Mother Earth Living

Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

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“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.” —Walt Whitman

Dinner is prepared, the table is set, your family sits down to eat—when we nourish the people we love, it’s a wonderful feeling. Whether you’ve grown the vegetables at home, had a CSA box delivered to your doorstep or selected a bounty at the market, nutritious meals create healthy bodies and happy souls.

Tips for Healthy Eating

1. Pantry Essentials for a Well-Stocked Kitchen: Stock up on these 18 staples and you’ll always be ready to make a quick, healthy meal.

2. Frequently Vegetarian: Making a Case for Eating More Vegetables: A cookbook author and self-proclaimed meat enthusiast makes the case for eating more vegetables.

3. Garlic Recipes and Growing Tips: A star in both the kitchen and the medicine cabinet, delicious, versatile garlic is worth celebrating.

4. All About Salt: Learn about the science of salt—along with the flavor and best uses of increasingly popular artisan salts.


It’s never too late to live your dream—at least that’s what I learned from Rex Gardner, a man who lives to create music.

Growing up in the tiny Oklahoma town of Paoli (population 300), Rex only heard the kind of music best described as “country,” “hillbilly” and “foot-stomping.” Then at age 13, he watched “The Liberace Show” for the first time. “I knew I wanted to do that—to play the piano like that,” the 74-year-old retiree recalled.

Rex Gardner

The Gardner family was poor, but Rex’s mother saved up $50 to buy a piano. For three years, Rex religiously took lessons, and by high school graduation he could play Chopin. Next came college and marriage to his wife Edwina. The new couple purchased a Baldwin grand piano, and when they lived in Albuquerque, he spent two years training with Ralph Berkowitz, manager of the city’s symphony.

“We moved seven times, and we moved the piano every time,” Rex recalled. “But I had to make a living.”

Rex spent the majority of his career as a regional financial manager of 25 Veteran’s Administration Hospital facilities in nine states. “My career was very demanding, and I didn’t touch a piano for 35 years,” he said. “But I knew when I retired I would come back to it.”

Retirement came in 1998, and at age 60, Rex resumed piano lessons near his Nashville, Tennessee, home. He has been training ever since, and his commitment to music has been rewarded.

Piano Texas

Beginning in 2000, Rex started attending Piano Texas International Academy and Festival in Fort Worth, Texas, an international academy founded for superior amateur pianists during the sixth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. In 2007, Rex spent three months working full time with Yakov Kasman, a professor at the University of Birmingham and former Van Cliburn silver medalist. He then applied to be a competitor in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs and was among the 75 competitors selected worldwide.

“I was accepted,” he said. “When they called me, I almost fainted. I had to sit down in my kitchen chair.”

Piano Texas is the big time for up-and-coming artists around the globe, and it was especially exciting for a retiree who had long deferred his dream. There, he took master classes daily and attended recitals nightly. Many of his fellow students were still in high school, but some were in their 50s and 60s. “There was a doctor from Seattle who is a little older than me,” Rex said. “I called him ‘The Old Man.’”

Rex has since participated in Piano Texas every year.

Play Today

Today, Rex performs Chopin’s Impromptus #2 in F sharp major and Mozart’s Concerto #20 in D minor (the second movement), although he admitted, “I can’t memorize music in my old age. Your mind can’t retain what it did when you were younger. I’m working on that now.”

He also has plans for what he wants to learn through 2015, such as Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 12 in F major and Liszt's Un Sospiro. He studies with Kristian Klefstad, a doctor and professor of piano at Belmont University in Nashville, with whom he spends three to four hours a day practicing.

“I try to be exact and do it right,” he said of his work. “I want to play the piano, not just hit the key. It’s about timing and knowing how to color the music and express it.”

Rex is happy to have returned to what he describes as “my first love” and believes it is possible for anyone to recapture a youthful dream.

“You can do anything,” he said. “People have different talents. Hook into one of your talents in old age. If you don’t have a plan when you retire, you’ll be dead in two years. Don’t let yourself be bored.”

Pat Pape is a freelance writer, blogger and communications consultant, who lives with her husband and various animals north of Dallas.


Mother and Child Reading

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.” — Lin Yutang

The simple life really is the good life, and there are few better times to instill a sense of serenity in our homes than during the introspective winter season. If you feel like your world is hectic, try to whittle down your obligations list, focusing on what is truly important to you and your family.

We have tons of information on living simple in our January/February issue of Mother Earth Living. Whether it’s reducing clutter in your home life or reducing refined grains in your diet, we have the help you need to get started living simply.

5 Tips for Living Simple

How to Organize Your Storage Spaces: Use our tips for a less-cluttered, more-efficient home.

Whole-Grain Flour Guide: Replace white flour in your diet with high-quality nutritious alternatives.

Learn to Cross Stitch, Crochet and More: Occupy bored hands with these useful old-fashioned (but never out-dated) crafts.

4 Swap Party Ideas: Get your friends together for a party and save a little money while you are at it with these swap party ideas.

Vermicomposting 101: How to Start a Worm Bin System: Learn how to make your own nutrient-rich fertilizer with vermicomposting.


Every year millions of people make New Year’s resolutions that will help define their year and make the next year just a little bit better. This year, try out some of these resolutions that will not only help yourself, but the entire planet.

New Year’s Resolution Ideas

1. Love more: Remind yourself each morning: Only love today. If this is the only resolution you make this year, you have done well. Each act you take, each person you greet, every word you say, do it with love. The love you share will radiate and spread and that is enough.

2. Be more authentic: If you dare to make a second resolution, take the time to be a more authentic you this year. Resolve to not be afraid of what other people may think of you, but just be yourself this year and you will shine.

Be Authentic
Photo by Kristy Severin

3. Buy with your heart: Making the choice to purchase with your heart this year will fulfill your moral integrity and speak volumes to companies selling their products. To be a consumer is to have a voice. Your purchases impact the outcome. By making a commitment to buy eco-friendly, fair trade, organic, natural, local, and in general more thoughtful purchases, your resolution can change the demand for suppliers. Buying ethically sound products tells companies that this is what we want and what we will tolerate as consumers. Making the resolution to buy less but higher quality products from the food we eat to the clothes we buy also sends a positive message to sellers impacting our planet and the people all around us.

4. Eat less meat: As resolutions should be positive, I will not delve into the astoundingly disturbing state of our meat industry, but rather resolve to take the time to find out where our meat and all food consumed comes from. How is it produced? What exactly are we eating? If the food we eat is not produced in a positive light, find food that does and eat that.

Whole Foods
Photo by Kristy Severin

5. Eat more whole foods: As a follow up of resolution #4, fresh fruits and vegetables in their natural state are whole foods that make us healthy. Legumes, nuts and grains, are also whole foods that will make us healthy and happy. Starting a garden is another great way to begin exploring the natural state of food and is a great introduction to eating more whole foods this year.

6. Laugh more: From movies and television to friends to finding humor in the everyday norms of life, laughing can help heal your soul and inspire others to share in your laughter.

Children Laughing
Photo by Kristy Severin

7. Help others in need: The joy of helping others is contagious and can help make you happier and healthier this year. Find a local charity in your community that may need volunteers or donations or even take the time to help a neighbor, friend or family member by doing something extra special this year and throughout the year.

8. Express gratitude more often: By telling the people around you how thankful and grateful you are for all the things they do in your life will make everyone feel happier and more at peace this year. Each day is a gift—cherish the people and moments in your life.

9. Do more physical activity and meditate often: Release the endorphins and mental chaos through mediation and physical activity. Take the time each day to stretch, rest, and workout.

10. Enjoy more music and take the time to dance: Lastly, if you have a radio, record player, iPod, or any musical device, turn up the volume and dance!

Cheers and love to everyone this year! Happy New Year!

Kristy SeverinKristy Severin is a mother of two, a certified art instructor, photographer, painter, writer and cook. She earned her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda, East Africa. Inspired daily by her children and love of the earth, you can find her fine art and writings at The Art of Green Living.


Winter evenings can stretch on and on…and on. Banish cabin fever by bringing the focus back to the simple joy of gathering around the proverbial hearth. Occupy bored hands with these useful, old-fashioned (but never outdated) crafts. The website Craftsy offers online classes for everything from knitting to quilting.


For Beginners

Cross Stitch: a type of counted-thread embroidery in which the artist uses x-shaped stitches in a tiled pattern to form a picture. Crafters usually use a special fabric that makes it easy to count out the stitches for a symmetrical image.

Crochet: a process of creating fabric from yarn using hooks. Unlike in more-complex knitting, only one stitch is “active” at a time.

More Advanced

Knitting: similar to crochet, knitting creates fabric from yarn or thread using knitting needles. Depending on what type of garment is being crafted, several “active stitches” may be held on a needle at a time.

Crewelwork: a type of free embroidery—the artist uses a variety of needlework stitches to follow a design on the fabric.


When the weather is drab, we can crave something (anything) new. Try these four swap party ideas as a way to get friends together, make a change and stay in good financial shape doing it.

Friends Having Dinner
Photo by iStockphoto

1. Soup Swap: Sick of the same old winter menu at home? Curb the urge to dine out with a soup swap party: Have each attendee bring a pot of their favorite soup and a set of food-storage containers (canning jars work great). Line up the soups, and let the tasting commence! Everyone can pack up some of each soup to take home and leave with a variety of new soups to savor over the coming week.

2. Clothing Swap: How often do de-cluttering and parties come together? Tell your friends to pack their unwanted clothes (we all have that skirt that fits awkwardly stashed in the back of the closet). Pool the goods and let everyone swap it up! Cast-offs from one closet become new favorites in another, and everyone ends up with something new for a great price: zero dollars.

3. Kids’ Toy Swap: Gather moms of kids in a range of ages, and have everyone bring items their kids no longer use. You’ll leave feeling lighter, and armed with plenty of entertainment for your little ones through the rest of the winter.

4. Book Swap: Looking for a new page-turner to stimulate winter nights? Get your friends together for a book swap. Over warm drinks, sort through the offerings until everyone leaves with the glow of time spent with friends—and new books.


As the holidays are quickly approaching, wrapping gifts can be a fun way to celebrate the season of giving. By sharing these eco-friendly Christmas gift wrapping ideas with your family and friends, you can inspire others. As you plan your gift giving, try out these easy alternatives to wrapping your gifts this year:

1. Brown paper bags: Brown paper from grocery bags, craft paper, and packaging insulation can be repurposed as gift wrap. After wrapping your gifts in brown paper, you can add pops of color from fabric ribbons, homemade gift tags, yard clippings for greenery, or even festive drawings can be added to make your gift one of a kind and eco-friendly.

Brown Paper Bag
Photo By Kristy Severin

2. Fabric:  From specially made fabric gift wrap like the ones from Chewing the Cud, to an old t-shirt or fabric ribbon, fabric can be used to wrap gifts by tying the fabric around your gifts. The fabric can even become part of the gift itself, such as a bandana, scarf, or tea towel.

Fabric Gift Wrap
Via Chewing the Cud

3. Reusable bags: As so many stores now sell reusable bags at the checkout line, they can be an easy, inexpensive alternative to gift wrap. By placing a few sheets of tissue paper in the top, the person receiving the gift can then reuse the bag for their own shopping needs.

Reusable Bag
Photo By Kristy Severin

4. Baskets: Baskets are a beautiful way of displaying a gift and is an eco-friendly alternative as it can be used again and again. Baskets can be purchased new or from thrift stores and Goodwill.

Christmas Basket
Via DIY Network

For more ideas, follow me on Pinterest.

Kristy SeverinKristy Severin is a mother of two, a certified art instructor, photographer, painter, writer and cook. She earned her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda, East Africa. Inspired daily by her children and love of the earth, you can find her fine art and writings at The Art of Green Living.


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