8 Reasons to Sing Through the Stress

Kathryn, Kitty and Maloah, Rainbow Festival, Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County

In pondering what else I might do to shore myself up during these challenging times it occurred to me that I could turn to those many years I was singing, and what I knew about strengthening my voice–and thus my lungs and diaphragm. I had intended to announce on FB that I was committing to singing one half hour a day for my own well being. Imagine my delight and surprise when my daughter, Antonia Hall, a psychologist, sent me a post she had just written for her own blog on reasons to “sing through the stress”. I asked her immediately if I might post here as a guest blog post and she said yes! As I had begun singing recently and posting songs to my YouTube channel, I will weave in a couple of songs, including “Cara’s Song” about which I write in my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. You may recall I included the verses to that song in my book. Now you can hear the melody.

8 Reasons to Sing Through the Stress

Want a way to calm your stressed-out nervous system that’s fun, easy, and can be done almost anywhere? As it turns out, like many of the activities you may have left behind in your childhood, singing can offer you a wealth of health and wellness benefits. Whether or not you have any true talent has little impact on the many perks you’ll get from singing – even if you do it for just a few minutes a day.

Let’s look at some of the impressive physical and psychological health benefits singing offers.

1. Singing is a way to instantly shift your mood. The power of music is amplified when you sing along because you are fully immersing yourself in the experience. Choose songs that have been proven favorites that make you smile, and maybe even get you dancing!

2. You’ll increase your sense of well-being. Studies show that when you sing, your body releases mood-elevating and stress-reducing hormones. That makes singing an excellent method for calming your nervous system while also elevating your spirits.

3. It’s an easy mindfulness exercise. I’m sure you’ve heard that being in the present moment can ease stress and create a more peaceful mind. Singing is a fail-proof form of mindfulness, and that makes it a fantastic tool in the wellness tool chest, especially in these challenging times.

4. Singing is a way to boost your immune system. Science shows that singing naturally boosts the immune system. Anything that keeps your immune system strong is gold, and you can reap benefits with only a few songs each day.

5. Vocalizing is a form of exercise for your diaphragm. Singing gives your lungs a workout, while oxygenating the blood, which will make your whole body healthier and leave you feeling more alert.

6. Increasing lung capacity has the added benefit of strengthening the body. Expanding your chest can ease muscle tension while increasing muscle strength in the shoulders and back. This can be particularly helpful if you hold stress in your upper body.

7. Singing is great for your brain. Neuroscientist have found that singing stimulates new neural pathways in the brain. That makes it a wonderful way to spark creativity. Feeling stuck or “blocked” in your endeavors? Singing could be the way you find new answers.

8. There’s power in claiming your voice. Raising your voice in song can be a powerful experience. You may find that singing leaves you with a renewed sense of strength, too.

Thanks, Antonia! Great post!

And I close this with a second song, “Will You Remember Who You Are?” written by Gary Malkin, and posted on YouTube with his permission. I was inspired one morning to learn the song when he put it on Facebook, and then played his version and accompanied him. I hope you enjoy.

Please practice protocols, stay at home as much as you can, and find those things that nurture you during this time. I’d like to hear some of you are singing!

Love and blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book Notes: Guess what? I’ve begun something new! I recently did a Skype gathering with a wonderful Book Club in the UK, arranged by friend Liz Watkin, whom I know through the gardening blogger community, and who was a guest blog poster on this very blog! It was SO MUCH fun! Many thanks to her for that. And if you are interested in arranging a Book Club gathering, let me know!


The Creation of Idris the Dragon

So last year my dear friend in the UK, Liz, finally was forced to comply with an old crochetey neighbor’s request to cut down an heirloom ash on their property line that apparently was somehow bothering him. Determined to have something good come of the sad situation Liz read about a local who was known for his wood sculptures, a guy named Mick Booth of Cosmick Carvings. She contacted him and gave him this simple direction: “I don’t want a friendly Disney dragon. I want a fierce guard dragon.” And Mick agreed to do the work.

The above four meter ash trunk was dispatched to Mick’s workspace with no further discussion, and the work commenced!

This is the drawing Mick drew as he imagined Liz’s dragon, whom she had named Idris. She never once saw the drawing until Idris was delivered. When asked why she chose the name Idris she said that it is a Welsh name, her maiden name is Welch, and it was also the name of a dragon in Ivor the Engine, a children’s tv cartoon she watched as a child in the UK. I had to look him up! I found him quite charming!

First cuts began in Mick’s workshop.

Idris’s face begins emerging with serious tools! And that process is followed by his body, wings, tail development. How exciting! One cannot help but think of Michelangelo chipping away at his marble, allowing an angel to perfectly emerge!

This is Idris’s being set free. How wonderful to have his emergence documented! Bravo, Liz, for envisioning him into existence.

And now he’s going home. The day arrives and Mick and his friends bring Idris to Liz’s lovely garden, where he will live atop his very own nest of rocks. He will survey Liz’s teahouse and pond and be enjoyed by those who are lucky enough to visit this lovely garden.

Have I mentioned Idris weighs over 1100 pounds?? That’s 1/2 tonne, 3 metres long in UK system. And he had to be hauled 100 metres up into the garden!

Liz and her husband had placed a foundation of flagstones down where Idris could land. And then began the work of building the rock nest where he could appear to be perched. UK wet weather has allowed mosses to begin filling in the nest, and Liz plans to include more plants to give Idris the proper home he deserves.

Mick with Idris!

Liz spent hours and hours finding the right rocks on her property, and placing them to her liking. This involved her husband splitting some to make them fit just so!

And now nature lends a hand and helps create the green rockery on which such a fine creation can call home. Isn’t he marvelous? Well done, all!

Now, I asked Liz for a pic of her and Idris, but at the moment that would involve her going out into stormy weather so I am including this one of her for the moment. (She loves the snow!)

I’m hoping Idris has inspired some of you to think of creations you might include in your gardens!

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxox

UPDATE: The sun came out in the UK and Liz popped out for a pic with her guardian dragon!

Liz with Idris!

Book Notes: First, many thanks to those of you who purchased copies of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden during the Christmas holiday. It’s gratifying to know some of your loved ones will be reading my book this winter. Also, very exciting to announce I will be doing a Skype session with Liz’s Book Club participants in February and I’m realizing this is something I am looking forward to expanding! If you have a Book Club that might be interested in reading Plant Whatever Brings You Joy and would love to meet me as author via Skype (or whatever else might be suitable), let me know! I am happy to arrange! Thank you!


Perfect time of year for persimmon bread!

Just before Thanksgiving I took advantage of our last warm weather and hosted a Neighborhood Potluck on a Sunday afternoon and invited my dear friend, artist Eta, up from Marin to join us. She arrived with this in hand–a lovely gift of persimmons from her garden! She had tucked them into a simple basket, nesting in blue tissue paper and popped in some sprigs of nandina berries and some little autumnal mums, making for a delightful presentation. Lucky me! I told her I planned to make persimmon bread and she asked for the recipe, so that request is prompting this post, which I think both she and all of you will appreciated. This recipe is a keeper and has served me and my family over many years.

A word on persimmons! There are two kinds which we see in California this time of year. The hachiya, with which this bread is made, and the fuyu, which is smaller, is not elongated underneath, making it kind of squat, and much firmer. One does not bake with it, to my knowledge. You simply munch its yumminess down once it’s ripe. Seen from above, they look the same.

Rich Persimmon Bread

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 C. loaf pan.

Whisk together:

1 1/2 C. unbleached white flour
1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cloves

Measure 1/3 C. milk and add 1/2 t. vanilla.

In a large bowl beat 8 T. unsalted butter (i.e., 1/4 lb. which is one stick).

Add 1 C. sugar and 1/3 C. brown sugar and beat for at least 3-4 minutes.

Add two eggs, one at a time.

Add 1 C. persimmon, which you have dug out of its skin.

Now add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture.

Then fold in 1/2 C. golden raisins and 1/2 C. chopped pecans.

Spoon batter into your loaf pan, and spread evenly. Bake about one hour. You will know when it’s done when a clean fork comes out clean after puncturing center top. 🙂

Allow bread to cool for at least ten minutes prior to cutting.

I love this bread and so does everyone I share it with. It’s rich and deeply satisfying. I hope you will make some and enjoy!

Love and holiday warm wishes,
Kathryn xoxo

Kathryn and Eta

Book Notes: A bit of exciting news: in January I will be doing a Skype session with a book club in the UK who has chosen to read Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden together organized by dear friend Liz Watkin, whom I know through the gardening blogger community! I am thrilled with this opportunity to connect with readers abroad! I think it’s going to be great fun. If any of you belong to a book club and are interested in doing one of these I’d be happy to discuss with you! Lastly, I hope you will consider a copy of my book as a Christmas gift for anyone you think would enjoy. Thank you so much. XOXO

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