Monthly Archives: January 2014

It’s Never Too Late To Grow: How To Start Gardening Indoors

The New Year often brings up the topic of new resolutions and pledges to eat better and exercise more. There is one way to do both: gardening! Most people in the Pacific Northwest don’t think about gardening in January, but that’s because we are used to images of farms with bountiful crops during the summer season. The truth is that you can grow your own food any time of the year.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “I can’t grow a house plant, how could I possibly grow food?!” Or, you have an apartment and no yard to plant a garden. The key to success in growing food is starting small and growing your skills.

Photo by Holli Margell Window sill herb garden.

Photo by Holli Margell Window sill herb garden.

Some of the benefits of gardening are that you get to eat your food as fresh as possible, you’ll save some money on the food you don’t have to buy since you’ve grown it, and some studies report that it help to alleviate stress when you spend time in a garden or in nature. Well, starting in your home is like bringing the beauty of nature indoors.

The easiest way to start small is to grow herbs in a windowsill. All you need is a jar or small pot, soil and some seeds or a small starter plant. Some herbs like Basil usually grow only one year (sometimes longer). But, others like Chives keep growing year after year. The key is to learn how to care for a plant, and with herbs, you get to enjoy your efforts by eating it! As long as you follow the instructions for care like adequate light, you’ll build your growing skills.

How to get started:

1. Select an herb to grow – here are a few suggestions: basil, parsley or cilantro.
2. Find a container that will fit in your windowsill such as a small pot, a mason jar or even old coffee mug.
3. Put a single layer of rocks at the bottom to allow for proper drainage so the roots do not rot.
4. Add soil up about ¾ of the way to the top of where you want the soil to rise in your container.
5. Sprinkle 3-5 seeds of choice, and then cover with a layer of soil, about an inch deep.
6. Water until the soil is moist, and if you overfill it, you will see the water pool up at the surface. That’s okay, just gently poor off the water and hold down the soil with your fingers. Just don’t dump the whole thing out!
7. Simply watch the soil, check it once a day or every other day. When it is dry, add more water. A suggestion: fill a spray bottle, and squirt the soil every day a couple of times a day. If you are using your Kitchen Windowsill then you can easily do this once a day when you’re washing dishes.
8. Within 2 weeks, you will see sprouts of your herbs breaking the surface of the soil. Now, just check on them every day and keep their soil moist (note the directions for herbs vary depending on variety, so take care to read about your herbs before you plant them).
9. Enjoy using your fresh herbs that you can harvest inside any time of the year!

So, no matter where you live or how little you know about growing plants, remember that it’s never to late to grow.

Warmly,
Holli Margell, Editor

p.s. When you’re ready to move onto vegetables, you can use pots, but will need a small space outdoors. Let us know if you’d like to learn more and we are happy to share in the spring newsletter.

Introducing Mary Halecki – A New Contributor To Our Newsletter

I really enjoy talking to Mary. She makes me smile every time we talk. She speaks fast and does the most of the talking. Many of the stuff she tells me about are trivial, silly, sometimes sad and even depressing. Yet she has a way of connecting and making me feel really good in the end. I think it’s probably because of her child-like enthusiasm, passion and positive attitude toward her life. She recently told me about her sudden career setback and a little incident with her cat while we are on the phone discussing the article she was writing for the letter. The story she shared with me was rather horrific, but she left me feeling good and positive by the time I hang up with her. She is honest and not afraid to express her feeling or opinions. I think you can see that in the article below. The content of her article is unusual for our newsletter, but I believe many of you will make a strong connection with her. Hope you enjoy her article. – Kaz Isogai

P.S. Mary is an intelligent woman who has strong background in art, literature and history. If you are a kind of person who loves reading “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, you would enjoy talking to her very much. She also teaches at colleges.

“Sometimes I think I’ll give up trying, and just go completely Russian and sit on a stove and moan all day.” – Dorothy Parker

It is winter in Seattle. I recently had a birthday, and did I mention that it is winter in Seattle? I don’t know about the rest of you, but nothing gets me down more than the sun setting at 4:23 p.m., except maybe the sun setting at 4:23 p.m. on a cold and rainy birthday. It is on days such as these that I really get in touch with my melancholy side by quoting Dorothy Parker and romanticizing the haunts of my younger days back in New York. I could choose the path of self-indulgence and throw a few chocolates and vodka on that stove I am sitting upon, but I have a remedy that, in the spirit of the holidays, I am willing to share. If you knew me at all, I might add, you would be astounded right now by my grace and generosity.

It is said that music can soothe the savage beast and I would have to add that it can soothe the gloomy one as well, at least, if one can find the right atmosphere and the right music. If you are anything like me and have, somewhere in your past, a cozy little pub or bar that seems as if it must have always been there, filled with pleasant waiters and slightly eccentric locals, than you will be cheered to know that you can regain a bit of that charm on Alki Beach in a place called The Celtic Swell. I need to qualify this statement by adding that it is best if your wistful mood strikes on a Friday night when Justin Kausal-Hayes is the musician on duty.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the Celtic Swell has a lot going for it all on its own with a beach view, warm lighting, super-friendly staff, not to mention, some killer soda bread. But, what makes a pub, a PUB, is its music. If Justin’s name weren’t long enough already, I would be tempted to add Versatility as his middle name. This guitarist can play anything from the Rolling Stones to Modest Mouse and from Neil Diamond to Johnny Cash, and does so with what appears to be effortless finesse. I remember the first time I heard him play, I was in the middle of a conversation when I recognized the opening chords for “Paint it Black” and I thought, “I wonder how he is going to pull this off?” and well, I wouldn’t be writing this if he hadn’t done it and splendidly! I should add that he has a great singing voice and plays a mean ukulele as well. I know, a ukulele, but I promise, you’ll like it. I should probably mention that I really hate Neil Diamond songs, but once everyone in the pub starts joining in with what can only be described as “gusto”, even I am left humming the tune to “Sweet Caroline” and enjoying it, much to my own dismay. My only defense is that it is hard to remain a sour-puss when everyone in the bar, and I mean everyone, fromthe group of kids in the corner who barely look old enough to be out at night, the blue-collar guys, the older hippy couples, the cougars, the players, the hipsters, and the ones you just can’t figure out, is really belting it out and we all know that a little drunken-joy can be contagious. I became curious to learn more about this “Pied Piper” of Alki Beach and set out to ask him a few questions which he was gracious enough to answer.

Photo by Mary Halecki

Photo by Joe Mabel

I wanted to know first of all, what were the most requested songs at the Celtic Swell. After all, the crowd was pretty diverse. According to Justin, the most requested songs are “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” and “Free Bird,” but he hastened to add that he won’t play anything by Journey and don’t get him started on “Freebird”, but I had the feeling that if the tip were big enough, maybe in the triple digits, he could be persuaded. When asked what was the most unusual request he ever received, he responded with, “A Disney song from The Little Mermaid and yeah, with the help of an iPhone, I kind of pulled it off.”

He told me that he has, on more than one occasion, been asked to play the Beatles “In my Life” when someone wanted to dedicate it to their sweetie. I was curious to know if he ever played any of his own, original material there and he stated, “Yes, all the time! Some people will request it, and other times I’ll just throw an original in here and there, something that I’ve been working on to sort of try it out in front of an audience, but mostly they want to hear something familiar.”

Justin plays at a lot of different venues; both solo and with other bands, and I asked him how important location was in influencing his style. His response was, “Well, I try to always be the same ‘me,’ but different places require a different ‘me’ sometimes…and the crowd too, I feed off the energy and the vibe of the crowd, so I try to cater to that and make a good show, and the crowd definitely changes from place to place, even set to set at the same place!”

Following that last statement, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty knowing the energy I entered with was on the mournful and nostalgic side, but I guess on this night he picked up on the more cheerful of this motley group of patrons and together they had me leaving with a case of the “warm and fuzzies,” either that, or it was the whiskey sours. Whichever the case may be, I guarantee that if you walk in to the Celtic Swell on a cold Friday night singing, “Nobody knows…the troubles I’ve seen”, you’ll leave with the optimistic words of Modest Mouse…

“And we’ll all float on OK
Already, we’ll all float on
Now don’t you worry, we’ll all float on
Alright, already, we’ll all float on
Alright, don’t worry, we’ll all float on”

– Mary Halecki

Happy New Year from Juli

Have you ever gone to a Chinese Restaurant and ended the meal with a Fortune Cookie? A fortune cookie is a crisp cookie with a “fortune” wrapped inside. It is a piece of paper with words of wisdom. All my kids love the part as you open the cookie and you find a piece of paper of good fortune. Mine sounded like this: “You will soon bring joy to someone.” Doesn’t that automatically make you feel good? I kept the piece of fortune as a reminder to bring joy to someone.

For this New Year seek for a good fortune or simply eat at a Chinese restaurant and a good fortune will come to you.

Sifu David doing the Horse Stance.

Sifu David doing the Horse Stance.

The Chinese New Year is on January 31, and is the year of the Horse._In Chinese astrology, Horse year is considered a fortunate year that brings luck and good things. Horse is a hero in China because important battles were won due to the power and strength of the Horse.

Have you ever watched Asian martial arts movies or studied Asian Martial Arts?

The horse stance is an important posture in Asian martial arts used for endurance training as well as strengthening the back and leg muscles, tendon strength, and overall feeling and understanding of “feeling grounded.” Sifu David Leong from NW Kungfu and Fitness has the most beautiful horse stance. His fitness studio a great place to start understanding the arts of Martial Arts.
For this year health teachings are to adjust our emotions and to remember not to eat too much for each meal. Horse year is about freedom, returning to nature, and enjoying life and life’s adventures.

Wishing you and your family a safe and prosperous New Year!!

Love, Juli