Thursday, August 25, 2016

Solar Cooking - Cooking With Sunshine

While scrolling through my endless Facebook feed...yes I admit I do it too... every now and then I run across a subject that really peaks my interest.  Earlier this summer when Karen Casey-Smith posted a glorious photo of banana bread she had baked in her solar oven, I knew Solar Cooking was a subject that I definitely wanted to know more about.  Karen was kind enough to write up an article for our blog.  Ohhh this looks so cool.   Thanks Karen!

Solar Cooking - Cooking With Sunshine



Yes! You really can cook with sunshine using a solar oven. Place your food into a dark colored pan, set it in a solar oven outside under clear blue, sunny skies, and come back later to a delicious hot cooked meal! How amazing is that? You can even make a solar oven yourself! Now why would you want to cook outside if you have a perfectly nice oven in your home?

Solar Oven Baked Banana Bread

Benefits of Solar Cooking
  • Solar cooking preserves more of the nutrients in your food because it cooks slower and at lower temperatures.
  • You'll enjoy the improved taste and texture of your food and baked goods. You think you know what your vegetables taste like, but wait until you've had them cooked by the sun!
  • Increase your indoor comfort and reduce energy bills during the warm months of the year by cooking outside instead heating up your home by using your conventional oven.
  • Food doesn't dry out or burn when cooked in a solar oven. You don't need to stir your food while it's cooking.
  • Energy from the sun is free.
  • It saves natural resources.
  • It's portable. You can use your oven in your backyard, camping, at the beach, on a boat, or at a picnic cookout.
  • It's fun!

Make a solar oven, buy one, try one!

A demonstration at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair was my introduction to solar cooking. Not only did I get to see solar cooking in action, I had my first delicious tastes of solar baked cookies and bread. Solar cooking is fascinating! Since I love to experiment I had to try it for myself. Also, I wanted to see (and taste) my own results! To begin with I made a solar oven from two cardboard boxes, so with only a small investment of time I could find out how interested I was in continuing. There are several types of solar cookers, including panel cookers, box cookers, and parabolic cookers. A quick search online will bring up lots of plans for making your own.
It turned out that I love using solar for cooking, so we eventually bought an early version of the Sport Solar Oven. It's a great oven, durable and very stable. I've been cooking with mine for at least 13 years. We made our own reflector for the oven out of foam board, and covered it with Mylar. To stabilize the reflector in windy conditions I use two bungee cords, one each at the center top and bottom of the reflector that I hook to the rim of the oven. The reflector increases the temperature of the oven significantly. With the reflector this solar oven usually bakes between 250-300°F. In the right conditions you can cook with solar in winter and summer.
Solar Oven Disassembled

Solar Oven Interior View

Solar Oven Assembled with Homemade Reflector

I've had wonderful results baking banana bread. The crust is light and tender,
the bread is divine. I've often baked jerk chicken, rice, vegetables, lots of things! The solar oven is great for one dish meals, baked or roasted meats, grains, beans, breads, desserts, and more. Here are some recipes to get you started.

To use your solar oven with success you need:

  • clear, or mostly clear, blue skies on a sunny day
  • dark colored cookware - the dark color absorbs heat allowing faster cooking, shiny cookware reflects heat
  • maintain safe practices- use pot holders or oven gloves, protect your eyes from glare
  • maintain safe temperatures while cooking
  • oven thermometer
  • solar oven
  • tasty recipe

Improving lives and the health of others

As if that weren't enough great things about solar ovens, there are more, very important benefits. Solar ovens are improving the lives and health of people the world over, especially women and children. Solar cooking is smokeless, and when used, eliminates breathing serious health-damaging smoke from indoor cooking fires. In addition to the health benefits of cooking with free, clean energy, solar ovens can be used for water pasteurization to provide safe clean water. Using solar energy also saves overburdened natural resources. Money that would have been spent on firewood, or charcoal, can be used for food or other necessities. There's a wealth of information at Solar Cookers International, a non-profit organization whose "mission is to spread solar thermal cooking technology to benefit people and environments." They are a wonderful resource for information on solar cooking. Please consider donating if you'd like to support their work.
I hope you're inspired to try solar cooking yourself. You'll get great tasting food with lots of nutrients, cooked with free energy, save resources and money, and help our environment all at the same time! This is a win/win for everyone. It would also be a fun project to do with your family and friends. A project where you get to eat your homework is definitely a plus!
Happy solar cooking!


Prints of Karen's wonderful photography can be found in her shop on Etsy.



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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Zucchini, Kittens and Rabbits

As I was chopping up some zucchini for dinner last night, I realized that summer is finally here.  Zucchini always reminds me of summer.  Both my mother and grandmother grew it in abundance in their gardens.  My mother would cook constantly with the massive amounts that we would harvest. She served it as a vegetable, but also made zucchini bread, which was definitely considered a new, fairly exotic item during those times (at least in the Midwest). I considered zucchini bread to be a real treat because my mother was such a “no sugar” healthy food advocate.  Sugar rarely passed my lips as a child.

My grandma, an immigrant from Italy, would also cook with zucchini when it was in season.  She would make it for literally every meal.  "You eat what is in season and in the garden," she would say.  Sometimes she would use some of her zucchini to work into the antipasto she canned during the summer.  Other than that we ate our fill and gave away bags and bags of it to the neighbors.  I got really tired of eating zucchini at her house.  I still have it memorized…  "Saute a little butter with a little onion, add a fresh sage leaf from the garden, cover, cook on low until it sweats."
Al dente.  Of course, she was Italian.

Right after it rains - if you have been lucky enough to have rain this summer, or not battling the horrible floods - the summer days bring a humid, lush feeling like no other.  Although I'm pretty notorious for disliking the heat immensely, I do definitely respect and appreciate the season.  Yes, zucchini flourishes in the summer.  Everything seems to flourish in the summer.  

This year it seems to be our urban backyard that is flourishing.  Two overly active birdbaths.  A mother rabbit plus her little bunny baby, and this year the biggest surprise of all, a mother cat and her two orange kittens.  Nothing like opening the back door at 6am and finding two orange little balls of fur fast cuddled up in the chair - wide eyed and surprised.  My husband said "at least they're cuter than squirrels (which we also have in abundance).  Maybe they'll even help keep the mice away."  My neighbor says all the activity is due to the “good vibes” radiating out from our backyard.  Other friends suspect the fairies in the rose and herb garden.  I think it's because they all know they are safe and we will not hurt them.

Of course throughout all of this, our two sweet old rescue pugs snore their day away.  The third rescue, Franky, remains on high alert.  So I guess I'll be outside clapping and banging before we let him out.  

Enjoy your July.  Take some time to observe and love your own backyard.  You might be surprised what you find.

 


~ diane fergurson

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Solstice


It is the beginning of summer, the solstice.  
The tilt of the earth leads to much warmer days and longer 
periods of light in the Northern Hemisphere.
We attune our mind, body and spirit to the season's bountiful
qualities and exuberant energy.  Yang energy is 
at it's fullest.

This year there is a rare Summer Solstice full moon to 
accompany the day.  This event hasn't occurred in over
70 years and won't happen again until 2094.
Something truly special indeed!

Enjoy your summer days.  Be healthy and happy.
Relax and be creative.  Take the time to learn something new.
Be thankful for all you have, definitely 
try to stay positive throughout these interesting times. 

Diane Fergurson



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photo:  Greenwood Gardens



Sunday, April 10, 2016

Gem and Mineral Show

It's always such a pleasure to go to the Gem and Mineral Show when it comes to New Jersey each spring.  Although the show has varied over the years, the selection of gemstones, minerals and fossils never fails to delight those who attend. 






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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Be a Weed

I never fail to leave the garden uninspired.  Whether it's with colors, wildlife or Fae.  Today as I trimmed away the dead rose branches and pulled out the weeds that are already sprouting up...the words that keep running through my head were, "Be a Weed".
Yes, be a weed Diane.  
They strong, resilient, and really quite patient to grow among the other more acceptable plants.  Best of all, no matter how many times you pull them out, a weed will just keep coming back.
I see every other inspirational quote known to man immortalized through Facebook posts.  
Maybe mine should be...Be a Weed!  😉

Enjoy your day 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Happy Spring, Ostara, and Day of Happiness

Today is the first day of the Spring Vernal Equinox.
  It is also the 
and also, this year, the celebration of the pagan and wiccan holiday Ostara.
The name Ostara, is derived from the Anglo-Saxon and Germanic
goddess of fertility, Eostre, or Ostara.
It is the marking of the new season which moves from the darkness of 
winter to the light of spring.
Spring, happiness, Ostara.
Three different celebrations basically advocating the
same thing...to experience a positive rebirth.
I hope yours is wonderful!
Enjoy your day



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Monday, January 11, 2016

Goodbye David Bowie


When I heard this morning that David Bowie had transitioned, my heart hurt.  My heart chakra literally hurt inside my chest because I knew the world had truly lost a soul whose impact 
upon the lives of others, during this lifetime, had been immense.

The intelligent art, music, fashion and style of David Bowie touched the masses in many different ways.  It was because of his ability as an artist to transform himself so strongly through the creative process.  Every time he changed, he found a different set of people to relate to his new being.  

For as much as he was able to brighten and add color into the lives of others, Bowie's personal struggles and pain must have been immense.  A lot of this born out through the 12th house placement in his chart, which you can read more about in this wonderfully written article.
I recently saw an old interview with Bowie by Charlie Rose where he talked about the "violent" and difficult process he always experienced while bringing his painting and art into the world. 
 I think all artists experience this to some extent or another.  Physical birth is violent and painful.
 Creative birth is as well.   The extent of pain and struggle varies from person to person depending on what they are trying to create, their life lessons and their karma during this lifetime.
The creative birth process was something Bowie said he personally did not enjoy doing.  Considering his ability to absorb the culture around him and then transform himself again and again, it must have been an extremely difficult experience for him each time.

All souls who are born into this world leave ripples in their path.  Others produce tidal waves whose reach is far and long lasting.  There were so many facets to this man, people will
write about him forever.


David Bowie, your time here is over.
Thank you for everything.



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 The Chariot, courtesy of Adam Fergurson.

I chose to include this image to be portrayed in this piece because to me it symbolizes the process of transformation, going forward, and bursting into the unknown 
(which I'm sure Bowie is doing right about now).






Friday, December 18, 2015

Enjoy Your Holiday Season


Wherever you are, whatever you do, wherever you go, and whatever you believe
The Mind Body Spirit Odyssey/Marketplace
Wishes you a wonderful end of year Holiday and a great New Year!
We'll be back in 2016
See you then!










Sunday, October 18, 2015

Delores Cannon, Convoluted Universe 5 is Released



There was a wonderful tribute article to Delores Cannon that was posted on her blog.  It's been a year since she's passed.  I hope you will take the time to read it.  The article is a short profile of her life and her work.  She did so much to help open the minds of others.  A true pioneer in every sense of the word.


Ozark Mountain Publishing has just released her book Convoluted Universe 5 which she finished before she died.  I will definitely be reading it soon.  I'll never forget seeing Convoluted Universe 1 at the bookstore years ago.  It practically jumped off the shelf at me.  I could barely put it down once I began to read, and I devoured many, many more of her books after that.  Once you become immersed in her work, I guarantee that you will never view life quite the same...no matter how 'enlightened' or open minded you believe yourself to be.


Here's to you Delores.  Thank you for everything!




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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Autumn Magic



I’ve never known anyone yet who doesn’t suffer a certain restlessness when 
autumn rolls around… We’re all eight years old again and anything is possible.
Sue Grafton



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Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Curious Visitor


 
The first day of October finds me hurrying around preparing for, and I quote, "five days of the most brutal weather that New Jersey has seen in a long time". An upcoming rain storm, followed by a 'Nor'easter wind and rain' and, of course, Hurricane Joaquin.  The date of NJ has already declared a state of emergency.

Well, 'strange things are afoot at the Circle K'.  I went out to pick some last minute flowers before the storm(s) hit, and was immediately greeted by a more intense delegation of my bird friends then usual.  Then this little cutie comes out of the rose bed to say hello.  I've never seen him before...he left as fast as he came, disappearing under the hydrangea.  Glad to see he was wearing a collar.  

Of course I took it as a sign.   Were they telling me about the upcoming storm?  Or letting me know that my first grandchild will be making her grand entrance before long?

I always seem to attract animals around me that I normally don't come in contact with before something happens.  I had crows land next to me and sit outside my studio window for a week straight this summer before my mother passed.  I've had deer run in front of me so close I could have touched them...on our street which is very urban and busy.  
Superstition?  I don't know.  You'd be surprised that what goes on around you once your eyes open and you start taking notice.  I've decided that if I see a third unusual animal related thing today then I'll know something up for sure.


Enjoy your day...
I'll keep you posted.


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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Welcome Mabon/Fall


Every culture has it's beliefs, rituals and traditions associated with the seasons.  The transition from summer into fall is no exception.  As I look around me I see baskets of summer flowers on my neighbors' porches being replaced by mums and pumpkins.  In more rural areas, the farmers have been busy bailing hay for the winter, and are beginning to gather the bounty from the summer harvest.  Apple picking, of course, is at it's height and abundance.

The Autumnal Equinox, or the holiday Mabon as it is known in Celtic and Pagan cultures, ushers in these seasonal changes and welcomes the second harvest.  This is the time of year when the sun shines equally on both hemispheres.  The days and nights are of equal length, but we begin to move from the light half of the year to the dark half.  The leaves turn, the birds migrate, and we start our cyclical descent into winter.

As I observe everything around me starting to wind down, Mabon, much more then the Thanksgiving holiday, feels like the most natural place in the year to pause and be grateful for all the blessings and experiences that I have had.  To re-view it all, in it's entirety on a cyclical but equal basis.  This year in particular my personal wheel of life truly has experienced it all.  A death, a (soon to be) birth, and a developing creative re-birth.  I'm thankful for it all these things.  They continue to shape and guide me to be the person I am, and have yet to become.

Enjoy your day ~

diane fergurson

Autumn Hay photo courtesy of Nellie Levine



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Friday, May 1, 2015

Happy Beltane

It's May 1st, Beltane - and I honestly cant think of a more glorious day to be taking the
time to write for the Mind Body Spirit Odyssey!  
In the Northeast we've had a brutal winter, and it's still quite cold in places.  
Today though, the four Bradford Pears that are in our back yard are in full bloom along 
with the daffodils and tulips.  And my little wren friend has returned and is
resting comfortably on my back porch.  
His way of gentle way of reminding me that the birdbaths need to be refilled.


The yearly, local plant sale in our town starts today and runs throughout the weekend.  
We plan to attend with our neighbors to purchase a new tree or bush to plant in a space 
that adjoins our properties.  
We're also hoping to select some heirloom vegetables and flowers for the garden.
I can't think of a nicer way to enjoy this blessing of a day!


Below is an excerpt from a post written about Beltane by Nellie Levine and 
published in our blog in 2009.  
Whatever you happen to be doing and wherever you may be, 
we hope you smile and enjoy your day!


It seems that everyone I talk to is impatient for warm and sunny days, tired of the cloud cover and chill air of the darker half of the year. I'm certainly ready to celebrate the green growth of spring! This desire to feel sun on our skin and soil beneath our fingernails makes Beltane - or May Day as it is generally practiced today - such a comfortable, accessible holiday. May Day is widely and openly celebrated through the British Isles, as well as in many places in the US. People dance around the May Pole, sit by bonfires, and gladly toss their winter worries away as they look ahead to brighter days. Dreams come back to life, as we draw upon the fertile energy of the day.
Traditionally, Beltane was celebrated by the Celts with much dancing, drinking, music, merriment, and romance. It was one of the two most important of their celebrations - celebrating the light half of the year. The name Beltane is believed to mean "fires of Bel" and honors the ancient sun god Beli, or Belanus. Druids looked after the Beltane fires, by which people and their livestock would pass, with the belief that they would be cleansing themselves of the illness or misfortunes they may have experienced through winter, and perhaps blessing them with good fortune for the months to come.
We can light our own bonfires, and we can honor any deity we like... We can make a May Pole or just make some music... what I think is important if we are to celebrate Beltane today is that essential message of taking a deep breath of fresh spring air, embracing the renewed life of warmer seasons, purifying ourselves of our past troubles, and looking with openness to the growth ahead.



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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Beauty Everywhere

Against the Storm by Jude McConkey
It's been a tough winter for most of the country this year.
When it gets to be this time of the season, where many people's attitudes have hardened and soured even deeper then usual, its important become even more aware of ourselves.  When you feel yourself wading into that pool of  funk, try and step back... realize what you're doing, and adjust your perspective so it doesn't bleed over onto other people's lives and environment.
Try being nice...or, just be quiet.


The following passage is taken from the book "The Tao of Joy Everyday" by Derek Lin
Wise words ~


Beauty Everywhere

One powerful effect of Tao cultivation is that, more and more, you are able to look at everything through the eyes of the Tao.  When this happens, you will suddenly see much more that is good, and present everywhere you look.

Those who have experienced this know that it can be an overwhelming in a positive way.  It is not about thinks like the sunset or a rainbow that are already considered beautiful by everyone.  It is about tremendous beauty in the most commonplace and ordinary places.  Look at the crinkle of someone's smiling eyes.  Look at the fascinating patterns in the clouds.  Look at the symmetrical design in a leaf.  There is so much beauty in existence that no human mind can possibly contain it all.

There is something behind all this.  We can never see it, but if we close our eyes, we can sense its presence.  We can never hear it, but if we remain quiet, its whispers will resonate silently.  It is telling us without words that everything is exactly as it should be, and the beauty we see is the reflection of the beauty within all of us.

Look for goodness and beauty and you will find them.  Negative feelings like anger and resentment will recede.  When you are immersed in all that is good and beautiful, you cannot feel angry or resentful.  There will be no room in your heart for such feelings, for it will be filled to the brim with joy and gratitude.


The stunning photograph "Against the Storm" is by photographer Jude McConkey
It is available through her shop on Etsy.

Derek Lin's "The Tao of Joy Every Day" is available through Amazon.



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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Healthy Winter Meals - Busy Day Chicken


To warm your spirit on a cold winter's day!


l.  Spray the bottom of the baking dish with a non stick spray...whatever size dish you have on hand.

2. Layer as many sliced potatoes as will fit in the bottom of the pan.



3.  Layer chicken pieces on top.  Whatever you happen to have.  I had thighs.

4.  Sprinkle with liberally salt, pepper, paprika.  I threw some thyme on top because I happened to have it growing in the kitchen.  You could use rosemary or leave it plain.


5. Cover with foil. (put NO liquid in it)

6.  Bake 350 for around l.5 hours.


Enjoy!


*I wouldn't not recommend chicken breasts for this dish.
They are not juicy enough.  If you do use them, add some water
to the bottom of the potatoes before baking and reduce the cooking time by at
least a half hour...or more.





Friday, November 7, 2014

Your Facebook Feed - You Are What You Read

Yellow Crabapple Autumn Print
It's been awhile since I posted in this blog, but like most artists who are fortunate enough to be able to express themselves through multiple platforms, I write when I'm inspired to write.
When the words fill my head, I write.
I paint, draw and take photographs when I'm visually inspired.
The last few months, the visual has definitely taken a front seat in my life.

This morning I read something on my Facebook page that has come up several times.
That I've actually posted about it on our Mind Body Spirit Marketplace page in the past.
A friend had requested that her friends post photos of baby animals to counteract all the hateful comments and negativity that she was seeing in her Facebook feed.
  
I had to ask myself...why?
 My Facebook feed doesn't look like that, and neither does the MBS page.
So I commented:

"I honestly don't see much hatred in my feed. In fact mine is usually full of artwork, nature and people posting positive, inspiring quotes. My 'FB friends' don't tend to post negative things or hateful, political spew. The one thing about FB that a lot of people overlook, is that what you see is totally within your own control. So people need to ask themselves....who 'do' you friend with that would post such negative things to begin with?? If I don't like what I see...I just block or unfriend...
I mean, why not?"

We become what we choose to feed ourselves.  
Not just food, but what we choose to ingest visually and auditorily too.  
What we read, what we watch, who we talk to...what we listed to and choose to focus on.  
Who DO we talk to?  
Who DO we choose to spend our time socializing with?  
Both online and off.
Does it make us more intelligent and informed?
Do we feel better or angry after we read it?
Does it bring us up, or dumb us down?

We make our own choices everyday that either uplift our soul or compel us to dive down and 
swim with the bottom feeders.
  
What do you think about in your spare time? 
And -
How do you think about it?
In positive or negative terms?

  Are you thinking about how much you dislike someone or how angry they make you?
Or do or you move your thought process on to more 
positive  thoughts?

It's all within your own control, you know.

  Good example:  
This morning I was talking with a friend in his yard.  
Yes, it would have been almost too easy to focus my attention on all the work he 
needed to catch up on around his house... but when I looked in his yard, his wonderful 
 little trees, the trees that he loves so much and has patiently cultivated and 
nursed over the years, 
stood out like little golden jewels. 
Their fall colors vibrated wildly in the sunlight.
They were simply stunning.  
(I'm obviously still thinking about them)

Next time you wake up in the morning and and find yourself mindlessly scrolling through 
your Facebook feed, ask yourself -
"Why do I choose to allow myself to ingest the things I do?
And - how does that not only effect my own well being, but the well being of others?
(especially when I choose to re-post)"


Don't become a Facebook drone.  
Disconnect from the things that do not bring you to a good place and move on.

Enjoy your day!

diane fergurson


Yellow Crabapple Tree Autumn Print courtesy of Jude McConkey Photography



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Artist,Writer, Jewelry Design