I love life!

Hi, I am Jo and this is my blog about my life. Here you will find entries on cooking, gardening, food safety and the interesting things happening in my search for an inexpensive and healthy way of living. My home is located in North Florida and I am relearning how to take care of myself at almost 50. This is the deep South so my garden and season may be a bit different than yours. I look forward to seeing what you have to say as time passes. Read on and have a beautiful day!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Everyone deserves to eat!

1 in 6 Americans Face Hunger

The news out of Washington never fails to amaze me. The last few weeks have been no exception.

There is hunger in America. More hunger than we can possibly know, or imagine, and our government in D.C. has found now to be a good time to balance the books on the backs of the hungry. Politicians are spouting rhetoric that is unfounded about illegal immigrants receiving benefits. (They can't as they are not eligible) We hear about fraud in SNAP, and there is more fraud in Social Security as well as in Medicare. We hear stories of people buying lobster and steak using Supplemental Nutrition Benefits.
There are countless other excuses. And that is what they are excuses!

The best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.
                                                               Abigail Van Buren (Pauline Esther Friedman)

How much character do we, as Americans, honestly have?

We as a nation, have chosen to allow government to turn poverty into a crime! I have been poor. My family has been poor. At one point in time we used Food Stamps and qualified for reduced price lunches at school. It is doubtful my parents would even had applied for assistance had they been forced to undergo drug testing. Not because they were using drugs. (They were not) but because of the cost associated with the testing and the shame and stigma attached to the process. They were mortified enough due to simply needing assistance - that would have just compounded the issue. 

If you want drug testing for benefits fine. Everyone on Medicare and Social Security needs to be drug tested as well. The same for anyone employed by the government. My taxes pay for those so why not? We are willing to put undue hardship on others but can we handle it as well? 

What happens when a parent tests positive for drugs? We no longer allow their children to eat? Oh, wait...they are children of druggies so they don't matter? Really? Now the only meal those children will get will be when they go to school? Are we going to take children away from parents who test positive?  How is this all supposed to work? 

My family did not abuse the system. Why do we automatically assume that others lack the integrity to responsibly use SNAP benefits?  Because someone in D.C. said so? Because we read about rampant fraud and do not bother to check the facts- in any way?  

Hunger and poverty have become partisan political issues in the United States. We, as a nation, have chosen leaders focused not on the well being of the people but on their own political agendas. It is more important to "one up" the other party than to work to resolve issues. It is all about how the story spins in the media, not about protecting the rights of those they have been elected to serve. This story spins, and spins! We hear of "entitlements" and the surfer dude buying lobster. We rarely hear about poverty ridden areas where over 90% of children in school qualify for free or reduced price lunches.  

This is not just other people in the "inner cities." These are your neighbors, your coworkers or even your family.  Oh, you say but they don't abuse the system like the "others". Who are the "others"?? Tell me, please! The "others" are all around us. They are the elderly, the single mom down the street working two jobs, the young American Soldier living off base with a family or it could be you after a job loss or a medical crisis.

We can afford to pay for a space program, the world most hi-tech weaponry and countless staff for all of elected leaders.  Yet, we allow people to be hungry. Can someone explain this to me? 

There is not room on this blog to dispel all of the myths and rampant misinformation about SNAP benefits and hunger. The link below takes you to the Feeding America website and it rationally discusses the myths and realities of SNAP Benefits in the United States. Everyone should take the time to read this.

Sure, the Feeding America website  has a bias. However, they have cited RELIABLE sources for every one of the myths they dispel on the website.

Churches and hunger groups are struggling now with feeding those in need and we want them to take on even more? When will the craziness end? Because I don't see the end anywhere in sight!

Thursday, September 26, 2013


The new kicks !
There was a time in my life where I could easily run 5 miles at a steady pace and finished floating on air. The after moving to Florida from R.I., my asthma became much more pronounced and was untreated. That fact something was wrong became apparent the first time I tried to run here in SW Florida. That hot sweaty run ended with me prone on the living room floor in front of a fan gasping for air.

Since then there have been attempts in fits and starts but success has been out of reach. I tried training for a marathon but did not recognize the severity of my asthma and suffered the entire time. It ended up with me quitting training when I could run 11 miles. I was sick all of the time and constantly run down. My belief was that if I pushed hard enough I could muscle my way through training. Not so. This is doubly true when 1) You don't recognize that asthma is the issue. 2) The people training you are runners and not aware of the signs of asthma. and 3) If asthma is untreated you get sick - a lot

Yoga then became my go to recreation of choice. I still love yoga but have always yearned to run again. My husband is a marathoner and he is surrounded by hard core runners. Every year we make the sacred trek to Boston where I follow along as he registers and attends the trade show. Then on race day I am the carrier of "Crap". My bag is full of water, snacks and now even electrolytes to share with him after he finishes. I watch and wish.

One of the hardest days for me was attending a wedding shower of a friend. Most of the attendees were runners and had just run a half marathon that morning. Everyone who ran got a headband from the brides mother and I was brushed aside as, "Oh, you don't get one you didn't run this morning." Sadly, I had spent 3 times the amount of their running time cooking for the shower. I went home upset and devastated.

Here is what very few people know. My asthma at one point was considered "life threatening." Thanks to my amazing allergist, I was able to take a new medication that effectively controls my allergic response that causes asthma. My life is more normal, however, asthma will always be an issue. Training for me is MUCH slower than another persons might be and my pace is snail like as well. Running requires me to be aware of my body, especially my breathing. My inhaler is always with me and all of my medications must be taken religiously in order for me to be physically active.

Asthma is really serious and a person with it may look and act completely normal. Left untreated, asthma can progressively worsen impacting a persons life in ways that a healthy person can not understand. It has taken my husband years to grasp that I really am trying but that my lungs REALLY can slow me down.

Running is slowly becoming part of my life again. The pre dawn hours are when it is cool enough to run thus the sunrise is becoming a regular sight. It is lovely! My pace is nothing to brag about and I will never win any awards. However, I am still trying and that in and of itself means something. So when I cross the finish line at a race at the end of the pack people who know me will understand that my victory is not simply about beating a time or speeding by other people. My victory is so much more.      

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The South Florida Garden

Gardening in South Florida is like gardening no place else that I have ever lived. When others are finishing the harvest and planting cool weather crops, I am planting beans, collards, eggplant and tomatoes. Carambola, star fruit, is hanging golden and ripe from the tree and tempting us with its slight floral fragrance and delectable sweetness. The perfect snack picked warm from the sun, served with no frills, simply sliced and shared with a loved one. Each slice in the shape of a star, enthralling to three year olds and their grandma's alike.

It is cooling here as well. Our evenings are dropping to the 70's and the days will slowly drop in temperature to the low 80's. The peak of winter will bring days in the 70's and nights in the high 40's.  That is when my cold weather crops will be planted. Red kale, that survives into summer, lettuce, broccoli, carrots, bok choy and even turnips all end up in my winter garden.        

Avocado, hidden in the leaves.
The avocados are green and beginning to ripen. Eventually, the green goodness will become a creamy rich addition to salads or guacamole. Mmmm....lovely.    

More papaya than we can handle.
So many papayas in the tree that it appears a strong wind could take it down. When golden and rip they become a sweet glowing orange jam. Perfect for toast, bagels and even pancakes. Bliss in a jar with a hint of lime.

The awesome Seminole pumpkin.
Pumpkins, in South Florida? Why yes, Seminole pumpkins. They will wrap around everything in their path and send out roots when the vine touches soil, or rocks and even tree trunks. Prolific does not even describe this green entity. We have eaten the babies sauteed with garlic and tomatoes, put medium sized ones into frittata and are awaiting the large ones for baked squash and pie. they are well worth thew $3.00 spent on the seed. Caution- they will take over!!! These were planted in early July with nothing around them and they still took over. AT one point they were even climbing the side of the house.      

We also have Purple Podded Pole Beans, Gold of Bacchau Beans, Georgia Collards, Bunching Onions, Serpente di Sicilia (edible gourd), Eggplant (unknown variety), Arugula (unknown variety), Mustard Greens (Unknown Variety) in the ground and countless herbs and vegetable starts waiting to be planted. Not to mention countless other fruit trees and plants. 

Gardening in South Florida is unique and brings me countless hours of joy. May your garden, regardless of location, bring you joy as well.