Sunday, November 8, 2015

Winter herbal prep

About two weeks ago, I started preparing the herbal remedies I want to have in the house, ready to go when winter hits. The fire cider, in particular, takes at least a month to properly infuse in the vinegar. Elderberry syrup is a lot easier, and I can make it in an afternoon. I have a couple of good tea mixes ready, and I've lined up my ingredients for some salves and bath preparations for winter chapped skin.

Why bother, when I know I can buy off the shelf preparations for all of this? Love, for one. When I make things for my family, to preserve their health, it is one way to show my love for them. I, as the "mom" in the house, am the one who cares for all of us when we're sick. I put the intention of that love in everything I make for them. It is soul-satisfying.

Next, although commercial preparations may be effective, I've found that my natural ingredients may be gentler on the system. As well, there is scientific study, especially with the elderberry syrup, that they are effective. Elderberries are a specific for flu. ( My Healthy Heart tea is filled with vitamin C from the hibiscus flowers, and hawthorn leaf, flower and berry which are wonderful for your heart and blood pressure (

I want to spend more time on my herbal studies this winter, and perhaps finish the course of instruction I am studying with Rosemary Gladstar, to be certified. It's so satisfying to do this and share it with my family and friends. As well, I want to make sure that the food we eat, especially in the winter months, is wholesome, healthy, and healing. The recipe search is on!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Comfort foods and dieting.

Today, I made kimchi fried rice for lunch. It's one of my son's favorites, and actually, it's quite healthy, especially when I make it with brown rice. Rice, a little leftover meat, and chopped kimchi. Most of my son's comfort foods are Asian, either Korean, Japanese or Chinese for the most part. I suppose having been raised in a dojang (dojo), and having spent a lot of time at various martial arts functions contributed to this. But fried rice was something we made a lot at home when he was young, especially on days when it was getting close to payday. We would talk while I chopped up every vegetable in the crisper, and the end result was always tasty. So, to him it's comfort food.

My comfort foods are much less healthy, and usually carb laden. My absolute favorite is bread that is just out of the oven. The smell and taste both remind me of my father, who was a baker. He smelled of flour and yeast and sugar all the time. When I would visit him at work, he would pull a French roll out of the oven, slather it with butter, and give it to me as a snack. I could have gotten a cookie, or a danish pastry if I had wanted it, but bread was my favorite. Since one of my other comfort foods is soup, it's a marriage made in heaven! Give me a good soup, and some good, fresh bread, and I'm happy.

One of my husband's favorites is macaroni and cheese. And, he will eat any version of it, from the cheap powdered cheese version to my version of Patti LaBelle's incredibly rich recipe that has about 5 different kinds of cheese. Again, carb laden, plus all that rich fatty cheese. None of us have comfort foods that are conducive to dieting.

Winter is a tough time to diet. All my comfort foods are calorie-laden, full of carbs and fats. It's funny though, none of us like sweet foods for comfort. They may be laden in carbs, but not sugar. So, what shall I do? Winter is nearly upon us, and I can't afford to put on any more weight. I'm at the fat end of the closet already! I know the bread really has to go, or at least be a rare treat. I'm searching for healthier alternatives for my soups. Do you think I could make cauliflower and cheese for my husband? I'm fairly sure he'll notice...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Smallest Change: NaBloPoMo #2: Morning routines

The Smallest Change: NaBloPoMo #2: Morning routines: A lot of the blog prompts from this month have to do with your childhood, or things you do today that are based in your past. Today is, &quo...

NaBloPoMo #2: Morning routines

A lot of the blog prompts from this month have to do with your childhood, or things you do today that are based in your past. Today is, "What is the first thing you do every single day (I mean, after you hit the snooze button)? When did that step in your routine begin?" I had to really think, because since I retired from teaching, my mornings are very different.
When I was working, every morning had the same routine. Get up, head to the kitchen and start the coffee. That was the routine for decades. Mornings do not begin until caffeine is available. Then, while the coffee brewed, I showered, did my hair and makeup and dressed for work. By then, my coffee was ready, and I could sit for a few minutes and savor the taste.
Coffee didn't enter my life until I joined the Army. I was a tea drinker until then. I enjoyed Constant Comment, or just plain old Lipton's every morning. My parents drank coffee, but I thought the bitter taste was really nasty. But, during basic training, there was no time to allow tea to steep, and cool off enough to drink. You know, the drill sergeant yells, "You've got 10 minutes to eat and 5 of them are gone!!!". So, I switched to coffee, with plenty of milk.
When I was stationed in Germany, I started to really appreciate good coffee. I would go to the little German coffee bars, and sip my coffee with just a bit of condensed milk, and sugar. In the afternoons, I would sit outside, and sip a cappucino. I kept tea in my barracks room, for after work, but I really started to enjoy coffee more each day.
After the Army, I came home to my new husband, who was a serious coffee drinker, and that's when the morning pot became a ritual. My Mr. Coffee was filled and ready to go before I went to bed, and the sound of the hissing, gurgling last few drops became my alarm clock. Of course, I hit the snooze button, but when the coffee was ready, I could get up. Tea was an afternoon treat.
All of this was obviously pre-Starbucks, and all the other coffee bars we have today. Fancy coffee drinks were far in my future, but now, I have a very hard time imagining morning without this bitter, sweet, caffeinated drink. So now, my morning routine is; wake up, use the rest room, and head for the Keurig. Coffee in hand, I sit down to see what happened overnight, first the news, then Facebook. So, good morning, all!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Seasonal rant

When I was young, there were only two seasons in California. Dry and warm, or rainy and chilly. That was it. Sports were divided into seasons as well. Of course, back then, there were only three sports that every boy played. In fall, football. In winter, basketball. And in spring/summer, baseball. Yes, there was the occasional wrestler, at least in high school and college. Girls had field hockey in the fall and softball in spring. For them, the outliers were the gymnasts.

Now, every sport bleeds over into the next. It's November, and we're in the middle of the World Series, football is in full swing, and I just saw an ad for basketball. Soccer, which was way too European to be played when I was a kid, is year round.

Now, why should I care? I don't play any of them, and I'm really not much of a fan, either. Well, it's the fact that that muddled way of thinking is bleeding over into everything else. We just finished Halloween, which used to be one of my favorites. So, I walked into the grocery store today, 1st of November, and the clerks were wearing Christmas hats already. Not something for Veteran's Day. Not for Thanksgiving. Just Christmas. The calendar, from October to January has all been compressed together. Yes, I know that Christmas is the big moneymaker for them all. But, I am old enough that I want to take my time and savor each holiday separately. I don’t want to rush anymore.

I know that it’s not going to happen. Advertisers just won’t allow it. But at my house, the Christmas decorations aren’t going up until after Thanksgiving. Think about it. Don’t rush through your life without savoring each day, each holiday. Remember when you were a child, and kept talking about how great things were going to be when you grew up? Now, you look back and wish you were young. Seize the current day, don’t try to live in dreams for the future!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Book Review: Infuse

I got Infuse as I love working with herbs and making infused oils that I use in various salves and rubs. I thought it would be fun to move into working more with food and drink infusions. This book doesn’t disappoint.
Every home cook can use the recipes in this book. And, everyone can easily afford the main tool; a mason jar! So easy, so uncomplicated. The terms like muddling are explained. In fact, most readers will wonder how they didn’t think of these recipes themselves, as they’re so simple. I know that reading this has made me think of how I can play with the ideas to make my own mixtures. I’m really looking forward to the Limoncello among the recipes listed.
The illustrations are beautiful, and the layout is easy to follow. I feel that there is a lot of wasted space though, when the illustrations take up a whole page rather than more recipes. But, all in all, a book that I’m going to keep on my “to be used” shelf, and not on the “collectible” shelf!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Healthy mind, healthy body.

Format: Hardcover

"The Healthy Mind Cookbook" is just what it says, for the healthy minds, and for a healthy mind. I just love the simplicity of this title, and the more profound meaning to what it could mean. What we eat has such a profound impact on both body and mind. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” But enough philosophy.

First off, love the cover. It's simple. Second, the layout of this book is perfect for cookbooks. The chapters are categorized by what it is, and it's up to the reader to decide if it's an appetizer or entree or for breakfast or lunch. I frequently have breakfast foods for dinner. I love soup, so the soups chapter with 17 recipes made me happy. There's a total of 93 food recipe in this book, and additional 17 for dressings and sauces. And wait, there's more. There are 15 recipes for drinks, labeled "Tonics and Elixirs" which range from simple 'Almond Milk', to 'Mexican Hot Chocolate' and 'Brain-Berry Smoothie'. Since I just picked up a Ninja system, this is going to be really useful.

And last, but not least, the most useful part of the book is the information that Ms. Katz and Mr. Edelson put together in the first three chapters of the book. The descriptions and information put forth, were worth the time to sit and really study this cookbook. Stress, anxiety, depression, memory, cognition, learning were just some of the areas touched on with correlations to food. The "Culinary Pharmacy" of chapter 2 is a very good resource. The first three chapters have a wealth of information, and for each recipe, the nutritional facts/information were also provided. Instructions on how to store was also useful As well, I love cookbooks where someone already has included the calculations of how much calories a recipe has. I've been trying to do so with a lot of home-cooked meals, and it's so time consuming.

I’ve long been aware that foods affect both my moods and my health. Carbs put me to sleep. Sugar, in particular, makes me irritable. Go back to the Thanksgiving dinner where you just want to sleep afterwards and forget about family and friends for just a half hour. Eating a big salad with fresh organic greens, avocado and an assortment of fresh veggies makes me feel satisfied, but awake. Yes food affects you more than you may think. Nobody really has the time to do the research on their own anymore, because the information is both overwhelming and contradictory. Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson have done it for you.. As an aging woman, I am aware that I need to be aware of things like memory, and such. This book is about detoxification, about choosing the right foods for the health of your body, and more specifically, your brain. When your brain is healthy, you have no idea what wonderful is. There is quite a list of foods and how they help the brain followed. Lots of recipes, from soup to dessert, snacks, tonics and drinks are all included. I have made a few of the salads, salsas and soups, and have not been disappointed. Don’t leave this one on the shelf!

I received this book from “Blogging for books” and the opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Exercise, love and hate.

I have a lifelong love/hate relationship with exercise. The first thing it brings to mind was when the "President's Physical Fitness" tests started when I was in elementary school. Up until then, I suppose I was an average child of the sixties. I played on the swings, ran around the schoolyard, played with the other kids in the neighborhood (where I was the only girl). I preferred books to running around though, even then.

But suddenly, in an effort to measure my physical fitness, I had to show that I could run a distance, do a shuttle run, situps, pushups, and worst of all, throw a softball. I still remember the humiliation when instead of throwing that ball for a distance, I held on just a bit too long and threw it straight up in the air. My classmates thought that was just hysterical. It's not like anyone had ever taught me to throw a ball. Girls just didn't do that a lot back then.

Then there was middle school, with calisthenics where we were all lined up in neat squads, and sweated into our nasty gym uniforms. Mrs. Troutman shouted if we dropped our arms during jumping jacks, made us run laps in those horrid Keds, which had no ankle support whatsoever. The uniforms were a jumper, with snaps down the front, and wearing them for a week at a time meant that Fridays were pretty ripe! And once a month, we were forced into the dreaded dance class, where the boys and girls had gym together, and awkwardly learned to box step or even square dance.

And so, it was around this time that I decided exercise was really not for me. In high school, there was the usual basketball, softball and kickball. One year was kind of interesting though, when we had modern dance. It was then that I discovered that I had no stamina, no grace, no balance and even less flexibility.

In college, we were required to take just 4 gym classes to graduate. So, my freshman year, I suffered through tennis and field hockey. Later, I took fencing, and I really started to enjoy that, until the teacher started demanding that we run a mile at a time. Oh, no. Poking people with a foil was fun, but I still couldn't run without exhaustion and side cramps that made me throw up.

So, even knowing that I was gifted with this absolute dearth of athletic ability or desire to exercise, I decided to join the Army. And I exercised. At least for the first ten weeks. I was sure that they were going to "re-cycle" me, and make me start again, because the PT was really hard for me. But, I squeaked through. After that, exercise was minimal. I walked a lot, to my classes in Monterey. Up and down hills, every day. But at that time, there was no organized physical fitness program for language students, nor was there any during most of my Army days. The first PT test I had to take again was shortly before I got out, and I wheezed my way through the two mile run, qualifying by about 10 seconds!

But during my time at language school, I discovered martial arts. Well, first I discovered the instructor. We hit it off pretty well, and he invited me to join his taekwondo class at the gym. I'd seen judo and karate before, during high school and college, but it was all men. Women just weren't invited. And, lo and behold, I found an exercise program that I liked. It had more purpose than simply running in circles. I could protect myself. And so, my 40 year relationship with the martial arts began.

Adding new hobbies

John Shaw’s Guide to Digital Nature Photography.

To be honest, the title of the book does not say this is a beginner’s guide. But I am a beginner. I just bought my first DSLR camera, and even now am taking it from the box. So, there was a lot in this book that was absolutely beyond my comprehension. I am not yet familiar with the terminology, and you need to understand more for this book to truly be a good resource.

The book is broken into 6 sections or chapters beginning with gear. The rest of the chapters are: Getting Started, Lenses, Composition, Close-ups, and The Photographer at work. Mr. Shaw goes into detail about the type of equipment that is out there. He apparently favors Nikon cameras, as he uses a lot of Nikon examples, but you don’t need to be a Nikon fan to really use this book.

Even for a novice like me, it is a beautiful book. The examples are stunning. I kept reading, and did learn a bit, and will keep this book on the shelf. I’ll return to it when I’ve learned a bit more, as nature photography is one of the areas I’m really interested in.

I would recommend this book to those who have at least a minimal understanding of DSL digital cameras and the terminology. If you are a beginner, please realize that this is not a basic digital camera photo book; make sure you understand the terms. However, the photos and style are enough to enjoy without being an expert about digital photography.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Blogging for books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lightening up Southern favorites.

I was hopeful that this book would help me prepare some of my husband’s favorites, but with modifications to make them more healthy. There’s still a lot of fried food, which I’m trying to avoid, and the canola oil option really surprised me. There’s a lot of research showing that canola (ie rapeseed) oil really isn’t a good option.
The vegetable casseroles are a great help, as that seems to be what everybody brings to all the church functions! It’s nice to have some healthy options! The Sinless Seven Layer Dip is on my list for March Madness parties, too. Grilled Potato salad with Bacon Vinaigrette is a hit, as well. Just enough tartness and the bacon is always popular at our house.
Another plus for this book are the beautiful illustrations, and the stories that go along with them. All in all, a nice addition to my bookshelf. I’m sure some of these recipes will make it to the favorite list in my house.

I received a free copy of this book from “Blogging for Books” in return for my honest review.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Martha Stewart, Clean Living

lean Slate is a visually gorgeous book. The illustrations make you hungry, just looking. But be aware that this more of a cookbook than a diet. The Detox plan is well planned and probably will be easy to implement. There are a lot of smoothies that will make your morning tasty and healthy. I found several weeks of menus - there are a 3 day and a 21 day Detox plan that look easy to use. The detox itself uses a variety of smoothies & salads that are filling and have enough variety so you don't get bored. I think the thing that most impressed me is that most of the ingredients are easy to get, like mangos, pineapple, apples, kale (ewww) - and wonderful sweet beets! Breakfast was my favorite chapter and I have the quinoa to use to make Cardamom Quinoa Porridge. I haven't tried it yet - but will soon. I found chicken and fish and several side dishes I want to try. One thing I always look for in a cookbook anymore (I am dairy, whey & soy intolerant with Hashimoto’s disease) is whether the recipes are labeled vegan, dairy, nut or gluten free.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Book Review. Beautiful and heartwarming

In Her Kitchen; Stories and recipes from grandmas around the world, by Gabriele Galimberti

Family traditions around food are some of the most memorable we have. Holidays at Grandma’s are a big part of my childhood memories. And, of course, no one cooks like Grandma.

Grandmothers all over the world are showcased in the new book, “In Her Kitchen”. The author, Gabriele Galimberti, is young, and this world tour of grandmother’s kitchens was a long-term project. From his own grandmother’s kitchen to kitchens all around the world, he has made contact with the pride these women have in feeding their families.

The pictures are evocative and well done. I found the display picture of the women and the ingredients for their signature dish a bit repetitive, but it is important to know that this is what real people cook and eat. The recipes are well written, and finding some familiar favorites made me smile.

Of course, there are some recipes that are very simple. Others call for exotic ingredients, like iguana, or caterpillars. And it’s hard to find a moose steak to cook in most of the world. The finished dishes are beautiful, but aren’t all picture perfect. It’s real food, cooked by real people, rather than a highly polished presentation for a food magazine.

I probably won’t try to cook anything from this book. However, looking at the pictures, and reading the stories made me think of my family, and the different cultures that I’ve seen while living around the world. It will have a place on my bookshelf!

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A good start

The Diabetes Solution: How to Control Type 2 Diabetes and Reverse Prediabetes Using Simple Diet and Lifestyle Changes--with 100 recipes (Hardcover)

This new diabetes book in divided into two sections: 1. Know the disease (diabetes) and 2. Managing your diabetes (which includes 100 recipes).
The book was written at a level which most people can understand easily. It does not appear to have a great deal of new information, but it is gathered in one place, and organized logically.
‘The Diabetes Solution’ is a good starting point for those who want to learn more about diabetes, especially those who don’t have the time to do their own research.
*I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this unbiased review