Friday, June 29, 2012

Coffee again.... for External Use Only

Here in sunny southern California, I exercise outdoors everyday.  Walking, hiking and yoga in the sunshine.  My skin is tanner than it has been since I was a little girl, playing outside all day long in the summertime. But with the healthy-looking color comes the unfortunate side effect: dry, dry skin. There is no humidity in the air here, and as a result, I'm rubbing what seems like gallons of moisturizer onto my body to keep from shedding like a snake.

My dear friend, Dr. Margaret Henry, mentioned to me a remedy that she had heard about and tried. Coffee grounds mixed with olive oil, she said, would return my skin to baby softness. Intriguing. Since my husband makes coffee for himself every morning, I asked him to reserve the grounds for my experiment.

I took a wonton soup container full of coffeegrounds into the shower with me, sans oil. I just didn't want to have to slip and slide around the tub, or scrub that oil out when I was through. But I exfoliated my entire self with those coffee grounds, and when I was through, my skin felt miraculously soft! It had never felt better.

The shower, however,  had looked better. It looked as though I washed a muddy horse in there, but a quick spray with the hand-held showerhead cleared everything right up. Bonus: according to the internet, coffeegrounds down the drain help reduce odors and clogs.

Thanks to Margaret, my skin and my shower drain are in the best shape of their lives.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Solstice simple slaw

Happy Summer! Even though most of the US had an unseasonably mild winter, the onset of summer is still a time for rejoicing. Celebration. Eating. Wearing tiny shorts and sundresses while eating. Eating outdoors in skimpy clothes. I want to look and feel good this summer. Rather than eating heavy, fattening, mayonnaise-drenched salads, I prefer my foods fresh and light.

Here's my low-fat, lickety-split summer slaw recipe that is loaded with nutrients. Eat it in your cutest sundress while relaxing in the warmth.


One head cabbage, shredded (or one bag shredded cabbage)
One cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup rice vinegar or raw apple cider vinegar
2 tsp raw agave nectar or maple syrup
sea salt, to taste
two tablespoons raisins, OPTIONAL

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Mix thoroughly. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I'm Back, Stress-Free

Since I last posted here a long, long time ago, my life has changed drastically. Due to my husband being laid off from his job of 20 years, we had six months of complete uncertainty. He launched a six-month, nationwide job search while we emptied and prepared our 4-story, 100 year old home for sale. While he hunted for a new job, I began a one-year professional training course in Health Coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

A giant, damaging hurricane and a freak October snowstorm added to the chaos. I had to say goodbye to the home in which I'd raised my four children, our close-knit neighborhood, dear homeschooling friends of many years, and my loving Italian/Portuguese family (who believe that grown children should live next door to their parents).

We relocated clear across country, 3,000 miles away from NJ to a tiny, temporary 2 bedroom corporate apartment in sunny California with two of my sons, my sister, and our cat Roxy. We luckily sold our house, in a down market, with the help of our wonderful realtor/friend and a relocation company. Soon after a long, arduous househunt, we moved into a more permanent house, adding my sister's two cats to the mix.

My sister found a great apartment for herself and her kitties after the new year. I graduated from IIN and received independent certification from AADP (American Association of Drugless Practitioners) as a Holistic Health Coach.

My daughter recently finished her third year of college, remaining on the east coast, and my 19 year old son returned to the fold, joining us in our LA suburb.

What is the point of all of this? To share that I'm back! And more importantly, unstressed! During all the tumult, the upheaval, the sad goodbyes, and the uncertainty about where we'd be living, I remained fairly calm. I enjoyed the process, accepting that change is the universe's default setting. Everything is constantly in motion, and once I learned to go with the flow, I felt remarkably at peace.

So now that I'm back, expect more posts about letting go of stress, being happy, and finding the fun in things.  I wish you all a stress-free, ever-changing life.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How Asparagus Made my Day

In an effort to clear up my speckly white skin spots, I am eating a diet of mostly green vegetables. I have eliminated some favorite foods from my diet: breads, potatoes, pasta, sauces, condiments, tempeh, sauerkraut, most fruits, most nuts, mushrooms, sugars, and most grains. Eating isn't that much fun right now. But I have found a simple, joyful, delightful stalk that makes me squeal. For real.

A delightful stalk that made me squawk. A joyful sprig that made me dance a jig. A delicious spike whose taste I like.

With only 3 ingredients and a few minutes under broil in the oven, asparagus brightened my whole day. The secret to the grandest green is: drizzle some melted extra virgin coconut oil over tiny asparagus stalks, and sprinkle with sea salt. Broil.

Joy. Pleasure. Happiness. Asparagus.

Added bonus: the kids love it this way too.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Earl Grey Tea may have turned me into a Cougar (or a Leopard, or a Cheetah or another spotted cat)

The Earl of Grey seduced me away from my former lover. I had a tumultuous love affair with Coffee. Dark, exotic coffee had a Latin accent and always smelled delicious. I knew he was trouble but I couldn't get enough of him. I became addicted to him. When I was with Coffee, I sensed he always wanted more of me. It wasn't enough to spend a little time together in the morning. He was so needy, expecting me to drink him all in, wanting more and more of my time and attention. And Coffee didn't give me my own space. He crowded me. Everywhere I went, there he was. At the gas station. The supermarket. Even at the ice cream shop. I became so dependent on Coffee, I even took him with me for rides in the car. Concerned friends could see how Coffee was changing me -- I couldn't sleep, I was restless -- and they warned me to drop him cold turkey. I had to face facts: our relationship was dysfunctional.

When I finally summoned the strength to leave him, I was a mess. I cried for two weeks. My head felt as though someone took an ax to the center in an attempt to split my skull in half. I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. But, gradually, I began to feel like myself again.

I could once again enjoy an afternoon gathering with friends or a night out at a restaurant without worrying about whether Coffee would ruin it. That was when The Earl of Grey first caught my eye.

Looking back now, I now see that I was still vulnerable. The Earl was my rebound. Smarting from the breakup with Coffee, I sat alone on cold mornings, couldn't join friends at Starbucks for a meeting. And then there was the Earl: polite, gentlemanly, patient. He didn't pursue me like Coffee did, waiting at every street corner. Earl was different. Earl Grey Tea was content for me to come to him in my own time, which I did.

And in a way, I grew to love the Earl. It was a comfortable relationship, not too demanding or intense. I genuinely liked him and the way he made me feel. We had a quiet understanding. He calmly sat with me on winter afternoons while I read or wrote, making no demands. Earl had a pleasant demeanor. He warmed me on chilly days but never made me feel guilty when I wasn't available. But now, in the sunny summer, I see the damage that Earl Grey Tea caused. With the rest of my skin tanned, I have tiny white speckles on my shoulders and chest. I look like a wild jungle cat. With the Earl sitting right by my side, I researched the white skin spots on the internet and discovered that the Oil of Bergamot that makes him so appealing can cause permanent skin damage.

That was the last I saw of Earl. It was much easier to say goodbye to him than to Coffee, and at least he took it like a gentleman.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Parenting Experts?

I have been parenting since before that was even a verb. We didn't parent 20 years ago, we just had kids and took care of them. Parent was a noun. Because we had no internet and no cell phones when my daughter was born, I relied on plenty of experts when I faced troubles. Baby couldn't sleep? Read T. Berry Brazelton. Nursing troubles? Call the hospital's nursery hotline. Locating an expert often involved a trip to the library, questions of the research librarian, perusal of periodicals and sometimes long distance phone calls. It sounds so romantic and quaint now but it was terribly time consuming.

With newer and faster technology came the ability to retrieve information instantly. And there were loads of people lined up to provide this information. Gone were the days of requiring old-fashioned things like "credentials" and "education." The anonymity of the internet, and the change from books to inexpensive e-publishing contributed to today's new parenting experts. Today, anyone with a keyboard and internet access can call himself an expert. Turning expertise completely upside down, it is the act of writing a book which creates an expert, rather than the other way around.

Among some of the newest experts on the topic of raising children are Alex and Simon (Silex) of Real Housewives of New York infamy. According to Simon's website, their brand new book is a he said/she said look at how these Brooklyn parents are raising their two boys. I have seen several episodes of this reality television show and not once have I thought to myself "Wow, those two are super parents. I hope they write a book." Watch for yourself and see. Never mind that neither parent has any background in child development, yet they published with confidence a book about raising children. In an interview with Time Out magazine, Alex was quoted as saying,

"I don’t think anyone out there is a parenting expert. Nobody’s got all the answers and it’s silly to pretend that anyone does."

Just because someone doesn't believe in experts doesn't mean they don't exist. To paraphrase a line from the film The Santa Clause, you may never have seen a million dollars but you know that it exists. Of course, I don't pretend to be a million dollars just because you may not know what it looks like. defines expert as "a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority." The term expert does not imply that one possesses all of the answers to life's questions. Skills, knowledge, and even experience used to contribute to expertise. Is this no longer true? I long for the days when authorities read books and studied a topic.

I recently attended a workshop about parenting vegan kids, which was right up my alley! I hoped to pick up some tips, ideas, new recipes for my 12 and 15 year olds. The two sweet and lovely speakers each had only one child: one four year old and one infant! A parent of one breastfeeding baby was acting as an authority on vegan parenting. One year olds can't even say no. I actually found the advice adorable, in the same way I chuckled when I heard the mom of a toddler exasperatedly sigh "Potty training is the hardest part of parenting." Any parent who has raised children through best friend breakups, first loves, learning to drive, and college admission may think that bigger challenges lie ahead.

And while I'm on the subject of parenting challenges, I am wary of mommies carrying babes-in-slings spouting their homeschool philosophies. Not that they aren't entitled to have such philosophies, but until their children reach (at minimum) school age, their opinions are best kept quiet. As a homeschooler of 4 entering my 15th year, I just roll my eyes childishly when I hear a mom of a toddler lecture others about the best educational method.

Ah, but those good old days. Just remembering all those quaint styles of the late last century, such as grunge music, Thelma and Louise, and Bruce Willis with hair makes me nostalgic. But I suppose there's no turning back time. Just this week, scientists (experts in the field of science) proved that time travel is in fact impossible. So I must learn to live in this century of self-proclaimed parenting experts who have almost ONE entire year of experience. I can only hope that I don't run into any parenting issues more difficult than potty training.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vegetables You May As Well... Keep Eating

While waiting for my tea to steep several mornings ago, I like millions of others, turned to the internet. On Yahoo's homepage, I saw a headline, "Vegetables You May As Well Skip" (Amy Paturel, Self magazine, July 13, 2011). Wow, I thought. That is a bold headline at a time with record-breaking obesity rates and new governmental guidelines recommending more fruits and vegetables in the daily diet. I clicked on the headline and was directed to the article in Self Magazine.

I respect the author's good intentions, and concede that perhaps Self Magazine readers are the type who will accept her recommendations to eat the most nutrient-dense vegetables available. But I suspect that in the wider internet audience that there are more people: college students, people on low budgets, the unadventurous, and fast-food lovers, who will instead hear the advice as permission to stop eating pesky, worthless vegetables completely.

The first offender was celery. Its offense: low vitamin content. Its appeal: crunch, low calories, high water content. Celery is a convenient, high-fiber dip delivery system. Celery's crevice is the perfect place to fill with peanut butter. In soups, stews, and curries, celery is a flavor staple alongside onions and garlic. Yet the recommendation was to skip celery and eat carrots instead. True, carrots are loaded with beta-carotene. They are also tasty in dip. But carrots are higher in natural sugars than celery. Eating a variety of different colors is a healthy way of getting nutrients, and there is a reason dips are often served with both celery and carrots. They complement each other. Is there some reason we can't eat both?

The second offender: the cucumber. The offense: low vitamin content. The appeal: crunchy, refreshing, easy-to-find. The cucumber was the protagonist in a risque book comparing itself to a man (and coming out the winner). Though not as dark green as kale or nutrient-dense as spinach, cucumbers are not a waste of time. Their mild taste appeals to children. Spread with hummus or tossed into a salad, cucumbers add fiber and few calories. They are readily available, even found in convenience stores. People without access to whole natural food markets have no trouble buying them. As a snack, cucumbers are healthier than trans-fat laden crackers or chips. But the laughable alternative to cucumbers mentioned in this article was purslane. Go back and read that sentence again if you need to. Purslane.

Where cucumbers are abundant, purslane is the opposite. As an experiment, take a survey of the first five people you encounter, asking them to describe purslane. Could a majority correctly identify it as an exotic weed with smooth reddish stems, tiny alternate leaves and yellow flowers? I agree that purslane's omega 3's, Vitamin A and Vitamin C are superior. Realistically, the likelihood of my 18-year old son or his friends replacing cucumbers in their diets with purslane is nil. More than likely, he would eschew the cucumber at the salad bar and go for a bread stick instead.

The third, and perhaps least respected vegetable offender: iceberg lettuce. The offense: being the American cheese of vegetables, and maybe sinking the Titanic. The appeal: tasty on burgers and sandwiches, sold as salad in fast food joints and diners, recognizable. Ideally, Americans would all replace their iceberg lettuce with darker, healthier romaine. But I fear that after reading about iceberg's apparent lack of nutrients, Americans will choose a side of fries over a side salad. That is definitely not an improvement.

Advertising messages bombard us loudly and constantly to eat high-calorie, high-fat, salty, sugary, processed junk foods. My little blog voice is a whisper in comparison, but I would like to shout that EATING CELERY AND CUCUMBERS IS FINE!

Enjoy your celery, cucumbers and iceberg. Eat them with gusto as part of a diet rich in varied fruits and brightly colored vegetables. I am off to find a bunch (bushel? peck?) of purslane.