Planning the garden

A February pleasure

My daffodils are already blooming! It’s time to plan out the rest of the garden for my backyard. And heck, I need to get some things re-planted in the front. First up: about 15 new bales of pine straw so I can properly edge all the beds in the front yard. And in April I’m digging up those poor dead hydrangeas in the front bed – victims of a zealous over pruning when I didn’t know any better – and replant some beautiful Encore azaleas.

The below plan is NOT to scale – but it gives you the general idea of what I have to work with in my backyard. I’m thinking of an entire bed of green beans (I have four raised beds) because I want to try canning at the end of the season. And I’m still working out where to put all the seeds I’ve bought and will be starting under the grow lamps very soon. In the flower bed at the right – there will be marigolds galore. Oh – I forgot to note the daylilies – they’re on the right just above the Iris.

My garden plan, so far
Cooking · Keto

Keto “faux” potatoes?

Yes, you can!

Ah, the cauliflower. As writer Rod Dreher once said, it’s the “Sansabelt slacks of vegetables” fit only to scoop up dips. But to someone following the Ketogenetic way of eating, the cauliflower is a lifesaver. With just a little prep, you can fool yourself into thinking you’re eating mashed potatoes! Let me show you how my attempt at making Faux Mashed Potatoes – from Suzanne Ryan’s Simply Keto cookbook, turned out. Spoiler: It was delicious.

Measure out your “mash” ingredients (beside cauliflower)

Three cheeses: cream, parmesan, and cheddar.

Time to cook!

Ready for the oven and done

The big finish


Two odes to Keto, courtesy of AI

ChatGPT gets Keto

I’ve been monkeying around with ChatGPT just like everyone else. Even though I swore I wouldn’t use it to write a post, that’s what I’ve ended up doing. Hope you enjoy the crazy stuff the machine came up with!

I thought it would be fun to ask the AI bot about Keto. Then I thought – why not test its poetry skills? Hence, a poem about Keto in the style of Shakespeare.

Oh Keto, fair diet of low-carb might,

With roots so deep, it brings forth new light.

Thou banisheth grains, and sugar's sweet vice,

And bringeth balance to body and spice.

Thy fat doth burn, and energy soars,

With strength and clarity, and health restored.

And though some may scoff, and call it a plight,

Thou standeth firm, as truth in the night.

So here's a toast, to this way of life,

With food so pure, it banishes strife.

And though it may take some effort and care,

Thou wilt reap the reward, so bountiful and fair.

So hold fast to the path, of this noble quest,

And let the journey, to health be blessed.

For Keto, thou art the diet so right,

That brings balance, and joy, both day and night.

Ok, well it rhymed. And scanned fairly well too. But – it really wasn’t the Shakesperean effort I was thinking of; I wanted a sonnet. Remembering that you have to specify EVERYTHING to a computer, I politely requested a sonnet on Keto. And this is what ChatGPT gave me. The machine does enjoy rhyming “strife” and “life.”

When I consider how my body thrives,

With Keto's low-carb, high-fat delight,

I find within my heart a newer life,

And healthier days that banish endless night.

This way of eating, though some may revile,

Is based on science, proven and true,

And brings to me a sense of power so wild,

That I with joy, my journey do pursue.

No longer do I struggle with my weight,

Or suffer from a lack of energy,

For with this diet, I am strong and great,

And feel a sense of clarity, so serene.

So let us celebrate the Keto life,

And all the blessings it brings, free from strife.
Shakespeare on Keto, by DALL-E

It’s WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. As a book lover I’m glad to take part. Here are my answers to the three “W’s”.

What are you currently reading?

I am just starting “Dipped, Stripped & Dead,” by Elise Hyatt (a pen name for Sarah A. Hoyt.) It’s the first in a series featuring Dyce Dare, a clumsy young girl who though she wanted to be a ballerina, ended up refinishing furniture and dumpster diving to supply her business. Then she stumbled over a dead body….

What did you recently finish reading?

I just finished “Beyond Tears: A Mother’s Fight to Save Her Son in Nazi Germany” by Irmgard Litten. This book is heartbreaking – the story of how one man incurred the everlasting enmity of Adolf Hitler by issuing a subpoena to him in 1931, and cross-examining hm on the witness stand in a trial of several SA thugs. Hitler never forgave Hans Litten, and when he came to power, threw him into a succession of concentration camps in 1933. I published my review earlier this week.

What do you think you’ll read next?

After Dipped, Stripped, and Dead I think I’ll be ready to tackle something serious again. But I probably won’t – I’ve been reading so many serious books! I think my next book will be a mystery with some political overtones, set in a farming community. I think I’ll read The Gentleman Farmers.


Book Review: A mother’s hope

Beyond tears, indeed

Today I finished “Beyond Tears: A Mother’s Fight to Save Her Son in Nazi Germany.” Earlier I’d written about how tough it was to read the book, with its vivid descriptions of the tortures Hans Litten had to endure, and the pain his mother went through to even visit. As I continued, though, the spirit of Hans and his mother shone through the suffering. There were many testimonies of his, and her indomitable spirit.


Hans was born to a comfortable, upper-class family in 1903. His father was a monied law professor of good family, his heroic mother a daughter of a long line of pastors. In the depression after the first World War, the family lost their money and Hans, a brilliant student, turned to law studies as a practical career instead of being a scholar. He had a passion for justice and truth. He set up his own practice to defend workers.

Hans came to the attention of not only the Nazis, but Hitler himself early. In 1931, he subpoenaed and questioned Hitler himself on the stand during a case involving Nazi thugs killing three workers on New Year’s Eve. His relentless questioning, forcing Hitler to defend his party, marked him as an enemy of the Fuhrer. Friends urged him to leave Germany, but he simply said: “The millions of workers can’t get out,” he said. “So I must stay here as well.” Immediately after the Reichstag Fire in 1933, Hitler gave orders that Hans was to be taken as a political prisoner, without trial. So began a five-year stay in a succession of prisons and concentration camps – Sonnenburg, Esterwegen, Lichtenburg, Buchenwald, and finally Dachau.

Inspiring others

Throughout the five years of imprisonment, Hans used his brilliance and his care for those who had less made him a comfort to many of his fellow prisoners. After he was assigned to a Jewish prison group, which was given harsher punishment of isolation periods, he’d teach the others literature and philosophy – from the works he had memorized. Fellow prisoners who were pardoned and let out would visit Frau Litten and tell her of how those times in isolation – meant to be a punishment – were some of the most rewarding. When he was allowed parcels from home in the early days, he’d ask for the maximum amount his mother could send – so that he could split them with other prisoners.

…a nation which shivers with dread, a nation degraded to the level of a horde of cowardly slaves or brutish criminals, which has lost all sense of human dignity, all sense of right and wrong, will be incapable of rising in its wrath against a government of bestial gangsters.

– Beyond Tears: A Mother’s Fight to Save Her Son from Nazi Germany

Frau Litten’s courage

The book, written by Frau Litten and published in 1940, is mainly her story. She describes how she went to almost any length in her fight to save her son. She soon learned to shout “Heil Hitler” at any Gestapo officer she was forced to meet, in order to secure quarterly visiting passes. She learned to lie, marveling at her ease in doing so. Working with sympathetic Englishmen and others, she kept pressure on the German government from abroad. She found that some Germans who sold her gifts for her son (when she could send them) wouldn’t accept her money when they heard who was to receive the present. Sadly, she also found that many didn’t want to help, out of fear. She fought against a community “degraded to the level of a horde of slaves… which has lost all sense of human dignity, all sense of right and wrong….”

As I knew from the beginning, the story of Hans ends tragically. Five years of suffering, of maltreatment, beatings, broken bones that were never treated, and unimaginable torment caused Hans to take his own life in February 1938. His mother fought continuously to save him. At the end, she succeeded in giving him a dignified, simple funeral service, the kind Hans would have wanted. And she succeeded in having no Gestapo guards from the camp present at that farewell.

Remembered today

. Over the years, the name of Hans Litten fell between the cracks of history – he defended Communists, so the US wasn’t eager to make a hero of him during the cold war, and since he turned against the young Communist party in Germany, the Soviets didn’t claim him either. Another book, published in 2008, “Crossing Hitler: the Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand” publicized his life, and led to a BBC drama and documentary. In reunified Berlin, the legal association is named in honor of Hans Litten.

Keto · Uncategorized

Keto Progress Report

It’s been a challenge. The newness has worn off, the first bloom of enthusiasm for this way of eating has faded. Now I’m struggling day to day to stay on it. Afternoons are the hardest time – especially when I’m working at the office two days a week. We have a snack cart, and it is so hard to turn that down!

Needed: all the tips and tricks

I got sloppy logging everything I ate in my Atkins tracker last week, and that’s shown. I’m back to writing it all down. I think I need to do better at weighing my food – I bought a beautiful food scale to make it easy; I just have to do it. And if I could get more keto-friendly veggies in my diet, that will be a plus! My lunchbox is my friend: I’m taking lunch to work each day and that is helping.

The good news

The weight is dropping – about a pound to a pound and a half per week. Total lost so far, since December: 15.4 pounds. My clothes feel looser! I’m constantly pulling up my pants. I have to go buy some new jeans soon. Or perhaps shop my closet – I’ve got lots of smaller size clothes squirreled away in boxes, in the hope against hope that one day I would wear them again. Maybe that day is now.

Cooking · Keto

Going to the Devil with Keto…

…with delicious Devilled Eggs

I love devilled eggs for many reasons: 1) they’re delicious 2) I’m a Southern lady and I’ve grown up on these and 3) they’re Keto-friendly! Staying with the ketogenic diet after the first flush of enthusiasm is hard. In my search for snacks I could eat without fear (oh, how I miss popcorn and chips) I found that devilled eggs were a good bet. (And pork rinds, but that’s another story.)

Everyone loves it when you bring devilled eggs to a party. They’re one of the first things to disappear, and you never have to worry about carrying home any leftovers. At one of the Christmas parties last season, I took “Secret Ingredient Stuffed Eggs” from the Taste of Home website. They were delicious, if not exactly keto-friendly; the secret ingredient was mango chutney, along with pecans and goat cheese.

I had to get a picture before they were all gone at the party. The eggs went fast.

Eggs everywhere

When I was looking for more devilled egg recipes (you can never have enough) I found entire blog posts related to the history of devilled eggs. Turns out scholars trace them all the way back to the Romans. While I was out looking, I found other bloggers who were coming up with their own wonderful recipes. I can’t wait to try Bandriachuk’s Devilled Eggs (Harissa Option) from the site “A Runny Egg on Top.” Love that name!

One of my favorite cookbooks, packed full of fun anecdotes, is “Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral. In that book they use the term “Stuffed Eggs” also – and point out that this snack lets you know a funeral is on the way.

Stuffed eggs are associated so closely with death that any time you see the lady of the house getting down the egg plate, you might well ask, “Who died?”

-Being Dead is No Excuse, page 77.

I tried the author’s Sweet Stuffed Eggs (page 81) with the secret ingredient of Durkee’s Famous Sauce. Yum! Another time I was making just ye old standard stuffed eggs with mayo and Dijion mustard. I found out at the last minute I was completely out of paprika for that time-honored topping. But – I had a bottle of Tajin in the cupboard – and soon I had wonderful spicy eggs!

I went light on the Tajin the first time – next time I’ll add a little more.

Slogging through a book

Keep going or put it aside?

The book I’m reading now – Beyond Tears: A Mother’s Fight to Save Her Son in Nazi Germany, by Irmgard Litten, is a wonderful, important book. I’m learning more about the horrors of the Third Reich from a different perspective – that of a mother, trying to save her German son. He was an anti-Nazi lawyer who once subpoenaed and questioned Adolf Hitler! Plus, he was arrested in 1933, the night of the Reichstag Fire. The concentration camps were in operation long before World War II, as he was sent to one.

Two things are making it difficult for me to move quickly through this book. One; I know how it ends, and there is no happy ending. Secondly, it is the sheer heaviness of the book. You feel Mrs. Litten’s despair at her every attempt to see her son, to find out how he is doing, having to be polite and humble to SS and SA officers who she describes vividly. The only light periods so far are the times she thought that his wounds (inflicted from prison torture) were healing, and he was being held in a prison hospital, so he didn’t have to suffer beatings from the guards.

I’m about halfway through now, and reading the pages is emotionally draining. I am pressing on to finish only because I want to find out – did ANY of his peers in the legal community (aside from his loyal secretary) support him? Did anyone in the government or system try to help? So far, every official, every functionary, has denied that anything bad could have happened to him. It is maddening. Surely, there were one or two people who would take the risk to help. So far, there’s only been one.


How many carbs?

Keto surprise

Fish are good for you, right? And seafood – why, that’s practically perfect! Brain food. Good for you! Protein, fats, low-carb – what’s not to like?

That’s when my Atkins Food Tracker almost gave me a heart attack today. I was merely dining on shrimp I sauteed in garlic and butter, with lots of seasonings and lemon when I realized I needed to add it to the tracker. I looked up Sauteed Shrimp – and found that there was no such item. I then looked at “Cooked Shrimp” and thought – well, that’s basic enough. Turns out that generic listing contained 14.77 net carbs for 5 oz! (About 12 shrimp.) I about fell off my kitchen stool. How on earth were those people cooking shrimp – in a casserole laden with crackers and noodles? Then I decided to look at Shrimp Scampi. Ah – only 1.59 carbs for the 12. Whew. That leaves me plenty of room for my supper out tonight.

Shrimp scampi, from start to finish


Getting a jump on Spring

Flowers in February

It’s still only February 9, but for the past week these hardy yellow daffodils have been blooming. Today they looked especially nice. Here they are pushing up through the still unkempt raised bed.

These three daffodils are following the sun.

Every time I see daffodils I think of William Wordsworth.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

- Daffodils, William Wordsworth