Today, the weather forecasters are predicting the first snow of the season. It always snows around the 20th of September. Yesterday, it was in the 80’s here. Today, snow.
Last evening, I was running a low grade fever with a scratchy throat. I took enough Emer’gen-C to gag a horse and “hit the hay” so to speak (sorry). In the morning all that was left of that virus was some slight sinus congestion and elevated temperature. That’s what you get on the Blood Type Diet, a strong immune system that does not succumb very easily to unwanted intruders.
Anyhoo, since my outside plans for today were scrapped due to health and weather, I decided to make my favorite cold weather comfort food: Egg Custard. I have fond memories of my grandmother making egg custard when I was a girl. The recipe is dirt simple and easy to remember: 3 eggs, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, and 3 cups of milk. Whisk the eggs together, add the brown sugar and then the milk. Add a sploik of vanilla and a large pinch of salt. Mix until well combined. I mix it in the 1&1/ 2 quart pyrex bowl that I will be baking it in. Sprinkle the top of the custard with grated nutmeg.
Now for the baking. Custard needs to be baked in a hot water bath which sounds complicated but it really isn’t. Figure this out before you start preparing the custard. You will need a pan to bake the custard in, preferably pyrex or other baking glass; not just any old glass bowl but one you can BAKE in, and another larger pyrex dish or high-sided metal pan that your baking dish can fit into with a least an inch to spare around the sides. Place your baking dish with the custard into the larger dish or pan. Add boiling water from a tea kettle, not just hot water from the tap, into the larger dish until the custard dish is surrounded by water about half way up the side. DO NOT put the hot water IN the custard. Place pan assemblage carefully into an oven heated to 325ºF for about 40-50 minutes. Cool, and then refrigerate.
How do you tell when the custard is done? That took me some time to figure out. When the top looks set, place a butter knife into the custard about halfway between the side and the center. If the knife comes out clean (not dripping with liquid), the custard is ready. The custard will be quite jiggly when it is done, especially in the center. If you overcook the custard, which is quite easy to do, it will have lots of air bubbles and the texture will not be quite as smooth, but it will still be tasty. You can also substitute maple syrup for the brown sugar to make maple custard.
It took me a long time to believe that dairy foods were healthy foods for B’s when sick. Most protocols go against feeding dairy to sickie’s. I have read that when milk is cooked, the protein is concentrated as some of the liquid evaporates, and thus, milk that has been cooked is digested more as food. I just know that it is very soothing to my system.
I have been trying to bolster my intake of bene’s the past few weeks, especially the ones that have fallen away from practice, like kefir, so wonderfully tangy, and replacing cheddar cheese with beneficial ones, like farmer’s and mozzarella.
But I always hit an impasse when I try to add green tea to my diet. I have tried regular green tea, organic green tea, decaf, steeping longer, steeping shorter... all with the same result: I feel jittery and have shakiness in my legs which is very similar to what I experience with dental anesthesia/anesthetics.
Now I can only guess as to why this is true but I bet it is something to do with being an HSP, which is an acronym for Highly Sensitive Person. I am not talking here about emotional sensitivity but neurological sensitivity.
I realized very early in life that I was wired differently than most people I knew. Things that other people found enjoyable or stimulating were, and are, very stressful for me; things like roller coasters, horror movies, violence in any way, shape, or form, large crowds, video games and other highly visual stimuli, loud sounds, city noise, etc. Airports drive me insane. So do hotel ballrooms with large, busy patterns on the carpeting and walls. These are all common stressful experiences to us HSPer’s.
HSP is an inherited trait. About 15 to 20% of the population possess this trait and it is seen at those numbers in other animal species as well. HSPer’s have a nervous system that is more sensitive to subtleties; their brains process information and reflect on it more deeply than non-HSPs. Highly Sensitive People are often mislabeled as introverted or shy, and I know many people viewed me through those lenses when I was younger. I have since learned to cope with being a different type of minority in the society of human species.
A very common experience with HSP’s is a difference in sleep patterns. We are the classic “light” sleeper, but also have difficulty sleeping when stressed and over-stimulated. I take great care to not let myself get too exhausted or else I will not sleep well, sometimes it can take several restless nights before I unwind enough for a decent sleep. We can, however, get adequate rest by lying down with eyes closed whether we are officially sleeping or not. It’s the break from visual processing that is rejuvenating.
What is the point of all this? Something in green tea over-stimulates my sensitive nervous system. It could be the caffeine although I react the same way to decaffeinated green tea and I can drink decaf black tea. But the real point is that although my blood type is B, I am also an individual and choose to make choices not only based on the principles of the blood type diet, but also how my body responds to those choices. Even though green tea is a beneficial for B’s, I have tried it enough times through the years to know it is not beneficial for me. Perhaps you have similar experiences with a beneficial as well.
As for the blood type connection with HSP, alas, there is none...yet. I would like to think of it as more of a B type trait. But that could just be wishful thinking. I bet there are many A’s who fit the bill; maybe there’s a cortisol connection. Hmmm....
To find out more about HSP, go to www.hsperson.com. Dr. Elaine Aron, herself an HSP, has a very informative site on this unique trait where much of the info for this blog came from. You can even take a little test to see if you're HSP too!
The more, the merrier... well, I’ll be happy with quieter and peaceful.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a newsletter from the Food and Nutrition Services Division of the school district where my children attend school. A good portion of the newsletter was devoted to promoting healthy nutrition: educating about childhood obesity, healthy initiatives that support healthy eating habits, and listing recent district-wide nutrition improvements such as taking sugared cereals off the breakfast menus, protein choice on the breakfast menu daily (gee, isn’t that a no-brainer?), introducing baked snack chips versus fried, fresh vegetables and tossed salad offered daily at all schools, fresh fruit, etc.
So far, so good.
Until I came to the student preference survey. Each year, the Food and Nutrition Services Division does an annual survey to find out what their “customers” ie: students, are enjoying. The results are used in monthly menu planning(!)for the district. Here are the results of the survey for 2003. And I am not making this up.
Elementary “Top Ten” Choices
Donut/Long John, Cinnamon Roll, Pancake & Sausage, Bagel & Cream Cheese, Breakfast Burrito, Breakfast Pizza, Cereal & Toast, Biscuits & Gravy, French Toast & Ham, Scrambled Eggs with Ham & Cheese
Burrito, Chili Fritos, Corn Dog, Hot Dog, Nachos & Cheese, Hamburger/ Cheeseburger, Chicken Nuggets, BBQ Rib Sandwich, Soft Taco
Middle School “Top Ten” Choices
Donut/Long John, Cinnamon Roll, Egg O Bagel w/ Sausage & Cheese, Bagel & Cream Cheese, Egg O Muffin w/ Ham & Cheese, Egg O Bagel w/ Ham and Cheese, Cereal & Toast, Pancake & Sausage, Biscuit & Gravy, Breakfast Pizza
Pizza, Chicken Nuggets, Baked Chicken, Burrito, Chili Fritos, Corn Dog, Nachos, Hamburger/ Cheeseburger, Chicken Fried Steak w/ gravy, Chicken Patty Sandwich
I about dropped my drawers. Serving donuts, long johns and cinnamon rolls as a healthy choice for breakfast?? And please don’t tell me that “chili fritos” are Fritos corn chips with chili sauce on top. Can you believe it? In fact most of the food preferences are in fast food heaven. Might as well turn the school cafeteria into a Mc Donald’s. It practically is anyway.
The clincher for me was this statement in the newsletter that followed the survey results: “The data above represents a slight shift from previous year’s survey’s where healthier selections were voted more favorably in November 2003. This is AWESOME news, as together we’re making small steps in the right direction!!!”
THOSE preferences were healthier? What were the choices in previous years - sugar cubes dipped in lard? I know I’m ranting here but did anyone notice that not one of their “nutrition improvements” were listed in the top ten? Remember, the menu choices are selected based on preferences.
I’ll never understand school nutrition standards. Perhaps the fast food chains are in cahoots with the school dietitians... OK, lets not go there....
On a much brighter note... I asked my 5th grader how many students in his class ate the school provided lunch and he replied, “ About half... but I don’t want to!” Intrigued, I asked him why and he said, “Because that stuff is gross!”
Yippee Ki Yea!! He’s getting it.
And then, a few days later, on his own initiative, he asked me to help him create a couple of highly beneficial breakfast and lunch options that he can prepare for himself. Boy of my dreams. So we sat down together and looked at all the beneficial foods for his blood type (A) and looked at the menu options in both Cook Right and Eat Right. He has his breakfast choices on a menu card and is working on lunch options.
I might never be able to change the face of school nutrition, but I can teach my own what I know to be true. And maybe some of it will rub off where it is most needed...like in the school cafeteria.
The past few days were spent in a blur of meetings. I easily lose my equilibrium when I am running from meeting to meeting, becoming over stressed and off balance. Although my food choices were OK, eating hurriedly on the run is as stressful on my well-being as eating too many avoids. My breathing also becomes off kilter, with way too much “fight or flight” chest breathing and not enough deep, healthy belly breathing, thus creating a state of constant mild hyperventilation.
It got to the point if one more person asked me to do something for them, I thought I’d explode! So I took that as a sign to slow down and recoup. I skipped my morning meeting today - heavenly! and went for a walk instead. Then I came home and took a short nap and rested for awhile. I felt oh so much better! I have just one more rather long but important meeting tomorrow and then nothing next week except a hoity-toity art reception in the middle of the week.
Yes, I am breathing better already.
This past weekend I spent a lovely evening with a group of women friends, many of whom I haven’t seen in years. We were in a women’s group together, and many have since moved away. It was wonderful to hear their journeys through life since we had last gathered, many sorrows and joys and sharing in womanspirit.
Of course, when women gather there is always food. Fortunately, there were many raw veggies to munch on. I did indulge in a couple of the several desserts available - always in abundance at women’s gatherings - and felt good about it. I didn’t enjoy the desserts very much, however. I guess I prefer my own compliant cooking after all.
Waking up this morning feeling like a glutton for punishment, I decide to once again tackle the start of Barr Trail, one of the steepest sections of this famous trail. I left the house well before nine o’clock, thinking that would be in plenty of time to beat the crowds. After all, who wants to hike in the hot sun on a Friday morning at the beginning of a holiday weekend?
Apparently, everyone on the planet.
I had to park far from the parking lot and it was quite a hike just to get to the trailhead.
As I begin the climb, I notice that my legs feel like lead. I couldn’t understand how they could feel so heavy. My mind wandered to reviewing food choices and yes, there it was; I had been at a potluck the night before and although I had a bowl of soup before the potluck, I did have a little bit of bread and spinach dip along with my fruit and cheese. Also, we are experiencing a hay fever season like never before, and I am feeling the stress of all that ragweed pollen in the air. When my allergies are acting up, I do have stronger reactions to even small amounts of avoids. So let the heaviness in my legs serve as a reminder to up my level of compliance through allergy season.
I decide to make a concerted effort not to let my heart rate reach above 160 beats/minute. On the steepest sections of the trail I feel as if I am climbing at a snail’s pace. It was very difficult to not push myself beyond that limit. As I got further up the mountain, I began to feel flutters of panic and when I turn to head back down, I feel moments of definite, utter panic. I realize this trail is not only a physical challenge but an even greater mental challenge.
My nemesis. A beast to be slain.
When I was younger, I thought mountain climbing was for women who could not, or chose not to, experience natural childbirth. I don’t know what it is for men but that’s what I believed it was for women. My first child was born via c-section, my second was an HBAC (homebirth after cesarean). The homebirth was certainly harder on all levels but a much more transformative and complete experience than the hospital birth. And it took me to unknown depths of myself in countless ways. I highly recommend it.
As I was coming down the steepest sections of the trail, I relied on one of the more obvious lessons learned in labor: the only way out is through, one breath at a time. I tend to hold my breath when panicky and I forced myself to breathe through it. I did make it down the trail, shaky legs and all, and once at the bottom, wondered what all the fuss was about. I still don’t know for sure except that this trail, this beast of a trail, is challenging me on many different levels.
Just like homebirth.