Sunday, June 3, 2018


Snorre's teddy was left outside in the storm so he'sitting in the sun to dry. 
Hello everyone. Are you enjoying the spring? April is one of the best months here in Houston. It's been a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors. Snorre and I have been taking hour long walks daily. We've also spent lots of time in the backyard. While I'm drinking my morning coffee, he inspects the yard. His snout is constantly moving probably getting the whiff of a bunny, squirrel or noticing the birds. As the garden matures, we're getting more wildlife. I love listening to the sound of the wind rattling the leaves as springtime in Houston is normally breezy.

Snorre is inspecting his kingdom 
But mid May, the heat came and brought the moister in from The Gulf of Mexico, it's muggy and unpleasant during the 85-95 degree heat of the day. Our routine has changed, so we get up before the sun enabling us to walk at daybreak. Becoming accustom to the humidity is hard and I have to consider how the dog feels the heat compared to a human. With the fur and limited ability to sweat, I try to walk while the pavement is cool and stay in the shade. On a hot sunny day, you really learn to appreciate the cooling affect of a shade tree. Have you ever tried walking barefoot on hot concrete or stone?

I try to walk barefoot in the garden as often as possible. 
There are many health benefits to walking barefoot. My feet have been abused wearing tight shoes for a long time and I developed a bunion on my right foot. I visited a foot specialist who could do a surgery or make a custom insole to correct the pressure on my foot, but after watching a video from chiropractor John Bergman on YouTube about healthy feet and knees, I realized the problem was caused by bad posture and week muscles in the foot. I try to use those muscles by walking barefoot on uneven surfaces, being mindful of my posture and alignment with a straight line from head, shoulder, hip, knees and foot and now the bunion is gone. Walking barefoot on the hot stones made me realize how hot it must be for the dog, even with his rough paws. If I can't walk barefoot on the hot surface, then it's definitely also too hot for the dog. So we're limiting the time outside to early morning and late evening and we've started the pool season. My first swim was April 1 and recently I jump in the pool almost daily.

Providing shade in the garden is important.
With hot humidity comes rain and thunderstorms. Luckily we've had 3 days of afternoon showers that cools everything down and the garden needed it after I had just trimmed the hedges, some shrubs and roses. Thunderstorms act like fertilizer so the garden is really revitalized. Walking in wet grass is so much better. I understand why the dog cools off rolling in the wet grass after our walks. Sometimes his head turns green if the grass is newly cut. I savor contact with life, it touches me in so many ways like listening to nature coming alive every morning, waiting for flowers to bloom and develop into a fruit or observing playful animals enjoying the moment.

Walking in soft cushiony grass. 
I planted cherry tomatoes this year and so far it's been very productive. 
Every morning I pick a handfull of cherry tomatoes
These bell peppers are so firm and crisp
A different sweet pepper, pairs good with oil and vinegar in my salad. 
Strawberry crop is tapering off, but the tomatoes are in season. 
Parsley from my herb garden.
The nature gives life in so many ways. So much life gives its life for our lives. If a human gave his life for us, we wouldn't take it for granted. Somehow we don't think that way with food. Food should be looked at with some involvement. Growing my own fruits and vegetables take appreciation to another level and it taste better than store bought commercially grown and packed. The animals that provide us with life deserve a good life as well. I hate reading about people raising animals inhumanely to make a profit. I think about their suffering and also what nutrition our bodies need to sustain good health. That's why I prefer open pasture, grass fed meat from animals eating naturally without feeding them growth hormones and antibiotics on a regular basis. Same goes for farm raised seafood and organic vegetables, our body function better without chemicals and pesticides in our food. We're spending so much money to make clean energy for our cars and machines, should we not feed our body, the most sophisticated machine, clean energy? Every day our body produces new cells and they all need the best chemical free fuel. Food is a great passion for me and living in a time of abundance we tend to overeat leading to health issues. According to professor of nutrition Dariush Mozaffarian; " food is number one cause of poor health in America". In fact we're spending more money on medicine than on food. Think of all the good things governments could have achieved if we'd prioritized differently. (
Flowers for mothers day
Hopefully you have done something you enjoy lately, something that makes you happy, something beyond survival needs. May 13th was Mother's Day here and I played golf followed by a nice dinner with my daughter and her boyfriend. Spending time with love ones has become the highlight of my life. No thing bought with money can compare to the joy of the moments spent together. Hubby travels a lot with work so I might be sensitive to what matters in life. At my stage in life, I see a lot of friends struggling with health issues and they all tell me how important it is to spend time together. To be alive today is the most important thing in life. My father died young and many of my friends have lost parents, so I often tell my mother that I love her and I'm telling love ones that I appreciate their company and what they do in their lives to make it better for them. We can all make an impact on other peoples lives and our own. Instead of focusing on my loneliness, I concentrate on what I have and what makes me happy. This way I will never run empty, my glass will always be half full. Every day I expect something good to happen in my life, and it always does. It's almost like I am the creator, of my happiness, health and future. This mindset is very important.

Friends come and go. It's just the fact of life and we can't stop it. But studies show that interacting with other people is important for good health and longevity. It's more important for longevity than exercise. There was a time when people just stopped by to have a cup of coffee, but this is totally gone as most people are too busy to visit. Still I make an effort to talk to someone, even a stranger, every day. FaceTime has become a great way for me to communicate with family overseas and when hubby travels. But technological gadgets can't replace the power of being touched by another human, physically and mentally.

Lately I've been lucky to go to 2 concerts with the Houston Symphony. The first was accompanying a friend to listen to Broadway musicals. The second was with hubby for trumpet player Chris Botti. We made an evening out of it with a dinner at a downtown restaurant before the concert. May 5th I went to another venue with my daughter to listen to Celtic Women. Watching the musicians preforming live is impressive. Dedication, imagination and creativity can really take humans to high levels of achievements. The energy and feelings that music can awake in us is very powerful. It brings memories, dreams, thoughts and emotions up to the surface. These feelings are often suppressed in our busy stressful lives. The basic needs for survival are generally filled every day so people are seeking spirituality in many forms. A multi-dimensional life is fulfilling and exciting.

Celtic Women concert in Sugar Land, south Houston
Attending the concert with my daughter, making memories
As follower of this blog, you know I've been transforming my lifestyle lately regarding food, but it's also been a spiritual journey. Yoga more than anything has opened my youthful curiosity to learning. The power in the words: "I don't know" has got me searching new alternatives to conservative thinking. Internet has been a blessing to do research because today everything is available in a blink of a moment. I think I would have aged faster if it weren't for Internet. It keeps my brain constantly searching reading and adding to my knowledge. Stagnation leads nowhere. Lately I've watched 2 documentary movies that I would recommend all of you readers to watch. On Netflix I've watches The Magic Pill and it summarizes almost everything I've learned about traditional medicine the last 1.5 years, easy to understand without medical background. All of the doctors interviewed in this movie are known to me and are some of many that I follow.

The next movie on YouTube is called "Thrive: What On Earth Will It Take?" This is something I am now spending time exploring. The first part of the movie talks about energy and different not utilized energy resources. I find this very fascinating because as I've been locked into conservative thinking, not paid attention to this powerful aspect. In my blog of November last year, I mentioned 2 books on meditation and yoga that both talk about energies within us that can transform us. The tibétain munk, Mingyur, was recently part of a scientistic experiment where his brains energy was measured during meditation. ( Because of their exceptionally ability to reach levels of gamma energy, the meditators are in a higher state of open and rich consciousness then normal. Intentional control of our brains activity could help all of us.

Sadhguru mentions that space is the most powerful of all elements. I am trying to understand what that means. Physical matter only makes up a fraction of the world around us, even an atom has more space than matter. We're so focused on material things, that we tend to forget the other elements that is more meaningful for our lives. Just think of all the energy in natur working to keep us alive, making your blood flow, keeping your temperature right, making breathing possible. The universe consist of a vast space of black matter and energy, but we can't see it, we're focused on what we can see, feel, hear and taste. These planes of subtle energy have been known to the East for thousands of years. According to the film producer, Foster Gamble, Dalai Lama loves spending time with western physics: "because they are finally starting to get it". Chinese and Indian cultures have used energy healing for centuries. Acupuncture can sometimes cure back problems a neurolog can't fix. Modern medicine now confirms the body has vibrational frequency. Higher frequency results in better health, while lower frequency in the body is prone to disease. We know stress can affect this energy; several things like music and meditation or prayers can help the body's energy in healing. Western doctors admit that just touching a patient and listening to the heart and lungs is just as important as reading all the lab reports.

I believe there's more energy in the world than we're aware of, some is even healing energy.  Love is one we need to  cultivate. To be touched by life.
The movie last 2 hrs. and also touches on the way the world is controlled by a small group of people. They decide what energies to use because they own certain minerals, they control the banking system, the politics, the food and health system and therefor they control our lives and the way we think and what we believe in. The movie explains how the financial system left the gold standard and are now printing money. It explains how wars have been started on false premises. These are not conspiracy movies, but might get you thinking outside the box. It could change your paradigm. We think we're so smart and are conducting our lives in a good way, but it might not be true.

As human beings we all try to live a good life and seek improvements and higher goals materialistically or spiritually, but if we're being manipulated we'll always be slaves of the system. What you believe will become your reality. When you say: "I don't know" your wings will spread and you'll tap into the resources of your mind and the possibilities of growth. It can change who you are. In yoga it's called Mukti and it means ultimate liberation and enlightenment, like the meditating monks that use their brain much better than any of us.

Science tells us the subconscious mind dominates 97% of our lives. We only access a small percentage of our brains capacity. Your subconscious mind will respond to what you feed it consciously. Are you letting your consciousness unfold? Imagination gives an energy that grows inside us until it's so strong, you can feel it. In that way we can reach levels we didn't believe possible. Utilizing these energies makes us creators as spiritual leaders have told us for centuries. What we plant in our minds is just as important as what we plant in the ground. Our mood and thinking are effected by our thoughts and our words, we can bring ourselves up or down.

The question is: "What really matters in life?" Are you being touched by life? When did you last watch a sunrise or sunset? When did you touch a plant, lay in the grass, looked at a butterfly?  Every day our body produces new cells, how do you feed them? We can be slaves of a house loan for 30 years, car loan for 5 years and other "responsibilities" so we're stuck and not growing to our fullest potential. So much energy is spent just surviving, it's ridiculous and a tragic way to live. It withdraws the joy of living. Only humans are concerned about these things and they're considered top of the evolutionary pyramid. It is not what we have that is important, it is who we are and who we are becoming. If you're not touchet by something, it's not worth living. Something should sparkle within you.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Dont worry about the flower or fruit, be concerned about the roots. When you focus inward you will also bloom and bear fruit.

The front yard rose garden with alyssum, day-lilies and snapdragons surrounded with boxwood and stacked stones. 

Creating a beautiful garden gives me pleasure. I am creating something useful and beautiful with nature. A place to be private and relaxed, not overlooked where I feel I am the processor of my own private space. The backyard is not a public space so it's a place that gives life to my soul. It's like a partnership between owner and nature. When I look at it, every day is different. I work with it, not against it and it's always moving like a river and it teaches me a lot about life. Accepting that everything is changing and the only thing that matters is here and now. My hibiscus and day-lily flowers only for a day and strawberries have to be picked the exact day they turn red. If you knew you  had very little time left of you life, how would you live?
Hibiscus is hubby's favorite flower. It flowers for one day and then drops its flower. 

So we're passed Valentines Day and Easter. I've been waiting patiently for weather permitting me to start trimming roses, trees and bushes, removing dead leaves and plants in the garden to promote more flowers and wider plants. Our live oak trees in the front yard also needed a cut back as the branches were rubbing against each other damaging the bark and could cause disease. Preventing disease is always better than curing. I am dangerous with a pair of clippers in my hands because I can't stop, I'll keep on for hours. Climbing the oak trees requires calm winds and fair weather so it's impossible to do them both in one day. Several of my neighbors made comments about being inspired and loving the results, but oddly one neighbor told me she had never climbed a tree in her whole life. I find that sad. Our whole existence depend on the nature and what we exhale the trees inhales so half of our lungs are in these trees. They provide food, shelter from the sun and makes great homes for some creatures. But today people are allergic to trees, grass and flowers. They hate digging the soil, sweating and dislike the weather unless the temperature is perfect. But how would life be without them?

Snorre loves running and playing outdoor. I allow him to get dirty, just like a kid, they love it and playing outdoors is one of the best things about life.

Early December we had snow in Houston. Then early January we had a hard freeze leaving the garden brown and gray. 

After lots of research I've found that our plant zone changed from 9 to 8 so I've adjusted my choice of plants away from the tropical towards the Mediterranean plants I'd find in Provence. Provence being dry and Texas more humid, I have to choose the varieties that are native or like the humidity here. So my sage and salvia are Texas Sage and Texas Salvia, my Iris are Louisiana Iris. It's best to grow what thrives and wants to grow with some diversity.
Louisiana Iris
This Azalea was bought after valentines day and will find a spot in the garden after loosing the flowers. 
Landscape design is very rewarding if you choose the right plant for the right spot and consider sight-lines from the sitting areas indoors and outdoors. Playing with texture, shape and color is just as exciting as indoor design. I love hardscape of natural stone contrasting with the soft shape of the plants. Pruning and shaping is cool, but nature has its own will and the plants have their own tendencies that I can't tame, but have to enjoy. The speed of growth is also very individual and I am learning to be patient and go with the flow. Slow steady growth is best and encourage deep healthy root system and stronger plants.

The poppies remind me of Provence and Greece, I love the transformation from bud to flower and the way the stems twist and turn. 
I find it interesting that royalties throughout the times have been involved and interested in garden design. Louis the 14, building Versailles spend a lot of time with his gardener planning the splendid parklike surroundings with ponds, fountains and manicured plants. He wanted to have the prettiest and most impressive garden of all, just like his palace. Queen Victoria in Britain  and her husband also had a passion for creating a garden in line with the the modern style at that time.  To accommodate large parties and the staff of servants, the castles also had to provide an area for producing vegetables, fruits and herbs. Taking color, sound, scents and views into consideration was important. At the same time they had to make barriers to keep animals out and protect the property for safety reasons. All this was taken into considerations when planning. Of the resent royalties Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco loved gardening and the royal family owns a working farm in the countryside just outside the kingdom, Roc Angel, now run by Prince Albert. It's an organic farm with a dozen cows, 100 chickens and the chef of the castle gets lots of the vegetables from there still. Prince Charles of Wales is also fascinated with gardening and decided to designed The Carpet Garden in Highgrove Garden inspired by a Turkish oriental carpet in his room at Highgrove House.

I am not a skilled gardener or a landscape designer, but have a passion for nature, garden and design and am trying to renew myself all the time. My garden is constantly evolving and right now after a hurricane and the hard freeze, I am forced to rethink my design. Our fence was damaged in the hurricane and, after 10 years, it was about time to replace the old one. With approval from the homeowner association and according to new rules we installed a rot board at the base. This should be a longer lasting fence than the old one and prevent some of the bunnies creeping under. With additional horizontal support it should also withstand strong winds and hurricanes. Over that last month I've applied a sealant to the fence to enhance the wood and add to its lifetime. It's a tedious task and very depending on the weather. I must admit, it makes a nice background. We care about these details.

Rot boards are installed at the base of the fence. All rocks, mulch and trailing plants had to be removed before installation. 
We've decided to continue the boxwood hedge around the swimming pool. It's an evergreen hedge preventing mulch, leaves and spent flowers to fall into the pool resulting in less work with the pool. These are slow growers so I'd love to buy the largest plants I can afford. I managed to get them in ground and applied the mulch minutes before a good soak of rain and thunderstorm so it should be a good start for these babies. When the roots have set and the shrubs start branching out, I will trim them so they'll fill out the space and make a dense and even hedge. You can never get enough green shrubs. They give structure and shape in the garden. Together with water element they promote wildlife because they provide them shelter. Grass i boring so I have big boarders where I can.

Snorre is waiting for the pots to get empty so he can chew them up. 

I've planted a hedge of boxwoods surrounding the pool. 

The key to successful gardening is to take care of the soil and attention to soil amendments. Huge amount of life is in the soil. We love flowers and the fruit that plants produce, but it will not happen if the roots aren't cared for. Texas soil is full of clay and can be hard as a rock when it's dry, on the other hand, when it's cold and damp like this winter, the clay will hold the water so the roots can't breathe. When we moved into the house and played out the flowerbeds, I incorporated lots of gypsum and peat moss into the soil. For years after, I would celebrate every time I'd find an earthworm. Now I find one almost every time I dig. The true miracles of life takes place in the earth. What we call dirt becomes food and by eating it, we transform it into human bodies. Then when we die, we become topsoil. And I truly believe getting dirt under my nails builds up my immune system.

Good soil with organic matter and earthworms are keys to gardening. 
My Italian cypresses have got some brown spots, and I've learned that just like roses they like sun and good drainage so they make good companion plants. Luckily I have them in the same flowerbed. When I see a problem with my plants, I try do analyze why I'm not successful, why they are sick. Just like with my body, I try not to put chemicals on them, but find the root-cause of the problem. So I have to analyze the soil. If I spray chemicals on the plant it will only get rid of the problem temporary but if I fix the drainage of the soil, I will fix it permanently. Too much water can be deadly to evergreens. So I've spent time improving the drainage by tilling the soil and adding more organic matter to loosen up the heavy clay. They are planted close to the house where the gutter drainage spills out so drainage is very important.

Most of the plants in my front yard was eaten up by bunnies last year so the Holly hedge was wimpy and my roses all chewed up. To keep them away, I planted snap dragons and alyssum that the bunnies detest. Applying fertilizer in the spring gives amazing growth and adding mulch helps keep moister and prevents weeds, resulting in strong healthy plants. Healthy plants recovers just like healthy human bodies so now my front yard is looking great. I've never used any chemicals to keep bugs, fungi or disease away from my gardens. I try to encourage diversity in an organic garden. Life is to be celebrated and respected.
The hedge of hollies has recovered nicely after the bunnies ate everything from the base. 
I believe in movement as a great way of taking care of and healing the body. Gardening is a great way of incorporating movement into every day activity. I stretch, bend, lift, pull, haul, dig and use my entire body gardening. The reward is very satisfying physically and mentally. The garden stimulates most of my senses and I love listening to the trickling water in the swimming pool, the wind in the trees, the birds singing as I consume my morning coffee outside or eat my lunch and dinner. The sweet smell of jasmine in the evening fills the air. I love watching the butterflies, birds and the dog playing in the yard. Normally I spend 5 hours or more outdoors playing golf and walking the dog. With the additional time for outdoor meals and gardening, I have no time to watch TV but spend some time online watching Youtube for educational purpose including gardening.
This is the best spot for breakfast.
This beats watching TV every time. 
For many TV is a way to get away from stress and escape into a dream world. TV Programs are called that for a reason, I don't want to be programmed. So what are one going to do if one feels like what one is doing every day is meaningless? Not everyone can leave everything and do what the heart is telling you. Or is it the other way around? Did we leave nature to live in the city?  I see life in the nature, not in the city. When you identify yourself with possessions city life is just about survival. What I gather can not be me. Chasing money or things is just going on forever. This longing is constant. To unite with nature is a total different dimension of life.  It takes a different level of comfort to live with nature in comparison to live in a large city. People today are allergic to trees and to grass because they're use to a certain level of comfort. Being isolated in nature is very demanding for some. Being robust is depending of how much you are in contact with natures elements of energy. This generation is in that regards the weakest generation and is passing these weak seeds down to the next generation. Realization and spiritual growth will suffer as a result of it. How are we going to reach a higher dimension? Before one dies, everyone should understand the meaning of this life. Nature is full of life and for nature life is enough. We don't have to go anywhere to find this life that is within us. Don't call your holiday, your job, family or entertainment your life. All those things are just arrangements for the wellbeing of our lives. When the compulsions of physical nature is gone you're exploring the other dimensions of who you are. The striving is internal. Transcending the mortal coil takes a journey inwards, and it's available for all of us.
Giving the plant the right conditions will result in profound and healthy flowers.

Many things are written into or determined by the seed like how it will look and how long it will live.  In many ways the seed is holding the secrets of a life, but humans are different, we can step outside of the predestined. Our DNA determines only a piece of us, our tendencies, but we can choose to express our predestined genes or not. Within us is a seed for possibility if we live consciously and mindful. Stepping out of our cocoon, into the unknown can be scary, but if you try to avoid uncertainties you'll end up avoiding possibilities.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Reflecting over the future and retirement.

It's time to enjoy the freedom and plan the retirement. After making a career, bringing up the kids and putting them through school, they move out, get a job and start their own family. Then our parents get health problems, sick with Alzheimers or dementia. What are you going to do? What about our dream  for the future?
Green winter in Provence. I could retire here.
I've just learned that writing or journaling is good for brain function. I've never kept a diary, but I have prayed and now I spend time organizing my thoughts into this blog. Lately I've been working on my mental health and hormone balance. Adrenaline, insulin and cortisol hormone all effect our health tremendously. Hypertension, energy level, stress and metabolism all are controlled by these hormones. In addition to weight-loss I've found that I don't get angry, disappointed, stressed or let down by other people the way I used to. Practicing yoga and being focused on nutrition has changed my hormones, improved physical health and brain function regenerating all the cells in the body naturally. Working against cell degeneration makes me believe I can be active and live healthy until I'm 100 years or older, just like in the Blue Zones.

My immune system is very strong. I only get sick with flu-like symptoms every 7 years or so. During our stay in Provence this December, both hubby and I got sick. First we had upset stomach lasting 24 hrs. It might have been some bug as my mother had the same back in Norway. A few days later we both came down with aching bodies and coughing, luckily no fever. On the return flight passengers coughed all around me. Traveling while sick is no fun and lacking energy makes life miserable. Wanting to live to 100 years depends on having the energy to live a good life.

Lots of leaves in the pool due to cold and windy weather before a hard freeze.
We've had a hard freeze here in Houston leaving our garden brown and lots of tropical plants are dead. Regained my full energy I am eager to get on with spring gardening. I have been online researching perennials that will survive colder climate. My inspiration is of cause Provence gardens. I loved being in a setting that had green lawn, olive trees, lavender, rosemary and evergreen plants so I might have to think differently when it comes to gardening in Houston. I've watched French gardens on youtube and found a lot of inspiration. So far I've planted some Iris and Hydrangeas that I know will survive the next winter. I also planted some Agapanthus and compact Texan Sage that will provide some texture contrasting to the other plants. Raking and turning the mulch, removing weeds, dead plants and leaves makes the garden somewhat refreshed. It's too early to get too involved in gardening, roses can be cut after valentines day, so maybe next week.

Meanwhile I've been doing a lot of research on brain health. I find these things very interesting. Last year hubby had no work and we had to live on saved money. At the same time he was diagnosed with osteo arthritis and the doctor told him he had only 5 more years before he would be invalid. He already had kidney stone and hypertension for years but now he was also borderline diabetic so our future didn't look too good. The new public health insurance doubled in premium costing as much as our monthly house mortgage with only catastrophic coverage. That is when you start thinking about how you want to spend the future in retirement.

We're dreaming of retirement in the countryside, preferably in Provence and spending December, the coldest month of the year there was a test of how it would be like. So this time we didn't spend time sightseeing but tried to live as the locals. One month; Christmas, my birthday and New Years in Provence was very nice. The weather was much better than expected. Several restaurants and hotels were closed due to lack of tourists but also because of the holidays. They live a much slower pace of life where food and lifestyle is important, a compelling argument to get even deeper engage in living healthy.

Have you ever heard of type 3 Diabetes? That's the what some doctors call Alzheimer. My father-in-law has signs of Alzheimer and it's very fast progressing. Last Monday I attended a funeral for a lady that died of Alzheimer. People might survive cancer, but no-one survives Alzheimer, the 6th leading cause of death in USA. As hubby was borderline diabetic I am worried about Alzheimer.

Unfortunately it seems like Alzheimer and brain problems is just as common as all the other diseases I've been writing about the last year. But the more I investigate the more I find a common link. All these diseases are linked to inflammation and diet. So my resolution for this new year and probably the rest of my life is to continue eating healthy, organic real unprocessed food low in sugar and carbohydrates. My health experience in Provence might have been a coincidence, but I am still convinced that eating healthy can reverse most of our common diseases. For me there is a lot of power in knowing this in contrary to giving up and accepting that it's genetic or nothing you can do about it. With this empowerment I went to the local farmers marked to buy organic vegetables and grass-fed beef with marrow bones to make a stew. Full of collagen to improve gut lining and boost my immune system.

Yoga is a tool that works on the body and mind together.  Functional medicine also works on the whole body and it will be my mission to learn more about it. I don't see a difference in the two, and they both support our choice of nourishment. Most people don't see the same connection and think we're crazy. We all believe in different things. Although I want to help others, they have to live their lives the way they believe is right, just like I do. It's hard when you see small children being effected by their parents choices, but I can't do anything about it. Even my friends fighting cancer are eating carcinogenic food and have no interest in changing. This is a big part of my mental work, to let go. I don't loose sleep over it anymore and I can let those thoughts go.

I bought some grass-fed beef with marrow bone at the farmers marked to make a stew. Perfect in this cold weather. 
Organic vegetable from the local farmers market. Red cabbage has lots of phytochemical and antioxidants.
Honey comb is great on cheese as dessert. It boost your immune system and helps with allergies. 
Perfect dessert: cheese with organic berries, nuts, honey and biological French wine. 
As for retirement plans. One of the intentions of visiting Provence this winter was to experience what it would be like to live there during the cold winter. And that was amazingly pleasant; to see green lawns, animals grazing on the fields and having pleasant weather to walk in nature. The villages still had their markets and lots of traditional festivals. I could live there in winter. We found one obstacle and it was the property prices. We visited and investigated a few properties and found that you get half of the square feet home with much lower standard than we're used to for the double price of our home in Houston. That is a big concern besides the fact that we have to make new friends and a social network all over again. Those things takes time.

Being married to a guy working in the oil and gaz industry, and with two kids in the same industry, we're quite vulnerable. We've been almost one year without work and living off savings with skyrocketing healthcare costs and uncertain health issues. Safety is of a big concern for us. Retirement is at least 2 years ahead and we're spending time planing and reflecting on the future. Being self employed hubby might be able to work longer than people that are employed but at the same time one have to enjoy life while one have the health and the means.

Our goal is still to retire debt free and away from the stress of big city life. So far we've checked out 2 retirement options, Hot Springs Arkansas and Provence, France. Arkansas will give us financial freedom of low cost living but not the lifestyle we want. Provence is still a dream but we're not sure it's worth the cost in money and personal investment. Returning to our home, daughter, friends, lifestyle and hobbies puts things in perspective. My biggest question is not related to the material lifestyle, but the health and energy level as one gets older. With aging parents and friends loosing theirs I reflect over the future life quality more than the material aspect.

My daughter got a puppy the day after I returned from France, what a joy in life. 
Some people choose to be close to their kids and even depend on them to take care of them when they get older. Being Norwegian, it's not in our culture to live with our kids or depend on their care. Paradoxically as parents and grandparents we'd like to be close to them and share our experience with them, but in todays society youth is valued and old people are not listened to. In countries with public healthcare the government takes care of the old and sick, in the US it's different. One have to make preparations. Arranging our economy and making good health choices becomes important.

Every day can be joyful no matter what we choose, there is no right answer on how to live. Luckily hubby is working now and therefore we have to remain in Houston for a few more years. We both agree that our past year brought us closer together and gave us a different focus on life, health, future and values. We're enjoying each others company, family, friends, my daughters new puppy and hoping for spring to arrive.

This little thing reminds me that life is all about love
Our long term goals remains and because of that our short term goals are clearer. When we organize our mind towards our goal and put everything we do in that direction anything can happen. Once our goals are clear in our minds we need to commit to create it; the way you think, the way you feel, your emotions get organized, your whole body will get organized in one direction. This creating process in all of us is not a small thing. Success happens by intent, not by accident. We're not trying to be control freaks who's always calculating, analyzing and searching for the perfect life because people like that will never be happy. To achieve health and longevity one can't decide how the world is suppose to be created by our ego, but it's a balance and being at ease with who you are.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Food is a serious matter in Provence.

As a follower of my blog you know I love food and cooking. What county is known for their cooking but France, so you know I am in my element. Furthermore I love organic cooking and here it is without question. My next passion is nature and without nature you have no foods for cooking so for me one thing follows the other. The nature is so present in this area, it emerges wherever I go.  Yesterday we walked the streets just behind our rental home and ended up in the hills called The Alpilles that we've been walking for the past 3 years but this time without having to take the car. What a wonderful surprise. On our way, we passed several olive growers and beautiful nature.
This beautiful property is just a few minutes walk from our rental home
What would Provence be without olives?
Horses are a big part of the local culture here.
This one reminded me of my grandfathers horse and looked better in the pictures than the companion black horse.  
This time we've rented a house in a small village called Saint Etienne du Gres. This is a village we've just drove through on previous visits. We're living smack in the middle of the village, actually across from town hall and we overlook the arena from our second story bathroom. 100 meter from our house is the local fish store open 3 days a week. Across from the town hall is the liquor store where we get all the wines we need. We can walk to the bakery and butcher as well, so everything is set up for a nice meal at home. With a kitchen to die for, we have everything we need for a great vacation. Inspired from the the restaurants we try new cuts of meat and prepare the vegetables in new ways. Being creative and spontaneous makes it fun. 
Using fresh herbs from the garden
Dijon mustard makes a great rub so the herbs and spices stays in place. 
Seasonal vegetables in caramelized vinaigrette reduction finish off the meal. 
Cattle, sheep and horses are all grazing on the fields so the meat is naturally raised with no added antibiotics or confined stress environment. As I've told you before, the meat takes its flavor from the herbs the animals are eating so the lamb here taste different than elsewhere. The same goes for the honey we bough at the local market. They are unique to this area. So the olives, the wine, the cheese all gets its flavors from the minerals in the soil, the climate and the vegetation growing here. Nature is so wonderful and full of variation and diversity. 
The cheep are still crazing on the fields in late December. 
The Alpilles are a chaine for small mountains where the cheep will graze from wild herbs. 
I was expecting December to be cold and windy with no vegetation but was very surprised to find it lush and green with plenty of vegetation. The winding roads are far from the congested highways in Houston. Even with a temperature of high 14-15 and lows just above freezing, the landscape is beautiful and the sun feels great. 
The tree line is very evident because of the arid soil and porous chalky mountain.
This picture gives a perspective of the landscape where the lowland is very fertile and the hills are perfect for growing olives and grapes for winemaking and keeping sheep. 
Although Provence is known for lavender, sunflowers, olives and tomatoes you can clearly see from the topography that it has a lot to offer as part of culinary experience. And their traditions goes back to the romans and even beyond that. Around Christmas the traditions are as strong as in the summer. This time of the year, seafood is best with oysters and lobster shipped in from Bretagne. From the region, pot au feu, daube and foie gras will keep you warm and satisfied. 
Pot au Feu from Chez Laurent in Eygalieres is a winter dish full of flavors.
A cheese plate or two with cured pork sausage, chestnut paste and local lavender honey will satisfy the cravings for sweet or salt, creamy brie with truffles or hard herb infused cheese will add texture and substance. The stack of sausage and the cheese plate to the left are from Chez Emily in Eygalieres. 
No matter what restaurant you visit, they will give you a small dish of olives before the meal. All olives taste different, some are more salty and even some have a herby taste. The other day I could taste cinnamon but that's unusual. Olive growers are as serious as winemakers when it comes to olive oils and the fruits it selves. We visit the different growers to buy olives just as we visit vineyards to buy wine. It's a serious matter.  

Locally grown olives and foie gras at Chez Laurent in Eygalieres (normally from duck) as appetizer before ordering the meal. 
The Alpilles are located just 45 minutes from the Mediterranean ocean and fresh seafood is as obvious as locally grown vegetables and meat. But this time of the year people are splurging on wild caught seafood from Bretagne and elsewhere. Even the local supermarkets have greater supply than a big city like Houston.

Oysters and seafood are great this time of the year.
To my surprise, I could get fresh berries for my greek yogurt breakfast. Berries is one of the fruits lowest in carbohydrates and I eat them daily. As a seasonal produce they remind me of summertime and I wasn't expecting too much sweetness this time of the year, but I've not had this sweet tasting strawberries in a long time. 

These French strawberries are just as sweet as my childhood berries in Norway.

In restaurants, the meals are presented as a piece of art. My lentils soup for lunch was airy like a mousse and had small flowers on it. The desserts are a chapter in itself. So nicely decorated, it must have been made by an artist. No wonder they call food making artisans. Not as sweet or as greasy as you'd normally find them elsewhere. Made daily and melting in your mouth wondering what happened after an explosion of taste combinations you've never had before. Leaving you not too heavy after a 3 course meal. 
My lentils soup had small flowers as decoration. 

Flourless Buche de Noel with tropical fruit mousse center covered in white chocolate and coconut.
Even the free range eggs bought at the supermarket gave us a little surprise. I just read an article about the importance of not washing the eggs because of an invisible shield from the hens protecting against bacteria, so in France the eggs are not washed or refrigerated before they're sold. So opening the cartons, we found feathers, lol. 
The free range eggs had feathers. 
My passion for food as medicine is way beyond what I can describe, and here in Provence the food is elevated to a piece of art so I have a hard time describing every single aspect of it. Around Christmas time people are so busy with presents and stressed about money, it might not be on top of your mind to think about these things. But as I've discovered the users manual to living is how to use this wonderful body and take care of the earth at the same time, this is the best Christmas present for me this year. I am spending time with my husband after 10 weeks of separation in a wonderful part of the earth eating, drinking, breathing and nurturing my mind with this wonderful life. And I let my guard down eating refined carbohydrates and sugars from Christmas to New Years. So far I've been able to do intermittent fasting: not eating between dinner and noon, keeping the insulin low, the most healthy thing I can do for my body without doubt. Hopefully you have a great time with your loved ones as well keeping your traditions alive and enjoying the bounty of nature.