Archive for the 'Health and Well-Being' Category

Here’s to Reconnecting with Old Friends

Author: Meera, October 23, 2015
Seated is Paula Munier, literary agent with Talcott-Notch. L to R: Meera Lester, Indi Zeleny, and John Waters.

Seated is Paula Munier, literary agent with Talcott-Notch who sold my book, A BEELINE TO MURDER. L to R: Meera Lester, Indi Zeleny, and John Waters.




How many years of continuous relationship have you had with your oldest friends? Mine go back to 1983 when my then husband Steve and I established Writers Connection, a Bay Area organization for writers. It was a place to connect with publishing professionals and writing teachers. One of the people I connected with back then has long been a friend and now she’s my literary agent.


Paula Munier flew from the Boston area to the West Coast to conduct a writers retreat in Pacific Grove. A couple of my Scribe Tribe friends and I drove down the California coast to meet her for a lovely lunch and a walk on the beach. It turned into an impromptu book signing for me as I had packed a few copies of my debut novel, A BEELINE TO MURDER, in my tote bag.


We had a lovely visit, sharing dreams of writing goals, projects, and new books and authors we love.


The October weather could not have been more beautiful. The Pacific Ocean sparkled blue as ever, matching the sky. The fog had moved back to the horizon, and the afternoon was warm and balmy. What a perfect day to reconnect with old friends. I hope they walk the rest of this life with me as joyful, healthy, and intellectually inspiring as they all are now.

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Finding Time for Everything

Author: Meera, October 4, 2015

Anyone who keeps bees and chickens, maintains an orchard, and grows their own food will tell you that the work never stops. There’s always something to do. For me, the challenge is finding time now to clean and waterproof sheds, do the fall cleanup, feed my bees, clean the chicken house, pull out the tomato vines, and well, you get the idea.









For me, the past week and the coming week have been so packed with deadlines and fulfilling contractual obligations to my publisher and promotional outlets, that I’ve found very little time available to do anything but keep my promises. But I don’t mind. I am loving the journey of getting my first of three cozy mysteries launched.





My debut novel, the first in a series of three cozy mysteries set on the Henny Penny Farmette

The first novel in my cozy mysteries is set on my Henny Penny Farmette and is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores everywhere




Today, I’m taking two hours to empty out the six-by-six foot garden shed. So far, I’ve found a dead rat and two dead mice amid all the garden items, tools, and building materials in that shed.


A small rainstorm blew through last night and caught me unprepared. I’d left boxes outside and had to leap from bed and dash out into the pelting rain to get items indoors. Then, just as I finally put my head against my pillow and listened the wind howling through the eucalyptus trees out back, a skunk crossed under my open bedroom window.


You guessed it. That foul-smelling skunk spray really put the kibosh on drifting off to dreamland. But once I fell asleep, it was deep and restful–so important to a creative mind. But as soon as my feet hit the floor this morning, I harbored hope to have more energy today than yesterday and more time. I’m guessing you know what I mean.


Check out the reviews for A Beeline to Murder at:








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Gluten-Free Granola Recipe in GRAND Magazine

Author: Meera, September 1, 2015

Months ago, I played around with some gluten-free recipes after a family member was diagnosed as having a gluten intolerance. Today, the Sept/Oct issue of GRAND magazine, edited by my friend and writing colleague Susan Reynolds, comes out with my recipe for homemade gluten-free granola.



Homemade granola equates to cheaper and better control over ingredients

Homemade granola equates to lower cost and better control over ingredients



If you have a family member with gluten intolerance, give this granola a try. It’s great as a breakfast food but also as a snack. The best part about making homemade granola  is that you can add to it all the nutritious items that YOU love.


Another benefit is that you’ll be saving money. If you love granola like I do, you know what the good stuff costs.


This granola can be made in small quantities, but you won’t want to because it doesn’t stay around too long. My advice is to make a few batches and store them in airtight containers. I like to eat it with lactose-free milk, but it also tastes great with almond milk as well. Enjoy.


Here’s the GRAND magazine link to the recipe:



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Backyard Fruit Compote

Author: Meera, July 1, 2015

Who feels like eating when the shorts and sandals weather has turned hot enough to warrant wearing bikini bottoms and thin cotton T-shirt for doing your household chores? Bring on the cool summer salads.


When the temperatures hit 105 on the farmette yesterday, we opted for a simple supper of cold chicken, orzo with Italian vinegar and oil dressing, and cold potato salad.


strawberries lg em



With nectarines and peaches ripening now on our trees, blueberries finally sweet enough to eat, and strawberries  available at our local farmers’ market, what could be better for a dessert on a hot summer’s evening than a fruit compote.



Desert Gold peaches are ready to eat in May but buds are swelling and showing color now

Peaches, ready to eat now, are widely available at local farmers’ markets




Recipe for Backyard Fruit Compote


Gather the fruit, including nectarines, peaches, plums, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, and melon.


Wash, and slice the nectarines, peaches, plums, and strawberries.


If including melon in the compote, scoop the melon into ball shapes using a melon baller or cut pieces of  melon into cubes.


Peel and slice the kiwi.


Toss all into a bowl, adding the blueberries.


Sprinkle lightly with a scented sugar, or a super fine sugar, or honey.


Or, make a dressing: mix together 1/4 cup of lime juice, 1/4 cup of honey, 1 teaspoon of orange zest, 1 teaspoon of lime zest, and 1/2 teaspoon finely grated ginger. Pour over the fruit. Chill for about 1 hour and add springs of mint before serving.



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Hot, Hot, Hot . . . and Getting Hotter

Author: Meera, June 30, 2015

Is this the new norm? If I had any doubts that the planet was heating, I have abandoned them in the face of sweltering heat expected today.  Bay Area forecasters predict the thermometer to climb to 107 degrees Fahrenheit in some of the inland valleys around the San Francisco Bay.




Orchids love heat, maybe that's what I should be growing now

Orchids love heat




On the farmette, the heat will top out at 104 degrees. While breezes from the Delta in the late afternoon blow through, what we need is cool, moist fog. Breezes today will be like having a fan in a sauna.



No doubt about it, this heat is unseasonably warm here for any day in June. Not so, in Death Valley, an area of the state below sea level in California’s Mojave Desert. It holds the North American record for the hottest day on Earth.



In Death Valley, 125 degrees Fahrenheit is nothing to sneeze at. Back in 1913 in Furnace Creek, the center of Death Valley mining operations and ancestral home of the Timbisha tribe of Native Americans, the temperature climbed to 134 degrees.



To date, that 134 degree-temperature is the record for North American heat. As a species, we humans might have to think about how much heat we can stand, because it just might be the new norm. See,



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The weather cooperated, so we gathered for snacks in the garden

The backyard and farmhouse patio bathed in morning sunlight



Each day on my farmette starts with chores involving plants and animals . . . and writing. The latter might seem a bit strange until you understand that my farmette–with its organic heirloom vegetables, eggs, and honey–has evolved into a brand that includes my forthcoming Henny Penny Farmette novels. It’s business. I have to write three novels in three years. I’ve already written two.



Like any business that involves regular tasks for keeping the enterprise thriving, my farmette novels require a daily commitment to writing. Excellence in my writing endeavors is just as important to me as the quality of my Henny Penny Farmette jams, honey, eggs, and this blog.




Chickens are part of the farmette landscape

Chickens are an integral part of the farmette landscape



I rise early,  at 4:00 AM, to get a jump on my day. The roosters start crowing around that hour, but the sleepy hens remain on the roost until daylight. I like to stroll outside, see the edges of the black sky turning lighter at the eastern horizon, observe the position of the moon and stars, feel the cool predawn air on my face, and notice the silent vapor of fog receding like gray shroud being tugged upon.



I enjoy the scent of pine and orange blossoms (when the trees are in bloom), and take note of the occasional spritzing of a skunk or cat marking its territory while out prowling. These observations become notes in my journal.




At bedtime and when I awaken during the night, I practice yoga nidra, a state of deep relaxation and lucid dreaming. Often, though, the lucidity may be nudged aside as sleep and dreams in which I am not aware of my physical environment take over. Still, I sometimes work through problems in my life or my stories and awaken with a solution . . . sometimes, but not always.




A pretty corner of the garden on the farmette

A pretty corner of the garden on the farmette



During the morning hours before sunrise, following a good night’s sleep, I feel sharpest and most in tune with nature and my deepest, inner Self.  One of my favorite writers John O’Donohue observed the profound and numinous presence of nature and wrote in his book Anam Cara:  “Landscape is not all external, some has crept inside the soul. Human presence is infused with landscape.”



The Henny Penny Farmette landscape has echoes from the past in it. I’ve re-created my grandmother’s farm garden where I spent happy hours of my childhood. But also, I’ve got my own personal stamp on this landscape. It’s a lot of work, but I embrace the daily chores and the discipline needed to keep the farmette and a book series going. It’s an ongoing journey to a new horizon.


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Twenty Water Conservation Tips

Author: Meera, April 27, 2015

California is in a historic drought. It’s our fourth year of below-normal rainfall and scientists, city governments, state lawmakers, and communities worry that this drought could run longer, perhaps even becoming a mega-drought. Wells are going dry, reservoirs in the state are lower than they’ve been in years, and water levels in rivers, lakes, and streams have shrunk.


Farmers have a right to be worried that their acreage may have to lay fallow. And what about the fruit and nut orchards? The Sierra snow pack that supplies much of the water to the Central Valley and Bay Area (where much of California and the nation’s food is grown)  remains a fraction of what it has been in non-drought years. Salmon runs are being impacted. Water is getting more scarce and more expensive. And less food produced means higher food prices.


Recently, Governor Jerry Brown mandated water conservation throughout the state. Communities are implementing drastic measures to force their citizens to cut water use. But that doesn’t necessarily mean lower water bills if our communities have to buy water to make up a shortfall. Each of us must do our part.


planter boxes on both ends of the fence protect the bamboo and hold water

Environmentalists value bamboo for its drought tolerance and landscape appeal; stone is an excellent element for zero landscaping and can be used with succulents or cacti




Twenty Tips to Cut Water Use



!. Install low-flow toilets and tub, sink faucets, and shower heads.

2. Use a front-loading washer rather than a top-loading version. The front-loading machines use roughly 20 gallons per load versus the 40 gallons of top-loading machines. We installed our energy-efficient front-loading washer when we moved in.

3. Wash laundry less often and make sure you set the machine for the right size load.

4. Take shorter showers with the drain closed. Capture the gently-used water in pails to recycle.

5. Use your energy-star dishwasher for cleaning dishes, glassware, and pans. You will use less water than by washing dishes by hand. But run the dishwasher only after it is full, not half-empty.

6. If you have a pool or hot tub, use a cover on it to prevent evaporation of water.

7. Wet your toothbrush, but then turn off the water as you brush your teeth.

8. Capture gray water (from the dishwasher, washing machine, shower, and sink). Gray water is gently used household water, not water from the toilet or sewer. Have a plumber install a gray water system to trees and plants on your property.

9. Completely turn off faucets to avoid drips. Also, fix any leaky faucets or water pipes.

10. Collect rainwater in plastic barrels and keep covered to eliminate the potential for mosquitoes breeding in the water.

11. Shower less often. Flush the toilet less often and never to flush away an insect or tissue. Use a lidded-waste can instead.

12. Use the broom to clean the sidewalk and driveway, not the garden hose and water.

13. Stop watering the lawn. Consider removing the lawn in favor of a landscape with drought-tolerant and indigenous plants. Or zeriscape, using bamboo, succulents, cacti, and stone.

14. Buy and use green products with the EPA-partnered WaterSense label.

15. Don’t throw out leftover ice cubes; use them to water a plant.

16. Never use running water to thaw meat or fish. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

17. Insulate water pipes to get hot water faster instead of running water through the faucet.

18. Install an instant water heater appliance under the sink to get hot water instantly rather than let the faucet run until the water gets hot.

19. When on vacation away from home, turn off the water softener to conserve water.

20. Recycle kitchen waste instead of putting it down the garbage disposal and running water. That recycled waste can become valuable compost for your garden and keeps it out of the septic system.







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Lavender Oil and Aloe Vera to Treat a Minor Burn

Author: Meera, February 4, 2015



A stalk of lavender rises out over the rose-scented pelargonium

A gray-green stalk of lavender rises above the bushy rose-scented pelargonium




Lavender oil can reduce the pain of a minor burn and minimize inflammation. Since lavender oil is also an antiseptic, it serves to reduce the risk of a a secondary infection.


For a simple burn, run the afflicted area beneath cool water and then apply lavender oil. Next, cut a piece of aloe vera plant (if you have one growing in your kitchen or home), and apply the sap to the burn.


Perhaps you don’t own an aloe vera plant but have aloe vera cream. Cream or lotion of aloe vera without fixatives can also be applied to the burn. A dry bandage or Telfa pad to cover and possibly Tylenol or ibuprofen (for pain) is all that is required for a minor burn.


For a deeper burn or one acquired from contact with chemicals, electricity, or radiation, seek immediate medical attention.



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How to Make Homemade Butter

Author: Meera, February 2, 2015


A favorite memory of mine recalls my making butter with my grandmother in her farmhouse kitchen in Boone County, Missouri. All she needed was fresh cream and a jar with a lid.




My grandfather milked the cows and my grandmother would strain the liquid into galvanized cans. After the cream had risen to the top of the milk, she would skim off the cream into smaller cans, storing all of the cans in cool area at the back of the house until my grandfather could take the milk and cream to market.  He always kept some back for Rosie’s homemade butter.



The buttermilk that was poured off the would then be chilled. It was his favorite drink after a long, hot day on the tractor working in the fields.



Rosie would hand me a glass jar with a screw top lid in which she’d poured a cup or two of cream and tell me to shake it. My energy and stamina would dictate how long the shaking would have to go on. She’d help. Eventually the butterfat solids and the butter milk would separate.



Rosie favored using a large glass jar with a metal lid that featured a beater and hand crank. Turning the crank beat the cream and amounted to less wear and tear on the arms. Either method worked by separating the liquid from the butterfat.



Today, beating heavy whipping cream (without additives) in a blender or mixer will accomplish the same result. The milk solids eventually become separated from the liquid, which can be poured off. The sweet creamy solid mass can then be salted and even colored if you wish, molded or shaped, chilled, and used. Also, you can leave out the yogurt and still make butter, but it won’t have that tangy flavor.






1 C heavy whipping cream (no additives)


1 Tablespoon natural, organic yogurt (no additives but with live cultures)


optional: 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt






Pour the cream in a small to medium saucepan and warm over low heat to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.


Stir in yogurt and remove from heat.


Cover and let rest for 24 hours on the kitchen counter to allow the mixture to thicken.


After the cream has thickened, chill in the refrigerator.


Pour chilled mixture into a blender jar or electric mixer bowl.


Beat on a low speed to reduce splatter.


Add salt, if desired.


Beat the liquid and solids separate into massive chunks.


Wrap the butter into a cheesecloth and squeeze over a large bowl to drain out the rest of the liquid. (The buttermilk makes a refreshing drink or can be used to make biscuits).


Mold by pressing the he butter into a plastic mold or an old-fashioned butter molding box. Alternatively,  you can shape the butter into small balls using a melon ball scoop.


Hint: To make a flavored butter, add fresh wash, dried, and chopped herbs such as basil and garlic; or cranberries and orange zest. Or, add to the butter apricots or figs (peeled and chopped).





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The Raven’s Nocturnal Visit

Author: Meera, January 20, 2015

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living. Reflection and self examination are useful tools to help us become better people. Toward that end, I keep a dream journal, writing about the images–dark and light–that surface in my dreams. Today, I wrote about a raven.




storm clouds usher in the third in a series of rainstorms

Dream symbols can be dark or light or vividly colored



Years ago, I took a class on how to record one’s dreams and work with them to unlock their meaning. Such work is necessarily subjective. Certain images may hold more significance for one person than another. But some symbols are considered universal–father, mother, baby, path, home, water, eyes, fl0wer. for example.



The language of the dreaming mind is comprised of symbols. Long before my first husband passed away following a heart transplant, I diligently kept a dream journal. It felt therapeutic during that challenging period of our lives. I continued the practice and still record my dreams.  Interpreting them requires patience and an interest in symbolism.



The dreaming mind seems capable of creative genius if only the dreamer can remember his or her dreams. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was inspired by a nightmare. It’s been said that the theory of relativity was inspired by a dream that Albert Einstein experienced. Paul McCartney literally dreamed the melody of Yesterday.



My own dreams are peppered with many symbols. I’ve worked out issues that have help me overcome problems in my writing projects but I cannot recall ever dreaming of the raven . . . that is, until last night. The raven is a symbol of death and transformation. Sometimes, it can herald a breaking down of the old structures in one’s life to make way for the new.



Transforming, I can do and take comfort in the fact that I adapt fairly easily to change. Working the farmette keeps me close to nature, which is always changing. But perhaps the raven image showed up in my dream because it’s so familiar. I often see a family of crows perched high in the eucalyptus behind my house.



The dream could continue to unfold and make more sense over the next few nights. Or, perhaps it merely serves as a fleeting reminder to me of the impermanence of nature.






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