Good to Self, Good to Earth

trying on more healthy ways of being, day by day


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Dance: Traditional, Pow Wow

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This past weekend, I was invited to attend the “Celebrate ABILITIES” pow wow in Houma, Louisiana and it was a truly amazing experience.

This was a relatively small pow wow, especially when compared to the giant gatherings at national celebrations where people come from all over the country to participate and enjoy. This pow wow was clearly put together by a smaller community and was very family-oriented, most of the participants in dance competitions were children and teens.  I look forward to attending one soon that runs on a larger scale, but it was very pleasant to watch the engagement of families in this more closely-knit community gathering.

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There were vendors selling various food items including fry bread tacos (plus, gumbo and snow balls –local staples here in Louisiana). There were also several crafts-people who were selling handmade items from tables off to the side of the drum circle.  It was great getting to speak with them and support some small local businesses.  It is clear that a tremendous amount of care and attention to detail must go into these crafts and costumes and I find it very inspiring.

An announcer opened the celebration with a prayer, including a special thanks for all of the US Veterans.  There was also a ceremonial presentation of a flag which had flown at the twin towers on 9/11 and had been given to the Cheyenne River Veterans for them to preserve and share.  Drumming and singing soon followed and for the next 5 hours there were various displays of dancing which honored not only the ancestors and veterans, but also the young children who were relatively new to the pow wow experience.

Things were winding down a bit as I was leaving around 4pm, but in reality they were only taking a short break before beginning the evening events which I’m sure were just as powerful, if not more.

I would strongly recommend to anyone who is interested that you find and attend a pow wow event.  You can even go to powwows.com to learn more and also to check the calendar for events in various geographical regions!

Have any cool stories from pow wows you’ve been to?  Or thoughts/tips/facts for me in my continuing journey of exploring Native American traditions and cultures?  If so, please comment below! Or you can email me at: goodcommon@gmail.com

photo-challenge: dance

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Veggie Mix-Up Lasagna

 

This is a great recipe because you can change it up in as many ways as you want. If you don’t like some or all of the veggies that I have included here, you can substitute for whatever you do like (I’ll even give some tips on how at the end).

Experimenting with cooking makes it so much more fun –and I always recommend getting your kids/partner/friends involved too!

Non-Negotiable Ingredients:
(unless you want to get really crazy..)
– 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 package lasagna noodles (I use no-boil but I’ve heard it doesn’t matter)
42 oz (2 standard jars) Tomato Sauce – Any “flavor” you like
1 egg
16 oz Ricotta Cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
10 oz fresh Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (1 cup of the shredded stuff from a bag is OK if you can’t find it fresh)

Veggies:
(see below for tips on substitutions)
2 lbs zucchini, thinly sliced into 1/4 inch ribbons
10 oz frozen spinach (thaw and really smush the moisture out)
5 oz frozen corn
1 medium onion, diced
1 Bell Pepper, diced (color of your choice)

Instructions:
– Preheat oven to 375
– Put a large pot of salted water on high to boil
– Thaw and drain frozen spinach (really press the moisture out as much as you can)
– Wash, slice, and dice vegetables and cheeses

– Once the water is boiling, add zucchini strips and blanch (fancy word for ‘boil real quick’) 3 or 4 minutes, stirring gently, until slightly softened and nearing translucence. Carefully remove from water and lay the strips out to dry on paper towels.
– Saute onion and pepper with 1 Tbsp Olive Oil until just barely softened, about 5-7 minutes on medium-high heat. (Feel free to cook longer, I like a little crunch left in mine..)

– In a medium bowl, beat the egg slightly and then stir in ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, drained spinach, corn, peppers and onions, and add some salt and pepper

– In a 9 x 13 inch pan, pour and spread 1 cup of your tomato sauce.
– Cover the sauce with a layer of noodles followed by a layer of 1/4 of your ricotta mixture and then 1/4 of your zucchini strips.
– Repeat this 3 more times: layering 1 cup sauce, noodles, 1/4 ricotta mixture, and 1/4 zucchini.
– Add a final layer of noodles and all the remaining sauce and cover with mozzarella cheese

– Cover with parchment paper and then foil (this keeps your cheese from sticking to the roof!)
– Bake for 30 minutes covered.
– Remove from oven and uncover, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and return to oven for 20 more minutes uncovered.
– Let cool about 10 or 15 minutes before digging in (sorry!)

Tips on Substitutions:
– Get creative!  You can use whatever veggie you want, all you need to do is make sure its going to cook all the way through once its in the oven and isn’t going to release TONS of water and make your lasagna too soggy — don’t worry, its not too complicated.
– Canned and frozen vegetables are great because they often come pre-cooked, all you’ll need to do is drain them well and make sure they are cut in small-enough pieces. (The smaller the pieces, the more you can jam in there!!)
– Fresh veggies can easily be sauteed in a pan or roasted in the oven briefly with a little dab of olive oil, just to soften them up a bit and release some water – you might also squeeze out some extra moisture after you cook them just to be safe.  If you have questions about how to prepare specific veggies for this, just ask me!  I’m happy to help you figure out what needs to be done!
– I want to be able to tell you how many cups of vegetables you should have overall, but I’m really not sure.  My guesstimate would be somewhere between 3-5 cups but as I continue to experiment I will promise to update this recipe. My policy is to always have too much rather than too little because you can always save extra materials for some other future meal.

Suggested Veggies:
Kale
– Black Olives
– Yellow Squash
– Eggplant
– Artichoke hearts
– Garlic
– Green Beans
– Carrots
– Peas
– Winter Squash (acorn, butternut, spaghetti)
– Mushrooms
– Broccoli
– Cauliflower

Any other suggestions?

Have you tried it? I want to hear about your creations!

As I said, please feel free to ask me questions about this – its really hard to write down everything about a recipe that can be played with in so many different ways..

Side note:
I have to give credit to Martha Stewart because so much of the inspiration for this recipe I’m posting comes from her resources.

 

 


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Creating a Succulent Plant Terrarium

This was probably one of the coolest things I have ever made.  Remember making dioramas in school? I always loved those things.  This one is basically like a living diorama and I am very excited about how easy and fun it was to make.

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My boyfriend had this old fish tank just sitting in the garage and I was looking for some way to use it.  I started with a bag of small river-rocks (sort of like a medium sized gravel) as well as a bag of small gravel and a bag of sand.

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I washed everything (tank and rocks) really well with a small amount of dish soap and a lot of water.  I wasn’t exactly sure of how much rocks I would really end up using but I decided just to wash a bunch and figured I could always wash more if I needed it.

I also had a big bag of potting soil which I amended in order to meet the needs of my plants.  I was reading online about how you should really get cactus soil for these types of plants, but I explored further and found some ideas on how to mix up my own batch and see if it works out.  I added a bit of gravel, sand, eggshell powder,and coffee grounds for extra drainage, calcium, and nitrogen.

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This is what my tray of homemade cactus soil looked like once I was done.  I basically just sort of went with my gut in terms of ratios on this.  If you are interested in getting more specific measurements for creating your own cactus soil, you can search and find it online pretty easily (feel free to ask if you want to see the resources I used).

The rest of my ingredients were a mixture of succulent plants and mosses.  A friend had given me two coffee cans with Aloe plants in them that were having babies all over the place so I had spread them out in these shallow trays until I could find permanent homes for them –this terrarium became one fantastic solution.  Then I also had a snake plant which had sprouted a new plant as well and needed some space.  And I went to the store to get a few of these sweet little succulents and a bright red cactus, all of which were already sprouting babies so I knew I’d get some extras out of them too. Finally, I remembered seeing some moss out in the yard and decided I might as well scoop some up and throw it in there too.  You can see I’ve actually got three different types of moss here, hoping that each of them will like it in their new home.

 

Once I had washed all the rocks and the tank, I was ready to start layering the foundation for my terrarium.  I made a layer of larger stones first and then covered that over with some of the small gravel before adding in a layer of sand to support good drainage.  I was interested in having a sort of hilly effect in terms of the terrain in there so I just made some mounds with extra sand.

After that I was able to pour a nice and thick layer of soil over the sand and start sticking my plants into their spots.  I put all of the plants in first and added the moss and a few extra river rocks at the end to sort of fill in the gaps.  My only concern about the moss is that it will require quite a bit more water than the other plants and also quite a bit more shade.  I decided to go ahead with my plans and see how it works out, worst case scenario I can always take the moss out.  Here’s a picture of the finished landscape inside the terrarium.  I will be sure to post again later to show how it has changed over time.

 


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Exploring Southeastern US Tribal Culture

I’ve always been curious about American Indian culture and traditions because I have some ancestral ties to Indigenous North American communities. Within the past year I have been blessed with the privilege of working on some social work research into health disparities and resilience within these communities.

I recently took a trip to Oklahoma to visit some of my family there and was strongly encouraged to take some time to visit the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center in Sulphur.  This is a beautiful campus that is beautifully designed to include various gardens, monuments, and galleries to honor the Chickasaw people and their way of life.

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Here is a photo of the life-size village they have built on their campus, there’s a “sky bridge” 40 feet off the ground so that you can view it from above.  This photo includes the community gathering building (the big one) as well as the traditional summer and winter homes.  All of which you can walk inside of and learn more about their particulars as you tour the village.  Very cool!

All across the campus, many of the plants and trees are marked with name plates and descriptions which provide information on medicinal uses.  This was probably one of my favorite parts as I am just starting to dig a bit deeper into my gardening at home these days.  I just happened to be there for the Three Sisters Festival which honors the beginning of spring and the planting of corn, beans, and squash.

Corn, beans, and squash are said to be watched over by the Three Sisters spirits and they are planted in a particular formation in order that they may support one another’s growth throughout the seasons.  Corn stalks provide shelter and strength for the others, beans lean on the corn stalks for support and also provide important nitrogens for the soil, the squash vines serve as a living mulch barrier to keep the critters from bothering the corn and beans.  I have heard of this before but thought it was so neat that I am going to use this method in my own garden this season.  (I will be sure and post some info on this once I get started.)

To learn more about the Three Sisters Garden method, click on the link below:

Three Sisters Garden Method

I also got to try out some of their traditional foods at the cafe there and they even gave me the recipes!  I’m going to be trying these out soon and will be sure to write about it when I do.

This weekend, (March 19-20) I will be visiting the United Houma Nation, here in Lousiana, for a pow wow and I am very much looking forward to it.  If you see this and are interested in attending, you can click on the following link to get more information.

UHN Pow Wow 3/19-3/20

 


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Lemon Pasta Dominique

My absolute favorite thing to make for pot-lucks and summer picnic parties because it requires very little cooking and you can easily double the recipe.  I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t LOVE this dish and it’s terrific because it can be served hot, at room temperature, or even right out of the fridge!

Cook:
1 lb linguine (or whatever noodle you choose)

Mix in a medium bowl:
½ c Olive Oil
½ c Green Onion – sliced
¼ c Fresh Parsley – chopped
Zest from 1 Lemon
Juice from 2 Lemons (I recommend zesting before juicing..)
Coarsely ground salt and black pepper

Toss cooked pasta, alternating small additions of sauce and:
1 container (or 6 oz) freshly grated Parmesan Cheese


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Chickpea Stew

This is a delicious one-pot stew that my stepmother introduced me to and I just love to make.  It’s got an Indian vibe but it is definitely not too overwhelming when it comes to the curry flavor.  It is not too heavy and has beautiful colors with the golden broth and bright green kale (I will be sure to add a picture next time I make it).

Adds up to about 6-8 servings.

Part I
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 medium onions – thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves – finely minced
2 or 3 celery stalks – thinly sliced
1/4 tsp Curry Powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
Saute, stirring frequently, in a large soup pot until veggies are tender and translucent (about 8-10 mins)

Part II
4 cans chick peas – drained and rinsed well
8 c water
8 tsp “Better than Bouillon” (I prefer vegetable based, but chicken is also fine.)
Add to the pot and simmer for about 5 minutes

Part III
1/2 lb Kale or Collard Greens – coarsely chopped
Add and simmer another 5 minutes


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Putting Garlic in my WHAT?!?

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This is a very…interesting subject for me; I hesitate to write about it for a few obvious reasons, but its a tip that I found that actually worked for me and I feel like I shouldn’t withhold it just because it makes me a little bit uncomfortable to discuss.

I recently found myself in a situation where I was living in a new place and was in between health insurance providers for 1 month.  I also found myself dealing with a yeast infection, something I had never experienced before but I know is very common.

As you may know from the overarching title of my blog, I am always looking for new ways to care for myself that revolves less around medications and chemical products and more around natural/home remedies that can be accessed easily and at a fair price.  Considering the additional fact that I didnt even have health insurance at that time (and because I am quite poor), I was really in a bind and needed to find a way to treat myself.   Without being able to afford a doctor visit I couldn’t know for sure that it was in fact a yeast infection and I couldn’t be sure of what medicine I should be using, not to mention the fact that I couldn’t really afford the $40 OTC medication I had discovered at the pharmacy.

What I decided to do first was quite a bit of research on the internet, I read enough until I was at least 90% sure that I had a yeast infection and I was also pretty sure that I had figured out where it came from.

After that I began some research into possible home remedies and I found a few options but not all of them were as feasible as others for me.  For example, methods that involved slathering my lady-parts in yogurt were immediately moved to my list of last-resorts. It just was not so appealing to me even though I know it is a viable option.  The two options that I settled for were involving tea-tree oil and fresh garlic.

Some folks recommended soaking a tampon in a diluted tea tree oil solution and then inserting it, but this proved to be more difficult than I had imagined.  I ended up using a Q-tip to apply the solution a couple of times a day and used the garlic clove method to get rid of the infection within 5 days.

Check out this link for more info: natural solutions for yeast infections

(Disclaimer: Of course, it may not work for everyone and you may want to see a doctor before you try this.  I do believe in the value of good doctors and I believe that a good one will tell you whether or not natural remedies may work for you.)