Update on Xavier, 9.24.16

September 24, 2016

Seems like people like to see what’s going on with my avocado tree, Xavier.  Here he is, September 24, 2016. I didn’t see buds this year, but he seems healthy and strong. I know we are going to see major leaf drop this fall, like we always do!


Pruning your avocado tree?

January 31, 2016

Hi folks!  Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted here.  I hope I remember how to use WordPress (I’m kind of a Tumblr person now).  Anyway, I’ve received so many comments and questions about how to care for avocado trees, that I wanted to post the results of how extreme trimming of my tree Xavier went last year.


This is how Xavier looked on January 13, 2015, right before I pruned him.


This is how extreme the pruning was.

Xavier always looks kind of bad in the winter time.  I live in a cold climate, and my home gets very chilly.  There is always a lot of leaf drop when it gets cold, but last winter, I felt like Xavier was getting really unhealthy and needed to “start over.”

I am not an expert on plants or anything, but I have had great luck with Xavier and many of the plants I have, so I decided to give it a try.  I was careful to prune with my clean Felco Pruning Shears to make good cuts.  (I clean the shears with rubbing alcohol after every trim – I can’t tell you whether that’s a good thing for the shears or not – only Felco knows for sure, but that’s what I do.)  I didn’t water him very much at all during this time before the leaves grew back, because I felt he was dormant.

It took many weeks for leaves to grow back, but they grew back abundantly, just as when Xavier was healthiest!

I am proud to report that Xavier looks great.  I just took this photo today (January 31, 2016).  You can see Xavier is a lot healthier this winter than he was last winter.  Sure, there are some brown leaves, and there’s been a bit of seasonal leaf-drop, but still!  Just look at my guy here!  I didn’t add any fertilizer or compost this year, either.  Just water!

2016_01_31 IMG_2352 xavier the avocado tree

Xavier on January 31, 2016.  Looking good!  (I’ve got to lose that Diamond Armor Minecraft mask I made for my son for Halloween years ago!  JEEZ!)


Other avocado tree-related posts of mine:

How to grow an avocado tree from seed

Should I prune my avocado tree?




Gluten Free Breads?

January 7, 2015

Julian Bakery Gluten Free Bread

Julian Bakery Gluten Free Bread

photo 4

If you’re trying to eat gluten-free, be careful with breads and baked goods because a lot of the time, grains are replaced by starches and they are very carb-heavy and you just end up trading one problem for another.

There are only two gluten-free breads I like.  Canyon Bakehouse Cinnamon Raisin Bread and Julian Bakery Paleo bread (Coconut Paleo Bread pictured above – it also comes in Almond, which is in a brown package).  I also like to substitute bread all together for a delicious Julian Bakery Coconut Wrap (I actually had no idea that my favorite paleo bread and my favorite coconut wrap was made by the same people until I started writing this post and looking for links, because I never use the brand name when talking about them!)

The Canyon Bakehouse bread is a nice, tasty treat, but a bit carby/starchy, as most gluten-free baked goods are, because most use starches to replace the grains that have gluten in them.  So, this isn’t the kind of bread I’d eat every day or anything.

The Paleo Bread is low carb (because it’s not starchy), is moist, has a fairly strong baking soda taste (which is well-tempered if you eat it with something, as opposed to eating it with nothing on it), and really needs to be toasted, IMHO.  The Coconut “flavor” does not taste like coconut at all to me.  It just doesn’t have any nuts (as opposed to the Almond one), and is made with coconut flour.  It is sold as a frozen bread, so I let half a loaf thaw out at a time in the fridge.  If you try to toast a frozen piece, it takes forever, and will likely be unsuccessful.  Even thawed, I don’t usually crisp it up like regular toast in the toaster, it just kind of gets warm.  I like it moist for sandwiches.  My diet-twin and BFF Joe B. (hi, JOE!) says he likes to put the slices in the oven for 15 min at 350.  I don’t know if that’s frozen or thawed, though.  If you’re looking for a grain-free, gluten-free, low carb, fairly low-sodium bread (that is also yeast-free, starch-free, soy free, GMO free, and nut free), Coconut Paleo Bread is the one!

Recycled wrapping paper?

November 18, 2014

I love Wrapsacks, the 100% cotton, reusable giftbags. The thing I like the most about them is the website where you can track where your wrapsack goes, because there is a unique ID code in each one. The recipient will need to enter that code into the website in order for it to be tracked. I love the idea in theory so much, but in reality, I gave away a total of nine gifts in wrapsacks, and only 3 were passed along (and tracked). And none of those three were tracked after that.

If you’re looking for recycled paper gift wrap, I only found one that was both recycled, AND was made in America. The brand that I found was called Waste Not Paper, and not only was it 100% recycled (30% PCW – Post Consumer Waste), and made in America, but it also seems like a good company, doing things right (see their “green story).” I found it at The Container Store.

Recycled Gift Wrap

I found recycled wrapping paper everywhere when I was looking for it last year, but almost all of it was from India. Wow, it was gorgeous paper, and I loved that it was recycled, but I wanted to cut down on the carbon footprint of the paper as much as I could, so I wanted to minimize the transport, and also support American jobs. (I only wrapped one present in actual wrapping paper last year – all the rest were in outdated subway maps, some of the kid’s art projects or newspaper/packing paper we decorated.)

What kettle do you use?

November 17, 2014

What kind of kettle do you use? I think we’re v. similar in terms of doing a ton of research & trying lots of things out to find the best solution to a problem, and I’m currently in the process of doing this for a kettle, and would love your opinion. Bonus points if you know anything about electric kettles…

My favorite kettle.

My favorite kettle.

I use this kettle – the Jenaer brand (now called TrendGlas) all-glass kettle.  I have used this kettle for at least 10 years (I think I’m on my second one – I broke one, but they don’t break easily).  The glass ball at the top does not last at all – it will break off sooner or later, but there is a metal thing inside of it, so even after the glass ball breaks, you can still lift the lid with that metal thing, though I need to use a small towel or an oven pad when the water is boiling.  (You can slightly see the metal nub at the top of my kettle with the glass broken off in the photo that goes along with this post.)

I absolutely LOVE this kettle and would definitely buy another one if I break this one.  I love the way it looks, I love that it’s glass, it’s easy to clean (and more importantly, easy to tell when it’s dirty).  I highly recommend it.

Two quick caveats about this kettle: 1. you have to hold the lid or take it off if you pour a lot of water out of it, or you have a low water level.  This seems like common sense to me, but in reading reviews, apparently, some people were surprised by this.  2. I believe my kettle was made in Germany.  It was called Jenaer when I bought it, and the company has changed over/changed its name/is somehow different, and I think this kettle is made in China.  It is definitely the same, exact style of kettle I have, but I don’t know if any quality changes have occurred.  I have purchased TrendGlas (the new company) products within the past few years and I’ve been happy with them (the glass tea mug I use is TrendGlas – I have posted it a bunch of times, here is one such post).

Prior to finding this kettle, I used a kettle very similar to this one (forget the exact brand), which is less than half the price of the one above, and still works perfectly well.

In case you’re wondering, I use my kettle on a gas stove, and the glass sits directly on the cast iron trivets.  (I think I’ve taken enough photos of my stove for you to get a few views of it.)

I will never buy a kettle for myself that is not all glass.  And, I will never, ever heat up water in plastic (I had a terrible, seemingly unsolvable health problem for years which turned out to be due to heating drinking water up in plastic, and it was completely cleared up once I stopped doing that).  So, if any electric kettles that you are looking into have the water held in plastic, or the hot water going through plastic, I would say in big, big letters AVOID!

Lastly, electric kettles confuse me.  I just don’t understand their purpose, except if a hot stove would be a safety hazard (like for a very elderly person, or in a dorm room or something).  Yes, they heat up stuff quickly, but not THAT much quicker than a stove would.  And, plus, I use my kettle mostly to make tea, and tea is a process.  It is a lovely ritual to make tea.  And, waiting for the water to boil, and to cool slightly, and to see those bubbles, well, it’s all part of the process, and I love it.  So, I am biased against electric kettles for these reasons.  It does not mean they are bad.

In fact, I can see the utility of having an electric kettle, especially if you have an electric stove, because an electric kettle would be MUCH more efficient, electricity-wise, as well as quicker.  This electric kettle seems nice, and it’s glass, but I would never pour the water through that plastic lid on top, and I’d never filter hot water (as it recommends in the description – BTW – I love that it’s referred to as a “high class glass designed electric” kettle).  You should never filter hot water to begin with (it should be filtered before it goes into the pot), and never pour hot drinking water through plastic (see above).

I know you wanted a simple answer, but simple is not my thing.  Neither is “concise,” whatever the hell that means.

How the heck do I choose a tomato sauce in Whole Foods?

November 12, 2014

First of all, wait for a sale.  I have noticed that most brands of tomato sauce go on sale at least twice a year.  Whole Foods prices are high, but their sales are pretty good!  If you don’t need organic and aren’t necessarily watching sodium levels, I would go for Rao’s Marinara Sauce ($7.99 for 32oz on sale).  Rao’s sodium isn’t topping the list of sodium heavy brands or anything, but my next recommendation has much less sodium per same-size serving.

If you want organic (and lower sodium), I buy Middle Earth Organics Organic Tomato and Basil Sauce ($6.49 for 19.8oz, non-sale price).  I personally don’t eat tomato sauce, because I can’t eat nightshades, but I buy it for my family and they are happy with either of these.  My recommendations are based on ingredients that are straightforward, with no sugar, no canola oil, and a “reasonable” amount of sodium (“reasonable” is a relative term, given the nature of pasta sauces in general!).  Below are photos of ingredients and nutritional stats.


IMG_5907 IMG_5909 IMG_5910

Middle Earth Organics

IMG_5911 IMG_5912

How do you pick a peach?

July 16, 2014

Dude, seriously!  I JUST wrote a Tumblr on this very subject!


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