Arts and Health, Sisters is devoted to exploring creative problem solving and coping strategies in our world, especially the links between artistic expression and personal and spiritual growth. It is also dedicated to honoring the value and power of women.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Little Walk For Wellness

I love walking.

The past several years I have not been able to do so much of it. Today, fairly recovered from a sinus infection, I went. I had finished a visit to the library and remembered there was a trail there. It was the beginning of twilight, just an hour or so of light left.

I managed about a mile of trail. There were some signs of spring. The invasive honeysuckle already beginning to sculpt its way up saplings. Leaves emerging from brambles impatient to grow their thorns and berries. Here and there -- the color purple -- courtesy of the red bud tree. Of creatures I saw a few robins, a cardinal and one wary calico who crept off the path and eyed me suspiciously as I passed.

Then I arrived at the tunnel under the four-lane road.

I like to look at the graffiti here. There isn't much opportunity in this neck of the woods. I learned another moniker for the current leader of the free world: Daddy Trump.

More inside, where the local officials have tried to put a damper on the festivities by painting the walls black.

The faint orange lines spell Trump again. One can only hope, or maybe not in this case.

If I was still a teen, this might also be a safe place. Now, not so much.

Then it was out of the thoughtful darkness and on to the rest of the trail. The trail I plan to detail more fully runs for three and a half miles to end at the Catawba River. So a good seven mile walk round trip and certainly longer than I had energy for today. Of the many things I love about this set of trails is that in some parts you can almost forget you are in a suburb, such as here:

The stream sounds lovely.
I walked until I saw that the sun was about to set:

Of course it was more striking a minute before I took the picture. I decided to return along the path. The birds had already gone quiet. The air was chilly and damp. A few brave frogs sang a soprano tune. As long as the amphibians are with us, I think we'll be okay.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Curried spring vegetables

Curried Spring Vegetables

This combination of beets, potatoes and onions is light and warming, just like a spring day!

Makes 6 side dish servings, a meal for 2, or for me, 1 large serving and breakfast the next day.


-One bunch beets with greens attached
-Equal amount of potato, about 2-3 medium
-1 onion
-1 clove garlic
-about ½ t lime zest
-heaping T fresh ginger, diced or grated
-¼ t turmeric
-½ t curry powder
-¼ t cinnamon
-¼ t thyme
-dash ground nutmeg
-about ¼ c olive oil

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Step 2: While oven is warming up , wash beets and potatoes. Cut stalks off of beets. Retain the leafy greens for the “sauce”. Peel beets and potatoes if you wish, but it isn’t necessary. Cut off beetroots, chop into 1-2 inch chunks. Remove potato eyes if not peeled and chop the potatoes into chunks also. Peel onion and chop it also. Spread the chopped vegetables in a baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Coat with a T or two of olive oil. By now the oven should be hot, so go ahead and put the pan in the oven, middle rack.

Step 3: Let the vegetables roast. If you want, you may fuss over them and stir them once in a while, but mine do fine just roasting by themselves. Leave them in for 45 minutes, then check and see if the beets are tender. If they are, take the vegetables out of the oven, if not leave them in for another 10 minutes.

Step 4: While you are leaving the vegetables to roast, make the sauce.
Remove the stalks from the beet greens and wash the leaves well. Put in a medium saucepan with ⅓ c water. Put the saucepan, covered on the stove over medium heat. While that’s cooking go to the next step.

Peel and dice or press the clove of garlic into a small mixing bowl. Add the heaping T fresh grated or diced ginger, the lime zest, turmeric, curry powder, cinnamon, thyme and nutmeg. Stir well. Heat about 2 T olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the spice mix to the heated oil and stir while it cooks just for two to three minutes. With any luck your beet greens are nice and tender now. If they are done properly they will be very soft and you can cut them with a fork or table knife. I do this in the saucepan. Then add the beet greens and the pot liquor to the spices and stir well.

Put aside, as the vegetables are probably still roasting. Put your feet up or catch up on the dishes so you won’t have so much to do later.

Step 5: Once the vegetables are tender remove from the oven and put them in a serving bowl. If they want to stick to the baking dish a spatula should remove them pretty easily while they are hot. Just be careful not to touch the baking dish without a hot pad. Pour the spice mix over the roasted vegetables and mix. Serve immediately, or put in the fridge (covered of course) and have as a cold dish later.

Notes: This could be altered adjusted multiple ways. My inspiration was the wonderful spinach-potato curry dish, but I’m not supposed to eat spinach. Beets are in the same family as spinach, so I thought a potato beet curry would be good. I think the little bit of lime zest is what really makes this dish.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Learning By Hand

I am making a hat for my son. It's styled after a hat he saw in an anime show. It is large and although the pattern is simple, it requires many feet of hand top stitching. If I had a fancy machine I could sew it up in a matter of minutes. Yet I feel I would lose something in the learning process.

When I stitch by hand I am in more intimate contact with the material. I know how stiff the interfacing is, I know or learn how much the material will stretch. Some of this I could learn if I was sewing by machine, but not as well. In addition I am learning more about sewing a straighter seam and come up with ideas to make sewing a straight seam by hand easier. And I have time to think.

Learning is something difficult and it takes as much of all of me as I can handle to do it. So when I am learning, I prefer to learn by hand. And here is an article about some studies which confirm my prejudice. It helps me understand why I often prefer to write something "new" by hand. Whereas once I have the characters and setting firmly in mind, I can come to my laptop, close my eyes and type away with abandon.

Now one thing I've had enough learning about is washing dishes by hand... where is the dishwasher!!

(Pictures of hat coming soon.)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

To Do List becomes Not To Do List

This article is the start of helping me find a useful way of structuring my time, so that I can get things done when I'm able to, and not find myself gasping for air by the end of the day.

Sometimes not doing is more important than doing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Walking is one way I lower stress. It allows me to get exercise, it provides lots of mental stimulation as I am surrounded by a variety of sights, sounds, smells and tactile sensations. Also it gives me a chance to bond with my dog, Uma and a friend if I'm lucky enough to have human company. 

I plan a series on local walks in the Charlotte, NC and York County, SC area. My plan is to have a general description of the walk, and to include Uma's opinion (as far as I can discern it! ).
So we will see how it goes.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Perils of Desk-Top Publishing: Consider Using a Professional

I had the gall to print my own graduation announcements "for" my son. Really it was for me, as every mention of this project has led to outright smirks on his part, if not protests of how idiotic graduation announcements are. He has tolerated the process since it has involved no effort on his part and out of affection for me.

I enjoyed the design aspect of the cards, although my photo editing skills leave quite a bit to be desired. I ended up with 2 designs, both of which use some professional senior pictures. One which has a montage I created with his assistance (he was walking towards me). I did some hand lettering and overall I like the design.

My "mass" card making efforts of the past have been less ambitious, using only black and white and a copying machine at the copy shop, with slightly above average quality paper. This time I used real card stock. I was going to use an Avery template, but the whole thing was geared towards people who wanted a more set motif, or who have much better computer graphics formatting skills than myself. (No slur against Avery intended, I've happily used their templates for business cards in the past.) Eventually I gave up and did an old-fashioned lay out with painters tape to hold pictures in place. I used my very simple all in one HP printer. The results are fine by my folksy standards, but I know some of the intended recipients expect a more typical graduation card... oh well. They will just have to smirk a bit, like my son, although for completely different reasons.

If you should decide to embark on such a process I have a few pieces of advice:

1. Have a copy shop or real printer type person with better equipment do this.

If you still insist on doing this yourself...

2. Keep everything very clean and have a microfiber cloth at hand to constantly wipe down the glass and every other area of your printer.

3. Get new color ink in a LARGE size, get brand name, new cartridges and if you are printing any quantity, get several cartridges. I did not do this. The cartridge was running low by the end of the run (and I only printed 15 cards). This led to variation in the depth of color and changes in the color even at the start of the run. Also the refurbished cartridge leaked ink on one card. I adjusted the cartridge, made sure the tape was firmly affixed, blotted the bottom of the cartridge and the rest  of the run did not have this problem.

By now you may be suspecting that the "outrageous" price for color printing at the copy shop or printers is not so outrageous.

4. Watch the whole printing process so that you can catch any problems right away, cancel the job, adjust anything that's awry, and restart the job.

So this was a learning process. One that I won't repeat unless I have a very desperate situation, or an expensive, fancy laser printer and loads more experience.

The inside of one card may sum up the situation nicely!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Apps for Memory Training

We all want to preserve our ability to remember. Even if there are things we wish we could forget!

These are some of the memory apps I have tried so far:

1. Lumosity: The presentation and quality of the games are fine and varied. I'm a bit skeptical of the science involved since the goal for most people is to prevent dementia  and maintain function, not just improve function. Unless you have a stroke or some other cataclysmic event, dementia generally develops quite gradually. It is this silent, slow progression which makes it so creepy and frightening. 
Putting that aside my other complaints are that I found the puzzles either so challenging as to be frustrating or too easy. It may just be me, but emotionally I found the experience to evoke feelings either of smugness or incompetence. To me that is not helpful. Also I didn't like their model (which may have changed since I played) of so many free sessions and then no access. Naturally one of their goals is to make money, so I can't say I blame them, but to expect someone to really see results and appreciate their product over 2 weeks is unrealistic. 

2. Clockwork Brain: I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game, and the artwork, Steam punk themed, is gorgeous. I got it when it was newish, and was frustrated by the lack of new challenges. Since that time they have expanded.

3. My current favorite is Elevate. It focuses on verbal skills. It has definitely helped me tackle some of my chronic spelling weaknesses. It automatically makes challenges more difficult or more simple depending on how you are doing right at that moment. You play each game until you finish the mission, whether it's making a small flock of birds fly, reaching a distant planet in the Space Shuttle, building a shape, etc. This makes the emotional feeling one of success and of overcoming a realistic challenge, even if the score for the day is worse. As you play your score ranking (across all users) gradually goes up, if you play regularly. It keeps track of your playing streak. It does not take a lot of time to get through the 3 games a day you can play for free, and there is a lot of variety in terms of the games, some are auditory challenges, some more visual, some use a combination of visual and auditory techniques to improve memory. I have no idea if it "really works" in a scientific sense. I remain skeptical since I believe we are still in the baby stage of learning about learning. I do know that I look forward to my several minutes of "training" each day. 

As I find new apps I will update this post and "bump" it.
And if anyone has similar apps they enjoy, please post a comment. I review the comments before they appear so you won't see it right away.