Our Garden: Uses For Aloe And Lavender

Our garden is a sanctuary.  We love planning, working in and enjoying our space.  Most of what we plant and grow is with the intention of using it.  I love to use herbs in cooking and teas.  Over the next couple of weeks I will showcase some of the things we have in our garden and what their medicinal uses and magical  powers are:

ALOE: Aloe Vera- I don’t remember a time when I didn’t use this plant.  In Toronto we had an indoor plant.  When we lived in the Caribbean it grew wild all over and now in the desert have a plant I purchased from Trader Joe’s four years ago that is thriving with little maintenance, outside year round.  

There are two parts of this plant that can be used.  The inside clear, gel-like central leaf pulp, and the yellow-green juice from the green part of the leaf. The gel is used topically to soothe, heal, and moisturize the skin. It cools the skin, protects it from airborne infections, reduces scarring and speeds cell regeneration.  The yellow part can be scraped from split leaves for first aid treatment of  sunburns, cuts, chapped skin, acne, eczema and Poison Ivy rash. 
In the summer when my plant is at it’s plumpest I snap sections off and store them whole in my freezer.  It can be stored, already scrapped, for short periods of time in a glass jar in the fridge.  
Aloe is also used as a protective houseplant. It guards against evil influences and prevents household accidents. I keep ours in a large pot directly beside our front door.  In Africa aloe is hung over houses and doors to bring good luck and drive away evil. 

LAVENDER: (Lavandula species) This perennial comes in several different species all with small, linear leaves and spikes of fragrant purple or blue flowers.   Aromatic oil glands cover all aerial parts of the plants but are most concentrated in the flowers. The flowers can be used to flavor jams, sweets and stews.  Dried flowers can be used to make potpourri.  You can make flower water to use as a skin toner to treat acne and to speed cell renewal.  Lavender tea treats anxiety, headaches, flatulence, nausea, dizziness, and halitosis. The essential oil which you can purchase online or at a heath food store is used as an antiseptic and painkiller. It can be used to treat insect bites, burns, sore throats and headaches. Lavender can also be added to bath water or foot soak tubs to ease anxiety and produce a calming, sleepy affect.  I used this often when the monkeys were babies.  
Lavender is a traditional ingredient for love spells. Lavender in the home brings peace, joy and healing. You may use it in your home to encourage more: Love, Psychic Awareness, Happiness, Creative Work, Money, Harmony, Peace, Healing. The odor of lavender is said to be conducive to long life.

Do you enjoy using Aloe and Lavender?
What do you grow, to use, in your garden? 


Bored To Death

I happen to find pot smoking Jews to be highlarious- 
So when I read about this HBO TV series I ordered it immediately and was not disappointed. 

The show is written by author Jonathan Ames, and stars Jason Schwartzman as a fictional Jonathan Ames – a writer who also moonlights as an private detective. 
Jason Schwartzman is a great actor and in my opinion handsome.  He portrays a freshly single, pot smoking, struggling writer who lives in Park Slope, NY.  His boss is played by Ted Danson, also a pot head and bit of a sex addict and alcoholic.  The best friend role goes to Zach Galifianakis (who wouldn't want Zach as a BFF), a slightly neurotic comic book writer.  
After some success with a first novel, Jonathan is struggling to write a second novel.  He posts an ad on Craigslist, as an unlicensed Private Investigator and comedy ensues as he takes on cheating boyfriends, missing persons and sex scandal blackmailers.
  The first season came out on DVD in September 2010 and although the second season finished showing in November 2010 they have not released the DVD yet- 

Jonathan Ames also wrote The Extra Man- which was made into a film I recently saw. The story is about a failed playwright who sublets a room to an eccentric cross-dressing aspiring writer and trains him to be an extra man while they entertain rich Cougars.  Dr. J fell asleep while watching it.

Have you seen Bored To Death? 


On Living Life

When things are trying and ever day seems like a test in not letting the mind wander and every night a battle to settle below the surface of worried wakefulness, I remind myself that nothing matters except the four of us.  We can’t control others, their reactions or even more frustratingly, their lack of reactions and willingness to move forward.  
What you can do is focus on the things that matter.
Do things that make you happy- everyday.  Then focus on your loved ones and those who depend on you.  Just like a happy wife is a happy life, in the words of Jackie Kennedy Onassis the best thing a wife can do for her husband is ‘be a distraction’.  

A husband lives and breathes his work all day long. If he comes home to more table thumping, how can the poor man ever relax?

I practice Feng Shui in my home as it gives structure to my ultimate goal of creating a harmonious home.  I put things back where they belong.  I seek and execute healthy meals.  I run errands so that everyone has what they need.  I plan things that I know will make my family happy.  I water the plants and feed the pets.  I invite good chi (energy flow) into our home. Most importantly I schedule time to do things that make me happy.

Another famous Jackie quote is: 

 If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much. 

How true and yet hard to gauge.
I was talking to a friend who is expecting her first grandchild in the fall.  She told me that her gauge is that both her children want to call her.  

My goals in terms of what kind of relationship I want to have with my monkeys now and well into their adulthood is:
  • I want us to enjoy spending time together.
  • I want to continue to learn from them- children are our teachers and in the words of Kahlil Gibran:  You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.  For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
  • I  want us to continue saying I love you and hug each other every time. 

What do you do to make yourself and your loved ones happy?
What are your gauges? 


Robert Bradford- Recycled Art- Art From Plastic Trash

Robert Bradford is a London born and based artist who began his career as a psychotherapist- In 2002 he began to wonder and create using primarily discarded children's toys- He creates life size replicas of animals and humans using plastic trash.  


The Face Mug

When I go upstairs to work in my office I like to take a mug with tea or coffee, water and usually something else- the book I'm reading, my phone, a magazine- This mug would be helpful- not only for a snack but I think my phone would fit in there nicely! 

May your day be as productive as you make it! 


Richard Avedon Photography Pop Icons

Richard Avedon was an American Photographer.  
Born in NYC to a Jewish Russian family Mr. Avedon’s obituary published in the NYT states: 
"his fashion and portrait photographs helped define America's image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century.
He is well known for his photographs of pop icons such as The Beatles:

(I took these on my Iphone- the last time I was in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts) 

Andy Warhol 
Marilyn Monroe

And here is a photo of Richard and Marilyn together

When the sitting is over, I feel kind of embarrassed about what we’ve shared. It’s so intense. Snapshots that have been taken of me working show something I was not aware of at all, that over and over again I’m holding my own body or my own hands exactly like the person I’m photographing. I never knew I did that, and obviously what I’m doing is trying to feel, actually physically feel, the way he or she feels at the moment I’m photographing them in order to deepen the sense of connection. Richard Avedon - 1985


Jonathan Safran Foer- Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

I only post on books that I have read and enjoyed- The reason for this is because I don't finish books I don't like.  I am such a literature snob that I barely give many books a chance.  Like art it has to blow me away or I don't give it the time of day.  I don't have a rating system that would distinguish a really good book from an amazing one.  This book makes me wish I did.  

Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of Everything is Illuminated which has received much acclaim and was made into a film in 2005 starring Liev Schreiber and Elijah Wood.  Born and raised in a Jewish home both of JSF’s brothers are also writers.  
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was published in 2005 and uses the 9/11 tragedy to tell the story of nine years old Oskar Schell, who lost his father in the World Trade Center.  This precocious and sad soul will melt you.
The writing is genius- I mean pure genius.  This book alone is bursting with sentences and thoughts that make me want to stop, record the thought and contemplate it.  Furthermore JSF uses a non-traditional style of story telling called visual writing.  He uses photographs as well as unconventional fonts and letter placement, enhancing the method of 'showing the reader' -a writing technique that is important in the development of any good story.  Despite my many pauses of ‘genius appreciation’ I finished the book in a week.  I cried so much and I now have a new definition of love- how I want to love and how to experience it.  
Have you read this book?  Any other books by JSF? 


Techno Wave- Nick D'attomo Help Japan

There is a lot of amazing art that is floating around with profits going towards helping Japan.
I am a bit weary about anything that suggests a percentage of profits being donated.
I immediately fell in love with this piece.  Amazing not only in that it was started months before tragedy struck Japan but that the artist is donating all profits to relief and that it is a limited edition thus maintaining the value of the art work.
100% of profits from the sale of this print titled: Techno Wave will go towards supporting Tsunami Relief-
All the money will go to Action Against Hunger an organization presently helping feed and evacuate the at risk populations in Japan.

From the Artist, Nick D'attomo:
I think it's important to recognize that the tragedy in Japan is not as far away as the distance would have us believe. California has earthquakes, California has a coastline, and California has nuclear power plants.
This is an image I've been working on for a couple of months now. The original intent was to draw similarities between wave of industry that washed over Japan of the nineteenth century, and technological wave that is washing over the U.S. The images of destruction coming out of the Japan place this image within a completely new context.
All of the industrial and technological advancements that have been made over the course of human history can easily be washed away by a simple shiver of the planet. We are frail creatures who are subject to the whims of mother nature, we don't own the planet, it owns us.

 This is a 24 x 18 limited edition print that is signed and numbered by the artist
 Cost is $80 of which ALL proceeds go to Relief for Japan
$10 flat rate to ship anywhere in the US- They do ship world wide


Hamentachen Purim

Hamentachen are a Jewish pastry formed in the shape of a triangle.  The cookie is made by using a circular piece of dough, adding a filling and folding the sides to create a three cornered shape.  Traditional fillings include any types of jams, prunes, nuts, poppy seeds, apples, chocolate or caramel.  The cookie is usually yellow in color but we made a few batched with green and blue food coloring (Great idea A!).
This treat is traditionally eaten during Purim and it is said to resemble the ears, or hat, of the evil Haman described in the Book Of Esther. 

My youngest monkey wanted to try some new ingredients so he chose gummy worms:

And Gummy Bears: 

 We used Toblerone which I think is clever because it's already in the shape of a triangle:

Unfortunately gummy bears and gummy worms don't bake well:

This is what a sad monkey looks like:

We also made some with Twix bars, Snickers bars and peanut butter- YUM!

A perfect batch: 

Big thanks to the W family!


The Glass Castle

I just finished The Glass Castle last week and enjoyed it.
Based on a true story, it details the unconventional upbringing of Ms Walls- by her eccentric artist mother and genius alcoholic father.  
At times her childhood seems idyllic. Learning from nature, encouraged to read and learn from readily available books and discussions that stimulate thoughtful dialogues among both parents and siblings.  
In contrast there are periods of job loss, hunger, filth, abuse and transition that bring into question the parents metal and emotional stability.  
I recommend this novel as a well written, thought provoking reflection on: upbringing, parenthood and sibling relationships.

Have you read The Glass Castle? 
Read any good books lately? 


Artist: Darren Johnson

Darren Johnson's exhibition titled Important Conversation in Midwestern Brown is currently on display as part of the Nevada Arts Council.  
Like his earlier works Of The Overwhelmed and In Position, he creates realistic unposed portraits of people.  
In this newest exhibit, comic bubbles create a dialogue between subjects.  
These basic conversations speak volumes and open to interpretation the context, as well as the subjects,  creating the effect of a voyeur mesmerized by overheard smidgens of conversations.

All the backgrounds are done in simple earth tones- From The Artist Statement: 
The bleak emptiness of their brown surroundings speaks to their own emptiness, their seeming lack of significance to the world around them, and their alienation from it. These figures are the people I know: Midwestern, middle-class Americans each with their own stories and shared struggle. They find themselves awkwardly cropped in both composition and dialogue so as to share the discomfort with the viewer. 

The dialogues include English, Mandarine and braille.  

From The Artist Statement:
Talk, as in what is said, what isn’t said, how much is said, who says it, to whom, and why – more wholly, communication. The sort of communication that stomps out silence and peace with the need to exhaust one’s frustration with the commonly unfulfilling, lonely nature of contemporary life.

I laughed out loud at more than once at some of these paintings.

To view upcoming shows, other works and pricing information 
please visit:

Darren Johnson


Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM is an ancient form of medicine that seeks to balance the body (ying and yang) as well as treat ailments that are the result of an unbalance in the body.  I started getting acupuncture treatments and taking herbs six years ago while living in Toronto.  During various periods of my life I make appointments regularly and at other times I go for a tune up.  

Dr. Eran Even
is a TCM doctor with a practice outside of Vancouver, BC who recently published a
handbook for practitioners
.  Fluent in both English and Mandarin Dr. Even also writes a
where he translates case studies into English.  He has been kind enough to answer a few questions intended to demystify or enlighten the practice of TCM 
What might one expect from a first appointment or first acupuncture session?
Usually the initial consult takes anywhere from 1 -1 ½ hours.  In this first meeting we discuss the patients’ chief complaint and also undergo a detailed history looking at all aspects of the persons’ life, from their digestive system to their emotional health to their menstrual cycle.  Even if a patient comes in for chronic shoulder pain, I would still inquire about their digestive system in order to try and uncover the underlying pattern which could be either contributing to their pain or preventing them from making a full recovery.  Essentially no preparation is needed on the part of the patient for the initial consult, only a readiness to discuss their entire medical history and associated and non-associated symptoms.  It is quite common for patients receiving Acupuncture for the first time to be quite nervous on their first visit.  Part of this is due to a common misconception that we use massive hypodermic needles.  In reality, the needles are very fine and insertion is rarely even felt.  Most people are extremely relaxed after treatment and some of my patients have described this sensation as ‘a floating feeling’; an Acupuncture buzz if you will.  
What is the training process to become a TCM doctor?
The training to become a Doctor of Chinese medicine takes 5 years of full time intensive studies at an accredited Chinese medical college.  Subjects covered include; Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal medicine, Chinese massage therapy (called Tui Na), Chinese medical theory, pathology and physiology, and also includes western medical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, microbiology, pharmacology, etc.  Currently most Chinese medical colleges offer degrees at the post graduate level, so an undergraduate degree is usually required.  Now this only covers the theoretical and clinical requirements to sit for provincial or state board exams, this certainly does not cover the time needed to become adept at practicing the art.  Personally, I believe that 5 years is not enough time to truly grasp this vast medical system, and one needs to engage in several years of apprenticeship or clinical mentorship to learn how to apply the treatments effectively and to hone and develop their own skills. I would also say that integral to the study of Chinese medicine, would be the study of the Chinese language as well.  Currently, western practitioners only have access to at best 5% of the literature available to their Chinese speaking counterparts.  This includes classical literature from two thousand years ago to modern research being published in one of the dozens of Chinese medical journals weekly. Without being able to read Chinese you are left with English versions, where lots of info is lost in translation, as they say.  The purpose of my blog is to provide access to various case studies to the non-Chinese reading practitioners.  
Are you finding more mainstream patients are seeking TCM treatments for such things as infertility, anxiety, depression and pain management?
In addition to the above ailments, I also see a lot of digestive issues, allergies and skin conditions.  I believe that patients seeking treatment for the above conditions have already tried western medicine, and have found that the treatment is not effective.  Many patients are seeking out more holistic or all-encompassing treatment options, rather than just treating the symptoms that usually re-emerge after medications are stopped.  Aside from offering Acupuncture and/or herbal medicines to control the symptoms and treat the underlying pattern, we discuss and recommend lifestyle and dietary changes in order to contribute to the patients’ overall sense of well being. 

TCM is largely based on treating the whole person not just the symptoms- can you elaborate on this?
The basic premise of TCM is to find the patients underlying pattern and treat accordingly.  When a TCM doctor examines a patient, they look for many signs and symptoms, find a pattern within those symptoms, and come up with a diagnosis. These signs and symptoms may mean nothing on their own, but acquire meaning in relationship to each other.   In order for a TCM doctor to identify a patients specific pattern we use a system called pattern identification, which is essentially a process by which information is gathered through four examinations (inspection, listening, inquiry, and palpation).  These four examination processes are unique in that each one focuses on a different way of recognizing signs in a patient.    We take the information gathered from the four examinations and identify a specific pattern (which has been determined over the last few thousand years, by a specific set or constellation of signs and symptoms) and treat accordingly.  Because every patient is unique in how they will manifest a specific complaint, usually no two patients are treated equally.  I can have ten patients coming in for migraines in a week, and the chances of me writing the same herbal formula or using the same set of acupuncture points is slim to none. The best way to sum it up is “we treat the person, not the disease”.  
There is certainly a great deal of info on the Internet these days, but of course we have to take some of these sites with a grain of salt, as the Internet is not always the best avenue for seeking medical info.  One book that I can recommend for the layperson would be the very same book that sparked my initial interest in Chinese medicine.  It’s called The Web That Has No Weaver written by Ted Kaptchuk, a Chinese medical doctor who is now a professor at Harvard.  This book is truly a marvellous glimpse into the theory of TCM and the clinical reasoning of a TCM doc.   
What is the best way to find a TCM doc in your area- is there a national database? 
The best way to find a practitioner in your area would be to find the website or info for the licensing college of your state or province, which will usually have a comprehensive database of licensed practitioners.  Always seek out a fully licensed practitioner, and specifically one that has been trained in Traditional Chinese medicine.  
Thank you!                                        To visit Dr. Even's blog

Tong Ren Tang tag is the oldest pharmacy (in both Chinese and Western medicine) in the world.  
It's been running out of the same location since 1702
(photo by Dr. Eran Even)


Japan Wabi-Sabi

What a terrible tragedy the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.  Just like the footage from 9/11, I find the images mesmerizing.  I find the destruction devastating yet to look at it from a purely environmental perspective there is an element of elegance in the movement of the water.

Wabi- Sabi is (not unlike the theories of Feng Shui) based on the ancient art of finding beauty in all accepts of life including imperfections.  It is based on the elements: that nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect.  In Zen Buddhism it is about finding perfection in imperfection.

I find this a reassuring way to run a household, host a dinner party, enjoy our garden, be a wife and probably most importantly raise monkeys.  Of course so much of life's moments are about letting go of the preconceived notion that there is a way things 'should be'.
Control is an illusion and nothing is permanent.

Characteristic of maintaining a wabi- sabi home and life include: asymmetry, simplicity, economy, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of natural objects on processes.

Some snap shots of my life that fall under these characteristics:

A creative space that is never going to be finished or perfect

Beauty in a pool that is covered in pollen

Bringing garden flowers inside and appreciating the petals that fall all over

A guitar playing husband who doesn't put stuff away

Creativity with no regard for neatness

Unmade beds and monkeys playing video games, in their PJ's well after noon!

Laundry- hanging to dry inside

How do you practice Wabi- Sabi?

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