Diamond and Silver Anniversaries Remembered

“Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.” ~ James C. Dobson

 Stella_Ray AnnivYesterday would have been my parents 75th Wedding Anniversary.  Years pass in the blink of an eye.  From what I understand, the ceremony was small and modest but charming just the same.  I decided to get married the day after their wedding date, 25 years ago.  The date had special meaning to me and each year I become more aware of the similarities between the two marriages.  Sadly, my mom had passed some years prior to my wedding; however I was grateful to have had my father escort me down the aisle.

 

Ray_Stella 1940sIt’s unfortunate I have no photos of their wedding day although I remember spotting what was rumored to be my mom’s wedding dress in an old cedar Hope Chest.  The dress appeared to be about a size 0 or 2 by today’s standards and was a stunning yet casual, pastel periwinkle blue, my mother’s favorite color.  Truth be known (and it will be now), I tried it on when I was in my late teens or early twenties and tore some of the seam stitching; I was obviously a little larger than a size 2!  I still wonder what ever became of that dress…  (Notice the difference in my dad’s hair in 25 yrs?  From a “bush” to “barely there!”  LOL)

With 5 brothers and sisters, it’s also baffling that no one can recall where the boxes of photo albums and black and white snapshots stored with the cedar chest disappeared to.  As a child, I used to flip through the photos, giggling at how funny the styles looked “back then.”  I’ll keep my fingers crossed and say a prayer that someday they’ll materialize before I’m too old to see them clearly!

M_C Wedding fullM_C Wedding ringM_C Wedding Dad 

My 25th Anniversary began with a mammogram and bone density screening.  That was so much fun!  Not.  Actually, I planned to have the tests done on this date so it would be easier for me to recall when I had them for future reference.  So far, the remainder of the day is up in the air.  Maybe the man I considered my “Prince Charming” a quarter century ago will have a surprise in store.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Some Food Fun on Valentine’s Day

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to all! 

 Many couples celebrate this day by going out to eat at a fancy restaurant, however this year we decided to spend some quiet time at home, just the two of us.  Our daughter is away at college.  I sent her a nice “care package” last week filled with lots of goodies for the holiday to let her know we miss her. 010

 

Since we were staying home, I thought I’d have a little fun with food today.  Instead of making the same old thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I thought I’d play around in the kitchen.  Okay, so the food wasn’t really gourmet fare, but it was fun to make, healthy to eat and totally satisfying (especially the dessert!)

 Happy banana strawberry smoothie

A strawberry-banana smoothie was perfect for breakfast.  Even the food was smiling (before I wielded my paring knife!)  Made with non-fat yogurt and a drizzle of Agave, this frothy breakfast was delicious, filling and less than 300 calories (based on an average serving.)

 

By the time lunch came along, we weren’t that hungry.  I had some cantaloupe chunks and walnut halves while I made my husband a nice little turkey sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread with a mug of hot skim chocolate milk.    

 

???????????????????????????????For dinner, I decided to make a Shrimp and Broccoli dish which was delicious, easy to prepare and wholesome.  I served the shrimp over a bed of brown rice and a small green salad with lemon squeeze on the side to round out the meal.  Before marinating the shrimp for about 15 minutes in a mixture of soy, garlic and ginger, I put together another heart-shaped happy face for the holiday!

 

???????????????????????????????Being Valentine’s Day, I decided to splurge on dessert and make some of my husband’s favorite cookies, Mint Chocolate Chip, as I spelled out a loving message.  A couple of these delightful chocolate sensations with a nice warm cup of tea really hit the spot.  We plan to spend the remainder of the evening relaxing by the fire. 

 I hope everyone gave and received lots of love today.  And if you have pets, I hope you gave them lots of extra love today too!  Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers, you know…

From CameraPhone 008

“We love the things we love for what they are.” ~ Robert Frost

Memories – So Far Away; So Very Clear

“Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.” ~ Jean de Boufflers

While contemplating writing a memoir, I recently began rummaging through boxes full of old memorabilia I almost forgot I had.  Ask anyone who really knows me; I despise paper and if it isn’t needed for tax purposes, personal documentation or other legal matter, more often than not it gets tossed.  So when I happened across clippings, letters and other such papers meticulously stored in several small cardboard boxes, I knew they must be something I deemed worthwhile keeping.

 Steve 19650002Sure enough, opening one of the boxes, I discovered a small collection of faded colored photographs that appear to have been taken in the mid 1960’s.  Instantly, I was transported back in time to my childhood living room.  There was that big old television – with its folding doors which protected me from Mighty Mouse as he burst onto the screen at the opening of each episode.  And there was my brother, mid-afternoon, still in his bathrobe, clowning with my uncle and neighborhood friends.  It’s amazing how many wonderful memories can emanate from one old photograph.

 SJD Ltr1 11_65It’s a shame some of the photos and letters I found in the box were so faded.  Luckily several letters were fairly legible and the photos still had some color to them.  I especially enjoyed reading the letters my middle brother Stephen wrote me while he was away at college.  Twelve years my senior, his writing conveyed levity, tenderness and love.SJD Ltr2 11_65

 

I must admit, reading the part where he asked me if I wanted to “play house” was a little creepy.  SJD Ltr3 11_65Back in those days however, little girls loved to “play house.”  There was nothing wrong with my brother wanting me to visit and help him straighten up his apartment; I was good at cooking, cleaning and ironing even at the tender age of 8.  Other notations regarding schoolwork, music, friends, pets, and especially about my father were heartwarming.  (Curious why he mentioned “witch” in both letters…I was always an “angel!”)

 The last few years have been challenging for my brother.  He faced a series of unexpected and unpleasant situations.  I pray my brother continues to heal and hope revisiting these letters brings a smile to his face.  We may live many miles apart, but he, along with my other brothers and sisters, are always close to my heart. 

 SJD Ltr1 10_66

Discovering these priceless memories help me realize how truly blessed I am.  These are feelings I didn’t recognize as a child.  Today, everything is quick – a text here, a tweet or status update there.  How many people actually take the time to sit down and write a letter?  Not many.  Life is so fast-paced that we often don’t realize how much we are missing.  A simple note or letter is able to bring so much joy to another person, joy that brief electronic communication fails to convey.

 I never did finish the letter to my brother; I wonder what I would have said next…but it would have ended with “Love, your sister Marybeth”  (that’s now my alias!)

SJD Ltr2 10_66Call me old-fashioned or traditional, I don’t mind.  Sometimes I feel I can’t live without all the new technology and make certain I’m current with it, as best I can be.  At other times, I’d rather do things the way I used to, MED 10_66 replylike making bread from scratch rather than using a bread machine (if I had one).  Several minutes of vigorous kneading works wonders for a person’s sanity.  The treasured little box I found brought me back to basics.  I can’t wait to see what other wonderful memories are yet to be revived.

Steve_Mom weddingSteve Hawaii2 2006

Gastronomic Coupling

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ~ Virginia Woolf

February is American Heart Month as well as the time we celebrate lovers on Valentine’s Day. So what’s more appropriate than talking about food pairs for health! Physicians, nutritionists and dietitians alike tout the benefit of eating certain foods in combination for maximum health benefit. I’ve personally found combining specific foods satisfying as well as nutritious.

Below are some of the food combinations called “Dynamic Duos”* … for a good reason!

green tea_lemonGreen Tea + Lemon = A Healthier Heart

Green tea has been linked to a reduced risk of heart attacks, thanks to catechins, the brew’s powerful antioxidants. But studies show only about 20 percent of these healthful compounds are available for our bodies to absorb. The good news: Recently, when scientists added lemon juice to green tea, the availability of health-enhancing catechins skyrocketed to a whopping 80 percent.

Stay-Well Strategy: After brewing yourself a cup of green tea, squeeze in the juice of one whole lemon (you can also use an orange, lime or grapefruit, all runners-up in the study). Don’t want to DIY? Look for bottled green teas that list “ascorbic acid” (also known as vitamin C) among their ingredients. Scientists say the vitamin C in citrus fruits can also improve catechin absorption.

broccoli tomatoBroccoli + Tomatoes = Cancer Control

Broccoli and tomatoes are both cancer-fighting all-stars, but research reveals eating them together may offer even more protection. In a recent study, scientists found consuming tomato and broccoli at the same time was more effective at slowing the growth of cancerous prostate tumors than eating either vegetable alone.

Stay-Well Strategy: The amount of produce used in the study translates to about one and a half cups of broccoli and two and a half cups of fresh tomato (or one cup of tomato sauce). To tap into their potent powers, order a pizza generously topped with broccoli or sprinkle some florets over your next plate of spaghetti.

Red Bell Peppers + Black Beans = Improved Immunity

Eating more meatless meals lately to do your heart (and the planet) a favor? You’ll absorb more immune-boosting plant iron by adding in some red bell peppers. That’s because the iron in picks like beans exists in a form called non-heme iron that’s harder for your body to absorb than the iron found in red meat (heme iron). But, adding a dose of vitamin C-rich produce like red peppers converts the iron into a type that’s easier for the body to use, explains registered dietitian Heidi McIndoo, author of the book, When to Eat What.

Stay-Well Strategy: In one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women absorbed nearly three times more iron from their meal by adding just 63 milligrams of vitamin C. This amount translates into about a half cup of chopped red bell peppers. To tap into their healing powers, toss these health-enhancing peppers into your next pot of chili.

eggs mangoEggs + Mango = A Firmer Facade

Want to improve the overall look and strength of your skin? Try consuming this power couple. Eggs are naturally rich in two special amino acids (building blocks of protein) that are essential for the formation of skin-plumping collagen. “And foods rich in vitamin C, like mango, work with these acids to boost collagen production. This helps build back lost stores in the body, which can significantly improve the appearance of skin,” explains Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian in New York City.

Stay-Well Strategy: To give a boost to your next breakfast, pair an omelet with a cup of fresh mango chunks, which supply nearly an entire day’s supply of vitamin C.

Green Tea + Black Pepper = A Whittled Waistline

Forget drastic diets: At your next meal, sip a cup of green tea and shake some black pepper over your entree. “A study recently found that the combo boosts the absorption of EGCG, a key antioxidant in tea tied to calorie burning, by a whopping 130 percent,” explains registered dietitian Cynthia Sass, author of the new book Cinch!: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches. Bonus: According to research published in Nutrition Journal, people who drank green tea with their meal reported feeling more full and were less likely to want a second helping than those who drank plain water. Experts say the compounds in green tea can affect the hormones that regulate hunger and fullness.

Stay-Well Strategy: Studies say as little as a half-teaspoon of black pepper can increase the absorption of tea’s beneficial compounds, so brew a cup of tea to sip, then take out your mill and get grinding!

kale radicchioRadicchio + Kale = A Stronger Skeleton

Cup for cup, kale is the king of calcium (it contains three times more than spinach). However, food scientists say you’ll soak up even more of this bone-building mineral by combining kale with some radicchio. Why? The crimson veggie is a rich source of inulin, a carbohydrate that naturally enhances calcium absorption in the intestines, according to a recent study in the journal Nutrition Research.

Stay-Well Strategy: To shore up your skeleton, toss these tasty greens together in a salad.

avacado romaineAvocado + Green Salad = Complexion Protection

You’ll absorb more skin-protecting plant compounds called carotenoids from your veggie salad by adding a little avocado. “Carotenoids reduce free radical damage to effectively protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays,” explains Glassman. In a recent study at Ohio State University, people who ate avocado in their salad of lettuce, spinach, and carrots absorbed up to 15 times more carotenoids than those who didn’t eat their salads with avocado. Studies show carotenoids require some fat to be optimally absorbed by the body, which means avocados, which contain solid stores of healthful monounsaturated fats, healthfully fit the bill.

Stay-Well Strategy: To nab this nutrition perk, slice a half of an avocado into your next green salad.

Yogurt + Bran Cereal = Better Digestion

This breakfast is a natural immunity booster. Full of good bacteria, yogurt acts as a probiotic. It encourages healthy bacteria to flourish in your digestive tract, keeping sickness-causing bugs at bay. But probiotics work even better when paired with the prebiotics found in wheat bran. Why? Prebiotics act as nourishment for probiotics, helping them better thrive in the gut so they can do their immunity-boosting magic, says registered dietitian Dave Grotto, author of the book, 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.

Stay-Well Strategy: To get in on this good-gut action, first look for probiotic-rich yogurts that sport the label “live and active cultures.” Then, mix one cup of this yogurt with three quarters of a cup of wheat bran cereal.

Apricots + Almonds = A Tip-Top Ticker

This power pair helps prevents LDL “bad” cholesterol from oxidizing, a process that happens whenever LDL reacts with free radicals. “And oxidized LDL is harmful because it encourages dangerous plaque build-up in the arteries,” explains registered dietitian Elaine Magee, author of the book, Food Synergy. But, in a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers found that the phytochemicals in almonds reduced LDL oxidation when paired with the antioxidant vitamins E and C, both of which are found abundantly in apricots.

Stay-Well Strategy: For a satisfying, heart-healthy snack, combine a quarter-cup each of dried apricots and raw almonds.

yogurt blueberriesYogurt + Blueberries = A Stronger Body

Spoon up this tasty snack after a sweaty workout. The reason: Research reveals blueberries possess brain-boosting benefits to keep you better focused during your fitness routine, while yogurt’s hefty stores of protein help repair the little tears in your muscles that naturally occur during exercise. As if that’s not enough, the carbs in both the yogurt and fruit naturally replenish your muscles with glycogen, a stored form of energy (dipping too low in glycogen can quickly trigger fatigue). Yogurt’s protein also stimulates a hormone that transports those energizing carbs into your muscles to give your next workout more get-up and go.

Stay-Well Strategy: If you’re doing intense exercise and need to be at the top of your game, be especially speedy about eating this recovery snack. Why? Your body’s most efficient at stashing away glycogen in the first 15 minutes after your workout, says Magee

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil + Tomatoes = Disease Defense

Tomatoes boast all four major carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene) plus three potent antioxidants (beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C) that may help fight cancer and heart disease. “You’ll absorb more of these protective chemicals if you eat them with olive oil,” says Magee. “It’s high in healthy monounsaturated fats and slows digestion so you can soak up more of them.”

Stay-Well Strategy: Mix a little olive oil in your next marinara. You’ll get a bigger phytochemical punch with cooked tomatoes (leave the skin on, since it’s loaded with them). Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed form, so it contains the most beneficial compounds, says Magee. Just store it away from heat and light to prevent it from going rancid.

oatmeal strawberriesOatmeal + Strawberries = A Healthier Heart

Oats contain two important phytochemicals called avenanthramides and phenolic acids. These compounds have been shown in research to work synergistically with vitamin C to reduce the harmful effects of “bad” LDL cholesterol and help prevent the plaque build-up that can lead to heart attacks, says Magee.

Stay-Well Strategy: Enjoy a half cup of sliced strawberries with your morning bowl of oatmeal.

Cinnamon + Whole Grain Toast = Increased Energy and Speedier Slimming

Sprinkling on this spice may help keep your blood sugar at a healthier level, which prevents dips in your energy and spikes in your hunger level, says Sass. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cinnamon was found to slow the rate of stomach emptying after meals and reduce the rise in blood sugar after meals to negate more noshing later.

Stay-Well Strategy: For a healthier version of that childhood staple, cinnamon toast, use whole grain bread, trans-free margarine and a study-backed teaspoon of cinnamon. Note: Experts say you’ll nab more protective compounds if your cinnamon is fresh: Whole sticks last up to a year, ground cinnamon for six months.

garlic onionsGarlic + Onions = Head to Toe Protection

These aromatic veggies both contain a number of organosulfur compounds; heart-healthy plant chemicals that help keep arteries flexible and free of plaque, says Magee. Some of these compounds have even been studied for their power to detoxify carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) in the body. Eating both at the same time means you’re “covering your bases” and boosting your chances of getting more of these healthful compounds, she says.

Stay-Well Strategy: Cooked together, they make a delicious base for soups and sauces or simply sauté veggies like broccoli in a mix of olive oil, garlic, and onions.

Enjoy your “coupling” … you’ll love the results!

*Material reprinted from ivillage.com by Sally Kuzemchak, M.S., R.D.

caleb smith park“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” ― Henry David Thoreau
 
It’s been an uphill climb since my last post having succumbed to some serious back pain, specifically sciatica, for the past month.  So much for beginning my anticipated fitness and nutrition plan for the New Year.  On a positive note, I’m on the mend thanks to some valuable advice I received from experts in back therapy – without having to make a trip to the chiropractor…yet.  In my case, the key to healing was performing light aerobics coupled with gentle stretching. 
 
Armed with a medium weight resistance band and 5 lb. weights, I’m developing my own program incorporating the following exercises.  Before beginning any exercise routine, check with your physician first, which I did.  Second, do not push yourself to do more repetitions, lift greater weights or use more resistance than your body can comfortably tolerate.  To do so would stress the body and increase the likelihood of another injury.
 
sciaticaPain in the lower back may be caused by a number of ailments such as sciatica, lumbar herniated disc or spinal stenosis.  Be sure to obtain the correct diagnosis from your doctor.  Physical therapists and chiropractors alike agree that extension exercises or press-ups are beneficial for easing sciatica pain in the back of the legs and lower back.
 
 
The following extension/press-up exercises, recommended by Ron S. Miller, PT for Spine-Health.com, have been successful in helping ease my pain which at times, felt like someone was holding a branding iron on my lower back.

beginning liftLie on stomach (prone position), gently bring arms up – elbows on the floor, hands flat down in front.  Be sure to keep hips on the floor.

Hold position for 5 seconds at first.  Try and work up to 30 seconds per repetition with a goal of 10 repetitions.  Remember to start slowly at first to avoid injury.

When able to comfortably complete this exercise without feeling increased pain, move on to the next one.

chest lift2Once again, lie on stomach (prone position), gently lift yourself up on your hands while keeping pelvis on floor.  Be sure to keep back and hips relaxed, stretching gently.

Try and hold for 1-2 seconds then slowly lower yourself back to prone position.  Aim for 10 repetitions.

 

More advanced exercises are to strengthen the lower back muscles:

chest liftIn the prone position, clasp hands behind lower back and gently raise your head and chest, keeping eyes to the ground in front of you.  Remain low to the ground; do not try and arch up.

Hold position for 5 seconds, gradually working up to 20 seconds.  Your goal is 8-10 repetitions.

 

Another lower back strengthening exercise:

alternate lifts

In the prone position with head and chest on the floor, gently raise one arm and the opposite leg slowly off the floor.  With knee locked, raise leg about 2-3 inches off the floor and hold for 5 seconds.

Your goal is 8-10 repetitions.  As you feel stronger, try and hold position for up to 20 seconds.

Here are some strengthening exercises for your abdominal muscles which will also help to ease lower back pain:

Upper abdominal curl ups: 

upper absLie on back with knees bent, arms folded across chest and pelvis tilted to flatten back.  Curl up slowly, lifting the head and shoulders from the floor.  Hold for 2-4 seconds then gently lower back down to floor.  If necessary, place hands behind neck for support.

Your goal is 2 sets of 10 curls.

 

Lower abdominal exercises:

lower absLie on back, keeping hips on floor and raise one leg straight up 8-12 inches from the floor.  Hold for 8-10 seconds then slowly lower leg to floor.   Repeat with other leg.  If necessary, place hand under hip for support. 

Your goal is 2 sets of 10 lifts.

 

 

redhead cartoon

 In addition to the above exercises, walking, gentle aerobics and water exercises are a great way to ease lower back pain.  Again, it is imperative to contact your doctor for a diagnosis and approval of any exercise program prior to starting.  The exercises in this post are gradually helping relieve my back pain (sciatica).  I hope they will benefit you as well.