Archive for May, 2011

Rainy Days and Sundays

What is it about a rainy day that makes a person feel like curling up in a corner with a quilt and a good book?  The squirrels seem to retain plenty of zip in this weather, judging from their frisky game of leap-frog tag across the front lawn.  My own ambition-level and mood, however, tend to fluctuate with weather conditions, although I’ve been able to flatten out the s-curve a bit with consistent endorphin-generating exercise.  And since the Sabbath is my weekly Official Day of Rest until the summer months turn it into my Official Day of Yard Work, I actually find relief in an occasional all-day spell of Sunday showers that gets me out of mowing and weeding – a sort of  “laziness permission slip” from Mother Nature.  

I’ve always blamed my dreary-day dips in mood on dark skies fooling my body into cranking out the sleep hormone associated with nightfall, and of course certain aches and pains can  accompany extremes in humidity.  Now Columnist Rich Maloof tells us that a 2008 study suggests only minimal effects from either good or bad weather states.  As added insult, Maloof offers the no-nonsense conclusion, “Most people are no more emotionally powerless against the weather than they are unable to put on a hat.”  He also quotes psychology professor Dr. Ani Kalayjian:  “We encourage people to take charge of their feelings.” 

Sounds reasonable.  But if storm-induced low barometric pressure reduces the amount of oxygen in the air, and dark skies trick my pineal gland into midday serotonin production, I get unnaturally tired.  When I get unnaturally tired, I get crabby.  I think my analysis is every bit as logical. 

Still, experience has taught me that, yes, alright; I can “take charge of those feelings” and “empower myself” to surmount them. So on any given gloomy day, I might plunge into something I’ll love being able to cross off my to-do list.  If I just can’t face organizing a closet or cleaning the oven or tidying the garage, I’ll do something both productive and uplifting.  For me that’s baking cookies for my neighbors or inviting a friend to dinner, because it’s the waste of time associated with feeling lethargic that really bugs me.  

One project I’ve had tucked into the bulletin-board frame of my mind, where I keep mental sticky-note reminders, is writing up some of my kitchen concoctions from April and May.  With June staring me in the face, I’d better hop to it and dispense with a half-dozen tasty dishes that fit right into a spring theme.  First, several vegetable recipe adaptations –  a Three-Pea Medley, a Brussels Sprouts With Dates and Walnuts dish, and a Mango-Glazed Carrots side, all of which sent me into spasms of delight.  But then I do love my vegetables. 

You might be more excited about Raised Currant Buns, whole wheat biscuits with some nice additions, or a Four Cheese Scalloped Potato casserole, slimmed down for everyday consumption.  For the mildly adventurous, ever try a Ground Chicken Lettuce Wrap?  Talk about a carbohydrate-watchers best friend – and if you don’t, you know I certainly will.  (Non-foodies:  you may skip to the last two paragraphs.  Mother Nature I am not, but I can grant you permission for that much.)  (more…)

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May 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm Leave a comment

You Don’t Have to Pay Dues to Be a Weight-Watcher

 basal metabolism; noun; Physiology: The minimal amount of energy necessary to maintain respiration, circulation, tissue repair, and other vital bodily functions while at rest. 

The jury is in on this one: A person’s metabolic rate begins to slow as early as age 20, with incrementally increasing decreases each successive decade. Did that make sense? On an individual-by-individual basis, many factors influence this decline – things like activity levels, conscious efforts to maintain muscle mass, certain medical conditions, and heredity. But I am aware of very few people who can simply continue “eating like a teenager,” as one friend put it, and still fend off creeping weight gain or an expanding waistline along the way to retirement. 

There are some things that can help, however, if you’ve decided to gear up for a battling of the bulge on both of its fronts, calorie intake and calorie expenditure. These are the ones I’ve tried and found true.

Set concrete goals, but make them measurable and realistic; something you can face taking on today. Sometimes this means aiming for a non-intimidating five-pound weight reduction on your way to deciding on a larger long-term loss, and it’s as much about holding yourself accountable, expecting what can reasonably be expected of a busy, responsible adult, as it is about meeting anyone else’s standard of what’s “ideal” for you. 

Keep a daily record of what you consume and what you do. To quote the old Christmas song, “Though it’s been said many times, many ways,” this is the best tool I know of for staying aware of and in control of what’s really going on with your habits. We sometimes delude ourselves about our indulgences, but that’s harder to do when the fettuccine alfredo with hot buttered garlic bread is documented in black and white, right there next to the greasy thumb print. 

And don’t forget the activity record, which can be a supreme motivator. Somehow, recording your accomplishment – “walk, 45 minutes, 3 miles” – feels very affirming, not to mention firming. It also lays a foundation for building your own personalized routine. 

Plan ahead to avoid pitfalls. I always know at the start of the day what I’ll be eating for lunch and dinner that day, and sometimes for several days in advance. You don’t have to be obsessive about it, but not planning for success (as in, “I can arrange to be in the neighborhood of a Subway shop at noon, where I’ll have a turkey on wheat bread with lots of veggies,” vs, “Oh, whaddaya’ know! It’s lunchtime and here’s a Godfather’s pizza with a pepperoni and extra-cheese special today,”) translates into setting yourself up for failure(more…)

May 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm Leave a comment

These Are a Few of My Favorite Words

I am a political junkie, an information addict, and a compulsive collector of recipes. My office drawers bulge from decades of clipping and filing, so I switched to e-files to avoid overwhelming my living space. Still, I recently had to place limits on myself for fear of overwhelming the little gnome who runs around inside my hard drive trying to keep all that electronic data organized. But those obsessions have blossomed gradually over time. My true lifelong investment of passion has been in language. 

Words. I love ’em. I am awed by their power and beauty. I even collect them. I have a second-hand William F. Buckley, Jr.’s 366 Words You’d Like to Know calendar at my bedside, and can’t get through the day without a crossword puzzle fix. It goes without saying that reading and writing top my list of favorite leisure-time activities, but I’ll say it anyway. I guess all this makes me a logophile – a term which was ironically omitted from my 2,129 page Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Unabridged, Second-Edition, Deluxe Color, ©1979. 

Choose just the right word and you enhance the effectiveness of your message; choose the wrong one and you distract from or even annihilate it.  Perhaps that’s why I know scores of perfectly intelligent folks who are utterly intimidated by the thought of stringing words together, either for oral delivery or in essay form. But stage fright and performance anxiety aside, who can not be intrigued by the infinite variety of linguistic possibilities or the exotic appeal of certain terminologies, both esoteric and mundane. 

The fact is that some words are too delicious not to savor, like “noisome” or “draggle,” which are virtually self-defining (“draggle: to be drawn on the ground”) and have a nice way of tripping off the tongue.  (more…)

May 1, 2011 at 9:07 pm Leave a comment


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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

And what is the "something" we are aiming for here? Simply a life of robust good health in every important area - spiritual, physical, cognitive, and emotional.

To that end we offer inspirational real-life stories about PEOPLE OF FAITH AND COURAGE; menus and cooking directions meant to fuel your creative inclinations and your healthy body in the form of MUSINGS OF A MIDWESTERN FOODIE; and ADVICE FOR LIFE from the perspective of those who have lived it to maturity. (Click on the green category tabs at the top of this page to learn more about each section.)

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