Thursday, December 27, 2012

Oh, The Stress! Get A Jump On 2013.

Stress affects everything in our bodies. Not only do stressful events affect our blood pressure, but the chemicals released in extremely stressful situations keep a body on guard and always ready to run. This response, if engaged often and long term, can affect our heart, circulatory system, and the health of our organs.

Many people go on antidepressants or sedatives for chronic stress which can make you less prone to meltdowns, but meditation, or put more simply, a 10 minute “timeout” can be just as beneficial without the side effects of drugs.

There are all kinds of meditation practices that can be performed with accompanying mantras, positive visualizations or music, but Zen Meditation (also called Zazen) is simple and beneficial. It takes absolutely no effort but to sit and clear your thoughts. That’s it. Breathe.

Zen meditation can be practiced sitting, standing, or even walking and the point is to focus on nothing but breathing and stillness. The Zen Mountain Monastery in the Catskill Mountains in New York offers free Zazen instructions on their website http://mro.org/zmm/teachings/ 

If you aren’t inclined to meditate Buddhist style, that’s not a problem. Find a place, preferably a quiet place in nature, and focus on 10 minutes of silence. When you first start out, you might find the 10 minutes to drag while you shift and cough and scratch your nose or anything else that you can distract yourself with. This is the exact reason that you need 10 minutes of silence. You will sleep better, bring down blood pressure, and have a clearer sense of being. Each day, sit and let the random thoughts float through, but learn to let them flow by, at least for that 10 minutes. That time is all yours. Don’t let anything distract you.

If you absolutely can’t sit still for 10 minutes, you might consider some type of moving meditation. I do better with movement. My knees bug me when I sit for too long, so I’ve chosen to practice qigong. It’s a slow movement choreographed with breathing that keeps me occupied while clearing the junk from my head. After trying all types of traditional meditation, and not being able to stop my “monkey mind,” qigong has really slowed me down for the mere fact that I can move around while being silent.

There are lots of qigong DVD’s available, but for free you can watch your choice of hundreds of  clips on youtube. Checkout the 8 silk brocades, a short and simple group of exercises known to move vital energy through the meridians bringing better health. This is a great place to start your qigong practice. 

My message here is that if you’re stressed out, it is affecting your body. I dodged meditation for years because I said that I couldn’t relax, but I just got more and more jacked up in the meantime. After focusing on learning to let go, my demeanor got calmer, and I even stopped drinking coffee! Life is calmer, my blood pressure is normal, and I sleep like a baby. It all began with just 10 minutes a day. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Make Your End Of Year Charitable Donation

Leonardo Di Caprio believes in clean water, a healthy planet, healthy animals, and many more ecological issues. His foundation is known for distributing money and resources to our fellow man all over the world, including disaster relief right here at home. His is only one of the many charities in need right now! The Red Cross is always a good bet, and the people in the hurricane Sandy zone are still in terrible need of the basics. Go to www.redcross.org

To contact the Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation, you can go to http://www.leonardodicaprio.com Have a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

New Snow In Aspen


I’ve daydreamed about going back to my native California since I arrived in Colorado 30 years ago. Bare feet, hot sand, sunshine, fresh produce, and more and more! Not to complain about Colorado, or the snow, and the cold, ...

Colorado has been good to me. I had a full career in the athletic club business, followed by a second career in the horse fitness business. The thriving economy during the cold and snowy months allowed for me to have a stimulating life and to raise my son in a small community.

We just had our first big snow of the season and I’m daydreaming about bare feet and hot sand again. I know, California has been having some wet and windy weather lately, but it will pass.

I’m torn. Only 7 days til Christmas which I’ll be spending in Aspen. It’s a wonderland at this time of year, plus, it’s the solstice. The days are already going to get longer. My problem ... cold feet, no sand, and not so fresh fruit and produce. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying ... 


Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas everybody! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Plants To Lower Cholesterol


We’ve all heard of the many vitamins and minerals contained in fruits and vegetables, but we’re only hearing about sterols and stanol esters (phytochemicals) as they are marketed in products said to lower cholesterol. One such product, called BENECOL® Spread, claims to have research that shows the product to actually lower cholesterol. This plant product is sold like margarine and contains various vegetable oils. Each tablespoon contains around 75 calories, and it can be used as a spread or in cooking. Benecol is a vegan product and if you are concerned with high cholesterol, research shows that it can indeed lower cholesterol.

Sterols and Stanol esters are naturally found in a variety of vegetables like:
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Legumes
  • Rye bread
  • Whole wheat (in the wheat bran and wheat germ)
  • Sunflower and sesame seeds
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Macadamia
  • Peanuts
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Olive oil
You can read about Benecol at www.benecolusa.com 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Vegan Bouillon With Sea Salt and Herbs

Making a quick homemade soup without preservatives or excessive salt can be challenging. Most vegetarian broths have a ton of salt and preservatives. The last time I made soup with a store bought broth my husband said that the house smelled like a science lab.

This week both Al and I have both had colds, sore throats, and the regular thing that comes to Colorado at this time of year. As eager as I normally am to chop fresh herbs for flavor, I was lucky to get out of bed. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the grocery store.

I had bought some Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon with Sea Salt and Herbs for flavoring the Thanksgiving dressing and had a whole extra pack of 8 cubes left in the cupboard. Although they make the product without salt, I chose to buy it with sea salt and herbs. Yum. I made a couple of cubes and added some leftover rice and vegetables. I couldn’t believe the flavor of this soup! We ate it all weekend and are feeling much better today.

Rapunzel is a product of Sweden. The broth comes in three different flavors, Vegan Vegetable with sea salt and herbs, with no salt, and herbs with no salt. The herbs are organic, and the sea salt is sun dried from the French Atlantic Coast.

By the way, the Thanksgiving dressing was exceptional, and now I know why. I recommend this product ... Healthy and delicious!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Field Roast Grain Meat Company

I try to make my family meals from scratch. Back in the meat days, I could make meat as a main dish, and surround it with a variety of other stuff. I’m always looking for that variety and nutritional balance on the plate, but I’ve got a problem serving fake meat to my family. Granted, there are some delicious veggie patty choices available, but they seem like mud laced with veggies.

I walk right by the fake meat aisle at Whole Foods, but something stopped me last Saturday. As you may know, Al and I are Italian and were raised on lots of meats and cheeses so the Italian Sausage looking product stopped me dead in my tracks. Vegan Italian Sausage? Give me a break!

The brand name of the product is Original Field Roast Grain Meat Co. The product is a Grain Meat Sausage made with eggplant, fennel, fresh garlic, and red pepper. OMG! This is no substitute for meat, this is a hearty, meaty, grain sausage that is a nutritional food in itself.

Here’s what I did with some leftover whole grain penne pasta. First, I browned the sausages in olive oil. Then, I added some mushrooms and spinach, then I dumped the leftover penne in and stirred it up until the spinach was just starting to melt. Al and I agreed that it was one of the best dinners that we have had in a long time. Go to www.fieldroast.com for more about this product. I give it a thumbs up and will definitely incorporate it into more of my Italian dishes. They have a variety of artisan vegan groceries.

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