March 23, 2015

It’s March. It’s Madness. It’s Teamwork at its Best!

TWC Arena
It’s March. It’s Madness. A friend and I recently went to visit my sister, eat with Chef Matt McClure, and watch some college basketball. At one point, my friend spent a long, quizzical moment staring at my sister, my brother-in-law and me. I guess I understand why. We were standing in the middle of a world class art museum surrounded by walls full of art, and we were talking basketball. Yep, that’s how we roll – especially in March. We just can’t help it.
Art
Of course we’re not alone. Your house may have been taken over by the madness of brackets, hoops, balls, and the cheers of the Big Dance. It happens. Amidst all the craziness, there’s sometimes a bit of Magic and always lots of lessons worth remembering.
magic johnson
March Madness is a series of battles on the court. The teams that win are always the ones that:
• Are strong and fit from their regular training program
• Remain aware of the position of all the players on the court
• Pay attention to the advice of the coach
• Stay aware of the time on the clock
• Play with heart
• Assist each other
• Rebound
• Tune out the circumstances and play their game
• Pass to the open man
• Foul only when necessary
• Never stop playing hard until the final buzzer
• Play as a team
• Believe they can win

coach k
Did you happen to notice that everything on this list also contributes to winning in life?

It is clear by the clapping and yelling I saw yesterday that an NCAA basketball crowd recognizes moments of great teamwork. I’m grateful that we have this sort of competition to remind us that teamwork can lead us to greater success than we can possibly achieve on our own.

I hope we will carry that awareness with us into our homes and places of work after the championship game. Perhaps it will help us as spouses, parents, and work team members to remain aware that:
• Each player brings value to the team
• All roles are essential to reach the desired outcome
• Each player needs to play hard when they’re on the court
• Each player needs to rest and regroup off the court
• When a player has an off day, the rest of the team can take up the slack
• The decisions we make affect the whole team
• Leadership brings strategy that moves the team past its obstacles
• It is good to acknowledge a great play
• All players need encouragement
• Not every player can be expected to go on to the next level
• Teams of character play by the rules

My team has already lost this year, but that hasn’t kept me from cheering on other teams. I know that we’ll have another opportunity. And that’s another great thing to remember. Some days we lose the battle, but there’s always another opportunity!

duke2
Keep playing hard and with heart until the final buzzer! That’s what I call thriving.

March 15, 2015

Willpower is Not the Solution for Improving Your Health aka Just Say Yes!

Willpower is not the solution for improving your health, so you can stop torturing yourself! This feels like great news to me!

How does it feel for you to let go of the idea that you can force yourself through sheer will to improve? Do you feel your shoulders relax, your breath come easier, a sense of freedom and ease wash over you? That’s how I experience it. I’d probably use the word relief to describe the feeling or maybe just the expression ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Using willpower to overcome something sounds really difficult. In fact, say the word and I immediately feel my jaw clench and my chest tighten. I notice clouds of annoyance and anger roll in. I feel an immediate desire to push back or, if you know me you might say, rebel. This is how I feel IMMEDIATELY. With the introduction of the concept of willpower, I have added an obstacle. So now I have two obstacles — whatever I am attempting to change PLUS my desire to rebel against using willpower to make that change. Attempting to use willpower to make positive change has the immediate effect of reducing the possibility that I will succeed.

Anecdotal evidence supports this observation. UCLA researchers who reviewed a number of studies on weight loss found that over 83% of dieters end up regaining more weight then they initially lost. Other studies indicate more than 80% of those who lose weight on a diet gain it back.

I think all of us know that it’s no fun to white-knuckle ourselves through anything and the notion of using willpower alone to conquer our foibles most often leads us into constant battle with ourselves. When we use our energy in a war with ourselves, it leaves less energy available to experience and create calm, peace, beauty, joy, wonderment, gratitude, encouragement, and love — the very things we say we want more of. It also prevents us from embracing, acknowledging, and honoring our best selves because we’re focused on our struggle and our failures.
clouds
So how do we get those storm clouds to roll out of our psyches and make room for the blue sky of ahhhhhhhhh, relief?

It’s fairly simple really. We have to stop ignoring the obvious. The reason I feel angry if you tell me I’m not where I want to be in some area because of a lack of willpower is that I know it’s not true. I have tons of willpower and I use it every single day. I say no to the most scrumptious looking chocolate cake if it’s not gluten-free. I floss my teeth every night even though I don’t particularly enjoy it. I don’t buy every adorable pair of shoes that I want. I stand in line at the store rather than shoplift 3 very small items. I say no to happy hour when I have a work deadline to meet.

Why not give credit where credit is due? I have plenty of willpower. I make tons of good choices every single day. I make a few excellent choices each day. I also make a few bad choices each day. Know what that makes me? Normal, human, and just like most of you.

I don’t often feel a need to fret about the fact that I sometimes make bad choices because I know it’s inevitable. Just like any failure, it’s a normal part of the learning process. If I begin to obsess over a mistake and start to deprive or punish myself, I recognize that I need to refocus my internal dialogue.
sky
How can I possibly improve if I don’t use willpower? I’m already motivated in that I want and intend to improve, so I’ll take that ahhhhhhhhh feeling of relief and build on it by choosing activities that bring me joy or pleasure. For instance, if I want to include plenty of physical activity in my routine, I’ll focus on what makes me feel good.

I love how I feel in the water so I’ll look for a lap pool nearby. Lifting weights makes me feel relaxed and loose so I’ll add some weight lifting to my Sunday night TV viewing. I love getting out in the sunshine. It’s about 3 1/2 miles round trip to pick up the mail from my post office box. On sunny days, I can walk there and back. There’s a particular yoga class that makes me feel peaceful. I’ll be sure to attend it once a week. Positive anticipation of the pleasure of these activities not only replaces using force of will, it’s much more effective because it eliminates my internal struggle.
pool
If circumstances cause me to miss walking one day, I will focus on the pleasure I’ll derive from my next walk or swim. Since I’ll have no reason to feel guilty or like I’ve failed, there’s a chance for positive momentum to feed positive momentum. What do you say to positive momentum? I just say YES!

Want to improve your health this year? Forget about willpower; stop torturing yourself, and just say yes! It will make you feel great!

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/Dieting-Does-Not-Work-UCLA-Researchers-7832

March 6, 2015

A Baby Food Mill Can Provide Peace of Mind

kitIf you have a family history of food allergies or intolerance, a baby food mill can provide peace of mind because you know exactly what’s in the food your baby is consuming. My mom suffered from what we then called Hay Fever to the extent that her nose ran all the time and would get raw from wiping it with tissues. She solved the raw nose problem by walking around with silk panties hanging out of her nose. I kid you not and I wish I had a photo. Maybe you’ll believe me if I show you this current photo of her with a diaper on her head. She says she was cold. Don’t ask me.
mom
At the time, I can’t remember her attributing the, let’s call it, Silk Panty Situation to foods. It seemed to be more an allergy to ragweed or driving the truck when it was time to haul hay. The latter part resulted in me learning to drive very early and having my first wreck, passengers included, when I was 9. But that’s another story altogether. Back to our discussion of allergies…

When Ben was a tiny baby, he suffered from constant congestion. I mean significant congestion that made it difficult for him to breath through his nose. His pediatrician put him on asthma medication. That made him hyper, fussy, and kept him from sleeping. After a few exhausting weeks of a constantly awake, crying baby, I decided there had to be a better solution.

Through some trial and error, I figured out that if I would avoid dairy products in my diet, Ben’s congestion would disappear. This made some sense. By then we already knew that James did not tolerate dairy well. I decided that I could go without ice cream for a year while I breastfed if it meant Ben could breath without meds and I could get a night’s sleep.

James’ history, and subsequently Ben’s, wasn’t the only reason I followed the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations for food introduction to prevent allergies, my sister had a history of turning beet red when she consumed foods containing basil or magnesium. I wanted to make sure that I gave the kids the best chance I could to avoid problems in the future.

As they currently do, the APA then recommended breast milk only for the first 6 months. Once it was time to introduce solid food, I opted for the most control possible over the ingredients and invested in a baby food mill. That simple device allowed me to know exactly what I was feeding my children and it was easy on the budget. I could feed James & Ben the same food their dad and I were eating, but in a baby friendly form.
baby food grinder
Baby food mills are still a good option for the same reasons. While it’s now much easier to buy organic baby food from the supermarket, many brands are only 95% organic, some contain preservatives, and the cost ranges from 23¢ to 48¢ per ounce. When you get to Stage 2 foods, most prepackaged options are blends that may or may not appeal to your child thereby limiting your selection and their nutrient variety.
green grinder
There are many brands of food mills and they come in several shapes and sizes. Most are small enough to be easily carried along on an outing and some even come with a travel pack. In the most common design, you pull the top bowl section upward, fill the tube below with food and as you turn the handle, the food moves up into the bowl section ready to feed to your infant. The components then come apart to be cleaned in the dishwasher.
white grinder
If you want the option of using the mill for other food processing jobs, you can choose an OXO model with 3 interchangeable blades. There are electronic versions as well if you’re a fan of specialized power kitchen gadgets.
oxo
Once you’ve chosen the model that best suits the needs of your family, all you have to do is fill it with freshly prepared food – organic when possible and devoid of sugar, as well as excessive salt or fat. According to the AAP, new eaters only need one or two tablespoons of food at a time increasing to 3 – 4 tablespoons as the child grows. They also recommend that you avoid feeding an infant under 4 months old fresh spinach, beets, green beans, carrots, and squash because of the naturally occurring nitrates. If you follow their recommendation of breast milk only for a minimum of 4 months, this should not be an issue.

There is no evidence that introducing foods in a particular order will prevent allergies. In order to quickly recognize an allergic response, it is best to introduce foods one at a time and feed only that food for 2-3 days before moving to the next food. If your child experiences, diarrhea, rash, vomiting, congestion, hives, or irritability that disappears once a particular food is removed, your child may be allergic to that food.

For those of you who are celiac or have gluten intolerance in your family, your children are at increased risk of being gluten intolerant due to shared genetics. Because gluten intolerance causes an immune response, it is not the same as an allergy. It may be best not to introduce any baby cereals other than possibly rice and oats until the child is older, if at all.

While I can’t say James and Ben are a representative sample of kids who grow up eating table food rather than packaged baby food, they are both chronically healthy. Using a baby food mill helped keep me on budget and give me the peace of mind that I was providing them with the best nutrition possible.

Judging by these photos of James’ first meal of solid food, he was well prepared for the event and satisfied by the content!
jamesone
james 2
james 3

Check out these food mills:

http://www.kidco.com/products-page/preparation/f810/

http://ep.yimg.com/ty/cdn/happybaby/kidcofoodmillinst.pdf

http://www.kidalog.com/categories/Mealtime/

http://www.munchkin.com/fresh-feeding-starter-set.html

http://www.oxo.com/p-476-food-mill.aspx

For more information regarding infant feeding suggestions and guidelines, see these resources:

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx

http://ebooks.aappublications.org/content/nutrition-0

https://brightfutures.aap.org/pdfs/Guidelines_PDF/6-Promoting_Healthy_Nutrition.pdf

http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/3/784.full

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

February 26, 2015

5 Easy Ways to Stretch The Menu When You’re Snowed In

Over the past week or so, I’ve had a chance to use these 5 Easy Ways to Stretch the Menu when you’re snowed in. We’ve been hit with three successive waves of ice and snow. Since I’m still hobbling on an injured knee, I haven’t been willing to brave even slightly slick stairs. This has kept me at home on the few days that I otherwise might have ventured out to the grocery store.
snow porch

In order to have satisfying meals, I’ve had to dig deep into the pantry. Some of you can probably pop open the freezer and have lots of choices. I, unfortunately, am not a good freezer of meat, soups, or casseroles. I know that if I freeze them, I’ll never get around to thawing them out and they’ll just end up being thrown away. Because of this, I use my freezer to store specialty flours, raw almonds, emergency coffee, an occasional batch of biscuits, and a couple of bags of frozen vegetables.

If you’re like me, you can use these simple ideas to stretch the menu when you can’t leave home:

1. Be inventive with seasoning.
If you run out of onion, use shallots and garlic, or take a look on the back porch. The rosemary may still be peaking out of the snow.
rosemary
If you have dried beans handy, but no meat or chicken stock around to add flavor, use water, salt, pepper, a couple of tablespoons of butter, peeled onion or shallots, a couple of cloves of peeled garlic, and a potato or sweet potato cleaned but with the skin still on. This is a great use of a sweet potato that’s been around a little too long. If the ends have dried up, just cut them off and use the center. It will flavor the broth even more, the skin will keep it intact, and you can eat the sweet potato separately when you serve your meal.

You can also use leftover pot likker (either the official version from collard greens and fatback, or a more generic version of vegetable broth from boiling green beans or carrots or potatoes) to flavor beans or rice. Pot likker is also a great soup base.
chard stems
Since fresh vegetables and herbs will be the first thing to disappear from your pantry, use them thoroughly. Instead of discarding the ends of greens of celery, stems of chard, stems of rosemary or cilantro or sage, greens from beets, stems of mushrooms, or even peels from potatoes, throw them in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use them to infuse flavor into soups, vegetables, pasta, or sauces. Remove the actual stems and peels from the broth before using it in your dish.

2. Stretch fresh or preserved protein by using vegetables, grains, starches, and pasta.
Rather than waiting until you’ve run out of chicken, make it last longer by adding rice. There’s no need to stop there, you can make it go even further by cooking some small white beans along with the rice. Adding the beans not only increases the number of portions, it also increases the protein in the dish.
rice with beans
Sauté onion, cubed chayote squash, cubed potato, and shredded Granny Smith apple in a cast iron skillet until the vegetables and fruit are soft. Season with salt, pepper, and Vietnamese cinnamon. Add left-over rotisserie chicken and continue to cook until chicken is hot. It’s not a particularly attractive dish, but it tastes great and is very filling.

Turn a can of tuna into a meal for 4 by creating a simple sauce made of butter, milk, garlic, and a blend of cheeses, add some frozen green peas and cooked pasta, then top with cheese and bake.
tuna
Don’t forget to have fun with this ’cause snow days should be fun! Serve fried chicken tenders with almond flour pancakes and real maple syrup or go the whole way and break out the waffle maker for a more traditional version of chicken and waffles. Pull open a can of sardines and eat them along with some saltine crackers as though you’re on vacation at your cabin in the mountains.

3. Focus on proteins other than meat.
When you’re eating every meal at home it doesn’t take long for all the steak, pork chops, roast beef, tilapia, salmon, or chicken breasts to disappear. Once they’re gone, other protein options have to take precedence.

Eggs, peanut butter, almond butter, other nuts and seeds including mixed nuts, milk, soy milk, yogurt (especially Greek style), cottage cheese, Mozzarella cheese, Swiss cheese, Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, paneer, tofu, lentils, edamame, green peas, quinoa, and a combination of beans and rice are all substantial sources of protein.

Baked goods can also provide protein. For instance, muffins made with almond, cashew, or hazelnut flour are high in protein as are cookies made with peanut flour or brownies made with black bean flour.

4. Keep an open mind about condiments and snacks.
It’s one of Murphy’s laws that you’ll only discover your mayo is outdated when there are 10 inches of snow outside. Don’t fret too much. Hummus can be used as a spread to add exotic flavor to your sandwich, or skip the spread altogether and use a few slices of avocado or leftover guacamole for that little extra somethin somethin.

Don’t let a lack of mayo trip you up when making tuna salad. You can always use plain yogurt and lemon juice instead or sour cream and sweet pickle juice if you prefer.

Create a delicious marinade for steak using nothing but a mixture of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.

Make balsamic vinaigrette with a mixture of balsamic vinegar, water, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a peeled clove of garlic. Instead of using equal parts vinegar, water and oil, I cut the oil in half for fewer calories. It’s just as delicious once you shake it all up in a jar.

Curb your salty snack craving with dill pickles or a handful of olives.

Need something sweet, crunchy and really easy? Make two minute trail mix using raw almonds, golden raisins, and semi-sweet chocolate chips then follow the trail right back to your recliner. You’ll probably have a minute left over.
muffins
5. Substitute quick breads, tortillas, or cheese for breads and crackers.
It is the rare household that doesn’t have corn meal on hand, so cornbread is a universally good choice to fill the gap when a before-the-snow rush leaves the store shelves bare of bread. If you don’t keep shortening on hand, fry some bacon and use the renderings instead. You can also use butter or olive oil. If your recipe calls for buttermilk, just splash a little vinegar in regular milk and voila, you’re good to go.

Muffins, biscuits, or pancakes can take the place of toast for breakfast or a roll with dinner. A corn tortilla will hold a breakfast taco better than just about anything.

Small piles of shredded Parmesan cheese turn into crunchy cheese crackers when baked for 6 minutes at 350º.

Sometimes I enjoy the disruption of weather or an injury (not the pain) because it reminds me that I can think about things differently and solve problems in fun ways. There’s a special feeling that comes with that. It’s better than the feeling of regular accomplishment.
arbir
I hope you find these tips helpful. With all the snow that’s falling this year, you may have even better tips than these. If so, we’d love to hear them!