Health & Body

Sep
23

Surround Yourself With Positive People

by Christine

This past Sunday I volunteered to be a "body marker" for the Ironman Lake Tahoe. I, along with about twenty other volunteers, greeted the athletes at the entrance to the Lake with a marking pen and smile.  As I listened to the words of the volunteers around me, I was touched by how this community was full of goodwill and encouragement. No one talked about how cold the water was or how early the hour or what a long day it was going to be.

Words of inspiration and motivation were shared as athletes from all over the world set his or her mind in order to meet the 140.6-mile challenge ahead of them.  In the midst of preparing for the day more than one athlete thanked me for volunteering and helping to make their day a success. They had a big job ahead of them and yet they had time to say a kind word to another. The Tahoe Ironman brought together a group of people whose common goals were to help each other have a positive experience; they built a community.

My question today is what kind of community are you building? Is it a group that helps you realize your dreams? Does your community use positive encouragement to reach its goals? Is your community one of aspiration and purpose? Or do you find yourself in the midst of people who spend their time complaining and working to thwart the achievements of others? Do you allow the "haters" into your mind and world? I would encourage you to take some time to assess the community that you are building. If you don't like what you see then make a change.

Hugs,

Mar
26

Inch By Inch, Row By Row, I'm Gonna Make This Garden Grow

by Christine

Each morning I walk down to the lake to look for spring. The calendar may say it is spring but until my purple crocuses bloom, it's winter. Weeping willows are the first trees to come to life at the lake but the flowering bulbs are the true harbinger of spring in New York. I come from North Carolina farming people and about this time they are preparing the soil for pole bean, tomatoes and cucumbers. I want to head outside to start my spring garden but the soil is hard and the threat of a freeze still lingers.

When spring does arrive, the flora and fauna come to life at breath taking speed. The ground cracks open as the tulips and daffodils push towards the sun. Spring in the lower Hudson Valley is a spectacular show of life and color. When I first moved here I planted tomatoes along the fence by the lake. We had a ton of tomatoes and I felt like Ms. Green Jeans but curiously the next season not so good. What I discovered was the "soil" was only a thin layer on top of mammoth boulders. Do you remember in the Ice Age movie when layers of the earth's crust were pushed up to form a line of steep cliffs? That was New York in the movie. Dig down two feet in our yard and you will hit rock. Kind of like gardening in Florida, dig down two feet and you hit water. So I am learning how to garden in pots and contemplating putting in some raised beds. 

This year I am going to experiment with a couple of new plants. The first is buckwheat. Buckwheat is said to be an excellent ground cover and helps keep weeds in check. If you are so inclined, you can harvest the grain for use in your kitchen. I learned from Lynne Rossetto Kasper all about buckwheat. She talked to Sean Brock on her show Splendid Table about how to use buckwheat. Sean is chef and partner at Husk and McCrady's in Charleston, South; he suggested using buckwheat as a dessert?! Have you been to his restaurant? I would love a first hand report on his buckwheat dessert. 

Next I am working on an herb garden. I've had a bit of luck growing a couple varieties of lavender and I have my fingers crossed that the heavy snow season didn't damage my plants. I would like to add some licorice and lemon balm to my herb garden along with my sage and other traditional herbs. The only hold up is the arrival of spring. I'd love to hear what you are growing in your garden? Do you garden for beauty, taste or both?

Hugs,
C

Topics: 
Jan
21

This May Seem Out Of The Blue

by Christine


{Hout Bay, South Africa}

January is the month for making plans. Sales teams, teachers, wedding planners and people partial to making New Year's resolutions are working hard putting together plans for 2014. This may seems like it is coming out of the blue but January is the time to plan your vacation. Yes, we have just come off a season of holidays, parties and days off from work but that is not the same as taking a vacation. For most of us the end of the year is tons of fun but it can be overwhelming and tiring. That's why we look forward to returning to the routine in January, we need the rest. Additionally, you may be thinking about that American Express, MasterCard or Visa bill that is coming you way next week; the holiday's can be expensive fun and February is the month to pay the price. I hope you avoided a financial hangover by intentionally planning for the holiday season. 

Vacations are important to your health and your relationships. Here are three reasons why you should take a vacation this year.

1.) Taking time away from work and the busyness of your life reduces stress and allows your body and mind to recharge. If you resist the urge to over schedule and over plan, taking some time to decompress can improve your overall physical and mental health.

2.) Time away gives you the opportunity to spend quality time with your spouse, friends, family or if you want to be alone outside your everyday environment. Sharing vacation time alone or with others can deepen relationships or allow you to get to know yourself better.

3.) The biggest reason I think we need to take vacations is that it makes you more creative. Getting out of the day-to-day routine gets the creative ideas flowing. Every time I visit an arboretum or famous garden, I come home with one new idea for my garden and 10 more ideas for different areas of my life. I find vacations help me open up my mind to new ideas. 


{South Africa Wine Country}

You're now convinced you should take a vacation but why plan it in January? I have three reasons why you should be planning now. 

1.) Your time can get away from you if you don't declare a date and plan. Before you know it, the calendar will reads August and you still haven't taken a vacation so the default time is at the end of the year. A time of year that is already jam packed with expectations and requirement. 

2.) The planning and anticipation is part of the fun. Whether traveling overseas or staying in your own backyard, doing your research will enhance your trip. Marty and I had an opportunity to go to South Africa for work. We decided to take some vacation time after the project was completed. Because the project came up so quickly, I didn't have enough time to research Africa and as a result didn't plan time to see Victoria Falls in Zambia. We had flow 7800 miles to the continent of Africa and yet, we missed visiting one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World because we didn't have time to do our research and plan.  

3.) It saves you money to plan in advance. Airline tickets, hotel rooms and travel tours all give price breaks to those who plan early. Scheduling early means you have more options when you redeem your reward points. You will have more choice and better financial options. 

Take the time now to visualize and plan your vacation. You won't regret it. 

Hugs,
C


{Hippos in Botswana}

 

Aug
09

Foodie Friday: Cooking For One

by Christine


{Cheese Soufflé For One}

My mother was a great cook in "her day" but after my father died she lost interest in cooking and started substituting snacks for "real" food. I understand the impulse to just grab a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and call it an evening but I also know that nutrition becomes even more important as we age and Cherry Garcia is not a nutritionally balanced meal. Running the human body on caffeine and processed foods can take a toll on anyone at any time in life but as we age it becomes critically important to maintain a balanced diet.

Meals have traditionally been communal affairs when families and friends gather to share food and time together. The big pay off for cooking a meal is having everyone gather together to enjoy it. Unfortunately there is no such payoff when living alone so cooking for one becomes difficult. Couple that with a decreased sense of taste and snacking on treats becomes the easy default. Judith Jones is a passionate foodie who wrote about The Pleasures of Cooking for One. The cheese soufflé I prepared for this post is one of her recipes. It was tasty and easy. Her book encourages you to think of cooking as a creative outlet with the added benefit of a good meal. 

If you have a mother or father who lives alone this book would be a good addition to their cookbook library. If you are cooking for your aging parent by stocking up on multiple meals, this cookbook also has some ideas on how to keep leftovers from becoming boring. But as I was writing about cooking for one, I did think about how important it is to build families and communities so that we don't have to eat alone daily as we age. But that discussion is for another post.

Recipe:

Cheese Soufflé For One

Ingredients:

2 1/2 Teaspoons of softened unsalted butter*
1 Tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon of all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup of milk
Large pinch of coarse salt
Small pinch of paprika
1 Large egg yolk
2 Large egg whites
1/3 cup of tightly packed grated cheese. Cheddar, Swiss or an aged mountain cheese work best.**

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a rack set in the center of the over.

1. Brush the inside of a 4-by-2 3/4-inch round baking dish with 1/2 teaspoon of butter.
2. Coat bottom and sides with Parmesan cheese and set aside. 
3. Melt remaining 2 teaspoons of better in a small saucepan over a low heat.
4. Add milk and whisk vigorously to combine.
5. Return to low heat and cook, stirring constantly until thickened.
6. Season with salt and paprika.
7. Remove from heat and whisk in egg yolk. 
8. Place egg whites in a medium bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks.***
9. Add a dollop of egg whites to saucepan along with half of the cheese; stir to combine.
10. Fold in Remaining egg whites and cheese. 
11. Pour into prepare baking dish.
12 Transfer baking dish to oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. 
13. Bake until top is lightly browned and soufflé has risen, about 18 minutes.
14. Serve immediately

Just a few additional notes:

*I don't keep unsalted butter in the house so I just use the salted butter. I don't add the additional salt called for in the recipe. 
** I used Jarisberg cheese and it worked well.
***I followed the recipe exactly, which meant using a hand whisk. I felt like I was at the gym working on my upper body strength. I believe you could use a mixer if you were so inclined. 

 

Aug
02

Foodie Friday: Cooking Together

by Christine


{Homemade Stir-Fry}

When Marty and I first moved in together, we spent one or two evenings a week cooking dinner as a couple. We enjoyed creating meals as a team and learned quite a bit about one another through the process of meal planning and cooking. Marty is the more adventurous cook while I rely on trusted recipes to guide me. Turning meal preparation into a couple's event kept the process fun and engaging particularly after a busy day at work. Cooking was not a solitary task for one but a time for us to talk and share our day with one another while preparing a healthy meal. 

If you find that you are avoiding meal preparation because there are "only" two of you at home, try engaging your spouse, roommate or kid(s) in preparing a meal together. After my father retired, he and my mother spent a good bit of time together planning meals, shopping for food and cooking. Of course my father's personality came through and he treated it like he did his job. I was amazed and truthfully amused to discover that my father was incensed over what he thought to be the high cost of bananas. He was a trucking executive during his carrier and he seemed to find the cost of bananas out of balance. 

Also, if you have a parent living alone and are concerned about their diet, plan one night a week where the two of you can prepare a meal together. It will give you an insight as to how they are doing on multiple levels. You will see first hand how their home is functioning and whether they can follow the steps necessary to create a dish. I found that cooking together makes conversation easier and more fun.

I am including a basic recipe for stir-fry that I developed. Stir-fry is a simple meal because it is easy to "assign" tasks. I encourage you to experiment with ingredients to personalize this dish to your tastes. Let me know how it goes.

RECIPE:

This recipe is very easy to prepare. I choose vegetables based on what is in season, whether or not it is reasonably priced and color. You can also switch out the beef for chicken, pork or seafood. You can also use a variety of oils. I am a big olive oil fan but if you are a traditionalist when it comes to stir-fry, you can use peanut or sesame oil.

Stir-Fry

Ingredients:

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds of top sirloin steak
2 Cloves of sliced garlic
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 Red, yellow or green sweet pepper 
1 Red onion
1 Large head of chopped Bok Choy

Instructions:

1. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into a wok and heat over medium high heat.
2. Add garlic and brown.
3. Remove garlic.
4. Add beef and cook until done. Usually three or four minutes.
5. Remove beef and place in dish for later use.
6. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into a wok and heat over medium high heat.
7. Add onions and heat for about 1 minute or until they start to become translucent.
8. Add pepper and heat for about 2 minutes or until they glisten. 
9. Return beef to the wok. 
10. Add Bok Choy and heat until leaves are wilted. 

**Serve over white or brown rice. You can season with salt and pepper or soy sauce. Serves 4 to 6.

 

 

Jun
07

Join Me For Foodie Fridays

by Christine


{Spring Cherries}

I have been in the kitchen cooking since I was a little kid on a step stool. I learned most of what I know from my grandmother, my mom and high school Home Ec. Honest, I learned several tricks in Home Ec that I still use today. My greatest skill is that I can follow a recipe and my best dishes are classic Southern recipes. Today, I rarely prepare them because while tasty, true Southern food is a killer. Fried everything, homemade buttermilk biscuits, salt, fat back and other equally tasty ingredients result in the heart problems that plagued the men in my family. 

Most of my life I cooked for a family of 5 plus any friends or relatives that were around at mealtime. After my divorce and Kathryn headed off to college I slowly stopped making menus and put away the pots and pans. Meals became a hodgepodge of grocery store salad bars, granola bars or a pint of my favorite ice cream. When Marty and I got together I started to cook more but found it difficult to develop menus and portion sizes for two. Marty is very good about eating leftovers but he doesn't really want to eat the same meal for a week. Plus many evenings eating out was an easier choice than meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. 

Steadily I have learned to cook healthy, nutritious meals for one or two...though our local sushi restaurant still calls out to Marty and me on busy days. I am back to drafting menus and pulling out the pots and pans. Recently I have been reminded how important food is to healthy mental and physical development in children and as an immune booster for those over 55. Thoughtfully prepared food is nutritious; it is also an opportunity to be social and offer a loving gift to those we care about in our world. Foodie Fridays will be more than just recipes for the latest food fad but about the philosophy of eating particularly as we age. I am also hoping you will join me and share your favorite food and ideas on eating as a mean to stay healthy. Until next Friday....

Hugs,
C

Apr
26

What Do Our Shoes Say About Us?

by Christine


{My worn, paint splattered OOGOS}

The first winter I moved to the house at the Lake in New York, I headed to the car one icy winter morning in a pair of high heels. I got half way to the  car when I started to slip and slide over our stone walkway. From a distance I am sure I was an amusing sight as I mimicked a rubber legged ice skater trying to make her way to the side of an ice skating rink without falling down. Ultimately, I took off my shoes and walked to the car in my stocking feet. That was the last time I wore high heels in the winter. 

That wintry morning was the beginning of my journey towards what others would call more sensible shoes. I love high heels for many reasons. I am tall but heels make me taller. High heels can be cute or sexy depending on my mood and they definitely make any outfit dressier. For most of my adult life, I wouldn't leave the house in anything other than a pair of heels. And then my big Ice Capades moment made me rethink my shoe wear. 

I discovered that once my flat winter boots were put to the back of the closet, I did not want to put back on a pair of heels. I had experienced the comfort of flat shoes. Today I am skeptical of any woman who tells me that heels don't hurt her feet at some point during the day. I can identify the "these shoes are killing me" shuffle in 3 seconds and at a distance of 50 feet. When I was younger I was willing to sacrifice comfort in the name of fashion, now I am looking for fashion that is comfortable. 

A couple of years ago, I had a flair up of plantar fasciitis. For those of you who may not be familiar with this painful foot ailment, it requires the wearing of shoes at all times even at home. Before getting out of bed each morning I would lace up my tennis shoes to walk downstairs. Yes, PF is painful to the point that I was willing to look goofy first thing in the morning. But then I discovered what I thought to be a stylish pair of hot pink flip flops just for PF suffers on a website called FootSmart. From the moment I put them on, I was in like.

Not long after I purchased my OOFOS, I was modeling them for my children when my son asked what does OOFOS mean. I said I didn't know but I thought it was Swedish. Don't ask me why I thought that. I may of read it somewhere or just made it up in my mind. Anyway at that point my daughter piped up and said, "It is Swedish for flip flops for people over 50." We all had a good laugh but it also started me thinking. 

I think our shoes reveal a lot about us. My closet now houses a variety of shoes from running shoes to hiking boots to pink OOFOS. My flat, black dressy shoes sparkle and my sandals are shades of pink, green or turquoise. My activities no longer revolve around work and a pair of high heels. The shoes in my closet now reflect my varied activities that involve more than work and the have-tos of life.  What is in your closet? Do your shoes reveal the kind of life you are living? Do your shoes reflect who your are?

 

Topics: 
Oct
08

Taking Care of My Health

by Christine

Another picture from our recent trip to Maine.

I have been flat on my back for the past week with a mega cold. It was a lovely parting gift from my twin grandbabies. Two very huggable six month olds whose smiles caused me to experience a momentary lapse in judgment. Truthfully, I weighed the pros and cons for engaging with two sick babies. Over the past ten years, each one of my grandchildren have shared a cold with me at one time or another so I thought why should these kids be treated any differently? Little did I know twins pack a double dose of cold germs.

In 2007 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. To hear the “C” word is mind numbing and momentarily debilitating. As my doctor explained to me “if God said to you that you were going to have cancer but you got to choose, thyroid cancer would be the choice.” Thyroid cancer has a 95% cure rate and 2012 marked my 5th anniversary cancer free. But thyroid cancer changed my life.

Pre-TC I lived life as though it was a sprint, moving from thing-to-thing as fast as I could. My capacity to raise my children, manage a home, hold down a job and volunteer in my community on minimal sleep and a marginal diet was great. No was rarely used in my vocabulary unless it was to say, “no problem.” 

But in 2007 my life became a marathon. I had to pace myself. I had to eat properly, exercise and get enough sleep. I had to learn to say no. Now this didn’t come easy and it took me a while to figure it out. Slowly, maybe too slowly, I understood that the key to living the life I wanted started with taking care of myself. Yes, maybe others could stay up late to watch David Letterman but not me. As for alcohol, even moderation was sometimes too much and exercise, a requirement.  Slowly, healthy living has become a way of life.

The most difficult skill I have needed to learn was to say no.  To say no to myself, “no, you can’t stay in bed, get up and go exercise”. To say no to others, “no thank you. I don’t want a drink.”  But what I have learned was if I use the word judiciously, I would be healthier and ultimately, have the energy to live the life want. Sometime though the life I want includes cuddling and hugging a sick grandbaby. Of course I did suffer the consequences of my decision.

There is a quote by the writer, Augusten Burroughs, “When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.” It is a clique for only those who have never experienced the loss of good health. I ask you to take this day to make a conscious effort to care for your health. Notice if it takes work or does it come easily?  And finally what advice would you give to someone not caring for his or her health?

Topics: 
Oct
17

Discipline: Is it for you?

by Christine

The word discipline amuses some but rankles many. Just mention the lack of discipline in a room full of pre-school mothers and stand back. A multitude of opinions are stated as to the best methods of child rearing while agreeing that the only children being disciplined properly are their own. If you really want to see the fur fly, mention discipline to a Baby Boomer. You might not only want to step back but hide behind a large piece of furniture. Boomers were the first generation to experience mandatory PE where the Coaches used physical exercise as punishment. “Give me 20” was a phrase heard in public schools all over the nation. For Boomers, control obtained by enforced compliance is not discipline but Fascism. 

Recently the concept of discipline has been on my mind. I have watched as a couple of my family members and several friends have been struggling with some pretty serious health issues. Health problems that in most cases could have been avoided by following a healthy diet and a moderate exercise plan. If they had been more disciplined, they may have avoided the repercussions of their actions. 

My son, Matthew, is a marathon runner who has competed in the Boston Marathon as well as several lesser-known races. (Lesser known to me.) He has a daily, weekly, and even yearly training schedule that includes physical exercise and diet. He does not deviate from his plan even if it is cold and rainy at 4:00 AM when he gets up to run. During serious training periods, he has been known to turn away the most delicious treats because it will make it difficult for his body to compete at top performance.  Everyone in both his personal and professional life is in awe of the effort and dedication he puts into running. When people talk about how disciplined he is, Matthew just smiles.

Marty, my exercise buddy, has embraced our commitment to daily exercise and healthy living. He has gone from walking two miles daily to running those same two miles. He swims and rides his bike almost daily and has embraced our Weight Watcher’s diet. He has a daily and weekly plan for “getting in” his exercise. But when I told him he was disciplined, he scowled. He does not want to be thought of as disciplined. When I told him he was obsessive about his training program, he agreed and smiled. 

Both these men had an emotional response to the concept of discipline. For Matthew, discipline is a training program expected to produce a specific result but for Marty it is a state of order based on submission to rules and authority. Matthew finds strength in discipline; Marty finds weakness. I believe those two approaches pretty much sums up the state of discipline in our lives. 

In my commitment to lose weight and improve my health, I started out on a moderate diet and exercise program. I had a good plan. Unlike in years past, the weight was slow to come off and it was more difficult to exercise. But the biggest challenge was my own hubris. Marty was progressing faster than me and I did not like it. So I started to push and now, I have injured myself. It is not a “bad’ injury but it hurts and I need to slow down so I may heal. If I had been more disciplined and respected my plan, I would not be suffering the repercussions of my actions. 

Discipline is not a dirty word. It is a building block of success whether you are crafting a life, building a business or raising a family. Discipline allows you the freedom to achieve. Coaches, parents, bosses and spouses can create a state of order that can allow you to excel and achieve but you are the only one who can bring discipline into your world. You are the only one who can dream, plan and implement your vision. Embrace the concept of personal discipline and you will surprise not only others with what you can accomplish but you will surprise yourself.

So I ask, is discipline for you?

Topics: 
Sep
16

It's Not Fair

by Christine


{Marty and our friend Mark on the set of David Letterman}

“It’s not fair”. Those are some of the first words we hear on the playground. To be honest most of us have said that within the last 6 months. For many, fairness is considered an American right. We work hard to be fair and to be perceived as fair whether in business or in our personal life. We listen to both sides of an argument, no matter how ridicules the other side might be, just to be fair. Americans are obsessed with being fair. 

When my brother and I were little, my mother almost wore herself out trying to be fair. Every time she cut a piece of cake or divided an apple her main goal was to avoid hearing, “it’s not fair, she/he always gets the biggest piece”. To my mother’s credit, she was able to solve that problem when we became old enough to handle shape knives.  She would hand the knife to me and explain, you may cut the brownie in two but your brother gets to choose which one he wants. I quickly learned to divide the brownie evenly knowing that any failure to be “fair” on my part would result in me ending up with the smaller brownie.  

I know that life is not fair. I get it. I even get a bit annoyed when some guy on TV talks about the court system or Congress trying to work out a “fair deal” Don’t these guys know life is not fair. I don’t consider myself an individual who is obsessed with making life fair. I also know that I have been blessed in my life and should never begrudge another the blessings they receive but I can no longer contain myself. I must shout! IT’S NOT FAIR. It is not fair that men can lose weight faster and easier than women. 

Four months ago, Marty and I started an exercise and weight loss programs. Today Marty is down 40 pounds and I am down 15 pounds. Almost three to one. It’s just not fair. I do all the grocery shopping, I prepare healthy meals and I even make Marty’s lunch to take to work. We eat the same things…no, that is not true…I eat LESS than Marty. I don’t drink alcohol or eat desserts. But the weight just falls off him and me? I struggle to lose a half a pound a week.  

We are using Weight Watchers on-line system. Each time I put my half-pound loss in the system, it says, “Good Job, keep up the good work”. Yeah, right.  But when Marty puts in his weight loss it says, “We recommend that you lose only two pounds a week. Maybe you should slow down.”  Slow down?! I have never had anyone, man or machine, tell me to slow down. It’s not fair.

And another thing, what is it with men and scales? Every morning Marty jumps out of bed and rushes to the bathroom to get on the scales. Any and every scale he sees in private or in public, he gets on and weights himself. He compares the scales like they are fine wine. Can you imagine any mentally sane women doing that? We approach the scale as one would a death sentence. Once I was really sick and had to go see my GP. When the nurse said she wanted me to get on the scale I refused. I explained that seeing that number and feeling so bad would probably put me in the hospital. The nurse understood and she let it slide.  

Today I have come to the only reasonable conclusion; we will never have full equality in this country until woman can lose weight as easily as a man. (And of course, have comfortable high heals) But until that day, I will repeat. It’s not fair.

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