I’m a food-loving, pleasure-seeking Taurus gal through and through. I eat because food tastes goods and brings me, well, lots of pleasure. I’ve always had a strong appetite, never prone to skipping a meal and always with snacks on hand. Lately though, it’s been a whole new ballgame!

Currently with my recent RA diagnosis, I am working with a naturopathic doctor (ND) who looks at health in a more holistic way. It is their tendency to go straight to the gut and digestion first and foremost as the root of health issues. This is in contrast with allopathic doctors who don’t necessarily agree that these factors influence dis-ease but rather place emphasis on our genes.  Being the person I am and having the belief system I do, I am 110% all about healing my gut as a way of healing the dis-ease in my body rather than the alternative which is popping pills every day (or worse self-injections) for the rest of life. 

With that being said, I also had a battery of allergy tests carried out and the results weren’t so nice. Now, one must remember that when a person is “sick”, they are naturally going to be less tolerant of things entering the system. Suddenly every little thing causes a red flag for the immune systems which is already working double to fight off infections.  Regardless, a mandatory four week elimination diet has now turned into twelve weeks going without some of America’s favorite foods: bread! Cheese! Potatoes!  Along with a few more:



Bean, Lima















Milk, Cow’s




Pepper, Black










Yeast (yes, this means no beer or even GF rising breads)


Whew! While I’ve had some success re-introducing some foods without side effects (pain in my case) it has been a rather slow process and not always a fun one.  It is hard enough preparing healthy and tasty meals but add in a litany of diet restrictions and you’re in for a rollercoaster ride.  I definitely find myself craving pizza and french fries, wishing I could go out to a restaurant and enjoy the things I used to.  But at the same time I am thankful…I see how much people take food and their health for granted and I am thankful I have a supportive husband willing to eat “my food”.  I know that while I may never eat chewy pizza dough or a real doughnut ever again for a while to come, I will emerge from this experience with a new sense of what it means to be healthy and I will (and already am) learn new ways to feed myself not with food but with yoga and with art, spending time in nature and with friends, my nose in a book or soaking in a bath; I will feed myself with love.


This year for my 29th birthday I got RA. I wish that stood for Really Awesome gifts or Rad Artwork but in reality, it stands for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Now this isn’t your grandma’s arthritis (osteoarthritis that is), no, this is a chronic and systemic auto-immune disease that causes inflammation (read: pain) in the synovial lining of the joints.  You can read more about the disease here if you wish; I think this gal does a great job of summing it up on her blog A Single Gal’s Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Anyway, for the past two months now I have been dealing with pain on a daily basis.  It moves around, sometimes my right foot hurts, or my hip is stiff. Sometimes my shoulders hurt and I can’t raise my arms above my head and need help getting dressed and undressed. Sometimes I have excruciating pain in my hands and wrists and I can’t brush my teeth or even use a pencil to write my name.  Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night with shooting pain that brings me to tears. Lately my jaw has been hurting and I haven’t been able to open it all the way for several days now. And the thing is nothing really seems to help…….yet.

Four days after my 29th birthday I went into the doctor’s office for a two hour appointment in which she asked me question after question and took vial after vial of blood to be sent off for testing. The following week I received a call saying that I tested positive for Rheumatoid Factor, meaning a certain anti-body was found in my blood, and that they were going to conduct a second test called Anti-CCP, a more specific test in which I had a 70-80% chance of also coming up positive for. The week following that call was absolute hell.  It seemed that the walls all came crashing in- not only was I dealing with the emotional upset (fear, anger, sadness, worry, etc.), it was almost as if my body said, “nope, you can’t ignore the pain anymore, there is something real and concrete causing this pain” and so it hurt, it hurt really bad for days.

No one knows the exact cause of RA though they suspect it could be linked to genetics, stress, environmental changes, a virus and/or hormones.  While it would be nice to know what has specifically triggered the switch to turn on, there’s really no point in chasing that rabbit down the rabbit hole (though I do admit I have spent a fair share of time casting blame- was it the decade of pill popping oral-contraceptives? the emotional stress I’ve faced living in Alaska? Did I just get the short end of the gene stick?). That fact remains, I have RA, and I will never not have RA. The only thing I can do is move forward with my life (easier said than done) a step at a time, day by day.  Let the metamorphosis begin…

“If it’s appeared on your life radar, this is why: to teach you that dreams come true; to reveal that you have the power to fix what’s broken and heal what hurts; to catapult you beyond seeing with just your physical senses; and to lift the veils that have kept you from seeing that you’re already the person you dreamed you’d become”

The Buzzzzz

So most of you already know that I recently took up the hobby of apiary this past year.  And with no prior experience and little teaching on the subject it has been quite an adventure with a rather steep learning curve to say the least. My hive swarmed, I was stung several times, and to top it off, I didn’t collect any honey.

This hobby of mine however, has turned into quite the obsession for me, recently perpetuated by the documentary, Vanishing of the Bees (watch it!).  I’m sure most of you have heard of Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD for short, that is, the unexplained vanishing bee populations that have occurred throughout the US for the past several years. But there might be a few things you didn’t know so I’m going to climb on up to my soapbox and preach a little:

– That other countries have experienced a similar phenomenon?

– That the likely culprit stems from systemic pesticides typically used on large-scale commercial moncultures and produced by the company Bayer CropScience?  (Systematic pesticides are contained in the plants tissue and therefore cannot be washed off or removed by peeling the skin off a fruit of vegetable.)

– That little research has been done on the effect systematic pesticides have on multi-generational bee populations and the the EPA accepts research on the subject from the very company that manufactures the chemicals?

– That to begin with pesticides originated from leftover chemicals used in chemical warfare of WWII and re-engineered for use on crops? (The very substances we used to wage war on other humans, was now being ingested through our food. Brilliant. You got to do something with it, right?)

– That one out of every three bites we take is dependent on the pollination of a honeybee. 1 IN 3!!!

I don’t know about you, but this is all very disturbing to me.  The good news is, is that everyone can help in their own way.  Here are some things you can do:

– Watch the movie, Vanishing of the Bees, and educate others by spreading the news.

– Create bee-friendly habitat in your own backyard by planting bee-friendly flowers and providing a source of water for bees.

– Take up apiary

– Minimize the use of pesticides around your home and seek out natural and organic alternatives for dealing with pests.

– Buy local honey. A lot of honey in the US is supplied by China and contains filler ingredients.

– Eat organic fruits and vegetables when possible. People often argue the host cost of organic foods or that they aren’t concerned about the affect of pesticides on their health (ah, a little bit won’t kill me!) but it is important to have a more holistic and global viewpoint. Cheaper, inorganic foods come at a high cost to the overall health of humans and the planet. When you spend your cash, you cast a vote. If you buy at least some organic produce, your purchases, along with those of others, will send a signal to retailers, which will ultimately send a signal to farmers.

– Write to your local representatives and politicians, urging them to help save our bees.

– Sign the PAN (Pesticide Action Network) petition to the EPA.

To help out and do my part, not only will I continue apiary, but I plan on adding some bee-friendly plants to my garden next year and I’ve also decided to donate a portion of the sales from my hand-dyed scarves to various efforts geared at saving the bees. After all, I have them to thank for many of the wonderful plants that I get beautiful colors from!

Apiary Adventures

Mel Pulling

Wayne Pushing

Settled In

No honey for this beekeeper this year!  Many Alaskans simply harvest their honey by basically robbing the bees of their supplies, leaving the little ladies to eventually die with the onset of winter and no food.  Definitely not the path I wanted to pursue.  I decided to give it a shot at over-wintering and if successful, the bees will be a lot more productive next year compared to purchasing new ones.  I went into fall with two hives, the “old” one which is the original hive and the “new” one housing the group that swarmed.  The old hive had about 70 lbs of honey going into winter but the new one had very little so it’ll be quite a struggle for them in the coming months but I’m keeping optimistic.

The main steps for preparing for winter are explained in more detail below but include:

1) Feeding winter sugar syrup

2) Placing entrance reducers on the hive

3) Insulate the hive while ensuring adequate ventilation

4) Relocating to secure sight (out of wind!)

Once the weather started cooling I began feeding them winter sugar-water which differs from their spring feeding in that the ratio of sugar to water is a lot greater.  The more food they can store going into winter the better they will hopefully fare.  In the end they went through a total of about 35lbs of sugar or so!

The little ladies were quite sassy this fall during what is known as “robbing” season.  Their guards were up and ready to attack the various hornets, wasps, etc. trying to steal their food stores as well as me, trying to get a good look inside the hive to make sure things are functioning normally.  I had a few stings this fall, one lunged into my hair (though I somehow managed to escape sting free from that incident), and Wayne experienced his first sting ever.  He was quite whiny about it but recovered just fine.  I usually get very swollen and itchy but luckily, given my previous stings of the season quickly learned several coping strategies and walked away with only a slightly red mark.  (Thank heavens for the local herbalist and her osha root tincture!)

The hives also received entrance reducers which did just that, reduce the size of the entrance to only big enough to allow a bee or two to go in and out.  This helps with robbers trying to find their way in as well as helping regulate air flow as the temperature drops.  As you can imagine, the winters are mighty cold and long here so while it is important to insulate to keep the hive warm it is also very important to ensure air flow is happening in the hive and condensation isn’t forming on the top lid, thereby dripping down onto the “cluster” and making them freeze.  (Cluster refers to just what the bees do in winter, form a tight cluster in the center of the hive and vibrate their flight muscles to generate heat and keep warm.  They can regulate the temperature somewhere around 100 degrees.)

So, in order to insulate the hive, I simply placed  some rigid insulation (blue-board) on only the top of the hives and wrap the sides in tar paper with the idea that they would help minimize air flow (wind) though the sides and also act as a thermal mass when and if the winter sun comes out.  I also made sure to create a vent in the top back of the hive for moisture to escape and prevent condensation.

The next step was to relocate the hives from the field next to the house to ensure protection from our infamous 55mph wind gusts.  This basically required  a few straps, taping up the hive’s entrances, loading on a sled and schlepping across the lawn.  Definitely a two person job!  Once in place near the house, where they will be protected from the wind and hopefully get a little warmth from the house, I put a slight tilt to the hives, angling the front down a bit in the case condensation occurs it will run down the inside front of the hive and out the door.

So the little ladies are all tucked in and if the weather does ever get into the high 30’s they will venture out for some fresh air and a restroom break.  I’m crossing my fingers the winter isn’t too long and too cold! And next year I look forward to harvesting some honey!

Blowin’ on In….


Suki's Birthday Morning

Blueberry Picking
Well I think winter is here to stay in the northland.  We finally had some snowfall Halloween weekend and it promptly blew away after two straight days of wind with 55mph gusts (did I mention how miserable that kind of wind is!?)  Anyway, we had a beautiful fall, full of sunshine and color, albeit too short for my liking. There have been so many things to squeeze in and prepare for winter’s coming so it has been quite busy around here.

I’ll recap some of the highlights:

We celebrated Suki’s 2nd birthday on September 6th and her first year in our home shortly thereafter. We woke her up from her morning slumber with too many presents; I think she was a bit overwhelmed.  It was a day of gifts including treats, bones, toys and her favorite squeaky balls.

We enjoyed a visit from Wayne’s mom Kathy and her friend Soni for two weeks in September.  They came to help celebrate the wedding of my brother in-law Randy to his new wife and with this the Jenski family promptly grew in number with the addition of five new nieces and nephews into the Jenski family.

I tucked my bees in for winter which involved a series of steps including regular feedings of sugar water, insulating their homes and relocating adjacent the house.  I’ll post some photos and details later.

We enjoyed lots of foraging and learned to identify quite a few plants and fungus this fall.  A trip to Girdwood for Fungus Fair 2011 gave us a proper introduction to the world of fungus and we even sauteed up our first loot of mushrooms, a variety called “angel wings”.  I learned to dye material with fungus while Wayne learned to propagate oyster mushrooms; he took home a spore filled bag and I took home two hand dyed scarves and a new-found hobby of natural dyeing.  We picked high bush cranberries, wild blueberries and raspberries from our backyard and made up some yummy jams while I proceeded to collect other goodies for various tinctures and dye projects. I also learned about and made some yummy fermented foods which are so very very good for you. More on these adventures to come!

We also celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary with a trip south to Valdez.  Lots of hiking, sightseeing, glaciers, wildlife and time together.  I’ll post pictures of that trip soon too.

Last month we had over 75 people in our house as part of the Palmer Art Council’s underground tour in which Wayne’s plants took center stage.  He also completed a series of botanical illustrations of recently discovered carnivorous plants for a book that was just recently published and is working on three more for another upcoming book.  Our local paper, the Frontiersman is schedule to come over for an interview with him tomorrow morning and he continues giving lectures to classrooms.  So as you can see, he is quite busy with his plant hobby.

I’ve religiously attended belly dancing and yoga class for over a month now and am really starting to improve on the dance front which is really exciting.  And for the record I haven’t cut my hair since JUNE! Working towards a few things on my 30×30 list….


Inspired by my friend Kat, (who was in turn inspired by her friend Sandra), I decided to put together a list of 30 things I want to achieve before I turn 30 (One year, 9 months and counting down). Some of them are small things, some require money, some patience, some dedication, but all of them are fun things to look forward to and strive towards as the second decade of my life draws to a close and my 30’s begin. I challenge you to do the same, no matter how old or young you are, no matter what age you are turning, make a list of the things you always wanted to do and make them happen!

  1. Grow my hair out
  2. Touch my toes
  3. Own an original piece of artwork
  4. Learn to bellydance
  5. Create my own signature cocktail
  6. Get a tattoo
  7. Travel to another continent (Spain/Morocco, Australia, Japan- those are high on the list)
  8. Write a poem, a really good one
  9. Learn how to tune-up my bicycle
  10. Butcher a chicken
  11. Perform a trick on the acrobatic silks
  12. Design and construct an original garment
  13. Lose 20 pounds
  14. Brew my own batch of mead
  15. Master the dinner party…start to finish, the appetizers, drink pairings, course meals, dessert
  16. Take one class about wines and one about beer
  17. Go “woofing” (work on an organic farm)
  18. Get a grant to learn a traditional craft while studying under a native artisan
  19. Own one fantastic and amazing piece of furniture that I’m in love with
  20. Grow the largest, ripest and most delicious tomato ever
  21. Have a steady second income from all my side art and crafting
  22. Work in the kitchen of a “local, organic” restaurant
  23. Catch a king salmon (at the end of my fishing pole!)
  24. Develop a regular meditation and yoga practice
  25. Learn how to bake one of those amazing and delicious savory stuffed rolls from Turkey Red
  26. Attend an herbal retreat to convene with mother nature and learn about her healing ways
  27. Have 12K in the my IRA and another 5K in liquid savings
  28. Complete an epic backpacking trip (24 miles down Crow Pass perhaps?)
  29. Write a business plan for my dream business
  30. Take a few music lessons to give the mandolin a try
They Stole the Stars from by Night by AussiePatches

Artwork available for purchase here.


So, as many of you know I’ve been a little down in the dumps lately. You’ve seen the facebook posts and I guess I am an open book (What?  FB isn’t for airing your constantly changing emotions!?)  Mostly it’s been about my social life, or lack thereof. It has a little to do with the weather as well but that is a whole other story. 

So, really it is just incredibly hard to meet people here not to mention meet people in the same demographic with similar interests and then to be able to find the time to get together socially when you do meet someone promising.  I never had to “date” much but I guess this would be the closest thing to that.  My acupucturists would say that my pericardium is sure getting a workout and boy are they right.  (The pericardium is a double-walled sac that contains the heart, therefore “protecting” it from harm.  Mine has been deflecting its’ fair share of disappointment and rejection lately.  It doesn’t feel nice.)

I’ve been here for over a year now and while I’ve struggled with this issue before I think it really hit home after my return from Boston last month.  It was so strange to go back there; it felt like I was going “home” in a strange way.  I don’t really have that feeling anywhere else.  Nostalgia maybe for Wyoming, South Dakota, Flagstaff, and Tucson but not feelings of being home.  The city was abuzz with young people everywhere and most importantly I was surrounded by my dear, dear friends again.  It was hard to leave.

I have amazing friends and family. I talk to my mom and best friend Alison most everyday.  I keep in touch with my Boston friends via email and long distance calls.  I have extended family members that email to cheer me up. My sister and I commiserate via skype on what the challenges of living in a different country (might as well be for me!). All of this is so great and I don’t know what state of mind I would be in without it but I don’t think anything can compare to benefits of a physical relationship.  Two people, sitting down, face-to-face to talk and enjoy each other’s company.  I need this.  I think all women in general really need this.  If I could just get an hour of girltime over a cup of coffee every week I think I’d feel a little more sane!

So, feeling especially down the other day I googled, “how to make friends” and lo and behold I found some promising leads and interesting articles.  Not that they had anything particularly enlightening to say but it made me just feel not so alone in the world.  That there were other “normal” girls out there facing the same problems I was facing.  Take writer Rachel, author of the blog (and soon to be published book) MWF seeks BFF who, like me, moved from NY to Chicago, leaving behind close friends and struggling to make new ones in her new town.  She wrote this great article about the increased challenges of finding friends as an adult.  Like I said, all of this info wasn’t necessarily anything new but it was just nice to know I wasn’t alone.  It felt so great to know that someone else was in the same boat that I just had to write her an email and thank her.  I wasn’t expecting a response but she actually wrote me back within two days!  WOW!  This girl could definitely be someone’s best friend!

If anyone has ideas, tips, or tools for meeting people I’m all ears!  I’m sure you’ve all faced these or similar challenges in the past. But for now, that is what is going on.  I’m sure I’ll have some more social gripes soon!