April 30, 2010

Wasteful Things We Can Live Without

Posted in Cleaning, Health tagged , , , at 7:02 am by Liliana

Clean World

Clean World

Everywhere I look these days, people are coming up with innovative ideas to curb wastefulness.

These are some suggestions I got from Care2 website on healthy living.

A Few of the Wasteful Things We Can Easily Live Without:

  • Tin foil — Use an oven-safe pot.
  • Plastic wrap — Use a glass container with a lid.
  • Disposable cleaning cloths — Use a microfiber cloth or rags that can be washed.
  • Paper towels — Use a cloth towel.
  • Disposable pens — Buy a good pen that only needs the ink well changed.
  • Plastic cutlery — Use silverware.
  • Paper plates — Using dishwashers saves water.
  • Paper or plastic single-use grocery bags — Use reusable tote bags.
  • Packaged fruits and vegetables — Go to the farmers market instead.
  • Individually wrapped snacks — Use a container.
  • Disposable razors — Purchase a razor that only needs the blades changed.
  • Juice boxes — Put juice in a reusable glass container.
  • Disposable diapers — Cloth diapers services are a good option.
  • Plastic cups — Reuse porcelain cups.
  • Bottled water — Install a water filter on your tap or buy a water pitcher with a filter.
  • Electric can openers — How much effort does it take to use the manual one?
  • Single-serving pudding or yogurt cups — Buy a large container of yogurt or make your own pudding.
  • Antibacterial wipes — Wash hands with soap and water instead.
  • Disposable table cloths — Use linen or cotton and wash when needed.
  • Facial tissues — Where did all the handkerchiefs go?

What are some of your solutions to a green, clean and healthy planet?


April 29, 2010

Full House

Posted in Children, Family, Home, Pets tagged , at 7:08 am by Liliana

Busy House

Busy House

Sometime this week, my sister Branka, brother-in-law Joe, niece Nicole, nephew Sasha, and their Siberia Husky Kaya, will be moving into our house.

Joe lost his job in the book industry, and is going back to graduate school to become a high school teacher. They are renting their house out, and moving in with us for about a year. Last night we were laughing about it. I said something like – “Not too many families have done this and lived to tell the tale,” when my husband Jeff stopped me. Always logical, he pointed out that we haven’t lived through this experiment yet; in fact, we are only on the very cusp of starting it.

In any case, it will be interesting, the summer especially. Jeff and I have three children of our own, although Mike and Nena are about to embark on their own adventures. Mike will spend the summer at home, but will be starting law school on the East Coast in the fall. Nena is graduating from college this June and, freshly engaged to a young soul mate named Peter, is planning to move to New Orleans in the fall. They will come to visit, but will mostly spend this summer in our cottage on Lake Michigan. Sam, our youngest, is still in high school and will be home for the next year and a half.

My nephew Sasha is graduating from college together with Nena. He got an impressive community organizing job and will travel and work (who knows where) for the next three years. He will only spend a few weeks with us this summer, and then come for visits. Nicole is starting college this fall (although she still hasn’t made up her mind on where she’s going.) She is taking over Nena’s room for the summer.

Also, we will be having visitors. Mike’s girlfriend Karen will stay with us for a few weeks. Grandparents from Florida will join us to celebrate graduations, engagements, etc. Friends will be coming from Chicago and Alaska.

It is probably impossible for anyone not related to us to keep this family tree straight. To put it simply, summer will be chaos. I myself am not sure who is coming, who is going, and who is staying for how long. But in September, the house will seem awfully quiet. It will be one boy, one dog, and four adults.

April 28, 2010


Posted in Children, Family, Health tagged , , , , , , at 7:56 am by Liliana

Nena (one month old) with her grandmother and her mother

Nena (one month old) with her grandmother and her mother

My mother’s illness was difficult for our entire family. The last year of her life, grandma (or ‘baba’ as everyone called her) had to stay in a nursing home. She was too sick to live with us.

My sister and I (sometimes alone and sometimes with our husbands and children) visited baba almost every day. We took her for walks in the sunshine, we sat with her, we fed her, we washed her and cleaned her room. We got to know all the residents of the home and became friends with the nurses. The children would entertain the patients with piano recitals, various games and cupcakes with afternoon teas.

My daughter Nena remembers her baba’s last year in this poem:


For the last year of her life she only walked:

back and forth across the north wing

of the nursing home, so fast she had to wear

a helmet for the times she fell. Her spine

had bent into a curve, a comma or a question

mark, her teeth would clench and sometimes

spit, the skin peeling away from her lips.

My mother wants to know what I remember

about the time before this—New Year’s

parties, pink hair curlers, mink-fur coats.

And my mother and hers and her sister,

down in the laundry, dying their hair

dark colors in turns. My mother would

sing her old songs until she seemed

to sing along, then, scared, my mother

would stop—what I remember

is how she seemed to lose a way to walk

in this world, how her eyes purpled

with the weight of some other.

They said her feet turned blue days before

she died, that she saw faces pale and white

as asphodel in the space around her.

Poem by Natalia Holtzman

April 27, 2010

The Old House

Posted in Family, Health, Home, Serbia, Traditions, Travel, Women tagged , , , at 6:32 am by Liliana

My mother's village

A view from my mother's village across the Danube

My mother was very sick with Alzheimer’s disease the summer of 2001. Her short term memory was mostly gone, she was restless, frightened, paranoid, and never slept. The only thing she wanted, the only thing she could ask for, was to go back to Serbia. She begged me to take her back, and spent hours standing by the front door with her bag in her hand. I promised that we would go.

It took a while to get our papers in order and our passports ready, and then 9/11 happened. The collective breath of the world came to a standstill. My family, together with everyone else, was in shock, reeling from the tragedy, terrified of what was coming next. My mother was oblivious. She looked at me beseechingly and stood by the door, bag in hand. Despite my family’s misgivings, I bought our plane tickets for November.

My mother’s family comes from a small village in Northern Serbia. No one knows for certain when they settled there, but their last name (Rakic) is mentioned in monastery papers dating back to the 13th century. The family land and the house have been passed from generation to generation – every square meter known and cherished by us all.  Despite my mother’s condition, I couldn’t help but hope that her memory would come back (at least a little) when faced with so much that was precious, beloved and familiar.

After a long and difficult flight, we arrived in Belgrade. My mother’s sister, Angelica, and my cousins waited for us at the airport. They cried when they saw us. My mother’s face was chiseled from stone. She looked at them without recognition, without love, without emotion.

A few days later, we drove the three hours to Banoshtar, the family village. It was an overcast, chilly day and the old house felt cold and abandoned when we arrived. No one lived there anymore; my grandparents had died years ago. Wars during the 90’s in that region and throughout the former Yugoslavia had prevented us from visiting for years. Angelica lived in Belgrade and spent summers in the village, but it was November now, and the house felt dead.

While my aunt got busy lighting the stove and preparing a meal, I took my mother’s hand and led her from room to room. In the middle of the veranda stood the large farm table with the bench under the window, green chairs at either end. Flower pots stood on deep window sills with pink and white geraniums still in bloom. The lace curtains my grandmother had made revealed glimpses of the garden. The huge iron key to the front door hung on the nail next to the copy of Leonardo’s Last Supper. A large woven basket held firewood for the wood-burning stove.

Hand in hand we went to the small front room. The couch had needlepoint pillows that looked like soft burgundy peonies. The old radio sat in its corner. Pictures of various grandchildren hung randomly on the wall by the window. There was one of me as a thirteen year old girl, my bangs severely trimmed. Everyone said that I looked just like Ann Frank. We walked to the middle parlor with the old cherry wardrobe that held my grandmother’s linens and lace. It still held the dowry from her first marriage. In the back room, the huge doctored picture of my uncle and aunt from their wedding day held the most prominent spot. The photographer didn’t do a very good job and the couple looked strange and haunted. Their likenesses still frightened me.

We descended the steep stairs to the great underground cellar. This cellar was as big as the rest of the house. Dozens of huge wine barrels lined the stone walls. There was still wine in them. Herbs, berries and flowers were drying in every corner, while woven baskets of different sizes nestled by the doors.  Jars of jam, honey and tomato sauce stood neatly lined on rough wooden shelves. My grandfather’s hat and field jacket hung on the hook by the door.

I buried my face in that old jacket as the memory of my grandfather overwhelmed me. As I cried, like a child – loudly, tears flowing, my chest heaving with sighs, I thought I could smell my grandfather and feel his presence. I sat on the steps and hugged that jacket, forgetting the world and losing myself in my grief. When I looked up, my mother wasn’t there. Frightened, I ran up the steps and through the house. She stood by the front door, peeking through the glass. She held her bag under her arm and looked at me, ready to go.

April 26, 2010

RepairClinic.com – Advice on Living Green

Posted in appliance parts, Health, Home, Money, RepairClinic.com tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:12 am by Liliana

 Drink Tap Water

Drink Tap Water

Whether going for a walk or taking kids to soccer, many of us habitually reach for a plastic water bottle to take along. Our society seems to be addicted to the availability of a bottle filled with water at all times.  What cost is our environment paying for this convenience?

According to the Earth Policy Institute, transporting bottled water for long distances involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels. Nearly a quarter of all bottled water is transported by boat, train, and truck. In fact, due mainly to packaging and transportation, it costs more to drink bottled water than to put gas in your car – up to five times more.

And this is not the only cost.

The Container Recycling Institute reports that eight out of ten plastic water bottles used in the US are not recycled.  They end up in landfills or as litter in parks and along roads. According to Sierra Club, about 66 million bottles are being disposed of every day!

What can you do?

  • Stop buying bottled water.
  • Use tap water instead – it is healthier and better regulated (local municipalities must comply with strict government standards from the EPA for water purity, while most water bottling companies are regulated by the FDA with  fewer restrictions.)
  • Save money – water bottle companies are charging as much as 300 – 1000 times what that same water would cost if you just turned on your own faucet.
  • Buy a filter – if worried about the purity of your tap water, a water filter will help. Most recently designed refrigerators already have a filter in their water and ice dispensers.

Every person makes a difference. It feels good to do one’s part.

April 25, 2010

Anti-Cancer Challenge

Posted in Cancer, Career, Children, Family, Food, Garden, Health, Home, Women, Work tagged , , , , , at 7:01 am by Liliana



Conner is an American woman who lives with her family in south-western France. She works as a nutritionist, cooking instructor and health writer.

A little more than a month ago, she started an interesting experiment.

In Connor’s words, “I am adhering to an anti-cancer lifestyle for a year comprising a super-healthy diet, daily exercise and restorative sleep. I report here on my successes and struggles with the program and hope to show that it’s possible – and even enjoyable – for a busy person to adopt an anti-cancer lifestyle.”

In this week’s post, Conner gives a progress report of her success thus far. As planned, she has been exercising every day for about thirty minutes. Getting enough sleep, though, has been a challenge. She is busy with work; her children have been on spring break; she has a house to take care of. It’s no wonder she has not always succeeded in sleeping seven hours per night.

But with spring vegetables in season, she has been eating well.

“I have been enjoying daily doses of delicious spring vegetables (crisp asparagus, squeaky spring onions, spicy young carrots, tender spinach, pungent garlic shoots) these last two weeks which has felt invigorating and cleansing. I love coming out of winter and eating fresh spring greens; to me, their emergence from the wintry soil symbolizes hope, vigor and resilience.”

Read Connor’s blog and keep up with her progress.

Best wishes to her for a very healthy and successful year!

April 24, 2010

Fresh Strawberries

Posted in Food, Health, Home, Recipes tagged , , , , , , at 7:31 am by Liliana

Fresh Strawberries

Fresh Strawberries

Strawberries, the most popular berries in the world, are abundant in stores and markets at this time of year. They are delicious, sweet, inexpensive and very healthy.

Strawberries are a highly nutritious fruit and contain a large number of vitamins and minerals that contribute to a balanced, healthy diet.

One cup of sliced fresh strawberries has:

  • Calories  – 50
  • Protein  – 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates  – 11.65 grams
  • Dietary Fiber  – 3.81 grams
  • Calcium – 23.24 mg
  • Iron  – 0.63 mg
  • Magnesium  – 16.60 mg
  • Phosphorus  – 31.54 mg
  • Potassium – 44.82 mg
  • Selenium – 1.16 mg
  • Vitamin C  – 94.12 mg
  • Foliate  – 29.38 mcg
  • Vitamin – A 44.82 IU

A Few Serving Ideas:

  • Add sliced strawberries to a green salad and top with goat or blue cheese.
  • Make an elegant parfait by layering sliced strawberries, blueberries and plain yogurt in a fancy glass.
  • Serve chopped strawberries as a topping for waffles and pancakes. Mix with cinnamon, lemon juice and maple syrup for a delicious combination.
  • Add strawberries to your fruit smoothies.
  • Melt some dark chocolate and make chocolate covered strawberries.

April 23, 2010

Building a Raised Garden Bed

Posted in Food, Garden, Health, Home, Money tagged , , , at 7:03 am by Liliana

Raised Garden Bed

Raised Garden Bed

Growing fresh herbs and vegetables provides a wonderful sense of pleasure and accomplishment for many people. By planting your own garden, you can save money as well as grow produce that cannot compare in taste or freshness with vegetables bought at supermarkets. It is a wonderful feeling to walk out of your kitchen and pick fresh tomatoes for your salad. Or fresh parsley for your soup. Or some berries to go with your yogurt.

Raised garden beds are easy to make, plant and maintain. Here is a short lesson on how to go about building your own.

Decide how big you want your garden to be. If you are unsure, start with a 4×4-foot square.  It is a manageable size and easy to reach on all sides. Then level the ground by raking it so that your raised bed will lie flat.

The supplies you will need are: four one-foot-long 4x4s for the corner posts; four four-foot-long 2x6s for the side rails; and four two-foot-long 2x2s for the center stakes.

Once you have your supplies, position your 4x4s at each corner of the square. Then align your first 2×6 to a corner  post. Line up the next 2×6 at a right angle to first. The ends of the 2×6 boards should be level. Make sure the rails form a right angle by using an angle-square. Then screw the two side rails to the post, making sure that the ends of the rails are even with the sides of the posts. Check again to be sure that the frame is square. To make your frame sturdy, place the four 2×2’s at the middle points of the outside walls. Pound them into the ground until they are level with the sides of the bed. Fasten each stake with a screw.

Fill your raised bed with rich, black topsoil and mix in some compost or peat moss, You are now ready to plant.

April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Posted in Weather tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:27 am by Liliana

Earth Day 2010

On the official Earth Day website, these were some of the suggestions people sent for helping take care of our planet:

  • I will not litter and I will help the environment.
  • I want to use recycled papers rather than new ones so I can save a tree from being cut.
  • I pledge to recycle and be as energy-efficient as possible.
  • We recycle, use canvas shopping bags and garden organically.
  • I will take shorter showers and use a water-saving shower head.
  • I will walk, ride my bike, and take public transportation instead of driving.
  • I will use a reusable water bottle and bring a mug to the coffee shop.
  • I’ll be sending this message to all my students and save more energy.
  • I will bring my own bags to the grocery store.
  • I will pay my bills online instead of receiving bills in the mail.
  • Drying clothes on a rack instead of in the drying machine.
  • I’m becoming a Vegetarian today!
  • My four-year-old sister and I are growing beans to add green to our Earth.
  • I will call the local utility company and check if they offer a green energy program to power homes with wind and solar.
  • I will organize a clean-up in my school and pick up litter whenever I see it.
  • I will remember to turn off the lights in my office every time I leave it.
  • My class will be planting trees and vegetables around our school.
  • I will use the stairs for up to 5 flights.
  • I will work against destruction of forests in India.
  • I will use rainwater in my vegetable garden.
  • I will pick up the trash on the beach.
  • I will use all natural products with no chemicals.
  • I am going to make a butterfly garden.
  • I will grow a tree…

What will you do? Send us your ideas!

April 21, 2010

Migraine Headaches

Posted in Breast Cancer, Health, Weather, Women tagged , , , , at 7:03 am by Liliana

Migraine Headaches

Migraine Headaches

I get migraine headaches.

From childhood I have suffered from headaches, but migraines are in a different category altogether. Four years ago, after my breast cancer treatments ended, my oncologist advised me to take Arimidex, a drug that lowers estrogen levels, and, we hope, will help keep the cancer at bay. One of the side effects of Arimidex is migraines.

Spring seems to be an especially opportune time for migraines. I am convinced that changes in barometric pressures and temperature are the main culprits. But there are many others. A glass of red wine, eating a few walnuts or a piece of cheese, working too hard. Worrying and stressing can also take me over the edge.

Sometimes I wake up with a migraine headache and I feel dazed, my mind cloudy and unclear. My jaw is tight, and I feel like I have been grinding stones with my teeth. My temples hurt. The top of my head aches. I have trouble concentrating. Noise is amplified and gives me pain. Light makes me wince. My teeth hurt. My hair hurts. My shoulders are stiff. And when things get really bad, I feel faint, dizzy and nauseous. My eyes hurt.  I get double vision and shapes start dissolving and dancing on the sides of my eyes.

The only medicine I am allowed to take is ibuprofen. To take anything else would increase estrogen levels and undermine the effects of Arimidex. Most of the time, I wait and hope against hope that the headache will go away on its own. It never does. If I am at work and realize that the point of no return is coming, I make a decision to go home. I have to be careful not to wait too long because sometimes my vision is so bad that I have trouble driving.

Once home, I darken my bedroom, cover my head with my comforter and go to sleep. Sometimes I sleep 3-4 hours at a time. When I wake up, the migraine has usually receded  deeply within my head. Although not gone, it is mostly controllable at this point. But it will follow me like an evil shadow for the next three or four days and try to resurface again. It is a battle. Sometime I win, sometimes the shadow.

To my subscribers: I accidentally sent this posting out last Monday. I was writing it while I had a migraine and instead of pressing ‘save’ I pressed ‘publish.’ Sorry about that!

Next page