The Sour Side of Indoor Gardening – Growing a Dwarf Meyer Lemon

meyer lemonI just love the magical fragrance of citrus blossoms, and there’s nothing that can quite compare to the bloom of a Meyer lemon. Somewhere between a vacation in Hawaii and a picture of Versailles on Pinterest, I fell in love with the idea of having a Meyer lemon tree growing in my very own home.  Sure, I’d have to go with a dwarf variety specially developed for growing indoors, but I was certain my green thumb was up to the challenge.  How hard could it be? I’d raised plenty of chia pets to maturity, after all, surely an indoor dwarf citrus wasn’t too terribly different.

When Selecting An Indoor Citrus Tree, Look No Further Than The Meyer Lemon

 Maybe it’s just more forgiving to the headstrong and bold novice farmer (like myself), but I’ve learned that the sour fruit of the citrus tree is much easier to grow indoors compared to sweet fruit.  Some varieties of limes and oranges work great indoors, but I happen to have a special place in my heart for lemon tarts, so naturally I’d lean towards a lemon tree.  When selecting the right citrus tree for you, look for a dwarf tree that has been specially grafted to not grow too big, and try to get one that’s around two or three years old so you can enjoy a rapid harvest of delicious fruit.

Treat your Meyer Lemon Tree Well and Reap the Rewards

  • Proper Lighting – These trees love bright, natural light like you’d find from a window with southern exposure.  A decent compromise can be reached with some indoor lighting, just be careful about too much direct sunlight which can burn the leaves of your precious tree.
  • Make it Mobile – Most trees prefer the outdoors, depending on the weather, and many expert gardeners support the idea of growing your tree outdoors and moving it indoors when it’s reached show quality.  Of course, this does require some weather hardening and gentle transitioning from indoors to outdoors, and back again to avoid shocking the tree. A set of wheels under your planter pot is also recommended to aide in mobility from one location to the next. Moving the tree outdoors also allows for natural pollination of the blooms.  Otherwise, be prepared to pollinate by hand if you plan on keeping your tree indoors all year.
  • A Pot to Plant In –   This is one of those areas where size matters, even if your tree is going to stay indoors year round a dwarf tree of about three to four feet in height is much easier to manage than something eight feet or taller.
  • Food, Glorious Food – A fertilized tree is a happy tree.  Since my thumb isn’t nearly as green as I might like to think, I relied on a little help from Miracle Grow (the slow release kind) mixed in with the potting soil.  This was the easiest method for me because the Miracle Grow would add just the right amount of nutrients to the soil each time I watered my beloved tree.  Short of this, it’s a good idea to get potting soil and plant food specially designed for citrus trees.
  • Hydration Station – I learned early that my dwarf tree really thrived in about 50% humidity.  Soggy roots were also a problem I faced from over-watering.  I tackled both challenges by adding a humidifier during the summer months and more efficient drainage year-round. Too much moisture is a problem, so keep an eye on the humidity levels to keep pests and mold away.
  • Temperature and Climate – Ideally, a Meyer lemon tree likes an average temperature of 65 degrees, so make sure your location of choice provides ample sunlight, proper humidity, and an even temperature free of frosty drafts and blazing heat vents.

 Enjoying a Bountiful Harvest Requires Patience

It did take a little bit of time for me to settle into the care and maintenance routine to keep my Meyer lemon tree in optimal health, but it was a labor of love that was totally worth the effort.  From consulting with experts, watching a fair number of videos on the internet and visiting my local nursery I was able to easily tackle the minor headaches of aphids and dry leaves.  I’ve learned a lot about patience, observation and the relative humidity of my home in the process as well.  But I’ll tell you, nothing tasted quite so sweet as the lemonade that I made from the first harvest of fruit from my Meyer lemon tree.

Image courtesy of franky242 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Helping Someone with Colorectal Cancer

diagnosed with colorectal cancer

Though it’s a situation we all hope to never happen, a diagnosis of cancer in a friend or loved one is always a real possibility. If you’ve never been close to someone with a severe illness, it can be a bit daunting trying to figure out the proper etiquette. When someone close to you has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, here are some things to keep in mind.

Offer Help but Don’t Insist

People going through treatment may not have the energy to keep up with their regular daily tasks and chores, and can usually use a hand getting things done. They may also just be too busy with appointments to manage some of their usual activities. A helping hand is always appreciated. But you also have to graciously accept it if they say no, even if you are certain they need it.

And instead of just asking “Can I help?”, offer something specific. You’re more likely to be taken up on it if you are offering to get a few groceries for them, or watch their kids some afternoon.

Learn About It

There is nothing wrong with asking a few questions about the disease, but a person can get pretty tired of answering the same questions after a while. Colorectal cancer isn’t as well-known as other types so you probably will have some questions. Do your own research before inundating your friend with questions or comments.

Cancer of the bowels can be a little more embarrassing to discuss, so don’t be too pushy when asking questions either. Needless to say, if someone doesn’t want to talk about the details, don’t bug them about it. Look it up for yourself instead.

Listen

On the other hand, if your friend or loved one does want to talk, you should be there to listen, even if the details are unpleasant. Talking about what’s going on for them can be a great therapy in itself, so you should be able to simply listen no matter what they need to tell you.

Keep It Upbeat

Obviously you won’t always be able to avoid the subject, but no matter the specific topics of conversation, try to always have a positive attitude. Even when you’re talking about their cancer or treatment, don’t let the conversation get depression or morbid. Nobody wants that.

Accept Cancellations Graciously

Schedules can go out the window when someone is dealing with cancer, and you need to be a good friend to roll with any changes that come up. So your friend has had to reschedule that coffee 4 times already? Smile and book a time for the 5th attempt.

Plan Your Visits

An unexpected drop-in can be a very fun surprise, except when it’s at a bad time. Play it safe and always call before going to see someone, and that way you know that you’re not going to show up at a bad or difficult moment when your friend really doesn’t want to see anyone.

Don’t Play Doctor

So you’ve done some of your own research into colorectal cancer. That doesn’t make you some kind of diagnostic genius. A suggestion or two may be fine as long as you don’t try to completely redirect someone’s treatment because you feel you’re some kind of expert.

Image: Kathleen Conklin

10 Innovative Ways to Recycle

ways-to-recycleRecycling can be so important to the environment. For years people would just throw out the products that they had purchased once they were done using them, not caring where they landed and if any harm was being caused. Years later, humans have begun to realize the error of their ways and noticed that their landfills are quickly filling up, the cost of moving trash is expensive, and we are running out of resources that can be used on this planet. Luckily, there is an easy and efficient way to deal with all of these issues and it is known as recycling. Here are ten things that you can do in order to recycle the products that you are already using in your daily life.

  1. Buy paper that has been recycled—when you are in school or at the office, you are going to use up a lot of paper. You can save a lot of trees if you take the time to look at the label on the paper that you are purchasing and make sure that it is made from recycled paper. In addition, it is also a good idea to print your work on each side of the paper since this can cut down on your use by half. If you recycle 1 ton of paper, it is possible to save 7,000 gallons of water, 17 trees, and plenty of landfill space.
  2. Recycle old technology—it is estimated that Americans are throwing away over 2 million tons of technology related waste every year. Rather than filling up your landfill with technology that is not working well anymore, it might be a good idea to consider learning how to recycle this technology. Make sure to check out the EPA’s website to learn how to properly dispose of your old technology.
  3. recycling binsHave recycling bins available—often the biggest reason that people will not recycle is because they do not have a designated area to place the materials when they are done with them. Make sure to keep a couple of bins readily available around the office and your home and label them with metal, plastic, and paper.
  4. Recycle old toner and ink cartridges—after you are done using an ink cartridge in your computer, it is just human nature to throw it away. Most people do not know what else they can do with these cartridges and feel that they will just get in the way. It is estimated that about 700,000 of these cartridges are thrown out each day. Rather than taking up space in the landfill, you can find a local place that will take and recycle these cartridges or you can even take them in to a computer store and get them refilled so you can use them yourself again.
  5. Buy cartridges that have recycled—along the same note as the last point, you should make sure that any ink cartridges that you are purchasing have come from recycled material. For each cartridge that you do this for you will save ½ gallon of oil and keep over two pounds of plastic and metal out of your landfills.
  6. Recycle unused newspapers—everyone knows how important it is to take the time to recycle the paper that they are done using. Many trees go into making these paper products so each of them should be recycled to help and save the environment and this includes your unused newspapers. Make sure that everyone has had a chance to read through the paper and then throw it into a recycling bin.
  7. Purchase items made from recycled products—whenever you are at the grocery store, you need to make sure that you are purchasing products that have been made out of other recycled materials. Many people believe that they only thing that they can do to help the environment is to purchase recycled paper. While this is a good start to helping out, there are so many other products that you can purchase that have been at least partially made with recycled materials. Take the time to look for the recycled symbol to do your part in helping the environment.
  8. recycled batteriesBuy batteries that are rechargeable—you use batteries for many different things including your phone, computer, the remote control, toys, and so much more. Did you know that if you purchase one battery that is rechargeable you will be able to use it for the same amount of time that you can use 1000 regular batteries? That is a lot of batteries that you would be going through and can help to keep the landfills clear.
  9. Purchase DVD’s and CD’s that are rewritable—when you are in school, there are a ton of projects that you are going to have to work on at some point. You will save them on a disk, present them or give them to a teacher, and then you are done with them. Often these old projects will get thrown away and end up in a landfill at the end of the semester because you do not have any use for them anymore. Instead of wasting space in a landfill, you should purchase CD’s and DVD’s that can be rewritten. This allows you to keep using them on future products rather than throwing them away when you are done.
  10. Reuse cups—if you are one of those people who like to go to a gas station and get coffee every morning, you can save a lot of room in the landfills if you reuse the cup for a couple of days. Just save the cup in your car after you are done drinking the coffee and then bring it in with you the next day. An even better idea is to purchase a mug that you will use for the coffee each day. In fact, some gas stations and restaurants will provide you with a discount if you use either of these options so not only are they good for the environment, but they can save you some money

A Better Way to Read Tarot Cards

tarot-cards-1I ran into a friend of mine a few weeks ago and we got to talking about the art of tarot card reading.  She had been doing it for years; and our conversation sparked an interest with me to learn how to do it as well.  After a long talk, we parted ways and I headed to the local spiritual supply store to grab my first desk of tarot cards.

Just like every person and every reading, every single tarot card deck is unique.  You have to be willing to consider things that lie outside the normal realm of reality – the supernatural.  I found that it is helpful to remember that we are all spiritual beings living out our lives in a physical vessel.  And while I practice, I try not to forget that tarot readings are a manifestation of that.

Open your Mind

For the longest time I ignorantly thought that tarot cards were nothing more than a lot of hocus pocus.  As it turns out, there is a lot of science, metaphysics, and spiritual insight that goes into a quality tarot reading.  Just like my wise friend told me that fateful day we met and spoke about tarot: “Tanya, you have to keep an open mind.”  With my mind uncluttered – the preconceived notions that I subconsciously carried with me wiped away – I opened up my box of tarot cards and I began teaching myself how to give a reading.

Memorize the Deck

Before you can ever benefit from your tarot cards or your newly opened mind, you will first have to work to memorize your deck.  This means adeptly understanding the unique imagery of each card while still grasping the nuances of the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana groups.  Each card has its own meaning; and that meaning changes based on how and where the card ends up in the spread.  Together with your distinctive spiritual insights, understanding and using the right tarot deck will allow you to swiftly give an accurate and perceptive reading (once you get the hang of it).

reading tarot cards

Practice Makes Perfect

Just like me and my knowledgeable friend, you will not be able to give a good tarot card reading as soon as you begin doing it.  You first have to get used to your own flood of inspiring visualizations, deep-seating feelings, and spiritual callings. Then, you have to become accustomed to your unique deck, each of the layouts, and how the positions of those cards play upon one another during a reading.

The only way to accomplish this is to practice giving tarot readings as often as you possibly can.  I gave myself a reading every morning to get used to it all; and when I could, I offered my open-minded friends free readings as well.  After a couple weeks of hard work, I started to gain more confidence.  Soon enough, I was able to give an accurate reading without looking at my instruction booklet.

Changing Decks

After a while you might find that your original “practice” deck is just not suiting you anymore.  This, as I now understand, is perfectly natural.  It is perfectly acceptable to swap decks at any time, as long as you make sure that you dispose of your old cards in the appropriate manner.  If you do change decks, you will need to follow the same steps of memorization, regardless of how comfortable you have become with the tarot reading process.  As each deck is unique for numerous reasons, giving an accurate reading requires that you are completely comfortable with the cards in your hand.

Images courtesy www.readingtarotcardsrevealed.com

Tips for Making a Delicious Chocolate Cake

eating chocolate cakeLike with many people, I have a sweet tooth that is hard to satisfy. Finding that perfect chocolate cake at the grocery store can be difficult and tasting it out of the box just is not the same. I set out on a quest to learn how to make a delicious chocolate cake at home that I could enjoy whenever I needed a little something sweet during the day. No matter what recipe you choose for making your chocolate cake, although I would recommend the more chocolate the better, here are some tips to get started.

Mixing Batter

One of the first things that you will need to do in order to make your chocolate cake is put together all of the ingredients. Having the batter come out perfect can make all of the difference in the way that the cake takes. I would recommend using a spatula or spoon and use it to mix by hand, but if you are using an electric mixer, you must make sure to not over beat the ingredients. When using butter in your mixture, you should melt it a little bit to soften it up and only add the eggs in one at a time for the best results.

Filling up the Pan

making chocolate cakeThe first time that I made a chocolate cake, I decided that I needed to fill up the pan completely. It made sense to me seeing that the cake came out of the oven taking up the whole pan. You must remember that the cake is going to rise a little during baking so leave about ¾ of the pan empty when you fill it. You can bring out a bigger pan if the one you are using is not big enough to do this with.

Baking Your Cake

Now that you have taken the time to make the perfect batter for your chocolate cake, it is time to bake the cake. You will want to make sure that the oven is preheated before placing the cake inside. I have made the mistake of being in a hurry and placing the pan inside too early. This will result in the cake not being cooked all the way through, which is really disappointing when you are craving chocolate. I have also found that cooking the cake in the middle rack is the most efficient as the cake will be surrounded fairly evenly on all sides by the heat.

Frosting the Cake

frosting a chocolate cakeFrosting the cake can be one of the best parts and is sure to add in a little more chocolate flavor that you will love. Unfortunately, this part can often end up messy and can ruin your cake. If you have chosen a store bought brand of frosting, place it on the cake while still warm. On the other hand, if you made the frosting from scratch, you should make sure to spread it on once the cake has cooled. Start by covering up the sides first with a spatula before piling on the rest to the top and swirling it out to reach the edges.

My Adventure Making Sushi

making sushi at homeI have been craving sushi for a while, but my current budget just did not make it possible to visit a local restaurant for my fix.  Instead, I have had to figure out how to make sushi on my own, right in my home kitchen.  I had tastes from pretty amazing stuff in my quest to find the best sushi in the UK.  Surprisingly, I found that I could easily pull off preparing it myself and so can you.  With a little practice and patience, I was able to create beautiful, delicious, and nutritious sushi without chopping off an appendage, breaking anything in the house, or going mad.

Grab the Greatest Gear

I found out the hard way that high-quality kitchen supplies are needed to produce sushi the right way.  Because sushi is rather delicate, at least while it’s being made, having sharp knives, non-stick pans, wooden utensils, and properly functioning appliances is key to success.  Don’t be like me, scraping rice from the bottom of the pan with a metal spoon while desperately trying to make precision cuts with a dulled out knife.  Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail, remember?  Grab the greatest gear you can find first, then then get started.

Find the Freshest Fish

find fresh fish for sushi and sashimiWhile it is possible to make sushi with frozen fish, you will have better luck opting for the fresh variety.  Not only does fresh fish make it easier to cut adequately-sized pieces, but it tastes a whole lot better too.  Make sure that you choose fish that is safe to eat raw; and never experiment with exotic species unless you have done your homework.  There are many variations of sushi from which to choose, though some are easier to make than others.  For starters, just go out and find the freshest fish on the market; then bring it home, and whip up some mouth-watering basic sushi.

Stock up on Staples

Sushi does not have a lengthy self-life; we all know that.  In order to spontaneously make fresh sushi on your own without worrying about freshness, you will need to have a few supplies on hand at all times.  This will allow you to simply grab some fresh fish from the market, bring it back to your house, and create something delicious.  For best results, try stocking up on things like:

  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Soy sauce
  • Daikon radish
  • Sushi rice

Though the shelf-lives of these may vary based on any number of things, they all make for wonderful cabinet staples in my new found sushi-loving home.  In fact, by having these things at hand all the time, I have been able to make multiple types of sushi for my family in a matter of minutes (and it didn’t come with an expensive restaurant price tag either).

Stay Safe

It is important to remember that when you are preparing anything with fish that you should take extra precautions to ensure food safety.  Cross contamination is a serious concern.  Remember that keeping everything clean and separated during the process is vital to your health.

Does Going Gluten Free Lead to Better Health?

is gluten free healthy10 years ago, nobody even knew what gluten was, now gluten free diets are one of the most popular diet trends but does it really lead to better health? For people who suffer from celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder), going gluten free is necessary but is gluten bad for you if you are not celiac?

What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in cereal grains such as wheat (including cous cous and semolina), rye, spelt, barley (including malt), oats and freekah. It is used as a thickening agent in sauces, custards, soups, ice-cream and ketchup and is present in soy sauce (but not tamari), beer, deli meats and sausages as well as convenience and packaged food. It is the protein that makes dough elastic and is an important component of bread and pizza dough. It can pop up in surprising places such as blue cheese, pickles

Gluten Free Food
Gluten-free grains include corn/maize/polenta, buckwheat, tapioca, millet, rice and quinoa (which is actually a seed) . Most supermarkets will have a gluten free aisle but those foods are not necessarily healthy. In the USA last year, Americans spent over $4 billion dollars on gluten free products. Food labelled as “gluten free” may contain a tolerable level of gluten rather than a complete absence. Standards for “gluten free” food varies from country to country, for example in Australia, gluten-free foods must contain less than 0.003% gluten and in the UK, if foods contain less than 0.3% gluten they can be labelled gluten-free.

Other Items with Gluten
Some non-food items such as vitamin supplements and medications, especially those in tablet form, may contain gluten as bulking or binding agent.

Gluten Free Alcohol
Almost all beers are brewed with malted barley or wheat and will contain gluten. Spirits made without any grain such as brandy, wine, port, tequila, rum, cider, sherry, and vermouth do not usually contain gluten.

Will Going Gluten Free Help Me Lose Weight?
Years ago people avoided sugar, then they avoided fat, then saturated fat, then carbs. Now gluten is seen as the latest undesirable ingredient.

When avoiding gluten, be aware that the problem with gluten free products is that food manufacturers, especially those producing baked goods, use alternative ingredients to bind food together and may use more fat and sugar to make the food taste better.

A cake is still a cake and processed food is still processed food . Removing the gluten will not make it healthy or low fat or low in sugar!

It is more healthy to eat naturally gluten free foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh lean protein, eggs, nuts and legumes, milk, fats and oils and gluten free grains e.g. rice and corn.

Eating real food instead of processed packaged food is a healthier way of eating. Gluten free diets are not designed for weight loss, but if you are not eating processed starchy carb laden foods such as bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, pizza and muffins, you are more likely lose weight!

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruocaled/7961741456