Sunday, August 4, 2013

Have Fruit for Breakfast

Incorporate fruit into every breakfast. It's a great way to include those vital servings of fruit and veggies.

Fruit and vegetables are full of nutrients to build health in every way. They are nature's healers. "Fruits and vegetables are full of nutraceuticals, the natural chemicals in plants with pharmacologic action," says Linda Page in Healthy Healing ©2000, page 121.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are also high in water content. I always tell my boys, "Eat water foods." I mean if we're made up of 70% water, I think it's important to replace that and water foods offer a healthful means to do just that.

Whether you love breakfast, or drag yourself out of bed just in time to hop in the car (or to the bus stop) in time for work, you can have fruit for breakfast.

It's just as quick to grab an orange or apple and banana as it is a doughnut or leftover piece of pizza and it's much better for you.

However, if you just 10 to 30 minutes earlier to eat breakfast at home, you can turn an ordinary breakfast at the table into a satisfying moment of self pampering. Instead of an ordinary bowl of oatmeal or yogurt, imagine adding chopped ripe mango, fresh blueberries, dried cranberries or raisins, nuts, flax seeds. . . whatever appeals to you on that particular morning. In this case it's good to spoil yourself. You deserve it, after all, you're up, you're taking responsibilities. So go ahead take care of you. What a treat!

Fruit's bright color satisfies the eyes as well as the palate. The different colors indicate different vitamins too, so include multiple kinds of fruit.

This time of year the local farmer's market is full of berries, peaches and other vibrant fruits. Take advantage of them. . . Have fruit for breakfast.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gleaning Truth at the Core


Focus on your center.” This phrase resounds in yoga classes across the nation. In Yoga, the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, Erich Schiffmann says, “When you experience yourself in stillness…you will experience the conflict-free, calm, dynamic peace of perfectly centered abundant life energy. This exquisite peace deep within you is actually the experience of God, life energy.” 


I’m sure Mr. Schiffmann and I would differ in a number of areas, but in my Christ-centered worldview this is a most powerful statement. He sees God as life energy. So do I. God, in fact created the world through his Word, Jesus. He holds the world together and sustains it. He breathes life into every living thing. He is, in fact, the life energy flowing through each of us. 


Now if this God, that created and sustains us, in whom we have our being, is the center of our life, then when we focus on our center, we focus on Him. We feel His strength at our core and we experience peace. 

Yoga teaches us to be still and quiet our minds. As we do, we will be able to focus on our Lord, our center. At times we may hear His voice, at times we’ll rehearse a Bible passage, and at 
times we’ll just be in His presence.


What a powerful way to rip ourselves from the chaos of our culture and strengthen our spirit—the center of our being. 


It’s also important to strengthen the core of our body. A practice of yoga builds balance, strength and flexibility, all originating at the core. Whether practicing yoga, T'ai Chi or some other form of exercise remember that any strength you have comes from God. Let physical movement be an opportunity for praise. 


If you choose a practice that incorporates non-Biblical, spiritual principles, be wise. Ask the Spirit of God to lead you in truth. Check what you’re learning against Scripture. Take what is true and separate it from untruth. In this way we glean truth in unexpected places and we are awed again by our God, surprised to discover He does not live exclusively in the little boxes of our making. 

”For I purpose not to strip thee of earthly ties and joys but I long to have thee give to Me the center of thy life that My blessing may flow out to the circumference.  For My Spirit moveth not from the circumference to the center, but from the center to the circumference.”

~Excerpt from Come Away My Beloved,
by Frances J. Roberts


Monday, July 8, 2013

Balancing Minerals = A Balancing Act

I've been away from home for two weeks. The first week I, along with a team from our church, participated in an outreach ministry in the Tinderloin district of San Fransisco. It was hard work all day, but very rewarding. We met wonderful people who work in the ministry, people who receive help from the ministry and those who run a local business in the neighborhood because they want to be part of the solution.

By the end of the week my body was spent. I had taken my multi-vitamin along and my thyroid supplements, but the other things I left at home. Getting my body back into the rhythm of life has been a challenge. I realize from reading "Healthy Healing," the section on muscle cramps, spasms and twitches, that I'm probably lacking minerals. Linda Page writes, "Muscle spasms, cramps, twitches and tics are usually a result of body vitamin and mineral deficiencies or imbalances. Most cramping occurs at night as minerals move between blood, muscles and bones." It seemed like I could feel every bit of movement those minerals made as I lay still trying to sleep. "Avoid refined sugars, processed and preserved foods. Food sensitivities to these are often the cause of twitches and spasms," Page notes. She also mentions the need for increased Vitamin C in women.

We can't just take a lot of extra minerals in supplement form because it can be too much for the body to process.

"Minerals must be acquired by food. Our bodies do not make them. Although we would hope we could get them from the foods we eat, today’s diets do not contain the minerals we need even if you are eating a pristine diet. A deficiency of a single mineral can negatively impact the entire chain of life, rendering other nutrients ineffective and useless. What about supplements? Most of them are ineffective because they are not coming in a full spectrum form or from a food form. Many are synthetic and can not be properly digested or absorbed, which lead to even further problems. All minerals work together. When you affect one it affects the other." ~InspiringHealth.net

Good foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, and seafoods will take us a long way in replacing needed minerals.

Good health is such a balancing act, if we tip too far to one side and neglect the other, we lose our balance and can quickly fall. A healthy lifestyle includes deep breathing, plenty of clean water, a healthy diet including the vitamins and minerals we need, and a spiritual discipline as well. So here's a shameless plug for my ebook, which discusses each of these areas in a short, easy-to-read format. "Mid-Life NOT a Crisis" Click for NOOK. And for Kindle.



So, I'm upping my mineral intake along with some Vitamin C and taking much more water. I've also gotten back to my regular diet and begun to exercise again. It's so easy to relax our standards of health when we're out of town!

Here's an informative page about Minerals put out by the US National Library of Medicine, if you're interested in reading more.

What do you do when your muscles twitch, your bones hurt and/or you're just plain exhausted?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Blog Review: Gluten-Free Girl

I found a new blog recently. New to me, but it's actually been around since 2005. It's called "Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef." It's clean pages and bright photos appeal to the eye, but best of all it's full of advice and delicious recipes for eating gluten-free.

If you've just discovered that you have to eat gluten-free the Gluten-Free Girl has a whole page on getting started. She also has how-to videos! How cool is that?

As part of her book promotion, Shauna Ahern (The Gluten-Free Girl) features one recipe from her book that her followers are encouraged to make with her that week. Then they can leave comments or questions for her.

I've just discovered this site and I'm so excited to look around more and learn from Shauna. I've seen her book in the stores and been tempted by it already. Now I'm even more tempted, but I have a planned project to organize and downsize my cookbook and magazine collection, so it'll have to wait. Maybe Gluten-Free Girl can be my reward when I accomplish that goal. Shshsh...don't tell my husband.



In the meantime, I'll be trying her baking mix and other things I can find on the blog sit.


Monday, June 10, 2013

The Protein Myth


Trainers emphasize the urgent need for extra protein when you workout. Many diet plans promote eating a high-protein diet for those trying to lose weight. 
God's original plan for man's diet was a vegetarian diet. It's true He introduced meat into their diet after the flood, but the healthy, human body still needs the majority of their intake to be fruits and vegetables. 
Our soil has been compromised and many of our plant-foods have been modified, so it's important to read labels and seek out organic when possible, however, a high vegetable (as many raw plant foods as possible) diet is still the best for ultimate health. 
Here's what Jessica Jones, MS, RD said. You can find her complete article, The Protein Myth, Why You Need Less Protein, here.
"The take-home message: Before gulping down that protein shake after a workout, or subbing a large steak for carbs and fats at lunch and dinner, calculate your actual needs to make sure the extra protein is really necessary. It's probably isn't."


Here's another article on the dangers of too much protein 
from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine,
entitled, The Protein Myth

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Eat Your Books & Evernote Food

I've been exploring a couple of sites that help store recipes and even cookbooks. I'd like to eliminate some of the papers and magazines I have around my house. I won't admit how many...just know that I have an addiction to food and health magazines.

Eat Your Books will log your cookbooks and magazines. Then you can search to find the volume and/or page number of any recipe you're looking for. It appears that you can search online for new recipes and store them there as well.



Evernote Food keeps all your recipes in notebooks with a comprehensive list of tags (provided by you) with which to find any recipe you need. There is an app for your mobile phone as well. With the app you can also jot down restaurants you enjoyed or save photographs from a special meal or dessert. 





 Both of these are free to begin. Eat Your Books has a small annual fee if you decide to increase the capacity you use. In order to be effective for me, I'd need to pay the fee, but if it organizes and minimizes my clutter, it would certainly be worth the cost!

If you've ever used either of these, please share your experiences here to help me and other readers decide.
Feel free to share any other resources that have helped you as well. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Healthy, French and Gluten-Free

What could be more perfect than healthy, French and gluten-free? Well, the recipes are mostly gluten-free, which is how I eat exactly. So, La Tartine Gourmande, the new cookbook I received for Mother's Day this year is perfect. Her book and blog by the same name are full of beautiful pictures and recipes.

Author/Photographer, Béatrice Peltre grew up in France with a family that enjoyed gardens and food. She has travelled and added to her love for food from other cultures and traditions. She seems to stick close to real food, which is always more healthy.

I absolutely love the recipes I've tried so far and wanted to share this one. My son, who's about to graduate from high school, stayed home long enough to eat breakfast this morning. I tried Peltre's Buttermilk, Lemon, Poppy Seed and Quinoa Pancakes with yummy results.

Makes ten to twelve 4-inch pancakes

1/3 cup white rice flour or sweet rice flour (I just poured some brown rice into my grinder)
1/3 cup quinoa flour
1/3 cup quinoa flakes
1 tablespoons blond cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 pinches of sea salt
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
2 large eggs, spa rated
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more to cook the pancakes

In a bowl, combine the flours, quinoa flakes, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, a pinch of sea salt, poppy seeds, and the lemon zest.

In another bowl, beat the egg yolks (*I confess I didn't read well here and mixed in the whole egg) with the buttermilk. Beat in the lemon extract, if using, and the oil. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

In a third bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of sea salt until soft peaks form. Fold the whites into the batter.

In a frying pan, heat one tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter in the pan and repeat for as many pancakes as the pan can hold. Cook until bubbles form on the surface, then flip the pancakes and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until golden.

Serve the pancakes with warm maple syrup or honey.

*Our pancakes were delicious, but probably would have been lighter if I'd separated the eggs and folded in the whipped whites later as Béatrice suggests.




Monday, May 13, 2013

Jamaica, Sweet Potato Pudding & 25 Years!

My husband and I will be married 25 years tomorrow.

Our church and friends in the community blessed us with a trip to Jamaica a few weeks ago. What an unexpected, wonderful trip. It was relaxing and warm. Snowing in Minneapolis when we left, the comfortable 80 degree weather was more than welcome.

One evening we had dinner at the Jamaican restaurant on the resort. This was our dessert:




I asked our waiter how to make it. He gave me general directions, but no specific recipe. It's very simple and turned out well when I made it at home. 

  • Bake sweet potatoes until soft.
  • When cooled, grate the sweet potatoes into a bowl.
  • Add vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, raisins (optional) and egg (optional).
  • Blend the mixture and spread in a 8 X 8 dish (or 9 X 11 if using more ingredients. You can also pour it into individual dishes)
  • Bake at 350 degrees. It should be stiff, not like a soft pudding.
  • Serve topped with fresh or canned, warmed coconut milk and toasted coconut shavings. (I used canned, organic coconut milk)
The resort was beautiful and the food was delicious. Dan and I relaxed and enjoyed each other along with some Blue Mountain coffee. Our friends got married that weekend at the resort and we celebrated their beginning together along with our many years together. 

Here's a picture of our resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica



Monday, May 6, 2013

Little Foxes and Big Frogs

"It's the little foxes that spoil the vine."

Ever heard this phrase? It refers to the things we might ignore because they're seemingly insignificant but they become destructive left to themselves. 

There are so many applications for this little illustration. I think of the employee that cuts corners on the details to accomplish more of the visible or "important" jobs, then is later dismissed due to carelessness. Or the student who rarely studies and does't bother to turn in small assignments so she can work harder on the large projects, but in the end all those little assignments, averaged against the big one, cost her a scholarship. Or the novelist who didn't take the time to do the research and remains unpublished due to laziness. 

dreamstime.com

We can make it more personal, more eternal. Think of the things we skip every day like reading the Bible because we slept late and only had time for one verse before rushing out the door. Soon more days pass, until we don't even remember we were going to spend time with God. Or the little lie we told at work to keep ourself in the good graces of our boss. The next time we may be willing to overlook a sin that is just a tiny bit bigger. Over time we become hardened to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and no longer hear His wooing. Like Sampson, we don't even realize we've lost our relationship with God and our eternal position. Or the times we felt the need to pray for someone and shot up a quick, "Lord bless them." Later we discover some terrible sin or tragedy that occurred in their lives and we wonder what might've been the outcome if we had prayed as we'd been prompted. 


Another Lesson:

"If you have to eat a frog, don't look at it too long.
If you have to eat a bunch of frogs, eat the big ones first."

dreamstime.com

Here's another illustration. I can't even find who said it, but it teaches us to do first the things we'd rather not do at all. And if there are a lot of things we loathe doing, we should do the worst ones first and get them out of the way. 

The longer we look at a task we don't want to do, the harder it will seem and the longer it will take of our precious time. We lose so much by leaving things we hate hanging over our heads. They rob the things we love because we can't focus on them, knowing the dreaded task still awaits our attention. 

Jesus said, "The Truth will set you free." Obviously He's referring to Himself, but also to any given truth. The truth is, if we do the things we have to do, do them completely and do them quickly, then we'll have time to enjoy the things we love without worry or dread. 

Both of these phrases teach us discipline. This discipline is for our own good. It will free us and prosper us. It will pad our reputation with integrity and prepare us to hear our Savior say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest."

Monday, April 29, 2013

Time Matters

What are the things that matter?


* Time in God's presence

* Time with family

* Time with spouse

* Time with friends

* Time for quiet and just myself

* Taking care of myself physically and spiritually, which takes time.

All this on top of the required time we spend at work or school.

Basically how we use our time is what matters.

I've heard it said, "Look at someone's checkbook and you'll see their priorities." It's true, how we spend our money shows a lot about what we care about. How we spend our time is just as telling.

This Spring, as new life is just beginning, take a few moments to do a time inventory of your schedule. Does your calendar reflect what you believe to be your priorities? Some days we don't have much choice, but over a week or month's time, we should see a good reflection of what's important to us.

Time for my own inventory.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Learning from Lilies: Earth Day

Earth Day is a day to remind each other and ourselves to be good stewards of nature because of all it provides for us. This Earth Day, I'd like to focus on a different aspect of the earth. . . It's ability to teach us.

God is faithful. He is Creator. He designed within nature life lessons. Jesus, himself, used nature to teach spiritual lessons as He did here in Matthew.

I'm learning anew that worry, regret and even striving with all my might do not produce success.

"Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil, nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little Faith!" 
~Matthew 6: 25-30.


He's not saying here that we don't need farmers, we don't need to plant or gather in the harvest. He's saying our hope for the provision of our needs is rooted in our faith in God. He is our provider, our source. So when our human efforts are not enough, which is all of the time, we need not worry because God is the One who will bring forth the result.  

Next Jesus says, "But seek first His [God's] kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

If we occupy our minds with God's purposes in the earth as we go about our daily tasks, God will take care of our needs. We see this truth reflected in the flowers and birds of this earth. 

This Earth Day, let us remember to be good stewards of the earth. To maintain God's creation in the way He made it is honorable and helps all life on earth. And let us also take this opportunity to find God and His purposes as we ponder nature. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

To Jamaica and Back

Today I borrow from my husband's blog, Apprentice2Jesus.com. I couldn't have said it better myself!


I mentioned last week the incredible surprise our church and city gave us for our 15th anniversary as pastors and 25th wedding anniversary.
It was a “there and back” trip that was all too quick, and beyond imagination for us. We are so immensely grateful to everyone who gave so much to treat Terri and I to such a wonderful gift. Every moment (with the exception of coming back to snow on the ground) was simply perfect. We could not have planned or asked for anything more incredible to celebrate these milestones.
We are deeply grateful to our church family, our city family, and our great friends Dave and Carolyn, since it was their wedding we were able to attend!
2013-04-12 08.48.30

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Jamaica & Home-Made Insect Repellent

We have been given a trip to Jamaica for our 15th year as pastors at our church and our 25th wedding anniversary, which is coming up. People from our church, our community leaders and the local clergy fellowship went together to do this for us. We feel so blessed, not only to be going but to have such wonderful friends and community.

We've heard insect repellent is a must. Today it's hard for me to imagine needing bug spray. It's raining and 34 degrees right now. They're predicting snow. But by tomorrow night in Jamaica, I might be glad I have some.

I Googled natural repellents and came up with some very effective essential oils. Lavender came up again and again. So did Citronella and Catnip. So here's a recipe I pulled together from several I found.

Insect Repellent:

Witch Hazel (or other carrier oil)
Eucalyptus Oil
Citronella Oil
Lavender Oil
Choose from Cinnamon, Patchouli or Tea Tree Oils

(other good ones include Catnip, Thyme, Rosemary, Cedar, Mint)

Use 8-10 ounces of witch hazel in a new spray bottle. Use 25-50 drops of essential oils combined. The more you use, the stronger it will be. You can play with the combinations to get the scent and effectiveness that you want.

I also read that you can add a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin (available in natural food stores). I think this would help it to mix a little better and possibly go on better.

Now we can be prepared for Summer, rest assured, it WILL come.



Monday, April 1, 2013

Spinach Pie - A Hit Easter Recipe

On Easter, we usually invite people over for the meal after our church service. Considering all that Christ accomplished for us, it's a good day to be with the body of Christ. I didn't count, but I'm sure we had at least 20. It was busy and fun.

Outside of dessert, I think the favored dish was Spinach Pie, or Spanakopita. Even people who don't like to eat their veggies might like this dish! It's a classic Greek food and not hard to make. I was able to make it the day before and then reheat it just before we ate. I hope you enjoy it too.



Spinach and Feta Pie
(Lund's and Byerly's Real Food, Winter 2009)

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 C chopped onion (2 med-size onions)
3 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach thawed and well drained
4 large eggs
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 C (2 ounces) shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 C toasted pine nuts (*see note) [or walnuts]
1 1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter, melted
8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed

Place a rack in center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft, 3-4 minutes. Spoon cooked onion into a large mixing bowl. Add spinach, eggs, feta and Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and salt. Season with pepper to taste.

Brush a 9-inch glass pie plate with some of the melted butter. Place a sheet of phyllo dough in a pie plate, letting ends overlap side. Brush phyllo with some of the butter. Repeat with 5 more sheets of phyllo, then spoon spinach filling in center of pie plate. Pull edges of phyllo up over filling to almost cover it. Place 1 of the remaining 2 sheets of phyllo on top and brush it with some of the butter. Cover with remaining sheet of phyllo, tucking ends under to form a round. Brush phyllo with remaining butter.

Bake pie until browned all over, 50-55 minutes. Let pie cool for about 20 minutes before slicing.

*Note: To toast pine nuts scatter in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F until golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Shake baking sheet once or twice as pine nuts toast to prevent them from burning.

Note: If you make the pie ahead of time, simply reheat in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes to crisp the top.

May God bless you with the blessings of the Resurrection. The Lord is risen indeed!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Medicine Wheel and the Cross


 I'm editing my novel, working title: Tall Prairie Vision. It's about a daughter of a Native American Chief and an Irish man who comes to the fictional reservation to teach in the school in the hopes of evangelizing them. He learns a lot along the way. Following is an excerpt from the book where the heroine, Little Feather, teaches a group of students the Native meaning of the medicine wheel.


__________________

  “Ancient tribal people built these symbols all over the Americas.” She placed the rocks in a large circle in the middle of the circle of students. “Each medicine wheel has a cross intersecting in the middle and reaching to the edges of the circle.” She spoke slowly as she placed more rocks inside the circle in intersecting lines. Her words sounded like a whisper and nearly entranced Alex as if her voice carried some kind of magic. When she completed the lines in the circle she sat down in the larger circle with the students. Alex faced her on the other side of the circle.    “We’re sitting here all together in a circle, Right?” A number of students nodded their heads. “No one is above or below the other while we’re in this circle.” Alex looked around, confirming her words in his mind. They all sat on the same level. She continued, “In the circle we are equal.”   “The Medicine Wheel represents this equality. All people are represented within the points of the wheel. We each have a place on the wheel and when we work together as a whole we have health and happiness.”   Alex grew nervous with this line of reasoning. He couldn’t argue her logic, but it missed some important aspects of truth. He wanted to hear more. He wanted to understand Little Feather and her tribe and their way of thinking.    “There are many teachings about this wheel, some differences and some similarities among those teachings, but most believe that the points on the wheel represent all the nations of the world. . .

___________________

The medicine wheel has cross beams inside it to support the outer circle. The outer circle represents all people of the world. In my book Little Feather has a vision of Jesus hanging on the crossbeam bleeding. She doesn't know it's Jesus and doesn't understand yet that he died to take away the sins of the world so we can have fellowship together and be equally accepted into God's presence. 

This Holy Week may we remember the One who bore our sins and sorrows. The one who redeemed us and united us in Christ with people from every tongue, tribe and nation. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Recipe for a Gloomy, Snowy, Editing Day

An actual photo from my back deck this morning

It's March 18. The clouds are so thick the sun can't even catch a glimpse of the earth. It's dark for the time and it's snowing like crazy.  Astonishing to think that Spring arrives on Wednesday.

Today I planned to do another edit on my novel. l'm changing the time period to present. I previously had set it in the early 1970s. So what can I do to perk up this day and get me in the mood for a few hours of rewrites?

Tea is always my answer to warm up a cold day or give me that small comfort to nudge me into work. A pot of green tea with orange peel and a little honey sounds perfect.



And something in the crockpot for dinner will allow me to be lazy on this gray day. Following is a recipe from "Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker." I hope you enjoy it too.

Spicy Black Bean Chili
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium-size red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp chili powder, or more to taste
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Two 15.5-ounce cans black beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup water
One 4-ounce can diced green chiles, drained
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cover, and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cook about 30 seconds longer.

2. Transfer the mixture to a 4 or 6-quart slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, beans, water and chilies; season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.

Easy. Now back to work.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Your New Friend: Kefir


By Guest Blogger: Jessiena Luhman
(find Jessiena at her blog. This post linked to Our Heritage of Health, Old Fashioned Friday)

Wikipedia describes Kefir as: a fermented milk drink made from kefir grains, which are a symbiotic culture of yeasts and bacteria.  Kefir grains are packed with: vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, iron, iodine and probiotics. Why are probiotics so important? They help support our immune system by populating it with good bacteria, these little fighters help ward off infections and boost your immune system.
I bet you’ve seen kefir at the market, but here’s why you shouldn’t buy it there: the present factory-produced kefir, the so-called kefir mild, kefir grains are no longer used, but a precise composed mixture of different bacteria and yeast, allowing the flavor to be kept constant. Long story short; don’t believe every label you read. 
If you want to gain all the benefits of kefir, it’s easy to grow at home. So easy, a friend gave me starter grains, explained the general process and within 24 hours I was enjoying my very own kefir. 
What you need:
-A large canning jar, without the seal, sterilized with boiling water. Be sure to heat the jar with hot water first, so the boiling water does not crack your jar.
- A coffee filter, paper towel or piece of fabric to use as a cover, so your kefir can breathe.
- High quality organic milk. You want to feed your new friend the best, so you will get the highest quality benefits.
- A plastic strainer. Metal will kill your kefir starter. If you only remember one thing, remember that metal kills your kefir grains.
- A vessel to store all of your delicious kefir.

So, what do you do with your strange new buddy? Name him, just kidding! But seriously, I named my Ralph. Trudy, Stella or Gladys are also lovely names for your new pal.
When you get your kefir starter, put him in your freshly sterilized, room temperature jar and add milk. Make sure he is covered completely, that is the least amount of milk you should ever use. You can make as much or as little as you want. I drink daily blueberry kefir smoothies, so I fill it almost full.
Once your kefir friend is in its jar and has milk to nosh on, cover it with fabric, secure it and wait for 12-24 hours. I like to set an alarm on my phone, for a time the next day when I know I will be home. It says, "Strain it or Refrigerate it." 
Place your buddy in a cabinet or on the counter and wait.
Making too much kefir, life too busy, or going out of town? Refrigeration presses the pause button on your kefir pal. 
You may also notice your new friend getting too big for his glass britches. Simply remove a section, using a plastic spoon and give it to a friend or save it in the back of your fridge, in a smaller jar with a small amount of milk for him to cozy up in and take a nap. In the event that your original starter goes bad for some reason, you have a backup!
Is that the alarm? Kefir is ready. Check your kefir. Does it look strange? It is probably ready. For a better description, Google ‘homemade kefir,’ there are a lot of excellent resources. Strain your kefir into a vessel, using a plastic spatula; roll your starter friend around to get all of the thick, tasty kefir.
You may notice that your little buddy has a tendency to get a little slimy and thick with kefir, simply rinse him off on occasion with non-chlorinated water or water that has sat on your counter, in open air, overnight. 
Straining complete? 
Rinse your jar out with hot water to create a nice, clean environment for him to grow good bacteria, plop your friend back in, feed him more milk, set your alarm and put him back in his spot on the counter.
Now enjoy your tangy kefir and wait for your new friend to make you some more.
Easy peasy!
Time to get started on your adventure with fermentation!
Your local health food store doesn’t carry kefir starter? Try this great website:
Lots of great FAQs about kefir:
References:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Author, Gina Holmes Interview


Gina Holmes is the founder of Novel Rocket and a PR professional. Her bestselling novels Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain were both Christy finalists and won various literary awards. Her latest novel, Wings of Glass, released February 2013 and has earned a starred review from Library Journal, a Romantic Times Top Pick and a Southern Indie Bookseller's Okra Pick. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her family in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their past and discover their God-given purpose. To learn more about her, visit www.ginaholmes.com.




Your 3rd novel, Wings of Glass, has just released. Tell us a little about it.

I think this is my favorite book so far. Wings of Glass tells the story of Penny Taylor, a young wife who feels trapped and alone in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. Besides her low self-esteem, she feels her Christian faith doesn’t allow for divorce. It’s not until she meets two women—one a southern socialite and the other a Sudanese cleaning woman—that her eyes are opened to the truth of her situation and she begins her journey to healing and redemption.


What made you take on the tough subject of domestic abuse?

As a little girl, I watched my mother being physically abused by her husband and then later, two of my sisters enter abusive relationship after abusive relationship and I thought that would never be me. . . until the day my boyfriend hit me for the first time and I began to make excuses for him. I know the mindset of someone who gets into and stays in an abusive relationship, because I’ve been there myself. It’s taken me years, and a lot of reading, praying, and talking to get to the heart of what brought me and kept me in toxic relationships and I want to pass on some of what I learned that helped me find boundaries and recovery from a codependent mindset and most of all healing.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

It’s my hope and prayer that those who are in abusive relationships will begin to see that the problem lies with them as much as with the abuser. That’s something I railed against when friends suggested it. I wasn’t the one with the problem! I was no doormat who enabled abuse or addiction… or was I?

I also hope that those who have never understood the mindset of victims would better comprehend the intricacies of codependency and be better able to minister to these women and men. And of course I’d love it if young women would read this before they ever enter their first romantic relationship to have their eyes open to how abuse almost always progresses and be able to see the red flags early.

Which of the characters in the novel is most like you and why?

Each of the characters has a little of me in them or vice versa. I think years ago I was more like Penny, though tougher in many regards, at least I thought so. I’d like to think now I’m a little more Callie Mae. Because I’ve lived through what I have and have found healing, I can see in others the path that will lead to healing and the one that will lead to destruction. The difficult part once you’ve found healing is remembering that you can’t do it for others. You can offer advice, but you can’t make anyone take it. Each person has to learn in their own time, in their own way.

Who is your favorite character?

I absolutely love Fatimah. She had such a great sense of humor and didn’t care what anyone thought except those who really mattered. She was really quite self-actualized. She was so much fun to write and I actually find myself missing her presence.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part about being a writer?

Favorite: making my own schedule. I love when I’m feeling bad one day knowing that I don’t have to punch a clock. I can just take the day off and then work harder the next. Of course, there’s a lot of other things I love about writing, like allowing others to consider another point of view that may be far different from their own.

Least favorite: There’s a joke that when you work for yourself you at least get to pick which eighteen hours of the day you want. That’s true. Working from home means I’m always at work. I work from about 7:30 am until about eight at night most days. Under deadline, it’s worse. Truly understanding how much the success of a book rides on the shoulders of the author is a blessing and a curse. Because I get that no one is more invested in the success of my books than me, I put in a LOT of time on the publicity/marketing end of things. It’s tiring but an investment that I think pays off in the long run.


You had written four novels before your debut, Crossing Oceans was published. Do you think those books will ever get dusted off and reworked?

Never say never, but I doubt it. I had considered reworking some but having gone back and re-read them, I realized they weren’t published for good reason. They just didn’t work. Now, there is one story I’m resurrecting characters from for a story I should be writing next, but the plotline is completely different. I started out writing suspensel but as my reading tastes changed, so did my writing tastes. I don’t see myself doing suspense again any time soon.

You’re known for your quirky characters, what inspires you to write these types into each book?

Honestly, I’m a pretty quirky person. The older I get, the more I embrace those quirks. I think everyone is quirky really. As a student of human nature, I pick up on those and like to exaggerate them in my fiction. I also like to surround myself with quirky people. My husband is quirky, my kids are quirky and so are my friends. Often in life, especially when we’re young, we hate about ourselves what makes us different, when really those are the things we should be embracing. Different is interesting. Different is beautiful.

If you could write anything and genre, marketing and reader expectations didn’t matter, what would you write?

Speaking of quirky… I read a book a few years back that was so different that it made me want to try something like that. The book was a big-time bestseller, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. What turned me on about that book were the characters. They were quirky to an extreme. In contemporary women’s fiction, I can get away with a certain amount of quirk. but I’m always having to play it down because it’s so over the top. In a fantasy, you can be as over the top as you dare. I’d love to play around with something like that one day and just let my freak flag fly! Will I? Probably not unless I use a penname. I realize readers have certain expectations and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel mislead. We’ll see. There’s lots in life I want to do but since I only get a hundred or so years (if I’m lucky), time won’t allow for every rabbit hole.

What advice would you have for writers hoping to follow in your footsteps?

My advice would be not to follow too closely in anyone’s footsteps. Yes, there is a certain path all writers find themselves on. There are certain things that we must all do like learning to write well, figuring out platform, going to writers conferences to meet the gatekeepers and figure out the way things have to be formatted and submitted and all that sort of thing. But it’s okay to veer off the path too and forge your own. There are those who have self-published who have found great success.

There are those who have written about subjects that they were told no one wanted to read about and found success. It’s smart to figure out what others have done before you to make them successful, but alter the formula to suit your needs and passions. It’s okay to be different, in fact, I think great success and maybe even happiness depends upon it. And by all means, read Novel Rocket.com and leave comments. It helps not only encourage those authors who have taken the time out of their day to teach us, but it also connects you to the writing community. Community is important. 


From the best-selling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of adulthood, eighteen-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny's happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn't the last, yet the bruises that can't be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.



Monday, February 25, 2013

T'ai Chi and Happy New Year

Recently my husband and I along with a couple of friends attended the Chinese New Year celebration at the Twin Cities T'ai Chi Ch'uan studio in St. Paul. My T'ai Chi instructor, Julie Cisler, is very involved there and participated in some of the performances.


T'ai Chi is a Chinese martial art, which is very beneficial for health, strength and focus. It is the only martial art that can be continued late in life, some have even kept up the discipline through their nineties. 

Here's what Dr. Andrew Weil said about T'ai Chi in his blog today:

"Another option [to strengthen the core] is tai chi, a gentle form of movement, perfect for those with osteoarthritis or other musculoskeletal impairments [as well as the rest of us]. It can build core strength and musculature of the lower limbs, as well as improve posture, balance, flexibility, and mobility. Tai chi can also facilitate relaxation and focus even while executing the moves. And it synchronizes the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, helping to develop concentration and coordination and so reducing risk of falls."

T'ai Chi is varied and keeps your interest. There is enough to learn that you really can keep learning for 40-60+ years. After learning the solo form you can also learn the two person form, which demonstrates how the postures would work in an actual conflict with another person. You may also learn the sword form, fan form and spear form, which are all very cool and beautiful. 

This is my instructor, Julie, demonstrating one of the postures in the solo form. 

Chinese New Year was February 10 this year, so our celebration was a little late, but . . . HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Here's to Your Success

Do you feel successful?

To answer that we need to know what success means to our individual life.

Off the top of my head, my answer is: I'd like to know I follow the plans God has for me and that I'm pleasing Him along the way. I'd like to use fiction writing and my interest in natural things to generate income. I'd like to earn enough money so that my husband and I could travel and visit family on a regular basis. I'd also like to be involved in our local community.

What does success look like to you?

Discovering your deepest, most valued goals takes time, time to think, ponder and pray. Here's where we Americans lock ourselves in a "no-success" closet. We rush through our day trying to check off as many things from our to-do list as possible. We rush through our meals, wishing food could be faster, then run to our evening activities. Finally we plop into bed and set the alarm to begin again.

If we don't schedule quiet time for prayer, meditation and just plain thinking, we'll never discover our real goals. Without this quiet time, we can't create either. It takes time to develop new ideas.



Try this exercise: Find a quiet place in the house where you won't be disturbed for at least 20 minutes. Sit comfortably. Breath slowly, allowing your breath to go deep into your abdomen. Think about the sounds around you for a moment. Now block out those sounds and think about your breath, slow and deep. Next focus your thoughts on an aspect of God's character, or on an idea you'd like to develop. Ask God to bless your thoughts and give you insight. Don't push your mind to hurry and come up with all the answers. Just relax. Breath. Ponder.

Once you decide what you really want, then you must make judgements about every opportunity that comes your way. This means saying "No." That one little word will enable your success more than any other single word or act. Read the last two sentences again. . . Ponder that!

You have to say "No" to everything that does not directly or indirectly feed your goals.

Another thing that increases creativity and productivity is allowing time for the basic necessities of life. We need to schedule time in our day to brush our teeth, bathe, clean house, organize our papers, pay the bills, check our emails, etc. (Be careful not to get sucked into Google search-land while on the computer. #1 Time-waster). These are the things that can bog us down and halt our creativity and thought life if we let them get out of control. And please don't forget sleep, water, and proper nutrition. Without these our brain doesn't function at optimal capacity.

It really is okay to take care of yourself.

So, to sum up:
1. Schedule time to pray and think. Use breathing exercises to help you relax and focus.
2. Decide on your goals
3. Say "No" to those things that don't fit in with your goals.
4. Keep up on the basics: neatness, cleanliness, exercise, drinking water, eating healthy food and sleeping.

Success isn't the biggest house with the most/best stuff in it. Success ins't working 60+ hours a week or even having the most prestigious title at the company. Success is accomplishing your own personal goals, while maintaining good relationships with those you love (first of all God), and enjoying good health along the way.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Brain Power Enough to Heal?

I recently read an article about the effect placebos have on healing. "The Nothing Cure,Whole Living, Dec. 2012, cites studies that found the placebo to offer healing results as well as the medication being tested. This has led to more research on the effect of placebos and the power of the brain to heal the body.

"Even the ancients knew what powerful healers our beliefs could be, and for centuries medical training included instruction on placebo tactics to aid patients when nothing else seemed to work," the article states. Research is proving it, and now some say placebos could be our best option against illness.

"In humans, a strong belief in a remedy's effectiveness may produce even better results" (than the medication alone), says Bruce Barrett, M.D., a leading cold researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.



This idea is fascinating to me in light of a few verses in the Bible. (The following scripture are taken from the Common English Bible translation)

Mark 11:24: "Therefore, I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you will receive it and it will be so for you."

James 1:2-8: "My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking nothing. But anyone who needs wisdom should ask god, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. Whoever asks shouldn't hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways."

John 11:40: "Jesus replied, 'Didn't I tell you that if you believe, you will see God's glory?'"

James 5:15: "Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven."

Biblically we can easily argue the importance of believing and not being "double-minded." When our mind is divided, we accomplish nothing; sickness and depression have an open door.

I believe God heals supernaturally at times. And I believe God created gifts of healing for us to use in nature. Yet, He also created our minds, and He created us in His image, with minds that can create. How like Him to give us the ability to enhance His natural healing gifts with this ability to believe.

What are your thoughts about the mind's ability to heal?