Green Living

Cultivating Relationships: Friendship

January 2, 2017

If you don’t, you’ll be emotionally attached to someone that drives you crazy, betrays you, or hurts you. That doesn’t sound like fun at all. You probably wouldn’t want to yell “FRIENDSHIP!” to a person that wasn’t that nice to you. So get to know the folks that interest you and open yourselves up to those that value you and value themselves. (Sounds so cheesy, but man! It’s true.)​

Be Loyal​
I’m sure you’ve had a friendship go rotten. You’ve probably been betrayed. It hurts. It’s not the best, that’s for sure. (And, remember, “friendship” and “best” are synonymous for me.) You know that saying – “Be the change you want to see in the world”? Well, transform that idea a little bit and you can get to: “Be the friend you want to have.” (Word magic!)​

Keep In Touch
​Don’t neglect what’s important to you. If you have a great time with someone or feel like you really connect with them, invest in that relationship. That’s how strong friendships are made. Time is precious and sharing it with another person in a casual and comfortable way is an easy way to feel happy. “Hangin’ out.” When no one’s working, no one’s leaving a voicemail,  and when there’s just enough time carved out of the evening to complain about how broke we all are.

​Surprise Them​
Friendships can become stale just like any other relationship. The best way to keep that from happening is to keep it fresh. (Go figure.) Surprise them with a little gift. Send them a random note. Stop in their workplace with an iced coffee. Share with them something that excites you.​

Don’t Grow In A Monoculture​
Just like corn shouldn’t all be grown together and soy shouldn’t all be grown together, people shouldn’t all be grown together either. Diversity is an imperative in biology. Human tribes and communities are no different. ​I have local food friends, and book friends, and TV/movie friends, and yarn friends (not friends made out of yarn (I’m not crazy) but friends that also enjoy knitting and crocheting). ​Some friends are almost-everything friends. These friends and I are freakishly like-minded. They might not read Cormac McCarthy books or e.e. cummings poems, but that’s alright. I’ve got another friend for that.

​Mix it up a little bit
As complex individuals, it only makes sense that we nurture a complex range of friendships.​Now, if you’ve finished this post and Randy Newman’s song “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” hasn’t popped into your head yet, then I didn’t do it right.

Green Living

Women’s Guide to Using a Miter Saw

January 2, 2017

Many women today are interested in doing their own carpentry work. Does this describe you? Maybe you want to fix up your house, do some redecorating, modernize your home, or perhaps you have purchased a house to renovate and sell. Whatever the reason, unless you are already experienced with the tools of the trade, you will need some basic information about the tools and how to use them. So here is your woman’s guide to using a miter saw.

What is a Miter saw?
Miter saws are tools that have a very special purpose. They have a circular blade with jagged edges that is mounted on a swing arm that pivots right and left, to let you make very precise angled cuts. This is how you join together the corners of things like floorboards, moldings, window casings and door frames, picture frames and anything else that needs joined at the corners. With a best miter saw you can quickly and easily make these cuts so precise that they fit together tightly.

How is a miter saw used?
The first time you turn on your miter saw, it may startle you, because the saw will make a whining sound and jerk a bit in your hand. You can tell when the saw reaches its top speed by the sound. Wait until you hear this top speed sound before starting your cut.

When you are ready to cut your board, mark the board where you want to make the cut, then lower the saw blade slowly, keeping your hand steady as you cut through the board. When finished, keep holding the saw carriage in this position and then turn off the switch. Let the blade stop completely before raising it again, and keep a firm grip on the board you are cutting until the blade completely stops spinning.

Practice makes perfect
When you first start using a miter saw, you may feel a bit disappointed with the results. But don’t despair. This is a process that takes a bit of time to learn how to do well. Over time you will learn how to make your cut a little beyond the line, testing the fit and slicing off a little bit by bit. Clamping the board down can also contribute to a more accurate cut.

You will also learn how to take into account the thickness of the wood and the angle of the cut. The length of the board also needs to be considered. More than half of the board should be resting on the saw table. If the board is too long for this, you can rest the end of the board on something to support it.

Safety Issues
Power miter saws are safe to use if you read and follow the safety precautions in the instructions that will be included with your saw, but here are some basic and important safety precautions that you should be aware of:

  • You should never cut a piece that places your hands closer than 6″ from the blade, because this puts your hand at risk. If you need a piece smaller than this, cut it from a larger piece.
  • Never cross your arms when using a miter saw.
  • Make sure to unplug your saw when you are not using it or when you are changing the blade.
  • Let the blade stop completely before lifting it at the end of a cut.
  • Never reach under the saw blade when it is spinning.
  • It’s a good idea to wear safety glasses and some sort of ear protection when using the saw.

There are many reasons why a woman today might want to learn to use a miter saw. Besides carpentry work, miter saws can be used for making furniture, pieces of decor for the home, crafting projects and much more. This basic woman’s guide to using a miter saw has given you a good starting point.

Tool Tutorial:

Green Living

Thursday’s “Share Your Inspiration” Segment

January 2, 2017

I decided to start doing a little link-loving this week. I want to share with you some of the stuff from the wicked-wonderful-world (that’s what “www” stands for, right?). I am continuously thrown off and delighted when I find out how certain things are made, especially when I spent my whole life thinking that these objects were just born into existence (somehow. it’s possible). I had no idea what went into the perfect ballet shoe.

I’ve never tried ballet. Have you? Have you secretly dreamed of being a lithe, graceful dancer? Jenna’s stories is one of my favorites and I follow her blog religiously (seriously. no joke. I like that we have the same name). The other-Jenna (of Cold Antler Farm) has recently been posting about the lambing that’s going on at her place (she lost a lamb this morning… sad face) and about some the work she’s been doing with Jasper. She’s an incredible writer and posts often enough that you feel as if her life is an open-book documentary that is intriguing, powerful, and (of course) inspiring. (I will own a horse! I will play fiddle! I will pull off a workin’ pair of boots!)

The Insides of Artists: Oh, whatever. Why didn’t I come up with this marvelous idea? Because I didn’t and (yeah!) I’m a little down on myself about it. I suppose another hidden blessing behind the wicked-wonderful-world is that it keeps me humble.

The Eagleman Stag: Don’t ever stop, stop-motion animation. Because I love you so. Also (side note): how can white paper be so vibrant?!

This is what’s inspired me this week. What have I done with that inspiration? Well, I helped Mr. UpCountry finish building the raised beds and I sifted dirt into them. I washed half of my dishes this morning (haven’t learned the lesson yet that I should just wash them all in one fell swoop instead of dragging this misery out FOREVER). I spent the day thriftily shopping for little bits and nibbins to put into my Mother’s Day gift baskets (Mr. UpCountry has a mother, too). So what if none of my actions created something unnerving, breath-taking, or inspiring. There’s enough beauty in the world that I can do my part simply by enjoying it and giving it proper credit.

You’re beautiful, www. I’m a part of you, and with sweat and dirt-crusted hands, feverish notes and sighing with equal parts curiosity and fear, I enjoy you. Quite a bit.

Green Living

Herbal Profile: Oregano

January 2, 2017

The final harvest of oregano occurred last week (maybe the week before). The oregano in our raised beds fully served us this year. A member of the mint family, it kept bugs at bay as a
natural pesticide (though it has no affect on cabbage worms). I also harvested it all throughout the summer months, drying it in my pantry and storing it in Ball jars for culinary and
medicinal uses.

Culinary usage? Simple. Use it whenever a recipe calls for oregano or experiment in your kitchen by adding oregano to your own creative recipes. Medicinal usage? Well, by golly, oregano has been known to help with the following ailments and disorders: indigestion, bloating, coughs, urinary problems, bronchial problems, and headaches.

It seems to me that oregano tea is a safe bet whenever you’re not feeling well. It certainly can’t hurt. You can even use unsweetened oregano tea as a mouthwash or gargle. It’s good for the teeth!

Oregano is also ridiculously useful as a topical treatment. It’s packed full of antioxidant and antiviral oils. Have you ever handled oregano? Handling the leaves causes my fingertips to get sticky and fragrant. I love the smell of oregano. Yes, that is why I always have my fingers up to my nose. Grind oregano into a paste (mix pulverized, dry oregano with water) and apply it topically for relief of: rheumatism, aching muscles, and swelling. Add a ‘sachet’ of oregano to a bath for relaxation. (Don’t fall asleep in there. I’m always worried my readers are falling asleep in their bathtubs.)

An herbalist taught me how to make oregano oil this past summer. Add fresh oregano leaves to olive oil and leave undisturbed in a cool, dark place until the leaves have become transparent. Remove leaves and keep oil in a dark glass container to avoid sunlight. Oregano oil can be used topically on toothaches.It’s a simple thing to plant in the garden. It requires little care and reaps loads of benefits. Treat your nose, your body, your garden, and your tastebuds. If you had oregano in your garden this year and it’s drying in your pantry, divvy it up for multiple uses or keep it all together in airtight jars for easy access when needed. If you didn’t have the pleasure of growing oregano this year, keep it in mind when you’re pouring over seed catalogues this winter and spring or look for it at local garden centers.

Grow it in a window or container in a sunroom. Have it around, for pete’s sake! Do you have any uses for oregano that you’d like to share? Go ahead and tell us all about it with a Comment! 

Green Living

Rural Communities and Living

January 2, 2017

In the past couple of months, I reported on a series of meetings in the town of Madawaska, that involved their recent budget crisis and how they were going to handle taking significant cuts to their budgets without losing essential services. The situation is so scary for all Madawaska residents – discussions for cuts included reducing full-time coverage from the police department and eliminating teaching positions (to the point that the local high school wouldn’t be able to offer enough math classes to prepare students for most colleges).

As awful as it is, the municipal departments and school board have poured sweat and blood over the numbers and tried to come up with solutions that would have the least negative impact on residents and local students.

As the journalist who is primarily covering this story in our area, I am unable to offer an opinion regarding proposed cuts, etc. I don’t actually mind withholding my opinion, because many (many) community members have spoken up and provided numerous perspectives about the issues at hand.

But what I can say and what I want to say is this: In the face of all this financial burden, of these hurtful remarks bandied about regarding other people’s intelligence or allegiances, and of our fear that our small towns will turn into ghost towns – I encourage us all to stay strong.To maintain courage in the face of an economy that seeks to destroy us.

To stand up for small communities and rural living and not lose sight of their inherent value.

To extend our ideas of family and neighbors to include those beyond our bloodlines and our blocks.To inspire each other to come up with creative solutions for unsettling problems.To respect each other’s ideas and beliefs and speak with intention our purpose and opinions.

To continue to love what makes us unique – our language, our landscape, our friendly merchants, our hard-working farmers and mill workers.

Keep the faith, northern Maine. We’re a people that have faced obstacles before and, just like our ancestors, we have it in our blood to fight for our livelihood.I love my small town. I can’t wait to share it with my hypothetical future children. And, from what I know of our tenacity and perseverance, it’ll still be around. The same pizza place. The same craft store. The same orange sign that starts to spin and twirl in the spring when the ice cream place is open for the season.

They’ll be here. We’ll be here. We’ll get on the other side of all this, up here, far away from the eyes of policy makers, the movers and shakers. Even if it seems we’ve been forgotten, we won’t truly be lost until we forget ourselves – the nature of the way we are and why it’s worth everything to keep it around.


Healthy Food Grocery Haul!

November 25, 2016

I made the mistake today of going to the grocery store after my 8 mile long run, and came out with a lot of healthy food and some not-so-healthy food. Since I personally enjoy watching people’s grocery hauls on YouTube, (which is weird, I know) I thought I would post a mini Sunday healthy food grocery haul!

I went to Whole Foods, and while I’d prefer to shop at a non-chain health food store, Whole Foods is my best and closest option here in the Orlando theme park corridor for organic produce.

Of course, I used Publix bags. I have a strange guilt complex surrounding Whole Foods shopping.


Here are my groceries, laid out in all of their delicious glory:


My produce included a mixture of organic and locally grown green peppers, organic grapes, mushrooms, and an organic onion, lemon, and avocado. I have a recipe planned for tonight that I’ll post soon! I also bought a couple of bags of frozen organic strawberries for my breakfast smoothies, and some local orange juice.


The main reason I shop at Whole Foods is for organic dairy (I know there are lots of issues about even organic dairy, which I won’t go into here). I don’t always eat dairy, but lately I’ve been on a dairy kick. However, I prefer milk from grass fed cows, and my favorite yogurt brand of the moment, Dreaming Cow, also produces dairy from grass fed cows. It tastes so much better! Plus I feel less guilty about consuming something meant for baby cows when I know it is from a smaller dairy, where the cows can eat some yummy grass.

I also bought a couple of grain items, including tri-colored quinoa and Israeli couscous.

Of course, I needed random lunch items. Tuna salad and corn bread for tomorrow, and frozen organic burritos for when I have no more fresh food left.

No grocery haul could be complete without strange random foods, like herbs and dog treats.

The best part of the haul – healthy junk food! Okay, most of this is not healthy. Yogurt covered cherries and coconut milk ice cream really have few redeeming values. But they are delicious! Some of my favorite snacks from when I have the munchies are included here, including frosted shredded wheat, snap pea crisps, and pumpkin seeds. Yum! This is where the whole “I just ran 8 miles and want to eat everything” will power problem I was talking about occurred. I can pinpoint my weight loss problems to this one category of foods. I’m going to do my best to eat these in moderation!


I also bought lunch. My favorite kale, apple, lemon, and ginger juice, and sushi were an excellent post run meal!



Shopping the Lululemon Outlet

November 25, 2016

This past weekend was tax-free shopping in Florida, and I decided to take advantage of the back-to-school perk by heading straight to the Lululemon outlet store for new workout clothes! Since I’m no longer in school, I’ve decided to deem this time my back-to-half-marathon training shopping.

Nothing, unfortunately, motivates me more to workout than cute clothes. I know that the health benefits and sense of accomplishment should do something for me, but unfortunately I’m not there yet psychologically. Fortunately (or unfortunately for my wallet), an old coworker who was a Lululemon brand ambassador got me hooked on their gorgeous workout clothes.

She was actually paid to wear Lululemon clothes and look cute in workout classes! Alas, I am not a fit model, so I like to shop the Lululemon outlet here in Orlando, FL. Since there are only 3 Lululemon outlets in the world, and their clothes are ridiculously expensive, I feel somewhat honored to live nearby one of these rare and mysterious places. For someone not near an outlet, you can buy final sale outlet items online at:

The outlet, unfortunately, is hit and miss. On my last trip, there was a ton of selection. Most of the clothes were pastels being offloaded as we head into fall, but in Florida pastels are appropriate pretty much year round, so color selection was not much of an issue. I was able to find most of what I wanted in my size. However, I haven’t been as lucky on past trips. Either selection is poor, or sizes are limited to the very smallest (0-2 seems to abound at the outlet). If you are very tiny and don’ mind bright colors, than I highly recommend the outlet. If you fit into every other category and happen to be nearby, than it is worthwhile to take a look. Lululemon discounts aren’t exactly easy to come by.

If you want to go to the Lululemon outlet, here is a word of advice – go early in the day! The outlets are packed most days, and parking is a huge issue midday. The outlet only has a couple of changing rooms and sales are final – so if you don’t want to wait a long time in line to try items on, the earlier the better. Most people seem to go one size up in Lululemon.

Sometimes I think I am crazy to fight the outlet crowds just to spend an irrational amount on a running skirt – but the way Lululemon’s clothes fit give me much more confidence working out. Plus, the clothes do double duty because they’re cute enough to be work running errands or to the dog park.

The only thing I don’t like about Lululemon is the strange feeling that I’m being sized up when I enter the store. Inevitably, some super-hot, super-fit sales girl always asks what I’m running or what type of yoga I like, and although it is always friendly, I feel the need to have some kind of fitness speech prepared when I enter. Plus, I’ve read articles like these about Lululemon being some kind of cult, and other articles about the brand discriminating against larger sizes. So be warned – for now, I think the flattering look is worth the outlet prices!


Choosing a New Gym

November 25, 2016
Choosing a New Gym

Choosing a new gym is not an easy decision, but one I recently decided was time to make! I’ve been working out at the same gym for the past year, and although it’s a good gym, I was starting to think that it wasn’t the best choice for me. Unfortunately, choosing a new gym is a big deal, not only because of the cost, but because you’re loosing a little community that you’ve formed – after all, this is somewhere you go to potentially 3-6 times a week.

When you suddenly find yourself not going to they gym anymore, it’s time to evaluate why. Do you need to workout at a different time of the day? Are you bored or not seeing results and need to meet with a trainer to refresh your routine? Or, are there factors beyond your control at play like lack of equipment and poor gym hours?

My current gym has a lot going for it. It’s large, clean, and has a nice amount of cardio and strength equipment. The spinning room is huge, and I really like having a pool and spa available for workouts. Unfortunately, the time I spent at the gym has been getting shorter and shorter since I moved a few months ago. I sat down and tried to weigh the gym pros and cons, and see what was sabotaging my workouts!

Choosing a New Gym

Unfortunately, I noticed that many of the cons were things out of my control. For instance, some days it takes me 30 minutes just to get to the gym and park! When you’re already crunched for time like I am, this becomes a real excuse for not hitting the gym regularly. I decided that the cons I couldn’t change about my current gym where enough to start looking for a new one. I made a wish-list of things I want in a gym based on all of the things I’ve enjoyed the most at facilities I’ve belonged to:


Immediately I started looking for gyms that fit the items on my list. I had 3 gyms within 15 minutes to choose from, including Anytime Fitness, Planet Fitness, and Gold’s Gym. I instantly ruled out Anytime Fitness and Planet Fitness. Although those gyms have good prices and a lot of equipment, they don’t have the exercise and spinning classes I like.

I toured Gold’s Gym, and liked what I found. Not only did they have way more features, like extra cardio equipment, a “cardio theater” where you can exercise and watch movies, and more group fitness rooms, but they had a women-only fitness area. No more trying to get meathead guys off of the equipment while they are “resting,” aka: talking on the phone, talking to friends, or trying to look cool. Plus, I toured the facility during the time I would normally workout, and found that I could get there faster than my current gym, and that it was less crowded.

A few of the items I really wanted, like a lap pool and sport courts, were only available nearby at my current gym, but I decided that I would get more use out of Gold’s circuit area than these amenities.

I signed up and am excited to begin my first workout there!


My Top 5 Running Gear for Half Marathon Training

November 25, 2016
Running Gear for Half Marathon Training

I have run for fitness for a long time, but when I started participating in races last year, the running gear I required changed dramatically. Half marathon training requires a lot of gear! I have also added items to my gear list as I’ve lived and learned (and blistered, and chafed). Here are 5 of my running necessities for anyone participating in a half marathon training program, or interested in beginning running.

#1 Music

I cannot run without music, and it has to be upbeat. Right now I use my Samsung Galaxy as an Mp3 player. My current tactic is to buy a couple of songs before my long run as motivation. I mean, $2-$3 on music a week is a great morale boost, and while it seems expensive, is in actuality the price of a coffee.

#2 Expensive socks

I cannot tell you how much better your feet will feel during and after a long run if you wear a quality pair of socks. I like Thorlos brand socks, mostly because they’re easy to find at most sports stores. A lot of runners also prefer knee high compression socks, which I will be trying out soon.

Here is the 84NRCW 84N Runner for Women:

#3 Multiple pairs of sneakers

Running is hard on the sneakers. The brand and type of sneaker I’m into changes, but I like to have a very light weight shoe for shorter runs, and something more stable for longer runs. Alternating sneakers seems to help my feet recover, and extends the life of my shoes.

I currently like these pretty inexpensive Reeboks, especially their ZigTech and other lightweight shoes, for my short runs.

I like Asics gels for my longer runs, especially the Gel Forte, Gel Kayano, and Gel Nimbus.

ASICS Women's GEL-Forte Running Shoe

Buy from amazon:

I’m due for a new pair of shoes, and might go back to my old standby, the Mizuno Wave Rider.

#4 Water source

I cannot run without water, but most water carriers are uncomfortable. I’ve tried carrying a water bottle, used a water belt, and currently use a Camelbak hydration pack. I have on shorter runs stashed a bottle at my house and made stops, but in the Florida heat I find myself needing water too often to rely on stashed sources.

Camelbak hydration pack

Buy from Amazon:

#5 Sport Shield

I use the Sport Shield liquid-roll. I might try something else when I run out, but the point is I need something for blisters and chafing. I like to use it on my feet and thighs, but it can be used anywhere that might rub when running. One caveat – it is incredibly slick. After a treadmill run at the gym this stuff literally caused me to go sliding across the room when I dropped a little too vigorously on a mat to stretch. It gets the job done!


30 Days of Ab Workouts

November 25, 2016
30 Days of Ab Workouts

A friend inspired me to complete a 30 day ab challenge, so tonight I made myself a chart of 30 days of ab workouts! This is perfect timing – for one, I need to lose about 15 pounds, and most importantly, I would love to have flatter abs for my vacation coming up in December. We were out paddleboarding today, and when I saw how flat my friend’s abs were (she just finished her 30th day of ab workouts) I knew that this would be a fun and hopefully worthwhile plan. I searched all over the internet for ab workouts and 30 day ab challenges, but was really unimpressed by what I found. Some were way too easy to be a challenge, and many just included the same exercises, with added reps each day. How boring is that!

I remember from the good old days when I used to be fit that the abdominal muscle becomes used to whatever workout you are doing really quickly, so variety is key. I created a series of ab workouts that work different parts of the core, adds reps, and includes some variety, so I’m hoping to see great results at the end of the workout.

30 Days of Ab Workouts

I’m unfortunately starting on day 5, so I’m already behind! While I attempt to catch up, here are the ab workouts I’m going to follow this month. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m excited to try this challenge – its been a really long time since I’ve paid much attention to my abs, and it shows! I’m hoping that this not only helps whip them into shape, but gets me back into the habit of incorporating ab workouts into my daily routine.

Questions of the day: Have you ever completed an ab workout challenge? What are your favorite ab exercises?