Thursday, May 30, 2013

Candle Man-Town

I admit it, I love Yankee Candles.  I burn them daily in almost every room of the house.

There is a Yankee Candle outlet in the Berkshires, where I used to go with my parents, and my Dad and I loved going there and bringing back a whole array of scented delights.

These trips were the bane of my poor mother's existence, because the smell of those candles makes her sick.

I, however, love them.  I especially love the warm holiday-type fragrances that have a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg in them.  And there's a Sage & Citrus that is absolutely delicious.  I used to love the Hazelnut Coffee, too, but it started to make me crave crullers too much, so I had to stop burning that one.

They often come out with new seasonal scents, and I look forward to whatever new concoctions they create.  But recently, they have developed a new line that has me scratching my head.

It's called Man Candles, Manly Scented Candles.  I kid you not.  Thus far, the scents include Mmm, Bacon,  Movie Night, First Down, Man Town, and Riding Mower.

Again, I'm not kidding.

I always thought that the purpose of scented candles was to obliterate the smell of, say bacon, or popcorn, or, you know, man.

What does First Down smell like? Football-player butt-crack?  Sweat sock?  Jock strap?  How about Riding Mower, does that smell like oil and gasoline?

And how about Man-Town?  That's the scariest one of all.  I shudder to think what a Man Town would smell like.  Cigars?  Man Town sounds like a gay bar, which makes the whole notion of what it would smell like even more horrifying.

Why don't they just make one that's called Hairy Armpit, or Fart?  We all know that's probably what Man Town would smell like anyway, don't we?

If these are the manly candles, what would the womanly candles be called?  PlacentaBaby poopSummer's Eve Barefoot and Pregnant?

No matter how hard Yankee Candle tries, I'm not sure it's ever possible to make a candle manly.

I mean, can you see a group of guys gathering at someone's house to watch a game, or play poker, and the host saying to one of his friends: "Hey, Biff, grab me a beer, and light the Fart candle, would ya?"

Well, he might, I guess, if it was a fart candle.

They love that kind of thing in Man Town.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

It's In There

In my last blog email, I included a yummy smoothie recipe, and I thought what might be fun would be to look at the ingredients in said smoothie and see what each of those ingredients is doing for your body.

I find it nice sometimes to think of what my body is getting out of what I eat, and it often helps me decide whether or not to eat it.

To refresh, the smoothie recipe was as follows:

3 cups almond, soy, rice or other milk
1 cup frozen mango
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup yogurt of your choice
2 tablespoons almond or cashew butter
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave
dash of cinnamon
5 kale leaves, stems removed
large handful spinach

Put everything in a blender and whip it up good!

OK, so what've we got? (Much of this info is from The Juice Master by, Jason Vale)

MILKS:  Often fortified with calcium, which is good for bone health.  Though I have learned recently that calcium can interfere with iron absorption, so I opt for an almond milk without calcium added.
MANGO:  Source of vitamins B and C (good for brain and nerves, growth of body tissues, healthy skin and vision, boosts immune system, neutralizes free-radicals, aids absorption of calcium and iron), beta-carotene (antioxidant, cardiovascular health, boosts immune system), flavonoids, potassium (aids muscle and nerve function, helps maintain normal blood-sugar levels, helps control blood pressure), antioxidants and magnesium (important for healthy bones and teeth, helps transmit nerve impulses).
BLUEBERRIES:  anti-bacterial, antiviral, disease-fighting, anti-aging.
YOGURT:  calcium, friendly bacteria for healthy gut.
ALMOND BUTTER:  Nuts are great sources of protein and heart-healthy fats. Great, long-lasting energy.
CACAO:  raw cocoa powder loaded with antioxidants and iron.
MAPLE SYRUP OR AGAVE:  Lower-glycemic sweeteners
CINNAMON: wonder-spice which helps regulate blood sugar, reduce bad cholesterol, fight infection, reduces pain linked to arthritis, may reduce proliferation of cancer cells.
KALE:  Beta-carotene, calcium, Vitamins A & C, chlorophyll, folic acid (helps blood cells, helps prevent birth defects, helps fight anemia), iron (helps produce hemoglobin which carries oxygen around the body), phosphorous(building block for proteins, carbohydrates and fats).
SPINACH:  Anti-cancer, memory aid, antioxidant, anti-anemia.

Not bad for one beverage, huh?  Drink your smoothies, friends, your body will thank you!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Got Milk?

My dog woke me up this morning by barking and then pooping on the floor.  Poor guy, he's obviously sick, and he was so distressed and upset that he'd lost control in the house like that, that he spent the next minutes glued to our sides, tail between his legs, as if trying to make sure that we knew how sorry he was.

I bring this up not to be disgusting (well, not ONLY to be disgusting), but because any time he gets sick like this, which doesn't happen often, I worry that it's my fault.

A while back, I started making his dog food, which he eats raw.  And even though incidents, according to my vet, in which dogs become ill from eating fresh raw meat and eggs is extremely rare, I still worry that my food is what is making him sick, and I feel terribly guilty.

This leads me to think about his food, and the quality of meat and veggies I feed him, and how strongly I feel about not feeding him crappy processed dog food because I want him to live forever.

And this leads me to think about what I put in my own body, and leads me to wonder how I can be so careful about feeding my dog whole, natural foods, while very often I don't take the same care with my own diet and body.

I am a smart person, and I know that processed foods and excess sugar and salt are not good for me, so why do I so often crave them?  Why am I relentlessly tempted by breakfast cereals and bbq chips?

The answer is, really, because it's a conspiracy.  Walk into any major supermarket, and you will be awash in processed foods.  It is overwhelming.  There is the one produce section, and then, really, everything else is processed.  Even the meats.

I looked at a package of ground turkey recently, and noticed that it had "added flavorings".  What added flavorings are they putting in plain ground turkey?  Why would they do that?  What is wrong with the way the meat tastes naturally?

Food is a multi-billion dollar industry.  Our foods are designed by teams of scientists, and engineered to make us crave them, and need desperately to come back for more, and more and more.  These foods are designed with salt, sugar and other chemicals to literally create an addiction of sorts, to ensure that we continue to spend our money on them.

How can I, one small, sugar-lovin' lady, compete with that?  I'm only human after all.

The amazing Kris Carr, about whom I will talk more another time, said something like "If the food is engineered in a lab, it needs to be digested in a lab", not in our bodies.

It's an interesting notion.

These food-engineering feats are insidious, and these same addictive ingredients seem to be in everything.  Store-bought bread, tomato sauces, salad dressings, all contain sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, salt and often MSG.  Why???

Because our bodies will crave more of the same later, and we will go out and buy more of the foods that contain these items.

I find it difficult not to feel utterly betrayed.

Because ultimately, it's all about making someone else rich.  The food industry makes money off of me stuffing my face and getting fat and unhealthy, the diet industry makes billions by making me hate myself for stuffing my face and getting fat, and the health-care and pharmaceutical companies make a fortune off of my being sick from stuffing my face and getting fat.

And in all of these instances, the bottom line is that none of these industries actually give a shit about any of us.  They manipulate us emotionally, physically, and chemically, and they do it all so that they can get richer and richer.

Believe me, no matter what they say, these industries do not want anyone to return to a whole-food, natural diet, because if everybody did that, all of these industries would collapse.

So here, folks, have some salt, sugar, corn syrup and MSG!

One of the most compelling examples of the insidious tainting of our food comes courtesy of Jamie Oliver, who, at the TED awards, talked about (among other things) chocolate milk, served in schools, marketed to children.

These cartons of milk have sugar and added flavorings, and he estimates that children who have school breakfasts and lunches drink two cartons of this milk a day.  This gives them 8 tablespoons of sugar per day.

In a rather dramatic illustration of how much sugar this daily amount adds up to over 5 years of school, he dumped a wheelbarrow full of sugar on the stage, and reminded the audience that this was 5 years of sugar from MILK ONLY.

(Jamie Oliver might not be everybody's cup of tea, but it is worth watching his speech.)

Now, I love sugar, and I'm not sure I could ever cut it out of my diet altogether, but, as with most things, moderation is key.  But how can we possibly have a fighting chance at moderation when sugar is appearing in foods and drinks that have no business being sweetened?  It's like being behind before you've even started.

I bought a cookbook recently called Nourishing Traditions, and I'm sure I'll mention it more in another post, but one of the things it brought to my attention was how so much of the processed foods in supermarkets are made of things that are unpronounceable,  and often, unrecognizable.

How much of our food is food?  Do we always know what we're actually eating?

This book does sort of a "name-that-food" feature, in which they provide the ingredients, and leave the reader to try and guess what the food is.

Want to try one?

Water, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, mono-and diglycerides, soy protein, sodium stearoyl lactylate, dipotassium phosphate, polysorbate 60, sodium acid pyrophosphate, salt, artificial flavor, colored with betacarotene.

OK, what is it?

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Dark Side of Juicing

Yes, there is a dark side to's called a beet.

Beets are hard-core.  Seriously, vicious.

I'm not exaggerating.  They will kick your ass.  Into next year.

They are dangerous.  I think they might actually be Satan in vegetable form.

I'm now afraid to open my crisper, because I know.  There are.  Beets.  In.  There.

I have had prior, fairly pleasant experiences with beets, both roasted and pickled.

Except, to be honest, that one time when I ate a whole dish of grains and roasted beets with beet juice, and the next day terrified myself with a bright red poop which made me think I was dying, until I remembered the festival of beets I had eaten the night before.

But never before had I juiced a beet.  Listen to me.  Save yourself.  Don't do it.

I am trying to boost my iron intake, and the first iron supplement I took made me almost puke in the shower, so I decided to try and increase my iron levels with food, if possible.

Beets are supposed to be a good source of iron, so I thought, what the hell, I like beets, let's give it a go!

The first recipe we tried called for 2 beets, and since the ones we got at the market were small, I decided to use about 6.

Steve texted me the next morning and told me to take it easy with the beet-juice concoction, since he had felt really sick for a while after he'd drunk his.  Steve has an iron stomach, so for him to say something made him feel sick should have been a giant flashing warning light to me.  I drank about 2 sips and decided to get rid of the rest, just in case.

This morning, because we still had beets left, i decided to try again, this time with fewer beets.  I used 2 small beets, plus a bunch of carrots, some apples and pears.  It tasted delicious, and i thought the beet juice was diluted enough to not cause any issues.

Cut to me spending the next hour in and out of the bathroom, almost puking in the shower yet again, and then getting in bed for half the day.

This was very exciting for the dog, who happily jumped up on the bed next to me, and then spent the next hour and a half systematically and incrementally (while pretending to be asleep) pushing me all the way to the edge of the bed until I could no longer turn over without falling out.

I spent a bit of time after that doing some research on beets, and here is what I learned (all according to The Cancer Nutrition Center):

Beet juice is super-detoxifying, and can dump too many toxins into the liver, more than the liver can successfully process, causing a person (me) to feel ill.

It can paralyze your vocal chords. Why, I do not know.  Presumably to prevent a person from crying out for help.  This is very important in the service of beet-domination.

Beets have a strong effect on gut motility and the lower intestinal tract.  This is what can cause a person (me), to poop out everything she has eaten since the sixth grade after consuming them.

They are strong medicine, and can cause vomiting and general weakness.

They can cause redness of the stool and urine.  This actually has a name "Beeturia", I kid you not.  But don't worry, the site reassures, this does not mean you are bleeding internally.

Not yet anyway.

You will be soon, though, if the beets have their way.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An Apple a Day...

Let's for a moment talk about bad doctors.
Because they are out there.

And this week I went to one.

I have been very lucky in my life to, for the most part, have had very good doctors.

There have, of course, been a smattering that were not so great, but this one the other day takes
the cake.

She is not my usual internist, she is filling in for my doc who is on maternity leave. 
Normally, i would just have waited for my regular doc to come back from her leave, but I wanted to talk to someone about my anemia and come up with an action plan.

Right from the start, this new doc seemed to not really be sure what was going on.  She spent more time hunched over her computer screen than she did talking to me.

She looked at my blood work results, barely asking me any questions.

She then kindly suggested that my anemia could be caused either by dietary insufficiency, or by internal bleeding.

Yup, that's right, internal bleeding.  She then asked me if there was a history of colon cancer in my family.

She then went out of the room to do something, God knows what, ask one of the nurses what her own name was and how to use a door-knob maybe.

Then she walked back in and asked if i ever take antacids.  Now, one of the first things most doctors
do is ask what medications people take.  She never bothered, nor did she look at my chart, because if she had she would have seen everything I'm taking, one of which is a daily pill for my acid reflux.

But no, I think she missed that day at medical school, along with the day when they taught bedside manner and taught that maybe you don't want to right away suggest to your patient that they might have colon cancer.

She also went on to tell me all the medical risks of one of the other pills I take, including blood clots, heart attack and breast cancer.

So in the span of about 5 minutes, she's given me a heart attack and two different forms of cancer.
Nice work, doc.

I left her office feeling like my head was on backwards, wondering what the hell had just happened.

I am seriously amazed that this woman was allowed to graduate from medical school.  Come to think of it, i don't know for sure that she did.

Either way, I'm never going back to her, nor is Steve, so in one afternoon, she cost the woman she's subbing for two patients.

It reminded me that good medical care is not a given, and that whenever possible, we should never be afraid to demand or seek out better care for ourselves and our loved ones.

So I've made an appointment with a different doctor at another practice.  We'll see.

In the meantime, I'll have another apple, please.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Real Thing

This morning started with a smoothie made from pineapple, cucumber, cilantro, coconut water, agave and vanilla.  Yum.

The cilantro came from the farmer's market, and let me say, if you haven't had really good fresh cilantro, you are missing out.  This stuff was insanely, headily fragrant.  It bore almost no resemblance to the limp, insipid stuff I've been getting at the regular market.

I admit I am a bit behind the times with the whole farmer's market thing.  Sadly, I tend to dislike most of them, because they always seem to be full of very rich, entitled, superior people waving around their all-natural hemp bags, which they had made for them personally by some poor kid in Guatemala.

I wind up wanting to do bad things around these people, like wave around a lot of plastic bags, shouting that they're non-compostable, or talk about how much I hate polar bears and ice, and how I'm so happy to have just bought my fifth SUV, which I enjoy idling for hours in the driveway, while spraying aerosol cans out the window.  All, of course, while wearing a gigantic, Aretha Franklin-style fur coat.

But recently, Steve and I discovered a great farmer's market about a mile from our house.  It was small, not too crowded, and seemed to be populated by mostly normal people. There were food trucks, and live music playing, and people were dancing and having a good time.

We bought some wonderful organic produce, to boot. Gorgeous ripe strawberries that tasted like candy, super-sweet carrots, the lovely cilantro, dark green kale, loads of apples.  It was pretty fantastic.  And about 1/4 the price of Whole Foods.

One of the things we realized is that the fruit and veg we have been eating from the grocery stores, (even the good stores), bear no actual resemblance to the product that comes right out of the ground or off a tree.  The real thing may not look as pretty as what you get on the market shelves, but boy oh boy, does it taste dynamite.

The main thing I need to pay attention to is getting more iron in my diet.  I could try an iron supplement, but I've read that they can cause nausea and constipation, both of which are the last things I need in my life.

If i get any more constipated, I'll be pooping pellets, so, no thanks.

I will try to do it through food first.

Liver, anyone?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

That Juice is CRAAAZY!!

This morning Steve and I made a juice from kale, romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, kiwi, cucumber and apples.

The recipe stated that this juice was particularly good for liver-detox.

I don't know what exactly was going on with that juice, but it made me feel very strange.  Sort of light-headed, and dizzy.  I swear I could feel it doing something to my insides.

I called Steve and he said he felt strange too, kind of high.  Like he wanted to go run around.

I couldn't decide if i wanted to go out and conquer the world or just lie down.

Maybe it was all that extra LSD I added.

It did make me think of how potent plants are, even everyday salad greens that I tend to ignore.

My blood work came back.

My cholesterol is a little high, which doesn't surprise me.
My blood sugar is fine.

The biggest issue seems to be that I am very anemic.  This is not uncommon in women, and I have always been a bit anemic, but now it seems to be getting worse, so I need to start focusing on ingesting more iron-rich foods, like beans, dark, leafy greens, seaweed, and of course, blood.

Being an anemic vampire is really embarrassing. What will all the other vampires say?