Dinner Tonight


After several days away from home, I made a quick, tasty, vegetarian dinner this evening.

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Since I am leaving for California early Wednesday morning and did not want to buy more food, I used what I could find in the refrigerator:  Brussel sprouts, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, broccoli, onion.  I found a container of pepitas in the pantry and added some of those as well.

1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 small poblano pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper, deseeded and coarsely chopped

6 Brussel sprouts, sliced

Several broccoli florets

Olive oil

Basil essential oil or dried basil

Pepitas

Pour enough olive oil in skillet to cover bottom and heat on medium low.  Add onions and saute until carmelized.  Add Brussels sprouts.  When sprouts are about half done, add remaining ingredients and six drops of basil essential oil.  Saute until tender but still bright colored.  Toss in a handful of pepitas.  Serve over pasta or rice.

I served this with pasta and grated asiago cheese on top.  Although I frequently use parmesan for grating, I actually prefer asiago.  Without the cheese, this is vegan.

 

Adventure in Argentina


 

On March 3, I left for a two week trip to Argentina to visit my former exchange student and his family.  On March 4, Gaston met me at EZE airport in Buenos Aires.  I took the red eye from Houston to EZE, ten hours but an easy direct flight.  Little did we expect then that we would be spending a considerable amount of time in an eye clinic in Cordoba, the city where Gaston lives and attends engineering school.  We spent most of three days in Buenos Aires, then flew to Iguassu to see the famous falls. Several days later while waiting on a four hour late plane from there to Cordoba, suddenly I could not see clearly in my left eye; large pieces of black something floated all around and everything was blurry.

At nine the next morning we walked the five blocks from Gaston’s apartment to the most advanced eye clinic in Cordoba, a private clinic open on a Saturday morning. After experiencing multiple eyedrops in both eyes, seeing several doctors,  being subjected to all sorts of modern machines and tests, I found out I could not see because my left eye was quite inflamed with lots of fluid which made it nearly impossible for them to see what they needed to make a definite determination.  They gave me a prescription for the inflammation and told me to return on Monday morning and to be as quiet and calm as possible to facilitate healing.  That nixed the planned road trip Gaston’s parents and I planned to start that same Saturday.

Some blessings are unexpected.  While I would have seen more of Argentina than I did with a longer road trip–ultimately we took a shorter one, I would not have spent a relaxing, fun weekend with the whole family at La Finca, the family place in the country outside of Cordoba–photos later. I became acquainted with family members and friends, lived their typical weekend life, ate Argentinian food, all things I would have missed if we had been able to follow our original plans.

On Monday some of the inflammation had cleared so they could see that I did not have a retinal detachment–my main concern.  The doctors cleared the way for a shorter road trip and told me to come back Thursday morning.  At that time they were able to determine the exact problem and told me to make an appointment with a doctor here in the states because I would not be in Argentina when the final solution needed to occur.

Three trips to the clinic, seeing multiple doctors plus a retinal specialist twice all cost a total of 110 dollars.  Tomorrow morning my left eye receives a laser treatment and then I am told I will be fine; I visited the doctor here on Monday.  He told me exactly what they had told me.  I can only begin to imagine what my Monday trip to this doctor and the laser tomorrow will cost.  At times I wonder if it would not have been better to stay in Cordoba another week, pay the extra flight cost, and receive the laser treatment there.

Tomorrow photos of Buenos Aires and our adventures there will appear after I return from the retinal specialist’s office.

Note:  at a lecture last evening I saw a friend who is originally from Germany.  After she heard my healthcare adventure in Argentina, she informed me that she has to use very expensive eye drops.  They are so much cheaper in Europe that she and her husband, she is in her 80s and her husband 92, fly to Europe regularly to get the drops.  Even with the cost of these flights, they save several thousand dollars each time.

Home-made Essential Oil Body Butter


I use essential oils for many things and even cook with them especially cumin, lemon, rosemary, fennel, etc.  I tried so many lotions and none really worked for the dry climate in which I live.  This year remains exceptionally dry–no measurable moisture in over 100 days.  This causes dry skin itching and discomfort.  Therefore, creating my own body butter seemed a good solution.

1/3 cup oil–I use olive oil

5.5 oz. jar of organic shea butter

20 drops frankincense essential oil

20 drops myrrh

20 drops geranium

10 drops jasmine

These ingredients can be adjusted to suit your preferences or whatever essential oils you might have on hand.  I always use frankincense and myrrh.  The last time I made this I did not use geranium and jasmine; I used neroli and sandalwood.  Find out what works for you.  If the jar of shea butter is larger, you can adjust the rest of the ingredients to larger amounts as well.

Warm shea butter in a microwave but do not melt.  Place in a bowl.  Add oil and essential oils and whip until smooth and thoroughly mixed.  I use an electric mixer just as I would for creaming butter and sugar for a cake.  Sometimes in colder weather the shea butter can become somewhat crystallized.  The crystals will melt in the warmth of your hands.

Your skin will love you.

 

 

Overweight and Poorer


Today I planned to post a lovely poem.  However, I was so engrossed by an article on the Internet that I decided to discuss that topic instead.  Why are so many people in this country overweight?  Why do people complain about being poorer?

The article in question, which I could not download and post here, claims that the biggest item on which people in the United States overspend is eating out at restaurants.  It is also a major cause of obesity.  On average when a person eats in a restaurant they eat 200 calories more than if he or she ate at home.  If that person eats out three times a week, that adds up to more than 30,000 extra calories a year.  Even if he or she eats fast food, which probably adds even more calories, the extra expenditure at even a low 8.00 per meal, would  add to nearly 1300 dollars per year.  If it is a family, multiply that by the  number of people in the family.  For 8 dollars, they could go to the grocery here in Texas and buy a delicious already roasted chicken that would feed at least four.

Personally, I find few restaurants that can actually create a meal better than one I can cook myself.  Others say who wants to cook for oneself.  I live alone and I cook for myself all but a couple of times a month.  Being a bit of a health nut and not much of a meat eater (I eat quite a lot of fish, usually cod or salmon), that 8 dollars would turn into much bigger amounts.  Plus I do not want to waste the time eating out.  I can create a much healthier meal, cheaper, quicker at home.  Restaurant food tends to be much saltier with fewer herbs and spices than I prefer as well.

I am curious to find out why others eat out all the time.  It mystifies me.

 

PS.  Curious as to what sorts of foods I create, what spices I use?  I have posted lots of recipes here on my blog.  Take a look.

 

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Learn Something New


After grading 45 essays this weekend, it remains a wonder that I learned anything new.  I did, sadly, once again find a few plagiarizers, but I also read some good essays on which students had obviously spent time.

As a person extremely interested environmental issues, I belong to several environmental organizations and read a lot about related issues.  Here are some of the things I have learned either recently or in the last few days:

-June and July were the warmest June and July on record and the 14th and 15th straight months in which such records have been set.

-Thawing permafrost near the Alaskan Highway has caused it to sink in places.

-In Siberia the same thawing has caused the release of deadly bacteria–anthrax to be specific.

-This past summer, toxic algae affected waterways in states as diverse as California and Utah.  It does not smell all that wonderful either.

-In Alaska so many wolves have been killed that naturalists can no longer research them in their natural state.

-The Republican Platform claims coal is a clean source of energy.

-Hot summers have caused Douglas fir trees to quit growing.

 

 

 

Sleep, Fitbit, and Essential Oils


Several months ago I won a Fitbit at work.  At that time my main concern, heath question, was this:  Am I getting enough exercise?  Quite quickly I realized I was concerned about the wrong health issue.  I apparently get more exercise on a normal day than I ever imagined, just doing what I do:  yoga in the morning, walking around the building at work, feeding my horse, chores.  Much to my horror, however, I discovered that I was getting way less deep sleep than recommended by every article I had seen.  It became such a concern that I was getting less, not more sleep.  I decided to investigate.  If you want to track the stages of sleep, forget Fitbit.  You may be able to use it as some sort of general guide but nothing definitive.  To actually know how many hours and minutes of various stages you sleep, you must go to experts and they must measure your brainwaves.  Predictably, once I learned that, guess what, I immediately slept better.

If you have sleep issues or just want to go to sleep in a fabulous smelling atmosphere, try essential oils.  You can go online and find a list from various “experts” outlining the top ten for relaxation and better sleep.  These include lavender, myrrh, Roman chamomile, cedar wood, sandalwood, neroli–the list varies slightly depending on the site.  Plus, everyone differs so experiment to see what works for you.  Here is what I found works for me:  diffuse lavender and melaleuca in a diffuser next to your bed (melaleuca or tea tree does nothing for sleep but is good for so many other things;  I also use doTerra breathe for allergies), rub several drops of cedar wood on both feet, rub several drops sandalwood on your wrists.  This combination has improved my sleep greatly.  I read yesterday that mixing lavender with Roman chamomile is effective, but I have not tried that yet.

I would be interested in hearing from others what works for them.  Happy Dreams!!

Tips for a Healthier You-2


Given the response I received from the last set of tips, it seems a good cause to periodically add more.  Essential oils hold a special place in my health routine.  I use them for so many things. I have found several especially useful to diffuse at night for prevention of allergy symptoms and to facilitate better sleep.  Although I generally prefer doTerra, I use other brands as well.  However, I have found that since I started using doTerra Breathe at night in a diffuser, my allergy symptoms remain minimal compared to what they were before.

Here are two formula I use at night.  I suggest individuals experiment to see what works for them.  I combine Breathe with other oils.  One formula is approximately 7 drops Breathe and seven drops Cedarwood.  Cedarwood is particularly good to facilitate deep, relaxing sleep.  It helps prevent sinusitis and reduces stress.  I have a large diffuser so you may want to experiment to see what works for you.

The other formula I use at night is Breathe as above combined with equal amounts of lavender and melaleuca (tea tree).  Melaleuca has so many others uses, it seems nearly limitless.  It is especially good for teenage acne and treating infections.  However, I myself have never used it for those purposes.  It is one of those “cure all” oils and reduces inflammation and boosts the immune system.

 

Tips for a Healthier You


Recently, I ran across a variety of tips to lower heart rate and triglycerides, reduce wrinkles, and feel happier and healthier.

  1.  Herbs like coriander, cilantro, oregano, garlic, ginger, thyme, basil, and pepper flakes block fat absorption in the digestive track.  Just add two teaspoons of any of these daily to reduce triglycerides.
  2. You can also lower triglycerides with black tea–eight ounces with every meal.  Research indicates consistency matters.  In one study this routine cut triglycerides 35% in three months.  White and green tea help too.
  3. Slow your heart rate and calm down by listening to relaxing music.  The most effective tempo is 60 beats per minute.  Think Baroque.
  4. One half cup of almonds daily can also reduce heart rate by as much as four points because almonds contain magnesium.
  5. Eat ten large green olives daily to reduce wrinkles and inflammation.  I will admit my concern with this would be the sodium.  Olives generally are quite salty.
  6. Eat sweet potatoes and strawberries to smooth skin.  They are filled with betacarotene and vitamin C.  You can even make a face mask with mashed sweet potatoes–just add a bit of milk and honey.  Leave on face ten minutes and wash off.

 

Personally, I use essential oils to improve my health and skin.  Every morning I put one drop of essential oil of cardamon in my first cup of coffee.  It improves digestion and helps fight infections. After tiring of my students complaining about the smell in my high school class room, I tried various essential oils in a diffuser.  The one that worked and about which no students complained is rosemary.  It helps with allergies, hay fever, and memory.  Some students jokingly tell me I need to dump the whole bottle in.  It also combats hair loss and dandruff.   I put it in my shampoo.  My favorites, however, are frankincense and myrrh. If your joints or muscles are aching, rub them down with magnesium oil and add a little of these.

 

Here’s to a healthier, happier you!!

Long Life


If you believe in averages and want to live long, don’t live in the United States of America, a country that failed to make it to the top ten for either men or women.  Some countries appear to be better for one gender than another.  A few countries remain in the top ten for both genders:  Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, Italy, and Luxembourg.  Iceland’s the place to be if you are a man, Spain for women.  Worldwide the mean for men is 68.1 and for women 72.7. Sadly, the discrepancy from country to country is immense.  Nine countries still show a life expectancy less than 55 years, all in sub-Sahara Africa.  War and AIDS take their toll.

Blue Zones remain the place to grow up and live if you desire a long healthy life.  Where are they?  Okinawa, a peninsula in Costa Rica–I’ve been close, Sardinia, Loma Linda in California–Seventh Day Adventists, to name a few.  Genetics, according to some experts, predicts only twenty per cent of longevity.  Then why do people in these places live long and healthy?  What do they have in common:

-healthy diets with lots of vegetables and fruit

-activity–the people there get a lot of exercise, e.g. climbing up and down the mountains of Sardinia

-a sense of community–people get together often

Some communities in the US plan to become Blue Zones.  Fort Worth, Texas, even has a Blue Zone project which includes encouraging restaurants to provide healthier options, a bike share program, and an initiative to combat childhood obesity.  My guess is that the United States will lag further and further behind unless the obesity epidemic can be controlled.  So far, I don’t see that happening.

What can you do to prolong your own life:

-don’t smoke

-eats lots of fruit and vegetables

-avoid sugar

-eat less meat and more fish

-eat less–Okinawans quit eating when they are 80 per cent full; they even have a saying for this

-spend time with friends and family

-find ways to increase your exercise even if it is as simple as throwing away your TV remote control

If I live the average of my parents and grandparents, I have a long way to go so I must take care of myself to stay healthy.

Apocalyptic Planet-Part Seven: Species Vanish


We all know extinction occurs.  Nearly everyone knows different species of dinosaurs at varied times roamed the earth for millennia.  Bones of all sorts of animals and various hominids are dug up off and on.  Scientists study them, determine their age, where and how they lived.  Scientists and sometimes even average persons develop theories about why they went extinct.  Regardless of which theory a person decides is accurate, these ancient extinctions generally took thousands of years. Recent extinctions are different, e.g. carrier pigeons.  Millions existed a couple of hundreds of years ago; now they are gone.  Why?  Humans.

Various causes exist for the extinctions of ancient species.  A major cause is the climate change caused my the changing tilt of the earth’s axis.  These changes occur over thousands and thousands of years.  What is different now?  Let’s take corn.  Native Americans cultivated rainbow colors of corn in small, frequently irrigated fields.  Where is most corn grown now?  Giant fields of GMO corn grow from horizon to horizon in the Midwest.  And if Monsanto had its way, no other corn would continue to exist for long.   Iowa is a good example.  Wherever this corn is grown, native grasses and other native plants totally disappear, in part due to cultivation.  A bigger issue is herbicides–to have clean fields, nothing and I mean nothing but corn must grow there.  A farmer’s expertise as a farmer is measured my just how super clean his fields are.  The only way to get these totally weedless fields is to use herbicides.  Biodiversity is a key to environmental health.  Little biodiversity exists in giant fields of crops like corn and soybeans.  Fertilizers to obtain huge yields wash downstream and in the Midwest eventually end in the Gulf of Mexico and cause giant marine algae blooms which pulls oxygen from the water to create a dead zone where no marine animals or fish can live.

Perhaps readers have heard of the plight of monarch butterflies.  Compared to just ten years ago, the population has dropped dramatically.  What happened to them?  Roundup.  Over 100,000 tons of Roundup and other brands of glyphosate herbicides are annually applied to crops in the US.  What do monarchs eat?  Milkweed.  Since 1999, 58 per cent of the milkweed has disappeared.  Recently, monarchs experienced a 30 per cent reduction in their numbers in one year.  Are we headed toward a mass extinction?  Some scientists think so.  These scientists are not talking about tigers, elephants, and rhinos being killed at an ever increasing rate for their body parts, but rather about the less noticeable extinctions of various plants and less obvious animals like frogs.  And then there is the problem with bees.  Bees are disappearing at an ever increasing rate due to not only diseases but due to herbicides and pesticides.  Without bees to pollinate the giant fields of almonds and various fruits in California, for example, those foods won’t exist.  See a previous post for more discussion on the importance of bees.  So why care about frogs?  Scientists consider frogs and amphibians in general an indicator of the health of an ecosystem.  Certain more tropical species of frogs are especially subject to the effects of climate change and they are disappearing.

Where I live big bluestem, blue grama, buffalo grass, and other native species grew from horizon to horizon.  This is the high plains.  Root systems of some plants grow twelve feet deep.  It has not rained in over a month.  Where the native grass once grew, crops are now grown.  This time of year finds open fields. Without rain, with the recent endless high winds, dust fills the sky.  To safely return home from town Sunday, I had to turn on the car lights to see.  The dryness fuels wildfires.  Earlier this week, over one hundred homes burned down in a wildfire north of Amarillo.  Drought.

Many human inventions are wonderful and make many lives better, but for some of them, I cannot help but wonder at what cost.