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I’ve written quite a bit about Chop of course. “The Chop Concept” took off like a kite and flocks all over the world are eating better. And that’s very cool. It makes me feel good to have helped put this concept in the front and center of aviculture and into the hands of families with parrots. Go Chop!

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But I wasn’t done. I wanted to come up with another way of delivering a nice nutritional boost to our feathered companions. As a kid who had two parents with careers, I grew up being quite well-acquainted with the humble casserole. Ten minutes to assemble, an hour to bake and you’re good for a couple of days. Macaroni and cheese, macaroni, tomato and ground beef, tuna noodle, well the list is endless.

Well, thinking about that got me thinking about possibilities. How about a casserole for parrots? Why not? It’s a casserole. It’s no muss, no fuss and unlike Chop, the only thing you have to clean when all is said and done is a large spoon and a casserole dish after you’re done baking it. This led me to the idea of “Grain Bake.”

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Grain Bake

But I wanted to do something more. Something that was easy to prepare, flexible and wasn’t a complete and total pain in the butt to prepare and didn’t make a mess. I began thinking of another way of delivering some great nutrition and to add a little variety to their diet.  There’s a million “Bird Bread” recipes out there. And most of them begin with a base of corn meal. Some people use Jiffy mix, but if you’ve ever read the ingredients in a box of that stuff, you’d never eat it yourself, let alone make it for your birds.

But birds seem to like bread.

My Greys like toast. But white bread toast sort of bites because it really has very little nutrition. So, how can we make a bread for them that isn’t loaded with a bunch of crap that isn’t healthy? Well, here it is:  “Birdie Biscotti.” If you’re unfamiliar with biscotti, here is what biscotti for humans looks like:

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It’s kind of a cross between a cookie and a biscuit. I’ve made them before. You make the bread dough and bake it. Then you have to slice the loaf and bake it again.  They’re tasty little suckers and very crunchy. I was trying to figure out a way to make a bird bread that was healthy and tasty and toastable.

First loaf

 My first loaf of experimental Birdie Biscotti before baking.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup  Hemp seeds

1/2 cup milk thistle seeds

½ cup  flax seeds

½ cup slivered and toasted almonds

A handful of walnut pieces

1 ½ cups rolled oats

2 Tbsp. chia seeds

4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)

3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil

1 ½ cups  water

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix throughly. Put batter into a loaf pan greased with coconut oil. Smooth the top and ensure it ‘s evenly distributed in the load pan. Let it sit around for at least 2 hours, preferably longer or overnight. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove loaf from the pan and place it either on a cookie sheet upside down or directly onto the rack and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes. Remove your biscotti loaf from the oven and let it cool thoroughly before slicing, and baking again to make it crisp or serve as is. Slice before freezing.  You can always toast it as well. Here is the finished loaf after baking. Birdie Biscotti

It’s just the basic recipe and it’s a bit bland. Feel free to add flavorings like cinnamon, orange extract, dried fruit or other stuff to jazz it up. If you make it just as is, it’s not particularly exciting. So you have to play with it a bit to customize it to your flock’s preferences. But this recipe will indeed get you started. There’s no Jiffy Mix BS with this recipe and it’s loaded with roughage. Give it a whirl!

 

 

Hell. And Back.

IMG_3264Parker and Bill. He lounges a while before getting up.

I hit a snag and had to delete the original posting of this piece. Here it is in its entirety. 

I’ve had a tough year. And the last 4 months have been hell. (You can read what part of it has been like here: Life…Interrupted. You can read the rest of it here: Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down.”)

However, it hasn’t been as tough as it is for some people in the world. I get that. Life isn’t fair. Overall, in the big picture, it has been pretty good to me. I have had a great career flying. I’ve been places and seen things that the “Suburbia Set” will never see. I gave up a lot to do it, but it was what I chose.

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I didn’t want to do what everyone else did. I know I keep beating up this thought, but I am so mystified that my peers accepted the status quo and didn’t think beyond the picket fence.

We all make choices. I certainly did. My flying career cemented some habits that still live with me. I had two appointments today and I was ten minutes early for both. I also noticed that they were both ten minutes late. Perhaps I’m obsessive. But that’s just my way.

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I’ve had an awful year full of death, a concussion, sickness, and insecurity. And while I tried to remain strong and keep going, it finally got to me. Something had to give and it did. The dam finally broke and I had to deal with what I had been through. When my primary care physician heard the litany of crap that happened to me, he said, “Well, the CPR event would have thrown you under the bus alone, never mind the rest of the shit you went through.”
And despite all of the heartache, pain, despair, depression, and bullshit I went through, there was one thing that got me going in the morning, One thing I got out of bed for: My flock of three Greys. I got out of bed for them every morning. I prepared their dishes every day for them. I cleaned their cages, washed the floor and spent time with them.

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They kept me going. Why? Because they meant something to me. I was responsible for them. Despite the LeBrea Tar Pit I was mentally stuck in, I rolled out of bed in the morning and took care of my flock. I had to.

A close friend who deals with depression and has for years, helped me tremendously. She understood not only what I was going through, she understood the pain and ache in my chest and the “shattered glass” feeling in my throat.

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 She told me, “Thank God for my birds. Sometimes it was the only thing that kept me going.”  Spoken like a true expert. She’s been in those trenches of the Tar Pit. Despite everything, I made it back into the sunshine. It took some time and a lot of energy, but I began making sense of everything and slowly, but surely came out of the tar pit.

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Many of you might wonder what happened that helped me turn the corner. Well, it was a lightning bolt of sorts. I finally, emotionally accepted something that I intellectually got, but couldn’t wrap my brain around:

It’s not my fault. 

None of it was my fault. None of it. Once I got that, the clouds went away and things became shiny again. I  understood that I was not responsible for those deaths, I couldn’t have done CPR any better because my friend, Kent made it to the hospital alive and lived 2 more days. I couldn’t have prevented my brother’s passing, Silvia’s passing, my cousin’s passing and I certainly couldn’t have done anything about the myriad of other events that occured this last year. They simply happened. And many of them happened to me. I didn’t cause them, I couldn’t control them and sure as hell couldn’t cure them. It’s just the way things go down sometimes. And so it goes. I can’t say I am better for the experience. But I sure as hell learned a lot. And one of the things I learned is that when you do something you love and you have good friends, you can damn near get through anything.

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Photo: Courtesy of Janet Holt Hilton

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This is Terri Holt with her sister. Teri lost her sister to breast cancer.

“After losing her sister to breast cancer in 1999, a routine mammogram screening revealed a small tumor in the milk duct of the breast. Without thinking twice she decided to have a bi-lateral mastectomy to remove both breast. A brave decision on her part to save her life and her family more heartache. In memory of her sister, she would love to be part of The Survivors Parade. Ten years later she remains cancer free! Breast and ovarian cancer has affected our family in many ways. This is a chance for her to pay tribute to family and friends that have lost their battle to cancer.”

I am asking that you go to the following link and vote for Terri. It’s an easy vote with no registration required. One click and you’re done. While I realize this isn’t normal for Parrot Nation, this is a Flight Attendant family and her wish is so simple: She just wants to honor her sister by marching in a parade. You can vote every day. Please help if you have a moment. Voting ends at the end of the month which is soon. I thank you so much.

                                                                      Please Click here: Survivors Parade

 

Life occasionally has a way of suddenly grabbing you by the scruff of the neck and shaking you like a puppy shakes a toy. Everything is going along just swimmingly and then stuff happens that makes you aware once again how little control you have over what happens, or is meant to be.

Things were going along right on track for me. I was doing my cleaning/organizing/de-cluttering thing. I was due to return to flying after my vacation and was just getting errands done and working on those pesky little projects one never gets to. In a previous post, I talked about how freakin’ miserable 2013 was for me as well as for quite a few of my friends:

  “2013: Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down”

Unfortunately for me, 2013’s curse has bled into this year as well.

February 6th rocked my world when I had to perform CPR on a friend while visiting him the day after he got out of the hospital. I managed to keep Kent going until the paramedics arrived and took over. The emergency room managed to get his heart started again and he was put on a ventilator. He lived another 48 hours until complications finally took him. Took a week to get my back, shoulders, triceps and abdomen to stop hurting from doing chest compressions by myself for about six minutes until the paramedics arrived. Took me a couple of weeks to get over the shock and stress of the incident.

And by the way, if you don’t know CPR, learn it. You can start here:

Unfortunately, this “Curse of 2013″ thing reared up again when my big brother died late Wednesday evening. We were close and he was my best friend for decades. Naturally, I am depressed about this and really don’t want to go into details about the entire situation, but chronicling the events of the last 20 years regarding my brother, his family and the entire mess would read like something out of a script for a bad reality TV show combined with a soap opera.

I couldn’t possibly write the script or make it up. Suffice it to say, it was like a bad traffic accident in slow motion and I chose to hide my eyes. I didn’t cause it, couldn’t control it and couldn’t cure it. So I stepped away from it.

 I found it distasteful, disrespectful and undignified. So I just never discussed it.  I’ve always been a little short in the human family department as we were never really prolific when it came to bringing children into the world. As it now stands, I’m pretty much down to 1 cousin.

I’m holding my own with caring for my three Greys, so not to worry about that. I’m just not real happy at the moment as you can imagine. My flock senses it and get upset every time I get on the phone. I guess they sense the sound of stress in my voice when I’m talking. So I’ve tried to be conscious of this and I’m trying to modulate it when I’m having a conversation. This isn’t easy as I’ve had to make some pretty hairy phone calls.

I’ll be okay. I have to. We all have to deal with stuff like this. What choice do we have when we’re up against the crap life throws at us? We all go on. And I will go on, too. Just as soon as I get out from the mental state not unlike being in a pre-natal position and under an electric blanket that’s turned up to 9.

All I know is that while it may be true that, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” it sure as hell is hard to go through. But I think that this “having to be strong” jazz is sometimes highly overrated. Because it’s tough. Really tough.

I guess that’s where time enters the picture. It helps. It heals. It gives you perspective. So if there is any reason at all to look forward to the future, it’s knowing that eventually, I’ll feel better.  In the meantime, well, just getting through the day is a big job at the moment. But my Greys and I will be okay. It will just take some time.

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It’s true. And doing this has not been easy for me. It’s strenuous, it’s emotionally taxing and it is a complete reversal of what I was taught: being thrifty, not wasting anything. Reusing, saving, repurposing, hanging onto things in case you need them later.

We’re taught to consume. We’re conditioned that bigger is better, more is magic and a that excess is success. Well, I’m trying to break out of that. I want order in my life. For lack of a better way of explaining it, I’ll do it visually.

If you weren’t around in the 60’s and 70’s, this is what a typical stereo system looked like:

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And you can’t even see the speakers in this shot which typically took up floor space. And of course you had all of those vinyl records and reel-to-reel tapes you had to store. That’s a lot of  stuff. It takes up a lot of space. And it’s heavy as hell.

And this is what a set-up looks like now with tons more data:

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It’s an iPod dock by Klipsch. The dimensions on this are: 4.75 x 12 x 4.625. It weighs four pounds.

I guess what I’m trying to explain visually is that bigger is by no means better. And it isn’t necessarily true that everything is getting “Bigger and Better.” Because it isn’t. Some of it, like technology, is getting smaller.

In a way, I want my home to be in spirit like that Klipsch dock: It does what it is designed to do and it does it well. It doesn’t do anything more, or anything less. If functions perfectly. Another example in spirit would be this Kohler faucet commercial. I happen to love the simplicity of this ad and the expectation the woman had of the architect:

As strange as my references might be, they do hold a basic truth: In order to bring simplicity and clarity into your living space, you have to get what is not simple and what is not clear right out the door. Everything you keep in your life needs functionality.

Okay, so let’s cut the crap and look at the definition of “Functionality”:

“The quality of being suited to serve a purpose well; practicality.”

That is something I didn’t create very well in my living space. I get that. And I also understand that this is a skill I have to learn. And believe me, I’m not only trying to change my living space; I’m trying to change the way I think about my living space and the stuff it contains. And as I said, nobody said this was going to be all skittles and beer.

I am by no means an expert. I am just chronicling my experience of doing it on my own. And no, it’s not a “journey” or a “path to enlightenment.” It’s not a voyage or an odyssey.

I just want a really clean and orderly home. And I want a home that is easy to keep that way. I want space.

And I know that I have to change the way I look at “stuff” in order to get it that way and keep it that way.

I know roughly what my goal is. I know where I want my place to be in a couple of months. And I’m trying to perform not only the external work of editing my possessions, I’m doing the internal work of trying to change the way I think about possessions. I want fewer possessions. And the possessions I keep need to serve a purpose.

So many people think they need “more.” Maybe the true trick to this is to think about wanting what is “needed.” Because  if you have that, “more” is simply uncomfortable.

Photo on January-27-14 at 7.04 PM #2This is why.

It’s simple: It’s about time. It’s about space. It’s about peace of mind. It’s about getting it clean and orderly and getting more elbow room. It’s about creating space for not only you but creating time for you to spend with the flock. They are important enough to make time and space for.

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Unless they would prefer that you use your time filtering through your stuff to find the stuff that you need, you are better off with an efficient and streamlined life.

Personally, I think your birds would want to have you spend time with them rather than plowing through stuff you don’t use trying to find something in the back of your closet that you do need.

I know, I know.  All of your stuff seems important. It all looks valuable. And it is. Until you get it out of your home. That is when you will never remember you owned that damned pair of pants that never fit right anyway. Give yourself some space. Give your flock some space.

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This space gives you a gift: The gift of time. You need this mantra when you are going through this process:  “I don’t need it.”

Say it: I don’t need it. And to be honest, you probably don’t. You really don’t. You may want it. You may like it. But be honest. How many sweatshirts do you really wear? How many T-shirts do you need?

Please realize something: This is what washing machines are for. They wash the clothes you own. They recycle dirty clothes back into clean clothing. Most of us do this at least once every couple of weeks. At least. So please. Think about this. You simply don’t need 50 T-shirts. You just don’t.

Yeah, I know. It’s hard. I have sentimental T-shirts and sweatshirts. I love them. Some I am so very proud of! But good God, get rid of the ones that are shredded due to your parrot. Get over it already. Move on! It’s a piece of cotton with some graphics on it.

It’s simple really. You may like it. You might really love it. But if it serves no purpose, if you haven’t worn it, used it, if it’s broken or cracked or if it is stuck in the back of a closet or in the attic and hasn’t seen the light of day in years, there is simply no reason to own it anymore. It’s taking up valuable space in your life.

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What is more valuable than time? Some people want to do the Ebay thing. Some think they are going to make a fortune on a yard sale. Well, I’ve done the yard sale thing.  And it wasn’t worth the hassle, the time and the energy. Give it to your favorite charity and move on. Take the damned tax deduction and simplify your life. Make it easy on yourself.

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Because I can tell you this: The time and energy you save is worth more than the measly couple of hundred bucks you might make on some yard sale.

Be quick about it. Just put it in the donation bag. It isn’t a friend, an old buddy or anything to get wistful about.

And if it has a tag on it, especially if it has a tag on it and you haven’t worn it within a reasonable amount of time, get rid of it. It is no longer worth the value stated on the tag. It was simply a mistake and you do not have to live with this mistake. Forgive yourself and move on.

I never just go shopping simply because there is a sale going on. I shop for clothes when I have an immediate need for something. And if I need it immediately, it means that tag is coming right off because I bought it to wear, not to hang in my closet and admire. I do not collect clothing. I wear it.

I have an absolutely gorgeous jacket I bought around eight years ago. It’s a black jacket that comes to my waist. It has lots of tucks, pleats and tiny stitching in brown thread. It’s stunning and looks really nice on me. Doesn’t look much on the hanger, but trust me.

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 It also cost me a fortune. The thing is, I’ve worn it over and over. And over. I’ve gotten the cost-per-wearing factor on this jacket down to next to nothing.

It’s comfortable, gorgeous, timeless and classic. I’ve had it all of this time and I have worn it dozens of times. It’s good quality and it has an ageless and enduring cut. It will never go out of style. It is the “Little Black Dress” of jackets. And to me, that jacket is the kind of piece you want in your closet. In this “disposable society,” some of these timeless pieces will save you money and space.

Shop mindfully for quality, shop when you need something and shop for things that are classic. You can accessorize them and change their look. If you keep that in the forefront of what you need, in the long run, you will save not only money but time and space. And isn’t that what this is about?

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1000 pounds. That’s a lot of stuff. At least it sounds that way. But I think it’s easily achieved if I include the heavy items like furniture, pots, pans, tools, cast iron cookware, bags and bags of clothing, paper, glassware, china, coffee mugs and  other assorted crap I never used but for some reason kept in my space. Why I shared it for so long with these items is pretty clear: It never occurred to me that I should get it out.

I don’t need 15 coffee cups. I don’t use 12 pieces of cast iron cookware. It simply isn’t necessary and I chose not to live with it anymore.

I must have turned a blind eye to it and just lived with it. Well, no more.

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I cleaned out my bedroom yesterday and today.  I made a bad decision almost 2 decades ago by choosing form over function.

Years ago, I bought a fairly large bed frame and dresser.  Furniture looks smaller in the store in such a large space. I didn’t realize how big it was until it was delivered and I tried to move around the bed in my bedroom.

While I liked the look of it, I didn’t realize I would be repeatedly banging into the sharp corner of the top rail of the footboard and bruising myself.

I did this repeatedly over the years, badly bruising my upper thigh in the same damned place, over and over. If I did it once, I must have done this 30 times leaving a big bruise that got ugly. I’d had about enough of this.

 I offered it to one of the guys doing construction on the building I live in. He came back after work and picked up the frame. The following day he came back for the dresser, queen-sized mattress and box spring which are in perfect shape.

And in thinking about it, with the bedroom furniture included, I’m pretty sure that I have easily surpassed the 1000 pound mark. Of course I’m going to have to replace the bed, mattress and dresser. But I’m getting a full-sized bed instead of a queen, a slimmer bed frame and a smaller dresser. Getting rid of this stuff has had a huge impact on me. It’s made my mind a little easier.

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Having a lot of stuff tends to clutter not only your space but it clutters your mind. I got tired of having to move stuff in order to find something I needed. It took up not only my space but my time.

I couldn’t just decide to use something. First I had to find it. Then I had to move a few things in order to get to it. Then I had to put the other stuff back. This became a pain in the rear end. And I’d about had enough of that.

I’ve realized that there is more possibility in having less than in having more.

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