Homemade Granola with Nuts, Seeds & Candied Ginger


Whenever I get into a routine of stocking and restocking a certain grocery store item--buying it again and again, basically--I wonder if I should figure out how to make that item myself. For example, for many years I've been buying locally made granola. It is delicious and crunchy and full of different nuts and seeds, but it is also packed in plastic and the price has been going up from 7 to 8 to 9 dollars a bag. Can't I make my own granola with less plastic and for a lower cost? 

I was also inspired by a friend who makes batches of granola at Christmas time and gives it as gifts, packed in mason jars with jaunty fabric on the lids. She uses candied ginger and it's such a treat to run across a bright burst of ginger in your morning oats. So, this is the story of learning to make my own granola, and it's loaded with nuts and seeds and candied ginger. Most of these things can be purchased in the bulk section of the local natural foods store, so I feel like I'm reducing some plastic use. (Note that the jar of ginger shown below has been refilled with bulk ginger.)

A few tips for this granola: The basic premise is that you bake everything together EXCEPT the delicate coconut flakes and the cranberries and ginger. If you put the coconut in too early it will burn, so you just want to toast it ever so slightly. And the candied stuff doesn't need to be baked at all.


  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc., roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch ground cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes (I like to use the wide ones)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped


Heat oven to 325F. Prepare a baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, pumpkin seeds, and nuts.

Here's how much I chop the nuts--only a little bit

On stovetop, heat coconut oil and maple syrup until just warmed through. Add vanilla, salt, and cinnamon (and optional cloves) and stir to dissolve the salt as much as possible. (It may still be visible and that's okay.)

Mix the liquid together with the dry ingredients, getting most of the oats coated in the oil-syrup. Then spread the mixture onto the parchment paper, even things out, and slide into the oven.


Bake for 30 minutes, checking for toastedness. I like my granola to be just lightly golden, particularly the nuts. If you think it needs a bit more time, put it back and check again in 5 minute intervals. You can stir it around during baking whenever you like. 

Once it's the color you want, add the coconut flakes and bake for 2 more minutes (until the flakes are just browned on the edges). Remove from oven and set somewhere to cool.

When the granola is cool, mix in the cranberries and ginger pieces. Then store in a sealed container.

I like to eat my granola sprinkled over yogurt with fresh berries. It is my favorite breakfast!

Let's Check In! May 2023

Mt. Wantastiquet as seen from a kayak on the West River, Memorial Day 2023

Hello dear reader!

This is my first post this year and it's already the end of May. I'm so sorry to leave you hanging if you've been checking here for updates. (And if you have, thank you!! I love you!!) I am still here and doing fine, but I'm finding that blogging is falling low on my list of things to do each week. Here are some things I've been doing and thinking about.

Roller Skating

An encouraging friend got me out on the ice rink quite a bit this past winter, and as ice skating season ended, she suggested we switch to roller skates instead of just hanging up our gear completely. The local parks & recreation has roller skating at the thawed ice rink in the spring and fall, so I've been going and even taking lessons! I have learned to skate forward, stop, fall correctly, skate backward, and am currently working on a turn that takes me from forward to backward in one terrifying maneuver. Roller skating is an amazing feeling, kind of like flying, and especially great if there is good music playing.

Korean Food

I am still obsessed with Korean food and have fallen into a pretty solid pattern of Korean lunches. I am slowly putting together some photos and notes about this and maybe in future I'll write a post about my tteokbokki, bibim guksu, mul nangmyeon, kimchi fried rice, ramyun and fish cake soup experiments.



After spraining my ankle in 2020, I got back to my former schedule of weekly short and long runs, but then I came up with a case of trochanteric bursitis. The pain didn't seem related to running particularly, but I cut down on my running for a whole year. I still ran 3-times a week or so, but only a mile at a time. When I finally got my bursitis diagnosis, I started doing a bunch of things to counteract it, including taking Turmeric, doing 15+ minutes of daily yoga, using a topical cream with CBD in it, and getting monthly acupuncture and massage. This medley of things didn't necessarily erase my discomfort right away, but it did make me feel more energetic and inspired to run more, which I suddenly started doing in February. I am slowly gaining back strength and endurance and it feels great. Bonus: the bursitis pain has started to fade. Touch wood!

Tarot & Oracle Cards

During the pandemic I decided to teach myself about Tarot (specifically the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition), and from July to September 2020 I researched one card a day (there are 78 cards total). Since then I've been dabbling in one-card draws and some larger readings. It's pretty fascinating both in the symbols and meanings of the cards, and the way that the human brain can form connections and stories when presented with any of these symbols in any order. I've collected several tarot decks since then, and also some decks of Oracle Cards (which can be any system and meanings and don't have to follow tarot rules).

Herbcrafter's Tarot + Good Karma Tarot

Community College

I'm in the midst of a 10-course certification in Community Health with the local community college, which I'm doing as professional development for my job. I'm now on my 4th class, having completed Introduction to Healthcare last summer, Intercultural Communication last fall, and Principles of Public Health this past winter/spring. My current new summer course is Case Management. I've been writing a lot of essays and online discussion posts for the classes, and may even share some of what I've been working on here on the blog.

What about you? Leave a comment with one thing you've been up to in 2023!

35 Books in 2022

It's the last day of the year! That means it's time for me to assess the books that I read in 2022. I believe that what you read really shapes you. Books affect how you think, and that affects how you act and how you perceive the world. Books change you. Books are important!

Originally I wanted to read 52 books this year: one a week. But sometime in late November I realized I would need to amend my goal because I was way behind. I use Goodreads to track my reading, and I edited my goal from 52 to 35, which happened to match the number of books I was likely to get through by today. And lo, I have just finished "Hamlet: Globe to Globe," by Dominic Dromgoole, and am now able to take a look back. Let's do it in screenshot form!

If you must know, it was "1Q84" by Haruki Marukami that threw me off. That book alone took me at least 2 months to read, mainly because it is 940 pages long. But it was so excellent I didn't want to give up. I kept going and going and going, and it ended up being one of my favorite books of the year. In my Goodreads review I wrote, "The story gently but inexorably connects up the lives of an assassin fitness-instructor, a novel-writing math teacher, and a creepy/pathetic PI. It's a mix of ordinary life plus sex, death, and supernatural weirdness. Murakami layers up the world and events calmly and slowly and creates a unique engaging vibe that kept me turning pages to FIND OUT."

My other favorite from this year was "Shutter Island" by Dennis Lehane, which took me about 2 days to read. My review: "Dammmmmmn, Lehane! Now that's how you write a psychological thriller. Oddly, this book had overlaps with the nonfiction book I'm also reading, which is The Body Keeps the Score, about trauma, PTSD, and the body-mind. Shutter Island covers this same internal territory with an eerie, page-turning plot and a jaw-dropping finish. I really liked (and was horrified by) Mystic River, and I appreciate that Shutter Island is also solid as a book but completely different, set in an insane asylum/penitentiary in 1954."

Some other statistics:

I read 14 novels total, 6 of which were of the spy or thriller genre.

I read 2 showbiz memoirs (Dave Grohl & Barry Sonnenfeld), 3 science books (about climate change, Parkinson's Disease, and PTSD), and 14 books by women. 

I read 2 books about fraudulent financial exploits--one about WeWork and one about One Coin (cryptocurrency). I don't know why, but failure and deceit in the business world tickles me.

I read 4 religious books--two about Mother Mary, one about the Kabbalah (a novel by a rabbi), and one about "Secret Religions" of the UK and US.

I did a terrible job reading books by non-white people--I only see two out of the 35 (I'm counting Haruki Murakami and Clarissa Pinkola Estes). I will do better next year.

So... what did you read in 2022? What did you love? What did you hate? (Me? I hated Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo.) What do you plan for 2023?

Meet Our Rice Cooker!


On a fall trip to H Mart in Burlington, Massachusetts, my companion and I decided to splurge on a small countertop rice cooker. We got the least expensive option because we don't really know anything about rice cookers. We are loving it!

Inner pot is non-stick and has measurement lines for water

Rice is rinsed until water runs clear, then it's ready to cook

We purchased a 15 pound bag of USA-grown rice, and we've been cooking it up 2 cups at a time. The rice cooker is very easy to use--you just rinse the rice a few times in the non-stick inner pot, then fill with water to a specific line on the side of the pot. Then you pick your settings and stand back!

The rice cooker beeps when it's done, and then it counts the hours that it's kept the rice warm for you. (In the photo above, the rice just finished, so it says "0H" meaning zero hours.)

May I say that owning a rice cooker is a revelation in rice cooking. The batches are perfect every time. The cooker has pre-programmed settings for all kinds of things, including baby food-making. So far we have used "glutinous" (which we use for all white rice) and "mixed" (which we use for brown rice).

The Cuckoo rice cooker also has different "speeds" for the rice (my term)--you can use the regular settings and get finished rice in about 30 minutes. There is also a Turbo setting that does it faster, and a reheat setting that can restore cold leftover rice to fluffy, warm deliciousness.

We also splurged on this suction cup rice paddle and caddy (above) that attaches to the side of the rice cooker. This was an excellent purchase because the paddle is always right there when needed.
It's my understanding that rice needs to be fluffed up once it's done cooking. Then it can sit in the rice cooker and be served out as desired. The cooker will keep the rice warm until you turn it off. I am curious how long it's OK to push this holding pattern... should you eat the rice within 3 hours? What about 12? We did find that rice left to warm for 72+ hours (by mistake) is not good.

It's also my understanding that rice needs to be readjusted after removing a portion so that it's all uniform and fluffy again. I got this from Paolo from Tokyo's tongue-in-cheek video called "Why Japanese Wives Hate Foreign Husbands" (one potential area of strife is lack of rice adjustment).

If you eat a lot of rice and have the counter space, I do recommend getting a rice cooker! This is the only one I've ever seen in person, but I really like it.

Pasta salad with chicken and veggies


Sometimes simple American food is best. I started making this easy dish recently and everybody in the family likes it! It's great on hot summer days as a dinner entree, or it can be a side dish any time of year. If you're a gardener and have small tomatoes and/or cucumbers growing, this is a great way to use them. The yellow pear tomatoes shown here are from our garden.


1 pound Farfalle (bowtie pasta)

apple cider vinegar, about 1/4 cup plus 2 T, divided

Olive oil, about 1/4 cup plus 2 T, divided

Feta cheese, about 3 ounces, divided

Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon

Pepper, pinch

Cooked chicken, 1/2 pound or more (don't have this? grab a package of chicken tenders and saute them in butter for about 15 minutes, then slice)

Cucumber, diced (any amount)

Mini tomatoes, cut in half (any amount)

mini mozzarella balls, drained, 8 ounces



  1. Cook the farfalle according to instructions and drain in a colander in the sink.  
  2. While the pasta is still warm, drizzle on about 2 T olive oil and toss lightly, then do the same with about 2 T of apple cider vinegar. Let cool. (The theory here is that the pasta will soak up the flavors better when it's warm.)
  3. Next, make creamy dressing by combining about 1 ounce of crumbled feta cheese with the rest of the olive oil and apple cider vinegar, mustard, and a pinch of black peper. I like to use a stick blender for this. Then, toss the dressing with the farfalle in a large bowl.

    Ready for the rest of the ingredients

  4. Last, mix in all the chunky ingredients--the chicken pieces, the cucumber, the tomatoes, the mozzarella balls, and the rest of the crumbled feta. It's nice to let everything meld together, so put in the fridge for at least an hour. Then serve!


One interesting note is that we tried this without the mozzarella balls because they don't have very much flavor. But we found we missed their distinctive soft, chewy texture. Of course you can add any other ingredients you'd like here. Celery bits, kalamata olives, parsley, or red onion might be nice, for example.

Shrimp-stuffed Renkon (lotus root)

As always, I'm on a mission to try new foods and/or recreate foods I've had in the past or seen online. Since I don't live in a big city where I can go to special markets and restaurants to find these ingredients and flavors, I just do my best with what I have. I know my creations are not super-authentic, but they make me happy and they'll do for me! 

Today's food is lotus root or "renkon." I found this at H Mart and wanted to try to fry them up with a shrimp filling placed between two slices of renkon. I followed the recipe from RecipeTinJapan, a blog by Yumiko. Yumiko explains that there are few ingredients in this dish so the shrimp flavor and lotus root texture can really come through. And what is lotus root texture like? I find it a bit like if a potato were more crunchy. It has a mild starchy flavor like a potato, but also has some crunch to it. Not as crunchy as a water chestnut, but definitely has structure and texture to it.

Following Yumiko's recipe and description, here's my renkon journey.


Assemble ingredients--renkon, scallion, minced ginger, cornmeal (my substitution for corn starch), and shrimp (mine are thawing in some water).

Slice lotus root--slice can be thin but not TOO thin, maybe 3-5 centimeters.


Here I'm trying to keep the slices in pairs so my "sandwiches" will have pieces around the same size.

The recipe says to pat the lotus root dry and then coat one side in cornflour. The shrimp filling will go on this side.

I prepared the shrimp filling by chopping raw shrimp and combining with scallions, soy sauce, ginger, and mirin (instead of sake). Then I topped half the lotus root slices with the filling.

Next, the "lids" go on each sandwich.

Then, the sides of the sandwich also get dipped in cornflour. You do not coat the the top and bottom.

It's frying time! These get "deep fried" in about a centimeter (or less) of oil.












I found to get a nice browning, it took about 5 minutes of frying per side.












This is not the most gorgeous photo, but I'm happy to say that Shrimp-Stuffed Renkon was a hit with the family, and we all enjoyed this as a savory side dish. They're great with a dipping sauce like Tamari + brown rice vinegar or whatever you enjoy!

Have you ever tried renkon? Also, have you heard of trypophobia, which is an aversion to clusters of holes? I think this recipe would NOT be recommended for someone with trypophobia. I hear that lotus roots and seed pods are horrifying to people who HATE HOLES.

Eggplant with Garlic & Chili Oil

September in Vermont is a good time for eggplant, especially if you go to farmer's markets. I've been working to perfect this spicy, silken eggplant recipe. It uses the szechuan chili oil that I always have waiting in the fridge. Since nobody else in my household likes eggplant, I get this dish all to myself.


2-3 Asian eggplants (the skinny kind)
2 tsp szechuan chili oil (don't have this? try heating up plain oil and adding red pepper flakes while hot)
1/3 cup chicken broth or made-up bouillon
1 tsp mirin
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
1 T vegetable oil 
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp-Tbsp ginger, chopped
1 green onion, chopped

  1. Boil pot of water. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise, then into diagonal chunks about 3/4 inch thick. When water boils, put pieces in water for 2 minutes. Strain out and place on paper towels. They can dry/cool as much as needed.
  2. Make sauce by combining chili oil, broth, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce. Set aside.
  3. When ready to cook, heat cast iron skillet to hot. Put in 1 Tbsp vegetable oil. Throw in garlic & ginger. Stir together to heat through. Then pour in sauce and let that just heat through.
  4. Add eggplant. Stir to coat. Then cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When done, some eggplant will be brown/caramelized and some will start to fall apart. The sauce should mostly be soaked in leaving a glaze of garlic-chili chunks. 
  6. Add green onion and stir together. Serve!



So how do you feel about eggplant--love it? hate it? meh? I used to detest eggplant but I worked on acquiring the taste in my 20s. Now I like SOME eggplant dishes, and this is definitely one of them.

Hugelkultur Gardening, Year 2

Hello! Happy summer! I'm here to report on our front-yard garden, which we set up in two rows last year for a hugelkultur experiment. I wasn't sure what we should do specifically to "refresh" our hugels now that they're in their second year. (They're really just very heaped-up garden beds rather than a full-on "hill," but keep in mind that underneath there are layers of wood and leaves that are supposed to decompose over several years.) So I simply made up a plan for jollying up the hugels a little bit this year, with the goal of getting things planted by around Memorial Day (the last weekend in May).

My main challenge was that we had covered everything with wood chips last year. I didn't really want to just mix those into the soil by hoeing or raking everything together. So I tried to push the wood chips aside a bit...

  • First I prepared by clearing weeds. I hoed and removed the tufts of grass and the dandelions that had set up shop.
  • Then I did my best to rake the wood chip layer away from the center of the hugel and toward the edges, to better expose the soil underneath.
  • Next I poured a bag of "Moo Dirt" augmented topsoil along the top of each hugel, and raked to mix it with the soil already there. 
  • Finally, I attempted to rake the wood chips back up so they covered things evenly again. 
I'm happy with how the soil got a fresh infusion of rich dirt, but my attempt to keep wood chips separate didn't really work. The wood chips are essentially mixed into the top layer of dirt now, but it seems fine!

Then it was planting time! Here's what's growing this year:

Cucumbers: I am in full battle mode with cucumber beetles as they have killed my cucumbers for several years in a row. I'm not being polite any more but just squishing them on sight. We have set up some trellis inventions for the cukes to climb should they survive that long.

Here's another angle of the cucumbers and trellising. I read that cucumber beetles don't like marigolds so I've planted those everywhere. Beyond the cucumbers are two summer squash plants, and at the far end of the hugel is a population of lettuce. I also put some kale plants here and there.

The other, streetside hugel has 3 tomatoes (foreground), and then chard and collards beyond that, and green beans at the far end. Everything seems happy over here!

We pondered maybe getting more wood chips to re-cover everything, but at the moment I'm happy to just keep weeding and let nature take its course. On the plus side, several volunteer tomato plants have sprouted up from last year's plants. I also think that this sweet lettuce crop was probably all self-seeded because we let our lettuce go rampantly to seed last year. Check it out!

This lettuce in the foreground all just SHOWED UP as soon as frosty nights ended. It's been a delicious spring treat! We'll definitely let the lettuce go to seed again this year.

Bathroom cabinet refurb

Things nowadays are often poorly made. Have you noticed this? So many things that used to be sturdy metal or wood are now highly plastic and/or highly flammable. These "convenient" objects seem to be designed to last 1 year in your home and then a million more years in some ocean garbage island. A great example of this? Bathroom cabinets. Ours was getting quite grubby and old, so I searched around for a replacement. But what I found in my price range was molded plastic, and much lower quality than the item I was replacing.

Total Rubbish

Despite the disappointing options, I had to do something. Our bathroom cabinet was having ISSUES--look at this rust!

So my next idea was, "What if I renovate this thing? Maybe this rust is just cosmetic and can be fixed?" The cabinet was made in Bellevue, Kentucky, USA, and obviously of a sturdiness and quality that I can no longer find. Our house was built in 1958 and I expect the cabinet dates to around that time too. It's made of metal and glass with adjustable shelves. Could it be... saved?

Made in Kentucky, USA

Here's how I gave remodeling the bathroom cabinet a shot!

Step 1: Remove from wall. This just involved a screwdriver and some persistent jiggling and pulling.

Step 2: Sand the rusty areas to smooth them out and remove debris and crud. I recommend doing this outside or in a garage. Then I washed off the areas and let them dry.

Step 3. Treat rust areas. I used a product called "Rust Reformer" from Rust-Oleum (Vernon Hills, IL) that claims to "instantly transform rust into a non-rusting, flat-black paintable surface" and also it prevents future rust. It seemed to work!


Step 4: Tape off everything not to be painted (the mirror, mainly).


Step 5: Spraypaint! I hit this with 3 coats of white paint applied within about 5 minutes of each other, then let it dry for a day. Then I removed the tape.

Step 6: Reinstall!

Glass shelves reinserted.

Don't forget to take before & after photos with stuff inside.


Before: Squalor

After: Oh Thank Goodness

I'm really pleased with how this turned out. Of course it's totally practical to fix something I already have instead of throwing it away and purchasing a new (worse) thing. But sometimes that's hard to remember in a culture so primed to Buy More Stuff.

How about you? Any good tales of refurbishing something and giving it new life?