Monday, January 30, 2012

Spring 2005 Newsletter

I continue to enjoy re-reading my old Email Newsletters as I transfer them over to my blog. In many ways, they are like reading snippets of a diary or a journal, which I have tried to do, over and over, both during sickness and health, always feeling that the process was a 'chore' and what I wrote was uninteresting even to me. True confession time, I have actually thrown away all of these past attempts without even re-reading them. The only way I can think about that lack of desire and pleasure from writing just for myself is that perhaps writing about me, but for you, frees the creative part of my brain by removing some blockages to both the desire and the process.

I don't think that is how most writers, great writers, do their best work, and I would never put myself in their echelon. My writing is certainly not creativity at that level. I think it is simply about service, sharing, action, balance, compassion, kindness...........hoping that something I write will help someone somewhere have a less difficult cancer recovery journey than my own have been.

So I am re-sharing the introduction to my Spring 2005 email newsletter. The full newsletter is available here.
Spring 2005 Greetings from Diana Dyer, MS, RD, author of A Dietitian's Cancer Story.

On April 8, 1997, The Detroit Free Press published an article in which I was interviewed about the impact of nutrition on cancer recovery. It was the first time I had spoken to a reporter, and I thought it would a little article buried in a big newspaper. In a nutshell, I never could have foreseen the multiple opportunities that would subsequently come my way to help other people with their cancer recovery journey after that article was published.

From that “little article”, I recently had the opportunity to speak at The American Society of Breast Surgeons’ annual meeting in Los Angeles. It was an awesome opportunity (in the true sense of the word) to be able to speak to and potentially influence the practice of 1000+ breast surgeons in this country about the importance of nutrition for their patients.

I recently came across this meaningful quotation:
No one could make a greater mistake than he who
did nothing because he could do only a little.
• Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)
We never know how far the ripples of our small actions will spread, but spread they will, just like the ripples that result from throwing a pebble into a lake.

I urge you all to do something “little”, not knowing where it will lead, hoping only that your actions will help someone else with some aspect of their life.

Diana Dyer

As I slowly re-read my two copies of the Tao Teh Ching side-by-side, I find I keep coming back to one particular saying or poem (#8). Of my two copies, the version I prefer is from the 1944 translation by Witter Bynner, which I first read in 1970. I like the softness of the words in this translation, along with the images and the feelings they create for me. 

I'd like to end with a portion of the 8th saying that seems relevant to my thoughts this morning. 
Man at his best, like water,
Serves as he goes along:
Like water he seeks his own level,
The common level of life,
Loves living close to the earth,
Living clear down in his heart,
Loves kinship with his neighbors,
The pick of words that tell the truth, ..........
~~ Laotzu
The curious paradox in my mind this morning is pondering if I am the water, the pebble, the ripple, the thrower of that pebble, or all of the above. 

It started with the courage (and naiveté) to say yes to a reporter for what I thought would be something small, perhaps insignificant. I remember that she even asked me "Are you sure?" This morning I am also pondering if she saw something coming that I did not. :)

I hope all of you will also do something small, knowing the ripples, no matter how small or difficult for you to see even in the beginning, will find their right end, being more than you know, hope, or imagine.

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, January 27, 2012

Slogging through paperwork ends with 'thanks'

Today I must have needed what I would call an 'introvert-type-of-day'. I cannot fully explain why. There were a couple of 'extrovert-type' of things I could and should have done today, but I just could not get myself out the door. I could think about this a bit more, or maybe not, at least not over-think it much.......

I spent the day, the entire day, wading through the piles of paperwork that have been building up on the desk in my part of the room that my husband and I will be using as our joint office at the farm. I have bird feeders right outside those windows, so there is always a bit of happiness to watch, mostly chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays, and downy woodpeckers coming to take their bit of the suet that is always there, even if they have gotten ahead of me and emptied the feeders of sunflower seeds. They were busy today; it was a constant show. Hmmm, I wonder if that might mean there is some snow coming?

When I talk about 'building up', I mean it. I have tried to keep up (or 'retire from' - ha!) a lot of my various professional activities that I do on a national level. Somehow, this does not happen. At least not completely. It must mean that I feel my work is not yet done. I don't get paid for any of this work. I will think about that more.............what am I trying to accomplish? Why?

So I got caught up on paying bills, sending sympathy cards, getting my business's part of our 2011 taxes organized, finalized, filled out, mailed, and ready to hand over to our accountant as part of the home/farm/me package of complexity. In addition, I got my 2012 business files ready.

The bigger job was re-organizing my various medical files and folders, sorting what all happened in 2011, and sending emails off to a couple of doctors to ensure they 'talk' to each other about me. I function as my own 'case manager'. All my doctors understand that is how I operate and how I need them to operate. This is the only part of my life where I know I am 'pushy'. Why? I remember the moment with crystal clarity that I realized my oncologist was not thinking about me 24 hours a day (I can smile about that moment now), so something was sure 'to get lost in translation' if I wasn't paying attention and doing my job to follow-up, follow-up, follow-up on the hundreds if not thousands of details necessary to keep me patched together. :-)

Next I wrote out ALL of the projects I am working on (hmm, just right now I thought of another small one and added it to the list), organized folders for all of these projects, got all the various paperwork and other stray notes/articles/etc into the folder for each project.

Last, I sorted through the checks ready to deposit from various places that sell my books, got the deposit slip ready, and then did all the computer/paperwork to keep track of all the books and money. Here is where my favorite thing finally happened. Finally!

When my books are purchased from The American Institute for Cancer Research (the non-profit organization where I have donated proceeds from my book's sales since 1999), the paperwork they send me identifies those people who have purchased 10 or more copies of my book (discounts are available for larger purchases like this!). I always enjoy taking the time to hand-write a thank you note to these people, thanking them for sharing my vision and mission of funding research focused on nutritional strategies that will optimize the long-term odds for both staying alive and optimizing the quality of life after a cancer diagnosis. (I wish I had the time to write everyone who purchases my book, from anywhere, but I do I hope you read this - I do thank you, too!)

These twin goals are not mutually exclusive, nor should they be ranked in order of priority. They are of equal importance to me, and I hope I speak for the majority of cancer survivors. Extended life of a lower quality is not an acceptable goal for cancer treatments or cancer survivorship.

I have deeply admired the words of John Greden, MD, the Director of The University of Michigan's Depression Center, when he says: "Better but not well is not good enough". I have used those eight words as my foundation and guiding light for the work I have done for cancer survivors. I cannot articulate a more comprehensive or succinct goal, and I still cannot imagine a cancer treatment center that thinks comprehensive cancer care does not include nutritional care from an oncology dietitian as part of its full-court press to try to win the game for each of its patients who trust it for the highest quality care. (Those of you who know me should be able to envision me shaking my head, sighing, even gritting my teeth a bit - now you all can envision that!) 

Which brings me back to my book, all my paperwork, etc. etc.

I envision and am working on my organic farm and in my community toward the day when my book is unnecessary, obsolete, or just a relic of the past because there is so little cancer being diagnosed. I would LOVE to take down my shingle as an 'accidental author', take it out of print and just take that part of what I do off my desk, off my computer, off my plate so to speak. However, with 1.4 million new cancer diagnoses in 2012 (it may even be 1.6 million, I cannot quickly find the 2012 projection) and people still writing me with such lovely and positive things to say about how my book helped them, I just cannot stop updating and reprinting it.

So again, to all of you who have purchased my book, whether one copy or 100 (even more), I thank you. I assure you that I was 'an accidental author', there was no vision, no long-term plan or desire to 'always write a book', no courage, no self-confidence, and no skills, so this book is clearly not 'about me'. This book is about you, for you, and for those people who will still be faced with the bewildering and frightening time of being diagnosed with cancer. Your purchase has and will continue to help AICR fund research to give hope for a very good life after that horrific day.

My hope (and the reason I can smile after doing a day of paperwork) is that my book gives you the information and inspiration you need to be well after cancer, not just better. :-)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

(Thanks, Dr. Greden, for your words and the very important work you are doing to remove the stigma associated with mental illnesses and make wellness the only goal, not being satisfied with just, 'oh well............').

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Dietitian's Cancer Story Newsletter: Winter 2005

Slowly, slowly, slowly, inch by inch, I am reviewing content on my long-standing website, deciding what to keep as I move components over to my blog, what to tweak, and what give the old heave-ho. I have had such pleasure re-reading my past Email newsletters and cannot imagine giving them the toss. I have reprinted the introduction to the Winter 2005 Newsletter in this post, but the entire newsletter can be viewed here.
A Dietitian's Cancer Story Newsletter: Winter 2005

Greetings from Diana Dyer, MS, RD, author of A Dietitian's Cancer Story.

As winter starts to give way to spring, I had the pleasure of visiting the Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the largest temporary indoor butterfly exhibit in the US will open on March 1st. Because I was fortunate to be there early (before the throngs of happy school children, teachers, and families will fill the pathways throughout the exhibit), I was able to focus on more details of the plantings in the conservatory.
I was admiring a large stand of bamboo when I noticed a small plaque with this saying: 
 "It is quite possible to live without meat 
but not without bamboo" 
~~ 11th century Chinese poet Su Shih 
Yes, it is possible to live without meat. In fact the translation for tofu is "meat without bones", and parts of the bamboo plant are used in multiple aspects of Chinese life.

Of special interest to me however is bamboo being considered the Chinese symbol of spiritual fortitude, compromise, and survival as it gracefully bends without breaking. In addition, even more meaningful to me is the beautiful image the bamboo plant conveys for cancer survivors, with our spirits bending but not breaking as we seek and find our individual path on this journey of cancer survivorship to emerge with newly found spiritual fortitude and wisdom.

March 2005 will be the 10-year anniversary of surviving my second breast cancer. As I wait for spring to finally arrive here in the snowy Midwest, I am going to celebrate by growing a bamboo plant indoors, an ever-green symbol of my survival, but even more importantly, my spiritual growth, fortitude, and wisdom.

My hope is that you will also gracefully bend without breaking during the stormy times of your cancer survivorship journey to emerge renewed with life,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD
As I read this old newsletter introduction and approach March of 2012, I realize I am creeping up on the 17th anniversary of my second breast cancer. It has not been 17 years without additional medical problems (some of them have been and continue to be serious), but it is an anniversary without a recurrence of that advanced and aggressive tumor. 
Only yesterday I told a writer who is preparing an upcoming article to be published in USA Today that my oncologist finally told me in 2000, when I reached the 5-year mark past my diagnosis, that he had not expected me to be cancer-free at 2 years after my diagnosis based on various characteristics of my tumors. (Oh wow, blink, blink, swallow hard, deep breath, repeat........that instant is burned into my memory.)
While my oncologist's statement came out of my mouth rather easily during the interview yesterday evening, and I am deeply honored by the fact that he wrote the foreword to my book and now refers ALL of his breast cancer patients to a Registered Dietitian, I realized somewhat later during last night after the interview that I felt quite rattled by that memory. 
Why would that be? I am not fully sure, but I think it may be as simple or complex as knowing how deeply fortunate I have been to still be alive, how fragile life is, how unfair life can be, how hard I have worked (without a break) to recover and live as well as possible after cancer, how many friends, relatives, and millions of other people have died from cancer since my diagnosis in 1995, how grateful I am to have had affordable access to the best medical care available right in my own town, a supportive family, friends, and employer, all of whom loved me and helped get me through that mind-numbing and terrifying time (just for starters).  Sigh........blink, blink.......
I remember looking for a bamboo plant to buy when I wrote that newsletter in 2005. I cannot remember the reason(s) why I got side-tracked and did not get one. So this time, seven years later, I feel I need to re-focus and buy myself a bamboo plant, a physical reminder of all that has happened to me, the bending but not breaking, the compromises, plus the fortitude I have developed and the wisdom I have sought (for myself and others) just since 1995. 
To celebrate both the Chinese New Year (the year of the Water Dragon) and my good fortune to be entering into Year 17 without a local recurrence or metastasis from my second breast cancer or even another new primary cancer, I'm heading to the florist tomorrow to bring a bamboo plant home to our farm to enjoy, honor, and nurture daily. :-)
Again, I hope wherever you are on your cancer survivorship journey, you will join me in celebrating your own 'bending but not breaking' during your challenges. I am celebrating for you, too!
Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Recipe: Garlic Brittle (yes, really!)

The inspiration for this recipe began at a garlic tasting event my husband and I were invited to conduct at The Ugly Mug Cafe and Roastery in Ypsilanti, MI last Fall. Instead of just bringing several varieties of garlic for the attendees to taste, it was requested that we bring several 'food pairings' to compare and contrast in conjunction with the various garlic varieties. So we rounded up several of our remaining garlic varieties that were not already sold out for the year along with several foods, i.e. flavors, to pair with the different garlic varieties. For a guide, we used the book The Flavor Bible, which was introduced to me by Katelyn D, the dietetic intern from Western Michigan University who spent two weeks on our farm in May 2011. 

The foods I remember using (I have a list in my office somewhere!) were Italian parsley, pickled garlic scapes, fennel seeds, chopped almonds, fresh spinach, and cooked beets. The surprise 'hit' for the evening was pairing the tastes of the chopped almonds with garlic, any of the garlic varieties, but the most impressive was our variety Slovenian, which has a smokey flavor. I remember the "wow!", thinking in my head about a new candy bar!

A week later, I was visiting friends in Virginia. We were talking over dinner options for later in the week when my husband would be arriving. Bacon brittle was on the menu. Bacon brittle! I had never heard of such a thing, so why not modify the recipe to also make garlic-almond brittle? 

I am the idea person, so I left for my meetings in DC and came back several days later to find that my friend and my husband (who love to cook together - I wonder if I ever blogged about their Iron Chef cook-off using carrots as the secret ingredient several years ago?) researched the idea, came up with a recipe, and executed it before I got back to their home after my DC meetings were finally done. 

The garlic brittle (and the small bit of bacon brittle I tried - yes I did!) was delicious, so in a weak (but creative) moment, we added making garlic brittle on our farm with us as an auction item on the on-line auction last month for Growing Hope, one of our favorite local non-profit organizations in Ypsilanti, MI. We had hoped that someone from our Garlic Friends Email Newsletter list would be the winner, and in fact, that is what happened! To make it even better, the winning family has a connection to our part of the township. They came over today, bringing their two young sons to share in the event. 

We raised boys, we love boys, my husband took them right under his wing/tutelage, and I hired these two young men to work for us this summer, assuring them that 'weeding is wonderful' and I would weed or harvest or clean garlic right along with them. It was a great afternoon! They went home with lots of garlic brittle, and I assured them that they were always welcome at our farm, without needing to bid on an auction item in the future! 

Here is the recipe we used today, which is different from the one that we first came up with last Fall. I think the variations are endless, and I can see us making this to sell when we have access to a commercial kitchen. In the meantime, you can try it yourself following this easy recipe (no candy thermometer needed). 

Recipe: Garlic Peanut Brittle
Special Note: you must have all your ingredients measured out and waiting prior to starting as there is no time (none!) in between steps for measuring! 

Special Note: our microwave's high level is 800 watts. If yours is higher wattage, you'll have to reduce times but I cannot guide you on how to do this - good luck!


        1 cup white sugar (yes we used this)
        1/2 cup white corn syrup (yikes, we used this, too - please don't tell the entire world!)
        1 cup unsalted peanuts (chop slightly in a food processor)
        1/2 cup pureed roasted garlic (4-6 heads of garlic, depending on size)
        1 tsp salt
        1 teaspoon vanilla
        1 teaspoon butter
        1 teaspoon baking soda


    1. Mix the sugar and corn syrup well in an 8-cup microwaveable dish (It's easier if you have something with a handle on it).
    2. Microwave on high for 3-1/2 minutes, stirring after the first two minutes.
    3. Add peanuts and garlic puree to the sugar/syrup mixture and microwave on high for 4 minutes, stirring at two minute intervals.
    4. Add vanilla and butter, stir, and return to microwave for 1 minute on high.
    5. Remove from microwave and stir in baking soda (it will bubble up here, hence the 8 cup container!!).
    6. QUICKLY pour onto lightly greased cookie sheet or silicon baking mat and cool in fridge (or more quickly on the cold stove top or the cold garage or even the very cold bench on the front porch!) for 15 minutes.
    7. Break apart and store in airtight container.

The roasted garlic adds an intriguing background flavor without overwhelming the peanuts or the sweetness of the brittle itself. I am going to make it again with raw garlic, chopped very fine, with chopped dry roasted almonds. Now that combination is my candy bar vision! 

Enjoy the photos of our garlic brittle making session!

The Garlic Brittle High Bidders!

My husband and his two apprentice chefs!

The two boys stirring in the baking soda and watching the mixture foam - a great food science experiment!

My husband pouring out the very hot finished brittle onto the silicone mat that the Garlic Elf brought us for Christmas. (I guess we were good this year!)

Garlic brittle cooling on the cold part of our stove top. As soon as it stiffened up a bit, we took the mat and the garlic brittle outside and let it cool completely (and quickly) while set on the bench on our front porch (it is a cold  January day in Michigan while I am writing this!). 

The Garlic Brittle Boys breaking up the brittle to take home.

Still breaking up the brittle!

Batch #1 ready to go home. Two batches completely filled these two tins - yum, yum!!

Last night my husband and I watched a movie - shock! We are the most cinema-deficient people on the planet, but we watched Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in It's Complicated. There were so many funny lines in that movie that made me laugh out loud, again and again, but the line that most hit home with me was Meryl Streep (Jane) telling someone that "Fun is definitely under-rated". 

I cannot imagine eating as much garlic brittle as we made today (and our friends took home with them), nor can I imagine that garlic brittle might qualify as a 'health food', but today was fun, and I would do that again in a minute. 

Bring on the FUN! I am ready. :-)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dinner Party: Build your own nachos

We finally getting the boxes unpacked just before Christmas that were just dropped in the living room at our farm home after finally moving there last April, and after having a great time with both sons and one new wife home for Christmas (our other son's new wife is currently doing her doctoral research overseas, thus missed being with us this year), it was finally time to have a dinner party with some of our wonderful friends.

I wanted to invite some friends over before we 'put Christmas away' and wanted to make it simple for me and all of them, too. So I came up with the idea of 'build your own nacho supper'. I think I have confessed on this blog in the past that during ultra-busy times on the farm when we are too tired to cook supper late at night, one of our stand-by dinners is a very simple nacho supper with (relatively) healthy chips, black beans and garlic, roasted sweet potatoes, and home-made salsa as the bare bones of a meal. I usually would add some greens, as much for color on the plate as an added vegetable to this simple and quick supper.

So in some ways I thought 'bingo-easy!' but then I thought, 'oh no, so lame!' However, whew! I then remembered that I invited some of our best friends who were just happy to be together without any 'show' necessary.

We provided the chips, some pulled spicy chicken, some black beans with garlic, and our home-made salsa, asking our friends to bring a topping of their choice to add to the variety of options. I didn't say 'you bring xxxx and then so-and-so will bring yyyyy'. I just let it happen as a true pot-luck.

In addition, i also asked our friends to just bring any left-over holiday treats still hanging around the house to share.

It was GREAT!! What an easy and fun dinner!

There were no duplicates, none at all. Here is what was brought to add to our toppings:
• chopped cabbage and green onions from a local hoop house
• grated organic cheddar cheese
• guacamole (none of us are 100% locavores - avocados are very hard to give up!)
• multiple hot sauces
• roasted sweet potatoes
• caramelized onions
• roasted peppers and onions
• salsa verde
• I'll bet I have forgotten something that was scrumptious!

(Photo: Black beans with Spanish Roja garlic and one Thai chili pepper for a bit of a kick)
(Photo: Nachos and multiple hot sauces)
(Photo: Build it yourself nachos - yum, yum - oh I love good food!)
Desserts included two types of homemade pie: peach and apple (oh wow!), peppermint bark (oh-wow!), roasted almonds (oh-wow!), and some povitica (Italian rolled date-walnut sweet bread - oh wow, oh wow!). I'll bet I forgot something as everything was SO good.

Best of all? Sharing our new home, sharing our farm, sharing food, sharing conversations, being with friends and sharing the evening.

Here is the food blessing I read  before our meal that night:

We eat and we are revived, and we give thanks
to the lives that were ended to nourish our own.
May we merit their sacrifice, and honor
their sparks of holiness
through our deeds of loving kindness.

We give thanks to the Power that makes for a Meeting,
for our table has been a place of dialogue and friendship.

We give thanks to Live.
May we never lose touch with the simple joy and wonder 
of sharing a meal.

~~ Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro (b. 1951)    

Everyone raved about the meal. No one thought it was lame........ (whew!) :-) What would you have brought as a topping? Suggestions?     

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD          

"Pay your farmer or pay the hospital"

The best line this morning from the TEDx-Manhattan talks Changing the Way We Eat, being broadcast live right now (right now is lunch time) on the web (click here).

Here is the entire line-up of speakers for today's big event, which includes two inspirational and empowering speakers from Michigan, Patty Cantrell and Cara Rosaen.

I'm sure the presentations will be archived on the web and as soon as I know that link, I will add it.

In the meantime, if any of you are reading right now and have time to watch (maybe while you are doing something else), it will be time well spent giving you the reasons and tools and inspiration to improve your health and the health of your local community by joining the 'food fight'. :-)

This afternoon we are clearing fallen trees from the paths around the perimeter of our farm and doing a test-run of making garlic brittle. We have made this before (and it is amazing!!), but tomorrow we'll be doing it with the family who was high bidder for this activity at a recent silent auction for Growing Hope in Ypsilanti, MI. Their kids are coming over, too, so we want to make sure we're a little bit prepared! I do always feel as though we are operating right at the edge of controlled chaos, but tomorrow should be a lot of fun. I'll post the recipe and photos later, urging at least some of you to be brave and try it yourself! :-)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, January 20, 2012

Musing......A new word needed

Just musing (and new category for my blog)............

I have two friends who each have had a very recent death in their family, one's husband and the other's mother. Words in our language are so inadequate in these deeply sad and personal situations.

I had already been thinking a lot lately about the inadequacy of our English language and for some reason suddenly remembered that the Inuit have multiple words for snow to convey a combination of unique characteristics to facilitate understanding and communication. That led me to wonder why there isn't a word in our language that combines a person's feeling of sadness and/or a need to apologize (I'm sorry that..........) with thankfulness (Thank you for ...............) without having to choose which to say first, in effect ranking one over the other as a priority.

I can think of several times I could have used this non-existing word when I did not want to have to choose how to start a sentence, in essence starting the conversation and brain down one track versus the other when I really wished for a track in the middle that we could travel together with a common and easier beginning, a meeting of the heart from the first word.

Going from one language to another is never easy either. I am currently reading my two copies of the Tao Teh Ching side by side, each translated by a different person. They are so different, one is soft, one feels harsh. I suppose each will appeal to a different person, depending on their nature, their lens, where they are on a quest.

Thus I will keep contemplating my desire, my quest for a new word that suits my nature and my lens or framework to combine those two deep and essential feelings when communicating.

In the meantime, I send my heart-felt sympathy and empathy to my friends. I have also felt this deep pain from loss and found that knowing death will be a part of my life at some unknown point in the future (from cancer or so many other possible causes) brings the beauty within my life into clearer focus right now.

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Starting over with 'firsts' :-)

Did you notice the new photo at the header of my blog?  :-)

For my readers who are new (meaning you have begun checking into my blog sometime during 2011), you may not know that our dog Kaya died a full year ago in early January 2011. I wrote about my loss a couple of times, but the first one was titled A Day of Firsts, as I wrote about the pain and what I found myself missing in a tribute to her.

It has taken a year, but we finally ready for another dog and are in process of adopting one who is currently living with another family. The name she is coming with is "B" :-) which apparently was shortened from Shelby, her first name, from the first family. We will be her third family, and her 'forever home'.

We may change her name, somehow, at some point, to what we are not sure. She is thought to be half Aussie and half Border Collie and approximately 5 years old.

As you can tell from her first snow portrait she is as cute as can be. She is as smart as they come, as fast and as fluid as the wind, and a jumper and a licker, wanting to be in your lap, at your feet, in your sight. She rips up the stairs and down again to find my husband (the soft touch in the family). :) The beauty of watching a fully-abled dog run and run and run and run is something I could watch (admittedly with a wee bit of envy) all day long.

Her current owners began bringing her over last week for short stays. Today we will be going for the gusto with her first overnight stay.

I picked her up this afternoon (her first time in my mini-van - bounding right up into the back like a gazelle). I never got around to removing Kaya's nose prints on the windows and now there is no need to bother doing that!  I drove right to the pet store to buy "B" her own chewing rope for our home (I didn't have the courage to take her in with me this time) and got back to the car 5 minutes later to see her sitting in the driver's seat (no biggie, Kaya used to do that).

However, I stood at the driver's side door, wondering what she would do when I opened the car door, which I did very very very carefully not knowing if she would bolt out of the door into the parking lot (it was probably not smart of me to not go right home first to observe her instincts and/or past training and/or fears).

Well, even opening the car door very carefully and forcefully easing myself into the car while I thought I was pushing her back, I realized quickly that she had the upper hand in this situation because she had leverage, being on that high seat with strong back legs!

My worst fear was that she would knock me down and then just charge into the parking lot, get hit, get lost, etc etc etc, all before the 'official adoption' papers were signed. As all of these thoughts were racing through my brain, I finally realized that she was doing none of this but instead had her two front legs completely wrapped around me while she was licking my face and licking my face and licking my face top to bottom, around and around and around! What a relief, except I was sopped, smelled like a dog, and I am not joking here, if I had had contacts in my eyes, they would have been long gone!

So I took a deep breath and kept pushing my way in, we both stumbled a bit as she figured out how to move backward, I moved up and in with this big furry dog in my chest with her legs still wrapped around my shoulders, as if we were mismatched dance partners learning new steps from a bad teacher, at least badly chosen music. Except I was laughing, mostly in relief, so thankful she was not in the parking lot. I was also laughing wondering what I looked like, what I smelled like, knowing I had planned on two more quick stops since we were in town before heading back to the farm. That greeting was a first I'll remember for a long time. :-)

We were told that "B" has separation issues. I see that! We'll work on them............. :-) She can feel secure with us.

(Photo: B - snow dog)
(Photo: B - frisbee dog)
(Photo: B - "Let's go slow-pokes!")
More dog updates to follow in 2012! We need to do serious 'boundary training' so she does not head to the hills with the first squirrel or ground hog or deer she sees when she is off-leash. In addition, we need serious and consistent training to help her realize that she is secure with us coming back as we just cannot take her with us to the farmers' markets and other times my husband and I need to be gone together. Finally, assuming that she is an Aussie/Border collie mix, she needs a 'job' to do to help use up her boundless energy, so we will enjoy identifying that and working with her on that. 

With all of this outside work with B, I can see less computer time in my future, although perhaps.... No!  I won't say it, I don't dare say it! I need my sleep. :-) I was going to say maybe I can get by on less sleep (but that did not work so well for me last summer), so instead maybe I can develop 'speed sleeping', whatever that might be. :-)

She does respond to "B", but all name suggestions are within limits and welcome for consideration. :-)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row 
(and lick by lick!)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, January 16, 2012

When a morning changes direction

It is not often that I 'cross-post' from one of my blogs to another. I figure you all know how to navigate between them if/as you are interested in doing so. However, this morning I make an exception to my usual style of 'non-pushiness' because the story I just posted on my least active blog (mea culpa!) is just too inspirational to get lost there. 

Thus, I invite you all to read the new post I just put up on my CancerVictoryGardens blog this morning (New Cancer Victory Garden! January 16, 2012).  I had other things I had planned to do this morning, but after receiving this beautiful and inspirational story from a young woman who found her way to that blog, I just had to first focus on sharing her story with the world and you.

This young cancer survivor's story embodies everything I hoped to accomplish with my CancerVictoryGardens blog. In my note back to her, I asked her to thank her mother who gave her the packet of seeds with the insight of helping her daughter focus on something besides cancer, something of the future, something that would not happen without her daughter's help and hope.

I am reminded of one of my all-time favorite quotes, which I am sure I have used in the past on this blog, too:

"Life begins the day you plant a garden" ~~ Chinese Proverb

Truer words have not been spoken. :-)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow, inch by inch, row by row!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, January 14, 2012

All that is gold does not glitter

Indeed it might be quite unattractive, even ugly, to the uninitiated eye. In the case of the vegetable celeriac (or celery root), one website even suggested that celeriac not only looked like it belonged in the compost pile, but may, in fact, be the CSA vegetable most likely to end up in the compost pile!

In fact, I was so skeptical the first time I saw a pile of these brownish, bumpy, lumpy vegetables on a  market table several years ago that the farmer ended up offering to give one to me, to entice me to try it!  I remember that he was not very informative about how to prepare it, except to say he enjoyed it. His lack of details bemused me :-), but honestly, I could not get anything more helpful out of him that day.

However, I will try most any food once and knew I had oodles of cookbooks (and the internet) to peruse for delicious ideas. From soups to salads, with mashed celeriac in-between, we now look forward to every one we receive during the fall and early winter in our CSA box and have never, never, never put one into the compost pile. :-)

Here is the most recent version of what I made featuring celeriac as the prominent ingredient. My husband's reaction? "Ah, that tastes fresh!" Pretty delicious sensation for early January, I'd say!

Celeriac Root Shredded Salad

2 medium (or 1 large) celeriac root - wash and then carefully peel before shredding with a grater
1 apple - wash and dice into small pieces with peel
1 small white or yellow onion - dice into small pieces
fresh parsley - wash and dry then chop ~ 1/2 cup or more
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled, finely diced
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
Olive oil and rice wine vinaigrette (any vinegar could be used, but I opted for the mildest vinegar I had so the taste of the celeriac could shine through)
Salt and pepper to taste

(Photo: Celeriac root, whole, and washed very well! If I had taken a photo of it cut open, it would have even looked gnarly inside, like there was an outside peel wadded up and inserted into the middle of the root, which is otherwise completely white inside just like a potato! I grated everything after peeling, even the inside brown areas.) 
(Photo: Shredded Celeriac Salad, ready for pretty good eating! The crisp texture of the celeriac holds well for eating the next day. We've never had any left to eat later on during the week!)
Our farmers' market still had some celeriac today, but the 2011 crop is rapidly disappearing from local supplies. I hope you head out to purchase one (or two or three) and come up with a favorite way to use it. In fact, I also hope you try any food new to you and (1) enjoy expanding your comfort circle and (2) even finding a new favorite food! I think both my husband and I would agree that celeriac has earned its way into that highest echelon of favorite foods for us. :-)

I took a quick look into PubMed and found one article that specifically called out celeriac as containing a significant amount of several molecules (called 'bio-active constituents' in the language of the National Institutes of Health) with multiple health-promoting actions (anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, anti-fungal, etc), similar to the other vegetables to which celeriac is related (carrots, parsnips, parsley).

Of course, the article mentions patents and inventions making use of this information. However, here is my advice and plea. Please don't go looking in your favorite natural food store for pills or tinctures that have a 'proprietary formula' that includes these various molecules. Instead, I hope you'll just head down to your farmers' markets (or to the produce section of your favorite grocery store), ask for locally-grown celeriac, and support those farmers who are working as the true front-line health care providers in your own community, first by nurturing the vitally important and incredible (really!) bio-diversity within their own soil and then providing health-promoting and delicious food for you!

Lastly, for all the Tolkien fans out there, here is the rest of the poem that inspired me for today's post title line. I like the imagery in every line, the strength, the depth, the mystery, along with both the ache and the hope conveyed by these few well-chosen words, the gift that poets share with the rest of us. I cannot promise that eating celeriac will lead to the 'crownless again shall be king', but I hope you look at celeriac with new eyes, a knowing smile the next time you see it, and then reach for the gold. :-)

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Let the gratefulness overflow

It is not often that I post a video from the web for my blog's readers to view.  However a good friend sent me this link called Simple Gratitude, and the images and feelings are too beautiful and its messages too inspiring not to share it.

I confess that when I saw that this video was ~10 minutes long, I inwardly groaned a bit, however I believe that your time viewing this video will be well spent or I would not share it on my blog. I think the 10 minutes you'll spend fits with my definition of 'slowing down' :-) and will lead to opening your eyes and heart, drinking it all (life) in, feeling your heart vibrate along with feeling both happiness about and gratefulness for today's gifts no matter what challenges you are experiencing today on your journey. Today is all we have..........

These are lessons worth remembering and even re-learning, today plus each and every unique day.

I have now viewed this video several times. I see more in it each time, which is good practice for opening my eyes, everywhere, with everyone.

I am not a betting woman, but if I were, I would bet everything I own, including my precious life, that you cannot view this video without smiling, without crying, without wanting to see the sun rise tomorrow or the moon illuminating everything during the middle of the night (a fabulous full moon is doing that right now - I have been up during the past few nights just to gaze at it with awe as it is bathing all of our fields with its soft light). In addition, I would bet that you cannot watch this video without wanting to gently touch someone's arm or face, show someone something beautiful they might not have seen before and let someone show you something, too.

Ok, enough from me tonight. I hope you can take the time to watch this, when you can watch without multi-tasking anything else. Soak it in, again and again. Please do not 'speed-view' this video. First let gratefulness bathe every cell in your body and then let your gratefulness 'overflow into blessing all about you.' :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, January 6, 2012

Top Recipes Viewed on this Blog

Here they are - the top recipes viewed on my blog last month. The recipe for Lupini Beans is nearly always near the top - there must not be much on the web that gives people ideas and guidance for how to use this type of bean. However, Red Cabbage Soup surprised me - I'll have to look for some and give it a try again. It sounds like a perfect soup for this time of year! I remember the first time I tried Roasted Garbanzo Beans - I think I nearly ate the entire recipe because they were THAT good!

Lupini Beans

Vegan Lasagna without Tofu

Red Cabbage Soup

Date Pinwheel Cookies

Crockpot Ratatouille

Roasted Garbanzo Beans

We're having friends over to dinner tomorrow night and doing 'build your own nachos' with everyone bringing a potluck of toppings. We're also bringing all of our 'stragglers' of holiday sweets to share, still good to eat but perhaps we are 'sick of' our own! :-)

On Sunday we'll start taking down and packing up our first Christmas at the farm.

And THEN, one day next week (still figuring this out), we will be starting the transition period for (gasp! yes! oo-oo!) a new dog. I'll introduce her later. I get misty-eyed with excitement thinking about bringing her into our home, our life, our love. She first needs boundary training as I will not spend an hour looking for and worrying about my dog 'on the run' as some of my farmer friends have needed to do. I need a dog who will stay right with me when we are outside, doing its various farm 'jobs' within my sight while I do mine.

It's been a year since Kaya died. I also get misty-eyed, still, when thinking about her and while looking at some of her pictures that my sons have posted on their Facebook pages, but at least I no longer burst into tears when I think about her or mention her name. It took a long time to find and take the time to fully grieve for Kaya. We are ready for a new pal, so there will be more dog postings coming up in 2012! :-)

It's 50+ degrees today in SE Michigan!! The bluebirds are chortling their hearts out from the tippy-top of our trees. My husband is off to check the beehives as they should be out flying today, doing their winter cleansing. The bees never had a single day warm enough to do this necessary flight last January. I am off to finally start cleaning out the loft in the barn where we hung and cleaned our garlic. I'll be just in shirtsleeves up there this afternoon because it feels like summer!

Winter will be back in force soon, I am sure. This is Michigan after all! However, we will be making hay while the sun shines - a farmer motto!

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hope in our neck of the woods!

It used to be said that 'local food' would only be a fad because no one in our neck of the woods (and a good deal of the rest of the country) would ever find anything to eat that was grown locally during the 'dark days', i.e., winter and early spring. In fact, to extend this thought process quite a bit, I recently read a comment from a university professor of agriculture economics in which he said 'local foods were nothing to worry about' (hmmm, 'worry about'? I wonder which corporations were his funding source at the time he made this remark?).

Well, guess what? Our area is learning how to grow, produce, and eat locally-grown foods, including all winter long, and enjoy the process and community that is being created along the way. I can't think of anyplace else I would rather be. As someone has said "I have found my tribe". :-)

Well, I guess I have found 'my tribe' also, and our farm was mentioned twice in the following article written by Kim Bayer at, which highlights all the hope that comes with locally grown foods for our section of Michigan.

Worry about? !?!?!? I'm sorry, but I am stuck on that remark! 

For the record, I do not 'worry about' local foods.

Instead, I see hope, energy, spirit, commitment, naturally fertile soil, clean water (and conserved water), clean air, increased bio-diversity, clean food, fair wages and working conditions, new jobs, healthy food and increased access to it, a re-built and more diverse economy in our Great State of Michigan, regional food security, improved food safety, improved health and wealth in our community at large, and I'm sure I am forgetting much I could also add.

Wait, I will add one more thing. I feel love, and I feel loved within this world of local food.

Wait, I will add even one more thing! I see a hopeful future for my children (and all the world's children), a future where cancer and the many other life-sucking and expensive chronic diseases are rare, not the norm as they are now.

Yes, a hopeful future, this is what I am working on, working for, and living for on our farm.

Quoting one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver from her book Animal Dreams:

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for.
The most you can do is live inside that hope,
running down its hallways,
touching the walls on both sides. 

I like that image of living inside of hope, running and jumping like an exuberant child down the hallway touching the walls with happiness. I never did that as a child. It feels wonderful, freeing, perhaps almost intoxicating, to be able to do that now, even if I am not literally 'bouncing off the walls'. :-)

I have finally found that group of feelings while creating our farm. However, I am not suggesting or recommending that the hard work and commitment needed for starting a farm is the only way to find those feelings of happiness, joy, and satisfaction.

I know that all my readers are survivors, not just cancer survivors, but survivors of life's many ways of unfairness, troubles, sadness, and it does not matter if you are young or old or somewhere in-between. However, thankfully, the human spirit is filled with resilience, it is able to keep growing, and life is filled with opportunities for hope and for growth.

Even though I do not consider myself well-read, particularly with fiction, I have read everything Barbara Kingsolver has written, and I have read several of her books more than once. Years ago, I used to have a hope that I would sit down in my airplane seat (back when I was doing so much traveling) and find that she was already settled in to the seat next to mine, back in coach, wearing her blue jeans and boots or high-tops, she was 'up for talking to a fan', and we had a long flight ahead of us! Woohoo! Remembering that simple but unrealistic hope brings happy tears of anticipation to my eyes, just thinking about what a pleasant, and certainly thought-provoking, several hours we would have shared together.

A hope like that might be a definition of a fantasy, as it did not require any planning or effort on my part, with the outcome depending solely on random good luck. However, other hopes can be identified, plans made, work done, step, step, step, rows cultivated, all with the conviction that they are the truth for your life and worth working on, worth the time and effort even if the ultimate dream is not realized in your lifetime. I hope you already have or will find one thing like that, one thing that has lit a fire in you to burn and warm you through the dark days, those you may have now or those that will surely come in the future.

One of my heros is Wes Jackson, founder of The Land Institute in Salinas, Kansas. When it comes to dreams and hopes, there are not many people who are working on something as big as his, which is to develop new perennial grains to become food security for a sustainable future. Here is his way of expressing what I am trying to say:

"If your life's work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you're not thinking big enough."

Worry about local foods? No, I have embraced them, as our new small, local, organic farm is part of our community's larger hope to provide love, peace, and good food for all. Now that's a 'big think', and I am honored to play a small part in this work, this dream, this hope, which is not a fantasy.

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD