summertime…and the pickings are slim

Remember the first job you ever had? A paying job, I mean. Not some volunteer stint  in exchange for a pat on the back and a stellar recommendation to go along with it. Or as in my case, a couple of summers helping the nun in charge of the bookstore set up shop for students returning to school in the Fall. That got me a break in tuition and a discount on my books. My mom was forever indebted to the Marianist Sisters; I was grateful too…in a less religious way. I got to play “big shot” in front of my fellow school mates.

No. I’m talking about 8 hours work for 8 hours pay, and overtime when warranted.

On the Hawaiian Island of Maui where I grew up, the best most of us graduating from high school could get was a job at the Maui Pineapple Cannery. It had openings for hundreds on their assembly lines. We were literally…hired hands.

I was a pineapple packer making $1.25 an hour. That was a heap of money in 1966 for the youngest in a family of 9 who never got an allowance. Good luck trying to hire a teenager for that kind of money these days, unless you outsource to the Philippines or India.

Swelling like a proud peacock as I walked through the warehouse entrance those first several days, I embraced the scent of ripening fruit that surrounded me. How fortunate I felt to be part of the pineapple family. I was motivated to be the best employee ever hired to pack pineapple into cans.

There were female foremen who walked among us, correcting or praising as the situation warranted. Once-in-awhile they moved into position, demonstrating the proper way to do the job. 

I’m positive I got a little of both…complimented for doing good work, and lectured for wasting perfectly good fruit. When packing a pineapple, I had to decide whether or not all the slices were worthy of being sent along to the consumer. At 16, I had the power!!! Yeah, right.

Sometimes I substituted for a person cutting pineapples. I’m pretty sure I was petrified at the thought of slicing off a finger, or at the very least the tip of one. Developing lightning speed took time. I never occupied the position long enough to acquire that skill. I was always relieved when the regular cutter returned to her position. Phew! Talk about my relief…at being relieved.

It didn’t take long before I landed in the cannery’s infirmary. Nausea and the heat generated from the machinery made many of us sick to our stomachs. It didn’t help that the humidity outdoors made its way indoors. Thankfully, I eventually developed an armor-like constitution…along with an aversion…to pineapple.

To this day I welcome the occasional piece of pineapple-upside-down cake…or a piece of pineapple in my favorite recipe of island-style meatballs, or sweet-sour spareribs. But a bowlful of pineapple all by itself? I don’t think so. I’d sooner eat a serving of broccoli steamed with a sprinkling of lemon juice and parmesan cheese.

That’s saying a lot for someone who grew up eating canned veggies.

Without a doubt, working in the Maui Pineapple Cannery “grew hair on my chest.” I was ready to face the big, bad world as a college freshman in the big city, Honolulu, on the island of Oahu.

…no one dared mess with me!

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

what’s your “cup of tea?”

My least favorite meal of the day is…breakfast. There’s no adventure to it. Unless you’re a gourmet chef…whether professional or amateur. Or if you are a connoisseur of eggs, bread, and coffee, like my husband.

Perhaps if I lived in Japan where rice is eaten three times a day, I’d like breakfast better. You see growing up in Hawaii, I ate rice every day, sometimes even for breakfast. Probably a tradition heavily influenced by the Chinese and Japanese immigrants who settled in the islands and worked on the plantations.

New Turkey Bacon!

The choices I’m permitted on the 2 or 3 diets I follow at any given time, sometimes simultaneously, are…eggs and turkey bacon…oatmeal and turkey bacon…or freshly-made juice and turkey bacon. Oh, I can definitely change it up if I’d like…veggie omelette, scrambled eggs with veggies, oatmeal with blueberries, oatmeal with diced apples, juices made with any combinations of fruits…apples, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach. Oh yes! And Instead of turkey bacon I can have Canadian bacon.

Yahoo! Aren’t I the lucky one!

What never, ever changes is my cup of green tea. Make mine decaf, please. I’m an insomniac, you see. Thanks to a middle-aged woman’s worst enemy…menopause.

I imagine in other parts of the world…like France and Italy…the first meal of the day offers more delights. Like chocolate croissants or pasta with meat sauce. I’ll bet the French and Italians don’t think twice about what they’ll have for breakfast. Do those folks even diet? Probably not since they have a glass of wine which is heart healthy.  If not at breakfast, then perhaps a couple of hours later. 

So much is made of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. I shouldn’t skip it or I’ll be grazing all day long, or my glucose level will spike. School children need a hearty breakfast so they’ll be primed to do their best work. 

I totally agree with all the research, but breakfast is still not my favorite meal of the day. Lunch is better…dinner better-er. Funny thing is when I’ve made breakfast for dinner…it’s been wonderful. Maybe it’s the novelty…or maybe it’s because…

…i’m not a morning person!…what’s your breakfast specialty?…

………hugmamma.

Breakfast of rasperries, blueberries and oatmeal.

quench your thirst…and make some $$$

Sen. Joe Biden buys lemonade at the 2007 Itali...

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever sold lemonade from a makeshift stand as a child? I have. Those were the good old days, when making a living was simpler. When I needed some spending money, my best friend and I would just throw together some cardboard boxes, from which we’d sell our freshly-made beverage.

In my time, we probably sold a cupful of lemonade for no more than a nickel. Maybe some kind adult would spend a dime so we could sell out faster, and get down to the real business…of playing. This recipe reminded me of my childhood and some of the fun times my friends and I had. Of course, in those days lemonade was…well, lemonade, made with lemons, water and sugar. I don’t think my mom would’ve pitched in for some fancy, schmancy fruits to add. She’d have probably asked “What are you making? Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade?!?” I don’t think she would’ve followed it up with “Are you crazy or something?!?” But you never know…you never know.

So go help your kids set up a lemonade stand, and do pitch in for the extra ingredients. After all these are not the “good old days,”…these are the “better than ever days.” And have a cupful yourself. Then get out there, enjoy the day with your kids…and play!!! Take the opportunity when you can, for one day you’ll be reminiscing like me…about the “good old days.”

Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade

Raspberries (Rubus Idaeus).

Image via Wikipedia

6 cups watermelon cubes (seeds removed)
1/4 cup raspberries
1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 lemon juice

Place watermelon, raspberries and water in blender
container; cover and blend until smooth. Strain
through fine-mesh strainer into pitcher. Stir in sugar
and lemon juice until sugar dissolves. Refrigerate
until chilled, about 1 hour. Makes 4 servings.

Obviously you’ll have to up the quantity of ingredients. I don’t think 4 servings is going to make successful entrepeneurs of your children. Unless, of course, they have a little bit of Christ in them. You know, like when he multiplied a few fish and loaves of bread in order to feed the masses gathered about him. Or unless your little ones can pull off some of the stunts I’ve seen magicians do now days on America’s Got Talent.” What am I thinking? If you’ve got budding magicians in your household…forget about lemonade stands…even ones selling fancy, schmancy…Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade!

…save me a cup…oh, by the way…what’s the price?…hugmamma.  

 

the japanese, a stalwart people

A bowl of miso soup

Image via Wikipedia

My husband and I had dinner at Tokyo, a small Japanese restaurant. Some might call it a “hole in the wall.” Regular diners, like ourselves, use the phrase lovingly. In other words the restaurant’s appearance is nothing spectacular, but its food is “to die for,” and its prices are fair. My combination dinner of miso soup, salad with Japanese dressing, teriyaki salmon, California roll, brown rice and a peeled orange that was sweet and juicy, “hit the spot.” I love Japanese food, at least the westernized version of the more traditional fare.

California roll served in Shanghai, China. Pre...

Image via Wikipedia

During dinner my husband asked if I’d thought about the next topic for my blog. I said “Yes, that I had.” The recent Tsunami in Japan had me thinking about its people. While I don’t know anyone who lives there, I’m well acquainted with their culture. Hawaii is a melting pot of ethnicities, Japanese being one of them. Historically they were enlisted to work the plantations, replacing the first wave of immigrants, the Chinese, who improved their lot, moving from laborers to small business owners.

Growing up among the Japanese in Maui, I saw them as a quiet, soft-spoken, hard-working people. Family and honor were important in their culture. They were leaders, for sure, but they led by example. Children knew what was expected of them, because they did as their parents did. And the adults seemed to do whatever was necessary to provide for themselves and their families, by simply doing. They grew their own produce, they fished, they opened small mom and pop grocery stores. From what I observed, the Japanese seemed a very self-sufficient people. Moreover, I never heard them complain. It seemed they felt anything was possible, if they just worked hard enough.

When learning of the devastating losses it has suffered in the wake of the Tsunami, I could only think that Japan will re-emerge strong once again, like the mythological phoenix which arose from its own ashes. It is not a nation that cries out in desperation. Instead its people will put their noses to the proverbial grindstone, and rebuild their country from the ground up, making it even better than before. If God ever imbued a people with the gift of everlasting hope, in my opinion it would have to be the Japanese.

for a country of hard-working people…hugs and prayers…hugmamma.

fiber…diabetes, the connection

February is “heart healthy” month. So I thought I’d share information that I myself must heed, as we make our way through the remaining 25 days. Whether directly, or indirectly, these tips involve heart health.

The following is from Reader’s Digest soft cover book “Reverse Diabetes.” It’s something to which I try to faithfully adhere. Every now and then I’ll digress, opting for yolkless eggs scrambled with sauteed veggies, Canadian bacon, and a slice of high-fiber bread, lightly spread with peanut butter and jelly. But more often than not, a bowl of oat bran mixed with a cup of blueberries, 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed meal, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and a cup of vanilla almond milk is my breakfast of choice. I down that with a cup of green tea.

What happens when…I eat a bowl of high-fiber cereal for breakfast?

The inside story: First, consider what happens when you eat sugary, low-fiber breakfast cereal. The carbohydrates in those crunchy treats make a rapid trip through your digestive system and are just as speedily converted to glucose. You know what that means. Your blood sugar spikes then plummets, and you’re hungry soon after. Choosing breakfast cereal or other foods high in fiber minimizes that problem for a simple reason: You can’t digest fiber. Instead, this rough stuff gets in the way as your body tries to absorb carbs and convert them into glucose. That makes for a slower, gentler rise in blood sugar after a meal. Keep eating high-fiber foods and your blood sugar will stay low, which will make cells throughout your body start processing this key energy source more efficiently. That means your pancreas won’t have to work so hard to churn out insulin, which can help keep diabetes at bay and make you less likely to need medications if you have the condition.

Eating fiber-rich whole-grain cereal has other benefits for blood sugar. For instance, whole grains are high in the mineral magnesium, which helps insulin to perform its handiwork. Eating high-fiber foods also lowers cholesterol and fills your stomach, which means you feel satisfied on fewer calories. That makes fiber a dieter’s friend.

BOTTOM LINE: In one huge study of more than 21,000 men, those who ate a daily bowl of cereal–especially high-fiber whole-grain varieties–cut their risk for type 2 diabetes by 37 percent.

The article proceeds to offer advice on choosing “a great breakfast cereal.”

Read ingredient lists and buy brands that include oat bran, barley, or psyllium seed husks as one of the first few ingredients. Avoid varieties that list corn, rice, or sugar among the first few ingredients.

I rarely breakfast on boxed cereals because of their high sugar, low fiber content. One-third cup of dry oat bran serves up 80 calories, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, 5 grams of fiber, no sugar, and 5 grams of protein. Add to that the flaxseed, which, at 60 calories in 2 tablespoons, has 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 2400 milligrams of omega-3, no cholesterol, no sodium, no sugar, 4 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein. A cup of blueberries tops off the cereal with another 3 grams of fiber. This bowl of breakfast cereal starts my day off with 12 grams of fiber, half of the recommended daily amount! During the rest of the day I continue ramping up my fiber count with veggies, fruits and high-fiber breads, pastas, or brown rice.

keeping diabetes at a giant arm’s length…hugmamma.

2011, “the year of the vegetable”

Hate to admit it, but I can hear my vegetarian friends saying “We told you so!” And they did. Kudos to them for pioneering the way to a healthier lifestyle. I only wish their voices had rung louder, at least in my ears. Of course die-hard meat-eaters will probably stop reading, but I encourage you to keep an open mind, not for my sake, but for your own. I’ve learned my lesson, the hard way. You may have to, as well. It’s up to you. I’d just like to add my voice to those trying to encourage others to stop gorging on toxic food. In the end, it’ll turn around to bite you in the butt, and everywherelse. I’m a long, long way from being a vegetarian, but I’m striving to inch closer and closer to a lifestyle resembling that of my healthy friends. I’ll settle for almost, if not full-blown, vegetarian.

The following editorial article in the Wall Street Journal’s January 3rd edition makes a good case for eating more veggies. Its author, George Ball, is chairman of the W. Atlee Burpee Co. and past president of the American Horticultural Society. Yes, he has a vested interest in that Burpee seeds is a proponent of growing our own produce, but we have a vested interest in prolonging the quality of our lives by eating more fresh produce, homegrown or not.

2011: The Year of the Vegetable

Childhood obesity is now the nation’s disease–an ailment crippling the body politic. The long-term health effects are well-established and include early onset diabetes and premature hip and joint problems. American children are prematurely aging, suffering from sicknesses that were once the provenance of older adults. Old has become the new young.

The lineup of culprits includes school vending machines, the endangered home-cooked meal, vanishing physical-education classes, fried everything, super-sized portions, sedentary hours spent zoned out in front of the computer screen, nutritional ignorance, misleading labeling and more. But whatever and whoever is to blame, it is surely not kids. We cannot expect children to make the right food choices when healthy foods are out of reach and nutrition-smart role models are not in evidence.

The saddest thing about childhood obesity is that it’s unnecessary. It’s inexcusable that in the breadbasket of the world American children ar eating so much lousy food. First lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity initiative, “Let’s Move,” represents a welcome beginning to what will have to become a nutritional revolution.

As an agriculturist and horticulturist, I believe that the answer is simple. As parents, educators, nutritionists and marketers, we have to imbue our children with the love of–and consumption of–the most beneficial food for growing bodies. This means fresh vegetables and fruits, whether store-bought or home-grown.

As kids, we imitate our elders, who teach most effectively by example. Right now, adults aren’t doing a good job of modeling good behavior. According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 26% of adults have three or more servings of vegetables a day, a number that includes those who deem a tomato slice or lettuce on a burger as a “vegetable serving.” In other words, roughly 80% of U.S. adults scarcely eat any vegetables at all.

Liking vegetables is not a given:  Every food other than breast milk is an acquired taste. But children can easily learn to enjoy eating their greens. It’s simply a matter of education and familiarity–as in “family.” Children will happily eat squash, artichoke or broccoli, to the delight of the parents who taught them to do so. As for fruits, children can gobble them up, but like vegetables, they must be at the ready, at least as available as all the junky alternatives.

In our research at Atlee Burpee, we have found that kids who grow vegetables alongside their parents eat them regularly and with gusto. Peas, green beans and raw carrots–the very vegetables that kids are told to eat, their parents’ admonishing fingers wagging–are particular favorites.

While not all American families have the benefit of a sun-filled backyard for a vegetable garden, companies like Burpee offer many vegetable seeds and plants that you can grow easily in containers. You can grow beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, which can be plucked from the stalk well into winter.

Eighteen years ago, as president of the American Horticultural Society, I initiated a children’s gardening program. Our annual symposium drew thousands of educators and community gardeners with the goal of educating and inspiring children to grow gardens in their school and neighborhoods. The results were heartening:  Thousands of churches, schools and community centers sprouted new gardens.

Yet no single institution is sufficient; fighting a problem of this sort requires a multifaceted effort. Churches could do much more to inspire families to grow vegetables. Public and private botanical and community gardening groups should augment efforts to lure neighbors into their educational demonstration gardens. Most families, whether in the city or suburbs, can plant at least a “starter garden”–involving pre-teen children in the planting, tending and harvesting.

While the first lady deserves the credit for focusing the nation on childhood obesity, it is an issue that both political parties can endorse. Vegetables are deliciously nonpartisan.

Let’s make 2011 the Year of the Vegetable. We have nothing to lose but our waistlines.

In conclusion, two things come to mind. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the oft told tale of children feeding their veggies to the family dog, or veggies disappearing into napkins with one swipe of the mouth. My in-laws actually have an even better anecdote that is often recounted for the benefit of the grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. When my husband or any of his siblings lingered too long over their veggies, they were made to sit in the garage until they had devoured every last morsel. As they tell it, the cockroaches that skulked around hiding in corners, or that brazenly crossed the concrete floor, got their fair share of the nasty food. I think they were actually the objects of target practice. Whatever their purpose, the roaches were partners-in-crime with my husband and his siblings.

My second thought on this subject is that 2011 as the “Year of the Vegetable” has a nice ring to it. Although half- Chinese, I’m neither first-generation, nor am I schooled in their ways since my Chinese father died when I was one. As a result, I really don’t identify with that culture’s astrological calendar.  I’m not sure if I was born in the “Year of the Rat,” or the “Year of the Tiger.” Even if I could remember which it is, I’m sure it makes no real difference in my life. But being raised an American, and having bought into our western society’s feeding frenzy for far too long, making this year, and every year hereafter, the “Year of the Vegetable,” makes fundamental sense to my own well-being, and that of all generations, present and future.

reborn in the “year of the vegetable”…hugmamma.  

vegetarian, “mission impossible?”

In keeping with my previous post, I’m forced to seriously consider the  health benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. If you’ve been with me since the early days of my blog, you’ll know this isn’t a decision I make lightly. Having grown up in a household with many mouths to feed, and a widowed mom as the sole breadwinner, meat was a luxury to be sure. So as an adult who’s been able to afford better fare, all forms of meat, especially red, has been a staple the last 40 years. While my family has cut back considerably on feasting on steak, ground beef still shows up in a variety of favorite dishes, like chili, spaghetti, Salisbury steak, teriyaki meatballs. But my recent spate of digestive issues has me rethinking what I put in my mouth. It’s probably lucky for me that my body has always known when to “hit the brakes”, even when I don’t.

As a child I would frequently suffer what my mom called “bush.” She said that was what the Portuguese called a “turned ” stomach. After asking if I’d fallen down to determine the cause of my pain, she’d set about “turning” my stomach so that it would be right side up again. I wasn’t one to question when I was in agony, so I submitted to her superstitious remedies. Lying on my back, my mom would massage my stomach with rubbing alcohol. Beside myself with moaning, tears streaming down my face, it seemed to me that after a bit my stomach ache was, in fact, better. Of course I was told to rest, my mom cooing me to sleep.

Over the years, I’ve been in and out of doctor’s offices for digestive problems, having even seen a gastroenterologist in my late 20s. While the problem wasn’t in my mind, its resolution was always nebulous. The only solid fact told me by one New York physician, that took me many years to finally accept, is that I’m lactose-intolerant. How did I decide he was probably right? After gorging on ice cream, I’d get a mean belly ache, that’s how. But testing his theory once wasn’t enough. I had to re-enact that scenario again and again, until duh, I got that “light-bulb” moment. So it’s not that I’ve permanently banished jamocha almond fudge or coconut ice cream from my palate. I just satisfy myself with a taste, a kid’s size cup or cone does the trick. And therein probably lies the secret to a healthy diet, A TASTE, not a bowlful or a plateful of anything. Except if you’re like me, a taste can lead to another, and another, and before I know it, I’m in trouble.

Last night on PBS, Dr. Daniel Amen was giving a lecture on “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body,” another of his books. He said something about himself that struck a chord with me. He noticed that certain foods triggered something in his brain which made him crave “bad” foods. Sugar and salt are 2 triggers which have me running like a hamster round and round in its wheel. I noticed a long time ago, probably when I was doing Weight Watchers, that after eating a cookie, I needed to eat chips, or vice versa. As we all do, I kept myself in check for a little while. But as memory fades, so does resolve. That’s why I’m probably lucky that my metabolism goes haywire before I get myself into really dire straits.

Veggies were not a mainstay of family meals in the Hawaiian homes I visited growing up. Since everything had to be shipped into the islands at great expense, fresh produce wasn’t always affordable for lower-income households. I can remember having potatoes, carrots, and onions in stew, with very little meat. But having a separate serving of vegetables on the dinner plate is not something I remember seeing regularly. And I can’t remember that we were heavily into growing our own either. I mention all this as an excuse for not having grown up eating fruits and veggies, as we now know we all should be doing. But wasn’t the old version of the FDA’s food pyramid also to blame? I think carbs, dairy and protein were ranked higher in the old days. But no matter, this is 2011, and I’m 61.

Fruits, veggies, and grains are definitely what my body now needs to maintain my life going forward. My digestive system can no longer process refined foods, dairy products, and meats like it did in the good old days. Wish we could all learn this lesson sooner, rather than later. But the best we can do is continually remind ourselves, and hope that the message finally takes hold nationwide so that future generations will live more healthfully. We seem to be living longer thanks to scientific research, but our quality of life falls far short. Do we really want to extend the number of years we suffer from physical ailments, because we gorged on toxic food?

I sometimes wonder what my mom’s quality of life would have been like, had she the benefit of more education, not just about food, but about everything. She had to leave school after 6th grade. Thereafter, her life was just about survival. What she ate was probably not her biggest concern, but that she ate at all, and that we her children had food on our plates as well.

i have a college degree, i should know better…but i’m still human…and there are so many temptations…hugmamma.

“an apple a day,” the costco way

From all I’ve read and heard, apples are one of the best fruits to eat, period! The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is not a myth, according to experts like Dr. Oz. It provides the fiber needed to maintain digestive health, and the pectin in the skin of the fruit helps in the prevention of heart attacks. Apples are not my favorite fruit; I don’t think I have any.

Because fruit was readily available, more or less, depending on the generosity of others who “gave to the poor,” as a child, I preferred candy. Not on our family’s short list of  “must-haves,” it was a rarity. That’s why Halloween was high on my list of all-time favorite holidays; it still is. The difference now? I needn’t go house to house looking for handouts.  I can buy as much candy as I like, the kind I like. Eating as much as I like, is another thing. You know, older age= slow metabolism, and too much sugar= arthritic pain.

Helping me remain an arm’s length from my favorite “fruit,” is a tray of apples from Costco that sits atop my microwave. By far the most useful appliance in my kitchen, it’s also my “go-to” when I need reminding to do something like… eating an apple a day. Since our kitchen remodel a few years ago, I’ve stopped using the refrig as a bulletin board. Instead, the microwave serves as my reminder station, but only for important notices like, “Thurs., 9 p.m., Barb Walters/Oprah,” or “no more dog food” or “call cat-sitter.” So putting the apples ON the microwave means they’ll get eaten. If they sat anywhere else, they’d just get moved around, and eventually rot.

You’ll surely eat an apple a day, 

if you do it the Costco way,

just buy a whole tray,

and keep eating away.

It goes even quicker, 

if you share,

so share!!!…hugmamma.

strategies, just in case

Returned to exercise class after being absent for 3 weeks. Luckily I can depend upon muscle memory; once the music starts it’s all about bumping and grinding to the rhythm. It takes a few minutes for my brain cells to fall in line, moving to the beat as one, with my body. But I know that in older age it’s going to take many more classes, as well as walking the track in the evenings, to peel off the pounds I put on while visiting my daughter. I made sure she ate well, unfortunately I partook of the same bounty. Because my husband and I share the same health concerns, it’s easier to return to a stricter diet, lots of veggies and fruits, much less carbs, absolutely no butter, and no snacking whatsoever. My daughter could afford to digress from her normal diet of salads, veggies, fruits and protein, because she exercises all day, every day.

I received a hearty welcome from Kristina, the instructor, as well as my exercise cronies. It’s nice to be missed. Quite a few ladies were absent from the group. But once the weather reaches down into the 40 degrees, the rest will return. Chilly weather correlates to heartier meals like soups and stews, while the holidays seem to give us carte blanche to overeat. Only when we’re sufficiently guilt-ridden, and have packed on enough extra pounds, do we make our way back to common sense, and exercise. So I’d better undo what I’ve already done, in preparation for what I’m about to do. Make sense?

After class, Kristina and I made our way to a charming coffee-house which I’d not been in before. The owners of the adjoining wine bar, Vino Bella, opened this deli which serves up breakfast and lunch sandwiches, in addition to espresso drinks. Will definitely return with my husband on the weekend to sample the food. Over lattes, Kristina and I chatted about topics ranging from politics to families. Of particular interest was her advice about bear encounters. She’s a fan of the great outdoors, having seen a fair number of wild animals while hiking. We decided that avid hikers learn not to panic, as well as what they should, and shouldn’t, do during encounters. My guess is that practice makes perfect. Problem is, I don’t want to practice meeting up with wild animals, in order to figure out how best to deal with them when I do. I would like NEVER to encounter a wild animal, period. But if I do, I’ll try to follow Kristina’s advice.

  • It’s her opinion, and others, that black bears are not as inclined as grizzlies to attack humans. In the rare case that a black bear does harm a person, there’s probably an extenuating circumstance. In the recent case reported on the local news, it was found that the bear was malnourished, and afflicted with parasites.
  • If I encounter a black bear (Kristina assures me there are no grizzlies in the area), I should not look it in the eye, I should not run. Both responses will trigger the bear’s defensive and predatory instincts. Instead she recommends I go limp, and “play dead,” covering my vital organs and head. I’ve seen this recommendation enacted in a TV documentary where the speaker slumped to the ground in a fetal position, hands cradling the back of his head, fingers intertwined. Kristina related the recent Yellowstone incident where 3 people were attacked by a bear. A woman who was bitten, screamed. The bear responded by biting harder; the woman screamed louder, and so on. Realizing she needed to change her strategy, she went limp, playing dead. The bear ceased biting her and, unfortunately, went after another person.
  • Kristina and I also discussed what I should do if I came across a cougar (or mountain lion), because they’ve also been seen in neighboring backyards. She enlightened me to the fact that, unlike black bears who subsist primarily on grass and berries, cougars are predators. Because they fear other predators, my best defense is to present myself as one, by making noise, swinging a rake or some other weapon, and even pulling my jacket or shirt up over my head to appear larger.

We hadn’t planned on discussing defense strategies should I come face-to-face with black bears or cougars, but I can never arm myself with too much information, just in case. I just hope  my brain’s muscle memory will go into automatic cruise control. It’s little consolation that while assuring me black bears don’t attack humans, Kristina admitted that on the rare occasion one does then, unfortunately, it must be that victim’s destiny. Okay…

A cousin of Kristina’s is here in the U.S. from his home in the UK. Like her, he’s an avid outdoors person. Since mid-July he has been hiking mountain ranges, making his way through  several western states. Kristina and her daughter have joined her cousin on some of his treks. He told them of 3 encounters he’d had with black bears, who all took flight at the sight of him. The speed with which they turned and ran, confirmed his knowledge that a human could never outrun a bear, so best not try. Through his binoculars he saw a grizzly with 2 cubs in a field, some distance away. That would still be too close for me, unless I was safely ensconced in a huge tour bus, surrounded by fellow travelers.

Like you I think bears and wild cats are cute, when they’re behind glass or across moats, in a zoo, or on the African plains, but not roaming around my neighborhood. And if you live where there isn’t the slightest  possibility that you’ll come eye to eye with a wild animal, then thank your lucky stars. I don’t mind co-habitation, as long as we’re not doing it in the same spot, at the same time.   

you never know, you just never know…hugmamma. (local news just reported black bear seen “hanging out in a grassy area” down the road from our neighborhood, same place where another one was hit and killed by a car last week. hmmm…we may have to build mocha an indoor bathroom. not sure i’ll be walking her anymore, unless it’s around the track in the gym.)

veggies and watermelon, quick and easy

I love to cook, probably because I love to eat. By the way my recent visit to the doctor bore good news, my muscle inflammation is at an all-time low, in the mid-200 range, 20+ points above the desired max. Unfortunately the bad news is that my cholesterol count is still too high, over 200. Statins are not an option because of my tendency toward muscle inflammation. So doc and I decided that I’d continue to focus upon dieting and exercising. I’ve done it before, 20 years ago when Weight Watchers and 4-mile walks contributed to a cholesterol reading of 162. But can I do it now when metabolism is on the down-swing, not on the up-swing, and looking at a peanut can pack on 10 pounds? Well, stay tuned…

Eating fruits and veggies is a conscious act, unlike savoring a slice of Hawaiian sweet-bread, slathered with butter, real butter, and chocolate peanut butter. There’s not as much crunch and fiber as the healthy stuff, but there’s a whole lot more mouth-watering, sensory overload, smooth-as-silk flavor. But never mind what I’d rather, here’s a tip for those lacking time and motivation to prepare the good-for-you stuff. Just figured this one out for myself, and I like its simplicity, versatility, and the taste’s not so bad either.

I purchased a prepared, large veggie platter from Costco for $9.99. At home, I distributed the veggies into quart-size storage bags. My bags contained sweet baby carrots, plump cherry tomatoes, bite-size pieces of broccoli, and another of cauliflower. A tub of Litehouse peppercorn ranch dip came with the platter. I munched on these assorted veggies randomly throughout the day, sometimes spooning a little (goes a long way) of the dressing on them. I also served the raw veggies as a side to a meal of chili. Finally, I tossed the broccoli pieces and cherry tomatoes in with salad greens along with other items like sliced almonds and blueberries. Then scooping a couple of tablespoons of the dip into a small bowl, I added a little water to thin its consistency. Pouring the homemade dressing over the salad contents, I combined them until everything was nicely coated. I do this with all creamy dressings so that we eat fewer calories, but enjoy the same mouthfuls of flavor.

For the price of individual packages of carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, not to mention a jar of dressing, the Costco platter was quite a savings. And there’s always waste in purchasing big bags of carrots, a carton of cherry tomatoes, a head of cauliflower, and a head of broccoli, as well as having half-empty bottles of dressings sit in the refrigerator for weeks or months or years. (I’m guilty of years’ worth of liquid dressings that have congealed beyond recognition. I’ve yet to toss some out.) Each one of the aforementioned, packaged items can run half, or higher, the price of Costco’s veggie platter. The convenience of not having to cut up the heads of broccoli and cauliflower is an added bonus, not to be downplayed when fast foods are more tempting than good foods.

Watermelon is a favorite of my daughter’s. I use to serve it up regularly for play groups at our house. Though it’s not so commonplace for us anymore, my husband and I are still fans when the fruit is in season, like now. I still dish it up as I did for toddlers, …oh so long ago.

I recently bought a third of a watermelon. I first sliced it crosswise into pieces we’re accustomed to eating. Then I slid the knife between the edible red portion and the pale green rind, cutting around the entire rim, separating the red from the green. Finally, I sliced lengthwise across each side of the red, juicy fruit, separating it into bite-size chunks. Leaving the fruit intact, we ate the chunks directly from the fruit “bowl.” With some adjustment the same method for cutting and eating can be done with whole or halved watermelons.

For those of you who bypassed the “hawaiian goodies” detailed in a previous post, this one’s for you…

bon,bon, bon appetit!!!…hugmamma.