Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Home

Hi Readers,
My new blog home is at Wordpress, so you can keep up with recent posts here:

I also have a consulting blog you can visit:

Live Well,

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fruits to Roots

Not sure where 2008 has gone so far, but several months ago we went from roots to fruits. Now we are heading back to the roots, and enjoying the end of season earth candy. As I write, my niece and I are sharing a mixed medley of blueberries, raspberries and boysenberries. The fruits of summer versus the roots of winter even share the same physical nuances. Carrots are hearty, crisp, non-bruising, and last for a week or two in the fridge.

Peaches and raspberries explode with the flavor of the summer sun and thunder storms; easily crushed, brightly colored but delicate like light searing through a thick of maple leaves. The coolness of early morning in July, captured at noon in a strawberry and a bowl of frozen grapes.

The COOLEST things I learned about fruits this summer:

That I can buy the whole flat of strawberries and not make myself silly about eating them all before they spoil.

That I can freeze grapes and use them as a juice replacement in smoothies.

Keep fresh summer fruits available all winter by freezing them raw. Unlike most vegetables you have to cook or blanch them before freezing. I put my washed and stemmed berries and peaches in yogurt containers and save them for winter smoothies. (I slice the peaches. On-line recipes say to blanch and skin them, but I don't understand why that's necessary. It might be an aesthetic thing? I have not found it to matter).

What I like best is that not only do I save piles of cash by freezing my own; I know where they came from, who grew them, and I know for sure they were grown organically and sustainably. Oh, and a lower carbon foot print when you factor the reduced transportation and packaging. If space is an issue in your freezer use zipper-freezer bags and lie them flat on top of each other.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fear No Potato

Whew! It’s been a busy few days of eating, and like many I contemplated the lemon juice fast by the time Saturday came around. Alas, just as soon as we think we will never want to eat again after Thanksgiving, what we discover is that we have created a way to actually desire and consume more food than we ever thought possible. There’s nothing like cool weather, a long weekend, great company, a kitchen full of homemade comfort foods, and some down time to show us how much we really like to eat.

It’s Sunday afternoon now, and after finally hitting my saturation point with turkey and stuffing sandwiches, and being forced to reckon with the fact that fasting is no solution to all these leftovers (anyway - as if!), I root around in the fridge and try to come up with a simple meal that will not take up the final hours of my weekend, will minimize my fat intake, and maximize nutritional density.

I know, I know. It sounds like I’m trying to get Santa Clause to come over for lunch. In truth though, Thanksgiving is probably one of the few times a year the average American household consumes actual food for several days in a row, so it’s not as hard as it sounds to get creative with the left-overs if you have a few veggie staples in the produce drawer.

Here’s what I came up with today:

Potato Stir-Fry with Carrots, Peppers, and Onion

1 cup boiled, peeled potato (we left a few cups out before mashing them)

2 teaspoons of olive oil

1 medium red bell pepper

1/2 small red onion

1 medium carrot

1 garlic clove

In a frying pan heat up the olive oil and add the potatoes, garlic and carrot. (Tip - carrot takes longer to cook than the other ingredients, so slicing them in small julienne pieces will help them cook at the right pace). As the potatoes begin to warm up add the onion and bell pepper. Stir occasionally and to desired softness. Salt and pepper to taste.

Here’s what I got nutritionally from the concoction:

Calories: 319 (119 are from the olive oil, so feel free to steam your dish in water)

Protein: 7.5g

Fat: 14.5g (1.8g saturated fat)

Carbohydrates: 45.5g

Fiber: 4g

Calcium: 117.5 mg

Phosphorous: 176.6 mg

Sodium: 71.6*

Potassium: 965 mg

Magnesium: 30mg

Vitamin A: 15,084 iu (international units)

Vitamin C: 206.5 mg

Folic Acid: 36mcg

*If you are sodium sensitive you will want to pay particular attention to natural occurring amounts of sodium in raw foods, and adjust your intake of added salts or pre-packaged and processed foods accordingly. You’ll notice too that in whole foods there is always a naturally occurring ratio of electrolytes - where sodium will be present in relation to potassium, magnesium and calcium. You can get a sense of what these ratios should look like when you see how much more potassium is naturally present in foods. Some studies indicate that hypertension may be have elements of a sodium sensitivity that develops when these ratios are chronically out of balance.

It’s clear this meal is not a significant source of fiber, B vitamins, or iron, but it can be easily be classified as a healthy meal, low in saturated fat and high in key nutrients like potassium, vitamin A - often lacking in the standard American diet. Hopefully it will also succeed in making you feel better about the greatly misunderstood potato. (FYI - If you leave the skin on the potato you increase the fiber, potassium, and niacin). In recent years the quintessential comfort food and nutritional staple for people around world has been vilified in a characterization known previously only to the egg.

The adaptable spud. The food that can please any palette in any culture, the root that lends itself to dozens of dishes, and can be eaten at any meal, need not be crossed off the shopping list of healthy eating. Pass on the wonder bread, forgo chips, and resist french fries, but fear not the potato.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Barney's Goes Green

Barney’s, proud of it’s cutting edge ability to know what is on their clientele’s mind each holiday shopping season decided today that “Green is the new Black.” The front window designer lamented the green theme mandate initially, but surprised himself with his own brilliance by coming up with “Rudolph the Recycled Reindeer,” mixed media collage. Made from recycled cans of course.

People. Is this the best we can do? Really?

Responding to the trend of going green and the clientele’s desire to have a more “meaningful shopping experience,” Barney’s spokesperson said, “If this green movement is just a fad it will be a disaster.”

Gee mister, you should run for president.

Here are some highlights from this years holiday catalog: Make sure everyone knows you are buying organic with this canvas bag. Classified under “Barney’s Obsessions category” it took me 3 clicks to find the price ($75).

Here’s the product description:

“Lose the plastic! An exclusive collaboration between the NYC Mayor’s office and Barneys New York. Bring it to the grocery store, the farmer’s market, the bookstore, or the beach. You can feel good about this purchase! 20″ x 18″ x 7″. Made in U.S.A. Untreated, undyed cotton canvas. Barneys New York will donate $10 from the sale of each bag to the City of New York to plant trees in public parks.”

Seriously? Anyone who has $75 to spend on a freaking canvas bag so that $10 can go towards planting trees should be donating an entire arboretum to every town in the United States. I give them credit for the bag being made in the US, but where does the cotton come from? A collaboration between Barneys and the NYC Mayor’s office? Dude, if you live in New York City you should ask for a refund of your tax dollars.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

I copied this text from Toddler Planet as a way to gain publicity around IBC. You can read more about Toddler Planet here: And below is her post. I was really affected by reading about IBC, and I am amazed as I continue to explore the blogging world how many amazing, talented, and strong women are building such an incredible community. Many of these women will never meet, but they share their stories of hope, laughter, and sorrow - truly reminding us that we are all one. Here’s to Why Team Mommy, and creating a world without borders where every one of us is a mothers child. Cheers, and keep up the good fight.

“We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast canceris often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.”

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Two Wet Skunk-Spayed Dogs With Diarrhea in the San Lucia Wilderness...Be Grateful...

Camping seemed like an exceptionally reasonable idea when we had to evacuate our house for termite fumigation. We love to camp, and our last trip was cut short by wildfires. We know Izzy and Truman do not like to camp. They are urban dogs through and through, but at 5 years old we keep thinking they will adapt if we keep giving it a go.

We are over that now. Truman and Izzy are never going to like camping…not after this trip.

Initially we were scheduled to go to the Sierras - about 5 hours away, but due to some intestinal bug Truman picked up and then passed on to Izzy we detoured to the vet before hitting the 101 - once again feeling like bad parents when we sheepishly admit they have been puking and pooping for 48 hours. Chances are Truman ate some poop at the dog park, but our vet is very thorough so don’t you know the chances are also that there could be a pancreatic deficiency disorder. So, two hours, 300 dollars, a battery of blood tests later, and accoutered with a cocktail of prescriptions we decide to spend the first night closer to home. We set up camp out at the beach park 15 miles north, in the event that we end up spending the weekend at the dog urgent care center. (I’ll note here that I wish my vet could be my primary care physician. When was the last time you called your doctor at 5:28 PM and not only had someone answer the phone, you were able to schedule an appointment for the very next morning? Nor did we have to go to a separate lab for the blood work, or take a special trip to the pharmacy.)

As we drove, I kept remembering things we forgot to pack. Silly, careless lapses of attention to basic camping items like water bottles and travel mugs, a raincoat,… with each item I thought well, we are still close to home - we can swing by and get it tomorrow. Oh, but we can’t because the house is tented. How weird, to be so close to home and not be able to go back. Then I thought of the people in the middle of the Southern California fires. They too must be driving off, taking mental notes and making check lists, realizing the things that were left behind. We had two weeks to prepare and we procrastinated…and we can go home on Sunday. They had two hours at best and may never be able to go back. I might come home to find the Schwinn cruiser that I left carelessly on the patio was stolen; they might come back to find only the remnants of their house.

As I sat with this it stilled me. I took a deep breath of crisp autumn air and watched the full moon rise over the mountains - a bright orange orb that would under other circumstances be called a harvest moon. Not so for us. This was our fire moon; calling out to tell those of us protected from its raging flames that millions of people are displaced, and many have lost everything. Its searing glow penetrates the night, drowning out the stars and reminding us that it has not rained in almost a year. We are desperate for rain. In the not to distant future I’m sure we will be dismayed about going to war for oil. We might not know it, but we can live without oil. There is no hope, however, without enough fresh water.

Eventually I dozed off, accepting cognitive dissonance, and needing to not berate myself for replacing my forgotten Nalgene with a liter of Fuji water. I know I was in the middle of a fascinating and curious dream that I can no longer remember when Izzy began growling. There she goes, protecting us from mosquitoes I thought, when the next thing I know Truman has launched himself through the tent door baying all the way. (If you have not heard a hound dog bay in the middle of a silent night you are really missing out - and you might be glad of it.)

Based on the title, you’ve probably taken a good guess at what Truman encountered on the outside of the tent. I don’t usually mind the general scent of skunk as it wafts through open space, but the actual spray…hmmm…it’s like someone stuck raw onion oil, diesel fumes and wasabi up your nose. It burns your eyes, it makes your nostrils throb, your teeth ache - even your ears hurt under the weight of the inescapable stench. And it permeates everything - you can’t believe it won’t kill you, the stink is so toxic. Meanwhile, lights from other camp sites begin to turn on, everyone else’s dogs are barking now, and in the low muttering of voices you know the fellow campers are wondering who the poor bastard is that got sprayed.

Then they see us dragging Truman off to the camp showers. The real rub is that Izzy probably would have been successful at scaring the skunk off just by growling. It’s not like skunks go looking for coon hounds in tents, and Izzy has the good sense to just get the job done and go back to bed. What to do? We can’t put him in the car because the car will stink forever. We can’t put him in the tent because…because we can’t. We can’t leave him outside the tent -the door is broken now anyway. We can’t go home, we don’t have tomato juice, and it’s the middle of the night. We opt for fruity shampoo and bug spray, and we let the shivering, stinking, wet dog with diarrhea back in the tent. After putting a drop of rose oil on our noses the noxious fumes are covered up just enough to fall back asleep with Truman leashed to my leg.

In the morning we agree that if last night’s visitor was a prelude to what is to come, we are clearly not well suited to camp in bear country. We head up to the San Lucia Wilderness area instead for some sycamore foliage and fresh water swimming - with all the windows open the whole drive. The Santa Ana winds and the heat have made for a hot autumn so far, so being close to a swimming option seems like the best choice - and we’ll pick up tomato juice on the way.

While we are setting up our new camp site clouds start to roll in and it cools off quite a bit. We don’t think much about it because if rain was in the forecast we would have known about it. Had respite from the heat, drought and flames been on the horizon, this past week would have had a much more hopeful aura, and I would have looked a little harder for my raincoat.

When the sky first opened up we got a little giddy. It was a short, light pattering that lasted about 20 minutes - just the type of rain you want after fire season. If it rains too hard and too long there is danger of mudslides. This was just enough to freshen the air and inspire us to embark on a hike along the canyon ridge we were camped in. When the second shower came through we thought, this is fun! It’s like being back in the Pacific Northwest! It feels like a real autumn with shimmering sycamore leaves changing color and the smell of damp soil wafting up through the trail. We saw red tail hawks, wild turkeys, blue herons, an osprey and an owl. Truman, who usually will not go out in the rain unless we hold an umbrella over him was bounding around in delight - finally feeling better from his infection, but still reeking. He was chasing turkeys, gophers, digging holes, running in circles around trees and baying gleefully all the while.

Izzy on the other hand seemed to know what was ahead. She trotted between us dutifully, giving us skeptical glances in regular intervals. The wetter she got, the more serious her demeanor. By the time we got back to camp the storm was in a full downpour and there was thunder in the distance. We have only gotten 6 inches of rain in the past year, and not even a drop for almost 8 months - and in 4 years it has snowed in these mountains more often than it has thundered.

Izzy went straight to the car door, demanding to be let in, and glaring at us in such a disapproving way we actually began laughing out loud. “Of course this is happening!” We laughed. “It could only be this way!” We have no raincoats, a busted tent door, no tarp, no dry firewood, no chance of being able to go home, and definitely no chance of a hotel opening a room for two soaking wet hippies that haven’t showered in days and their skunk-sprayed dogs with diarrhea.

This is life. This is life in its finest hour of comedy, error, beauty, dirt, awe, surprise, and all the poop that covers the canvas of our life-landscape and fertilizes the soil of our spirit. This is life in all the beautiful debris that weaves itself into the tapestry of our experiences. The fires turn to rain, the wind gives way to fog, the frustrations and the joys make up our song, and we know that it is only within the storm itself that we can find shelter. To feel it, to know it, to live it, fear it and finally embrace it instead of watching it unfold behind the protected glass of our constructs. To find a home within yourself when there is no house to go back to. This is how we grow. This is how we learn to love. This is when we are called to be the shelter for one another, and are rigorously guided to become the best of ourselves. This is life…be grateful…

Lipstick-Less World and Frizzy Hair

My first political action was a fund raiser for PETA. I was 11 when I first learned about the horrendous cruelty of animal testing. I got a group of friends organized to put on a production of Pipi Longstockings - my favorite all time fiction character - and we charged 25 cents admission at our elementary school.

Since then, I have struggled with the dilemma of animal testing. I understand the value these sacrificial lambs have given human kind in the way of medical research, but I never really felt like chemicals and cosmetics could be justified. It always seemed to me that we should know from common sense that chemicals burn, the detergents cause rashes, and the wounds ache. But more to the point, what are the greater impacts of the manufacturing of these compounds? And isn’t it ironic that we spend all this time creating industrialized chemicals, and then have to find a way to neutralize the contact impact? Polluting our air and water all the while? Do these products really bring value to the human experience? What would a world without lipstick look like? Wouldn’t it be sort of fun if we just allowed our hair to be frizzy? And the stain remover never works as well in real life as it does in the commercial anyway. Everybody knows that.

In fact it’s not even necessary to pass on contemporary cosmetics thanks to companies like Burt’s Bees. Oh, but that’s right. Yesterday Clorox (yes, the bleach company), announced it will purchase Burt’s Bees natural product line. You can read the announcement here:

I think it’s interesting to announce selling out like that on the one day of the year when everyone is jacked out on sugar and too busy to watch the headlines. On the other hand, it’s nice that “natural is going mainstream,” as the CEO exclaims in this article. Maybe this is a humanitarian gesture and not capitalist gluttony?

But I liked shopping with a small, independent business with a smaller eco-footprint . And I prefer to not endorse companies like Clorox (as difficult as that is since they own hundreds of household and food product lines).

What do you think about a company that is notorious for the massive production of toxic chemicals and a history of animal abuse buying a cruelty-free and preservative free cosmetic line? Are they joking? Clorox also owns Brita water filters, which is actually laugh out loud funny to me. Here, we’ll ruin your ground water and then you can pay us money to make it potable again.

I’m not going to go down the road of writing about the animal testing industry in this entry. It’s too dark. It’s so sad to me it’s debilitating. So don’t worry about needing to brace yourself for the rest of the read. We might, however, consider becoming more conscious of our consumption. We might want to wonder about how the meat got to the butcher. Before we reach for the product on the shelf maybe we can ask ourselves if this purchase will make the world a kinder place. Does the purchase honor life? Can it bring joy, hope, love? We should know about our risk of becoming so dehumanized as to be capable of looking a living thing in the eye and torturing it…especially when we are at bringing toxins into our homes and feeding them to our children.
Namaste, and Happy All Souls Day.