Update on The Joy of Less

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tick Season is in Full Swing!

If you live in a deer-infested environment (like Howard County, Maryland), and you have dogs and need to walk them, or just enjoy going for hikes in the woods, you have probably come across a tick or two in the last few weeks. October is one of the months during which ticks are most active.

Yup, April and October. You might be surprised by this. I was. I assumed ticks would be most abundant in the heat of summer, but no. Spring and fall are when they really make an effort to put themselves out there and socialize with their hosts.

This means the threat of Lyme disease goes up during these months. Lyme disease is a very serious, insidious, and even life-threatening disease spread by deer ticks. (These ticks are so ridiculously small, I can't even see them without my glasses!) The scariest thing about it is that it can lurk, hidden, within your body and not show up for days, weeks, months, or even years. But while it is lurking, it can damage your nervous system, including your brain, perhaps permanently.

You may have heard that Lyme disease shows up as a bulls-eye rash around the bite site. This is only true, however, for a very small percentage of infections. Lyme can also present as a flu-like illness, with fever, chills, and overall achiness. This is extremely easy to miss, unless you know already that you were bitten by a tick. You could easily just believe you had the flu. Other symptoms might take months or years to develop--like joint pain that comes and goes, memory loss, even dementia.

As you already know, I get all my information from Facebook. So I thought I'd share another vital tidbit I learned there: Use a lint-roller for catching and removing ticks! It was recommended for use on dogs, but could work on other animals, as well as humans.

I was a little skeptical at first, but a pack of 5 lint-rollers was on sale at Costco for about $10. Might as well give it a shot, I thought. As you might guess, the rollers work best on dogs that are not wet! (Ours are usually pretty damp after a trek through the woods, across the river, etc.) But even on wet fur, the rollers still picked up a few deer ticks this morning! And the rollers work on human clothing, of course. If you're wearing dark colors (which are not recommended when trying to avoid ticks) the link roller is a quick way to pick up any ticks not readily visible.

As soon as you've caught a tick, I recommend removing it from the sticky paper and disposing of it before it can wriggle free, drop off on the floor, and make its getaway. Ticks may not be smart, but they are certainly tricky! And slippery! The tiny buggers are experts at avoiding capture.

In addition to using the lint roller, we apply Frontline to our dogs every 30 days. And we have also vaccinated against Lyme disease. However, all of these precautions do nothing for humans trying to avoid the disease. Keeping the ticks off is the only way to ensure you won't get bitten.

If you know you were bitten by a deer tick, please see your doctor immediately. This is one disease you must take seriously. Antibiotics are necessary for fighting the infection.

If you have experienced Lyme disease, have tips to help others avoid ticks, or anything else you'd like to share, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Parsley Pesto

Basil season is over, at least here in Maryland. Unless you have a pot of it indoors, you are not going to be harvesting anymore of this herb once the heat of summer has past. Parsley, however, is quite a bit tougher than basil. My abundant crop is still looking good, even after a few very cold nights and one frost.

If you don't have any parsley, you could substitute fresh spinach or kale to make this pesto. You won't get the same flavor or the exact same nutrients, though. On the positive side, fresh parsley is available year-round in every grocery store so I doubt you'll have trouble finding some.

Parsley is one of those basics, like salt and pepper, that can add flavor to almost any recipe. I've been spreading my parsley pesto on sandwiches, topping various kinds of salads, and it would be awesome stirred into hot or cold soups as well.

In addition to being delicious, parsley is a nutritional heavyweight. It ranks up there with other superfoods as high in chlorophyll, Vitamin K, C, and A, folate, magnesium, calcium, iron, and numerous antioxidants. Parsley has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors, especially in the lungs, and may protect cells from cancerous growth due to toxic chemicals. Pretty awesome for one little herb.


1 large bunch Italian flat leaf parsley (You can also use curly, but I prefer flat.)
1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I use as much as it takes to make a thick paste.)
1 cup raw walnuts (pine nuts would be delicious also)
1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
3-4 cloves garlic
salt and pepper, to taste

Throw walnuts and pepitas into food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add garlic and pulse some more. Add parsley and drizzle olive oil over the top. Pulse until everything is finely minced and blended into a thick paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE: You can also add parmesan cheese to this pesto if you like. I prefer to keep the cheese separate, and add it only to the dishes which call for cheese. Some people might think this is crazy, and believe EVERY dish calls for cheese. Follow your heart.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chicken Salad with a Twist

When my hubby and I visited Berkeley Springs for our anniversary, we tried a number of restaurants. Our favorite, by far, was Leonard's Fairfax House. The food is an interesting combination of Thai and American. The prices are mostly reasonable, and our meal was spectacularly fresh and delicious.

I tried to replicate the unique chicken salad I had for lunch there. The binding agent was cream cheese instead of mayo. Bits of dried cranberries, apples, and something salty studded the salad. Of course, I had to make my own additions.


1 cup shredded chicken breast meat
6 oz. softened cream cheese (low fat is fine)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup pineapple tidbits
1 apple, chopped
1/4 cup sweet pickles, diced
1 TB sweet pickle liquid (from bread and butter pickles)
4 green onions, sliced
2 strips of cooked bacon, crispy, chopped
1/2 cup shredded coconut
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. If mixture is too stiff, add another drop of liquid from pickle jar. Serve over a bed of spring mix, baby spinach, or arugula. Makes at least 2 heaping servings.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Berkeley Springs

For our 25th wedding anniversary, my hubby and I visited West Virginia. We considered some glitzier destinations, but I am still not much in the mood for flying. And the best thing about Berkeley Springs: only a 90 minutes drive!

We chose a secluded cabin 7 miles south of town for our romantic 3-day vacation. From the hot tub on the deck, we toasted each other with champagne in the evenings and coffee in the mornings. The deck was the perfect spot for viewing the sunset each evening. Although remote, our cabin came with all the high-tech amenities, including wifi and Netflix. We managed to watch the entire first season of Bosch in our 2 nights away! (I'd recommend this series produced by Amazon if you like gritty crime dramas.)

There are a few more things to recommend about visiting this tiny town:

1) Gorgeous views. I always love driving west out I-70. But this time of year, with the leaves turning colors against the rolling hills, the views are especially beautiful. We were lucky as the weather couldn't have been more perfect: sunny, cool, blue skies.

2) Berkeley Springs State Park. Smack dab in the center of town, there are wading pools where children and adults can strip off their shoes and socks and take the waters for free. It was a little chilly for this, so we opted instead for a trip to the onsite spa for a 15 minute soak in a Roman bath followed by a 60 minute massage. The mineral water comes out of the earth at a lukewarm 74F but is heated to about 104F in the baths. Plenty hot! And 15 minutes was definitely long enough! I was slightly dizzy upon exiting the tub, but cooled off during my massage. There is also a Gentleman's Spring where anyone can fill a jug (or several) of fresh spring water to bring home. We captured a couple of gallons ourselves!

3) Leonard's Fairfax House. One thing we learned a little late is that it's best to visit Berkeley Springs on the weekends. We were there from Tuesday-Thursday and many establishments were closed. Not this delightful Thai coffee shop, though! We had a delicious lunch here on Wednesday. My chicken salad was easily the most unique preparation I've ever tasted. It had chunky sweet and salty bits of cranberries, apples, and something that tasted like bacon! The fruit salad on the side was fresh and yummy. My hubby enjoyed his pad thai noodles, also. The staff is friendly, the place is spotless, and they even sell a few homemade crafts in addition to the food.

 (Even the bathroom was pristine and lovely to look at!)

4) Berkeley Castle. Not open to the public for tours, this is a really cool place to snap a few photos. We hiked up the hill from town and wished we could get a glimpse inside.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Low Carb Buffalo Chicken Casserole

You might have seen the video for making this on Facebook. That's where I found the recipe. It's so easy to make, especially if you have leftover chicken.

My husband went to the store to look for "buffalo" sauce, which is one of the ingredients on the video, but couldn't find it. Not sure where he looked, or for how long, because he's a guy. He likes to do the grocery shopping with a stop watch. Eleven minutes is our time limit at Trader Joe's. He rolls his eyes and sighs six hundred times if I want to read the ingredients on a label. Which I do. Always.

So, instead of buffalo sauce, I substituted Tabasco. Since my husband thought this might not be enough liquid, I squirted some ketchup in there, too. Maybe this is a good approximation of buffalo sauce, but I don't actually know. The finished casserole tastes great, not too spicy, and a serving is VERY filling. This is due to the copious amounts of FAT in this recipe.

(If you're worried about fat in your diet, you might have missed all the recent articles on the subject. Turns out the sugar industry lobbied to make fat the culprit--instead of sugar--in causing heart disease. Hence the birth of the low-fat craze which has yet to be completely vanquished. Fat will only make you fat when combined with sugar, i.e. refined carbs. If you restrict carbs sufficiently, you can lose weight easily on a relatively high fat diet.)

Check it out!


1 small head of cauliflower, separated into florets
2-3 TB olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups shredded, cooked chicken
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 TB ketchup
1 TB Tabasco
1/2 cup ranch dressing
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup shredded gouda

Preheat oven to 450F. Place cauliflower florets in 9x13 baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes or until soft and lightly browned. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350F. Mix cream cheese with remaining ingredients, except cheeses. Cover cauliflower with chicken pieces. Spread cream cheese mixture over chicken. Top with a layer of shredded cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes or until bubbly and all cheese is melted. Serve hot. Makes about 6 hearty servings to satisfy 6 lumberjacks after a long day of chopping wood in the freezing cold woods.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Apple Honey Cake for Rosh Hashanah

Happy new year!

In case you're thinking I may have lost my mind, tonight is the start of the Jewish new year. (I may have also lost my mind, but this is unrelated to this post.)

Both apples and honey are traditional foods for this holiday, and both are often used in holiday cakes. I put the two together, as I have recently had great success with a delicious honey banana bread.

Here's wishing you a very sweet new year, filled with joy and blessings.


1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon (I used 2.)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup ground walnuts (I pulsed walnut halves in the food processor until finely ground.)
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 large apple, chopped

Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a 9" pyrex pie pan with coconut oil. Beat melted oil and honey together. Add eggs and mix thoroughly. In a large bowl, stir all dry ingredients together. Pour liquids into dry and mix gently. Add chopped apples and stir to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until done. (Top of cake will spring back when pressed if done.) Let cool completely or serve warm. Makes at least 6 large servings.

Simply Happy by Amy Newmark

Amy Newmark: editor-in-chief of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, full-time mom of four, former hedge fund manager, writer, SUPERWOMAN.

Simply Happy: A Crash Course in Chicken Soup for the Soul Advice and Wisdom is a compilation of stories from many of the Chicken Soup books as seen through the eyes of this woman who has quite literally done it all.

When Amy and her husband Bill purchased the Chicken Soup franchise, Amy took the time (weeks!) to read every single one of the books this company had already published. About 150 volumes in total, each containing 101 true stories written by people just like you and me. (In fact, two of my own true stories have been published in Chicken Soup books since Amy took the helm. When this book came out, Amy offered a free copy to any Chicken Soup author who'd like to publish a blog-based review.)

From these diverse stories, Amy gleaned bits of wisdom that resonated with her own inner knowing, based on the life she led up to this point. And Amy has led quite an interesting life!

How many women do you know who have managed a hedge fund while raising four children in a blended family, working from home, never missing a single field trip, soccer match, or PTA meeting? I'm guessing not too many! Amy's work ethic puts me to shame. I cannot imagine where she found the hours, not to mention the energy, to do it all.

And in the course of this crazy busy life, Amy was able to find meaning in the little things. Each chapter in her book points to one of these small, yet vitally important, snippets of wisdom. Some examples are: "Pretend to be the person you want to be." "Be bold and speak out." "Make friends with your body." "A smile is a boomerang."

Who can benefit from reading this book? Just about anyone. Perhaps some of the stories are aimed more toward women, but certainly not all of them. 

I think this book will appeal in particular to those who can relate to Amy's own personal history. Those superwomen and supermen who lead busy lives and perhaps have missed a few opportunities to stop and smell the chicken soup simmering on the stovetop.