Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Year 2018, where did 2017 go? Food changes on the horizon.

Amazing Fall Sky on Forsythia Hill
The first part of 2017 was a big blur. My father passed away in May from Alzheimer's and the lovely Spring flowers were hardly noticed, for the exception of the daily drive through neighborhoods to see my father in the Nursing Home during his last days.

I've been wanting to write about our family experience with this disease but have been unable to relive this devastating experience. My hope is to one day to write in order to help someone else that is in this hopeless situation.

It certainly makes one want to never get this disease and do everything possible to change the course. Drug after new drug tests fail and little snippets of potential causes are periodically proposed, but no concrete evidence has been found. A few weeks ago they claimed to think sleep disturbances contributed to Alzheimer's. My father never had a bad day of sleep in his life. Just yesterday I heard someone say they believe some people diagnosed with ALZ really have Mad Cow disease. Well that's a distinct possibility as my father did consume a lot of meat. Obesity and sugar consumption certainly fit the bill too.

Jethro is still protecting the ladies on our mini farm.
With each passing year I try to improve my diet and tread less on the environment by making life changes. Beginning in 2018 my husband and I have decided to consume less dairy products by removing the cheese blocks, sour cream, and yogurt from our grocery list. If you have not yet watched What the Health, a movie that could be called "the life changing movie of 2017", I recommend it. I'm still not convinced that eggs that I raise in my backyard are the root of all evil but it got my attention. I do believe that factory farm meat and eggs, and fish farms ARE the root of all evil and terribly unhealthy not to mention a cruel existence for so many animals. The premise of the movie is that in the United States we have a health care system focused on disease control by pill not prevention. While watching, just remember that claims to find the solution to perfect health are often called "a fad".

Strangest photo of 2017 - Gus and Cesar spotted together!
Sure, every day some new revelation is discovered; Eggs were in, then were out, now are in. Diet fads come and go. One constant seems to be that the major U.S. diseases; Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cancer, Autoimmune Disease, and Alzheimer's are either inflamed by meat and dairy or occur because of diets rich in it. Diabetes is epidemic in this country. I want to live a life with the least amount of suffering and if I can make gradual changes to my diet to improve my health and potentially stave off these issues then I'm all in. Personally I believe GMO's are our enemy as is high fructose corn syrup and barley malt. Simple to avoid as they don't add any value to the taste. Common sense tells you that any product - food or cosmetic - should have the least amount of ingredients and be made of things you recognize!

Beach trip with Jenn to Southern Shores
Over the years I've set several goals and it's helped me stick to them by making a public pledge in my blog. I still only purchase recycled toilet paper and paper towels, always bring a fabric bag when shopping, don't eat chicken or turkey, eat my own chicken eggs or organic when out of season and don't drink cow's milk. I'm actually excited to remove 3 more dairy products! I'm still guilty of an occasional weak moment concerning hamburger or pork but it has evolved to be a desperation moment when I'm tired or craving Barbeque (I just bought my first 2 cans of Jackfruit to turn into BBQ, hoping that does the trick)! I'm stuck as far as coffee creamer as I have yet to find a dairy substitute that tastes GOOD. Fish are so polluted or fed GMO meal so that too has nearly been scrapped from my list. I really hate labels such as vegetarian or vegan as it can come across as boastful and is also too restrictive in my journey. My father's death certainly brought home the thought, "you only live once". Life is too short to be so anal about it that it becomes a chore. The more great tasting plant based options that are developed, the easier it is to make the change!

A drone fly over when Forsythia was in full bloom!
Even if the claim that meat and dairy are a detriment to your health is false, no one can dispute the cruelty to animals in factory farms and the unnatural conditions forced upon them My philosophy is that if each of us would cut back on the meat they consume and make the effort to eat local farm raised meat then the planet would be a better place. I can not imagine living next door to a factory farm being subjected to the noise, pollution, stench, and the horribly sad animals that are imprisoned there for life. It's simple, the less we support, the less suffering.

A crowd of Angels marching to the gates with my Father
On the day before my Dad's passing, I looked at my phone and noticed this strange photo that was on it (that I never shot). A friend said that purple signifies death in many cultures and that the white dots were spirits. It gave me a little peace to know he might be leaving us with angels all around!

Our much improved newly painted shed
I did manage to make it to the beach and it was so lovely. We did get one out of 2 sheds painted and I love the new look. We're going to paint the house and other big shed this color. We also redid the bathroom downstairs which was also a major accomplishment! Anthony is installing a hot water insinkerator that I picked up at the Habitat Store for $30.00 on this last day of the year! I hope he is finished in 2017 and that it actually works!

Our new little Powder Room
I'm hoping for 2018 that I can get back into the garden and celebrate SPRING, my favorite season. Happy New Year and take a stand to change your life to better your health and the planet. I would love for you to leave a comment if you plan to do just that!


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Small Bathroom Redo DIY Bathroom Makeover transformation to cute Powder Room

Bathroom destruction feels GOOD.
When we purchased our house 8 years ago, we inherited a pinstriped masculine bathroom. It was located in the basement and was rarely used. Because of the tight space, we even used it less.

I'm quite thrifty when it comes to home remodeling and this bathroom was no exception. I ended up breaking even on the deal. The major expense was the pedestal sink that I purchased at the local Habitat Restore. As luck would have it, a chrome faucet was attached. It was missing one piece and the store manager thought he could dig me up one - and he did! Fortunately, the faucet works perfectly (an unknown at the time of purchase).

Hand peeling wall paper with steam iron and hot wet rags.
It was a tough decision to go with a pedestal sink, given I would forgo cabinet storage space. Once I began pulling out what was currently stashed under the sink, I decided most items could go elsewhere or fit in the medicine cabinet. A pedestal should only be considered if you are not using it as a main bathroom. We chose to transform this small lightly used room into a Powder Room.

Many words come to mind, I'll let u use your imagination.
We installed a retro medicine cabinet over the 1970's sink when we first moved in and it never matched the inherited faux walnut pressboard cabinet and plastic marble sink combo. This unit was the least liked element of the entire house, on the top of my "must go" list. Perfect for someone else, I sold this beauty for $80.00.

Large print plastic beehive faux tiles do not work.
We also had to completely replace the back of the toilet hardware and install a new seal. I'm glad my husband is handy! A plumber is never cheap. I picked up the laminate flooring off Freecycle 5 years ago, so happy to finally see it set in place.

My retro plant stand with mementos.
I sell vintage so was determined to decorate with something in my stash. I discovered two cool trophies my parents were awarded in tournaments from back in the day - a tall brass ping pong trophy of my Dad's and a golf trophy of my Mom's. Dad passed away this year and he would crush anyone that challenged him to ping pong so it was the perfect found item. I did splurge on the shabby blue round plant stand that I picked up at a Roanoke antique store for $22.00. I was not sure it would fit in the tiny space until I decided to go Pedestal.

The Powder Room / Coffee Shop
Anthony and I went through my big closet that holds many framed prints and the last one that we tried worked! I was thrilled to finally find the perfect place for our old Coffee Shop sign! Now we serve coffee in the Powder Room M-F 8-6 and Sat 9-9 (HA).

Given my bad experiences with wallpaper, I did get lazy and mandated that we only peel off 2 of the 4 walls. It works as you don't see it unless you step inside to sit and sip (HA HA).

Now we are motivated to redo the upstairs hallway bathroom, it will require more work as we want to rip out a tub and replace with a tiled shower. I'm afraid we have a few more pressing home projects next in line so this will have to wait until next year.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Charlottesville Annual 2017 Butterfly Count in Albemarle County Virginia

Butterfly Counters (hat and binoculars required gear)
While Charlottesville made national news due to violence in our lovely historic downtown, I was out participating in the annual North American Butterfly Count for Albemarle County.

You can't help but have a favorite, the Northern Pearly Eye.
Two teams of mainly Virginia Master Naturalists headed out at 10 am to count butterflies. One group was dispatched to Crozet and the other to Kemper Park (the nature trail that traverses up to Monticello). Temperatures were more moderate today, only 90 degrees compared to 97 last year! Getting overheated is to be expected. The day began with fog and light sprinkles of rain but the sun came out and so did the butterflies!

This year our butterfly count was held just north of Kemper Park at the adjacent property, Secluded Farm. It's a lightly hiked area that features big swaths of open meadows and forest land.

The official numbers have not been tabulated but our butterfly sightings were fairly light. The most commonly spotted butterflies were the little Silvery Checkerspot, Skippers, and the black Spicebush Swallowtail.

Spicebush Swallowtail on Thistle flower
It was remarked that the annual count is a favorite event for many of us. Immersed in nature, seeing a variety of native plants, insects, magnificently huge trees, and of course butterflies. There is always something in nature that is totally new. I discovered several plants and shrubs that I had never seen. A Master Naturalist snapped a Spice Bush limb and we all smelled it's lovely scent. Who knew! There were also plenty of unusual Dragonflies lighted on twigs.

Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly

I have to wonder why people can't find something meaningful to do with their time other than spew hate. What a waste of a perfectly beautiful day in Virginia. I'm so fortunate to live in a normally peaceful town that welcomes diversity and has respect for all creatures great and small.

~ Rebecca

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

L L Bean Grand Opening in Charlottesville, Bringing a lot more than just Clothes

The Grand Opening of our own LL Bean store is this weekend, Friday - Sunday, Aug 11 - 13. Operated by the founding family for over 100 years, LL Bean continues to be located in Freeport Maine where it all began. A company that opened with mail order and a motto, “A customer is the most important person ever in this office – in person or by mail.”. The first item LL Bean sold was "the shoe", and this item has become a mascot of sorts. A huge mobile boot has been constructed out of fiberglass that sits on top of a Ford Pickup truck. It's a must see and is currently at the new store during opening weekend events. It's so popular that a second Bootmobile had to be created.

Sneak peak at the NEW store
In 1932 LL Bean published a 52 page catalog and had one store in Freeport Maine. Over the years, outlet stores were opened and even a store in Japan. Thirty retail stores are now open in the US with plans for more to come. An international enterprise because of online ordering but with local roots with store openings, LL Bean has finally made its way to Charlottesville. Open 7 days a week at the Stonefield Shopping Center across the parking lot from Trader Joes. You can also enter the store on Bond Street. Speaking with Eddie Flaherty, LL Bean Marketing Planner and Bootmobile Driver, a staff of 70 has been hired just for Cville.

$5,000 presented to the Girl and Boy Scouts by LL Bean
LL Bean is having a party this weekend and invites the community to attend! Get in line early Friday in order to hopefully snag one of the 200 Gift Cards (worth up to $500) that will be handed out! The store opens at 9 am so the line is bound to start forming early (memories of the Whole Foods store mania comes to mind). Saturday and Sunday from 10 am - 4 pm you can try you hand at fly-casting and archery and Sunday is devoted to KIDS events. The local Boy and Girls Scouts were handed a $5,000.00 donation today during the soft opening and both groups will be present Sunday with hands-on activities and games, along with pets and snacks! While the kids are having fun, the adults can enter the 2018 Trip to Maine giveaway!

Follow the Kayak's on Bond Street
If you have a LL Bean Visa card or purchase one, this gets you an additional 20% OFF your order during the weekend Grand Opening celebration. If you receive their mailer, you can also get a free gift (bring in your mailer).

You may not realize that LL Bean hosts area river events such as kayak tours and seminars. All equipment for trips is provided by LL Bean and instructors are employees of LL Bean. Next year the river locations will be closer to Cville but for now events are hosted in Goochland near the Richmond store.

The Charlottesville store is bright and airy with a variety of traditional LL Bean clothing and shoes with an obvious slant to the outdoors. Kayak and Paddle Boards can be purchased along with tons of camping gear and there is even a pet section. Just about any sort of nature nut gear is available - binoculars, sunglasses, water bottles, fire pits, backpacks, tents, and more. LL Beans traditional lines of canvas products shine in the store - totes, shorts, pants, shoes, and hats.

Pick up the Summer mail order catalog while you are in the store. I love how the catalog format is consistently the same as the years pass. LL Bean's clothing line offers simple timeless traditional style for a wide range of ages. ~ Canvas, Seersucker, Blue Jean, Nautical, Khaki, Tees, Boat Shoes ~ With the same 100 year + guarantee that you are completely happy with your purchase, you can't go wrong with LL Bean.

My mother always ordered us LL Bean coats for Christmas and we still have a set of the traditional Canvas Barn (Field) Coats that look as good as the day they were gifted.

Had the pleasure to meet Eddie the Bootmobile driver
Go see the Bootmobile and say HI to our newest Stonefield Shop!


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Summer Butterflies all a Flutter in Charlottesville Virginia

Spicebush Swallowtail on my False Spirea Shrub
I've just received word that the annual Albemarle County Butterfly count will occur August 12th this year. The purpose of the count is to determine if butterflies are declining or not and it's part of a national program.

Easily recognized Virginia butterfly, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
I've been noticing hordes of the common Silvery Checkerspot and of course the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail fluttering around the garden. A few more regulars have included the Spicebush Swallowtail and the Silver-Spotted Skipper.

I've changed my gardening behavior over the last several years, allowing most plants to reseed. Which means I do not cut back any foliage unless it looks like a dead brown stick (dead Daylily stems come to mind). It looks a bit of a mess but come winter it's amazing as to the number of birds that reach for these seeds and how it actually adds winter interest. I also do not remove the fallen leaves. It's one of the worst things you can do.

Small but fast, the Silver-spotted Skipper
I'm beginning to conclude that not removing leaves or dead foliage until Spring has also benefited the insect populations. Think of how many cocoons and larvae are inadvertently destroyed when you totally clear out flower beds at the end of the season.

I also am taking note of plants that are especially attractive to pollinators and butterflies. Catnip, Clerodendrum, Hyssop, Mimosa, Fruit Trees, herbs, Cosmos, Beautyberry, and Cone Flower are garden favorites.

Time will tell if the increase in butterfly populations around Forsythia Hill are due to my efforts or just another "good season". It will be interesting to see how the numbers unfold this year during the annual count. It's also a good time to see some uncommon butterflies. We always see something interesting in the fields and woods. Nature is full of surprises!

I going to end this post with a fun video of one of my neighbors NEW honeybees loading up on nectar from my Beautyberry shrub.

The next time you hear from me, I just might be inside a shoe... visit back soon to figure that one out!

~ Rebecca

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Monticello Levy Lion Research Sequence

The Charlottesville newspaper, The Daily Progress, has referred to my research of the Levy Lion statues that resided at Monticello in their 125 years, A Look Back article that was published today.

Every day the newspaper republishes a historic event that was mentioned in a past publication.

To read my entire research into the mystery of the Levy Lions, I'm listing the sequence of links to each one of my blog posts for your convenience:

Blog #1: The Levy Family and Monticello
Blog #2: Monticello Levy Lions
Blog #3: Historical Levy Lion Library Research
Blog #4: The Monticello Levy Lion Saga Continues, Part IV
Blog #5: 1928 Auction NYC
Blog #6: Plaza Art Auction in NYC

~ Rebecca

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Spring Flowers and Nature in Charlottesville Virginia

The first flower to bloom, Winter Aconite
It's going to be another early Spring in Charlottesville, Virginia. I recall such a Spring about 5 years ago. I didn't care for it much because EVERYTHING bloomed all at once! I prefer the gradual blooming that typically occurs. We may have one problem though, it looks like by the end of the week, temperatures may dip below 30 degrees! NOT GOOD for the thousands of Daffodils that are in bloom and budding in my yard on Forsythia Hill.

The first daffodil to bloom in my yard on Forsythia Hill
Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful to live in such a beautiful State and experience such a glorious Spring. It's year number 8 for us in Cville and several areas in the yard that we have "landscaped" are starting to form. The 2 new Forsythia shrub patches are coming along quite nicely. One has formed a clump as intended, the other has another 3 years to form the long serpentine hedge as planned. We now have 4 forsythia patches in our yard plus an additional outcropping along the property line that belongs to a neighbor (that I begged to not bulldoze - so far so good). Our neighbor across the street bulldozed their huge patch (I guess they didn't like yellow). "sigh".

Fat Bluebird ready to find a mate.
We had one big patch to the right of our house and we installed the serpentine patch to the left of the house and it now looks quite balanced. It's becoming a riot of color in the Spring with my neighbors strip of mammoth white Bradford Pear trees and my blinding yellow Forsythia and splashes of thousands of Daffodils. I wonder what my neighbors must say as they drive by -- "Wilbur, hand me my sunglasses - PLEASE" or just "Please make it stop"! I do love the shock value of such plantings.

Little miniature white and yellow Daffodils
Up next will be the Tulips and Iris along with creeping Phlox and other ground covers. I did notice the blue Vinca Vine is blooming. A plant that I tolerate but don't care much for except in the Spring when it blooms. The Naked Lady foliage is looking like water fountain sprays at the moment, a freeze could do them in. Luckily the blooms spring up much later in the season after the leaves have died back.

Once again, Historic Garden Week in Virginia occurs during my Birthday week. I can't wait to snag a catalog and start planning a trip somewhere in the State!

I'm fearless when it comes to transplanting!

~ Rebecca

Monday, January 9, 2017

Dangers of a common antibiotic Levaquin / Cipro / Fluoroquinolones

First snow of the season!
We finally had SNOW in Charlottesville, Virginia. I've been a busy bee all winter long selling mainly on Etsy and Ebay. It's my peak season so I tend to not have much time for anything else.

I did run into some health troubles after Christmas. I'm not sure if it's from working online so extensively or if something else is up. I've been experiencing lasting, severe red eyes that my eye doctor said was severe dry eyes (which worsen in the winter and are due to RA / Sjogren's Disease which I've had now for 15 years). I was diagnosed by my general doctor with a Sinus Infection and prescribed Levaquin, the generic for Levofloxacin. It is in the family of drugs called fluoroquinolones along with Cipro among others. These drugs are the most prescribed antibiotics in the US.

Mr. Squirrel appears with the first flake panic eating bird food!
Before taking Levaquin I read the warnings... tendinitis or even a ruptured tendon. I'm so used to hearing the laundry list of possible side effects on TV that I've become numb to them so I proceeded to take this drug, thinking my doctor certainly knows best. I never thought that I would actually experience any of the side effects (three doctors have told me that it's quite uncommon). I was given a course of 1 pill for 14 days and on the 6th day my calf muscles began to feel stiff. I talked myself into thinking that it was just psychosomatic so I took another dose. The next morning I could hardly walk from the bed 10 feet to the bathroom. My calf muscles were so tight I could not bend my ankles. I was dragging my feet on the floor for 2 days so as not to have to bend them. I made my husband stay home from work as I was unable to go up or down the stairs. On day 4 I decided to rake a few leaves and my heart began to race (5 swipes of the rake) and stopped. I began to research this family of drugs more online and based on consumer comments, the potential damage is extensive.

Sure, people do have reactions and when I read a handful I don't worry but when there are pages and pages of accounts then I start to worry. There is even a tag line given to it called floxing or I've been floxed.

My neighbors horse in the snow.
It's been a week since I stopped taking this drug and my legs have improved but my tendons still feel like a rubber band being stretched. I can now go up and down the stairs but I'm fearful of putting any additional stress on my tendons and am not taking my daily walks down the street which was my form of exercise for the health of my body and bones. I've not pushed much exercise but my heart has not raced with normal daily activity. It has been mentioned that tendons have ruptured months after stopping this drug and especially if a lot of stress is put on the tendon, like in running. Interestingly, a friend mentioned she took Cipro without any issues and then it dawned on me that months ago she complained about peripheral neuropathy, another possible side effect of this drug that she never equated to taking it.

Please, please, please have the sense, because I did not, to ask you doctor for something less powerful if they attempt to give you this line of drugs. I would classify this line of antibiotics as one to take when all others fail. I have not taken an antibiotic I would estimate in 10 years and another one with less side effects could have been prescribed. I wish I had taken the risks seriously given I already have health issues. Now I have to wait for months and possibly years in fear of rupturing my Achilles or developing something worse. Read this and especially the comments from Consumer Reports if I have not convinced you, too risky to take.


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