleolithic diet, also known as the Paleo diet or the caveman diet, encourages just that: simplicity. Based upon the diets of our ancestors — free range, grass-fed cattle and organic fruits and vegetables — the Paleo diet promotes the minimalist lifestyle of the caveman, eliminating the processed and embracing the natural.

” ‘Paleo’ truly just means ‘old.’ It means getting back to basics, the raw materials for life,” said Liz Wolfe, a nutritional therapy practitioner and Paleo dieter. She recently moved from New Jersey to Kansas. “We are not living in the past, but we’re learning from the wisdom of our ancestors and honoring the way our bodies developed over thousands of years. I trust that vast, millennia-long historical record.”

Back to basics

Embracing traditional eating, the Paleo diet encourages participants to eat pasture-raised animals, fruits and vegetables, while eliminating dairy, grains, legumes and processed oils, such as vegetable and canola oil.

In short, anything Flintstone couldn’t eat, you shouldn’t eat.

“The whole idea is to emulate what our ancestors ate,” said Steve Liberati, founder of Steve’s PaleoGoods of Cherry Hill. “If you can pull it from the ground, pick it from a tree, harvest it or hunt it down, then you’re good to go.”

The Paleo diet is highly flexible, easily customizable and tailored to an individual.

“Depending on level of activity, profession and athletic pursuits, an individual may need more or less carbohydrate, more or less protein or more or less healthy fat,” said Wolfe, whose blog chronicles her adventures in clean eating.

The health benefits

Cutting out food groups may seem drastic, especially given that many individuals are accustomed to getting their vitamin D from milk, for example, but according to Wolfe the other food groups aren’t necessary for a healthy diet.

“Grains can damage digestion and inhibit nutrient absorption, and there’s nothing in grains that can’t be found in vegetables like acorn squash or kale. Legumes are nutrient-poor, insulin-spiking sources of carbohydrate with a bit of protein attached, and there’s nothing there that can’t be found in nutrient-filled vegetables or meat that has been raised ethically,” the Cave Girl blogger said. “Modern dairy is from factory-kept cows fed an unnatural diet, and it’s processed and refined and reconstituted to something Mother Nature would never recognize,” she said.

Aside from eliminating processed foods — all the saturated fats and salt included — and finding better, more natural sources for nutrients, going Paleo cuts down on inflammation caused by dairy, promotes sustainable energy levels, fosters a leaner body and supports mental clarity, according to dedicated dieters.

“My asthma got significantly better. I didn’t feel like I was having an asthma attack during cardio workouts anymore,” said Julie Shannon of Gibbsboro, N.J., a relatively new Paleo dieter. “My body is more lean and my muscles are more toned.”

“I just feel healthier,” said Jonathon “Super” Squibb, a three-time Wing Bowl Campion and seven-year Paleo dieter of Berlin, N.J.

The challenge

Eating healthy doesn’t come without its challenges.

For Squibb, it was giving up pizza.

For Shannon, it was planning her meals.

“It’s more like a lifestyle change, not a diet,” Squibb said. “It’s not so much like, ‘I want to lose weight to get ready for summer’ it’s more, ‘I want to be healthy through my life.’ ”

The Paleo diet has been criticized for its expense and time consumption, given that it exists on the foundation that nothing man-made, processed or packaged should cross the dinner table.

“Do I think Paleo is for everyone? No, but I think everyone should at least try it for a week and see how they feel and see the changes in their body,” Shannon said.

Learning from the past

Long before Weight Watchers marketed 2-point desserts to weary dieters, cavemen were unintentionally pioneering a health and wellness regimen. Granted, our ancestors didn’t have fast food, late-night snacks and carb-heavy binges to tempt them, but there is something to be learned from our club-wielding ancestors.

Along the extensive timeline of humanity, agriculture and processed foods are new and cultures that still follow a traditional diet, avoiding the modern refined sugars and processed grains, show lower rates of diseases such as diabetes as well as lower rates of obesity.

“People are eating less processed foods and that is a great idea to get behind,” Christine Wilkinson, a dietician at Cooper Hospital said. “It has a good basis for a healthy diet.”

“It’s a natural diet that has a common-sense approach,” said Liberati, who has been following the lifestyle for seven years. “It’s going back to what has worked for millions of years.”

Eating healthy: It’s so simple a caveman can do it.

Whole30 Days 12 & 13 — Living social again

My friend Jesse MacIntosh pipes a lively tune at ArtPrize in 2010. Today, I was jigging a lively tune in my spirit (!!!!!!) thanks to a huge turnaround that I'm sure is because I've removed grains, dairy, and sugars from my diet.

My friend Jesse MacIntosh pipes a lively tune at ArtPrize in 2010. Today, I was jigging a lively tune in my spirit (!!!!!!) thanks to a huge turnaround that I’m sure is because I’ve removed grains, dairy, and sugars from my diet.

I’m starting to think I could be a walking miracle. In the past four months, I’ve gone from being nearly a recluse who didn’t want to see anyone outside of my home, to this weekend when I was out and about with lots of other people and enjoyed every minute.

I went shopping with The Hub, met my sister for lunch at a busy restaurant then went with her to a jam-packed stage presentation. I left there and came home to cook dinner for The Hub and my artist friend Sarah Haas who was visiting from out of town and spent the night. Then today I went to church and then visited a friend in the hospital. I haven’t had a weekend that social in months, and that was months after the time before.

I’m starting to think that living social could be my norm again. Ridding my diet (my body) of grains, dairy, and sugars is undoubtedly the biggest factor for this uplifting change. I’m so thankful!

I’ve been grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and legume-free for 14 weeks, and while I haven’t lost a lot of weight (yet), I feel great. (I’m almost afraid to say that because I might jinx it.) But seriously, I not only feel the best I’ve felt in 14 weeks, I feel the best I’ve felt in years.

I’m counting my blessings!

  • My energy has returned and lasts all day
  • I’m sleeping better.
  • My body aches are gone, and thanks to the diet and to physical therapy, I’ve been pain-free (foot, back) for the last week.
  • I haven’t had a headache in I don’t know how long! I used to have intense headaches 3 or 4 days a week. I got those under control through chiropractic care and lots of ibuprofen. Even so, I still had horrid sinus headaches about 3 days a week that sapped my energy. Can’t remember the last headache I had. Or when I had it.
  • My anxiety is GREATLY decreased, and my chronic depression has lifted immeasurably (although not gone).
  • I have an overall sense of well-being.
  • I’m singing again, and listening to music again. I find myself singing when I’m loading the dishwasher or vacuuming.
  • My house is cleaner, less chaotic (because I have more energy and am less depressed).
  • I feel hopeful about the future. Huh. So THIS is what it feels like!

Do I still have down days and days of fatigue? Yup. But I have fewer of them and the time between them keeps getting longer. And, yes, I’ve had chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, massage, and have increased the exercise I get. I’m still taking medication for the depression and anxiety. All those have contributed to the recovery and healing I’m experiencing. I know I couldn’t have walked this path without my doctors, massage therapists, and physical therapists. They’re wonder-workers.

But the healing began in earnest on November 23, 2012 — the day I began my first Whole30. The Whole30 and Paleo lifestyles have changed my life. I’m a walking miracle. I’m living social again.

Preparing to eat consciously, 2nd installment

A Week’s Worth of Lunches in Just An Hour!


A few weeks ago, AnnaLee posted about Preparing to Eat Consciously and gave some great tips on grocery shopping and menu planning. Jeez, I hate to have anyone show me up so easily (love you AnnaLee!) so I thought I’d share how I prepare to eat consciously and give y’all some different ideas on how to prepare for a week of eating whole foods. Please feel free to add your own ideas and comments. We love hearing from our readers!

Unlike AnnaLee, who has a young child at home, is a nurse who works for a large healthcare system, and packs lunches every day, I haven’t packed a lunch in 13 years! I have only The Hub and myself to shop and cook for and I work from home. I can have breakfast whenever I feel like it, and it’s usually leisurely — I don’t have to get breakfast for anyone else or eat it quick before I run out the door.

Whole30 or Paleo breakfasts are easy for me, supper is a relaxed affair after The Hub gets home from work, but lunches are a challenge. I don’t want to cook my lunch unless I have to, so it’s an ideal time to warm up leftovers. But I often have last night’s leftovers for breakfast because I get tired of having eggs every day.

I’ve found that my easiest lunches are a huge salad adorned with chopped apple or chopped pear, maybe some avocado, and a  portion of protein — sometimes tuna, sometimes something from last night’s supper if there are any leftovers left over, sometimes hard-boiled or deviled eggs — you get the picture.

So I prepare all my greens for the week at one time — I wash them, cut them, have them ready in the fridge. I prepare my salad dressing once a week (I love this vinaigrette) so it’s ready, and if I’m making a dressing that calls for mayonnaise, I make this Olive Oil Mayo once a week, too. I usually make the mayo anyway, just so we’ll have it for deviled eggs or lettuce wraps.

I like leaf lettuces, romaine, and spinach, and sometimes I chop up some red cabbage to go with them. But you can use any greens you like.

Two bunches of green leaf lettuces and a bunch of romaine make a lot of salad-ready greens.

Two bunches of green leaf lettuces and a bunch of romaine make a lot of salad-ready greens.

Cut the root ends off and separate the leaves into a sink filled with cold water. I also add a little Veggie Wash.

Cut the root ends off and separate the leaves into a sink filled with cold water. I also add a little Veggie Wash.

It only takes about an hour to prep the greens, and make the salad dressing and mayo. Then I’m ready for the week!

This stuff gets even the waxy coating off your fruits and veggies.

This stuff gets even the waxy coating off your fruits and veggies.

I love Veggie Wash for washing my fruits and veggies and especially for washing my greens — I put them in cold water with a bit of the Veggie Wash, swish everything around for 30 seconds, then rinse the greens in my other sink. (If you don’t rinse them well, your tongue will tingle when you eat your salad and everything will taste like soap. Not that I’ve ever experienced that personally…)

Dirt. Yuck.

Dirt. Yuck.

Clean. Yay!

Clean. Yay!

Then I get out my trusty Salad Spinner and spin the excess water off the greens. I hate watery salads that drain all the salad dressing to the bottom of the plate. It actually makes me mad. Nope. That is not for me.

I love my salad spinner. It keeps me happy.

I love my salad spinner. It keeps me happy.

Greens in the salad spinner waiting to be spun.

Greens in the salad spinner waiting to be spun.

A couple quick pulls at the lettuce tears it into manageable pieces, which get tossed into my giant white bowl with the blue lid. Anything that doesn’t fit goes into a reclosable plastic bag (make sure you squeeze all the air out of it). Then it all goes in the fridge.

Tons of greens, all ready for a week's worth of lunches and suppers. Easy peasy.

Tons of greens, all ready for a week’s worth of lunches and suppers. Easy peasy.

Voila! A week of large salads for lunches and some small salads for a couple of suppers. One hour, and I’m outta the kitchen!

Dang. I’m good.

Whole30 Days 8 thru 11 — Zip! Blah… Zip! Blah… Zip!

Deborah's back yard two summers ago after construction and planting.

Deborah’s back yard two summers ago after construction and planting.

Boundless energy! Clear headedness. A happy spirit. That pretty much sums up my day yesterday, Day 10 of my second Whole30 nutritional reset. It was glorious! I cleaned the house, tackled some get-paid-for work, returned the new microwave that wouldn’t work, bought a new microwave to replace it, and just moved through the day with steady, strong energy, going from task to task with ease. No slumps. No blahs. It felt SO wonderful!

Today? Not so much. I’m sleepy and not motivated. And I think it’s because, in my great mood yesterday, I overindulged on fruit and now that sugar lull is pulling me down. Zip! (yesterday’s energy) Blah…(today’s lull) Zip! Blah…

But yesterday, power-packed yesterday, reminded me of how I felt two summers ago when I completely re-landscaped our back yard. I built this garden wall, hauled (by hand and wheelbarrow) a couple of tons of topsoil (yes, a couple of tons), hauled and placed 160 concrete bricks, dug up and replanted 60 plants, planted 35 new plants (including huge bushes), and added solar lights. It was about eight weeks of steady, muscle-straining work, plus shopping for supplies, plus a s*#t-load of shoveling. I was overweight (still am), but I felt strong. It was great, tiring, exhausting, exhilarating, creative, hot work and I long to be in shape enough this summer to do more of it.

Since that summer two years ago, I’ve had setbacks: a knee injury and surgery, a foot injury, a back injury, lots of pain, and ongoing physical therapy. I feel like I’m coming to the end of it. As the PT continues to rehab my body and strengthen my posture, and as my Whole30 journey continues to reduce my inflammation and make me more and more of a fat-burning machine, I can sense the energy returning. Sometimes it’s here for an hour or two (Zip!). Sometimes for a whole day. Sometimes it’s non-existent (Blah…).

Sweet days like yesterday keep me going. They make me hopeful. Encouraged. Light-at-the-end-of-a-long-tunnel

Can't wait to garden again. I feel the energy coming on!

Can’t wait to garden again. I feel the energy coming on!

optimistic. My physical pain is nearly gone for good. I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to do simple physical activities again, like take my dogs for walks and weed my beautiful garden. I find myself thinking about summer hikes, bicycle rides, even getting my basement and attic cleaned and organized. It’s been so long since I’ve considered doing any of these things that they seem almost as if they’re dreams.

Louie and Opie

Louie and Opie

I can’t wait for the time when my energy pattern is no longer Zip! Blah… Zip! Blah… but is Zip! Zip! Zip!

How do you handle your energy lags? How do you use the times when energy abounds? How do you pace yourself? I’d love to hear from you.

Whole30 Day 7 — Out of the box detox

The only dahlia I've grown successfully. It's kinda gorgeous. DJW

The only dahlia I’ve grown successfully. It’s kinda gorgeous. DJW

When I made the decision four months ago to do Whole30 and then go Paleo for good, I had no idea that trying to add back some of my favorite foods would cause me joint pain, inflammation, headaches, and what-not. It makes me wonder what else those foods were doing to me.

Plus I’m suffering from spring fever, thus the photo of the dahlia. But I digress.

Yesterday, I was not only half nuts with anxiety and mood swings, but the joint pain in my hands and fingers was nearly unbearable, even after taking pain meds. All because I ate white potatoes.

I think now that the restaurant must have used some oils I haven’t been eating, or something that, along with the potatoes, caused joint inflammation. But I’m not sure. I should have asked the waitress before I ordered, but I didn’t even think of it. Next time, I will.

Today — a Monday, and Mondays are crazy busy for me because I’m a writer for an online magazine and I do most of my interviews on Mondays, so I’m using my hands to type (a lot) as my sources talk — the pain has been almost as bad as it was yesterday. I’m really, really ready for it to be gone. It’s just sapping me of energy. And the Aleve makes me puff up like a marshmallow, especially in my face, so I’m ready for that to go away, too. (Not my face; the puffiness.)

But the mood swings are almost gone (I was short tempered with The Hub tonight, but that was more pain-related than wacked-out-moods related), and the anxiety and depression are gone. Which is definitely wonderful! A day of sunshine and blue sky, both rarities in winter in Michigan, were huge boosts for my disposition.

Opie and Louie loved the sunshine today, in the middle of a Michigan winter, no less! The sun was good for us all!

Opie and Louie loved the sunshine today, in the middle of a Michigan winter, no less! The sun was good for us all!

I drank a ton of water today to try to flush out whatever is afflicting my hands. I wanted to really load up on fresh veggies today, too, but instead I ended up eating a couple more fruit than usual because my hands ached too badly to prepare the veggies. But, given that, I think I did pretty well getting the train back on the Whole30 track.

When you’ve had issues with food-related pain, depression, etc., what helped you the most? Did you do anything special to get rid of the symptoms? What? Did you try the foods again later, and, if so, did you have the same reaction?

Whole30 Day 5 — Don’t whine over the wine, it hasn’t even been poured yet!

I've been mentally whining (gee, what a change!) about the wine I can't have tonight at a wine tasting event I'm attending. (If I want to maintain my Whole30 progress and not start it over, I cannot have wine.) But, I mean, really, think about it. The wine hasn't even been poured yet and I'm pouting.

I’ve been mentally whining (gee, what a change!) about the wine I can’t have tonight at a wine tasting event I’m attending. (If I want to maintain my Whole30 progress and not start it over, I cannot have wine.) But, I mean, really, think about it. The wine hasn’t even been poured yet and I’m pouting.

The wine isn’t even out of the bottle, and I’m whining about not being able to have it.

And that attitude of worrying about things in the future sets me up to be (pick one) disappointed, excluded, snubbed, ignored, treated badly, embarrassed, disrespected, or whatever-else-pops-into-my-head and twists my expectation to the negative.

Tonight I’m attending a fundraising wine tasting for a nonprofit where I serve on the board. If I were simply eating Paleo, I’d allow myself a glass of wine, no problem. But I’m doing Whole30, and wine isn’t allowed during this 30 days (no alcohol, no sulfites).

But this isn’t about the wine; it’s about my attitude that I’m going to be deprived, left out, or wronged somehow. I walk in with a chip on my shoulder and expect it to be knocked off. I mean, after all, there’s going to be cheese and crackers there, and I can’t have them, either. Isn’t that being deprived? Being left out? And what if I get hungry? Or thirsty? It would be horrible to have to be hungry or thirsty for the whole TWO HOUR event!

That thinking is Just Simply Stupid.

I sabotage the evening before I even have my makeup on! I get a severe case of Poor Me before I’ve stepped into the shower!


I’m not having wine, or cheese, or crackers. Cheese makes me sick, crackers make my cravings for sugar and carbs kick in, and alcohol makes me not care if I stay true to the Whole30 or not. And besides, I want to stay true to the Whole30. I want the health benefits. I want the sustained energy. None of the wine or food is worth sacrificing my choice to eat foods that make me healthier; none of the mental anguish is worth the cost of my personal power, or the cost of denying myself a perfectly pleasant evening.

And I don’t need to white-knuckle my way through the event, either.

Instead, I choose to:

  • Expect that we’re going to raise a lot of money tonight for a very worthy cause (providing free legal aid to migrant farm workers and their families to get them fair wages, fair housing, and freedom from domestic abuse).
  • Expect to spend the time with my friends at the organization who do this great work.
  • Expect to shake hands with, and thank, the people who financially support this great work and to maybe even make a new friend.
  • Expect that my presence — whether I drink water or wine, whether I eat or not — will support the cause and encourage those in the trenches.
  • Expect that I’m going to have a good time. that I’m going to laugh, that I’m going to enjoy myself, that I’m going to be glad I was there.

After all, the wine hasn’t even been poured yet.