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NEW FOOD FRIDAY FLASH – BODY FOODS

17 Jul Hair style

You may have noticed that I recently posted a New Food Friday Flash a week earlier than usual. That’s because I had allergy brain, otherwise known as fog brain due to allergies. My allergies have really been acting up lately and I’m not just talking about my respiratory allergies. Let me tell you how I got Angelina Jolie lips due to an allergic reaction.

 

Angelina Jolie Lips

Sunscreen Lips!

I always wear lipstick outdoors to keep my lips moist and prevent cracking and bleeding. I’ve been wearing Chapstick with sunscreen to do the same when I’m doing yard work. Over a gradual period of time recently, my lips began to swell. Then they developed cuts or ulcers at the corners of my mouth. It hurt when I ate and they bled. I thought, “What the heck is going on here?” I finally figured out it was due to the sunscreen in my Chapstick. I stopped using the Chapstick and the next day, no more ulcers. My lips returned to normal although I rather enjoyed their puffiness!

 

The moisturizer I use on my face when I’m outdoors also contains sunscreen. When I stopped to think about it, I had seen a dermatologist six years ago for red blotches on my face and a scalp rash. He gave me all kinds of drugs which helped my scalp but didn’t do anything for my face. The blotches were still there. After the recent lip incident, it dawned on me that my moisturizer also contained sunscreen and that it was probably what caused the blotches on my face. I stopped using the sunscreen moisturizer on my face. No more blotches on my face. Now I use a non-sunscreen hydrating moisturizer.

 

I felt good about finding the causes of these allergic reactions until I developed yet another allergic reaction and rash on my arms and legs! This happened at the same time that a Measles outbreak occurred in Indianapolis which worried me even though my inoculations are up-to-date and I had Measles when I was young.

 

I suspected my laundry detergent because I had bought a new one – one I had never heard of before. I had also been adding more detergent to the wash than I usually do. So, I stopped using that brand altogether. I bought a mild, perfume and dye-free detergent. I’m sure you’ve heard of it: ALL. I also now use less detergent than the manufacturers recommend. I’ve had this rash about three weeks at the time of this writing and still have not rid myself of it although it is much improved. I cut back on the detergent due to the advice from one of the authors listed below.

 

Right around this time, I had been watching a program on the Livewell Network called Steven and Chris. I have to commend them on their wonderful, knowledgeable guests. Nutritionist Joy McCarthy caught my ear on one of their programs. I was lucky in that my local library had her book, “Joyous Health.” She was the spark that ignited my desire to find the underlying cause of my recent skin reactions.

 

Cancer-causing Ingredients

Her book lists ingredients to avoid in cosmetics, such as: BHA, BHT, DMDM, (a formaldehyde-releasing preservative; formaldehyde causes cancer) and PEG (may cause cancer), and many others. These ingredients are not only harmful to us, they are harmful to fish and other wildlife.

Fish and Wildlife

Save the Fish!

 

Sulfites

She also writes that people with asthma or who suffer from allergies, are especially sensitive to sulfites, commonly found in:

 

wine

dried fruits

potato chips

frozen fries

fruit snacks

frozen dinners

Nitrates and nitrites (which cause cancer in animals)

 

I had written a post a while back about sulfites. They can also be listed as celery root extract in an ingredients label. The good news on dried fruits: she says you can soak the dried fruits in filtered water and then use them without suffering a reaction! 

 

After I read her book, I went back to the library and reserved books on natural products. I learned a lot and am still reading and learning!

 

A Growing Intolerance to Chemicals

According to author, Melinda Coss who wrote, “Natural Soap,” there has been a sharp increase in the number of people suffering from skin allergies due to our growing intolerance to chemicals in household products. So, this is not just a female problem. Men use household products and cosmetics too. Men wear sunscreen and men do laundry! Isn’t that right men?

Incredible Hulk

Strong Men!

 

Hair Care

Each of the books I borrowed and read had something to offer, including one that was focused more on African-American women, written by Lisa Akbari, “Every Woman’s Guide to Beautiful Hair at Any Age.” Although her tone was scolding, I figure I needed to be scolded! I am much gentler to my scalp and hair thanks to reading her book.

 

Other changes I am making due to my readings are to use natural products on my hair like coconut oil instead of store bought cream rinses and shampoos which contain harmful ingredients like sulfates, parabens and artificial fragrances that cause inflammatory skin reactions and are suspected to cause cancer.

 

Coconut oil is useful not just for sautéing foods, but also as a conditioner for your hair, a lip balm, and a shaving oil, just to name a few things. It conditions and soothes skin, so says DK publishers of the beautifully artistic book, “Natural Beauty.” You can find coconut oil in the same aisle as the olive oils. Buy the organic, oil-pressed jar.

 

A Light Bulb Moment

  • All these years I have been a fervent believer in caring about what I put into my body without enough thought as to what I put ON my body. What can I say? It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks! Arf!

 

Food for Face

Bananas and avocados will not just be going in my mouth; they will be going on my face, in my hair, and on my hands. A mixture of avocado and honey makes a great hydration hand mask for dehydrated hands according to author Elizabeth Tenhouten, author of “Natural Beauty Homemade Recipes for Radiant Skin and Hair.” Bananas contain pantothenic acid which strengthens the hair.

 

Hair Growth

Mix half a banana with one egg, a tablespoon of coconut oil, and one tablespoon of honey. Shampoo then apply the banana mixture to your scalp and hair; leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and condition. Author Annie Strole claims this mask is great if you want to grow your hair and prevent it from breaking. Promise me you won’t ring my doorbell when I’m doing this! 

 

Hair Buildup

Kelly Reno, author of Soaps, Shampoos & Other Suds says you can remove soap build-up from your hair by combining ½ cup water and two tablespoons of lemon juice in a bottle. Shake thoroughly and gently massage it in. Then rinse with warm water. There are many variations to this recipe. Some authors recommend apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice.

 

More in Future Posts

More on this topic will be posted on my blog in the future. These books have really enlightened me. I have already made my own shampoo and lip gloss. Some of these ingredients were not readily available in supermarkets although they did have many of them. It has taken me about a month to get all the ingredients that I need without breaking the bank.

 

An Investment in Safe Products

I should be able to make my own laundry detergent, hand lotion, shampoos, rinses, conditioners, facial masks, hand masks, lip gloss, lip balm, and more. I am in the process of extracting the best recipes from each book using the most popular ingredients like avocado, lavender essential oil, castile liquid soap, and aloe vera gel just to name a few. I stayed away from the harder to find, more exotic ingredients like calendula oil or apricot kernel oil or the endless variety of oils that are either online or at health food stores (even though I did find a health food store nearby that stocks EVERYTHING!) I don’t know how involved I will get into this. If I see more promising results as I did from my homemade lip gloss, I may invest in more of these products.

 

An Investment in Time

I haven’t seen any noticeable results from my homemade shampoo except that my hair looks thicker and is easier to manage. I know, those are good results, but the shampoo is hard to work with when my hair is wet. I’ve tried two different shampoo recipes with one being better than the other. I have a third that I want to try before deciding that homemade shampoo can take the place of unsafe, store-bought shampoo. I’m also having trouble with homemade hair conditioners. They seem to be too oily. The third recipe for shampoo I want to try, contains some oil whereas the other shampoos didn’t. That might be the one! Third time’s the charm! Stay tuned!

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New Food Friday Flash – Sweet Potato Rolls to Die For!

19 Jun Pull apart Sweet Potato Rolls

Can we all agree that we all love hot, buttered rolls? But they’re not the best for our health or waistline. Since I am always looking for ways to improve my diet, I have tried another James Beard bread recipe that I am addicted to! Again, it’s from the “old” book I found at the library. The man knows bread! I’ve also read his book on fish. It wasn’t nearly as good and disappointing in comparison. But I wasn’t disappointed with his Sweet Potato rolls recipe!

 

Has anybody not heard that we should stay away from white potatoes? Why? At the risk of repeating what you already know, they’re not as nutritious as other vegetables; they contain a high amount of pesticides (they’re in the “bad” 15 category), and we tend to fry or slather them in butter or sour cream which is not good for us. What’s a potato-loving girl (or guy) to do? Substitute your potato craving with a sweet potato.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

 

Sweet potatoes have more nutrients, they’re high in fiber and they’re low on the pesticide scale (they’re in the “good” 15). We can make a “pumpkin” pie with them. We can bake them in the skin and serve with a pat of butter. And, we can make sweet potato rolls with them! I’ve tried several recipes making rolls with white potatoes and they have hardly any flavor and little nutrition. You’ve got to try these sweet potato rolls!

 

I’ve made sweet potato rolls five times now. When I’m down to my last one or two rolls, I start baking a sweet potato. I like the sweet potato skin to show some blackened areas from baking because that caramelizes the potato and brings out the sweetness.

 

I knew that yesterday I was planning to do lots of yard work and would be too tired to make the rolls, so I started the night before. I put the dough ingredients and sweet potato together (I had baked the sweet potato the night before that) and put it in the fridge overnight. I wasn’t sure this would work, but happily, it did!

 

The next morning before I went out in the yard, I took out the bowl of dough. It had risen beautifully as you can see in the photo.

Sweet Potato Dough

Sweet Potato Dough well-risen

 I rolled the dough into 24 balls and put them in two cake pans as I usually do. I placed them in my microwave oven (turned off) with a hot cup of water, and left them there to rise while I did my yard work. When I came in exhausted, at 4:00 pm (I began at noon), I checked on my rolls. Look at how much they rose! 

Sweet Potato Dough Rolls

Big, Puffy, Sweet Potato Dough Rolls

 

I then baked the rolls in my convection toaster-oven. For me, it takes 17 minutes at 350° but I will give you the original recipe below.

 

They say we “eat” with our eyes. Look at the color on these beauties!! They’re gorgeous! They’re moist! They’re fluffy! When you put them in cake pans, they pull apart like cotton candy! 

Pull apart Sweet Potato Rolls

Beautiful Color on these fluffy Sweet Potato Rolls

 

The final result: they tasted the same as the sweet potato rolls I made without putting the dough in the fridge. The only difference is that they raised more, and were bigger than usual. What’s not to love about that? Isn’t it great to know that you can do this recipe in steps if you’re short on time? Plus, if you use the refrigerator method, you don’t have to knead the dough at all.

 

I enjoy them with breakfast and with dinner. They reheat very well in the microwave and they keep in the fridge very well. I keep them in the cake pan.  After they’ve cooled on a rack, cover them with aluminum foil. I also put the foil-covered rolls in a clean, plastic bag in the fridge just to ensure that they don’t get stale. This works very well. I keep the other cake pan with rolls covered the same way, and put them in the freezer. So, when the first batch is nearly all eaten, I take out the frozen batch and put them in the fridge. Easy-peasy.

 

Beard says you can substitute the sweet potatoes with canned sweet potatoes (without the liquid), or winter squash, like butternut squash or acorn squash. I tried acorn squash rolls yesterday but I prefer the sweet potato.  Either would make an excellent substitution since they are equally nutritious, high in fiber, and low in pesticides and a good way to sneak a vegetable into your family’s meal.

 

Sweet Potato Roll Recipe

2 packages dry yeast

4 Tablespoons sugar

½ cup water (100° – 115°)

3 Tablespoons melted butter

1 Tablespoon salt

2-3 eggs (one for basting rolls)

3-3 ½ (or more) cups flour

½ – ¾ cup cooled, mashed sweet potato

2 Tablespoons cream

 

Combine the yeast with 1 Tablespoon of the sugar and the ½ cup water in a bowl. Let it proof 5 minutes. Add the remaining 3 Tablespoons of sugar, the melted butter, salt and 2 eggs. Stir well to blend. Stir in the flour one cup at a time with the potatoes. (I prefer to add the potatoes before adding the flour.) Knead 2-3 min. Add enough additional flour to prevent sticking. Dough will be soft. Shape it into a ball. Put in a buttered bowl, turning to coat all. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place about 1 hour. Then punch dough down, shape into a ball again and let rest 2 minutes. Form into golf ball size balls and place on a buttered cookie sheet or 2 cake pans. Let rise until doubled in size. Brush with the last egg mixed with the cream. (I prefer using only an egg white mixed with 1 Tablespoon water and 1 Tablespoon powdered dry milk which I always have on hand. I never have cream in the house!) Also, I brush the rolls before I let them rise. If you brush dough after it has risen, it tends to deflate the dough.

 

Bake at 375° for 20 minutes depending on your oven. Makes 24 rolls or two loaves. Bet you can’t eat just one!

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New Food Friday Flash – Irish Soda Bread

15 May Irish soda bread side view

I have been on the hunt for an easy to make, quick, delicious bread recipe since the year of the flood. I think I found it! This is not the usual recipe for Irish Soda Bread. Most recipes I’ve seen contain raisins. This one is raisin free. If I want bread with raisins then I’ll also want cinnamon in it. Then it wouldn’t be Irish Soda Bread, it would be Cinnamon Raisin Bread. I also have a recipe for Irish Soda bread using yeast. This is not that recipe. I started making this bread at 8:00 pm one night when I craved bread. It was on a cooling rack at 9:00 pm. That’s what I’m talking about and that is why this month’s New Food Friday Flash focuses on Irish Soda Bread.

 

The story: I was searching the book shelves at my library for baking books and came across a book by the famous chef, James Beard. When I tried to check it out using the computer checkout station, I couldn’t find the library number on the book. I asked the librarian about it and she said it was an old book so the number would be on the inside cover instead of on the outside of the book. Sure enough, it was inside. I hesitated for a moment when she said “old book” but I thought I’d check it out anyway. Boy, am I glad I did!

 

James Beard’s “Beard on Bread” is a treasure trove of bread recipes. I’ve made two of his breads so far and both were very delicious. The Irish Soda Bread caught my eye because it had no yeast or raisins in the ingredients and when I scanned the recipe, it said to knead for 2-3 minutes. There is no waiting for the dough to rise. His ingredients list did not include any sugar but his directions said to add the sugar! Aaargh! I thought, too many obstacles! This recipe can’t be any good! There is no waiting for the dough to rise? There is no 10-minute kneading as I am used to? Should I add some sugar? Should I leave the sugar out? But I was desperate for a piece of bread! Desperate I tell you. I left the sugar out even though my other Irish Soda Bread recipes contained sugar in the ingredients list. It would only go to my waistline anyway.

 

Here is the recipe:

3 cups whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 ½ to 2 cups buttermilk

 

Beard also included another version of this recipe using all white flour instead of whole wheat flour. I used half white bread flour and half white all-purpose flour. If you use all white, decrease the baking soda to ¾ teaspoon.

 

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly then add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough, similar to biscuit dough but firm enough to hold its shape. Knead 2-3 minutes on a floured board. Form into a round loaf and place in a well-buttered 8-inch cake pan or a well-buttered cookie sheet. Cut a cross sign on the top of the loaf with a very sharp, floured knife. As it was baking, it rose and kept rising! It was beautiful bread, decorative because of the necessity to cut a cross on the top with a sharp knife before putting it in my convection toaster oven. It browns nicely in 35 – 40 minutes at 375° in your oven.

Irish Soda Bread in one hour!

Does this bread look like Santa Clause or it is just me?

 

Beard says to cut the bread in paper thin slices. I like it thin, I like it fat, I like it any which way but loose. He likes it buttered. Its great buttered but it is also good with blackberry spreadable fruit. It is very good as garlic toast (slathered in butter, topped with Italian herbs and garlic salt). It would also be good as sandwich bread. You have to try this bread. It’s good for novice bakers, old-hand bakers, what the heck, a kid could make it.

 

It keeps well in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. One-hour bread. I think I died and went to heaven!

Irish Soda Bread T-stand

Yipee! I love this bread!

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New Food Friday Flash – A Better Breakfast

17 Apr Beans, Grits, Egg, Irish Soda Bread Toast for Breakfast

I’m a big fan of PBS. They have a program; actually, it’s more like a documentary, they call “Breakfast Special.” Apparently, it was so popular that they now have a Breakfast Special II. The narrator and cameraman (and crew) go around the country at various restaurants that serve breakfast. These breakfasts are special! The interviewed customers rave about them. The program is light and funny. The breakfasts are typically huge, sometimes unusual, and very delicious-looking. When they stopped at a restaurant that served buckwheat pancakes (at only a certain time of the year), my mouth watered so much that the next day I ran out and bought buckwheat flour and made my own! Since sadly, I am not a breakfast lover, I decided it was time to make my own “Breakfast Special.” That’s why I chose it for this month’s New Food Friday Flash.

 

Breakfast has never been my favorite meal of the day. Sure, I love my recipe for Southern Rice Pancakes but it is time-consuming and the syrup and butter I put on them goes straight to my hips. A few times a year I’ll treat myself to bacon and eggs but I recently learned I’m allergic to sulfites. So, in an effort to eat a healthful breakfast and incorporate more beans in my diet, I created a recipe that I love and I want to share it with you. The following are the star players.

 

The Grits

Grits are similar to corn meal which is how you make polenta. Polenta is a southern Italian staple. I’m half southern Italian (and half northern Italian) so the chances of my liking grits, ironically popular in the south of the US, were good! Grits are white whereas corn meal is yellow. Grits are grittier and corn meal is creamier. I top the grits with a pat of butter.

 

The Beans

I’ve discovered refried beans. I don’t know why they’re called “refried” because they aren’t fried to begin with so how could they be “re” fried? In the supermarket, you can buy various types of refried beans, some with lard, some without, but I like the lardless Pinto refried beans. I doctor them up in a tablespoon of olive oil in which I fry half a chopped onion, one clove of garlic chopped, and about a teaspoon of Chipotle in Adobo Sauce (comes in a can) minced. I keep my Chipotle in Adobo Sauce in a container in the freezer and when I need it, I scrape it with a fork or whatever is handy and put it in the pan. This all gets sautéed until the onions are translucent. Then, in goes the can of beans. I mix it well, put it in a dish, and take as much as I want to go with my grits, saving the rest in the freezer.

 

The Egg

Any egg will do, but if you really want to spoil yourself, use Eggland’s Best eggs. The flavor and vitamin/mineral content is superior. I like mine well peppered with a little salt.

Beans, grits, & egg

A well-peppered egg on top of grits and refried beans

 

The Grapefruit

They say everything is bigger in Texas. Looking at the Red Texas Grapefruits I bought at Meijer, I can see it is no lie. They are wonderfully sweet! If you haven’t had a red Texas grapefruit, you don’t know what you’re missing!

Try some grapefruit

Texas Red Grapefruit

 

The Alternative

I made oatmeal instead of grits but put on too much cinnamon. Yet it turned out great and now I prefer it that way! Sprinkle on a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and it’s a nice alternative to grits and better for you. Buy old-fashioned oats, also better for you.

 

I coat my 6-inch cast iron pan with a little coconut oil and spread the bean mixture on one side and the grits or oatmeal on the other. Top this with an egg, salt, and pepper and it’s ready for the toaster oven for 7 minutes at 400° for a still jiggly egg. Experiment with the time to get your egg the way you like it.

 

While this is baking in the oven, I am eating my grapefruit. I also make myself a large hot cup of water with ¼ of a lemon squeezed in and a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger. Sometimes I add honey, sometimes Truvia, a natural sweetener. It’s better than tea or coffee. Actually, it tastes a lot like regular tea to me but doesn’t stain your teeth and ginger is good for you.

 

This breakfast is divine! The beans are a little spicy, the grits or oats a little sweet, and the egg, well the egg is an egg and if you like eggs, it’s good! The grapefruit is sweet and juicy! Sometimes I’ll have a slice of Irish Soda Bread too with butter or jellies depending on how hungry I am and how much time I have.

Beans, Grits, Egg, Irish Soda Bread Toast for Breakfast

Beans, Grits, Egg, Irish Soda Bread Toast

 

Now I can join the people who love breakfast as long as I’m having THIS breakfast! Try my breakfast special, you’ll like it!

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An Episode of “Cops” Right Before My Eyes

10 Apr 662718

April 9, 2015 around 11:30 am, a Thursday. I decided to go to the library even though the weather predictions were for severe storms. My car needed a free rain wash so as far as I was concerned, it was a perfect day. That’s how it started out anyway.

 

As I was making the turn onto Rockville Road, I was barely able to make the turn because traffic was so backed up. I knew there must be an accident. Sure enough, after driving maybe 100 feet, there was a white van and a small black car that looked like it took the brunt of damage to the headlight area. Four young people were standing next to the vehicles, now in the center of four lanes of traffic, two lanes going east and two going west. Two of the accident victims were wearing red shirts. Meijer’s employees wear red shirts so I assumed since they were practically in front of Meijer, that that’s where they were headed until the collision.

 

Because of the accident, everybody was driving very slowly, including me. Little did I know what was to happen next.

 

Maybe 500 feet further on I saw a white car parked on a gravel area to my right in front of an abandoned building. There were two people in the car. I not sure why, but I kept looking at them. Something didn’t seem right to me. Then, I looked to my left and I saw a youngish guy, maybe 28 in a dirty, tattered undershirt, with dirt on his face, running in the turn lane area of the four lanes of traffic. It looked like he was running in slow motion. This wasn’t my imagination. The guy was stoned. He had a big grin on his face, laughing. Then I saw a cop car coming from the opposite direction of me with his siren going, and carefully cut across traffic right in front of me. I had plenty of time to stop, maybe I was already stopped, I don’t remember. He slowly pulled into the parking area behind the white car to my right, got out and yelled, “Get down f*cker!” Before I knew it, seconds, there were cop cars all over to my left. How they managed to get there so fast with all that traffic mess is beyond me! A big guy from somewhere behind me, ran to help the cops. At least that is what I presumed he was going to do and it turned out that he did. He may have been a plain clothes cop. Maybe he was an ex-Marine or a fireman. Who knows? I didn’t know what the heck was going on. He ran towards the stoned guy with energy that was palpable. A black guy in a pickup truck in front of me had also stopped and got out of his car and stood within feet of the action. I wasn’t sure if he was going to help the cops or cause trouble. I wondered at the time if he had a phone/camera. I was OK up until that point.

 

Then I thought I heard gun shots. This is when I got unnerved! A split second of panic! Should I get out and run for it? Should I duck under the dashboard? Fortunately I didn’t have to make any such decisions because apparently, the sound I heard was the stoned guy being tasered. He ended up getting tasered twice as far as I could tell, and believe me I had a front row seat. I heard him yell out, “Ow!” just once. At this point I grabbed my purse and dug out my mace. With all the crime that’s been going on in this city, as of a few weeks ago, I felt the need to carry mace with me. That’s a pretty sad statement of the crime situation Indianapolis has reached. I imagine a lot of the folks in the cars near me reached into their glove compartment for their gun. This isn’t Texas but they’re far from being gun-shy here. It’s not unusual to hear on the evening news that children have been shot. There are homicides almost nightly. Now that summer is coming, it will only get worse.

 

You know how so many people say when they are in a similar situation like mine, “I felt like I was watching a movie!” Well, I didn’t feel like I was watching a movie, but I wished I was watching a movie! It was more like I was IN this movie! And just yesterday, in a jocular mood, I was saying aloud to myself in my house, “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up!” I’ll never say that again!

 

But I digress. When the lead cop of this scenario began talking with the black guy and the two of them seemed like they were joking, I decided all was in hand and put my mace back into my purse. Two cars behind me decided the show was over, pulled out of line not wanting to wait for the pickup to get going so we could all get going. I didn’t feel like I wanted to do anything rash but I would have thought that one of the cops would motion cars to now go on their merry way because in case you didn’t get the picture, traffic was at a standstill. After a few seconds, the black guy got back into his car, looked at me with a slight smile, and started up his truck. That’s when I began driving too and everyone followed.

 

What just happened exactly? I asked myself if I needed to pull over. Am I upset? Not to be funny, but am I going to have PTSD after this? I decided I wasn’t that upset. It was over quickly and efficiently. There were no hurt innocent bystanders. I don’t know what kind of shape the perpetrator was in because I didn’t see him put into a squad car. I think he was still on the ground under police bodies when I drove off. I wouldn’t think that such a skinny guy would need that much man-power to be over-taken. I’ve watched a few episodes of “Cops” and I do get the situation. I’ve seen how Tasers work on news footage so that wasn’t new to me although the sound of it was. And, I’ve even seen that lead cop before, where, I don’t remember; a gray-haired guy, probably with a lot of years of experience on the force. I appreciate him slowly driving in front of me and not veering wildly in front of me as I’ve had happen to me on another occasion by an impatient cop when there was no incident at hand whatsoever! In hindsight, this was all well-orchestrated. In hindsight, I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I actually do hear gunshots. That feeling of panic made me think of all the children in the Columbine massacre.

 

After these two incidents, the car collision and the dramatic arrest that played out in front of me, although I wasn’t speeding, I caught every green light on my way to the library. That had never happened before. Once in the library, I got on a computer, reached in my purse for my USB stick and it wasn’t there. I had left it at home. That meant that I didn’t have any of my passwords and therefore couldn’t do anything on the computer! That had never happened before either. What kind of a crazy day is this?!!!

 

So, you mean to tell me that I got up early, got dressed, touched up my roots with my new hair color stick, all to just witness a two-car accident and an arrest within feet of each other? What kind of an insane day is this? I could have stayed home and baked bread! As it was, there was hardly any rain, not enough to give my car a good wash, so that a bust too. (Just a little play on words for your amusement.)

 

Hours later as I was eating my dinner, thoughts of the arrest kept running through my mind. I pondered why the black guy in the pickup truck and the lead cop were so chummy with each other when everything was all over. I remembered thinking as he got into his truck that he looked as proud as though he were part of the collar. (The arrest.) And I was like, “huh?” about that at the time. I also wondered why they would let a motorist, and a black motorist at that, get out of his vehicle and stand near the action. Then it dawned on me. He was part of the “sting.” Maybe he was the lead detective on the case. I wouldn’t know half as much of this stuff if I wasn’t a fan of the Jack Reacher audiobooks!

 

Anyway, that was my day. How was yours?

 

 

New Food Friday Flash – Wildflower Honey and Honeybees

13 Mar Honeybee at work

All my life, I used clover honey in my tea and in any baking dishes or any recipes that called for honey. The truth is I never really liked the taste of it. One day, I decided to try Wildflower Honey. I will never go back!

Honey Made from Wildfloewrs

Wildflower Honey

 

As you might have guessed, wildflower honey is from wildflowers and clover honey is from clover, the annoying green that has invaded your lawn!

 

I have also tried buckwheat honey and another variety called golden honey. Buckwheat honey comes from buckwheat. I liked it even less than clover honey. Golden honey comes from Goldenrod. Golden honey has a lemony note and goes well in tea with lemon. The ebeehoney website (link below) claims that their customers who have allergy issues prefer this type of honey because “goldenrod honey is taken off very late in the season when goldenrod is primarily the only plant in bloom.” So, can honey be taken as a treatment to lessen allergy symptoms? Probably not according to the Mayo Clinic. Still the idea isn’t so far-fetched.  

 

Light-colored honeys like clover honey or orange blossom honey are higher-grade honeys. Dark colored honeys like buckwheat honey are lower grade honeys. This is according to Encarta Encyclopedia. Somewhat contrary to this is information from the website http://www.ebeehoney.com/HoneyVarieties.html which claims that darker honey has more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant properties compared to lighter honey. They also claim that honey variety tastes can vary due to rain amount, nectar sources, sunlight, etc. which all affect what flowers, plants, trees, are in bloom for the bees to collect nectar and pollen.

 

Why do bees make honey?

Bees make honey to feed their larvae (their young). They also make it to help them survive the winter months. It is similar to squirrels storing nuts for the winter. During the other seasons, their food source is pollen.

Honeycomb

Busy Bees Filling their Comb with Honey (sxc.hu NoShoes)

 

The honeybee is native to Asia and the Middle East and was introduced to North America by early European colonists. This bee is known as the European honeybee. By the mid-1800s, honeybees had become widespread. Today, they are on every continent except Antarctica. There are six other recognized species of honeybees: the Indian honeybee, Koschevnikov’s honeybee, the dwarf honeybee, the andreniform dwarf honey bee, the giant honey bee, and the mountain giant honey bee. (I wouldn’t want to run into him! Or, is it her?)

Bees

A mustachioed Bee and his Girlfriend(sxc.hu vjeran2001)

There are many races of the European honeybee. Races? That is what it says in my Encarta Encyclopedia. The most popular are the Italian, Carniolan, and Caucasian honeybee. How do you know when you’ve been stung by an Italian honeybee? When it stings you it says, “Batta Bing!” Just a small joke. Very small.

 

Africanized honeybees, also known as killer bees, are a hybrid of African and European races.

 

Honeybees exist in a very complex social community or colony. The queen bee is the only sexually productive female. She is the mother of all drones, worker bees, and future queens. She can lay as many eggs in a single day as her body weight, often exceeding 1500 eggs. She controls the sex of her offspring. Amazing, these creatures, aren’t they? No wonder they are among the most studied insects.

Beekeeping

Beekeeper (sxc.hu NoShoes)

 

The queen mates with the drone honeybees. The drones don’t do anything but mate with the queen. They are the equivalent to a stud horse or George Hamilton. Once they mate with her in mid-air no less, they die. They make the slackers of the office world look busy.

 

The extreme opposite are the worker bees. They are workaholics. They keep the nest clean. They construct the honeycomb. They defend the nest. They collect the nectar, water, pollen, and propolis, a gummy substance used to seal the exterior of the nest. They convert the nectar to honey. They feed the larvae, queen, and drones. They control the temperature of the nest. You would think this would tire them out, but no, they communicate the location of food to other worker bees by “dancing!” Uh-oh, I feel another joke coming on. This must be why the BeeGees wrote the song, Staying Alive! “You must be dancing, yeah!”  Anyway, in six weeks the dancing worker bees are dead. Would that be square dancing or the polka? Sorry, my dance card is full. Is Garth Brooks involved? You might want to think twice the next time you tell someone you are “as busy as a bee!” 

Tulips

Tulips Waiting for the Bees (sxc.hu gregav)

By now, it is common knowledge that honey is bees’ “spit.” Well, not exactly. It’s actually worse than that! A worker bee, called a “field” bee, goes out to collect the nectar from flowers and puts it in its honey sac, which is an enlargement of its esophagus. It regurgitates the contents into the mouth of a “house” bee that deposits the nectar into a cell in the comb and carries out the tasks necessary to convert the nectar into honey. Encarta doesn’t go into the tasks of converting the nectar into honey. Could it be any worse than what we already know? All I know is that it goes from one bee’s mouth to another bee’s mouth and then into my mouth. Yum.

 

Survival Issues

Wasps and hornets prey upon honeybees. Honeybees also fall prey to birds, cane toads, robber flies, bears, and the ferocious honey badger.

 

During the past 10 years, mites have killed thousands of honeybee colonies in North America. The mites live in the bee’s breathing tubes or on the outside of larvae and adults. Sometimes it seems like dust mites are in my breathing tubes so I can relate. Science is trying to develop tolerant strains of honeybees to replace the mite-susceptible ones. Menthol fumes can help reduce some mite infestations.

 

There are 20,000 species of bees worldwide. They are not on the endangered species list yet. If that ever becomes an issue, not only will we see a reduced sale of honey, but we will see a scarcity of such crops that rely on pollination to the tune of $10 billion annually in the United States.

 

Precautions

Honey contains a natural presence of botulinum endospores. Children under one year old should not be given honey because their systems are not developed enough to handle the bacteria.  Some adults shouldn’t eat honey if they are sensitive to pollen, celery, or other bee-related allergies.

 

Final words of advice: do the taste test to see which honey you prefer. When you see a bee, don’t swat at it, just get out of its way and don’t spray pesticides near them.

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Cooking Tips and Other Tricks

10 Mar Apple Pie with a Cup of Tea

With over 50 years of cooking and baking, I have come up with a few cooking tips that I have not seen mentioned anywhere else. I’d like to share them with you.

 

LEMONS

Here is a tip for fresh lemons that I learned accidentally! You know how lemons turn to mush after you had cut them in half and only used one-half? This happened to me too frequently and I was annoyed at how many times I would have to throw out the remaining half lemon. One day, since I needed a lemon wedge for my tea, I decided that instead of cutting the lemon in half, I would cut a wedge out of the lemon. Guess what? The remaining lemon stayed fresh until I used up every wedge cut from the lemon – well over a week. It helps to twist your plastic wrap tightly around the remaining lemon. Also, if the plastic wrap gets wet, discard it, tear off a fresh piece of plastic wrap, and wrap the remaining lemon. You won’t be throwing out any more lemons! This works with limes too.  I love this tip!

 

I had a cup of tea with honey, a lemon wedge, and a nice slice of homemade apple pie.

Apple Pie with a Cup of Tea

A Slice of Homemade Apple Pie with a Cup of Tea with Honey and Lemon

 

MORE LEMONS

What do you do with the remaining lemon when a recipe calls for nothing but the zest of one whole lemon? You don’t want to throw out the lemon. The chances of saving the lemon without the protective outer layer are not good unless you have plans to use it within a day or two.

 

One lemon without the zest!

What to do with a lemon once you’ve removed the zest

Here is what I do: I get a sharp knife and cut the lemon into wedges, put them in a container and then put the container in the freezer.

Zested lemon wedges in container

A zested lemon cut into wedges ready for the freezer

I use the wedges for hot tea or thaw out a wedge or two and squeeze them over fish. Actually, you can use these wedges of lemon the same way you would use fresh lemon. Another benefit of saving lemon this way is that you can remove all the seeds at the same time you are cutting the wedges. Works great and helps cool off a too-hot cup of tea!

Hot cup of tea with frozen lemon wedge

Squeeze frozen lemon wedge into a hot cup of tea

 

BACON AND EGG(s)

I buy bacon infrequently, but when I do buy it, I cook it all up either in my toaster oven or in a fry pan. I drain it all on paper towels that I line in a glass bowl. I let the bacon cool and store it in the refrigerator or in the freezer depending on how soon I think I’ll use it.

 

Then, when I want bacon and egg (only one egg for me) for breakfast, I get a heatproof plate, cover it with parchment paper, and sprinkle bacon bits on it from my bowl of cooked, cooled bacon slices. I crack an egg on top of the bits. I place the dish in my toaster oven, select Toast, add a slice of bread alongside the dish, and select the highest Toast cycle, which for me is number 3. When the bell dings, I leave the toast and dish in the toaster oven to absorb the residual heat while I’m getting other items ready like tea or coffee, etc. This makes perfect toast and a sunny side up egg with crispy bacon. Clean up is a breeze!

 

Any runny yolk stays on the parchment paper, not on the plate. I get just enough taste of the bacon to satisfy me without overdoing it, limiting my salt intake for the day. You would be surprised at how eating a couple of slices of bacon can make you go over your salt intake! I love this tip!

 

COLD FEET

Is there a woman out there who doesn’t suffer from cold feet? There have been times when my feet were so cold that it would take me an hour to fall asleep because my feet were so cold and no amount of blankets were enough. I complained about it to my doctor and he told me to wear two pairs of socks. That didn’t help.

 

I finally got the idea to wear two pairs of jogging pants or “sweats” around the house. This solved my problem indoors.

 

When I go outdoors, I wear a pair of long johns under my jeans. If you don’t know what long johns are (also known as thermal underwear), they are insulated pants, typically white, and relatively seamless, with matching separate tops that are made of a very stretchy fabric. Mine are 50% cotton and 50% polyester and made in the USA. You can buy them at Meijer and probably Walmart. I’ve had mine a long time and bought them when I first decided to go skiing. They are snug around the ankles and the wrists to keep in your body heat. They don’t show under your jeans. They are comfortable; you won’t know you are wearing them.

With this crazy, dangerous weather, you never know if your car is going to be stuck somewhere or you are going to be hit by a vehicle in a skid, so you want to be sure you are able to withstand the cold just in case you can’t stay in your car or your heater dies. These long johns also help to protect you from the high winds we’ve been having which make it seem even colder. I no longer have cold feet and in fact, I am as warm as toast!

 

Final words: double your pleasure by doubling your pants!

 

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How an Inheritance can Fracture Your Family

12 Nov DaVinciS

After seeing how inheritance issues have left my extended family with hurt feelings and relatives not talking to each other anymore, I concluded that adult children should be treated equally when it comes to an inheritance. I came across an article by Jean Chatzky  a best-selling author and an award-winning personal finance journalist and thought I’d share it with you. Below are excerpts from her article. It opened my eyes. She quotes several experts in the field. I’ve added my own rebuttals below each of her 5 steps. I added a 6th step.

  1. Can you communicate openly? According to Detroit area elder law attorney Mark Accettura. “Estate planning is not a democratic process. It’s really the parent’s wishes,” he says. Parents should give kids a basic sense of where they stand financially — always noting that the situation can change if more money needs to be spent on their own medical care — as well as clear instructions about whom to contact and where important papers are kept.

***

Me: As someone who majored in Communications, I firmly believe it’s a miracle that any of us can understand what anybody says. Seriously. Yes, some of us are better at communicating than others, but you better be prepared for that good old “perspective” not to mention someone’s life experiences to throw you for a loop!

Here’s a test. Picture an apple. In fact, draw an apple and jot down all the details of your apple. Did you do that yet? Good! There are over 400 followers on this blog. Guess how many of you will have the same exact apple details? NOBODY! One of you will have a red apple, one of you will have a green apple, one of you will have a small apple, or a big apple, or a sliced apple, or a baked apple, or applesauce, etc. That test was our communication only about a simple apple.

guitargoa

The Big Apple

Answer this question. How many families have open communication? Aren’t families notorious for having “family secrets”? Don’t get me wrong, open communication is a great idea. If you can accomplish it, you’re way ahead of the game. Also, I might add, do you feel comfortable about telling your children where you stand financially? Sorry, I don’t. I might as well post my assets on my blog. Haven’t we been brought up never to talk about “religion, politics, and money”? Now, nearing our deathbed (or not), we’re supposed to tell our kids about our assets? That’s like telling our kids what sex positions we like. Does my son know my basic financial worth? I think so. Who can remember? A better question is, “Does he give a flying leap?”

  1. Are you treating each child equally? One of the most frequently asked questions by anyone leaving an inheritance is whether they have to treat the kids equally. Experts say it certainly helps.

“If you want to minimize fighting, leave it as equal as you possibly can,” says Accettura. That applies not just to assets but also to responsibilities for settling your affairs. “When parents appoint responsibility they’re making a statement as to who is worthy, capable, who they trust. It’s a final statement and it’s irrevocable, so it’s important to be concerned about people’s feelings.” He suggests that anyone capable should at least have a small role.

***

Me: Ah, this is such a subtle thing, appointing responsibilities but Accettura really nails it on the head when he talks about “a parent’s statement as to who is worthy, capable, and who they trust.” How many parents take this into consideration? It seems minor, but it’s about as minor as a walk across a minefield.

  1. Did you leave the decision making up to one child? Leanna Hamill, a Boston-area estate planning attorney, has seen parents with, say, a $200,000 life insurance policy name their oldest child beneficiary and trust him (or her) to divvy it up among the siblings. Big mistake.

“If you want all siblings to inherit equally, put them all down as beneficiaries,” she says. If you have jewelry, art or other items to bequeath, leave a list of who gets what, along with a method for dividing up whatever is left so that people can take turns calmly.

***

Me: Suppose one of your children is a Financial Advisor. You should have that child be the beneficiary and trust him or her to divvy it up. Right? Big Mistake in my opinion! Put them all down as beneficiaries and follow the rest of the advice of Hamill.

  1. Are you distributing unequally based on what you think you know about your children’s assets? There are reasons parents do this — perhaps one child earns significantly more than another, and therefore needs less — but it can lead to resentment, which is why, Hamill says, many people avoid talking to their kids about inheritances in the first place. At the very least, write a note to go with the will, she says. “Leave something that says, ‘I love you all equally. Here is why I am doing the distributions the way I am.'”

***

Me: This goes back to #1. Communicating AND my two cents about perspective. Does the parent really know the income/savings of each child or are they guestimating? If you distribute unequally, maybe you better get copies of their income tax returns first! You might be surprised! And who’s to say that the child who has more doesn’t lose half of it in the stock market or housing crash, earthquake, flood, or whatever, 10 minutes before you die? All the more reason to distribute equally. The only exception I see to this rule would be if you gave money to one child while you were alive.

  1. A trust might eliminate some uncertainty. If you want to make sure your children use the money wisely, consider putting it in trust with a few strings attached. Many estate planning attorneys recommend distributing the assets in chunks (typically one-third at age 25, one-third at age 30 and one-third at age 35).

The thinking is that with maturity will come better financial decision-making. You can also include a provision that if your child is going through some sort of substance abuse problem at that time, the distribution can be held to a later date.

***

Me: Wow! They surprised me with the mention of a child having a substance abuse problem. What are the chances that the child will be substance-abuse free by age 35 or 40 or 50! Tough decisions, very tough decisions. Fodder for making the decision to have only one child or none! Or, spending it all on yourself or giving it away to charities! That’s not so far-fetched so I added a Step 6.

  1. Don’t leave your children anything. The singer Sting, formerly of The Police who is worth over $300 million, stated he would not be leaving an inheritance to his children. Other wealthy parents who share this point of view are Bill Gates, Warren Oats, and Nigella Lawson, just to mention a few.

Leaving and/or receiving an inheritance should be good for your mental and physical health, but it isn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s just the opposite. Proceed cautiously.

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Happy Halloween!

31 Oct Pie pumpkins are cute!
Pie pumpkins are cute!

Would you like to be the pumpkin in my pumpkin pie?

This little pumpkin is called a pie pumpkin. It is the perfect size to make a pie and I’m going to do just that!

Make my day by not eating too much candy and making sure you eat your fruits and vegetables!

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Knee Pain – One Simple Exercise to Get Rid of It!

25 Oct X-ray of knee

I’ve had knee pain on and off in my life. Many years ago when I began limping because the pain wouldn’t go away, I went to see my doctor who was a Family Practice doctor specializing in Sports Medicine. He told me I was built like a basketball player (I guess he would know) and explained why I was having pain and what was going on in my knee. The patella (kneecap) was out of alignment because muscles on one side of my leg were stronger than on the other side and therefore were pulling the kneecap off its track causing a grinding motion. The exercise he gave me to do was so simple, I doubted it would work.

 

One key to make sure this is the correct exercise for your knee is this: if you have knee pain when you get up from a chair, this is the exercise for you. All other knee pain may not improve with this exercise. In fact, you could make the problem worse so be sure it’s that you have knee pain when you get up from a sitting position. Here is the exercise he gave me. It starts off very mildly with little weight:

 

Get a can of something, soup, kidney beans, corn, whatever you have in the house. Before you lie down or sit on the floor propped up on your elbows, fasten the can to the ankle of your leg with the problem knee. I wish I could remember how he told me to accomplish this but I can’t. Try a dish towel. Then, lift your leg up about 10 inches off the floor. Hold it there to the count of 10. Do three repetitions. You might as well do it on the other foot too since you’ve got the can and you’re already on the floor. Plus, you don’t want to end up with one leg being stronger than the other.

 

Do this exercise every day for one week. You should start to feel some improvement in your knee. You might even feel some improvement by the next day.

 

With me, I don’t think I felt any improvement so I called my doctor and asked him if I could use a heavier weight. He said yes. This is when I bought my first pair of ankle weights. They were 2 lb weights. I worked with them and that’s when my knee improved.

 

Eventually, I joined a health club and used their leg extension machines until I was using 65 lb weights. But I s-l-o-w-l-y built up to this over the years. It didn’t happen overnight!

 

In fact, I can’t stress enough how you need to do things slowly. Whenever I went to a new gym and got the free personal trainer for a day or week or whatever their deal was, if they told me to do such and such an exercise with 10 repetitions, I would only do 3 or 4. I did not want to be sore. If you are just starting a health club membership, you don’t want to be sore starting from your first day. It’s ridiculous that they always push you to do too much. It isn’t a race! You want to get in better shape with a minimum of soreness and/or pain if ANY! So, you go Monday and do 3 reps with the personal trainer. Then you go Wednesday and do 4 or 5 reps of the same exercise or machine and gradually build up on all the machines you like. Or, you may want to stay at 3 reps for a few more visits before you increase your weights. Listen to your body. Just because someone calls themselves a personal trainer doesn’t mean they know what is best for you! I’ve had some terrible, terrible personal trainers! And I can’t think of one who told me something worth remembering! That’s a pretty sad statement, so beware!

 

When I stopped using a health club, my knee pain slowly came back. So, I remembered the exercise that my doctor gave me to do and attached my ankle weight to my ankle. I did some exercises lying down and also the same exercise standing up and the pain left again.

 

My doctor told me not to be surprised if someday someone told me that I would need a new kneecap. It’s been 40 years since that doctor visit and as yet, nobody has told me that I need a new kneecap!

 

If you follow my blog, you know that I do a lot of different exercises: squats, kickboxing, knee-raises, weight lifting, Pilates, pliés (ballet movement), and let’s not forget mowing the lawn not to mention climbing the ladder. These all help to strengthen the legs overall but the weight on the ankle zeroes in on the problem area of your knee.

 

If you have increased pain when you do this exercise, stop. It may be the wrong exercise for you or perhaps you have too much swelling in the area and need to apply ice. The application of ice reduces the swelling and therefore the pain. My doctor told me to get a Dixie cup and fill it with water then put it in the freezer. When it was frozen, I was to gently rub the ice on my knee. This was a fun way to apply ice. You might want to make an extra ice cup just to lick while you are treating your knee!

 

Sometimes a simple exercise can work miracles. I hope this one works for you!

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