Monday, September 14, 2009

Smoothie Recipe #1

I just realized that the Green Smoothie Challenge I wrote about is almost over! It ends September 17. Well, that went by quickly. I actually have to say it hasn't changed my habits much from normal. I ate a couple of "Joe-Joe's" (Trader Joe's version of Oreos) and other things with white sugar over the past month, just occasionally, and I'm okay with that. I had a green smoothie for breakfast almost every day, but not quite. I ate a green salad for lunch or dinner almost every day, but again, not 100%. And I exercised almost every day as I usually do, doing 3- or 4-mile runs for the most part. It was fun to do the challenge, and I came up with a few new smoothie "recipes."

Here's what I made this morning:

2 T. chia seeds, soaked overnight in 1+ cup of water
2 T. peanut butter
1 frozen banana
3-4 c. fresh spinach
2 T. psyllium seed husks

It was delicious! The peanut butter flavor could have been a little stronger, though, so if you're not worried about the calories, you could add another tablespoon or so.

If you're curious about chia seeds, here's one article I've found that details the health benefits. In short, they are a complete protein, a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, a good source of B vitamins, a great source of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, and a good source of fiber. When you soak chia seeds in water, they acquire a gel-like consistency. I like them in smoothies, or mixed in with my oatmeal. I'm looking forward to trying new ways of eating them, too -- I'm relatively new to the chia thing, having only gotten my first order in the past month. I ordered mine from a seller on, by the way - it was the best price I found.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Health Care and the S.A.D.

Just wanted to share a few links I've found interesting lately, mostly on the topics of wellness, healthcare, and food.

Most of you probably saw John Mackey's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal back in early August. If you didn't already read it, I suggest reading his original, un-edited version. Mackey lays out eight clear steps to government health care reform. He also suggests greater personal responsibility for health and preventable illness, pointing out how the American diet is responsible for such an overwhelming percentage of disease. As the CEO of Whole Foods, he's certainly made a lot of liberal foodies more than a little annoyed, and many are currently boycotting Whole Foods because of Mr. Mackey's opinions on the subject. I suppose it was to be expected that stating that health care is not a basic human right would be sure to get people riled up.

"Many promoters of health care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care-to universal and equal access to doctors, medicines, and hospitals. While all of us can empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have any more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have an intrinsic right to food, clothing, owning their own homes, a car or a personal computer? Health care is a service which we all need at some point in our lives, but just like food, clothing, and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually-beneficial market exchanges rather than through government mandates. A careful reading of both The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter, because there isn’t any. This "right" has never existed in America."

Michael Pollan also weighed in on the health care reform issue, suggesting that the biggest problem isn't just the health care system; what really needs to be addressed is the Standard American Diet and the government subsidies within agriculture (corn, soy, etc.) that often affect what Americans can readily afford to eat.

For other news on the health-and-wellness front, check out this USA Today article pointing out that 60% of adults can't digest milk. Yep. Since becoming a vegetarian back in February, I've found myself leaning more and more towards the "human milk is for baby humans, and cow milk is for baby cows" viewpoint, finding it increasingly odd that the human species relies on dairy for a sizable percentage of food intake. (Not that I ever liked cheese or milk!) Of course, some call my viewpoint on this issue "propaganda," but then take the "Got Milk?" commercials in stride without a second thought - of course cow's milk is part of a healthy diet. What?

The American Heart Association made waves by suggesting that women limit their added sugar intake to no more than 6 tsp. a day, and for men, 9 tsp. Quite a reduction from the average, which this article says is 22 tsp. per day!

For those calorie-counters who say, "A calorie is a calorie - who cares if it's from a potato chip or an apple?", here's an interesting article that delves into the science of that very issue. It's not the sort of thing you can skim - I found myself really having to think about each thing the author was saying.

That's all the linkiness for now!

By the way, I still love being a vegetarian. I was chatting with Nathan this evening about how my mindset has changed in the past seven months. I'm gaining a new perspective on how I view food as I think more about where my food has come from, and in some cases, at what costs. I told Nathan I find it interesting that some use words like "extreme" when describing my decision not to eat meat, when I, in my current frame of mind, view my dietary choices as exactly the opposite of extreme. Factory farming seems extreme to me. Almond butter, fresh-picked fall apples, medjool dates, avocados, spinach, hummus, ak-mak crackers, pita bread, sweet potatoes, squash, savory beans... mmm, these things are delicious simplicity.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Yesterday I gave a first violin lesson to a five-year-old girl named H, a beautiful child with wide blue eyes and a short-cropped pixie haircut.

The child's mother had - there's no better way of putting it - "warned" me rather cautiously over the phone prior to the lesson. She's quiet, she's shy, she has developmental delays. She had a "kindergarten assessment" and a psychologist recommended that she get involved in music. She has a hard time focusing. She has "issues." She has "problems."

I really didn't know what to expect when H. walked through my door yesterday, tiny violin case in hand. What I discovered was a charming child who quickly became at ease with me, giggling at my little jokes and standing near enough to rest her hand on my knee as we talked and learned about the violin together. She eagerly asked questions and willingly participated in each task or activity I offered. When her attention briefly waned (altogether normal for every five-year-old I've ever known), a quick change of direction in the lesson brought her back into sharp focus. When her enthusiasm bubbled over, her words ran together and became a bit jumbled - nothing a gentle, "Try saying that a little bit slower" couldn't fix.

So far, she's taken to the violin like a duck to water. None of the stiff, tense fingers some kids have; her hands are malleable and held the bow quite nicely. She breezed through a little game involving oft-confusing commands such as "touch your violin shoulder with your bow hand," "touch your bow elbow with your violin hand," etc. After ample repetitions and lots of encouragement, she was playing a simple rhythm on her E-string right in between her bow tapes, holding the violin with beautiful posture and the bow with soft, natural fingers each in their proper place.

The two of us, I think, had a wonderful time together. There's something quite special about her, and I don't mean that at all in the sense that the "education professionals" seem to be saying it. I just think she's H, curious and sweet, uniquely herself, and altogether delightful. Just one lesson with her, and I completely love her.

At the end of the lesson, H's mother seemed overjoyed. She exclaimed "You're wonderful with her!" and thanked me several times, expressing that she thought violin would be the perfect activity for H.

Oh, I don't say this to "toot my own horn" at all. While the mother's enthusiasm certainly made me happy, I mostly felt a little sorry for her - sorry that H. had to be "assessed" and then labeled as somehow deficient or abnormal, sorry for the stress and worry it had obviously created in this family, sorry that little H. will no doubt pick up on these conversations and feelings amongst her family if she hasn't already. Sorry that it had to be a surprise to H's mother that someone would be "good with her" and enjoy working with her so much. Sorry that every teacher H. encounters in the future won't have, as I had, 30 minutes of one-on-one time at her disposal each week to focus solely on H. and get to know her for the fun little person she is.

There are certainly cases and scenarios in which a family can find comfort and empowerment through a name for a genuine disorder; cases where this provides direction and a great deal of help to a family. But I'm pretty sure that there's altogether too much labeling of young children going on.

My favorite label is a name, and if the child wants to add a comma and the word "violinist" to the end of his or her name, well, my happiness is complete.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Should I Be Offended?

I'm not sure which is weirder, the fact that Nathan jokingly calls his earmuffs "marriage enhancers," or the fact that I think it's hilarious that he does so.


I want to crawl right through the computer screen and eat this Indian food.

I think I'll be trying some new recipes soon!