Heal the World: Community Gardens

When I can get there, I try to join a water exercise class at my local YMCA.

The class, held Tuesday and Thursday mornings, addresses all the muscles and joints associated with aging. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the friendship of the other participants and have attended a few social lunches, always contributing something I make to the table.

The Y grounds have attractive landscaping, including seasonal shrubs and flowers. But it’s the huge community garden that attracted my attention. One day I happened to mention how luscious everything looked and was given a head of lettuce that surpassed any I’ve had from the grocery store or even local farm markets. On our farm, we raised chickens for eggs, and the only gardening I did was at our house, usually growing flowers and a little rhubarb.

Community gardens are particularly special to me as they remind me of the gardens we helped residents create when we worked as VISTA volunteers in Hartford, CT. Several years later, when my husband Marty served as First Selectman in Killingworth, CT, we supported creating a community garden for the residents. The Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” can certainly be applied to community gardens.

Curious about the Y program, I brought along my notebook and pen and asked some questions before a recent swim class. Launched in 2014, the Y’s “Partner to Grow” program provides fresh produce to the Shoreline Soup Kitchen and Pantries. During the first season, they created garden beds, learned how to manage pests using an organic mixture of castor oil and white pepper spray, and how to harvest. The Y delivered more than 2,000 pounds to the food pantry from its 18 garden beds.

The next year, the Y increased its garden to 30 beds and by 2016 it harvested over 3,000 pounds of produce. Volunteers come from the local community groups – businesses, school groups, scout troops, civic organizations and programs that support individuals with disabilities. Additionally, many YMCA members and non-members volunteer, helping with the harvest every Tuesday morning from July to October. In the afternoon, the produce is delivered to the St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church where more than 80 families receive fresh vegetables.

Scott Morris, the head of the program, teaches at a local high school. He said he likes to play Big Band music while the volunteers work the harvest. “They like Glen Miller. They like to dance along while working,” he said. He likes watching how the more experienced gardeners help the younger ones, cultivating the next generation of gardeners.

I was lucky enough to be given some fresh parsley. Tabouli, anyone?

Note to readers: My mother suffered a stroke July 28th following a skin infection that led to a blood clot. She’s working hard at rehab to get back to the activities she loves: knitting, cooking, and writing her blog.

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A Cute Couple

Thermopolis, Wyoming  is small old cattle and oil town about 125 miles southeast of Yellowstone Park and home of the World’s (supposedly) Largest Mineral Hot Springs. We’ve been coming here every winter for about 25 years, soaking in the hot water relieves our aching joints.

Over the years, we’ve seen eateries come and go. We can usually find hamburgers, sandwiches, and several ethnic restaurants including Mexican, Chinese, and Thai. We were pleased to try “The One-Eyed Buffalo,” a steakhouse and sports bar. The décor consists of several television screens each showing the same view of a high school basketball game. Sheet metal adorns the lower sections of the walls and cowboy hats and boots, long beards, torn jeans, and tattoos prevail among the clientele.

It was our last night in Thermopolis, before braving the “Northeaster”, that was predicted. Since it was somewhat late on a Friday, with live music, we knew that the OEB would be noisy and crowded, but we had come from a water aerobics class and craved a rib-eye steak and a baked potato, half the size of your forearm, served with real sour cream. Draft beer also costs a fraction of the bottled beer sold elsewhere.

A sign requests that patrons seat themselves. We were conversing with a small party of people until two tables were available. We agreed that they take the larger table and then sat down at another table soon after.

When we requested our check, we were told that our new friends had paid for our meal. They insisted that they wanted to do this; we said it was not necessary. We thought we’d leave the tip for both tables and learned that this was taken care of as well. My husband, Marty, wanted to present our generous neighbors with a gift certificate, but they had already left. The waiter told us that one of the women in the group remarked that we were a “cute couple.”

Cute couple? We are both octogenarians! 

(Photo is from a few years ago, taken in Thermopolis!)

It was nice to be surprised by this act of kindness.

My other stories about Thermopolis:

https://wp.me/p3FbW2-5A

https://bestofbarbara.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/dan-the-man-from-thermopolis/

https://bestofbarbara.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/thermopolis-wyoming-hot-springs

 

THREE LITTLE FISH, NOT TO BE FRIED

About fifty years ago we had a pond dug at our poultry farm in Madison, Connecticut, to enhance the landscape and to provide water for the chickens in times of drought. When we converted our farm to a golf range some twenty years ago, and still rely on the pond to water the tee area when rainfall is insufficient.

The pond has not only been helpful, but has provided much enjoyment. Originally the State of Connecticut stocked it with trout. An amazing amount of wildlife found its way into our pond over the course of time. In addition to the trout, there were other fish whose eggs were carried to the area on the feet of ducks. Children loved to catch sunfish. We’ve had turtles and lots of frogs, even during the time when there was concern that the frog population was diminishing.

We swam, ice- skated and even paddled a canoe on the pond.

At a recent family gathering we noticed that our nephew’s pond was free of algae. He told us that he had carp in the pond, which feed on the algae and eat the mosquito larva as a bonus, and suggested that we contact the State of Connecticut Fish and Wildlife Service to see if our pond would be suitable for carp.

A representative from Fish and Wildlife assessed the pond and determined that three carp would be enough to eliminate the putrefaction of invasive algae, caused by a lack of oxygen and limited rainfall. He gave us a list of fish suppliers in our area, adding that we needed a permit from the State of Connecticut.

The fish, about $50 each, were delivered and tossed into the pond. They are only a few months old and about twelve to thirteen inches long, but they can grow to nearly four feet in length. The lifespan of this type of carp is between two to ten years. However we were advised to replace them halfway through their lifespan because larger fish have less of an appetite than the smaller ones, and would not be as effective. To control the population of the carp, electric shock is used to cause rearrangement of the chromosomes and render the fish neutered.

Apparently herons are apt to grab carp. We do see a heron at the pond occasionally and will cope with the predators as necessary.

The pond carp are related to Koi, seen in decorative landscape ponds and fish tanks, as well as pet goldfish. There are many edible varieties of carp that are also delicious, but I’m not planning to have a fish fry anytime soon.

After two days the carp seemed to have adjusted to their new habitat.

I’ll keep you posted!

 

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Seniors: Sign Up for SilverSneakers!

Recently I received a pamphlet from my insurance company with specials on fitness opportunities, including SilverSneakers, a free fitness program for all seniors, offered through Medicare. I had heard about this program and was eager to take advantage of it.

I have a membership at my local YMCA where I participate in an aquacize class twice a week. This swim class seems to address my health issues more effectively than other forms of exercise. SilverSneakers partners with the Y and pays the Y membership fee with no additional charge to me. (Not all Y’s partner with SilverSneakers but many private gyms do.) The program is available to those who are 65 or older, throughout the U.S. A member can enroll in as many activities as his/her stamina will permit.

A woman I met, Pat, used to walk with two canes due to a chronic back problem that kept her bedridden for several years. After receiving medical treatment, she’s working on her therapy at the Y, thanks to SilverSneakers. She can walk straight and swim laps.

The Affordable Care Act narrowly escaped disembowelment, but there’s still uncertainty regarding the future of health care in this country. It is incumbent upon all of us to insist that forthcoming health delivery provides fitness programs, free of charge or at a manageable fee. SilverSneakers ensures that seniors can improve their strength and agility and minimize the possibility of having a reoccurrence of a disability.

 

 

 

 

FEMMES of the FIFTIES

My friend, Janice Kaplan Carno is no stranger; I’ve introduced her to you before. One of her daughters was sorting through boxes of photographs and forwarded this picture of five beauties of the fifties. 

Although I don’t remember posing for this picture, I realize that it’s a few members of our house plan, taken during our sophomore or junior year at Hunter College, N.Y.C. The varieties of house plans were looser alternatives to sororities, organized for socialization. As members of a house plan we received invitations to events throughout the city and surrounding areas. Janie had invited me to join the house plan that she founded. In the picture, Janie is the cute one on the far left and I am standing next to her. I recognize one other woman in the photo. I’m second from the left, next to Janie.

I can’t imagine that we posed for a photo where we were all smoking. I guess we thought we looked so “sharp” and sophisticated, imitating movie stars smoking in the films. We didn’t realize that showing smoking on the screen were advertisements for the tobacco industry. It’s really amazing that pictures produced today tell a story without having the characters smoke. I smoked a pack of cigarettes a week, in the company of others and never while eating. I remember casually mentioning to my mother that all of my friends were smoking. She said that if I felt better smoking I shouldn’t spend money on cigarettes and gave me a pack from the carton that my father kept on hand. When I went on dates, it was assumed a date would buy you a pack of cigarettes. Things have changed.

We can laugh at the smoking, but the photo is a priceless memento, reminding me not only of our college years, but also of the enduring friendship that Janie’s family and my family share.

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MATZO BREI FOR MILLENNIALS

I gave my nephew, Mark, a copy of my cookbook, Glub, Glub and a Shake Shake when I visited him and my brother in Florida. He found my recipe for Matzo Brei inspiring. He’s known for being the family cook, and loves to innovate, making up dishes as he goes along.

Below is his version of a simple homey dish. Call it “gilding the lily, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” or whatever you think, but it is too much fun not to share.

“The cook book is pretty neat!!!, he wrote in an email to my sister-in-law. “I look forward to trying some of the recipes. Thought I would contribute to the book with a “next generation“ of Matzo Brei.

The original (or mine at least) instructs: break the matzo into pieces, pour cold water over, drain right away. Beat one egg for each piece of matzo with a little milk – a few tablespoons—and add to matzo. Melt butter or margarine in a frying pan; add matzo and spoon around as if you’re making scrambling eggs.

Mark suggested:

After wetting the matzo in the bowl, with the egg, add avocado oil and garlic powder. Cook the Matzo Brei the same way. In a separate pan, caramelize one medium size red onion, and then add 4 or 5 cloves of fresh minced garlic. Cook, then add 1 tablespoon of fresh-diced thyme, and enough water to make a thick sauce. Add a 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of soft cream cheese or Jalapeno cream cheese to the matzo. Add chopped cooked andouille sausage, turn the stove heat off and pour sauce over the matzo. Stir in a small amount of white truffle oil. Add cracked pepper to taste.“

We were tempted and asked what time was brunch. But with two young children and full-time work, we weren’t able to sample his creation. Maybe next time.

Lanny, Colin, & Mark

 

 

Mouth-watering, Marvelous, MATZO BREI!

After devouring a plate of homemade matzo brei this morning, my husband of 63 years, declared: “The world would be a better place if everyone ate matzo brei.” We laughed and I agreed and thought about the role of matzo brei in my family and others.

Matzo Brei is a favorite amongst, but not limited to, Jewish people, almost in a category with French toast. Although I will say that one-third of my family, down to the great-grandchildren, favor matzo brei, one-third prefer French toast, and the last third, eat whatever’s put in front of them.

Matzo brei is identified with Passover, but is enjoyed all year round. It’s usually served for breakfast, but is great at other meals. I like the simplicity of serving matzo brei because it doesn’t require putting a lot of things on the table. The eggs and bread are combined in one dish.

To make matzo brei, I use one matzo for each serving. The recipe, which can be found in my cookbook, A Glub, Glub & A Shake Shake, instructs to break the matzo into pieces and cover with water for a minute or two. Then drain the matzo and add beat up eggs and a little milk for another couple of minutes, and then fry in butter or margarine, scrambling the mixture to cook it evenly and prevent it from sticking to the pan. There are many variations where people add vegetables or even meat but we like it plain. Marty adds strawberry jam; I like salt and pepper and my son uses tamari sauce to season his plate.

My grandsons used to consume mountains of matzo brei and I would use five matzos and five eggs for the two of them. My oldest grandson had the idea that we open a matzo brei restaurant together. He’s become a social worker instead, but still loves matzo brei.

I can think of many reasons why the world would be a better place if everyone ate matzo brei. Can you?