Can you believe it’s already December? Now, that you’ve made it through Thanksgiving, what’s on your mind? Is your calendar packed with parties, gift giving, decorating, kids’ performances, and other assorted requisite holiday happenings? Well, this may be the perfect time to talk about “holiday mindfulness.” You may be thinking, My mind is already full holiday stuff! What else am I supposed to be mindful of? Good question. The answer is you. With all the stress and pressure to get things done this holiday season you may feel overwhelmed. Perhaps, your emotions are playing that dreadful tug of war game with your sanity. If you feel pulled in every direction and obligated to have a jolly good time in the midst of it, mindfulness may be the remedy you need to abate some of the craziness you may experience this month.
Mindfulness is one of the most intriguing and fascinating subjects I have ever researched. If you’ve never heard of this term before it’s simple; mindfulness is awareness. That’s it. Jon Kabat-Zinn created Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a meditative method which is used and taught nationwide for treating pain, illness, and stress. According to Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is cultivated by purposefully paying attention, being present in the moment, non-judgmentally.
Unfortunately, it’s so easy to be caught up in negative thought patterns that trigger unhealthy emotional reactions causing overloads of stress and anxiety. Through the systematic cultivation of mindfulness you can become more aware of reality, your thoughts and emotions, and the way you are in relationship to them. Mindfulness, instead of adding to the mess, gives us a chance to breathe in the present and see things in a new perspective.
We have been conditioned to try and solve our problems by doing more with our minds. Thinking about the past and the future does help us to plan and grow, but the only moment we have is the present. Part of the essence of mindfulness is to center ourselves in the present and use our innate inner capacity for awareness to better respond to situations moment by moment. Can you see how this may relate to the holiday season?
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness and harnessing the power of being present you may enjoy the following books available through Howard County Library System. You can also try a meditation workshop at the Miller Branch or join a class at Howard County General Hospital.
So, the next time you feel overwhelmed with holiday stress, slow down and check-in with yourself. Get in touch with what is truly most important for your well-being. Disconnect from the hustle and bustle and connect with your emotions and health. Mindfulness may help you make more effective decisions, enjoy the richness that life has to offer, and be able to understand yourself in a (potentially) greater way. I hope you find that you are worth the time despite the haste that the holiday season brings. May your holidays be peaceful and bright!
My last couple of posts have been a little on the heavy side. So, with the holiday season upon us, I decided to turn my attention in that direction. Some of you may be thinking: “How is that a happier direction? I am under so much stress, time pressure, financial strain, and an overabundance of family togetherness, I’m pulling out my hair. Arrrgggghhhhh!” Okay, maybe no one is actually thinking that, especially the “Arrrgggghhhhh!” part. But still, I know the holidays can be a bit stressful.
One particular stress that my husband and I encounter around this time of year is the transformation of our lovely, funny children into a pack (can you have a pack of two?) of ravenous “gimme” monsters. That is to say that sometimes they get a little too caught up in Santa and wish lists and shiny advertising. We’ve been able to combat this a bit by trying to emphasize the more spiritual aspects of the holidays. We like to remind them that traditions, letting the people in your life know that you love them, and just being together are the true gifts of the season (and DO NOT have to involve cash and prizes). We have also cut off a major source of the gimme’s, commercial-based television. But, apparently among the six and eight-year-old set, water-cooler (or playground) conversation topics often include what Legos are hot and how many My Little Pony ponies one owns.
My husband and I are not perfect and neither are our children, but we do okay in our efforts to keep the gimme’s at bay. Fortunately, there are some interesting books at HCLS to help, or at least provide some perspective. Juliet Schor’s Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture examines the materialism, commercialism, and consumerism of our society, especially as it is aimed at children. Schor also gives some ideas on how the battle these powerful (and calculated) influences.
There is also the sometimes chilling Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover Childhood by Susan E. Linn. And if your kids are older, you may want to check out (or better yet, have them check out) How Does Advertising Impact Teen Behavior.
There are also some excellent ideas in Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success by Madeline Levine (and Levine takes on way more than the gimme’s—definitely worth a look). And Rafe Esquith’s Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Kids in a Mixed-Up, Muddled-Up, Shook-Up World will make you want to do right by your children in every way—not only learning to fight off the gimme’s, but to grow into a person of uncompromising character (and we could use of few more, don’t you think?).
Or you may also want to relate to your kids on a level they’ll understand. Read something to them like Betty Bunny Wants Everything by Michael B. Kaplan, and they may just figure out that they have to learn to fight the gimme’s a bit on their own.
(P.S. Betty Bunny is featured on HCLS’s Choose Civility book list for children.)
Posted by hclibrary on Nov 28, 2013 in Health, Reviews | 0 comments
Last year, I shared the thankful reflections of local cancer survivors, caregivers, and cancer awareness ambassadors. Their thanksgivings echoed the gratefulness of a community touched by disease and motivated to make a difference despite cancer diagnoses. Dr. Harpham’s book, Happiness in a Storm, argues that an attitude of gratitude when managing chronic illness fosters healthy survivorship. And as a young woman navigating my own journey with cancer, the simple exercise of giving thanks and nurturing hope has proven to be a useful tool for acknowledging my progress, visualizing future successes, and putting it all in perspective.
This year, I wanted to explore the thanksgivings of my HCLS colleagues and Facebook users (via a public post) as it related to general health and wellness. Participants were asked to complete a sentence beginning with “I’m thankful/grateful–.” Below are a number of the responses I received.
“that I’ve made yoga a regular part of my morning routine. It sets the stage for an awesome day!” -Gigi, 49, Woodbine
“for my family and friends that helped me reach my goal of becoming an Ironman. With family and friends supporting you, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.” -Bryan, almost 50, Columbia.
“I wake up (mostly) pain-free and without illness. Sometimes we take things for granted, but good health should not be one of them.” -Carmen, 39, Columbia
“for my friends who motivate me to go to the gym on a regular basis.” -Helen, Ellicott City
“for my two dogs who keep me company through several hours of walks a week, and make me laugh every single day.” -JB, 58, Columbia
“for motivational support from my friends in getting me active. I wouldn’t have joined the gym without their encouragement!” -Julie F., Ellicott City
“that I have wonderful friends and relatives to talk to when I need a release valve for stress or just a listening ear. I hope they feel I can help them out in the same way.” -AC, 55, Columbia
“for all the great friends I have made over the year. When I left my marriage, I also left what few “friends” I had. It is nice to have a amazing support system now.” -Larry, Elkridge
“for every day I get to spend with my family.” -Eileen, 38, Hobbits Glen
“for having been a LIVESTRONG Leader for two years to help spread the word on cancer advocacy and support.” -Bryan, 49, Columbia
“that oatmeal is wonderfully cheap, easy to make, healthy, and delicious as it is the high point of my every morning.” -Aryn Dagirmanjian, 26, HCLS Miller Branch
“to my dog for walking with me. I’m grateful to live in a county with so many people who love to read. I’m thankful for my daughter’s boundless positive energy. She disrupts my stress spiral every time.” -CT, 49, Columbia
“for the time I am able to take in the mornings to take a walk, enjoy the quiet, and listen to a book before I start my day.” -MH, 41, Ellicott City
“for Reiki. Learning and practicing has enriched my life and allowed me to help others. I’m thankful for walking my daughter to school. It’s great exercise for both of us and gives me a few quiet minutes on my walk back to meditate and center before the rest of the day.” -Jessica, 33, Savage
“for the group of women that became my “running buddies” when I began the walk/run program “Females in Training” with the HoCo Striders. They inspired and cajoled me to a place of wellness and peace.” -Mikie, Kings Contrivance
“for my body’s amazing capability to nourish my son.” -Allison, 30, Glenwood
“for the ability to run for those who can’t!” -Anna, 49, Ellicott City
“for my physical therapists whose leg-strengthening exercises have enabled me to finally move past the pain of knee surgery. I do my exercises every day, Denise!” -Jean, Central Branch
“for a husband who knows how important it is for me to be able to go to the gym, even though that means two more nights a week that he’s the cook!” -Julie, 41, Ellicott City
This simple project revealed more than I had anticipated. I realized what I had was more than a heartfelt compilation of healthy-reflections, I had a sample population of people indirectly sharing their attitudes and definitions of “health.” As I combed through their responses an overwhelming theme of “support” emerged. Could it be that our attitudes about health are influenced by the kind of support we receive?
If attitudes frame our beliefs, or, at least, filter the messages that we receive from friends, family, and society, we should pay close attention to the kinds of attitudes we’re perpetuating. Laurie Edwards writes about the significance of attitudes in her 2013 title, In the Kingdom of the Sick. Edwards notes that we’ve cultivated a caste system between the healthy and the sick. The sick are blamed for causing their illnesses and are considered to have weaker characters, whereas those deemed “healthy” have the power to shift the meaning of wellness and dictate the treatment of the sick by reinforcing these negative attitudes via social media. Edwards does take the time to explore possible solutions on a much larger scale (e.g. societal, medical industry) but I am more interested in what we can do now and simply.
Let’s change our attitudes. Instead of bullying people into being more healthy, let’s choose to empower those who’re working toward their health goals. The submissions above are a good example of what a positive attitude toward health can bring. People who’ve never really exercised before find themselves loving to run. Many find themselves making their way to the gym or practicing healthy coping skills to decompress because they have the support they need. The attitudes we hold and the attitudes others express impact our health.
I propose we broaden our idea of health to extend beyond the physical. Healthiness should also include mental and emotional well-being as well as safe and loving relationships. It’s essential that we recognize that wellness is not a destination, but a way of life. A healthy lifestyle covers every dimension of wellness and requires a great deal of support from family, friends, and medical professionals. Being healthy means more than taking care of our bodies, it means taking care of our person.
Finally, as we prepare for a day filled with food, football, volunteering, and Turkey-trots, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks for your readership. Thank you for being an integral part of the success of Howard County Well & Wise. Our writers and guest contributors do their best to share meaningful, relevant, and informative material with you. We’re also honored to have ranked #3 as Best Organization Blog in Baltimore Sun’s 2013 Mobbies. Your votes and continued support is invaluable and we are sincerely grateful. And whatever you choose to do today, may it keep you healthy, well, and wise.
Happy Thanksgiving from our families to yours.
Since my husband has gone vegan, it has been a challenge to prepare a vegan Thanksgiving meal to satisfy both sides of the meat divide. In the beginning days of my husband’s vegan lifestyle, we ordered an entire Thanksgiving meal from Roots Market in Clarksville. My sister’s Thanksgiving table was half vegan, half omnivore that year, with two versions of cornbread, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie (among other items). It was a lot of food for eight people. And while it was a cozy Thanksgiving gathering, there was a subtle line between my vegan husband and everyone else.
Thanksgiving should be about inclusion. That’s why this year we plan on making vegan sides of roasted garlic mashed potatoes and cornbread to share with everyone. Also, bringing these two sides should help with the burden my ambitious (and pregnant) sister has placed upon herself to prepare the Thanksgiving meal. If these dishes had previously failed to meet my sister’s standards for taste and quality, she would not have relinquished the responsibility for these dishes to us.
When it comes to a satisfying, no-fuss holiday entrée, I recommend the Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute from the Field Roast Company. This is usually available in the freezer section of your local health market. Everyone at last year’s dinner table enjoyed the En Croute. In fact, when a colleague at work mentioned she was having a vegetarian guest for Thanksgiving dinner, I happily offered the En Croute suggestion unsolicited. It’s an easy-to-prepare foolproof meal.
Finally, the following are the recipes for cornbread and mashed potatoes from 500 Vegan Recipes and Vegan Cooking for Carnivores. Have a happy and healthy holiday!
Sweet Skillet Cornbread (serves 8)
You may use a 10” cast-iron skillet or a round, nonstick baking pan to bake this cornbread.
1 T nondairy butter
1 C all-purpose flour
¾ C cornmeal
3 T raw sugar
2 ½ t baking powder
Equivalent of 2 eggs (Ener-G)
1 C plain soy milk (or other nondairy milk)
¼ C canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 C yellow corn kernels
- Preheat oven to 400F. Add the butter to oven-safe pan/skillet. Place in the oven to allow the butter to melt. Remove pan and swirl melted goodness around to coat the pan evenly..
- In a bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- In another bowl, mix Ener-G, milk, and oil.
- Add the wet solution to the dry ingredients and combine. Fold in the corn, but do not over-mix.
- Pour batter into baking pan/skillet and bake 20 – 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes (serves 8)
This recipe was originally Roasted Garlic & Chive Mashed Potatoes. I omitted the chives and replaced the cashew cream with soy milk & apple cider vinegar.
1 whole bulb garlic (8 large garlic cloves)
¼ t extra-virgin olive oil
4 large, organic russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4-6 T vegan butter, melted
⅓ cups soy milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
salt & pepper
- Roast the garlic. Preheat oven to 400F. Slice ¼ inch off the top of the garlic. Rub garlic with olive oil, wrap in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake 30 – 35 minutes. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the cloves in a small bowl. Mash into a paste and set aside.
- Place potatoes in a saucepan, add one-teaspoon salt and cover with cold water. Bring potatoes to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook until soft, about 15 – 20 minutes.
- Drain potatoes, place in oven-safe baking/serving dish and pop in the oven for 3-5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine soy milk with vinegar to create “buttermilk.”
- Remove potatoes from the oven.Working quickly, mash the potatoes and add the garlic, buttermilk, and butter to taste/desired consistency. Salt & Pepper to taste.
Many thanks to Greatist for the use of their work on Well & Wise.
The holiday season is upon us and with that comes Thanksgiving dinner, holiday gatherings, and an abundance of sweets and extra helpings. It can be challenging to practice portion control during this festive time of year (understatement).
Our first contributor to those extra holiday pounds is Thanksgiving dinner. You stuff yourself until your stomach surrenders, waddling away from the dinner table only to go back for a second round later in the evening. And for some, the preparation for Thanksgiving tips-off the seasonal non-stop grazing of all the goodies that seem to be around. Following this indulgence is Christmas and many interspersed holiday gatherings brimming with assorted meats, cheeses, cakes, pies, cookies, eggnog, and other calorie-laden beverages. Then, there’s the self-dialogue. That conversation you have in your head justifying the extra piece of pie or the third helping of mashed potatoes and gravy, “It’s the holidays! They only come once a year! Enjoy yourself!” We’re all guilty of some holiday indulgence and those extra calories add up and can negatively impact your body.
According to a report published in The New England Journal of Medicine, a study from Tufts University wanted to see if the commonly touted assertion that “adults typically gain 5 or more pounds during the 6-week period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s” was true. What the study found was that those who were already overweight were likely to gain more weight over the holiday season versus those who were considered average weight. This may not seem like much, but this increase in weight is a significant find for adults who are already overweight and a reminder that we’re all susceptible to holiday weight gain.
Dr. Steven A. Schnur’s book, The Reality Diet, affirms our susceptibility further: “ the holidays can be stressful for people and one of the most common ways to deal with stress is to eat. And with all the holiday food lying around, it’s all too easy to indulge in this method of escape.” Dr. Schnur recommends finding other outlets for your seasonal stress in order to curb overeating at holiday parties or while cooking holiday meals. He suggests some simple exercises like sipping water, chewing gum, or deep breathing.
Another factor that may contribute to weight gain around the holidays is seasonal affective disorder (or SAD), which is a form of clinical depression brought on by winter’s shorter days. The founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin, said in a previously published interview, that “there is a small percentage of the population who is predisposed to this condition [SAD] specifically during the winter months…people who show symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder may have trouble with overeating due to changes in mood and lower serotonin levels in the brain.” So how do you come up with a strategy during the holidays to manage your portions and minimize weight gain?
Here are some tips that may help prevent holiday weight gain:
- Exercise daily. Exercise releases those “feel good” chemicals, endorphins, and boosts serotonin levels. Also, exercise after a meal can help better regulate your blood-sugar levels, especially after a large meal. Take time for a walk or some running around with your friends or the kids an hour after your feast. You’ll feel better.
- Manage your holiday stress. The Blood Sugar Solution suggests “Anything stressful can trigger hormones that activate cravings. Adopt a daily relaxation routine and stick to this routine during the holidays.”
- Eat before a meet & greet. Get ahead of your cravings by eating something healthy and filling before you go to that holiday gathering. When you don’t eat before a party, you’re pretty much sabotaging yourself.
- Plan your meal(s) in your head before you arrive at dinner and swap out the junk for the good stuff once you see what’s available. If you don’t have enough options, portion-control will be your best friend. It’s also a good opportunity for you to bring a delicious healthy dish to the party too. When you finish your meal put your napkin on your plate to signal to yourself, “I’m done.”
The greatest bit of advice I can give you is this: have a plan. Sometimes you can’t avoid holiday stress, you don’t want to eat at home before the party or the big dinner, and you don’t have any time to exercise. These are all excuses. If you have a plan you can make time to walk with your loved ones, practice healthy coping activities to avoid stress-eating, and be prepared for what’s going to be on the dinner table. Make a plan and stick to it!
This is the season of food. Lots of it. Try to focus on the togetherness aspect of the holidays this year. Remember that food is fuel for your body. You wouldn’t put sugar in your gas tank, so don’t put junk in your body. Make the conscious decision to be well and stay healthy in your food choices this holiday season. The healthier choices you make today, the less weight you’ll gain and the more likely you’ll be around next year to celebrate with your friends and family.
I am not exaggerating when I say I haven’t seen or eaten a brussels sprout in more than twenty years. Unlike arugula, which I had never heard of before it became a trendy salad green in the ’90s, brussels sprouts exist in a dim memory from my childhood. A bitter, green, round, chewy vegetable, the brussels sprouts of my youth were soft in consistency and unappetizing in taste and appearance. Times have changed, and now it seems all the best food establishments have a tasty version of this mini cabbage.
In Howard County, the salad bar at the largest supermarket offers both chilled brussels sprout slaw and warm, roasted brussels sprouts. A local ale house offers grilled brussels sprouts with bacon, shallots and caramelized onions. Even in Greenville, South Carolina, where I visited this past summer, one of the most highly recommended gourmet restaurants offered “Crispy Brussels Sprouts” prepared with Serrano ham and shaved Manchego cheese in a sherry reduction. The lovely green orbs were served on a long, thin plate, lined up like the rarest of delicacies.
Certainly you protest that it’s not the vegetable itself but the creative cooking that makes the contemporary brussels sprout so appetizing. I have to disagree; when not overcooked and given the most minimal culinary respect, the brussels sprout is delicious. And healthy too. Who knew? A member of the cabbage family, the brussels sprout is a cruciferous vegetable. Other cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, collard greens, arugula and kale. These vegetables are abundant in carotenoids, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and glucosinolates. Carotenoids and vitamin E are antioxidants, the substances that protect our cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Free radicals have been found to contribute to the development of heart disease and cancer. Vitamin C is used by the body to build the components of cartilage, bone, muscle and blood vessels. Vitamin K is essential in the blood clotting process. Folate helps prevent neural tube defects in the developing fetus and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Extensive information is available on glucosinolates, including their interaction with cancer cells and the impact of an individual’s genetic makeup, and further research is ongoing. Many studies have linked ingestion of cruciferous vegetables to a decreased risk of cancer. When foods containing glucosinolates are cooked and digested, they break down into indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a substance that has been shown to destroy the Cdc25A molecule found in elevated levels in Alzheimer disease and breast, prostate, liver, colon and stomach cancer. Of note, the sulfur component of glucosinolates accounts for these vegetables’ slightly bitter flavor and distinctive smell.
As vegetables go, brussels sprouts are also a good source of fiber and are relatively high in protein (4 grams per 1-cup serving respectively). Fiber is important to gastrointestinal health. Protein provides the building blocks for essential elements of the human body including, muscle, bone, skin, blood, hormones and enzymes. Foods high in protein and fiber also help us to feel full and not overeat.
For ideas on creating tempting treats featuring the brussels sprout, check out the wonderful cookbook collection at your favorite Howard County Library System branch. Barefoot Contessa Foolproof has a recipe for balsamic-roasted brussels sprouts. Meatless includes a recipe for brussels sprouts with grapes and walnuts. ChopChop provides kid-friendly instructions for oven roasted or pan-roasted brussels sprouts. Power Foods contains information about buying, storing and steaming brussels sprouts as well as recipes for salad and for roasting with pears and shallots.
I predict that Dame Edna, the stage performer who is such an astute observer of cultural mores, will soon be trilling “brrrruuussel sprowwt” instead of shrieking “ahrooguhla!”
Posted by hclibrary on Nov 14, 2013 in Fitness, Health | 0 comments
Yoga is a great, low-impact activity anyone can try despite joint-inflammation conditions.
As a child, I routinely had physical therapy sessions for stretching and exercising my joints. I remember these experiences as mostly painful. My joints were stubbornly resistant to moving and the therapists would push ineffectively on my unmovable parts. Then, I would be given a list of exercises to repeat at home.
Let’s just say I wasn’t always compliant on my exercise regimen when I was a child coping with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I did, however, enjoy walking, running, playing, and swimming before I had too much joint damage. Because my family lived in the country, I had plenty of opportunity to do these activities.
As an adult, I’ve experimented with various forms of exercise. Recently, I had several months of physical therapy and found it quite helpful. This time the exercises focused on what I could do while also expanding my abilities by challenging me to work additional muscles, increasing my range of motion. I also took home-exercises and integrated them into different routines for me to complete throughout the week.
The best way to get me to exercise involves a few components:
Make exercise a habit. I’m more successful at carrying through my exercises knowing that it’s part of my daily routine. I expect to do a round in the morning, some during my breaks in work, and more in the evening.
Incorporate practical activities. One of the greatest things my latest physical therapist said to me was that exercises to practice my ability at daily living activities were great for me because not only do I get stronger, I get better at doing things I want to do. For example, standing and walking. With my therapist’s support, these (and similar activities) are a part of my exercise routine and have increased my physical independence in daily life.
For me, exercise is about gaining (or maintaining) strength, keeping my joints active, and overall wellness. I’m not looking to become a marathon runner. I’m realistic about the severity of my rheumatoid arthritis and the level of activity my joints can handle. I choose exercises that fit my needs—not too stressful on the joints, yet challenging to the muscles, and entertaining enough for me to want to repeat. In a lot of ways, this is true for anyone.
One other important point to note is that everyone—and I mean absolutely everyone—can exercise. I spend most of my day in a wheelchair and have significant physical limitations. But even I have found exercises that help keep me as active as possible. Not only that, but I’ve seen people with more disabilities dance in their wheelchairs, wave their arms, or wriggle their fingers. Just start exercising where and when you can, and go from there.
So, you’ve been thinking about growing some plants. Preferably functional plants – something you can eat and enjoy (with more than just with your eyes). But what if fruits and vegetables seem too difficult? If you’ve tried to grow plants before and had them all die on you, I feel your pain. I, too, was a serial plant killer. Luckily, I’ve redeemed myself with growing herbs. Herbs are the perfect starter plants! They are easy to grow inside or outside, in hot or cold climates, and they’re functional. Herbs can be used for a whole range of purposes. Many of us use herbs to add a bouquet of flavor to our favorite dishes, while others use herbs for homeopathy. Herbs have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, and today, we’re still discovering the benefits of these incredible plants (e.g. Johns Hopkins’ recent study on the benefits of tumeric). Herbs are amazing and you can bring them into your life with a little courage and know how.
My first herbs were grown from seed (daring, I know!), and were fun from the first day their little sprouts reached up toward the sun. The easiest and most useful herbs for me have been basil, sage, rosemary, and catnip. Starting them inside in little sprout pucks made it simple, and a small plastic greenhouse let them thrive until I could plant them outside into little pots. If you’re tight on money, a single long plastic pot works great for various herbs together. It has the added bonus of looking equally cute hanging on the side of an apartment balcony (where mine began life) or sitting on the railing of a deck (as pictured above).
Your Backyard Herb Garden, by Miranda Smith, is a useful guide for those interested in growing just herbs. Smith meticulously describes how to grow herbs and explains how to use them once they’re grown. You will find all kinds of new uses for your herbs in teas, as health and beauty products, and cleansing foods. This book is capped off with a directory detailing 52 different herbs and their intricacies. Similarly, Homegrown Herbs by Tammi Hartung, is a more modern guide to herb growing. The best parts of this book are the recipes which showcase the herbs used, both for eating and medicinal purposes – think insect repellent or aromatherapy.
Go ahead, give it a shot! You can get seeds from lots of different stores for only a couple of dollars and nothing beats growing something from nothing. If that’s not your cup of tea (which you can make from lots of herbs, too, like mint or lemon balm), try starting out with a small plant from the farmer’s market or any garden center. Best of all, you’ll know exactly where your herbs are coming from. Once you’ve tasted your first harvest of herbs, you’ll know you’ve taken another step toward living well. Give it a try and never look back. Gardening can be for you, too!
“We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart… and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together…. I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude.”- Helen Hayes
A daunting task I seem to find myself faced with more often than should be allowed is simply finding time for “me.” When I’m not at one job, I’m at the other. When I’m not at either job, I’m trying to spend time with friends and family. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending my free time making dinner with my friends or visiting a museum. However, this constant activity and plan-making leaves little to no time for ME and I am a strong believer in solitude.
Taking time for yourself allows you to think without distractions. I often feel as if my thoughts are coming and going so rapidly that even a road runner couldn’t catch them. When I’m alone, I can give those thoughts their much deserved attention and write them down.
Being alone also allows me to practice guitar, create something, clean my room, read a book, watch a movie, or just relax. When I don’t make time for myself, there are consequences: I become overly tired, moody, and less motivated. I feel anxious, like I’ve forgotten something very important. And what I’ve forgotten is making time for myself.
The Mindfulness Solution has simple steps to help you make time for yourself and balance it all.
It’s especially important to tell those around you when you need time to yourself. When I feel pressured (or obligated) to spend my “me time” with other people, I remind them (and myself) that I need that time to myself in order to remain balanced, happy, and healthy. Solitude is important. The Mindfulness Solution provides insight and simple ways you can take time for yourself throughout your day to help you work through your problems or help you reconnect with how you’re doing daily. When I take time for those moments of solitude, I find that I’m able to work through problems that would otherwise keep me stuck. Being able to think deeply encourages creativity and problem solving.
Tying into my last post, alone time offers many opportunities for us to grow like facing fears of attending movies or eating out alone. These experiences can be quite rewarding and comforting. I’ve purposefully attended concerts, shmoozed at events, and dined alone only to discover how enjoyable it all was. I’m even more determined to make the time to do that more often.
Spending time alone provides you with an opportunity to relax, think and reflect, discover, and reconnect to yourself. Grounding yourself daily, taking time for solitude is essential to a healthy lifestyle. I invite everyone reading this to seek solitude. You deserve it!
Posted by hclibrary on Nov 4, 2013 in Health | 0 comments
Clostridium difficile, ugly little bugger, from a stool sample obtained using a 0.1 µm filter. Image by Content Providers(s): CDC/ Lois S. Wiggs Photo Credit: Janice Carr Original uploader of this file was Marcus007 at de.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Last month I struggled to share a bit about my mother’s death in an attempt to draw some attention to National Family Caregiver Month (November, right now). But little did I know that I would spend the greater part of October leaning heavily on the people around me, basically needing my own caregivers.
It all started when I went to the doctor with what I thought was strep throat. I was prescribed an antibiotic which seemed to help. Unfortunately, as my throat started to get better, my stomach started to get worse. The doctor had warned me that antibiotics can be hard on the stomach, so I started taking a probiotic and eating lots of active-culture yogurt. My amazing hubby stepped in to take care of all the parenting duties as well as caring for my every need since I was fatigued beyond belief and suffering from terrible stomach pains and seemingly endless trips to the bathroom. (Thankfully, as they used to say, I married well—in this case I married into a wealth of kindness rather than a wealth of… well… wealth.)
Finally, after two weeks, various over-the-counter meds, multiple dietary changes, and a lot of whining, the hubby convinced me to go back to the doctor (who promptly sent me to the emergency room). I had blood drawn, was fed so that I could, eventually, provide a stool sample (sorry, TMI), and was put on an IV after being declared dehydrated with extremely low blood pressure (yay, me).
The tests indicated C. Diff (a.k.a. Clostridium Difficile, C. Difficile, or CDAD), which “is a bacterium that causes diarrhea and more serious intestinal conditions such as colitis.” Symptoms may include diarrhea (usually watery and often at least three bowel movements per day for two or more days), stomach pain and/or tenderness, fever, nausea, and loss of appetite. And to make matters more interesting, C. Diff is pernicious little bugger that is hard to kill off. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? For more info, check out this exciting FAQ sheet from the CDC.
Coincidentally, my mother had contracted C. Diff several years ago when she had been hospitalized for a long period of time. In fact, C. Diff typically had been associated with the elderly, particularly those undergoing prolonged hospitalization or living in nursing or other long-term care facilities. But, alas, it would appear the times and the bacteria they are a-changing.
The CDC states that C. Diff “primarily affects persons >65 years. Risk factors include residence in hospitals and long-term care facilities and the use of antimicrobial medications. Incidence…has been increasing, and severe cases are becoming more common…[which] may be associated with the emergence of a more virulent strain of C. difficile bacteria. Death rates associated with C. difficile were reported to be increasing from 1999 to 2002 in the United States and from 2001 to 2005 in England and Wales.”
My emergency room doc said given my age and my lack of living/working in a long-term medical facility, he thinks the C. Diff may have been dormant in my system and was given a chance to flourish mainly due to the antibiotic I was taking, which killed off all the “good bacteria” in my stomach. So probiotics have now become part of my routine, as well as more soluble fiber (but that’s another topic), and antibiotics are now on my “wary list.”
I’d like to hear from anybody else about their C. Diff experiences. I’d also like to talk more about prevention and treatment. But for now, since I’m still pretty worn out and running a bit long, I’ll just leave you with the knowledge that I am being treated and recovering, but, according to my doc, I’ll have to be cautious of because reinfection is rather common (again, yay me).
Posted by hclibrary on Oct 31, 2013 in Safety | 0 comments
On Monday, the Howard County Police published a press release reminding Howard County residents to practice safe trick-or-treating and be assured of police presence in residential neighborhoods this Halloween.
Today promises to be an exciting holiday of fun with friends and neighbors handing out an assortment of Halloween treats. Here are the safety highlights found in the press release:
- Encourage children to trick-or-treat before dark. After dark, an adult chaperone should carry a flashlight and choose well-lighted streets.
- Wear costumes that are short, snug and flame retardant. Flowing sleeves, capes and skirts can cause children to trip and can catch fire if they brush against candle flames. Also be sure to wear light colors or reflective tape.
- Avoid masks that can obstruct vision. Use face paint instead or make sure mask eye holes are wide enough.
- Discourage the use of fake knives, guns and swords, as they may result in aggressive behavior. If these types of props are used, be sure they are made of flexible materials, such as foam or rubber.
- Stay in groups while trick-or-treating, and make sure young children always are accompanied by adults.
- Teach children that they should NEVER go into a stranger’s home or car.
- Eat dinner before trick-or-treating to prevent the urge to eat treats before they have been inspected by parents. Never eat treats that have been opened.
- Leave porch or other outside lights on to make clear that trick-or-treaters are welcome.
Being healthy means more than limiting your sweets intake this Halloween, it means being aware and taking note of your surroundings too. Have a happy, healthy Halloween, Howard County!
Since my husband became a vegan, I’ve enjoyed creating appetizing vegan meals that we can both enjoy. It’s a fun to find recipes which please our palates (I still enjoy meat). In this installment of Diary of a Part-time Vegan, I present to you, the delicious dried seaweed, hijiki.
As a child, my mother never prepared hijiki as a vegan dish, but it can be made vegan without compromising taste (or texture). Ten years ago, I wanted to impress my husband by making him the dish my mother used to make. The only problem was that I never learned to make it! So, I called my mother and asked her for the “simple” steps to making hijiki: soak the hijiki in water; cook in a little bit of water with carrots and fishcake; add sugar, soy sauce, and salt to taste. (Well, what she said about the soy sauce was “make two revolutions,” meaning you add the soy sauce to the dish in two circular motions.)
Kansha offers a number of recipes using hijiki, kombu, and shiitake, as well as many other vegan and vegetarian side-dishes and entrées.
Unfortunately, I cooked the hijiki in oil, not water. My mom said water. I heard water. But I wrote oil and ended up accidentally deep frying the hijiki instead. One more thing, my pan was dark gray. The hijiki itself is black. Soy sauce also is black. So, I did the two revolutions thing with the soy sauce and thought that no soy sauce had come out. So, I did it again. Then, one more time before I realized the soy sauce was camouflaged by the hijiki and the pan; resulting in an oily and salty mess. Instead of a nice, refreshing dish of hijiki, my loving husband kindly ate the disastrous dish with a genuine-looking smile and insisted that it was tasty. I can assure you, it wasn’t. I’ve improved (a bit) since then.
Hijiki, kombu and shiitake can be purchased in dehydrated form at your local health food store or Asian market. Keep in mind that hijiki has been found to have high levels of inorganic arsenic. For this reason, I do not eat hijiki on a regular basis. Eden Foods, a seller of hijiki in the United States, has additional information on its website regarding inorganic arsenic in hijiki.
Hijiki with Vegetables
- 3 Tablespoons hijiki
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- Dried Kombu pieces, total about 4 inches by 2 inches (optional)
- 1/2 large carrot
- 1 cup edamame beans (if using shelled edamame beans, use about 1/4 cup)
- Vegetable oil or sesame oil
- 1/2 cup of reserved shiitake/kombu soaking water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 Tablespoons mirin
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- Dash of salt (optional)
- Soak hijiki in a bowl of water for about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.
- In a separate bowl, soak the shiitake mushrooms and the kombu in water for about 20 to 30 minutes. Reserve this soaking water.
- While waiting for the hijiki, shiitake and kombu to reconstitute, boil the edamame. Cut the carrots into matchsticks no more than an inch long.
- Once the shiitake has softened, discard the stems and slice into 1/4 inch pieces. When the kombu also has softened, cut into matchsticks no more than an inch long.
- Combine 1/2 cup of the shiitake/kombu soaking liquid with the sugar, mirin and soy sauce. If you do not have enough of the soaking liquid, make up the difference with water. If you have extra soaking liquid, you can save that in your refrigerator to use as shiitake/kombu stock. We use this to make our vegan miso soup.
- In a pan, heat the oil. Add the hijiki, carrots, shiitake and kombu. Stir fry over high heat for about a minute. Add the soaking liquid mixture and reduce the heat to medium high. Cook until the liquid is almost all absorbed or evaporated. Don’t forget to stir or the mixture will burn and stick to your pan.
- Turn off heat and remove the pan to cool. Add the edamame. Hijiki is best served slightly warm or at room temperature with a bowl of rice.
Hijiki is quite versatile. Many times you’ll find hijiki prepared with Japanese fishcake (kamaboko or the deep-fried variety) or with crumbled or deep-fried tofu. I like the addition of edamame because it’s a good source of protein (especially for vegans) and the green color contrasts beautifully next to the hijiki. Whatever you choose to add, be sure to julienne your additions for cooking ease and flavorful bites.
I was thrilled when our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share recently included Japanese eggplant, but my husband wasn’t so sure. His past experience with eggplant had included mainly breaded and fried slices which he described as “soggy and tasteless.” I went looking for a recipe that would be anything but and found just what I was looking for in True Food by Dr. Andrew Weil: “Stir-Fried Eggplant with Honey, Turmeric, and Soy.”
I’ve made it twice now, and my husband loved it both times. I followed the recipe pretty much exactly the first time, with great results. The second time I made it, I added a clove of minced garlic and half of a finely diced poblano, since we like things spicy. The original recipe calls for ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes which gives the dish just a hint of heat, but we liked the additional kick the poblano gave. Sweet red or green bell peppers would also be a good addition. The red pepper flakes can be left out if you prefer a milder dish. Trust me, it will still be delicious.
Stir-Fried Eggplant with Honey, Turmeric, and Soy
Ingredients (Makes 4 to 6 servings):
2 T low-sodium soy sauce
1 T honey
½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp turmeric
1 T expeller-pressed canola oil (I used olive oil both times)
4 C Japanese eggplant, sliced on the bias into ½ inch pieces, about 2 eggplants
1 ½ C thinly sliced onions
1 scallion, thinly sliced
- In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, red peper flakes, turmeric, and 2 tablespoons water.
- Heat a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the oil. When hot, add the eggplant and onions. Let the vegetables sear for a moment, then stir-fry by tossing them with a wooden spatula for 3 to 5 minutes. Add one-half of the turmeric-soy mixtrue, then more if the mixture is too dry.
- Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the scallion, and serve.
Voila! A healthy, delicious dish for a wonderful fall evening. Bon appetit!
For the love of cereal! (AmyLovesYah, Flickr 2013)
When this catchy advertising phrase popped into my mind, I had to blog so I could use the title. Was I eating Cocoa Puffs at the time? No, but I do enjoy a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, not to mention Cocoa Pebbles and Cocoa Krispies. As I began to channel my inner Tony the Tiger, I wondered, can raisin bran really compare with Frosted Flakes?
We are often reminded to eat breakfast. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has a web page for their students reminding them that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Breakfast recommendations include an item from each of these groups: 1) bread/grain, 2) milk /milk product and 3) fruit/vegetable. We are advised to select items that are low in fat and sugar.
Does cereal have a place in this healthy breakfast? Yes, cereal fits in the bread and grain group. Grains are low in fat and provide us with fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, Grains are classified as “whole” and “refined.” Whole grain is composed of an outer layer of bran, an interior of endosperm and a kernel of germ. Bran is rich in fiber. Endosperm contains carbohydrates. Germ is a source of vitamins, minerals and unsaturated fat. Grinding grain preserves all three components, resulting in the “whole” grain used to make dense and hearty baked goods. The milling process removes the bran and germ, creating the easily-digested “refined” grain that is used to bake breads and pastries that are light and fluffy. Refined grains have less than half the vitamin B, vitamin E, and mineral content of whole grains. Refined grains also have very little fiber.
The nutritional benefits of ingesting whole grains rather than refined grains are significant and include lower serum cholesterol and decreased risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Whole grains in the diet have been associated with lowered risk of diabetes because the fiber helps modulate blood sugar and insulin levels. Fiber is filling and helps stave off hunger and control calorie intake. A recent study even showed a lowered risk of high blood pressure in male physicians who ate whole grain cereals.
Nutrition Facts of Cocoa Puffs from GeneralMills.com
Food manufacturers promote their use of “enriched” grain. This term means that some of the nutrients lost to the milling process have been added back artificially, such as the B-complex vitamins and iron. These enriched refined grains are often “fortified” as well, meaning that vitamins and minerals that did not naturally occur in the grain have been added. These added nutrients may include vitamin D and calcium, to promote bone health. Neither the enrichment or fortification process restores the fiber, however.
When selecting a cereal, look at the list of ingredients. Unlike the front of the package that may have vague or misleading language, the ingredient list documents the actual contents of the product. The healthiest cereals will have whole grain listed as the first ingredient(s). The Department of Health and Human Services guidelines advise us to look for the first ingredient to be any of the following: whole wheat, brown rice, buckwheat, whole oats, oatmeal, bulgur, whole-grain barley, millet, sorghum, whole rye, quinoa, triticale (a wheat/rye hybrid), whole grain corn and wild rice.
This book will help you make healthier decisions at the grocery store, even in the cereal aisle.
Armed with the knowledge of which types of grain have more health benefits, we still have to choose between cereals. Here’s where both the ingredient list and the nutrition facts on the side of the box become important. After scanning the ingredients, check the nutrition facts and compare the amounts of dietary fiber and sugars between products. Cocoa Puffs lists whole-grain corn as its first ingredient, but sugar is the second ingredient. Cocoa Puffs has 1 gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar and 110 calories per 3/4-cup serving. Frosted Flakes lists milled corn followed by sugar. Tony the Tiger’s favorite breakfast treat has less than 1 gram of fiber, 11 grams of sugar and 110 calories per 3/4-cup serving. Some brands of raisin bran list whole wheat as the first ingredient but also contain sugar as the second ingredient. Some raisin bran manufacturers add sugar to the raisins. Different raisin bran products have between 14 and 20 grams of sugar per 1-cup serving. Various raisin bran manufacturers use a lower percentage of whole grain in their flakes, creating cereals that range between and 5 and 11 grams of dietary fiber per 1-cup serving.
Likewise, the various brands of cereal contain between 210 and 350 calories per 1-cup serving. It’s interesting to note that although the raisin bran serving is larger than the other two cereals, the sugar content is comparable and the calorie count is higher. In terms of fiber, raisin bran is the clear health winner. If I choose a cup-sized serving of Cocoa Puffs, I will use fewer of my daily calories, about the same amount of sugar, but will need to get my fiber elsewhere. Because Cocoa Puffs will be less filling, I may end up eating more total calories for the day because I will be hungry sooner than if I had chosen raisin bran.
There are multiple cereal choices that have even more fiber than raisin bran with less sugar and about the same calories. They might not do the trick the next time I am cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, but they will be good options for a regular daily healthy breakfast. I will be sure to read the nutrition labels closely first.
Oh, the joys of being a new parent! No one can truly prepare you for how your life will change once you’ve had a baby. Some days it’s just hard.
I feel this pressure to be “Super Mom.” I have to be able to do everything (at once) while also taking in “the joys of motherhood.” I need to care for my child, exercise, clean the kitchen, keep the house, do the laundry, and remember to pay attention to the other people in my life- like my husband. I question myself constantly about the essentials: should I use this time to shower, nap, or eat? I usually opt for the nap. My husband and I are in our thirties and we’re tired all the time. In fact, I’m more tired than I have ever been in my entire life!
I really didn’t know that having a baby and working full-time would be so challenging. It’s a lot of work and I have forfeited a lot of sleep in the process. What I’m learning though, is the importance of being compassionate with myself in the midst mommy-hood. If I don’t make time for self-care, I’m affecting my ability to be the best mom I can be.
I’ve put together some seemingly obvious (but easy to forget) suggestions of how to take care of yourself as a new mom. Basically, these are things to make sure you do, or are aware of, on a daily basis. Jennifer Wider’s awesome, practical book, The New Mom’s Survival Guide, which resonates with some of these tips. Wider also keeps a humorous tone when it comes to some of the topics that I’m not covering in this post (i.e. sex). I also recommend taking a look at Mojo Mom. Here are my self-care tips for new moms during those first weeks of maternity leave.
- Sleep. Sleep when your baby sleeps. No. Really. Try to do this! Don’t feel guilty about housework. Your sanity is more important. Folding the laundry can wait.
- Eat. As a new mom, I have the tendency to focus so much on feeding my baby that I forget to eat, or I end up eating junk food. It’s imperative to eat healthy, well-balanced meals regularly. By the way, if you want to visit someone who just had a baby, the nicest gift you can give is a meal. Whether it’s store-bought or home cooked, they will appreciate it.
- Bathe. Take care of your hygiene every day. A quick shower or warm bath can rejuvenate you. Trust me, you’ll feel better even if you don’t get a chance to leave the house.
- Exercise & Breathe. Get out of the house every day if you can. Have some time to yourself. Go for a walk, run an errand, go shopping. Give yourself some breathing room, enjoy a chance for some alone time. When your spouse is home from work or you have a friend who can watch your little one, switch off and take some time for yourself.
- Socialize. Try not to isolate. Call family or friends every couple of days. Join a mom’s group. It’s easy to forget that there is a whole world out there when you’re focused on your baby.
- Get Help. Postpartum depression is real. I have experienced it and it can happen to any new mother. If you notice changes in the way you’re feeling or have any symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor and get a referral if you need one. Know that you’re not alone. Let your family and friends know that you need help with everyday tasks too. You can call on your network of support simply by reaching out to your loved ones.
- “Appreciate and enjoy your baby.” At my baby shower, a family member said to me, “I wish I had taken more time to hold my baby. I got so caught up in ‘she needs to take a nap, then, I need to feed her’ [I wish I had spent time] to hold her just for the sake of holding her.” I enjoy cuddling with my daughter and I have to remind myself that it’s okay to just be together like that.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Do you have any self-care suggestions for new moms? Please share your ideas in the comments below. I suppose part of motherhood is remembering to be kind and forgiving to yourself as a new parent. There are many joys in raising your first child, just as there are many challenges. It’s up to you to find that healthy balance and what works best for your family. I’m still figuring it out for myself!
Jessica’s pea plants
It’s well established that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is healthy for your mind and body. I’ve also heard a lot about organic food, GMO’s, and growing food without using unhealthy pesticides or chemicals. You may find such food at the grocery store (for an inflated price), at a specialty natural market, or at a local farmer’s market. Another option is to grow your own produce. If you’re lucky to have the space and enough sunlight, you can grow a whole vegetable garden in your own backyard. But even without acreage, you can grow some fruit, vegetables, and herbs in containers or small garden beds. Growing your own food is not only healthy, but it’s super satisfying. The first time I ate a handful of sugar snap peas I had grown myself, I was certain they were the best peas I’d ever eaten. The same goes for fresh blueberries straight from the bush, or using basil I grew myself to make pesto. While I’m mostly a grower of snacks, my self-chosen limitations don’t have to be yours!
In my experience, sugar snap peas or snow peas are the easiest vegetable to grow and yield a nice harvest. They sprout quickly and grow into sizeable plants within just a few days. Plus, they keep growing and growing! Each flower will grow into a big pea pod that you can eat straight off the plant with a satisfying crunch.
For some more seasoned advice, I’d turn you to Jo Whittingham’s Backyard Harvest: A Year-Round Guide to Growing Fruits and Vegetables for a great starter book. It’s broken into months to explain what’s ready to eat, what to plant, how to maintain your plants, and what to harvest. Though mostly oriented toward the beginner gardener, there are plants and instructions for every level of green-thumb. Handily, there is a section in the back with images of pests and common plant diseases to help diagnose and solve issues you may encounter. This book will help you get your backyard garden started and flourishing at whatever level you’re comfortable. Another good beginner book is Carol Klein’s Grow Your Own Vegetables.
You may be thinking, “But it’s October! Now is the time for harvesting and hunkering down inside to wait out the coming winter!” You’re right for the most part, but there are still some options for timely planting. Whittingham recommends planting some cauliflower, beans, and even peas if the winter will be mild. Around here, winter is unpredictable but usually pretty cold, so even hardy varieties of these vegetables may succumb to the cold. However, Whittingham explains that garlic needs a chilling period, and planting bare-rooted blackberry, raspberry, gooseberry, and currant plants now will allow for berries in the spring and summer. Some other garden basics can also be performed during the colder months, like starting a compost heap for feeding your lovely vegetables when they’re in bloom.
Even better, next month (November) is good for planting even more: blueberry bushes, many fruit trees (especially in pots), and hardy perennial herbs like mint or lemon balm.
Posted by hclibrary on Oct 10, 2013 in Health, Reviews | 0 comments
As summer turns to fall, I feel the seasons changeover with achy twinges in my joints. Some people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), like myself, feel changes in the weather with their bodies. I can feel big storms, pressure changes, and shifts in humidity.
Frequently, the most challenging transition I encounter is when summer shifts to fall. I often feel my best during summertime. I experience less joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and have more energy overall. Unfortunately, as those warm summer days darken into chilly ones, my joints grow achier and harder to move.
Through the years, I’ve developed coping mechanisms to handle these seasonal changes. I don’t think I have a perfect routine, but I better understand what helps me to feel better and manage the changes in my physical condition.
- Get more rest. Instead of getting angry at my body and denying the problem, I have to be gentler on myself and take time to get more rest. I try to go to sleep earlier, if possible, on week nights. And on weekends I may sleep in or take naps during the day. On especially bad days, I may scale back my schedule and replace activity with more resting.
- Stay warm. When my joints become cold I have two problems. I feel worse, with more pain and stiffness. Plus, it takes a ridiculously long time for me to warm up and feel better. The best plan is to stay warm in the first place. I often dress warmer than most people—taking out the sweaters as early as September. And at night I have a heating blanket turned up on high. Taking proactive measures can help prevent bigger problems with my RA.
- Keep up with gentle exercise. When my RA feels worse, it can be very difficult to motivate myself for exercise. It’s natural for my body to complain about moving when my joints ache and feel stiffer than molasses. But even on bad days if I do some gentle stretches and slow motions, then my bones loosen up and some of the pain dissipates. A little exercise can go a long way, which will hopefully help me feel better tomorrow as well.
Living with rheumatoid arthritis has its limitations, but I can still take care of myself with some gentleness. While I can’t necessarily fight the effects of winter, I can ease my body into it with a little self-care. Taking the time to observe how I feel and experiment with some techniques for combating the worst symptoms has helped me navigate the changing seasons.
October 1 marked the five-year anniversary (yuck, there has to be a better word for this than “anniversary”) of my mother’s death. The grief of losing my mother is something that lives with me every single day, but it’s not something I easily discuss. In fact, a friend who has recently suffered a loss asked me how long it took me to get over my mom’s passing. I told her I’d let her know when that happens. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to write about the great sorrow and pain my siblings and I faced having to make some wretched decisions as well as suffer the loss of the person who was most influential in our lives, but not today.
My mom had many health issues, but also, I think, her health was affected by how much time she spent as a caregiver. You see, my mom had five kids, cared for my father for eight years after he fell ill (while her youngest children were still adolescents), and cared for her elderly mother who lived with us for the last eleven years of her life. She was always taking care of someone but usually not herself. This, sadly, seems to be a common problem among caregivers in our society, and our society is full of caregivers.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, “65.7 million caregivers make up 29% of the U.S. adult population providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged.” The Caregiver Action Network indicates that a caregiver is anyone who cares for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age.
Caregivers can help with anything and everything from shopping, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, giving medicine, going to the toilet, bathing, dressing, eating, to providing company and emotional support. As MedlinePlus states: “Caregiving is hard, and caregivers of chronically ill people often feel stress. They are ‘on call’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you’re caring for someone with mental problems like Alzheimer’s disease, it can be especially difficult. Support groups can help.”
November is National Caregiver month, according to the American Society on Aging. So it might be the perfect time to start thinking of ways to look out for any caregivers you know (including yourself if you are one). Just about all the organizations linked to in this post have resources for caregivers and family and friends of caregivers. You may also wish to try some books such as: The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook, American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Family Caregiving, Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias: The Caregiver’s Complete Survival Guide. Remember, caregivers in our lives spend so much time and energy on others, like my mother did, we should try to help them, especially when it comes to taking care of themselves.
We are lucky to live in a time and place where food is so bountiful that we can decide not to eat entire portions of the now outdated food pyramid. (As a vegetarian, I am required to know how to poke fun at myself). Switching to a vegetarian diet can be daunting, but if you’d like to some help replacing some of the meaty bits in your meals, try The Food Substitutions Bible.
But what is a vegetarian? Much debate has taken place over the characteristics of a “true vegetarian” and because of this, many veggie-purists are careful with their diet terminology. If you’ve been confused by or are simply unfamiliar with “veggie terminology”, I’ve prepared a quick guide for you.
Vegetarians don’t eat anything that requires an animal to die in order for their food to be prepared. That means no meat: red meat, game, poultry, or fish. Eggs and dairy are often a part of a vegetarian diet. Vegetarians may further distinguish their preferences using terms like “ovo-vegetarian” (eggs, no dairy) or “lacto-vegetarian” (dairy, no eggs). If someone tells you that they are an “ovo-lacto-vegetarian” they’re just telling you they’re not vegan. A healthy vegetarian diet includes eating a lot of whole fruits, vegetables, yogurt, beans, nuts, and whole grains.
But wait! I have a friend who’s vegetarian and he eats fish!
Well, he’s a Pescatarian/Pescetarian.
Pescatarians will sometimes call themselves “vegetarians” for simplicity’s sake. They keep to a vegetarian diet, but also consume creatures from the sea (e.g. fish, squid, clams, etc.). Pescatarianism is often considered one of the healthiest diets because of the abundance of omega-3 fatty acid found in fish.
Vegans choose to abstain from consuming any animal (or insect) products. This diet requires knowing the ins and outs of your food and its preparation. For instance, a vegan wouldn’t eat honey or gelatin. Some vegans will also avoid white sugar and anything made with it. Vegans love unpackaged grains, fruits, and veggies. Knowing how to prepare vegan meals in a satisfying way may convince you of how simple it can be. Try Vegan Cooking for Carnivores and tell me you’re not impressed with how a diet that seems so restrictive is actually quite delicious.
Raw Vegans take it a step further by also paying attention to how food is processed for consumption. A raw vegan eats raw, unprocessed, organic foods that have not been cooked (or heated above 116 °F). Some raw vegans prefer that the plants providing their nutrition continues to live despite the harvesting of its fruits.
Vegetarianism and Veganism are plant-based diets that individuals may choose for health, religious, and/or animal-rights related reasons. No matter your reason, a plant-based diet is essential to healthy living.
I hope you found this guide helpful. Eat well and be well!
“Master the Movement” is a five-part series which briefly covers the proper form and mechanics of various exercises. Please consult your physician before attempting any new exercise regimen and consider meeting with a certified, professional trainer who can assess your form to prevent injury as you work toward your goals.
Have you noticed the massive influx of new exercise machines, group fitness classes, and gadgets promising quick weight loss? Despite the high turnover of fads and products, there’s one piece of equipment that hasn’t gone out of style: the barbell.
While barbells are commonplace in nearly every gym, many people perform barbell exercises without practicing or understanding proper form. There are those who are afraid to do squats because they think it will hurt their knees, while others fear the damage a dead lift could do to their backs. The reality is that both injuries are possible, but not if the movement is done correctly.
Now regarded by many people as a standard benchmark for strength, the bench press is usually seen as a chest or pectoral exercise. While the pecs play a role in the movement (when done properly and safely), it’s the triceps which work for the majority of the rep. This exercise is about body movement awareness and control.
Many thanks to my lovely wife for being our bench pressing model.
#1 Set up:
Lay down on the bench with the bar at eye level.
Feet on the floor and a comfortable width apart.
Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Arch your back as much as is comfortable (think putting a fist under your back).
Arms slightly wider than shoulder width.
#2 Lift Off:
Get your whole body tight (legs, abs, back, etc.).
Take a deep breath in your belly. Exhale as you lift off.
Bring the bar out so your arms are vertical.
Avoid locking your elbows, otherwise you risk hyperextension in that joint.
While keeping everything tight, bring the bar straight down.
Do NOT flare out elbows, keep them tucked comfortably near your body.
Let the bar descend until it touches your sternum, avoiding bouncing at all costs.
if you can picture your arms making a 90-degree triangle you can avoid unnecessary strain on your muscles.
The objective is to work not injure.
Still keeping your body as tight as you can, explode the bar off of your chest straight up (not backwards towards the rack) After maintaining this position for a short count, re-rack the bar.
Be sure you know what your goals are before you attempt any kind of lifting exercises. Not to mention, get your doctor’s approval too. Your goals will dictate what proper form looks like. That is, your grip, reps, speed, stance, weight, and the like affects your workout outcomes.
The New Rules of Lifting series can help you examine your current lifting form and provide a deeper explanation of what’s happening between your movements and your muscle groups, as well as get you started with new exercises suited to your goals (allowing for modifications when necessary).
The fact is, proper form equals an efficient workout.
Share your experiences with bench pressing in the comments below.
I hate doctors. Don’t get me wrong. I have a great deal of respect for them (really) because their job is to provide good healthcare and keep you well. I just hate what they usually have to tell me.
Last Tuesday, I had an appointment with my gynecologist. It had been about a year since my last exam and she was not happy with the state of my health. I held my breath as she silently clicked through charts and my latest weigh-in.
After four or five minutes, she pulled her eyes away from the computer and peered at me over her thick Prada frames. Let’s call her Dr. Emerald (the color of her nail polish that day).
“J…do you realize that since you’ve been a patient here, you’ve gained almost 40 pounds? You started at a fit and trim 122 and now you’re teetering at 160,” she said. She was right. A mere four years ago, I was still obsessed with exercising five times a week. I was also miserable and hungry because I chose to deprive myself of anything remotely salty, fattening, or sweet.
For most people, 160 pounds is not a lot. But, I’m barely pushing the 5 foot mark.
“I really didn’t think it was that much. I thought my clothes fit a little snug,” I said sheepishly.
Snug? More like the seams of my old size 4 jeans threatening to burst into a cloud of dark blue denim.
My doctor shook her head and shut the laptop. I could tell what she was about to say was serious. I didn’t like how uneasy I felt, but I knew I had to listen because my life was at hand.
“You have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which we both understand can make weight loss very difficult for you. There have been studies that women who have PCOS often secrete high levels of insulin which trigger frequent carb cravings,” Dr. Emerald said. “BUT you have to learn to control it. You’re pre-diabetic, J. You have to adjust your lifestyle and work your way back to a healthy weight.”
I sat there in stunned silence as she continued to mention how important it was to remember my family’s history of heart disease, diabetes, and strokes. She also reminded me that (with PCOS) I am at high risk for certain cancers. The only way to mitigate these health risks was to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Diabetes could have killed me. Instead, it saved my life.” – Sherri Shepherd
I’ve battled with my weight for the sake of vanity, my entire life. My motivation always had to do with bad breakups, being a bridesmaid (wedding photos last forever), or squeezing into a nice pair of skinny jeans. Now, I’m fighting for my life.
My doctor emphasized the importance of losing weight slowly and with real sustainability. She recommended that I enlist the help of a dietitian (if covered by health insurance) and find a physical activity I enjoy to start.
I drove home that afternoon feeling completely deflated and overwhelmed, processing everything my doctor told me. I couldn’t argue with her or make excuses anymore. I promised Dr. Emerald I’d start working my way towards better health that day.
I passed my neighborhood coffee shop and had the urge to pull into the drive thru for a giant, faux-Italian-sized-frozen-coffee-drink topped with a mountain of whipped cream and chocolate drizzle.
I slowed my car down, took one last glance at the iconic logo and hit the gas.
I have an appointment with Dr. E in six weeks and she’s holding me accountable for my health.
I have to start somewhere before I get anywhere. Even if it’s just saying no to a blended coffee drink.
How many times have you lost or gained ten, twenty, or even fifty pounds? While both men and women experience health issues surrounding weight, women tend to ride the “weight loss roller coaster” for much of their lives. Starting from adolescence, the media pressures women to fit a certain body type and look a certain way. Who cares about how you look? Is fitting that ideal image the most important goal? Have you ever quit exercising because that dreaded scale didn’t move after working out and eating healthy for a month? Do you feel like healthy eating is a punishment?
This roller coaster ride, the number of weight loss (or gain) peaks and valleys we experience, directly impacts our metabolism. It’s never too late to jump off that roller coaster. But, when you’re ready to get off, where do you begin?
First, find a sledge hammer and take it to your scale. Enjoy every minute! Destroy that little machine which has controlled so much of your life and start looking at the important things in your life. Evaluate why losing weight matters. Find your driving reason for making this change. Examine your energy level, health status, family health history, areas of pain, and level of enjoyment in your life. What do you want to achieve?
Second, take it slow. Make small, realistic changes to your daily routine. Be sure to talk with your doctor and consider consulting a nutritionist for changes in your diet as well. Set out to achieve one or two goals a month as you form healthier habits. Try something new! Perhaps Yoga, hiking, Pilates, or Zumba. Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your daily eating plan. Drink plenty of water and get enough quality sleep.
When working with a busy schedule, remember every little bit counts. Hearing that we must engage in 60 – 90 minutes of activity every day seems overwhelming at first. Do what you can, as long as it’s something active. Short on time? Make twenty minutes go a long way in your workout with intervals, try big movements with minimal rest. Increasing your intensity allows you to accomplish a lot in a short period of time.
Include your friends and family on your journey. Supporters can help you stay focused along the way. Chances are, they could use a little encouragement as well. Leave the wild roller coaster rides for the amusement park and set yourself on a smooth path to healthy living.
Your health is a journey, not a destination. Take time to enjoy the ride and the other things life has to offer. Be healthy and get off that roller coaster! Your life will benefit greatly and your metabolism will thank you!
Posted by hclibrary on Sep 19, 2013 in Parenting | 0 comments
My newborn has been replaced with a stubborn baby who fights sleep at all costs. It seems as if she’s determined to remain awake for fear she’ll miss something groundbreaking. She used to be quite content sleeping in our dining room in her baby swing. Now, she’s practically scaling the swing structure to reach her beloved purple rhinoceros dangling from the mobile. My daughter was a great sleeper and would rarely wake-up in the middle of the night. Throughout her first weeks home from the hospital she’d only get up to feed once or twice during the night. Unfortunately, it seems those days are over. She is no longer the sweet newborn who could sleep anywhere, on anyone, and through any and all conditions. Her aversion to sleep results in a day filled with grumpiness (yes, she can get a bit cranky too).
When sleepiness does miraculously set in, my daughter starts to protest with some grumbling (mostly at her toys). But those frustrations that began as an endearing growl have now evolved into an all-out throaty yelling. I like to believe she is saying something like, I’m so tired and this toy owl will not do my will and fit inside my mouth! And by the way, I really don’t want to take a nap! My husband was the first to discover this behavior while working from home on a conference call. Her expressive yelling made quite the impression on his coworker. Being the new and inexperienced parent that I am, I needed to find out if this behavior was “normal.” Anecdotally, it is. Plus, she’s already growing up.
As I continue to read all the baby-raising books, practice all the advice I’ve been given, and try all of the most highly recommended strategies to help my little one, I realize that I will need to adapt these methods to suit my family. Even the best practices may need to be amended because of that other shared experience among new parents: my kid is going to be exception, not the rule.
Thankfully, I’ve found that my daughter can be lulled to sleep using motion. If I take her for a long walk in her stroller or to take her on a car ride, she’ll doze off. However, it seems like the minute we stop moving her eyes open up, one after the other, and lock in on me conveying her distaste, I know what you are trying to do. You were trying to put me to sleep. I know what you are up to and I’m not falling for it.
Needless to say, we’re still working on it.
What have you found to be helpful in aiding your infant to get to sleep?
Whether acrimonious or amicable, divorce ranks among life’s most traumatic and life-altering experiences. Divorce means grieving multiple losses while simultaneously balancing all the other areas of your life that have suddenly been thrown into a tailspin. Financial crises, legal problems, and custody arrangements are just a few of the headaches divorce can bring. On top of that, your day-to-day responsibilities and obligations don’t disappear just because your world is falling apart.
Divorce can be devastating, leaving even the strongest and most level-headed among us reeling. According to psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe’s Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), a questionnaire created to identify major life stressors, divorce is ranked among the the top two of stressful life events, second only to the death of a spouse or partner. Elizabeth Bernstein, in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, reports that it takes a solid two years to recover from a divorce or similar loss, and to find your new normal.
Self-care is essential as you deal with your divorce. Why is self-care so important? Because the high levels of stress experienced during this time can wear down your body and leave you at higher risk for health problems. Focusing on your complete wellness and practicing regular, nurturing acts of self-care can increase self-esteem and foster a sense of control during a time when you may feel helpless.
It’s important to be patient and gentle with yourself throughout the stages of divorce. Some days, it may take all the energy you have just to get out of bed and take a shower. Other days, you’ll feel stronger and braver; those are the days you may want to add simple healthy habits to your self-care routine.
- Sleep. Dealing with divorce is exhausting, so this is very important. An old fashioned mug of warm milk with a sprinkle of nutmeg or a cup of chamomile tea can help to relax you and make it easier to fall asleep. A soothing bubble bath can also encourage sleep and ease aches and pains. “There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure,” Sylvia Plath famously wrote, “but I don’t know many of them.”
- Move. Amble around the block or shake your groove thing in the privacy of your living room. Go ahead, no one but your cat knows that you fancy yourself the next Dancing Queen and the cat’s not talking. Physical activity can help to discharge negative emotions and soothe stress.
- Eat. That is, eat well. You’ve heard it all before– increase your intake of fruits and veggies, consume lean proteins, and drink plenty of fluids. Fuel your body with nutritious foods. Stay away from the processed stuff and try to avoid making a regular date with Ben & Jerry or Sara Lee every Saturday night.
- Get out. Speaking of Saturday night, get out of the house for a night out! Take a Sunday morning Zumba class, or a Tuesday afternoon book club. Divorce may lead to severed social ties and feelings of isolation, so you may have to work extra hard to step out of your comfort zone and make new connections. There is a link between social connectedness and enhanced health and well-being. Doing something fun with other people can provide a healthy outlet for all that stress. If you’re feeling brave you can even try groups like Meetup.org to find a variety of local clubs, fun activities, social events, and support groups.
- Find your bliss. Do something for yourself. Reinvent yourself even. Now is the time to get in touch with who you are. Rediscover old interests or explore new activities. Howard County Library System is a treasure trove of educational resources, with books and DVDs on subjects ranging from watercolor painting and organic gardening to mountain climbing and wine appreciation, in addition to a wide variety of instructive and enlightening free classes. As George Eliot wisely said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
- Get Help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek out professional help from your physician or a mental health care provider. Remember, recognizing when we need help is a sign of strength. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
These tips are a friendly reminder of the things you can do nurture yourself during or after a divorce. Nothing can make the stress of divorce magically dissipate, but focusing on simple, small acts of self-care can increase your feelings of control over your circumstances while at the same time enhancing your health and elevating your sense of well-being.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.References
Bernstein, Elizabeth. After Divorce or Job Loss Comes the Good Identity Crisis. Wall Street Journal, 2013.
Tennant, Victoria. The Powerful Impact of Stress. School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, 2005.
McLeod, S. A. (2010) SRRS – Stress of Life Events – Simply Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/SRRS.html
Posted by hclibrary on Sep 12, 2013 in Health | 4 comments
Our newest Well & Wise contributor, Kelly, enjoys her life beyond Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I’ve been living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) for more than 34 years. Since I was diagnosed around age two, I don’t remember a life without RA. You could say it has been a continuing theme in my life experience, sometimes playing a primary role and other times lurking in the background, yet always present.
With my RA have come medications, therapies, surgeries, complications, and associated health issues. Most people see my illness first and may never get beyond these impressions. I’d like to think a lucky few get to know me and better understand the complexity of a person living with a severe chronic disease, who is not solely defined by it. Like anyone else you meet in this life, I’m just trying to live the best I can.
I decided long ago, when I was a small child, that I would not be defined by my RA. It would bring me pain, physical limitations and disability, but it would not take over my life. RA is an unchosen companion in my journey. I live with it and manage it as best I can. At times it takes my full attention, otherwise, while it is a daily constant, I have created a full life for myself and am proud of achieving that.
Many of my accomplishments have been fulfilled by stubborn will and persistence. I lost count of the number of people who would tell me that I couldn’t do this or I’d never do that. If I had listened, where would I be? Instead, I listened to myself. Did I want to go to college? Yes, so I did and also later earned a Masters degree. Did I want to work and find a fulfilling career? Yes, so I did. I earn my own living and enjoy my work. Did I want a home and partner? Yes, and I lived independently for many years before meeting my husband and building a happy life with him.
During all of these life pursuits, I lived with chronic RA as it attacked my joints. I use a motorized wheelchair to aid in my mobility and I have to navigate the limits inflicted by a severe disease. But for me it was never a question about whether to pursue my life goals. It was only a matter of working persistently to build the life I wanted.
For me, wellness is not about being cured, but about living with the body I was born in. If my RA goes into remission tomorrow, I will still have the damage and disability it caused. My work is to manage my health as best I can and live well while doing so.
Continuing in the same vein as my last post, I thought I’d share some more healthier snacking alternatives with a few other cookbooks.
Salty Snacks by Cynthia Nims collects instructions for making your own homemade savory snacks without excess sodium or preservatives. There’s a whole range of snacks here, from the newly popular kale chips to soft pretzels to breadsticks and savory cookies. Some of the goodies outlined are very inventive – salami chips in particular caught my eye. I’m learning about so many foods that can be baked or dried into delicious crispy snacks that are much healthier than the standard potato chip. My husband and I spent an evening making and eating some delicious kale chips just the other night – I’d highly recommend it! The recipes in this book are very easy to modify, so when we didn’t have the suggested spices on hand we enjoyed our kale with just olive oil and kosher salt.
Fast Food Fix by Devin Alexander provides a full set of makeovers of fast food favorites made with real ingredients and containing less calories, fat, and chemicals. Sometimes, I just really want a burger from a fast food joint, and with this book I can satisfy that craving while still sticking to Michael Pollan’s Food Rules by cooking it myself. It’s more satisfying, I know exactly what’s in it, and it’s better for me to boot. How can you resist? I know next time I get that fast food craving, I’ll be turning to this book instead.
The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals by Missy Chase Lapine is full of innovative ways to stealthily include vegetables and other healthy foods in traditionally less healthy and delicious food. Clearly, this guide is intended for getting nutrients into children, but I think it could work well for someone like me too. I want to get more of the vitamins and minerals that are good for me, but I just don’t tend to eat many vegetables. That’s a bad habit, but adding some vegetables to the rest of my food can help me get those missing nutrients. Further, this book can help cut calories, add nutrition, and avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes by using some of these replacements. Some of these recipes are really simple, like using olive oil instead of butter when making a grilled cheese sandwich or adding spinach or avocado to a milkshake. Others involve a set of purees outlined in the beginning that include all the healthy nutrients kids (and some adults) hate to eat. Either way, it’s a giant step toward eating healthily and improving your well being!
Posted by hclibrary on Sep 5, 2013 in Mental Health | 0 comments
What makes you happy? Music? Pets? Family?
For me, it’s those wacky-waving-inflatable-tube-men with their goofy smiles (and the best dance moves ever imagined) make me happy– bar none. Even if I was having the worst day of my life, spotting one of those care-free fellas would make me smile! If I were to dig deeper, I’d say facing my fears is what makes me most happy. Just like hearing a curse word, fear, both physical and emotional, evokes a range of thoughts and feelings. Facing those fears facilitates self-actualization, discovering your essence.
I have been a music lover and writer for as long as I can remember. It started with playing on a plastic keyboard and writing in one of those Lisa Frank notebooks. Later, I created tunes on my acoustic guitar and recorded my thoughts in a journal free of hot pink pages (okay, it has cats on the front and they’re adorable).
So, what does that have to do with facing my fears? Well, despite all my compositions, I rarely shared my work with others. If you’re wondering why not?, I guess my main concern was being misunderstood. What if someone didn’t understand where I was coming from? The more I thought about it, the more silly it seemed. The main thing that I love about music, art, and writing is that these forms of expression are open to interpretation. Perception is not universal and that’s such a beautiful thing. That’s why I decided to face my fear.
I participated in a local art gallery and open mic event–I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results! Aside from playing a song here or there with close friends, I had never played music, let alone read some of my writing in public. I attended the event alone, determined to expose myself.
I was nervous. However, those nerves soon dissolved as I was greeted with the most welcoming atmosphere I have ever experienced. Everyone who attended the event was very kind and open-minded. I read two original pieces, performed two cover songs on my guitar, and submitted a photograph to be shown in the gallery. (It was accepted!)
Complete strangers approached me and expressed how much they enjoyed my performance; I was in shock. It felt wonderful to have an impact on someone else’s life. In addition, I faced a major fear which had kept me in artistic seclusion for far too long. I felt a physical difference as well: my heart and mind were less congested. I felt more whole.
I faced my fear and was rewarded with happiness on so many different levels. I almost feel foolish that I hadn’t challenged myself sooner–only to quickly remind myself that feeling foolish is the last thing that needed to cloud my experience.
I have made a promise to myself to continue on this journey of finding my true essence and what makes me happy (which includes sharing my art with others). Now, if only I could force myself to hit the “purchase deal” button for that sky-diving Groupon.
In due time.
Maybe you’ve seen the commercial where a parent glides gleefully around an office supply store purchasing back-to-school supplies to a jaunty tune, and you’ve had to stifle a giggle. Maybe you’ve been so frustrated by the phrases “I’m bored” and “There’s nothing to do” that you’ve momentarily fantasized about a year-round curriculum. Or, maybe, once or twice you’ve thought
* is so much easier when can I do it by myself.
[*shopping, cleaning, cooking, eating, sleeping, thinking, etc. I'm sure we all have our own.]
I am guilty of all of these, and yet…I’m kind of in a slump right now because I actually miss my “cheeky monkeys”, whom I so cruelly sent back to school recently. Yes, there were times this summer when I thought, “Hurry up, school,” but, overall, I miss their hilarity, company, and ability to inject fun into almost anything (e.g., one dull, laundry-filled day became the great sock-ball/underwear sling-shot war of 2013).
But is it normal for me to feel this way? Are parents prone to the back-to-school blues or is it just supposed to be the kids? Well, according to the American Psychological Association, the blues around this time of year are felt by both parents and children. They suggest some tips to help your kids adjust and, in the process, give you some peace of mind:
- Develop a school-day routine with your child and practice it.
- Help your child get to know your neighbors and your neighborhood.
- Talk to your child, asking lots of questions.
- Empathize with your child; letting him/her know that your fears and excitement mirror his/hers can help you both.
- Get involved and ask for help; this will foster support for both you and your child.
This advice is geared mainly to help the children, but what of parents’ anxiety? Barbara Korsch, M.D., an attending pediatrician at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and a professor of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, says that parents have biological needs, as well as emotional ones to take care of kids. “We are the most protective species on earth when it comes to the guidance and care of children. Parent’s concerns as to how a child will act, or react, on his own can be very upsetting.” So it is perfectly natural for parents to get the blues when sending their kiddos back to school.
We’ll miss you summer fun!
Dr. Korsch says that studies have indicated that the return school can be almost as harried and disconcerting for parents, especially those who are sending their kids to school for the first time. “Parents often suffer from anxiety and a sense of loss,” Dr. Korsch said. “It is especially difficult for those who are used to having their child at home with them most of the time, and have had little need for previous separation.”
But, Dr. Korsch reminds, “The reality is that it’s healthy for a child to learn to be independent.” So, don’t be a helicopter parent because it is not good for you or your child. However, it might be helpful to share a story of someone else dealing with similar emotions, such as in Winging It by Catherine Goldhammer. You might even try preparing for the way you’ll feel at being separated from your child. Even if he/she isn’t quite to the college-bound age yet, you may find some tips in Emptying the Nest by Brad Sachs. But mainly try to think the best of your child’s abilities to cope and concentrate on making his/her school experience the best it can be, and you may even want to focus on other things in your life that you’ve not had enough time to concentrate on (I can’t be the only one with some serious closet reorganizing to do). If all else fails, you can come to the library and find a good book to read while you wait for the school bus.
It usually happens in the evening after a long day in the office. Under the fluorescent lights of a grocery store, pushing my squeaky cart down aisles of pasta, canned beans, and sugar. I take a mental inventory of the items in my cart. Kale? Check. Organic almond milk? Check. Brown rice? Check. To most people standing in the check-out line, the items I carefully selected make me seem like a responsible, healthy adult. Someone who probably takes yoga, enjoys a long run after work, and goes to sleep at a decent hour. But I have a dirty little secret.
Under the bright leafy greens and organic apples are two boxes of cookies. Glorious chocolate chip cookies that I fully intend to consume during my ten-minute drive home. I make sure the cashier checks all other items in my cart before I hastily throw boxes in my bags so I can rip one open between stoplights and eat. One cookie after the other. No breaths in between and no breaks to brush the crumbs caking my shirt.
When I arrive home, I make sure any trace of my ten-minute binge, or fix, are hidden before I walk through the door. I’ll usually throw the empty box in my trunk and the other one in my purse. Because even my roommate doesn’t know about my daily sugar habit and I can’t imagine the shame I’d feel if she found me out. All of my designated shelves in the kitchen refrigerator and pantry are stocked with food labeled “non-GMO”, “organic”, “fair trade”, or food with you-probably-paid-way-too-much-for-that labels.
Every time I empty a tray or bag, I get this sick, sweet feeling of satisfying my craving which immediately turns into disgust.
This sugar addiction is killing me.
My sister came to visit a few months ago and we walked into a donut shop. There is something about hot donuts, right out of the fryer, smothered in a sugary glaze that makes this girl go weak in the knees. After devouring my first donut, I insisted we go back for just one more. My stomach already hurt from the intense amount of sugar but I just couldn’t let go of that need to taste another donut.
My sister stopped me from walking inside the store again by grabbing my arm.
“You can’t do that, J. You’ve already had a donut. That’s too much.”
Enraged, I yanked my arm away and began to cry. Hysterically.
“I…just…want…a..doooo…nut!” I screamed between sobs.
I didn’t know why I was crying at the time. Was it because I really wanted a donut? Or was it because finally I felt the full impact of my habit and what it was doing to my body (now 50 pounds heavier) and to my life?
I know something has to change. Not next month, next week or next summer solstice. Now.
Please join me as I fight my way back to health through self-directed education and following doctor’s orders.
Hopefully, I can inspire you to do the same.
By Mio Higashimoto
Two years ago, my husband watched the documentary Forks Over Knives– he’s been vegan ever since. When we dine out, it’s usually not a problem. A lot of local eateries cater to vegans by offering vegan options or customizing non-vegan menu items. Let’s just say, he’s eaten a lot of salad. Yet, a bigger challenge is that I remain (stubbornly) a meat-eater. In fact, I occasionally eat steak at home in front of him. Together, we’re probably the equivalent of a proper omnivore. So, how do you prepare meals at home that satisfy both the vegan and the non-vegan? Find recipes you’ll both love.
The following is a recipe that I adapted from Carol Gelles‘ 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes (1996). Her recipe serves four to six. As a result, we ate cold, leftover pancakes for two days. I’ve halved this recipe to save you from a similar fate.
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp Ener-G egg replacer
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp warm water
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/3 cup soy milk (Earth Balance)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp Vinegar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted vegan butter (Benecol)
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and the salt.
- In a separate bowl, mix the Ener-G egg replacer with the warm water.
- In another separate smaller bowl, mix together the soy milk and vinegar, slowly add the vegan butter and vanilla. Combine with the Ener-G mix.
- Add the Ener-G & soy milk solution to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine– do not over mix.
- Cook your desired pancake portion(s) in a pan/griddle over medium heat.
The batter contains a great deal of liquid and needs to be cooked slowly to “ensure complete doneness without burning on the bottom” (Gelles, 1996).
We topped our pancakes with sliced bananas and maple syrup and added a side of vegan chorizo, which I really liked, but my vegan husband did not. Thankfully, my husband was thrilled with these pancakes. My opinion? These were very delicious! The pancakes were hearty and felt real– they didn’t have that fake food feel. While these pancakes take a little extra effort, they’re worth the work. Plus, I felt better about myself, having eaten something healthier (vegan even) and I think you will too.
Hello, my name is Wendy and I’m a “walkaholic.” The first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem. However, being addicted to walking doesn’t seem like an unhealthy issue requiring a steps program. Seriously though, walking is a really easy and healthy way to exercise. It’s low-impact, easy on your joints and muscles, making it hard to injure yourself, right? Wrong. You can get hurt while walking. I learned this lesson the hard way.
I typically walk on my treadmill daily. Recently, I heard a strange noise while on my machine and I discovered that I had worn out a part on the treadmill. I replaced it and commenced with my walking routine– thinking everything would return to normal. Apparently, fixing the machine had changed my pacing. I increased the speed and incline to compensate for the change and tried to find a comfortable pace. Unfortunately, I set the incline too high and the speed too fast. I felt pain in my hip and instead of stopping, I kept walking, believing it would work itself out. Then, when I got off the machine, I could hardly put weight on my right leg. I had injured myself.
I had never hurt myself like that before, and after failed attempts at trying to diagnose my injury online, I went to a specialist. I suffered a hip adductor strain after an x-ray ruled out a stress fracture. Stubbornly, I kept trying to use my treadmill despite my high pain level. I refused to listen to my body and I didn’t rest as instructed. I knew that I needed to completely stay off the treadmill until the pain subsided and I was well again, but my treadmill was calling to me. I needed to be walking.
Avoiding my treadmill was especially difficult. Walking is really important to me. I walk daily as a way to clear my head, relieve stress, and prepare for the day. I finally accepted that I needed to rest the injury in order to get back to walking the way I wanted to, but it was exceptionally hard. Much to my chagrin, I stayed off the treadmill for a couple of weeks and tapped into my collection of fitness DVD’s, which are very low-impact.
These past weeks have taught me a valuable lesson about the consequences of ignoring my body’s cues and the painful effects of body strain. I am much better at listening to my body, and if something hurts, I stop doing it right away. I’m also taking the time to stretch both before and after walking (especially afterward, when the muscles are warm). I’m careful not to make sudden changes while walking either. Quick, jarring movements can easily cause muscle strain.
Now that I’ve admitted to my walking addiction and how it hurt me, I’m committed to walking smarter. I keep on a much slower and easier pace than before and pay attention to my body.
Here are some of the things I’ve done to help in my pursuit of a more conscious and careful walking routine.
- Wear proper footwear. I made the mistake of wearing athletic shoes a half-size larger than my actual foot size. I had thought it would be better to have extra room in the toe area. Instead, I got blisters on the back of my heels. So, I had my feet measured and bought a pair of properly fitting shoes. Talk about a difference! Also, you know the extra shoelace holes at the top of the shoe near the ankle? I never laced those before. These days, I do lace them up. Now, I have a more secure fit with my shoe; less sliding around means less friction, which, in turn, means no blistering! I also found some really cool toe-socks to help with blistering.
- Listen to my body. If something hurts, stop doing the exercise! Rest it, get it checked out, and with an expert’s direction, ease back into your activity.
- Stretch. Proper stretching reduces injury. Plus, it feels good!
- Be aware of treadmill safety tips
For those of you who don’t want to walk outside (or on a treadmill) but want to get moving, try Leslie Sansone on DVD. As always, you should consult your primary care physician before attempting any kind of exercise program. Happy and safe walking everyone!
I have the enviable thrill of seeing all sorts of new books as they come to the Howard County Library System! I always try to snag the newest cookbooks and vegetable growing titles to tell you about in Notes from the Farmers’ Market Chef.
Today, I am excited about 50 Best Plants on the Planet: the Most Nutrient-dense Fruits and Vegetables, in 150 Delicious Recipes by Cathy Thomas (2013). This boldly photographed book (in all the colors of the vegetable rainbow) is brought to you by Melissa’s World Variety Produce, the largest supplier of specialty produce in the United States. Now, Melissa’s isn’t exactly a proponent of locavore eating—their niche is to supply the exotics from around the world. In 50 Best Plants… you will find a wide variety of foods, from the dandelion greens in your back yard (if you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em!) to kumquats & papayas.
Cathy Thomas, food columnist at The Orange County Register, has organized the book alphabetically, arugula to watermelon. Each vegetable or fruit is introduced with general notes, a nutritional chart, and notes on health benefits, availability and some preparation suggestions. This is followed with three recipes for creative uses of each vegetable, again with full nutritional charts. I think the real value of Thomas’ book is the encouragement to enjoy these nutrient-dense foods. We eat so few vegetables as a nation, the more nutrition we get from each serving, the healthier we can be.
Do you like a little history with your recipes—well, a lot of history? Try William Sitwell’s A History of Food in 100 Recipes (2013). Sitwell’s back-story reminds me of a novel The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman (2010). A subplot in Goodman’s book involves an antiquarian bookstore owner’s acquisition of an intriguing collection of cookbooks. Sitwell went to an auction at Sotheby’s in 2010 and “came away with an armful of nineteenth-century cookery books.” He discovered gold in the “tired bindings and browned paper.” He found “characterful writing” leaping from the page. However, it would take the skills of this award-winning writer-editor to produce this engaging book.
Some of the recipes are short descriptions of technique at the head of a chapter followed by discursions on the author, the technique or the time period. This book is not for the kitchen, but for the easy chair.
How about a little kitchen anthropology? Consider the Fork: a History of How We Cook and Eat, by Bee Wilson (2012) makes no pretense at being a cookbook; it is a “wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world.” Did you know that the fork “endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance”? And egg timers—why are there egg timers but not carrot timers? Have you considered the history of ice in food preservation? And canning? Wilson will have you considering things you never before considered—like the fork.
As you consider your kitchen, be it small or large, urban, suburban, or rural; consider putting this event date on your calendar:
The Urban Pantry: Preserving 101
October 5 from 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Saturday)
Presented by The Farmer’s Market Chef
See you then!
Posted by hclibrary on Aug 15, 2013 in Parenting, Reviews | 0 comments
By Alex Hill
Babies don’t come with instruction manuals—at least mine didn’t. This past April, I gave birth to a healthy nine pound baby girl. Prior to this, my experiences with babies were few and far between, whereas my husband has two older children and is often referred to as “the baby whisperer.” I had never held a newborn, nor had I changed a diaper. To say I was terrified those first couple of weeks would be an understatement.
I downloaded the e-book of the classic What to Expect When You’re Expecting when I found out I was pregnant. If you’ve ever read this book, you know it contains a multitude of things to worry about and detailed descriptions of what can possibly go wrong. I spent several hours a day reading this book until my husband deleted it from my smartphone. I remember thinking, Worst case scenario: my child will be born with flippers and a tail. We’ll need to find onesies to accommodate these eccentricities.
I worked until a week before I was to be induced. As my due date approached, the daily greetings turned incredulous, “Are you still here?” Mothers, of all ages, would hold me hostage at the desk to give me unsolicited advice and share their “war stories” of pained labor and delivery.
As my own “war story” unraveled, I realized: No one can accurately prepare you for what your birth experience will be like. I had to be induced. My labor progressed very slowly and lasted for approximately 26 hours. Did I mention that my daughter weighed in at a hearty nine pounds and five ounces (9 lb. 5 oz.)? At the end of my delivery, the doctor turned to me and said “Congratulations. You just gave birth to a toddler.” Despite all my worrying, my daughter was born completely healthy and flipper-free.
When we brought my daughter home from the hospital, I purchased What to Expect: The First Year. I studied it. I took notes, jotted down points to remember, and nearly every other paragraph was highlighted. During those first couple of weeks, I was terrified to pick her up. I was afraid I’d hurt her or break her neck. I was petrified to change her clothes without my husband’s supervision, fearing I’d accidentally snap off one of her tiny limbs like a twig. I can safely say I haven’t broken her yet, and surprisingly, newborns are not as fragile as you’d think.
The best thing in the world is seeing my daughter smile at me when I come home from work. I am amazed at how much she has changed in such a short period of time. I decided to take the time to enjoy my baby; to hold her for the sake of holding her. She will only be this little once, and it seems like she is already growing up too fast.
By Sarah Cooke
Who would have thought that having several tiny needles inserted into various parts of your body could relieve stress? Seems like that’d be stress-inducing. I have my fair share of stressful things in my life: being a single mom, having a dare-devil-toddler-son, and a mortgage (the veritable “cherry on top”). I usually try to combat my anxiety by exercising, painting, or reading a book. However, when I felt the anxiety building this time, I decided to try something new and different: acupuncture. I was skeptical.
I take occasional classes at the local community college, and sometimes they offer free acupuncture treatments and massages. The word “free” was enticing, especially to a ”frugal Fannie” such as myself. I decided to live dangerously, and give acupuncture a try. You’d think with all the tattoos I have (13 and counting) that needles wouldn’t be a big deal and that I scoff at the idea of pain, but actually, I am a huge pansy! I’m not a fan of sharp things- they hurt.
Despite misgivings, the aforementioned fears, and still trying to live by my teenage credo of “try anything once”, I mustered up some courage and went for it. I signed in and cautiously entered a small darkened room full of comfy chairs and some soft tranquil music playing in the background. A friendly tech sat me down, swabbed my ear, and presented me to the local practitioner. She explained how inserting the needles in certain areas could help relieve stress and reduce illness by causing an immune response in the body. She then proceeded to stick my ear like a pincushion.
According to the homeopathic healer working on me, auricular acupuncture is the prime place for pretty much anything that ails you. They map the ear and compare it to the entire body, something like a micro-system, with different areas of it corresponding to certain ailments and issues. The points on my ear that got special attention were the areas associated with immune system, relaxation, sleep, memory, and concentration; all things that I could use some help with!
Once the needles were inserted and I was seated in a meditation position, I almost immediately went into a trance of deep focus and positive energy for about thirty minutes. Finally, I was able to turn my mind off and relax! My qi was happy, as was I!
I must say that alternative medicine can be amazingly effective, especially considering my recent experience with acupuncture. Or should I say, “ahhhhhhhh-cupuncture”?
Posted by hclibrary on Aug 8, 2013 in News | 2 comments
By Cherise Tasker
Communication – a challenge under the best conditions, has adopted a whole new meaning now that we email, post, text, tweet and pin. Face-to-face communication encompasses words, gestures and facial expressions. As the words flow, we have pitch, volume, intonation and emphasis with which to interpret the speaker’s meaning. Once the words are separated from the physical person, we start to rely on what we know about the person delivering the message. If we are acquainted with the sender, we tend to automatically interpret the meaning behind the words based on our knowledge of the person. Without an understanding of the writer, we have only the words to go on as we read the message. Punctuation, formatting fonts and using emoticons add another layer, but still, a human element is missing from electronic communication. Because the words on the page, screen and phone are between humans, however, this communication is interpersonal in spite of its wireless transmission. No matter that the delivery is automated, the words can, and often will, be taken personally.
How can we choose our words so that the meaning is clear and without an unintended layer of emotion? In person, communication includes emotion, so although our intention may be misinterpreted, we have the opportunity to blunt a poor choice of words with a smile, a shrug, a grimaced apology. In an email, the words are sent in all their nakedness, trusting the recipient to accurately interpret the sender’s meaning. If your words finger point, the recipient stands accused, and she won’t appreciate it one bit. If your words judge, the reader sits condemned.
Finger-pointing, in words and gestures, casts blame and aspersions. In Disney parks and properties such as Disney World, staff members are not allowed to point even when giving directions. Disney employees are trained to use two fingers or a full hand sweep to direct visitors. If finger-pointing is to be avoided even when someone is asking where to go, it seems safe to assume that finger-pointing should be avoided in messaging intended to be instructional, motivational, grateful or supervisory. Providing guidance, rather than a forceful order, inspires motivation, cooperation and camaraderie.
In creating electronic communication to inspire and direct, avoid the use of the term “you” in conjunction with a command or a negative remark. “You” can convey a negative judgment or a division between the writer and the reader. The use of “you” may create a universal statement that may sound critical and create a feeling of anger rather than team spirit. Taking a statement such as “you must be more attentive to detail” and rephrasing it as “increased attention to detail is important in this task” will make a big difference in creating a cooperative environment.
Effective electronic communication includes clear, succinct language without judgmental overtones. The tone of the language makes all the difference in creating a supportive response. The Writing Center at University of North Carolina has a helpful online student tip sheet with advice for remote and virtual correspondence. Author’s are advised to consider and step back from any negative emotions that could contribute to accusatory word selection. Action requests should include recommendations and positive ideas rather than criticism alone. When a complaint is documented, including ideas for solutions unites the writer and reader in a common mission. Concise, professional content creates goal-oriented communication that is less likely to be misinterpreted. The greeting and closing language also matter, as they would in any social situation. A good question to ask is whether the language in the electronic message would be acceptable in a face-to-face message. Email should not be used to say something that the writer would not, or could not, say in person. Respect and support are just as important in cyberspace as in interpersonal space.
By Joanne Sobieck-Lingg
I want to claim that I like to read everything, but that is a library lie (lie-brary—terrible, sorry). Working in a library is a great job for someone who is curious (or nosy), but we all have our favorite genre. I’ll admit, I’m not the strongest nonfiction reader, particularly in useful topics like automotive repair, finance, and yes, even some health areas. I’m one of those people who just has an easier time learning about things when they are in the form of a story. I also really, really like fiction (especially books for teens). Anyway, my awesome, 11-year-old nephew recommended a book to me called Wonder by R. J. Palacio. And, when I finally got around to reading it, I learned much indeed.
It is the story of Auggie Pullman a remarkable kid born with, according to Palacio, “a severe form of Treacher-Collins syndrome complicated by cleft lip and palate and some other unknown mysterious syndrome that makes his particular condition a medical wonder. ” He is physically deformed to a degree that many people find shocking. His parents have home-schooled him in an effort to protect Auggie from others’ often hurtful reactions to his physical appearance. However, the book begins with his parents’ decision to have him start 5th grade at Beecher Prep because they feel he is going to have to face the world at some point and might even enjoy the company of kids his age. Auggie is reluctant at first though he longs to be treated as an ordinary kid, but many of his new classmates can’t get past his appearance. Then again, a few start to surprise him, and he even begins to surprise them and himself a bit too.
I found this book to be quite moving. And, though the medical stuff is handled very gently and plays an important role in this book, it is the anti-bullying message and the general statement about how remarkable humans, particularly children, are that resonate the most. This book also alerted me to the fact that we appear to be living in an era when courage and kindness are much more prevalent than we might think. A colleague and I were discussing the book, and we felt that Palacio keeps her characters authentic. We were also struck that, generally speaking, kids today seem much more tolerant and sensitive than when we were growing up. The moments of bravery and friendship ring absolutely true. That is not to say, that there aren’t moments of heartbreak and cruelty (yes, consider this a warning).
I also love how Palacio not only tells the story from Auggie’s point of view, but also tells part of the story from classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. The changing perspectives add detail and emotion, and keep the book from becoming too insular. In effect, Auggie’s story is not just his own, but, like all of us, his story is shared with each person his life touches. I think anyone could benefit by having their lives touched by Auggie too.
Snacking is something we’re prone to do. I’m an inveterate snacker. I tend toward constant snacks instead of meals. I know there’s really no way I’m going to stop eating snacks, so the best option for me is to eat healthy snacks instead of junk food. There are the normal foods that come to mind when you think of “healthy”: vegetables and fruit like carrots or grapes, small amounts of nuts or other nutrient-rich foods, maybe even some cereals. However, these foods don’t always satisfy my cravings for that particular something, be it sweet or salty. And sometimes those traditional healthy snacks just don’t cut it. Luckily for me, there’s a book for that!
Real Snacks: Make Your Favorite Childhood Treats Without All the Junk by Lara Ferroni explains how to make a boatload of tasty treats without the preservatives, chemicals, or junk ingredients that are present in most of our favorite snack foods. It’s broken into two main sections, sweet and salty, with additional information on how to substitute healthier ingredients and how to make some basic items from scratch (everything from cooking spray to vanilla extract to cheese powder).
The recipes in this book lead me to believe that most mass-produced snacks are actually easy to make, and we’ve just forgotten how to do it. My favorite recipe, homemade cereal bars, is impressively easy to make, tastes much better than my favorite commercially produced version, and includes [exactly] the ingredients I prefer. Most of the recipes even include easy instructions for making them vegan or gluten free! So, if you’re following a specialized diet you can still enjoy your favorite snacks without worry.
Now, with that said, these treats shouldn’t completely substitute for your small handful of almonds or celery sticks. Let this book be the corollary to Michael Pollan’s Food Rules- “#39: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.”
Posted by hclibrary on Jul 29, 2013 in Health, Safety | 0 comments
Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library.
By Teresa Rhoades
Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) is a noninvasive diagnostic imaging procedure
that — combines a series of Xray views taken from many different angles and computer processing to create crosssectional images of the bones and soft tissues inside your body: muscles, fat, organs, and blood vessels.
The resulting images can be compared to looking down at single slices of bread from a loaf. Your doctor will be able to look at each of these slices individually or perform additional visualization to view your body from different angles. In computed tomography, the X-ray beam moves in a circle around the body. This allows many different views of the same organ or structure. The X-ray information is sent to a computer that interprets the X-ray data and displays it in a two-dimensional (2D) form on a monitor. In some cases, CT images can be combined to create 3D images. CT scan images can provide much more information than do plain X-rays.
CT scans may be done with or without “contrast.” Contrast refers to a substance taken by mouth or injected into an intravenous (IV) line that causes the particular organ or tissue under study to be seen more clearly.
A CT scan has many uses, but is particularly well suited to quickly examine people who may have internal injuries from car accidents or other types of trauma. A CT scan can be used to visualize nearly all parts of the body. One example is a CT scan of the abdomen to assess the abdomen and its organs for tumors and other lesions, injuries, intra-abdominal bleeding, infections, unexplained abdominal pain, obstructions, or other conditions. I had an abdominal CT done.
Risks of the procedure
Radiation exposure: During a CT scan, you’re briefly exposed to much more radiation than you would be during a plain X-ray. This radiation from imaging tests has a very small potential to increase your risk of cancer. Still, CT scans have many benefits that may outweigh potential risks. Doctors use the lowest dose of radiation whenever possible. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of your CT scan. It is a good idea to keep a record of your past history of radiation exposure, such as previous CT scans and other types of X-rays, so that you can inform your doctor.
Harm to unborn babies: Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant. Another type of exam may be recommended, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to avoid the risk of exposing your fetus to the radiation.
Reactions to contrast material: In certain cases, your doctor may recommend you receive a special dye called a contrast material through a vein in your arm before your CT scan. Although rare, the contrast material can cause medical problems or allergic reactions. Studies show that 85 percent of the population will not experience an adverse reaction from iodinated contrast. Most reactions are mild and result in a rash or itchiness. In rare instances, an allergic reaction can be serious and potentially life-threatening. Tell your doctor if you’ve ever had a reaction to contrast material or kidney problems. Prior to my abdominal CT, my doctor ordered a creatinine serum blood test. The creatinine blood test is used to assess kidney function.
A special dye called a contrast material is needed for some CT scans, to help highlight the areas of your body being examined. The contrast material blocks X-rays and appears white on images, which can help emphasize blood vessels, intestines or other structures. Contrast material can enter your body in a variety of ways:
- Injection. Contrast agents can be injected through a vein in your arm to help view your gallbladder, urinary tract, liver, or blood vessels. You may experience a feeling of warmth during the injection or a metallic taste in your mouth.
- Oral. If your esophagus or stomach is being scanned, you may need to swallow a liquid that contains contrast material. This drink may taste unpleasant.
Before my scans, I was required to drink an Oral Barium Solution. In one instance, the solution was dissolved into ice cold ginger ale. For another instance I was prescribed ReadiCat Smoothie, banana flavor 2% SUS (BEZ0725) 450ML. If you are ever prescribed ReadiCat Smoothie, I suggest you refrigerate the bottles until the liquid is chilled. This way you can almost believe that you are drinking a regular smoothie. Drinking an unchilled bottle results in a little bit of a ‘chalky’ aftertaste.
Before the procedure
- If your procedure involves the use of contrast dye, you will be asked to sign a consent form
that gives permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if
something is not clear.
- Notify the technologist if you have ever had a reaction to contrast dyes or if you are
allergic to iodine.
- Generally, there is no fasting requirement prior to a CT scan, unless a contrast dye is to be used. Your doctor will give you special instructions ahead of time if contrast is to be used and if you will need to withhold food and drink.
- Notify your doctor of all medications (prescribed and over-the-counter) and herbal supplements that you are taking.
- Notify the technologist if you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant.
- Notify the technologist if you have body piercings on your chest and/or abdomen.
Based on your medical condition, your doctor may request other preparations.
During the CT scan
How you prepare for a CT scan depends on which part of your body is being scanned. You may be asked to remove any clothing, jewelry, or other objects that may interfere with the procedure. If you are to have a procedure done with contrast, an intravenous (IV) line will be started in the hand or arm for injection of the contrast dye. For oral contrast, you will be given a liquid contrast preparation to swallow.
CT scanners are shaped like a large doughnut standing on its side. You lie on a narrow table that slides into the “doughnut hole,” which is called a gantry. Pillows and straps may be used to prevent movement during the procedure.
A technologist will be nearby, in a separate room where the scanner controls are located. However, you will be in constant sight of the technologist through a window. You will be able to communicate with the technologist via intercom. You will have a call button so that you can let the technologist know if you have any problems during the procedure. The technologist may ask you to hold your breath at certain points to avoid blurring the images. Movement blurs the images and may lead to inaccurate results.
The table will move slowly through the gantry during the CT scan, as the gantry rotates in a circle around you. Each rotation yields several images of thin slices of your body. You may hear buzzing, clicking and whirring noises. The ‘good news’ about the CT scan noises is that they are so much quieter than the noises you hear during an MRI.
The X-rays absorbed by the body’s tissues will be detected by the scanner and transmitted to the computer. The computer will transform the information into an image to be interpreted by the radiologist.
After the CT scan
When the procedure has been completed, you will be removed from the scanner. If an IV line was inserted for contrast administration, the line will be removed.
In some cases, you may be asked to wait for a short time before leaving to ensure that you feel well after the exam. Your doctor may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation. For example, if you were given a contrast material, you may likely be told to drink lots of fluids to help your kidneys remove the contrast material from your body.
CT images are stored as electronic data files and usually reviewed on a computer screen. A radiologist interprets these images and sends a report to your doctor. After my scan, my doctor contacted my to discuss the results and further treatment needs.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
By Angie Engles
When it comes to being there for an ill friend, no matter how good our intentions or how warm-hearted we are, there’s always the chance we can end up saying or doing the wrong thing. In fact, sometimes the harder we try, the worse the results. In our eagerness to help or to see how our friends, loved ones, or co-workers are doing, we may inadvertently cross a line that we can never return to again.
That’s where Letty Cottin Pogrebin comes in with her very helpful and moving book How to Be A Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick, a guide for anyone, claims author Letty Cottin Pogrebin, who feels “dis-eased” when figuring out how best to talk to and support their ill friends. Whether it’s her chapter on what NOT to say to a friend (one lady told another “At least you’re already married” after she’d just had her mastectomy; a man visiting his friend in the hospital exclaimed, “God, you look awful!”) or how she covers hospital visits (never stay more than 20 minutes unless the friend is notably chatty, five or less if they’re in pain or yawning a lot), there’s a lot here that makes this a worthwhile read.
The real-life anecdotes Pogrebin shares to show what you should not say may sound horrific, but who among us has not said something well-intentioned but nonetheless totally wrong? (“You don’t deserve this” is a common mistake, but I had no clue “My thoughts are with you” is also not the best thing to say.) And, believe it or not, the most basic opening line in human discourse, “How are you?” can also be upsetting. Alternatives include friends asking, “Are you well?” or adding, “I know that’s not a great question, but I really do want to know.” Better yet, instead of HOW, ask “WHAT are you feeling?”
Knowing what’s right to say and what isn’t is, of course, very important, but so is staying sincere.“Suppose we’ve been friends for 40 years,” former President Clinton once said, putting a hand on a reporter’s shoulder. “If you came to visit me in the hospital and said something pretty and eloquent instead of saying ‘God, I’m sorry. This sucks. I wish I could do more about it,’ it’s an insult.”
Other things to keep in mind:
- Do understand that you are helpless in the face of your friend’s illness, especially if it is terminal.
- Do share a list with her of chores you can help her with.
- Don’t mention people who have been through something similar and are doing fine now.
- Don’t say “I know what you’re going through.”
- Don’t tell your friend she looks great when she looks anything but.
If there are so many things you could say that might come out wrong, what should you say? Try:
- I’m so sorry this happened to you.
- Tell me how I can help.
- I’m here if you want to talk.
- Just tell me when to leave.
- I’m bringing dinner.
- You must be desperate for some quiet. I’ll take the kids on Saturday.
- That sounds awful! I can’t imagine the pain.
The best-intentioned lapses are most often forgiven, but this well-written and insightful book may help save us from more in the future. The list of resources in the back is phenomenal, including contact places, more books to assist in helping your friends, and great ideas.
As lovely and deeply sincere as Pogrebin’s book is, she’s right when she says it basically comes down to two things: telling each other the truth and treating your sick friends like you always did before they got ill. Listen, truly listen to them, and take hints from your friend and things should go well.
There are tons of handy resources listed in the afterword, but some of the best ones are online:
- Caring Bridge is a great resource for networking information and communicating between and among friends of the patient.
- CarePages is perfect for finding discussion forums and referrals, connecting patients with friends and caregivers.
- Breast Cancer Freebie$ shares ways to get free wigs, hats, make-up, housecleaning, transportation, and more.
- Share The Care offers referrals, instructions, and educational materials as well as ways for supporting friends and family members to organize a supportive, nurturing group.
If you find yourself needing more information, you may also want to check out another HCLS-owned title dealing with the same subject, The Etiquette of Illness : What to Say When You Can’t Find the Words by Susan P. Halpern.
By Cherise Tasker
The humidity and heat of summer in Columbia, Maryland, have descended, and I’ve been reminding myself to lift my feet when I walk. I first realized on day three of 90-plus temperatures that I was shuffling around as if I were wearing bedroom slippers. This was about the same time I felt I needed to concentrate on keeping my eyes open since my eyelids seemed to be at half-mast. Dazed and dragging, I found myself thinking about absolutely nothing and wondering why I just wanted to crawl back into bed.
Living in the DC-Baltimore corridor, I expect wet sauna conditions every year. I know I should wait to shower until after I walk the dog if I want to avoid feeling sweaty on my way to work. We don’t get many breezy, warm spring days before heavy, wet air envelops us, yet every summer is an adjustment. Friendly people ask, “How are you?” and rather than the bland, positive response that is expected, I want to answer, “Hot and tired.”
Although the connection between hot, humid conditions and mental fatigue are less easy to define, the physiological factors are well studied. In hotter temperatures, the body produces more sweat. As the body sweats, salt loss increases, which can lead to an electrolyte imbalance. Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include fatigue, dizziness, muscle cramps, thirst, nausea, and headache. When the relative humidity rises, sweat evaporation slows down. The evaporation of perspiration has a cooling effect on the body, so in high humidity, body temperature rises. Our skin flushes in hot conditions because surface blood vessels are dilating to carry more blood and allow heat to escape from the body. Muscle fatigue occurs sooner in the heat because blood flow is being shifted away from the muscle and out to the skin to help lower body temperature.
So what can a person do to acclimate to the heat and get back in the groove? The National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) has guidelines for workers in hot environments. Recommendations include wearing loose-fitting clothing in breathable fabrics, drinking more water, and taking additional breaks. They advise against drinking alcohol or beverages with high sugar or caffeine content. The NIOSH website also describes the symptoms of heat stress and its more serious consequences, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Those who exercise regularly acclimate most quickly to a hotter environment, but studies have shown that this adaptation takes up to 14 days to complete. Even if I were to “prepare” for the heat by spending time in an actual sauna in advance of the onset of increased temperatures, it takes up to 5 days for the physiological adaptation to begin. These changes include salt conservation, resulting in less salty sweat; increased blood supply, resulting in a lowered heart rate; increased blood flow to the skin, resulting in increased heat dissipation; and lowered resting core body temperature. Longer, less intense exposure to heat seems to help athletes acclimate faster than shorter, more intense exposures. Gradually increasing time spent in the heat is helpful to limiting heat stress symptoms. Time spent in a cooler climate will require another period of acclimation when returning to the heat.
For now, I have summer resolutions. I will be careful to drink water throughout the day and wear cool, comfortable clothes. I will gradually increase the time I spend exercising in the heat. Most importantly perhaps, I will maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule so that I can reassure myself I have had enough sleep, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
Sometimes families need to make tough decisions. Mental health is a particularly tricky topic. There’s a lot of confusing information out there, and, unfortunately, there’s still some reluctance in our society to openly discuss mental health concerns. Fortunately, there are more and more resources available. One new one at HCLS is The Family Guide to Mental Health Care by Lyloyd I. Sederer, M.D.
Dr. Sederer is Medical Director of the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH). He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Columbia/Mailman School of Public Health. Previously, he served as the Executive Deputy Commissioner for Mental Hygiene Services in NYC, has been Medical Director and Executive Vice President of McLean Hospital, and Director of the Division of Clinical Services for the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Sedereris also the recipient of several prestigious awards, has published 9 books for professional and lay audiences, and has contributed over 350 articles in medical journals and non-medical publications. Additionally, he is Medical Editor for Mental Health for the Huffington Post/AOL.
All of Dr. Sederer’s experience has left him more than qualified, professionally and compassionately, to write a new kind of guide. In short, The Family Guide to Mental Health Care is no DSM-5. In fact, one of the first indications that this is not a clinical manual comes in the form of the Foreword written by Glenn Close (yes, that Glenn Close) in which she describes some of her personal experience with a sister with a bipolar disorder and a nephew with a schizoaffective disorder. She goes on to suggest that her family could have been spared a lot of confusion and pain if they’d had Dr. Sederer’s book.
And that seems to be why and how the book was written, for families, to help enlighten them as well as deal with potentially devastating situations, especially since family members and friends are often the first to realize when someone has a problem.
Dr. Sederer acknowledges how daunting the current mental health system can seem. So he provides helpful info such as how to tell that someone has a mental illness, first and best steps to take, and where to find the right care. Families’ concerns are given particular attention. The book goes through what medications are helpful and potentially dangerous, ways to navigate privacy laws so parents can still help adult children, whether a teenager may be experiencing typical adolescent distress or an illness, and many other concerns.
Sederer covers topics from depression, bipolar illness and anxiety to eating and traumatic disorders, schizophrenia, and more. But he covers this wide spectrum of information in a clear (plain English!) and caring way. He uses real-life examples and includes checklists and sample questions to bring to a doctor’s appointment. This practical approach clearly indicates the level of thoughtfulness and concern for families that went into the book, and, if further proof is needed, Sederer dedicates the book “to families, whose love, dedication, and courage make all the difference.”
By Barbara Cornell
I have a beautiful new book to tell you about—Saving the Season by Kevin West. It is subtitled “A cook’s guide to home canning, pickling, and preserving, with seasonal recipes for jams, jellies, marmalades, relishes, cocktails, candies, and more.” I love a sturdy well-bound book like this—no book jacket to get in the way, and its spot-resistant cover is illustrated with the most gorgeous collection of heirloom tomatoes that I have seen!
Nothing will take the place of my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, published in 2006, for its very clear and detailed explanations, but Saving the Season is a lovely addition to the bookshelf. West sprinkles his chapters with quotations from literature—for example something about pickles from Moby Dick and jam-making from Anna Karenina, and he quotes a classic non-apology from William Carlos Williams:
“This Is Just to Say”
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
West does cover the science of food preparation, too, but he does it as an interview with a food scientist in the same cozy way you might see on the Food Network.
The book is organized by season. Spring, for example, begins with four different jam techniques, including one slow-cooked with rosé wine, and one with pinot noir. Some of the recipes are California-centric—have you ever heard of pickled green almonds?
For the home cook who still considers canning a little exotic, Kevin West will make it seem easy—if still pleasingly exotic.
The Farmers’ Market Chef will be making another appearance at the Glenwood Branch this month, Thursday evening, July 25 at 7, and Saturday morning July 27 at 10. We will be talking about “Heirlooms in your garden: Taste varieties of heirloom vegetables you can grow or buy at the Farmers Market, and learn how to prepare and preserve them.” Please register so we will know how many to expect.
Working in the library can be quite dangerous. We all end up leaving each day with stacks of books we can only dream about finding enough time to read. Most of us try to keep up with reviews, we often get recommendations from customers as well as each other, and, being in the stacks, we often stumble across things we absolutely must check out. For example, sometimes there is a book by a favorite writer that we somehow missed, or a cover catches out eye, or a title that just calls out to us. Such was the case for Don’t Sit On the Baby by Halley Bondy.
Upon closer inspection the book revealed itself to be a very useful “how to”; the full title is actually Don’t Sit On the Baby: The Ultimate Guide to Sane, Skilled and Safe Babysitting. Now most of us at the library aren’t actively babysitting. (Does watching you own kids count? Boy the pay is lousy.) But there are a few of us who have kids of an age that are interested in babysitting. And, as we’ve posted here at Well & Wise, both HCGH and HCLS, on occasion, offer babysitting classes. So this book seemed like it might be a good resource for anyone babysitting or thinking about getting into it. It is even a pick on the Summer Reading 2013: Middle School list.
Bondy keeps the tone light, accessible, and reassuring, especially for those new to the babysitting trade. But the information she provides is sound: everything from how to get a babysitting gig to what kinds of behaviors to expect from kids of different ages. Of course she covers the necessities such as diapers, feeding, bedtime, and emergencies. But she also covers some things that may be even more anxiety-inducing for teens just starting out, such as how to talk to the parents and what to do about discipline. There are also real-life experiences from teens, kid-friendly recipes, and a babysitting personality quiz. Many of us at the library were bemoaning the fact that we didn’t have a book like this when we were starting off in our babysitting days, but we are certainly glad it’s available now to offer teens and tweens a world of no-nonsense tips that go beyond the basics of babysitting.
Posted by hclibrary on Jul 8, 2013 in Health, Safety | 0 comments
By Ben Sinclaire (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
In the 1990s, we started to see a rise in the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) mainly in direct correlation with the increased use of computers in the workplace. According to the National Library of Medicine
, “Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is pressure on the median nerve — the nerve in the wrist that supplies feeling and movement to parts of the hand. It can lead to numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle damage in the hand and fingers.” Back in 1999, Carla R. McMillan wrote an article entitled Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: The Rise of an Occupational Illness
, indicating that, at that time, CTS was “the fastest-growing occupational illness in the United States.”
As we’re well aware, computer usage in the workplace has not decreased one whit. However, CTS, once a phrase we’d hear frequently in the media, seems to have fallen off the hot-topic radar. So what’s the state of CTS today? Information from the PennState Milton S. Hershey Medical Center indicates “that about 3% of women and 2% of men will be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome during their lifetime. The condition peaks in women over age 55. Still, determining how many people actually have CTS is very difficult. Many people who report CTS symptoms have normal test results. Other people have abnormal test results but no symptoms.” So CTS is still pretty prevalent, and a person’s likelihood of susceptibility can be increased by factors such as work that involves force, vibration, or repetitive stress to the hands and wrists; working in cold conditions; physical injury; medical conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, obesity, and pregnancy; as well as factors such as autoimmune disease, muscle and bone disease, structural abnormalities, kidney insufficiency, Down syndrome, amyloidosis (a progressive disorder of the connective tissues), acromegaly (a disease that leads to abnormally large hands and feet due to excessive growth hormone), or a tumor on the median nerve (removing the tumor often successfully treats CTS in these cases).
Perhaps the decrease of CTS in the news comes from an increase in understanding of treatment and prevention. As was always the case, the earlier the detection and treatment, the better. They key is to try to get there before any permanent damage to the median nerve occurs. The National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) states, “Initial treatment generally involves resting the affected hand and wrist for at least 2 weeks, avoiding activities that may worsen symptoms, and immobilizing the wrist in a splint to avoid further damage from twisting or bending. If there is inflammation, applying cool packs can help reduce swelling.” There are also drugs that can ease the pain and swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, stretching and strengthening exercises can be helpful in people whose symptoms have abated, and acupuncture and chiropractic care have benefited some patients though their effectiveness remains scientifically unproven. Surgery, unfortunately, may be required in some cases, but carpal tunnel release is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States.
The best possible way to handle CTS is prevention. NINDS suggests care in the work place such as “on-the-job conditioning, perform stretching exercises, take frequent rest breaks, wear splints to keep wrists straight, and use correct posture and wrist position.” They also recommend wearing fingerless gloves to help keep hands warm and flexible. “Workstations, tools and tool handles, and tasks can be redesigned to enable the worker’s wrist to maintain a natural position during work. Jobs can be rotated among workers. Employers can develop programs in ergonomics, the process of adapting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of workers.” And, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, adjusting one’s work area, tools, or performance of tasks in ways to put less stress on hands and wrists is a good start in preventing CTS, as is proper posture and exercise programs to strengthen the fingers, hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders, and neck.
The Fourth of July–many of us are celebrating our nation’s independence with fireworks and cookouts today. And, the the Founding Fathers would probably approve of both! A new arrival to the shelves of HCLS, The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine by Dave DeWitt, gives a delightful peek at how some of the colonial leaders helped revolutionize the foods we eat as well our country. Though you won’t find recipes for hot dogs or burgers, you will find a fascinating discussion of several early American movers and shakers and their affinity for food, riveting accounts of how certain moments in history shaped our culinary culture, and even some detailed descriptions of parties and meals, as well as personal recipes, enjoyed by some of the Founding Fathers.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, many of the Founding Fathers were first and foremost a group of farmers. This connection to the land helped instill a love of food in many of them, and they were ardent supporters of sustainable farming and ranching, which has resurfaced as topic of interest recently. They were also purveyors of exotic imported foods, brewing, distilling, and wine appreciation. Many created original recipes, endorsed local production of beer and wine, and always shared their culinary interests with friends and fellow politicians. Why not celebrate our nation’s birthday by taking a look at how some of the first foodies would have celebrated?
Posted by hclibrary on Jul 1, 2013 in Mental Health | 0 comments
Over the past five years, the critically acclaimed show Breaking Bad has become a profound treatise on the War on Drugs, masculine identity, and the banality of evil. And all of this rose out of a very simple premise: Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, just found out that he has terminal cancer and isn’t expected to live six months. His first thought is of his family, his pregnant wife and their teenage, physically handicapped son, and how they will survive the cost of his treatments and the loss of his income. Too proud to accept help from his friends, he chooses the less obvious path of making and selling meth to quickly stockpile enough money for his family to survive without him.
Hopefully, you are nowhere near this reckless and crazy, though you might recognize the impulse to do something drastic in an event like this. The sad truth is that often times the financial stress of catastrophic illness does more to tear families apart than the illness or death itself. The financial burden lingers and can even increase long after the cause ends.
It’s hard to to prepare for the unexpected, for the unimaginable, but in the event of a catastrophic event such as the diagnosis of a serious or terminal illness, you’d need to take the necessary steps to ensure financial security both during and after treatment. Often, these actions are put off as something to deal with when you’re “older.” But the best time to prepare is now, and not after something shocks you into motion.
Access and contacts are other things that people often forget their families might need one day. The internet has trained us to have 17 different passwords, to tell them to nobody, to never write them down, and to change them periodically. But there will be a time when people need access to your phone, computer, and email and you won’t be in a position to give them that and nobody knows the name of your lawyer or where to find the key to the safe deposit box.
Every adult needs to write this information down and store it somewhere safe (but also tell someone where that is). Information should be updated regularly as passwords, finances, and points of contact change.
Nothing can make the grief that comes with loss, or the pain and worry that comes with illness or injury somehow easier or more bearable. But by having the scary talks now, and doing the planning and paperwork, you can make sure that financial stress and fear isn’t added to that burden and you can make sure those first few months give you time to mourn or be a caretaker, and to ultimately survive what life throws at us.
So Timothy Leary was talking about a completely different experience when he uttered the now famous, “Turn on, tune in, drop out” in Golden Gate Park in 1967. He was, however, still referring to embracing cultural change, which, minus the psychedelia, is sort of what the books in a new series carried by HCLS, entitled Fact Finders: Tech Safety Smarts, is doing.
For better or for worse, and often a combination of both, technology is part of our everyday world. And kids today have not only adapted to this technology, they seem to have embraced it, absorbed it, and mastered it at a startling rate. We, too, should not turn our backs on it, no matter how worrisome or difficult it may be. But that does not mean we shouldn’t be cautious and smart and instill those same ideas in our children.
In that spirit, HCLS has recently purchased four new titles: Safe Social Networking, Cyberbullying, Cell Phone Safety, and Gaming Safely. Each book in the series tackles a popular technology-related activity, as indicated by the titles. Believe it or not, these books are for elementary school-age kids. To quote Capstone, the publisher of this series:
Today’s kids are more wired than ever, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to completely shield them from potential dangers. Empower kids to stay safe and be a responsible part of the digital community by providing them with an age appropriate understanding of why they need to be cautious and aware when engaging with technology.
Even if your kids are older than elementary school level, it doesn’t hurt to give these books a look. They contain helpful advice for all ages such as what information it is not a good idea to share via social networks, what to do if a classmate sends threatening emails, how to protect yourself from identity theft, and ways to safeguard against online predators. Technology is not going away, and if our children are going to keep up in the digital age, we need to teach them to embrace technology, but in a way that will keep them safe as well as “tuned in.”
Posted by hclibrary on Jun 24, 2013 in Safety | 0 comments
Picture by Steve Johnson from Valparaiso Indiana, USA (flip flops Uploaded by SchuminWeb) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Someone mentioned on Friday that June 21 was more than just the longest day of the year, it was also National Flip Flop Day
(I swear we’re not making this up). And since the next few days are going to be in the 90s, and many of us like to pull out flip flops or sandals in the hot weather, we thought we’d go over a couple safety basics.
What are some of the hazards of flip flops and sandals (other than potential fashion hazards, of course)? Well, the obvious is that flip flops and many sandals provide greater exposure to your feet. This could lead to problems such as really hot “dogs”–that is sunburn on your feet if you forget to apply sunscreen there too. There is also a greater risk for bug bites (or worse yet, snakebites), as the varmints will have easier access to your tender tootsies as you stroll through the grass. And, of course, there are the everyday occupational hazards of exposure: stubbing of toes; things falling/people stepping on your feet; and, especially with flip flops, stepping on something that could puncture the footwear, and the foot.
However, WebMD warns that one of the greatest problems may have less to do with your exposed toes and more to do with the structure, or lack thereof, of the summer footwear. “Wearers can suffer foot pain due to lack of arch support, tendinitis, and even sprained ankles if they trip.” They also warn that flip flops might pose a danger when driving as well as walking since they are loose and can easily come off and interfere with or even lodge under the pedals.
We’re not anti-flip flops or sandals though; we’re just suggesting caution. Here are some tips from American Podiatric Association to help protect your piggies:
- Avoid wearing flip flops or sandals for yard work, sports, or long walks because they do not provide enough protection or support.
- Inspect older pairs for wear; if they show signs of severe wear, discard them.
- Check for irritation between toes, where the toe thong fits as this can lead to blisters and possible infections.
- Shop for footwear made of high-quality, soft leather to minimize the potential for blisters and other types of irritation.
- Gently bend the sandal or flip flop to ensure it bends at the ball of the foot. Shoes of any kind should never fold in half.
- Ensure that your foot doesn’t hang off of the edges of the footwear.
Posted by hclibrary on Jun 20, 2013 in Health, Safety | 0 comments
By Jean Pfefferkorn
With the advent of more expensive heating and cooling costs, as well as environmental concerns, buildings–both commercial and residential–are being built more soundly. New buildings, with tighter windows and improved insulation, may retain harmful chemicals we breathe in, unaware of the long-term effects. Invisible, often odor-free gasses threaten lung health; over the long term, indoor gaseous pollution can cause lung disease.
Some gaseous offenders richly abound in new or renovated buildings. Man-made, synthetic building materials are components of carpeting, cabinets, wallpaper, flooring, and fabrics. Common chemicals such as benzene–a carcinogenic petrochemical, and formaldehyde–a documented, pungent carcinogen are known to send “off-gas” pollutants into the interior environment. Add the possibility of second-hand tobacco smoke, and the air you’re breathing in your home or workplace can seem quite the health hazard. What steps can we take to ameliorate this situation?
- A strict no-smoking indoors policy–the only known preventive measure–protects everyone from second-hand smoke.
- When the weather is pleasant, open windows can help to distribute cleaner air from the out-of-doors. Slightly open windows, combined with fans for circulation help to keep air clean even on bad weather days.
- Houseplants are more than just pretty faces. Certain houseplants fight indoor pollution through their respiration, which scrubs carbon dioxide and some gasses out of the air. Pollutants are also absorbed into the soil.
- Particularly efficient air-scrubbing plants include Hedera helix (English ivy), Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant), Epipiremnum aureum (golden pothos), Spathiphyllum (peace lily), Aglaonema modestum (Chinese evergreen), Chamaedorea sefritzii (bamboo or reed palm), Sansevieria trifasciata (snake plant), Heartleaf Philodendron, Elephant ear philodendron, Dracaena, and Ficus benjamina (weeping fig).
- Houseplants add moisture to the air, which is especially beneficial in the dry winter air. However, your family’s respiratory allergies may preclude this moisture, so experiment with these beautiful and quiet air filters to see how they work.
Posted by hclibrary on Jun 17, 2013 in Cancer, Safety | 0 comments
By National Cancer Institute , via Wikimedia Commons
And does it matter? We have on numerous occasions heard/discussed the importance of summer safety, chief among which is the use of sunscreen. But there was a New York Times article a few years ago suggesting that using sunscreens with a higher SPF may not really be that helpful. “Consumers should worry more about wearing enough sunscreen, several doctors said, rather than how high their SPF is.”
Should we disregard the SPF? What’s SPF anyway? Let’s see if we can shed some light (terrible joke, sorry). The Mayo Clinic tells us, “SPF stands for sun protection factor, which is a measure of how well the sunscreen deflects UVB rays. Manufacturers calculate SPF based on how long it takes to sunburn skin that’s been treated with the sunscreen as compared with skin that hasn’t been treated with sunscreen.”
They go on to explain:
Theoretically, the best sunscreen has the highest SPF number. It’s not that simple, however. When applied correctly, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will provide slightly more protection from UVB rays than does a sunscreen with an SPF of 15. But the SPF 30 product isn’t twice as protective as the SPF 15 product. Sunscreens with SPFs greater than 50 provide only a small increase in UVB protection.
There’s also the question of how well a sunscreen lasts. The American Melanoma Foundation points out that how well the sunscreen stays on after swimming or sweating is just as important as the SPF level. They explain that FDA deems a product “water-resistant” if it maintains its SPF level after 40 minutes of water exposure, and “waterproof” if it maintains its SPF level following 80 minutes of exposure to water.
There is also apparently a difference between sunscreen and sunblock. Sunscreens are divided into two types: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens have ingredients filters and reduce ultraviolet radiation, often containing UVB-absorbing chemicals and UVA absorbers. Physical sunscreens are usually called sunblocks; they are products with ingredients such a titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that block UVR. Sunblocks provide broad protection against both UVB and UVA light, but people often pass on them because they can be messy, visible, and not easily washed off.
Whoa, that’s a lot of info on sunscreens, but what do we really need to know to keep safe? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it’s good to know about the product, but more important to know about the application:
To ensure that you get the full SPF of a sunscreen, you need to apply 1 oz – about a shot glass full. Studies show that most people apply only half to a quarter of that amount, which means the actual SPF they have on their body is lower than advertised. During a long day at the beach, one person should use around one half to one quarter of an 8 oz. bottle. Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. Reapplication of sunscreen is just as important as putting it on in the first place, so reapply the same amount every two hours. Sunscreens should also be reapplied immediately after swimming, toweling off, or sweating a great deal.
So buy a high-quality product with an SPF of 15 or higher and make sure it offers broad-spectrum protection. Also look for The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation, “which guarantees that a sunscreen product meets the highest standards for safety and effectiveness.” Also keep in mind, you should not rely on sunscreen alone. Follow The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Prevention Guidelines, and avoid falling for these myths:
- Sunscreen isn’t needed on cold or cloudy days. Not true–up to 40 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth on a cloudy day.
- Sunscreen use encourages excessive sun exposure and, as a result, increases the risk of skin cancer. Most experts disagree with this claim, and research also hasn’t shown a link between sunscreen use and an increase in the risk of skin cancer. Research, however, has shown that use of sunscreen can reduce the risk of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
- Using sunscreen can cause vitamin D deficiency. Most dermatologists believe that sunscreens do not cause vitamin D deficiency. Plus, vitamin D is readily available in supplements and several foods.
- Most of your sun exposure comes during childhood, so it’s too late to do anything now. Where it is true that a recent study showed that we get less than 25 percent of our total sun exposure by age 18. it is men over the age of 40 who spend the most time outdoors, and get the highest annual doses of UV rays. And since we’re living longer and spending more time outdoors on the whole, preventing skin damage should be an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
Posted by hclibrary on Jun 13, 2013 in Parenting, Safety | 2 comments
by Wendy Camassar
It’s that time of year again…warm, sunny days mean wearing shorts and bathing suits. Baring one’s legs has gotten my teenage daughters in a tizzy about, gasp, unsightly hair. They started shaving their legs last summer but with minimal success. After a few unsuccessful attempts at finishing the job, and a nasty case of razor burn, they gave up and just focused on smaller areas like the underarm. It seemed more manageable, and I didn’t have to be involved! Well, this year they are even more concerned about the hair on their legs. So once again I decided to teach them the proper ways of shaving. I realized, however, that I never really learned the basics myself! I vaguely remember asking my mother about shaving, and I believe she handed me a razor and said, “Just don’t cut yourself.” That was it!
Since I typically research most things online, I took to the Internet to find tips on shaving for first timers. Surprisingly, I learned quite a bit myself. To start with, invest in a decent razor! My first mistake was buying a bulk quantity of cheap, disposable, single-blade razors. These really aren’t the best for new shavers out there. If you have a lot of hair to shave, you’ll want a razor with multiple blades that tilts as you glide it over knees, ankles, and underarms too. Then decide what part of your legs you want to shave. If you have light, fine hair, you may be comfortable with just shaving the knee to the ankle. If you have hair that is dark and thick, you may want to shave the whole leg. My daughters often ask how high up their legs they should shave. I usually recommend to do what they are comfortable with but to remember that shaving is a long-term commitment that requires a bit of time.
Another tip I found helpful is to shave during a warm shower or bath. The warm water softens the skin and hair making it easier to cut with the razor blade. Also, it’s important to use a shaving cream or gel to help the hair stand up, priming it for the razor. If you are short on time, you can skip this step but make sure you buy a razor that has a lotion strip on it. I used to think you had to shave in a downward motion, moving in the same direction as the hair grows. Not so! You can shave in an upward direction using long even strokes. Just make sure you are always moving the razor in one direction–up or down. This will be the best way to avoid cutting yourself. Once you are done, you can follow up with a mild moisturizer that is alcohol and fragrance free so as to avoid causing irritation.
Still wary about trying to shave? Perhaps consider using a depilatory. Years ago, they were not so attractive to use because of the way they smelled. Now, you can get them sent free and for sensitive skin too. Still not convinced? You can also try waxing. This is a much more expensive way for hair removal, and not pain free, but it’s another option. Some say the more you wax, the less the hair will grow back, so it may have long-term pay off in the end.
Here are some useful resources:
The Care and Keeping of You by Valorie Lee Schaefer
The Care and Keeping of You 2 by Cara Familian Natterson
Shaving Tips for Teen Girls
At What Age Should Girls Start Shaving Their Legs?
Posted by hclibrary on Jun 10, 2013 in Eating Right | 0 comments
Yes, we start a lot of these posts with ______ is national ______ month, but, let’s face it, there are only 12 months and lots of things to be aware of. For example, did you know that June is National Dairy Month? Yep, it was started in 1937 as a way to encourage drinking milk. But we thought we’d use it as an excuse to examine the hot, new thing in dairy: Greek-style yogurt.
According to an an interesting posting at SFGate:
Greek yogurt has more protein and a thicker consistency than regular yogurt…. It turns out that both Greek and regular yogurts start out with the same ingredients – milk and bacterial cultures. In fact, both types of yogurt even use the same bacterial cultures…. The bacteria ferment the lactose (milk sugar) in the milk and produce lactic acid. Different strains of bacteria have slightly different fermentation processes, and have slightly different fermentation products, but the end result is primarily lactic acid. So some strains of bacteria might produce a fermented yogurt that is more acidic, or more bitter, or more sour…. After fermentation, the liquid whey is strained off the solid yogurt. Regular yogurt is strained twice, so there is still some liquid left in the end product. Greek yogurt is strained three times, so most of the liquid is removed. This is what gives Greek yogurt its thicker consistency and stronger flavors… it has more protein than regular yogurt. The protein is left behind in the solid yogurt during the straining process. The whey contains most of the sodium, carbohydrates, and calcium, so Greek yogurts are lower in these nutrients than their regular counterparts….
SFGate also points out that Greek-style yogurt can make a great and healthier substitution in recipes that call for cream cheese, oil, butter, sour cream, or mayonnaise. And the post provides this handy chart showing a comparison of the nutritional value of Dannon strawberry yogurts, so you can really get a good sense of Greek-style yogurt’s benefits (less sugar, more protein) and its less favorable qualities (less calcium and more calories, fat, and cholesterol):
||Dannon Oikos (Greek)
||< 1 g
According to an article from U.S. News and World Report, a lot of Greek-style yogurt’s appeal is due to “its taste—tangier and less sweet, as well as creamier.” They go on to say that both types of yogurt, “in their plain, nonfat or low-fat forms, can be part of a healthful diet. They’re low in calories and packed with calcium and live bacterial cultures.” And they mention the benefits of probiotics that both types of yogurt provide. They also point out that Greek-style can be a little pricier though because it takes more time and milk to process, and it is kind of trendy right now.
But, adding yogurt to your diet, as long as you are not allergic or aren’t lactose intolerant, may not be a bad idea. If you are looking for more ways to incorporate it into your diet, you may want to check out Home Dairy with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to make Cheese, Yogurt, Butter & More or even The Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt Cookbook, not quite as healthy perhaps, but a little more fun.
By Allie_Caulfield [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Cherise Tasker
Writing about the health advantages of berries, I was intrigued by the numerous studies underway regarding the health benefits of cranberries. Since fresh, raw cranberries are tart to almost bitter in taste, they are most likely to be ingested in juice, cooked, or dried form instead. Raw cranberries are also fairly acidic and can damage tooth enamel and cause gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn) symptoms. Where we live, our financial situation, the seasons, and local climate can all determine the food sources to which we have access. What if no fresh fruit is available? Dried fruit is a delicious treat – but how healthy is it when compared to its fresh counterparts? What about juice, jelly, and jam? How can we best benefit from cranberries, and other fruit, when we cannot eat them fresh?
The process of drying fruit involves dehydration and low heat. For this reason, dried fruit is more concentrated in calories and many nutrients than fresh fruit. For example, the concentration of antioxidants is higher, per ounce, in dried fruit than fresh fruit. Nutrients such as folate, vitamin C and vitamin B will be found in lower levels in dried fruits since these compounds are heat-sensitive. Because fruit is dried under a low heat, however, even heat-sensitive nutrients are preserved to some extent. When counting calories, we include the amount of fruit we eat. Dried fruit is smaller in size, so it may feel less filling than fresh fruit, leading us to eat more of it. Tart fruit such as cranberries will likely have sugar added to its dried form to give it a more palatable taste, leading to an increased calorie count. Dried fruit manufacturers can use fruit that is not yet ripe and add sugar to compensate for the lack of a naturally sweet taste, again raising the calorie count. The Mayo Clinic website has a helpful fruit exchange chart. For example, if you are going to have one, 60-calorie serving of apple, 4 rings of dried apple equals one small fresh apple. Other concerns are the preservatives and color boosters that may be added to dried fruit. Select dried fruits that have no additional chemicals, such as sulfites, on the ingredients list.
Fruit juice, canned fruit, and frozen fruit are available sweetened and unsweetened. Sweetened, these products can have a significantly higher number of calories than fresh fruit. When possible, select the unsweetened or “100% juice” varieties. While “100% juice” and sweetened drinks can have an equal number of calories per ounce, juices without added sugar have fewer chemical additives. Some of the juices without added sugar are also higher in vitamins and antioxidants. Juice lacks the fiber found in fresh fruit, and dietary fiber is important for promoting gastrointestinal tract health and lowering the risks of diabetes and heart disease. Frozen fruit is prepared by quickly freezing fruit at its optimal ripeness. If there is no added sugar, frozen fruit has similar nutritional value to fresh fruit.
“Spreads” of preserved fruits are available in multiple varieties. Jelly is fruit juice boiled down with sugar. It is smooth without any fruit chunks. Jam contains pureed or crushed fruit cooked with added sugar. Depending on how it is prepared, “cranberry sauce” can be in either a jelly or jam form. Fruit butters are smooth consistency jams with spices and lemon juice added for more complex flavor. Preserves include whole fruit chunks cooked with sugar. Marmalade is similar to jam but with the addition of citrus peel for a pulpy consistency and tangy flavor. All of these choices are concentrated in calories with some loss of nutrients due to the cooking process. Because they can be very sweet, however, a small amount goes a long way for flavor. For a healthier choice, try one of the “all fruit” types of spreads. Several manufacturers offer fruit spreads that have little added sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, and additional dietary fiber. Some products contain artificial sweeteners to further limit the calories, so be sure to read the package labels.
Posted by hclibrary on Jun 3, 2013 in Events | 0 comments
We are very excited; an author of a book that was previously featured on Well & Wise is coming to the Miller Branch of the Howard County Library System! Join us on June 25, 2013, at 7:00 p.m., for Dr. Neal Barnard: Power Foods for the Brain.
More and more we are learning about how our food choices affect more than just our physical appearance, both in bad and good ways.
Neal Barnard, M.D., noted nutrition researcher and New York Times bestselling author, has been at the forefront of examining how the brain ages and the role food plays in overall health, researching everything from diabetes to best brain-boosting foods to diet choices that may help keep Alzheimer’s at bay. He also is an adjunct associate professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine, board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and founder and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Barnard comes to the Miller Branch to discuss the connection between nutrition and physical and mental health. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, his clinical research revolutionized the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. In his latest book, Power Foods For the Brain, Barnard reveals how simple diet changes can protect the brain from memory loss, stroke, and Alzheimer’s, and he offers valuable tips and insights on how to boost brain health. Books will be available for purchase and signing. The event is presented in partnership with Howard County Department of Citizen Services and Office on Aging, and registration is required.But you can easily register online or by calling 410.313.1950. Hope to see you there!
By Angie Engles
“In bed my real love has always been the sleep that rescued me by allowing me to dream.”–Luigi Pirandello
By Carla Contreras from Santiago, ·Chile· (◙EnSueño◙), via Wikimedia Commons
If a good night’s sleep is hard to find, a good dream is even harder. If you dream well, waking up can be a downright disappointment. The phone or the alarm clock becomes your enemy, and reality loses a bit of its sheen. In those first few seconds between waking up and being awake, you hold on to that beautiful thing for dear life.
Sometimes I just marvel at how vivid and amazing dreams are, yet often they seem to be taken for granted and reduced to little more than a pat and generic explanation filed under “dream interpretation” or found in dream dictionaries that can’t possibly know or understand individual people. You may dream about cats for entirely different reasons than your friend Harry does. And no matter what Freud would say, not every dream is about sex. Sometimes a snake really is a snake.
I want to know more about the science of dreams, the beauty of them, what other people dream, and how it is that dreams can be about people and places we’ve never met or seen before. How are our minds capable of making that up?
Of course as horrible as it is to wake up from a beautiful dream, it’s kind of nice to have your nightmare end and feel that full-body relief when you realize it didn’t really happen. Ever since I was a kid I’ve had the most intense dreams and nightmares. The very first nightmare I ever had (which, strangely, I still can recall all these years later) involved a giant-sized spider opening the door to our family room and crawling down the stairs, its huge eyes staring at me and freezing me in my tracks.
Nightmares and recurring dreams can be a painful part of our sleep; dreams overall are very complicated things. Keeping a dream journal and knowing which foods and herbs help or hurt can often assist us taking charge of a part of life we think we may have little say in.
With a dream journal you not only might learn a little bit more about yourself, you can add to your psychological and emotional health by working through the unprocessed material of your waking life or a particularly harrowing ongoing situation. I have found by keeping one over the past few years that I have been able to get rid of some troubling recurring dreams, or at least change the outcome of them for the better.
Just as with a regular journal, writing in a dream journal is therapeutic; studies have shown that writing down our dreams and nightmares can increase emotional health and reduce stress. And people who remember their dreams often use them for creative purposes; Paul McCartney, for instance, is said to have composed “Yesterday” from a dream he had.
Keeping a dream journal is pretty straightforward (certainly more than the actual dreams you’ll be writing about are), but here are some things to consider:
- Keep something to write with next to your bed so that you can record your dreams as soon as you wake.
- Stay still for a few minutes; this helps you remember more of your dream before it starts to disappear.
- Write down as much as you can about the dream. You can always go back and analyze the dream later. At this point, however, you’ll want to just jot down important things like colors, numbers, and any words you might have heard in your dream.
In trying to “bring on” good dreams (or at the very least avoid nightmares), I have found knowing what to avoid to be as helpful as what to do or take. And, of course, you should consult your physician before making any major dietary changes or taking any herbs or supplements. But simple dietary changes are easy to make and may be helpful. For instance, spicy foods before bedtime can cause horrific nightmares, but there are some other foods that are said to cause pleasant dreams. Cherry juice (tart, not sugar-enhanced), bananas, and yogurt may help with restful sleep.
Mugwort is an herb that, by itself, is VERY hard to find in health food stores. It has been known to increase the quality and intensity of dreams. Because it’s so hard to find (except online), I haven’t bought mugwort in pure form yet, but I did buy this product (which has 15 mg of mugwort) called Gaia Serenity, which comes in a bottle of 60 capsules and can be found at local health food stores.
Another herb that’s helpful for me is Ashwagandha. Both this and a homeopathic remedy called Calmes Forte seem to shut down the worry part of my mind and create a nicer environment for good dreams.
Traditional Medicinals makes a a tea called Organic Chamomile with Lavender that I’ve been using the past two weeks, and it seems to have improved my sleep a great deal as well as cut down on nightmares and even the annoying, though not always horrific, “I’m back in school and haven’t been to class for weeks and it’s Finals” nighttime adventures.
The last thing I do before I go to sleep may sound completely corny, but it often works and has been mentioned in various books on sleeping and dreams. Just before you’re ready to drift off, tell yourself you will have good dreams. Be specific even, and think of where you want to go in your dreams (maybe Hawaii?) or what you want to do (fly?)
Further info on dreams:
Freud may be antiquated these days, but it’s still interesting to read his theories on dreams.
A very interesting article on dreams from the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (dated February 28, 1889) is A Statistical Study of Sleep and Dreams.
A good source for helping your child get rid of nightmares.
A few years old, but still relevant to the world of dreaming.
9 Foods to Help You Sleep
And, of course, there’s some stuff at the library – Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, 101 Questions about Sleep and Dreams that Kept You Awake…Until Now, and Secrets of Sleep Science: From Dreams to Disorders.
Today, Memorial Day, is a day we should take time to reflect on all the brave women and men who have served in the armed forces. But let’s face it, we also typically use it as a day to head to the beach, weather permitting, shop for major appliances, cook out on the grill, or other fun things to remind us that Summer is right around the corner. We should most certainly make the time to pay our respects to those who lost their lives protecting our country, and while we may miss the opening of the local pool or a chance to buy a mattress at low low prices, we still have plenty of days left to fire up the old grill.
Fortunately, among HCLS’s new books is a gem to get you all ready for grilling season. Where There’s Smoke: Simple, Sustainable, and Delicious Grilling by acclaimed Washington D.C. chef Barton Seaver is a beautiful book where Seaver “showcases his love of fresh, organic produce, fish, beef, and poultry…. Emphasizing seasonal vegetables and accompaniments as much as the protein. In addition to mouthwatering dishes, Seaver gives the nitty gritty on fueling your fire; preparation and cooking; recipes for sauces, spice mixes, and marinades; and ways to eat smartly and healthily.”
We at Well & Wise decided we should whet your appetite for this incredible book with a sample recipe. There was some debate as to whether we should go with the ultra-healthy and delicious-looking Charred Brussels Sprouts with Orange Pecan Dressing or the ultra-naughty but equally delicious-looking recipe for The Steak (a.k.a. “Meat Bacon”). Since it is a day off from work and school for most though, we decided to split the difference and go a little naughty and a lot nice with…
Grilled Asparagus with Spicy Parmesan Sauce (serves 4)
1 pound asparagus, tough stalks snapped off at the base
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tables spoon milder hot sauce, such as Tapatio or Frank’s Red Hot
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and season it generously with salt. Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute, then drain.
2. Coat the asparagus with 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil and cook the spears on the grill directly over the coals of a medium fire until they begin to char, about 4 minutes. Remove the asparagus to a platter.
3. Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the hot sauce, and Parmesan and stir to combine. Pour the sauce over the asparagus and serve immediately.