This week I had a photo shoot at a senior living facility. They brought in two speakers from a group called Brainstorm Mind Fitness to talk with residents about brain health. It is a five week class. I was asked to take pictures during session two for a local newspaper. It was a fascinating seminar. I wish I could go back and hear all of the sessions.
They identified five lifestyle areas that impact brain fitness:
Brain healthy nutrition
Management of stress and depression
I’ll share two things I learned.
In their work with the elderly, they find that it is hard to motivate many of them to adopt an aggressive 30 minute or hour exercise program. Some are overweight. Some have disabilities. Some are used to being sedentary. Some deal with pain. In the seminar, they quoted research that said three to four exercise sessions during the day of just 10 minutes is just as valuable to brain health as one long exercise program.
This ties in with a personal conviction that I have not disciplined myself to put into practice. I usually exercise in the morning with a friend. We work out for about an hour. Then I come home and often spend most of the rest of the day at the computer. Quite often I sense my body saying - "get out of the chair, move around." All too often I respond “In a minute” and a minute turns into another hour of computer work.
I know my knees and my shoulders get stiff with so much sitting, but that hasn’t been enough motivation to change my behavior. Perhaps knowing that my brain would benefit from 10 minute exercise breaks will get me out of the chair for a few sit-ups or leg lifts.
The Brainstorm presenters had several nutritional supplements on display.
One of the presenters and I began talking about Vitamin B12. She was adamant that B12 be taken in a sublingual form. She prefers drops, but said a tablet of lozenge was ok. She said to look at my bottle. The B12 that starts with methyl is the better form. I got home and checked my bottle. Rats, I have the form that starts with “C”. I’m not going to toss this out, but the next time I order, I’ll get the more beneficial form.
The only product they recommended that I disagreed with was coconut oil. I’m still not convinced that a highly saturated fat, containing few EFAs, is good for me. When Dr. D changes his mind about coconut oil, I’ll change mine.
The book club came to my house last week for our January meeting. I knew that after Christmas, none of the ladies were going to want to eat desserts or party food. Some people put on a few pounds at Christmas and are eager to take them off. Some people resolve to shed unwanted pounds in the New Year. No one wants to overindulge in January.
I went on Pinterest looking for cute, healthy, winter snack ideas. I made little snowmen out of mozzarella cheese. There was a cute picture of little winter characters made by cutting strawberries in half and filling them with white stuff. I used whipped cream, which tasted good, but collapsed too quickly. One of my friends suggested cream cheese - that would hold up better, but would still be avoid for me. Perhaps a stiff meringue would work. I know I will make both of these fun winter snacks when BC is a toddler.
I baked gluten free ginger bread with black strap molasses. It was very spicy, which some of the ladies liked, but others did not.
The biggest hit of all was roasted vegetables. I made three pans, and there was hardly enough left for my husband to have some for lunch. I roasted carrots, green beans, and zucchini. I also roasted acorn squash in ghee and maple syrup. I peeled the squash and cut it into strips. I put enough ghee and maple syrup in a baking dish to coat the bottom, added the squash strips, and rolled them so they were coated. I baked them at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Most of the ladies like coffee, so I made a pot of coffee. But what to fix on a cold day for ladies, like me, who don’t drink coffee?
Every year at Christmas the town of New Braunfels has Wassailfest. It is within driving distance from our Hill Country home, so we have gone several years. Local shops compete to see who has the best Wassail. I have found that I am very opinionated about the flavor of wassail. I do not like it when it is made with orange juice. Another popular ingredient is Tang. That tastes terrible to me, and if the first sip has a hint of Tang, into the trash it goes. I like my wassail spicy, but I don’t like finding ground cinnamon at the bottom of my cup.
I didn’t set out to make Wassail for the book club. I bought frozen 100% cranberry apple juice and was going to serve it warm. When I mixed up the juice and looked at how much was in the pan, I worried that I didn’t have enough. On impulse, I put in a can of frozen pineapple juice plus the recommended amount of water. Also on impulse I tossed in 6 cloves.
As the ladies served themselves, I heard comments like “Oh, wassail!” “This is really good.” “Best wassail I’ve ever tasted." I tasted some for myself. It really was good. I wish I could enter my accidental recipe in next year’s Wassailfest.
My nephew, his wife, and their three daughters came to visit for New Years. They live a very busy, high stress, fast paced, urban life. They didn’t want to go anywhere or do any excursions. They just wanted to hang out in our living room. Walking to the mailbox a half mile away was a treat to the littlest great niece. Deer running cross the yard was the only thing that motivated everyone to jump out of their chairs. The baby bunnies, who have stayed completely hidden since I nearly ran over them with the lawn mower in November, made a cameo appearance. It was a wonderfully relaxing three days for us as well as them.
Our niece (Type A) talked about how her favorite fast dinner was roasted vegetables. I’ve eaten roasted vegetables in restaurants and they are delicious. I’ve looked into roasting vegetables at home, but it seemed complicated and time consuming.
Yesterday for lunch I put two big turkey tenders, one cup of millet, a can of MSG free chicken broth (plus enough water to make 1 ¾ cups) and 1 tsp of poultry seasoning in a covered casserole dish and put it in the oven. It was done in about an hour.
Then I asked her to fix roasted veggies her way while I watched. Oh my! It was fast. It was easy. It was delicious.
She sprayed two big cookie sheets with cooking spray. She sliced baby carrots in half, cut an acorn squash into cubes, and chopped up some broccoli. I got whole frozen green beans out of the freezer. She put the carrots and squash on the cookie sheet, sprayed the top of them with more cooking spray, and sprinkled them very lightly with salt. Into the oven they went at 400 degrees.
After 15 minutes we added the green beans and broccoli to the cookie sheet. Again she sprayed the top of the vegetables with cooking spray and sprinkled a little salt. In 15 minutes they were all done.
HH loved them. This will definitely become part of our regular menu.
I have only used cooking spray for baking, so I buy the neutral, less expensive canola. She uses EVOO cooking spray for roasted vegetables. It’s now on my grocery list.
We were going to have Cod and Quinoa for lunch. I opened the Tupperware container where I keep my rice and the measuring cup that goes with the rice cooker. There was a weevil in the cup. Oh no!
I look around in the rice and see two more of the little critters. I put the top back on the Tupperware and put it in the freezer. I washed out the cup, checked the quinoa for weevils (weevil-free thankfully) and started it cooking.
There were two more sealed bags of rice that had been bought about the same time. I pulled them off the shelf. Both were filled with healthy, active, hungry weevils. This was getting gross. Put both of those bags in the freezer - it’s the quickest way that I know of to kill the little pests. I began taking things off the shelf where the rice was stored. I saw several loose weevils, so I wiped down the shelf with an antibiotic wipe. I did not find weevils in any of the grain except the rice. Just to be safe, I put all grain and legumes in the freezer.
This all made me remember a story a missionary told me several years ago. She was working in Western Europe. They had a wonderful modern lifestyle, but their church planting work was hard. Most people were not interested in God or spiritual things. It was an affluent time, and the people were happy to enjoy life. One day some colleagues who served in Africa came to spend a few days on their vacation. My friend and her colleague went to the grocery store together. The colleague began to cry.
She said, “You have no idea how fortunate you are to have a grocery store. I go to an open air market every morning and buy food for the day. Then I spend the next few hours picking the rocks and bugs out of the rice and the beans.”
Later, they were talking about their ministries. My friend and her husband told about how easy it was to become discouraged in Europe. But the colleague and her husband’s eyes lit up when they talked about their church. The people in their African city were eager to know about God. Because of their poverty, they longed for the hope of a better world, and they responded to the message that God cared about them.
Later today I will pick through the rice in the Tupperware and pick out the weevils. I’ll rinse the rice before I cook it. The two unopened packages will be returned to the grocery store for a refund.
I find myself wondering how weevils get into and out of sealed packages? And how in the world do they get inside Tupperware containers?
Our lunch was delicious. The quinoa cooked perfectly in the rice cooker. I seasoned the Cod with one of Mrs. Dash’s salt free blends. I also ate left over black beans with collard greens. HH had Cole Slaw and grapes.
Christmas Eve is pretty quiet at our house. We’ve been celebrating in various ways all month long.
SIL - our Son-In-Love graduated from seminary 11 days ago. The graduation was fairly close to where HH’s mother lives. Rather than fight the holiday traffic and make two long trips so close together, we decided to have Christmas with his mother a little early.
Giving gifts at Christmas has its roots in two places in the Bible. First, God’s incredible gift to us when he “gave his only Son”* Second, the wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus ** Gift giving can easily get out of hand, with the stress of thinking of a clever idea plus the pressure to spend too much.
HH’s family has grown pretty big, and buying gifts for everyone had become complicated. Some people stopped giving last year, and I thought they had a good idea. I sent an email saying we would be giving extended family gifts to those over 90 and those under 18. We have five great nieces. Buying gifts for them was a delight. Then I found a beautiful bird house that I knew HH’s mom would enjoy outside her window. When she mentioned another item that she really needed to replace, that side of the family Christmas shopping was complete.
Because this was a December graduation ceremony, the seminary used Christmas songs with double meanings. Joy to the World - for instance. I know that SIL was full of JOY not only for the birth of Christ but for the end of finals. The graduates marched out of the ceremony to the Hallelujah Chorus - again appropriate in several ways. It was a moving ceremony - watching these young men and women who have committed their lives to proclaiming the message of Christ at home and around the world.
Our Strong Son had to work on Friday, but he joined us at his grandmother’s house on Saturday. We had a happy visit, opening family gifts, and telling stories. HH’s mom’s memory is failing, but there is a certain joy to telling and retelling and retelling a happy story. Her delight was so real each time we told it again.
There were times, both in my health food days and in my early BTD days, when I worried about eating things at holidays that were not optimum for my health. Those days are now over. HH’s mom pulled out her credit card and sent us to the cafeteria to buy Christmas dinner. I could pick anything I wanted, and I chose wisely from a BTD standpoint. But I’ll admit there was a little sadness that the old days are gone. Perhaps if you are chafing under pressure to eat something on your avoid list this year at Christmas, you can project yourself forward a few years to a time when loving hands will no longer be able to prepare traditional food. Life is short...enjoy the holiday. You can return to healthy eating on December 26.
HH and I returned home for four days, then were off again. SIL has been called to a church in Texas near the beach. They asked if we would come and help them move in. We spent three days helping to install shelf paper and unload boxes. DD’s friends at her office had given her a baby shower. What fun it was to put the little clothes in the new nursery and imagine that next year at Christmas BC will be nine months old.
DD and SIL returned to North Texas for DD to finish out her last week at work. They will be spending Christmas Day with SIL’s family.
SS is coming home tonight after the Christmas Eve service at his church. I’ll be fixing a traditional South Texas Christmas dinner with a BTD touch.
The birth of the Christ Child was a miracle. That is why we celebrate Christmas. But in its own way every baby is a miracle. DD tells me that this week BC can taste and smell. Imagine that. Still three months from birth and BC’s senses are developing. Next year BC will be outside the womb, enjoying the taste and smell Christmas dinner, seeing the lights, and hearing for the first time, the story of Jesus and his birthday.
* For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17
** After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:1, 2, 11