Category Archives: wellness

The Day After Soup

Let me apologize for the somewhat dramatic and still somehow vague title of this post. I just couldn’t think of anything else…

I went out to eat last night. The Italian food I had was quite delicious and I didn’t overindulge -I didn’t even have bread or wine- but I am having the same problem I always do the day after I eat out, salt and oil overload! Even vegetarians can’t escape the liberal generous mammoth use of salt at restaurants. I am just not used to it and feel a bit off today.

My first attempt to rebalance was to make a large smoothie:

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An all fruit smoothie has a lot of natural sugar in it but I am not sweating that because it is packed with natural fiber, vitamins, micronutrients and a high water content … which I need right now.

My next order of business was to start up a nourishing vegetable soup:

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Making a veggie soup once a week is one of the easiest ways to improve your health. You don’t even need a recipe. Chop up a few cups of colorful vegetables, throw them in a pot and cover them with broth or water, add spices, add heat and wait. I like to throw mine in my little crockpot. Heat on high and it’s ready in time for lunch, on low for dinner. Add pre-cooked beans and you have a complete meal. (I would suggest waiting until the last 20 minutes before adding any leafy greens to avoid over cooking.)

So, there are two of my picks to stay healthy during the holidays.  How do you stay in balance this time of year?

Many blessings,

Cynthia

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Want to Save Money, Lose weight and Be Healthier? Eat Cabbage!

Until recently, whenever I thought about cabbage I would remember the unwelcome smell that permeated the hallway of my grandmother’s building in Far Rockaway, NY. It would make my nose wrinkle and I couldn’t wait to get into her apartment which always seemed to smell like fresh baked dinner rolls or something equally delicious.

So, I quite surprised myself when I picked up a head of cabbage at the farmer’s market.  I did it for two reasons: 1. I know how nutritious it is.  2.  It was only $2.  WIN, WIN!

I pondered what to do with it on the way home.  Then I surprised myself again by slapping the steering wheel and declaring out loud, “I am going to make sauerkraut!”  I have no idea where the thought came from since I never made it before and quite frankly… I never even really thought about sauerkraut being comprised of cabbage.  The same goes for coleslaw (which I also decided to make.)

How hard could it be?  It turns out, not hard at all.  It became clear after some quick research that sauerkraut is merely cabbage+salt+time.  I chopped the cabbage as thin as I could by hand, threw in a few tablespoons of kosher salt and began to massage it.  I found myself wondering how many of my German ancestors must have done the very thing I was doing at that moment.  It felt so natural working the salt into the cabbage until the juices flowed out.  After about 10 minutes, I decided I created enough of a brine to jar it up.  You want there to be enough liquid to fully submerge the kraut.  I used an onion* half to weigh it down in the jar.  After that, I topped the jar with a coffee filter and rubber band.  I found this set-up very effective for keeping the oxygen out while allowing the carbon dioxide to escape.  Then I set the jar in a dark cabinet in the basement, the only place that might come close to maintaining the ideal temperature range of 65 to 75 degrees.

How does this make sauerkraut?  The short answer is that cabbage naturally carries bacteria like lactobacilli which helps kick off lactic acid fermentation.  The salt preserves the cabbage to keep it from rotting while fermentation takes place.  There is a lot of debate about the proper amount of time to allow sauerkraut to ferment, anywhere from three days to six months.  I found the most consensus that around three weeks is enough time.  The idea is to allow the sauerkraut to ferment long enough to produce a goodly amount of probiotic bacteria. Then after that it’s just about taste.

However, if you are like me and you can’t wait that long or if the average temp is above 75 degrees then two weeks is long enough.  Also, keep in mind, the sauerkraut will continue to ferment in the fridge.  It will just happen much more slowly below 65 degrees.

BBQ beans on toast with tomato, olives, homemade kraut and a pickle... what more could you ask for?

BBQ beans on toast with tomato, olives, homemade kraut and a pickle… what more could you ask for?

I have to tell you that homemade sauerkraut is DELICIOUS!  It is so much better than store-bought. I am not sure I could eat the canned stuff ever again.  Give it a try if you like sauerkraut.  You have nothing to lose.  I paid two dollars for a head of cabbage at the farmer’s market.  (I noticed they are $1.29 at the supermarket.)  That one head netted me 16 ounces of sauerkraut and eight cups of coleslaw.  I call that VERY budget-friendly!

I will get more into the nutritional and weight loss benefits of cabbage in my next post, as well as share the coleslaw recipe I concocted.

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

*I got the onion as a weight idea from the Dr Axe website: https://draxe.com/recipe/sauerkraut-recipe/

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Mom Was Right

Yesterday, I was driving home during rush hour in stop and go traffic.  I like to leave a good 20 to 30 feet between my car and the one in front of me because I have seen too many multi-car fender benders. I have no desire to be put in a position to slam on my brakes and pray I don’t rear-end someone.

Apparently, my logic was lost on the maniac child of God behind me BECAUSE he practically hooked himself on my bumper and periodically honked at me.  I would glance in the rear-view mirror and shrug as if to say, “do you really think I’m the one who is holding you up right now?”  As we got closer to the exit, he leaned on his horn, at which point, I lost my temper, opened the window, stuck my left arm out high and saluted him with my middle finger.  He got so angry that he pulled up alongside me to curse me out.  At which point, I refused to look at him, stuck my right arm out and saluted him again.  Then this crazy, moth-  fellow human being pulled sharply to the left as if he was going to play bumper cars with me.  I managed to swerve around him, narrowly missing the car to my left.  Thankfully, he gave up at that point and sped away on the exit ramp.

My first thought was , “Holy crap, that guy was willing to literally use his car as a weapon and cause an accident.”  My second thought was, “Mom was right!”  I instantly heard her voice in my head saying, “Cindy, STOP giving people the finger!  You don’t know if that person is crazy or not.  Someone could have a gun.  Do what I do.  Leave the windows rolled up and yell at them.  You get your frustration out and no one gets hurt.”  I have been in the car with her when someone has cut her off.  Her language is very colorful, indeed, and would probably make a sailor blush.

So, here is the best Mother’s day gift I could ever give her:

“Mom, you were right.  Happy Mothers Day!”

Happy Mother’s Day to all my readers who are mothers (to humans and furry kids.)  All the best always!

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

Naturally Reflective: New Year’s Review and Reset

I am very happy to have today off!  Since it’s New Year’s Eve, a coworker asked me yesterday with a smirk if I was going to “party hard.”  The sarcasm stems from the fact that I am the only introvert in an office replete with extroverts.  It’s common knowledge at work that “partying hard” is clearly not in my wheelhouse.  In fact, I stopped trying to “fake it in order to make it” years ago.

I prefer to focus more on starting the New Year off on the right foot.  So, New Year’s Eve for me is a good time to reflect back over the last year.  I saw a great quote on Facebook the other day from the ageless and wise Mimi Kirk:

“2016- Life is like a garden, keep the things that worked last year and get rid of the things that didn’t.”

Oh how I love a good gardening analogy!  It seems like sage advice for non-diggers as well.  Removing clutter from our lives has become a popular theme in recent years, as the minimalist trend has gained momentum.  I applaud the idea of careful consumption and avoiding the accumulation of items that aren’t loved or needed.

What about habits and behaviors that don’t benefit us and keep us from living our dreams?  This is the question I will be pondering today.  New Year’s Eve is a good time to look back over the past year and see what worked and what didn’t.  I am going to follow Mimi’s advice to weed out what is not serving me.  I also want to recognize with gratitude what did and plan to cultivate those practices.

How are you spending New Year’s Eve?  Will you be spending time in reflection and gratitude?  Partying hard?  Little of both? Leave me a reply.  I would love to hear from you.

Happy New Year!  May 2016 be your best year ever, filled with love, happiness, prosperity, laughter and many beautiful blessings!

Many blessings,

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

 

Naturally Well-rested: How Are You Sleeping?

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that fatigue and getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging for me. I’ve learned to cope with the insomnia and, thankfully, that’s rarer these days but I could still feel better rested than I do. Being the health and wellness nerd that I am, I have been researching sleep.

“Can you catch up on sleep?” is one question I have been pondering. I had always heard in the past that you can’t. Once it’s gone, it’s gone; you can’t get it back. However, a lot of new information has cropped up over the last several years claiming that, actually, you can!

Sleep debt is determined by the variance between the amount of sleep you are getting and the amount you ought to be getting. Most of the sources I checked were in agreement that seven to nine hours a night is considered optimal. I guesstimate that I tend to get on average around six or less. Splitting the diff on the optimum range, my sleep debt is around 1.5 hours a night or 10.5 a week. No wonder why I feel so damned tired!

I have decided to dedicate the month of November to getting more shut-eye in the hopes of balancing out my sleep account. Most articles I read, like this one from Scientific American, “Can You Catch Up on Lost Sleep? …”, agreed that the best way to repay your sleep debt is to intentionally get more sleep every night. So if eight hours of sleep is optimal, then aim for nine or ten.

I have been shooting for ten hours a night. I try to be in bed by 9PM and sleep until 6AM. This means I am sacrificing my beloved morning routine somewhat for a while. However, I figure that it does me little good to run through routine activities if I end up exhausted by 2PM. Besides, if this works the way I am hoping it will, then I can return to my AM rituals bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by the holidays. I do want to get to back in the 5AM club before the end of the year!

Are you getting enough sleep at night? Do you feel rested and energetic all day long? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a reply in the comments section!

Many blessings,

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

Being (a) Patient: Tough Decisions and Temporary Solutions

I have avoided writing this blog post for almost five months. I actually did write one back in June; when I first found out I can’t yet afford to finish my dental reconstruction. The shame and frustration of admitting that reality were so raw I couldn’t bring myself to post it at the time.

Since then I have tried to save enough to get to the point where I could put most of the money down to get the eight crowns and two posts I need but I am not quite there yet. I have enough money to start the work but the large payments I would have to make in the months following, make me uneasy because I would essentially be eating Ramen noodles the whole time and living in terror of ANYthing that might go wrong.

If I have learned anything from this situation (actually…I’ve learned a lot,) unexpected things happen. As much as I would like to stick my head in the sand right now and throw all my money and credit cards at my prosthodontist and be done with this trial, it’s not financially responsible and there is no way I can justify it. Besides, I am way too into healthy eating to survive on processed, freeze-dried noodles!

I am, however, impatient to make some progress. I want all my teeth to stay in 24/7. I also want to break bread with other people. I haven’t shared a meal with another human being in over two and a half years.  (It can be kind of gross when you are missing two front teeth and have braces.) I want back those things that I took for granted before but now I won’t. I would be grateful to have that kind of functionality back.

I asked my prosthodontist last week if we could at least do temporary crowns on the two implants and bond my two worst teeth. He went to work, taking measurements and an initial mold. When I called yesterday, his office manager told me they need me to come back next week for more measurements because, “he is trying to get [me] the best deal on parts.” (Kind of makes me sound like a car, doesn’t it?)

I still don’t know how much this temporary solution is going to cost. Hopefully, it is feasible. The temps will have to be redone when I get all eight crowns. So, I already know that it will end up adding to my total cost in the long run but it will be worth it. I just can’t endure another year in braces and a plastic flipper! I really need to get out of limbo. Being able to share a meal with loved ones and smile without being self-conscious will be priceless! Sometimes, progress is more important than perfection.

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

Naturally Nutritious: Beet Greens and a Smoothie Recipe

One of the nicest things about shopping at the farmer’s market is that you see the produce in its natural state. There is no way you could transport beets and other root vegetables with the greens still intact. They would rot over the thousands of miles it takes for them to be delivered. Heaven forbid should there still be any soil on a fruit or veggie in the supermarket! By the time we see them, they are the de-stemmed, triple-washed, gleaming, little, over-sanitized specimens, we expect them to be. You’d never guess that they had been grown in dirt.

Unfortunately, we miss out on the greens. Beet greens, like all greens, are high in fiber. They also contain significant amounts of vitamins K, C and A. Best of all, they are tasty! Some people find them bitter. I honestly don’t. Compared to kale, they are almost sweet… but not quite. I would say they have a fresh, green, earthy flavor. Beet greens are excellent sautéed. They can be added to soups and stews or served raw in salad. I enjoy adding beet greens to my autumn smoothies.

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Autumn Apple and Beet Green Smoothie

One Cup of Almond Milk

One Apple (cored and cut in a few pieces)

Handful of Beet Greens

Handful of Kale

One Banana

A few drops of lemon juice

Two Tablespoons of Chia Seeds

Throw all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Drink immediately. (I have begun to add the chia seeds after I pour it into a glass. Little suckers get stuck to the side of the blender if you aren’t careful!)

Do you eat the greens that come with your root vegetables? Would you? Please leave me a reply. I would love to hear from you.

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

Naturally Adjusted: Treating Neck Pain (Part 1)

Part I: The Problem

My neck has been bothersome for a very long time… decades really.  Goodness knows why I never really did anything about it. I just got used to being stiff or sore and having tight shoulders.  Yoga always helped.  I just explained away the occasional tingles in my fingers as a result of my bag being too heavy.

After I fell in March of 2013, my neck issues became significantly worse.  I had so many other things to worry about, like how to get my mouth put back together, I couldn’t handle that too.  I just figured with yoga and time, it would improve.  It always did before.  Not this time.  By March of this year, it caused me so much pain and discomfort, I could barely stand it. It would start in the left side of my neck and radiate up to my temple and down my shoulder.  Sometimes, I even felt it in my fingers.  Desperate for some relief, I found a chiropractor who took my health insurance.

My first appointment was an eye-opener.  My new chiropractor spent about an hour and 20 minutes with me.  I was impressed by how thorough he was. He asked me a lot of questions about and in addition to the paperwork I filled out.  He observed my standing and sitting posture.  He weighed me to see if I put more weight on one foot than the other (I do…10 pounds.)  He checked the sensitivity on both sides of my body and compared one side to the other.  He checked my spinal alignment and flexibility.  He took several X-rays of my neck.  He had been cracking jokes and telling stories while he worked but when he saw the X-rays, he looked concerned and grew quiet.

He didn’t want to give me a full diagnosis until after he got my MRI from the hospital but he showed me the X-ray and pointed at three of my vertebrae.  “You see how jagged those three are compared to the others?”  I did.  He went on to explain that he never saw that much damage in someone as young as I was and it couldn’t have been caused by just the fall.  Since he mentioned it, I remembered older injuries: a car accident at 17.  A cyst had been removed from my neck as baby.  Oh yeah, I had been born with a broken collar bone!

My first adjustment was subtle.  He wanted to do a full work-up before he put a treatment plan together for me but it was obvious I was suffering.  He wanted me to be more comfortable.  I can’t say that first appointment or even the first several were like a miracle fix.  I had a lot of damage and it was going to take some time to reverse.  I felt enough of a shift though that I knew I was on the right track.

The MRI revealed a bulging disc and two herniated discs.  One of the hernias even had its own little hernia.  The discs were pressing on the surrounding nerves, creating the radiating pain, intermittent numbness and tingling. The X-ray had, as mentioned, shown the three degenerated vertebrae.  Essentially, I have spinal arthritis due to injury.  The overall functionality of my neck was at about 65%.  Suffice it to say, my neck was (pardon my French) fucked up!  Luckily, I do have a knack for finding very confident, competent practitioners. My chiropractor felt certain he could get me back up to 90-95% functionality and relieve the pain.

To be continued….

Many blessings,

 

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

Naturally Cranky: Almost there… Why Don’t I Feel Like It?

I am coming into the home stretch of my August Adventure Blogging Challenge.  Challenged is how I feel at the moment…part of me would like to stop now.  I’m at the point where if Burgess Meredith were my coach, he would be giving me a pep talk about having heart.

The odd part is that I don’t have writer’s block exactly.  I still have a bunch of ideas jotted down.  I just find myself staring at them and not knowing exactly how I want to frame them in a post.  Every time an idea starts to take shape, a big cranky baby inside me slaps it down with a big, “NO!”  Then I start to think about other things I want to do like make jewelry, practice yoga or go walk on the beach.  Then I start to question,”Why did I publicly committ myself to this challenge again?”

“Why is this happening when I am so close,” I ask myself.  I think it is the other side of resistance, the dark side.  I mentioned last week in Naturally Balanced: Half-way Check-in and Knowing When to Take Five that feeling resistant can be fatigue or a sign that something is wrong but I don’t think that is what is going on here.  I wrote in Naturally Determined: So Long Procrastination! that while I work hard at not letting other people down, I have often fallen short on meeting personal goals and keeping promises to myself.  What I have going on here is one bad habit!

Gay Hendricks wrote in The Big Leap (Highly recommend it, by the way)  about how we all have an upper limit that we have unconsciously set for ourselves. We are like a dog who is used to being chained.  Even when we’re no longer tethered, we will not go beyond the area that the chain once imposed on us.  When we butt up again this self-imposed limitation, many of us will fall back instead of jumping up to the next level.  It’s a mentality that keeps us stuck in our comfort zone.  Oddly, many of us do not even find our comfort zones all that comfortable but the comfort is in the known versus the unknown.  The devil you know…

I don’t know what’s going to happen after I complete this challenge.  Maybe nothing.  Maybe something great.  Maybe something in-between.  However, I do know, if nothing else, I will complete it!

Many blessings to all,

Cynthia

 

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justdragonfly

 

Naturally Balanced: Halfway Check-in and Knowing When to Take Five

Fifteen blog posts in fifteen days! That is not bad at all. I am going to call this the half-way mark even though the month has 31 days in it. I figure it is the closest you can get without going over.

Curious thing started to set in the last couple of days: fatigue. Fatigue and injury are probably the only two legitimate reasons to stop or slow down when you are up against a challenge or establishing a new practice. Thankfully, I am only dealing with fatigue.

Fatigue and I are no strangers. I have mentioned in earlier blog entries that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) was a big part of why I became interested in learning about health and wellness. One of the things I have learned how to do; is pay attention to what is going on with my body, mind and spirit, to determine whether when I start feeling resistant, if I merely being lazy or if I am truly fatigued.

When we got let out of work a little early yesterday, my first thought was, “great, I can get started on my writing tonight then instead of tomorrow. My immediate bodily reaction to that thought was dread and a profound heaviness. Now to be clear, I am not tired of writing. I still currently have a lot of ideas jotted down. However the very thought of doing it yesterday just overwhelmed me. I knew then it was time to take a time out and relax for the evening.

Writing is a sedentary activity. So, the idea that it can be exhausting at all in a way sounds ridiculous but that’s actually why it can be exhausting. Sitting, as I wrote about in Naturally Fit: Keep It Moving… So, You CAN Keep It Moving!, for prolonged periods of time is terrible for the body! I have been doing a lot of sitting lately at work and at home. Additionally, I think probably what has been really getting to me is staring at a computer screen every day for hours on end between my job and increased writing practice.

Years ago, I might have been tempted to push through and not lose the extra time. I don’t do that anymore. More importantly, there was no reason to be so aggressive with myself. I was already on track; I didn’t need to get ahead.

I think we are far too willing to sacrifice our health and well-being here in the United States in order to gain approval or money or whatever it is that we think will make us somehow better in that moment. Sometimes, you need to take advantage of moments to rest and recharge yourself. Usually, when you do, you come back to your project or practice with renewed vigor and fresh insight that you wouldn’t have had if you just kept toiling, toiling, toiling… toiling!

Do you take care of yourself when you feel weary or do you constantly push yourself beyond the point of exhaustion, even when you don’t have to? Please leave me a reply in the comments section and let me know.

Many Blessings,

 

Cynthia

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justdragonfly