Autumn’s Equinox

Posted on Friday, September 22, 2017 by Larkspur

The autumnal equinox marks the debut of the autumn (or fall, if you prefer) season. This astronomical event occurs quietly and without much fanfare in the sky (unlike the total solar eclipse back in August!). But at this moment, the “solar terminator” (the ring circling the earth, where day meets night), is perpendicular to the planet as it crosses the equator, thus illuminating the northern and southern hemispheres in equal amounts. In other words, on the equinox, the day and night periods are of roughly equal duration (12 hours). After the equinox, daylight hours in the northern hemisphere continue to decrease until the winter solstice — the shortest day and longest night of the year, after which the days begin to lengthen once again.

photo of basket of apples

This year the equinox is on Friday, September 22 at 3:02 PM, Central Time. But even in the ebbing summer heat of early September, portends of autumn’s pending entrance are evident. We see the sun set noticeably earlier and find spent garden plants to uproot and pitch in the compost heap. Black walnuts fall with a thud, littering the ground and perfuming the air with their acrid, peppery aroma. And if you feed hummingbirds, you see them fattening up (like little Vienna sausages!) with frequent trips to the nectar dispenser, in preparation for their arduous, their non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico, to winter quarters. Continue reading “Autumn’s Equinox”

Beatrix Potter: Wonder Woman

Posted on Friday, July 28, 2017 by Larkspur

Photo of antique "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" book

July 28 is the birthday of Beatrix Potter (July 28, 1866–December 22, 1943), author and illustrator of the famous and beloved “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” Who doesn’t love this fanciful story about a disobedient bunny who miraculously survives his misadventures in Mr. McGregor’s garden?

I enjoyed reading “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” aloud countless times to my more-than-receptive boys in their early years. The actual book, from my own childhood collection (pictured above), now rests in its place on the book shelf in my younger son’s room waiting to see if it will find its way into the hands of a new generation.

When my older son was four, I snapped up an audio version of the book at a garage sale. As I played the old, scratchy LP he sat enthralled. But when the narrator came to the part where Peter is being chased by a rake-waving Mr. McGregor, my son was so terrified at the fate of the little rabbit, he ran and hid behind the living room curtains (just as Peter was scrambling to hide in the tool shed). Such was Potter’s ability to render a vividly dramatic scene with words! Continue reading “Beatrix Potter: Wonder Woman”

Kick Commercial Soda in F(l)avor of Healthier, Homemade, Thirst-quenching Summer Soft Drinks

Posted on Monday, June 26, 2017 by Larkspur

Photo of summer drink

I’ve eschewed commercial soda most of my adult life, and in my growing-up years this product wasn’t on my mother’s grocery shopping list. Rather, my mother allowed my sisters and me to have an occasional “treat” soda (7-UP was my preference) when we ate out at a restaurant, which wasn’t very often. Perhaps her protocol didn’t allow me to develop much of a taste for soda, and I don’t recall feeling deprived from the lack of it. Knowing what I know now about the ill health effects of drinking soda, I’m glad my mother offered us mostly water, orange juice or milk to drink at home.

Maybe you already know commercial soda (both regular and diet versions) is loaded with sugar and/or other artificial ingredients linked to a long list of deleterious health effects. If not, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but better to be informed so you can consider your choices. Here is a little parade of health conditions linked to soda consumption: obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, tooth decay and osteoporosis, among other health impacts. Apparently it doesn’t take much to harm your health; drinking just one can of soda a day can increase risk of stroke by 16%. And since soda is consumed amply by many in the U.S., this data is rather alarming. These two books, backed with substantial scientific research, clearly illuminate the health dangers of soda consumption: “Soda Politics” by Marion Nestle and “Killer Colas” by Nancy Appleton and G.N. Jacobs. Continue reading “Kick Commercial Soda in F(l)avor of Healthier, Homemade, Thirst-quenching Summer Soft Drinks”

Knowing Stroke: Preventing it or Surviving it

Posted on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 by Larkspur

It’s May and that means it is National Stroke Awareness Month. The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association (ASA) have teamed up, campaigning to raise public awareness about stroke, a disease affecting the arteries leading to and within the brain that causes brain injury. Their educational efforts cover the warning signs of stroke, symptoms of a stroke, stroke prevention, and the impact of stroke on survivors, families and caregivers.

Stroke (originally known as apoplexy and now also known as a cerebral vascular accident — CVA) has been around for a long time. It is unknown how many people suffered from stroke 2,400 years ago when it was first recognized by Hippocrates, the father of medicine. But today almost every one of us knows someone, who has suffered a stroke — it’s the fifth highest cause of U.S. deaths. It is also a leading cause of long-term disability, including paralysis, pain, aphasia, problems with thinking or memory and emotional disturbances. Continue reading “Knowing Stroke: Preventing it or Surviving it”

April Is National Card and Letter Writing Month

Posted on Friday, April 28, 2017 by Larkspur

When you check your mailbox for the day’s mail, how excited are you to find a few pieces of junk mail you never solicited? Probably not very. Add to that let-down feeling the worry about the unnecessary waste of paper. Sigh. By contrast, what do you feel when you pull a handwritten card or letter from your mailbox? A happy little thrill? Mm hmm, I thought so.

To the Letter book coverWith the advent of electronic communication we have experienced the decline of this happy little thrill in our lives. Handwritten cards and letters have been replaced with emails, text messages, live phone calls or voice mails, except, fortunately, around holidays and birthdays, when we still get to experience this dear form of communication as it comes through the snail mail. Continue reading “April Is National Card and Letter Writing Month”

Freezer Meals: Eating Well When Time is Limited (or You Just Need a Break from Cooking)

Posted on Friday, March 24, 2017 by Larkspur

Freezer meals photo

Do you like to eat well in the sense that you want your food to be delicious and nutritious? I think most people would answer “yes” to that question. Is it challenging to provide meals that fit the delicious/nutritious definition for yourself and/or your family members? Most of us would have to answer “yes,” at least some of the time, because we all know life makes many competing demands of our time. Continue reading “Freezer Meals: Eating Well When Time is Limited (or You Just Need a Break from Cooking)”

How to Make Your Heart Happy

Posted on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 by Larkspur

heart-shaped jasper stone held in an open handWell, I wish that I could say this blog post was going to be a prescription, and, if followed, you would attain complete and utter uninterrupted emotional happiness, with your heart continuously effusing joy. Alas, the kind of “heart happy” addressed here is not that kind of happy, but the good health kind of happy (sorry if you’re disappointed!).

Dead Execs Don't Get Bonuses book coverFebruary is American Heart Month (conveniently teamed in the same month as Valentine’s Day, so you have a chance to wedge in a bit of short-term, romance-happy for your heart on the 14th). It’s a good time to take stock of how your heart is doing since heart disease (also called cardiovascular disease) is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. Did you know that annually, 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by heart disease? That’s 25% … shocking! Continue reading “How to Make Your Heart Happy”

Embracing Winter

Posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 by Larkspur

Photo of snow on branchesWinter can be a trying time for many of us, especially if we aren’t lucky enough to be able to hop on an airplane and head to sunny, southern climes for a respite warm and bright.

If you are “Missouri-bound” for the winter, then you might as well take advantage of the season. It can be a mood-lifter to spend time outdoors, even if the weather doesn’t seem conducive to it. In Norway, where it can be quite cold and snowy during the winter season, they have a saying which goes something like this: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Continue reading “Embracing Winter”