Monday, January 31, 2011

Battling with cancer -- let's play dominoes



Yesterday was week 17 of my Sabbath Experiment and let me tell you -- I am so glad I started this. These past few months of Sundays (and occasional Saturdays) where I have forced myself to step away from work for a day have been such a blessing. I know I will look back on these months with gratitude of what I didn't miss.

For example, here's what yesterday would have looked like, had I not been doing my Sabbath Experiment:

Sunday School, church and lunch with the kids and grandkids. That's a given. But after that, Bill and I would have rushed home to work on cleaning up the mess in our house. You see, we've been a bit busy and/or unmotivated lately. That is why our Christmas tree is still fully adorned in our family room, along with all the other Christmasy decorations, knick knacks, etc. still placed around the room. Now that we don't have a family here anymore, the door to that room remains closed most of the time and we just don't use that room much. So it is easy to ignore.

However, it's not so easy to ignore all of the Christmas stuff in every other room of the first floor! On Saturday, we finally went about the task of taking it all down, packing it, and carrying it upstairs. Of course, this also means doing so serious cleaning before re-decorating for the remaining months of winter (we're big time seasonal decorators here). By 10 p.m., we were beat and decided to quit so we could watch the new Hallmark movie (with Luke Perry -- quite impressed with his performance). That means there is still stuff all over the dining room table and miscellaneous out-of-place items in the kitchen and living room. The family room still remains intact...we'll tackle that another day.

So traditionally, yesterday would have been another day of work. We would have rushed home after lunch and tried to make some sense out of this mess. But then, we would have missed the blessing of the day.

Here's what we did instead. First of all, we didn't rush home. When we got here, we laid down for a bit. Bill took a nap and I scrolled through Facebook for awhile. Then I called my mother (something we all should probably do more often). Finally, we got in the car and drove about 45 minutes to spend the evening with a man who's been battling cancer for more than a decade and his lovely wife. For purposes of privacy, let's call them Fred and Joyce.

Recently, Fred received the discouraging news that the cancer treatments weren't working and his cancer had spread, at an alarming rate. Aside from a miracle, things do not look promising. Still, he is forging ahead and trying yet another round of chemo, which will probably be followed by a risky surgery and chemo "bath." There is nothing encouraging about this picture.

When Fred called us a couple of weeks ago with the news, he sounded like a man who had been knocked down one too many times. Cancer was winning and he knew he had to muster enough strength to get up off the mat and keep fighting. That's the kind of man he is. He is also a man of great faith and he knows that at any time, the whole situation could be turned around by God's grace and healing.

So what do you do when you know someone you love is feeling this discouraged and facing what seems to be his last months of life? You call him up and say, "Hey, how about if we come over for a night of dominoes?"

That's what we did, and it was a wonderful evening. Did we talk about cancer? Nope. Did we sit around quietly offering our concern? Nope. Fred knows how concerned we are. He knows we are praying constantly for his healing. What we did was played a few competitive rounds of a game and laughed a lot. Then we made plans to do this on the last Sunday of every month from here on out.

It was the Sabbath. We came home to the same mess we woke up to yesterday. And we woke up to it again today. Does it bother me? A little. But let me tell you something -- the mess means nothing. The time we spent with Fred and his wife means everything. And I believe that's a true act of worship.

How did you spend your weekend?

Keeping it holy on the Sabbath,

Hana

Keeping it

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Snow Angel photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil

Winter came down to our home one night

Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,

And we, we were children once again.

~ Bill Morgan, Jr.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Vinegar Friday


Photo courtesy of Fran Hogan
 TGIVF!!

Well, here it is again, another Vinegar Friday. Yesterday while I was in my office working, the smell of stew wafted upstairs, tempting me with its voluptuousness. By the time we sat down to dinner, the ingredients, harmonizing in perfection (if I must say so myself), were in direct contrast to some of the so-called singers auditioning to be the next American Idol. Perhaps they just needed a dash of balsamic vinegar. After all, it proved to be the key ingredient in the stew.

If you have not discovered the virtues of balsamic vinegar, perhaps it is time to do so. This is one vinegar I am not going to extol because of its superior cleaning properties, or its ability to heal. This is vinegar that gets my highest praise based on taste alone.

Oddly enough, those of us living in North America have only recently discovered this gem over the last twenty years or so. It is the Italians who have reaped the rewards of knowing its value for centuries.

While many believe it to be a wine vinegar, the truth is balsamic vinegar is made from unfermented grape pressings from the white Trebbiano grapes. What makes true balsamic vinegar so costly is the aging process it must go through, starting with the dark syrup (a result of boiling down the grape pressings) in oaken kegs, where it remains, literally, for years. Eventually it is transferred to ash, cherrywood, chestnut, juniper and mulberry kegs, with each wood adding its unique properties to the vinegar. If you want to splurge on the most expensive balsamic vinegar, you can experience the flavoring of vinegar that has been aged for over one hundred years in Northern Italy in Modena. Let me know if you go that route!

Of course, you get what you pay for, so if you opt for the least expensive balsamic out there, expect to find sulfites (used as a preservative). As this can lead to an allergy problem in those with sensitivities to sulfites, watch out. There are sulfite-free balsamic vinegars available. You just have to pay a little more. What you want to look for are the words aceto balsamico tradizionale, indicating the traditional Modena aging and processing has been used.

Even without the preservatives, balsamic vinegar has a long shelf life. As a matter of fact, its shelf life is infinite. Just keep it away from heat.

If you are generally not a vinegar fan, try boiling some balsamic vinegar for awhile. What you will end up with is a sweet, non-acidic liquid that you will soon find yourself craving. Especially if you experience what it does to fruits, such as strawberries, raspberries or peaches when sprinkled with small amounts. Oh my. One word of caution, however: make sure you are not heating the vinegar in an aluminum pan or storing or marinating in an aluminum container. You want to use materials that are non-reactive.

What I discovered last night was how a splash of balsamic vinegar truly brings out the flavor of each unique component of stew. It leaves me wondering why I have never reached for this magic ingredient when cooking before. It is astonishing what a couple of teaspoons of it can do to liven up the flavor of stews, soups or sauces. If you are opting for low sodium, but not quite so yummy, canned soups, adding a touch of balsamic vinegar might be the very thing that takes the soup from okay to amazing.

So now that I have you adding balsamic vinegar to your grocery shopping list, I thought it would be nice if I provided a couple of recipes, starting with a barbecue sauce that would be delicious on wings for your Super Bowl party.

Balsamic Barbecue Sauce

1 1/2 cup ketchup                     
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup light-colored corn syrup
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Cayenne pepper to taste, optional

Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a non-aluminum saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

Prepare wings as you normally do, brushing with sauce during the last 10 minutes of cooking time.                           
                            
***

Now this next recipe may not be for Super Bowl Sunday, but it sure would be a tasty addition to a roasted chicken meal or a vegetarian meal.


Balsamic Carrots

1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried dill or marjoram

1 pound fresh carrots, sliced

Bring the vinegar to a boil in a small, non-aluminum saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and keep the vinegar at a slow boil, reducing it to a thick, syrupy 3/4 cup or so.

Combine the next 3 ingredients in a bowl and add carrots. Toss gently to coat the carrots with the mixture. Remove carrots and place in a steamer. Steam for 15 minutes, or until slightly soft.

Heat the remaining oil mixture in a non-aluminum skillet. Add cooked carrots. Brush with the balsamic vinegar syrup and lightly brown.

***

Does that sound delicious, or what?! I think we're having carrots tonight!

Enjoy your weekend. And enjoy your new recipes. Mangia!

Keeping it tasty with vinegar,

Hana

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review It Wednesday -- with a warning about fluoride

Sometimes, while doing research, I get so bogged down with scary information that I just want to climb into bed and pull the covers up over my head. Let's face it...there's a lot of frightening things going on in this world of ours. Today, we are just going to focus on one of those scary things -- fluoride. Fluoride?! you ask. Yes, fluoride.

Fluoride is quite simply bad for us. But if you are tempted to stop reading, please don't go until you read this warning! According to Dr. William Campbell Douglass of The Douglass Report, The American Dental Association has advised parents not to give fluorinated water to their infants. Why? Oh, simply because it can cause brain damage! I was able to find 24 studies confirming this association between fluoride and brain damage and lowered IQs. The journal Environmental Health Perspectives cites a study that reveals fluoride as a dangerous, brain-destroying toxin. Wonderful. There's more. But first I just want to issue this very serious warning to all of you parents of formula-fed infants, and this is from the Center for Disease Control: Do not, under any circumstances, mix your powdered formula with fluorinated tap water! Use bottled or filtered water only. **Brita filters do not remove fluoride from the water.

Reading Dr. Douglass's discussions on fluoride makes me even happier that my husband bought me a water cooler for my office for Christmas! We have a filter for our water in the refrigerator, but when I am upstairs in my office, I often drink water directly from the bathroom sink. Not anymore!

"Without any solid proof that ingesting fluoride was beneficial for your teeth -- and with no safety tests conducted to determine its potential effects on the rest of your body -- the government moved forward with the mass medication of the country's water supply." -- Dr. William Campbell Douglass

Did you know that not so many years ago, fluoride was actually known as a toxic waste in the United States? It was only approved to be used as an insecticide and as rat poison. And then things changed and the government started adding it to our drinking water. Lovely.

Here are the health issues that have been linked to toxic poisoning from fluoride (according to Dr. Douglass and ActionPA.org):
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Birth Defects
  • Bone Cancer (and other rare forms of cancer)
  • Brain Damage
  • Dental Fluorosis
  • Early Onset of Puberty
  • Genetic Damage
  • Immune System Alteration
  • Kidney Damage
  • Liver Damage
  • Musculoskeletal Problems
  • Skeletal Fluorosis
  • Thyroid Disfunction
Alrighty then.... So, what are the chances any of these things will happen to your family? Hopefully slim. I do not have actual statistics. What I have is a list of possibilities that I simply do not want to chance. And I have a stack of papers on my desk citing countless studies, including one done by researchers at Harvard School of Dental Medicine that linked fluoridation with an increased risk of fatal bone cancer in young men. In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences agreed with these findings.

Environmental Groups and Environmental Protection Agency professionals unions have voiced a united opposition to fluoridation and have called for a national moratorium on drinking water fluoridation programs.

Perhaps the most common side-effect children experience from too much fluoride is dental fluorosis, a condition where the teeth become pitted and the tooth enamel is mottled with white, yellow or brown marks. The results can be unsightly and require expensive cosmetic dental work.

But will your kids have less cavities? Perhaps. But perhaps not. The jury's still out on that. While many dentists are blaming an increase in cavities on kids drinking bottled water, there are just as many dental professionals who say there is no proof that fluoride does anything for the teeth...especially ingesting it!

So what does all this have to do with Review It Wednesday? Well, it has to do with toothpaste and whether or not you should skip the fluoride. I, personally, have chosen to go with natual toothpastes that are free of any chemically engineered synthetic flavors or dyes. And they are free of fluoride! Not only are they better for me, for you and for our families, but they're better for the environment as well.

The kind folks at Leaf & Bud Naturals in Canada kindly sent me a couple of tubes of Green Beaver toothpaste to try. I started off using the Cilantro Mint Paste. After a couple of weeks, I contacted Al at Leaf & Bud and mentioned to him that I liked it, but wasn't happy with the bad breath I was experiencing in the middle of the night. Quite honestly, he was surprised by this, since cilantro is a natural breath freshener. He suggested I switch to the Green Apple Paste, which I did. And guess what? It worked.

Both toothpastes left my teeth feeling incredibly clean -- there really is a difference when you're not coating your teeth with chemicals -- and I liked the flavors, although I must admit, the thought of green apple toothpaste did not appeal to me. But I am officially a convert. I was using one of the natural toothpastes from Tom's of Maine and did not like the color or taste. In the past, when I was done brushing my teeth with Colgate or Crest or whatever name brand I had in the house at the time, I had to rinse out my mouth really well, which was introducing even more fluoride into my mouth! With the two Green Beaver pastes I've tried, I have found I don't need to rinse my mouth at all.

And here's a silly little reason why I really like them, too. Have you ever brushed your teeth in the morning and then downed a glass of orange juice for breakfast? Yuck! The combination of chemically-flavored mint with the tangy taste of citrus just isn't pleasant. However, if you brush your teeth with Green Beaver Green Apple Toothpaste, the orange juice tastes like...well...orange juice. Ahhh.

So I have given you plenty of reasons to forego the fluoride. Now I have provided a viable alternative. The Green Beaver toothpastes run $5.95 for a 75ml tube and you won't find better customer service than you'll get from Leaf & Bud Naturals. They also sell natural mouthwashes and dental floss, although I've not tried them.

That's it for this Wednesday. Think I'll go pour a glass of some nice cold, filtered water!

Keeping it green,

Hana

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, pharmacist, chemist, nutritionist, or any other kind of health care practitioner. I am just a blogger who cares about the health of my friends and family, as well as the environment. I do my best to present accurate facts, but it is always best to do some research on your own and, when in doubt, to talk with your doctor...especially when the well-being of your children is involved.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Sabbath Experiment -- week 16

Happy Monday.

I'm getting a late start on this today. An extra hour or two in bed, laundry, breakfast and work took precedence over my blog post today. Plus, I'm a little grumpy. You see, after four months I just got my period again. Maybe that's too much info to share, but I guess I'm in a sharing mood. Or a griping one. My friend, Dawn, texted me this morning and said, "Look at the bright side...at least you're not pregnant." Ha ha. I'm thinking it is just all this Diva Cup talk. It backfired on me, who honestly thought I was four months into the necessary twelve months sans menstruating to officially say I was done! I know some women who actually grieve the loss of this part of their lives. Not me! I cannot wait to bid it adeiu.

What I was not anxious to bid adeiu to was the Sabbath. I actually considered carrying it through to another day, but decided that wouldn't exactly be about being spiritual, it would just be about being lazy. So, I'm planted securely at my desk and will be spending the day with my laptop.

That's not to take away from what a lovely Sabbath it was, starting off with a Sunday School lesson I presented to the adult class. We have been working our way through I Peter and, since they were so packed with spiritual truth, I limited yesterday's lesson to only two verses:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.
I Peter 5:6-7

What a great passage. There are many things to say about humility and about being humble. But how often do we look at it this way -- that giving all our cares, our fears, our worries and our anxiety to God is necessary for true humility? Seriously? But we like to hold on to these things. Worry defines some of us. When I've taught in the past, I've had people say to me, "I can't help but to worry. That's the way I am." Well guess what, that is not the way you were created! Worrying is a habit we nurture. It does not come naturally and we do not have to allow it into our lives. Worrying is a choice...and, according to I Peter, it is an arrogant one.

I love this story I came across on Saturday when I was studying for my lesson. C.H. Spurgeon shares, "I heard of a man who was walking along the high road with a pack on his back. He was growing weary and was therefore glad when a gentleman came along in a carriage and asked him to take a seat with him. The gentleman noticed that he kept his pack strapped to his shoulders, and so he said, 'Why do you not put your pack down?'

'Why, sir,' said the traveler, 'I did not venture to impose. It was very kind of you to take me up, and I could not expect you to carry my pack as well.'

'Why,' said his friend, 'do you not see that whether your pack is on your back or off your back, I have to carry it?'"

How much does this story apply to all of us? We cling to our pack filled with anxiety and ask the Lord to carry us, without releasing the pack. Silly, silly us.

After Sunday School, I appreciated a worship service dedicated to the Sanctity of Human Life. We worshipped the Creator in song and focused on the lives of both the unborn and the born. We talked about the work of the Women's Choice Network, a non-profit organization that I was privileged to be a part of as a member of the Board for nearly five years. I was proud to be associated with the them (and not in the prideful, non-humble way) because their focus is not only on the preborn babies, but it is also on the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental well-being of the women and men involved, regardless of the choice that's made. While the Centers do not do abortions or refer for abortions, they do offer hope and healing to those who have been wounded by an abortion. WCN is comprised of staff and volunteers who truly understand and offer grace to everyone who walks through their doors.

After church, we went out for lunch and then headed home for a nap before going to our daughter's to watch the Steeler game. And what a game it was! So, all in all, it was a wonderful Sabbath day, topped off with the song, "Pittsburgh's going to the Super Bowl!"

What a way to start a week!

Keeping it restful and focused on the Sabbath,

Hana

Friday, January 21, 2011

Vinegar Friday

TGIVF!

It's been quite a week on the blog. Apparently more people are interested in greening their periods than I anticipated! Welcome to all of you who are new to the community! This is Vinegar Friday, a weekly GG feature extolling the many virtues of vinegar.

Quite honestly, after 11 months of writing about vinegar, I am running out of "themes." But I thought I would at least give you a few related tips about cleaning furniture.

Vinyl

Using a soft cloth, apply a mixture of 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/2 cup water and 2 teaspoons of liquid soap. "Rinse" with another cloth dampened with plain water and buff with a soft dry cloth.

Leather

Combine 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar, 1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap. Apply to the leather with a cloth and then brush the leather gently with a soft brush. (This works well on leather shoes and boots, as well).

You can also make a leather polish by adding 1/3 cup vinegar and 1/3 cup water to 2/3 cup linseed oil.

Wood furniture

Before dusting your wood furniture, dampen your dust cloth with salad dressing...well, not really, but pretty much so, since you are mixing together vinegar and olive oil (50/50 blend). Of course, you don't want to saturate the cloth. Just lightly dampen it to attract the dust.

If you are looking to polish your furniture, rather than simply dusting it, add 3 parts vinegar to 1 part lemon oil (or for a heavier polish -- 1 part vinegar to 3 parts lemon oil). According to Emily Thacker's The Vinegar Book that I mentioned last week, the reason this works so well is because the vinegar will dissolve and draw out the dirt while the oil enriches the wood. Won't it be nice to have your furniture smelling good naturally?

Yet another recipe for furniture polish requires that you reach into your liquor cabinet (which, understandably, not everyone has). Here you combine 1/4 cup linseed oil with 1/8 cup of vinegar and 1/8 cup of whiskey. And let's face it, if you start chugging down the whiskey (which I am in no way recommending!), you won't even care if the furniture is polished or not!

Scratches on your furniture will disappear if you carefully apply a 50/50 blend of vinegar with iodine. Stick to white vinegar if you are applying it to light-colored wood and use apple cider vinegar for deeper colors. Using a thin, craft paintbrush will work best.

Blinds and shutters

I love shutters. I have them in my living room topped with lace valances. What I don't love is cleaning them. However, vinegar and an old pair of cloth gloves make the job a whole lot easier. And in a couple of years, I am quite sure I will be able to convince my (now 2-year-old) granddaughter that the chore is actually a lot of fun!

Using a 50/50 solution of distilled white vinegar and water, dip your gloved fingers into the liquid and then slide them between the slats. What could be easier? ...  Yeah, I know ... not having blinds or shutters in the first place!


Well, that's it for another Vinegar Friday. If this was your first visit, I hope you will go back through previous weeks and reap what you can from the vinegar tips I have provided. And keep checking back ... sometime in 2011, Vinegar Fridays will be available for purchase in a handy, organized book.

Keeping it green with vinegar,

Hana


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review It Wednesday -- Guest reviewer, Wanda, shares her thoughts on the Diva Cup!

Green Grandma has asked me to review the Diva Cup, after learning that I've been using it and loving it for a little while now. About two years ago a friend asked a bunch of ladies if any of us had used the Diva Cup. Having no idea what it was, I searched online and discovered this intriguing “new” idea. (It's actually been around since the early 1900s, in an earlier form.) I purchased a redesigned silicone menstrual cup from our local cloth diaper shop, Peekaboo Bottoms in August 2009 and have been using it for about one and a half years. It took about three months to really get used to it and know how my body worked with it, but now that I've been using it for a while, I love it and would never go back to the waste of tampons.

In my opinion, using tampons is the equivalent of using paper plates. Why continue to spend money and waste resources on paper products when you can purchase one item that will last so much longer? I enjoy being “green,” but beyond that, I thrive on being thrifty. I would guess that the Diva Cup, which cost me about $45, has saved me over $60 in the last 18 months. And there's no end in site! The makers of the Diva Cup recommend that it is replaced after one year, but then they go on to say that if it is cleansed properly, appears to have no defects, and causes no irritation, the consumer can decide when to replace it. I've read of women using the same cup for years without a problem.

The website for the Diva Cup has a great FAQ section, telling you about which of the two sizes you should choose, how the cup is inserted, how and when you remove it, etc. Having read through all of that before I made my purchase, I can tell you that you really do need to just go for it and give it a try. You will learn along the way. You may need to wear a liner for the first couple cycles, just to make sure you don't leak while getting used to the way your body works with the Diva Cup. But once you figure it out, you'll be so glad you did!

Beyond being thrifty and green, it's much easier to be out when you have your period and never worry about running out of “supplies.” It also has a larger capacity than tampons and can safely stay in place for 12 hours, so it is much more convenient. (There are tips in the FAQ section that go into more detail about using the Diva Cup while out and about.)

The rest of my review gets kind of messy. So if you're really not feeling like the Diva Cup is for you, you should probably stop reading now.

Or if you don't want to read about a woman's body or menstruation, well, make the first available U-Turn and get out of here!

If you don't even like the word “tampon”... Please stop now.

This is your last warning. It gets personal after this. And messy.

The Diva Cup does affect your other body functions. The cup sits against the urethra and often slows down the flow when I need to urinate. It also sits against the rectum, and occasionally I will feel the need to have a bowel movement immediately after inserting the Diva Cup.

To make sure the cup is properly in place and to remove the cup, you will get your hands messy. If you are not comfortable putting your fingers on or in your vagina then you will not feel comfortable using the Diva Cup. I went from using o.b. Tampons (less waste than the typical tampon) to the Diva Cup, so I was a great candidate to use it!

When it is properly in place, I cannot feel the cup. If I can feel it, it means that it isn't secure and I'll probably end up leaking. So I go back and fix it. The best way to test it is to put it in and then push as hard as you can, as if you were having a bowel movement. It should be fully ballooned out and stay inside you. If it is not, you'll need to try again. My technique is to fold it into a U-shape, as described on the FAQ page, partially insert it and then let it open and fill with air. I push it the rest of the way in and push on the side of the cup to let a little air out. This way I know that it has properly ballooned out. When pushed by your vaginal muscles, it should stay resting against the lip of your vagina. If it doesn't, just push it in a little further and give it a twirl around. It should settle into its spot nicely.

Now when I see women buying tampons in stores and I feel kind of sorry for them. I can't really just walk up to them and start telling them about the Diva Cup. But I'm so glad to be able to tell you!

* * *


The manufacturer of the Diva Cup has graciously offered to send a Diva Cup to someone in the Green Grandma community who would like to give it a try after reading Wanda's review. I will have a drawing (using Random.org) on Monday, January 24. All you have to do to be entered in the drawing is post a comment below indicating that you would like to give the Diva Cup a try. No hoops to jump through here...just post a comment! Of course, it would be nice if you became a follower of the blog and/or a fan of the Facebook page : )

To read more about Wanda, visit her blog Wanda Whoopie Cushion

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Sabbath and rest....but what if you have trouble sleeping?

Week 15 of the Sabbath Experiment has come and gone. I am on the other side of the Sabbath feeling drained and tired, which is certainly not my goal for this experiment. Not that yesterday was strenuous in any way. I suppose I am just feeling the strain of this past week.

For those of you who are not following status reports on Facebook, my youngest daughter, Jessica, lost her baby last week. This is especially hard because she lost one last January as well. So we, as a family, have been feeling pretty sad for the last several days. Yesterday during prayer time at church, I sat holding Jess's two-year-old in my arms. Laura was hugging me tightly and when the minister started to pray for comfort for our family, I started crying so hard that my body shook. Like I said, it is a sad time for us. I suppose that is why I am dragging a bit today. And I am guessing that is understandable and okay.

We did our traditional lunch after church with some of the kids and our two grandchildren, but I was not myself at all. Last evening, we entertained friends for dinner, trains and a night of Pinochle. Carisa brought the lasagna, which meant my workload on the Sabbath was reduced to making a salad and garlic bread. Not bad. Bill got to run his trains for friends who have never ventured down into the bomb shelter haven of Lionel. Plus, having them over gave us an excuse to light our outdoor Christmas lights for one last time this season and, because we planned on their visit, to keep the decorations up inside for one more week. This week, we face the daunting task of taking it down and putting it all away. Oh goodie, another trip into the attic, otherwise known as Stinkbug Heaven. This is a depressing time for my husband, as he would keep it all up year round if he had his way.

That was my day and as I headed to bed, I thought of some of my friends who have been struggling with insomnia lately. I must admit, I have a bout of it from time to time. But I am 53 and it is a rather common occurence at my age due to fluctuations in hormone levels. The women I am referring to are young moms, who desperately need their sleep. So I thought today would be a good day to offer a few solutions...although chances are you fine ladies have already tried these. But just in case, this post is for you. You know who you are. Most likely you are reading this at 3 a.m.

For me, melatonin works wonders. But it also gives me profuse diarrhea. I am such a lightweight, though. Zyrtec or any of the PM painkillers knock me out as well. I just wanted a natural solution.

You can start off with a diet change. Foods containing tryptophan (don't get scared -- it is just an amino acid with a fancy name) will naturally help you sleep better. That's why warm milk works, for those that can stomach it. I hate milk period, so that is not a viable solution for me. The interesting thing about tryptophan is that complex carbs will increase its effect. So add throw some fruit into a bowl of yogurt or cottage cheese and see if helps. You see, the brain converts tryptophan into melatonin naturally. And melatonin helps you to sleep.

Again, the key is to combine foods containing tryptophan with complex carbohydrates to help you sleep. Sources of B vitamins and magnesium will help as well. These would include:
  • whole grains
  • raw nuts
  • seed
  • legumes
Foods containing tryptophan include:
  • eggs (breakfast for dinner, anyone?)
  • cashews and peanuts
  • sunflower and sesame seeds
  • turkey (see, there is a reason the guys pass out in front of the football game on Thanksgiving)
  • cottage cheese
  • bananas, pineapples and plums
Something you may want to consider when changing your diet for a better night's sleep -- organic foods are best for this because many times it is the additives in foods that can cause insomnia.

Now if it is anxiety that is keeping you up at night, consider how much water you are drinking during the day. Dehydration, even if it is slight, can dramatically increase feelings of anxiety. Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate you, so if you choose to have either of these, make sure you drink plently of water to counteract that effect. Anxiety leads to stress and stress will definitely affect your sleep cycle, especially when you start worrying about not getting enough sleep!

Believe it or not, clutter can come into playhere. You will naturally feel more restful in a room that is soothing -- i.e. not with stuff piled up and thrown around everywhere! Keeping the room cool and quiet is important as well.

If your to-do list is haunting your would-be dreams, keep a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed (they sell light up pens, so you don't have to turn on any lights). Instead of worrying that you will forget something in the morning, simply jot it down and check that off the mental playlist you keep referring to. I have even heard it suggested that you then toss the paper into a drawer and close it. Try it -- it just might work to calm your mind enough to get some needed rest.

"Easy for you to say," some of you are thinking. "You don't have to sleep beside the snore monster!"

Here are my suggestions for that:
  • Earplugs (they work wonders, but can be an issue if you have to listen for little ones' cries in the night)
  • A room humidifier -- snoring is often caused by irritated nasal passages. Moistening the air will moisten them as well. Or buy some Breathe Right strips. Or get him to a doctor to check to make sure there isn't a health issue here.
  • Consider a "white noise" machine

According to an article I found from a 2005 edition of Good Housekeeping, insomnia is a learned behavior, which means it can be unlearned. Some of it has to do with self-talk. Change your inner dialogue and see what happens.

If you are online in the midst of your sleepless nights (which I know some of you are because I see what time you post things on FB!), why not make it a productive venture. Check out this online program for insomnia that was developed by Gregg Jacobs, Ph.D. and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School. The website starts out with claims that "You can conquer insomnia" and "You don't have to rely on sleeping pills." It is a worth a look the next time you are staring at the ceiling with an occasional glance at the digital clock beside you. Get up and log on.

Of course, you know to avoid caffeine late in the afternoon or evening, right? That includes chocolate, ladies! Some researchers have found that exposure to bright sunlight, for about a half hour early in the day, can help you fall asleep faster at night, and another 20 - 30 minutes of it late in the afternoon or early evening can help you stay asleep. Of course, in Western PA where I live, this is not always an option!

Back in August, I posted a natural cure for insomnia that involves vinegar (of course!). So if you missed it then, here is again:

Mix 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (I recommend organic raw unfiltered ACV) with a cup of honey. Take a teaspoon in the evening.

If all else fails, observe your dog or cat. Have you ever known them to battle insomnia? Of course not. Why is that? Perhaps it has something to do with being about to truly relax. They trust that you will take care of them. We humans are not so apt to let go and trust, are we?

For those of you struggling with sleepless nights, I pray that something here helps you. If it does, drop me a note and let me know.

Caring for you deeply,

Hana

Saturday, January 15, 2011


In memory of the grandbabies I never got to hold

The best and most beautiful things in the world
cannot be seen,
nor touched,
but are felt in the heart.

Helen Keller

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vinegar Friday

TGIVF!!

I spent most of Thursday in the library researching and writing a magazine article on pet nutrition. While I was there, I picked up a nifty little book called, what else?!...The Vinegar Book. It's just a simple book of tips compiled by Emily Thacker. Twelfth Edition. Must have been a popular resource. Much like I hope my own Vinegar Fridays book will be when it comes out.

As I was scanning through the pages, after my article was done, mind you...I was mildly annoyed by the sound of persistant coughing a few rows over. I wanted to tell this poor suffering soul to go home!! The amount of germs she was releasing into the library's atmosphere was startling! And disconcerting. And...well...annoying. She was actually irritating me more than the little boy who was talking incessantly and quite loudly a few feet away from me for a good ten minutes or so while his mother perused the shelves for a book in the crafts' section. Take him home! I wanted to say, every so politely.

You see, I was in the library. A place traditionally known as a quiet zone. I love quiet. I do not like noise...of any kind. When I am at home, I generally do not have the television on unless I am watching it. Occasionally, I will let music accompany my day, but usually, it is just quiet. The way I like it.

Not only was I in the library, but I was situated with my laptop and an array of research books in an area marked 'For Silent Study Only.' Coughing lady...I want silence! Little boy...I want silence! Young man on your cell phone...I want silence!

Well, guess what? You can't always get what you want. Which is probably what you are thinking as you are reading this...you came here wanting to read about vinegar and all you've got so far is the ranting of a somewhat mad woman. Sorry. It's been one of those weeks.

Back to The Vinegar Book. As I searched its pages, looking for a new tidbit of vinegar wisdom, trying not to be bothered by the hack, hack...cough, cough I was hearing, I actually discovered something new and potentially helpful to me in the future. If you, or someone you know, has asthma, this tip's for you!

"Asthma can be relieved by combining the advantages of accupressure with the benefits of apple cider vinegar. Use a wide rubber band to hold gauze pads, which have been soaked in vinegar, to the inside of the wrists."

Hmmm. I am almost wishing I had an asthma attack to try this one out. If any of you get the chance to try it, let me know how it works! Ms. Thacker does not specify how long you are to keep the gauze on your wrists, but I am certainly willing to give it a try. I was wishing I had some gauze and ACV at the library to pass it on to the hacking princess...

So, in addition to the asthma remedy, I discovered some other new-to-me remedies as well. Like this one for nausea:

"Banish the discomfort of nausea or vomiting by placing a cloth wrung out of warm apple cider vinegar on the stomach. Replace with another warm cloth when it cools."

I hope Emily doesn't mind my quoting directly from the book, but since these are such unique ideas, I would rather use her words than my own.

One more, cloth-soaked-in-vinegar tip:

"Soothe tired or sprained muscles by wrapping the afflicted area with a cloth wrung out of apple cider vinegar. Leave it on for 3 to 5 minutes and repeat as needed. For extra special relief, add a good dash of cayenne pepper to the vinegar."

While I am enjoying Emily Thacker's book, I do find one problem with it. She does not specify what type of apple cider vinegar to ingest for its healing properties. This is a major flaw in the book, as filtered ACV does not produce any particular health benefits when taken internally. She does dedicate a small section of the book to apple cider vinegar with the "mother," however.

And that's it for this cold snowy Vinegar Friday. I am looking forward to the upcoming Sabbath, starting with worship, followed by lunch with my children and grandchildren and ending with dinner and pinochle with friends.

Have a lovely weekend.

Keeping it healthy with vinegar,

Hana

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review It Wednesday

Disclaimer: Leaf & Bud Naturals
provided this product
for my review at no cost
Welcome to a new feature on the blog -- Review It Wednesdays.

Today I want to give two thumbs up to a product that was sent to me last month by Leaf & Bud Naturals. Without knowing how I feel about massage oils, Allin and Trina sent me a massage bar that offered the remedy I have been waiting for. You see, I love massages. What I don't love is the messiness of massage oils. I mean...yuck!

The perfect solution? An all natural massage bar that is free of any chemical preservatives. Leaf & Bud Naturals carries a whole line of natural and organic therapy and treatment products, including the Relief Massage Bar designed to offer penetrating relief for sore, achy muscles. And guess what? It works.

About a week before Christmas, I started having pain in my lower back that was indicative of sciatica. I suffered through the pain for a few days and then one night, I decided to give the massage bar a try. I warmed the bar in my hands until it started to melt and then rubbed the healing lotion up and down along the sciatic nerve. Within minutes, literally, the pain started to subside. I repeated this a couple times a day for a few days until the pain disappeared completely. Was it a coincidence? I really don't know. All I know is that the pain was gone and I didn't have to take pain killers or use anything toxic to give me relief.

Relief. That's the name of the massage bar I used -- Kali Spice Relief Massage Bar. A product of Canada, it comes from a company called Mountain Sky and is made from all natural ingredients:
  • Theobroma Cocoa Butter
  • Butyspermum Parkii (Shea Butter)
  • Beeswax
  • Camphor
  • Cinnamomum Zelanicum Oil
  • Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil
  • Mentha Pepperita (Peppermint) Oil
  • Eucalyptus Globulus Oil
  • Steric Acid
The essential oils are released as they are heated by your body's own temperature. The smell is delicious and there is absolutely no greasy, oily mess. I love this product! Really. I do.

My cats even purr out their approval. If you have a cat, you know how they react to perfumey scents -- they run away as quickly as they can. However, mine seem to like the scent of the Relief Massage Bar. They even let me rub the foil wrapper, which is infused with the smell from the butter and essential oils, all over their fur. So, how much more of an endorsement do you need?

And the massage bar is not just for the relief of aches and pains! It is perfect for moisturizing dry and chapped skin. It is also ideal for adding a touch of romance to your marriage. With Valentine's Day quickly approaching, this is a mighty fine gift idea for the love of your life. Of course, you will have to throw in a massage along with it!

You can buy the bar separately on the website for $5.50 (plus S&H) or as part of a gift set, coupled with a bar of Kali Spice Soap for $11.50. Or, if you are going to go with my Valentine's Day gift suggestion, you might want to check out the other massage bars on Leaf & Bud Naturals' site: Lavander Bliss (relaxing and refreshing) or Desire, Wild Rose (stimulating, soothing, romantic).

So that's it for this first Review It Wednesday. Two thumbs up for the Kali Spice Relief Massage Bar. You can't do any better than that! And you can't shop for it on a better site than Leaf & Bud Naturals. Tell them Green Grandma sent you!

Keeping it green,

Hana

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Sabbath Experiment -- week 14

Another week has come and gone. My husband and I spent the weekend at my mother's home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The weather spit out a slight threat, causing us a bit of trepidation about making the trip, but in the end, there was absolutely no weather-related issues at all. When Bill came home from work on Thursday with a bad sore throat and the beginnings of a cold that progressed steadily throughout the night, I almost made a solo trip. By Friday morning, I was feeling the affects of all of the sharing we do, and had to keep my own hankie close by.

By Saturday, however, we were both feeling pretty good. How'd we get over the sore throat and cold so quickly? Vinegar, of course! (Just in case you'd like to try it -- I just make a 50/50 mixture of honey and organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar and take a tablespoon every hour or so -- it works wonders!).

Being at my mom's for the weekend kind of messed up the whole idea of the Sabbath. I did some work for her on Saturday and Sunday and spent a little bit (and I stress little bit) of time on the computer. I am so grateful that my mother decided to get wireless Internet in her house so I don't have to traipse around town looking for a WiFi spot!
But, other than checking my email, I really didn't do anything work-related since Friday morning.

However, I admit I did not set aside an entire day over the weekend to observe the Sabbath. I didn't even go to church. But I did spend most of the last three days playing cards and Bananagrams with my mom, who turned 84 on Friday and can still play a mean game of Pinochle and give me some good competition when it comes to word games. That was, for the most part, restful. And on Saturday night, Bill and I went out to a local restaurant at 10:00 to have drinks with my best friend and her husband. Dawn and I met nearly 50 years ago and have been best friends ever since! So getting together with her whenever I visit my mom is a must. Dawn is like a balm in Gilead to my soul, so I am indeed refreshed, just by the very presence of her in my life.

You know, sometimes, our plans have to be adjusted according to circumstances. That is just the way it goes, and it's important we don't beat ourselves up over it. After all, there is always next week!

Trying to keep it restful on the Sabbath,

Hana

Saturday, January 8, 2011



The earth dries up and withers,
the world languishes and withers;
the heavens languish together with the earth.
The earth lies polluted
under its inhabitants,
for they have transgressed laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt.

-- Isaiah 24:4-6

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vinegar Friday

TGIVF!


Welcome to the first Vinegar Friday of 2011! Today we’re talking warm, swirling, muscle-relaxing water. Ahh, the pleasure of a hot tub.

Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil
I used to pay extra at hotels just so I could have one in my room. But after the research I have done lately, I think I will bypass that from now on. The problem is that, no matter how well the hotel maids scrub the tub, bacteria finds an ideal resting place inside the spray jets. There, basking in the warmth, it gets cozy and reproduces; then patiently waits for the jets to turn back on so it can spew out into the water, looking for a perfect host to nestle close to. Think I’m kidding? Unfortunately, I’m not.

According to researchers at Texas A&M University, nine out of ten water samples taken from hot tubs across the country was ripe with fecal bacteria. Yum. As a matter of fact, every sample was contaminated with something and these samples were taken from not only public places, but were collected in private homes as well. Here is what they found:

• Fungi – 81%
• Staph bacteria – 34%
• Fecal bacteria – 95%

Whoa! Makes you want to crawl right into another hot tub or whirlpool, doesn’t it?

Keep in mind that these samples were gathered from supposedly clean hot tubs. That’s what is scary! Even in your own home, your whirlpool tub could be harboring dangerous organisms and bacteria and you can’t even see them. Biofilms coat the inside of the pipes, creating a slime layer that is resistant to chemicals.

Hot tub rash, or pseudomonas folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles), which means your body will develop pus-filled red blisters. Lovely.

Other disorders that can result from bacteria in hot tubs include:

• Ear infections
• Respiratory infections
• Legionnaire’s Disease
• Pink eye and other eye infections
• Staphylococcus
• Genital infections and herpes
• Lower sperm count

While all those bubbles may feel good, respiratory infections, such as Hot Tub Lung, are caused by breathing in a bacteria called Mycobacterium avium (M. avium) when the bubbles start to burst around you. Legionnaire’s Disease results from inhaling the Legionella bacteria.

As you can see, the results of bacteria breeding in the pipes and then being released when the spray jets are turned on can range from bothersome to deadly.

So, what does all this good stuff have to do with Vinegar Fridays? What do you think?

While there is some debate over what I am about to share, there is evidence that good ol’ distilled white vinegar is the answer. Of course, in the cases where the infections can be deadly, I would be hesitant to count on this. But if you have a whirlpool or hot tub, and you know who is spending time in it, vinegar could be the answer to killing the organisms and bacteria lurking behind your spray jets.

The fact of the matter is that distilled white vinegar kills

• 99% of bacteria
• 80% of germs, as in viruses
• 82% of molds

And according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutritions, many bacteria are inactivated by the acetic acid in vinegar.

So what should you do? Dump a gallon of DWV into the water in the tub. Turn on the jets and let them run for a couple of hours. After you drain the water, wipe the tub down with a sponge soaked in full-strength vinegar. There’s no need to rinse, as the vinegar smell will dissipate quickly. To be safe, you want to do this at least twice a month.

Using vinegar is not only safer, but it is also far less expensive than the chemical products usually used. In addition to killing the bacteria, another advantage to these vinegar soaks is that your water stains will disappear, your jets will be clog-free and all residue and odors will be gone.

As for me, I think I will stick to my hot baths in my bathtub. The risk of diseases in hot tubs just makes me a little nervous.

Oh, and one more thing – if you are pregnant, especially in your first trimester, avoid hot tubs altogether. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, exposure to the high temps in hot tubs can result in an increased risk of neural tube defects in the baby. Protect your little one – he or she is counting on it.

Keeping it healthy and green with vinegar,

Hana

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Caring too much

A family member recently criticized me for “caring too much.” That was a slap in the face I did not expect. She said, “Well, you do. You always know people who have traumatic things happening to them and you get too involved. I mean, you and Bill are always off visiting people in the hospital. That’s ridiculous. They probably don’t even want you there. A card would be enough.” Wow.

So, herein lies the question: is it possible to care too much? When a friend, family member or simply an acquaintance is in need, should we put their needs on the care-o-meter and measure just how involved we should get? Or should we go with our instincts to reach out and do just that? What are your thoughts?

Maybe we do care too much. When I see my husband praying for someone he does not even know and I reach out to wipe away a tear from his eye, perhaps I should just slap him silly and tell him to knock it off! I tend to think I would be the one in need of prayer then!

I know people whose main goal in life is to be happy. That’s fine for them. But I just cannot wrap my mind around that concept. Do I think we shouldn’t seek happiness? Not at all. I am happy much of the time. But I simply refuse to sacrifice my compassion for others who are hurting so that I can live in La La land, singing happy little diddies and laughing my life away. That might suit my purposes, but I live under the guise that life is not just about me. And I recognize that it is all about balance. After all, I would not be a good wife, mother, friend or grandmother if I were completely wrapped up in the cares of the world. It is good to sing little diddies and engage in some hearty belly laughs. And there is certainly loads of room for that in my life.

But my challenge to you in this new year is to live lives worthy of the same kind of criticism – that you care too much. Let’s make this Green Grandma community a community of extreme caring, of compassion, of grace. We can care about the environment all we want, but if we are not caring about the finest of God’s creation – his people – what good is it? We can do both, because, after all, we are amazing.

Caring for you deeply,

Hana

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Sabbath Experiment -- Week 13

My first Sabbath of a new year. Let me tell you … it was restful! There is no other word for it. My husband and I decided to honor the Sabbath on New Year’s Day, leaving Sunday open for church, lunch with the kids/grandkids and a bit of work once we got home.


Actually, Sunday ended up being pretty restful as well. Work was minimal … responding to a couple of business emails and blogging, mostly done while sitting in the Lazy Boy in front of the fire. No stress. Peace and quiet. Wow. While I do not expect this to be a common occurrence, my Sabbath Experiment in 2011 involved an entire weekend!

Saturday was a lazy day. We decided to sleep on the sofa bed in the family room by the lit Christmas tree on Friday night. I woke up around nine and, upon seeing the foggy, rainy weather outside, crawled back into bed and slept until eleven. How delicious is that? And, no, it wasn’t because we had been drinking the night before. At one point, I thanked God that we didn’t get another dog after Jake died in 2008. After all, dogs do not tolerate this kind of morning laziness.

After breakfast, I did what seemed completely appropriate for a day of rest … I took a nap! Bill and I have these wonderful fleece sheets that are unbelievably comfortable. In the warmer weather, we use the more environmentally friendly and healthier bamboo sheets, but once the temps drop, we love climbing into a bed of amazing softness. The temptation was too great. The sheets were calling me. I succumbed and slept some more.

Dinner, movies and games rounded out the day/night. It was a lovely way to spend not only a Sabbath, but a holiday as well. I told Bill on several occasions during the day that I was so glad we weren’t having company for dinner. After a hectic holiday season, a restful weekend was most definitely in order!

So now, I can face the beginning of the workweek (month, year!) feeling recharged and stress-free. Thank you, Lord, for giving us the model of the Sabbath to follow. Forcing myself to step back and not work one day a week is sure to lead to more productivity on the other six.

It is a new year. Why not join in the Experiment and take a day off each week as well. Maybe we can start a movement!

Keeping it restful on the Sabbath,

Hana

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Image complements of Karen's Whimsy


“Be always at war with your vices,
at peace with your neighbors,
and let each New Year find you a better man.”

– Benjamin Franklin

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