The Underside of Cooking

We ALL know the underside of cooking–gourmet or otherwise!

That’s right.  It’s the cleaning.

There’s nothing like a clean and sparkling kitchen to inspire more creativity, more willingness to go the extra mile and prepare something new and adventurous.  In the interest of honesty, I admit that my kitchen is not always what you would call “sparkling.” Okay. I admit that my kitchen is rarely sparkling.

It is decently clean, but on my schedule, the Battle Plan of household chores to be done is usually very long and the time to accomplish them is usually quite short. The jobs get rotated according to what is screamingly vital that day.

Today my kitchen stove was calling my name. One thing I really dislike is a dirty stove, and mine had collected some grunge that escaped the daily wipe down.

Another thing I dislike is the smell, expense and toxicity of cleaning solutions. For one thing, I don’t think most of them work very well. It is unrealistic to think that everything can simply be sprayed and wiped.  I like the idea of using WATER.  And SOAP or something. And a little ELBOW GREASE.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that a strong vinegar and water solution would take soap scum right off the walls and door of my shower.  I was impressed!  Maybe you all already know about this. But I didn’t.

So I went back on the Internet to look for natural stove top cleaning solutions and found a great website called, “So Not Betty.”  Have you heard of it?  I learned to make a simple paste from my kitchen staples to totally clean and shine my stove top!  It worked really great and some grunge near one particular burner that I thought was permanent is now nearly gone.  Another round of natural stove top paste will probably finish it.

Here is today’s recipe from Chandra at “So Not Betty.”  [ I had a hard time actually finding the home page of the website. There are a lot of blogs that play on the idea of not being Betty (Crocker?) so this is where the actual recipe came from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/clean-stove-top-naturally_n_3499261.html]

Stove Top Cleanser

1 Tablespoon Salt

1 Tablespoon Baking Soda

1 Tablespoon Water

Make a paste and dip a cloth or sponge into it and scrub.  I found this paste requires lots of rinsing with water and wiping to remove all the paste residue.  But it isn’t difficult. Besides, as you know, I like to use water to clean!

I hope you can benefit from my experiment with this. Now that the stove and kitchen really are clean and sparkling, onward to some creative cooking!

What do you find are the most effective natural cleaning solutions that can be made at home?

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Not Just Brownies Any More

Stoner Lasagna. I'm sorry but "stoner" is not a description to be proud of.
Stoner Lasagna. Nothing to be proud of.

Since it is the holiday season, what better time to return to my blogging after a three-month hiatus? After all, ’tis the season for all kinds of festive foods, holiday cheer and good wishes to my readers.

Yes, but that is not why I decided to write today. You can call me a Scrooge or a Humbug and I won’t mind. I came back here to have a little non-Christmasy rant about something.

I came across an Associated Press article about Executive Chef Chris Lanter who owns a French restaurant named “Cache” in Aspen, Colorado. Lanter was demonstrating to a group of “marijuana aficionados” how to prepare foods with marijuana in it. How to deglaze a pan with pot-infused brandy. How to “pair” marijuana with fine foods.

GIVE ME A BREAK!

Pot foodie:  “Excuse me Chef, but is it okay to pair Northern Lights with fish?”

Hip Chef: “Yes that is a lovely combination. And if you find you don’t like it, just take a few more hits and you won’t care!”

This is not new in Colorado ever since they passed a law legalizing this drug. The pot industry there is said to include “a booming trade in cookbooks, savory pot foods and frozen takeout dishes that incorporate the drug.”

REALLY?  FROZEN DINNERS?

Kid to big brother: “I’m hungry and Mom’s not home from work yet.”

Big brother: “Don’t worry. I’ve got this frozen lasagna in the microwave and you can have some.”

Kid: “What’s that funny smell?

Big brother: “Who cares you doofus. Just eat it!”

Chef Chris Lanter. A stoner who thinks he's going to make money pushing the envelope to get on-site pot consumption legalized so he can serve his "cuisine" in his chic restaurant.
Chef Chris Lanter. A stoner who thinks he’s going to make money pushing the envelope to get on-site pot consumption legalized so he can serve his “cuisine” in his chic restaurant at the vast detriment to our society, especially our youth.

What really irks me is the way this whole thing is being positioned.  Chef Lanter is “acclaimed.” His eager audience paid $250 to see his pot demonstration and attend a special weekend celebration in Aspen.  Lanter’s French restaurant Cache is described as “tony.”

WELL LA DEE %^$#*& ING DA!

There is an ongoing public relations campaign to make consumption of marijuana acceptable. One must understand that there are vested interests and when you see a story about illicit drug use becoming okay to do, you are looking at someone’s PR campaign. All you have to do is follow the money.

Most people—even pot users—are not rock-solid certain that usng and consuming marijuana is a good idea because we all know it is a drug, it lessens our awareness, makes us introverted, and can be addictive and it has other undesirable side effects.

Or do we?  [No wait. It’s an ingredient, right? Like an herb? It’s natural and organic. It has to be safe because the government is legalizing it. I heard it’s even medicinal, dude! Look–here it is in this cookbook. How bad can it be?]

One wise person said to me, “It’s not just a ‘gateway drug.’ Let’s face it. It’s a full-blown addictive drug with damaging side effects all by itself.”

Justifications for legalizing this illicit drug are plentiful. In the meantime, the PR Spin goes round and round and has even targeted those of us who love food and cooking. What a frivolous excuse for a covert enterprise.

I will never be that kind of “chic” or “tony.”

I will never be that stupid and uninformed.

Here’s a link to some very good and accurate information about marijuana. The entire website is really, really excellent and I suggest it for yourself to be informed and of course for our children so they don’t grow up thinking marijuana-laced steak au poivre is fine dining. They need to know what it REALLY is.

How to do the Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey

How do you have your body trained?  Is it trained to be overweight? Trained to want lots of bread, pasta and sweets?  What about what most people call, “comfort food,” which is generally soft, sometimes gooey, and often sweet?  Like Mac n’ Cheese, Pot Pie or Ice Cream?

There is a term I learned in fifth grade science — “homeostasis.”  Dictionary.com defines it as “the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.”  That’s about right.

Did you ever go on some kind of diet, actually lose a lot of weight, and think you had it made only to find out that your body weight crept back up over time. My friend Kate reminded me of this just a few weeks ago.

It’s because of homeostasis.

Homeostasis is in play especially if you try to lose the weight fast and/or with dramatically different dietary choices.  Your body is trained to be a certain way and is not going to easily be persuaded to make and maintain a sudden big change.  So you get cravings and thoughts that you “need” to eat something you may have been trying to avoid.

It works the other way around, too, if you trained your body to do something good or healthy.  For instance when I was younger, I worked out in a gym very regularly for many years. I was used to weight training and did it most of my adult life.  Then along came a period of time (years)  when I didn’t belong to a gym and didn’t work out at all. One day I got myself a new gym membership and signed up for a personal trainer to refresh my weight-training skills.

Almost from the beginning—once I got over being “sore” — it was as if my muscles remembered how it used to be. I got back into the workout routine incredibly fast and got very fast results. I was back to homeostasis.

I believe understanding the body’s need to maintain homeostasis is the key to making healthy changes. I do not support “fast” weight loss plans. I already know they will fail because they violate the survival drive of the body to maintain the status quo.

There are some times when someone needs to make very drastic and complete changes to their diet for health reasons, such as they are trying to save their life! This takes extraordinary, long-term determination.

It is possible to make drastic, complete changes and do well with them even if you aren’t trying to save your own life. I’ve done it. I made a complete, turn-around, change-everything, 180 on my dietary habits when I started macrobiotics in the late ’70’s. How did I make that kind of change so successfully?  I moved into a house owned by two extremely experienced macrobiotic teachers, one of whom was a highly trained macrobiotic cook. She not only knew superb macrobiotic cooking—how to balance the diet, how to make the most delicious food in the world—she knew how to take one look at any one of us living there and understand what one ingredient or dish we needed if we were starting to crave our old ways or getting off balance in any way.

I ate her food/cooking every day for about two years while I learned to do it myself.  By the time I was done and living in my own house, my body had achieved a new training in how to “be” and what foods now represented “homeostasis.”

There are places you can go to learn how to cook this way, meaning the cooking, the balance, the understanding at a glance what food would help at any given time. There are schools and individual cooking teachers around the world who teach this.

So what do the rest of us do who aren’t going to live in someone else’s house and be fed every day while studying how to completely makeover our lifestyle?

Do the Hokey Pokey and, (you know the words)!

  • Consider finding a teacher who’s right for what you want to do and take a few cooking classes!  I taught cooking for over 35 years and have gotten many people off to a great start in pursuing healthier cooking and eating. For some people, taking ANY kind of cooking class would be good because many people are way, way too dependent on the short order cook at the fast food restaurant, or the factory production manager at the frozen food plant, or the good folks at the pizza delivery outlet. Go on! Pick up a knife and a carrot and see what you can accomplish!
  • Do read up. Books and blogs are full of all kinds of food and dietary advice. I know—this is difficult because there is so much out there. How do you know what’s right? (I’d love to say, “gut feelings.”  Is that a funny joke?) A lot of the advice out there is pure nonsense but one thing I do know is that whatever route you take, YOU have to be interested. YOU have to decide it sounds good.  YOU have to invest your time and attention in something that makes sense to you. If it doesn’t turn out to be so great, you can always change your direction!
  • There are some really basic things that should be present no matter what kind of dietary advice you decide to try.
  1. Quality of food is extremely important. It should be organic and not have any genetically modified ingredients in it. (Non-GMO)
  2. Do not try to eliminate a whole major food group such as “carbohydrates.” That’s ridiculous because just about everything has carbohydrates just like nearly all food has protein to a greater or lesser degree. Worried about so-called “carbs?” Educate yourself to know the difference between a whole grain and a doughnut. All “carbs” are not the same and all are not bad.
  3. Until you learn how to balance your meals for optimum benefit, think “Variety.” Variety of colors, cooking styles, veggies, fruits, whatever it is. Variety will actually take you a long way toward your goal to eat healthier.
  4. Chew. Whatever it is you’ve decided to eat, whether right or wrong, it has got to be chewed very, very well. More info on that in my previous post.

Realize that unless you have an emergency health condition requiring immediate, drastic and extraordinary change, the healthy changes you decide to make amount to re-training your body so it becomes accustomed to a new state of homeostasis that can be maintained.

Food Recalls (Or, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”)

Food recalls can be really scary sometimes, especially if you think you may have the item in your kitchen or pantry or even worse, you may have eaten the suspect product! I haven’t written a lot about food recalls myself, but today I am going to do it if only so you can benefit from my experience.

A recent recall I read about was about 4,000 pounds of beef recalled due to “incomplete processing.”  That just leaves so much repulsion to the imagination that I can’t begin to express it. Downright lurid, that is.

Unfortunately I recall eating a lot of beef in my younger years. For instance my Dad grilled steak every Saturday night for dinner. The accompanying family fun and observing how proud Dad was to provide his family with prime grade-A beef made this seem like a good thing. We loved all that delicious grilled fat with slightly crispy edges and the way the marbling made it taste!

Well, for the first few chews anyway. After that there is really no taste to speak of and I would swallow the rest. Talk about “incomplete processing!” I’ve observed that’s what most people do when eating beef or meat. The first few chews pull out the fat and added flavoring (BBQ sauce, chemical-laden tenderizer, marinade, spice rub, A-1, etc.) and the rest is tasteless and chewy and why bother to continue chewing?

Eventually I found out what happens to un-chewed foods such as meat and beef when you swallow it! Your stomach doesn’t have teeth  ya know!  Yes protein can be broken down but how big a chunk of un-chewed beef do you think your stomach is going to handle and how long does it take?

Not sure of the size limit, but I’m sure the food has to be pretty small to really get digested. As for the time it takes, beef and meat take L O N G and typically putrify before digestion has a chance to be completed.

Luckily our bodies are very survival-oriented and can stow that undigested food out of the way. Well, not exactly out of the way. Ever wonder what that overhanging gut is packing? Not just “fat.” It’s undigested food. And if the undigested food stays there long enough, it gets about as hard and solid and black as the macadam they pave your road with. Not exaggerating. Get out the jackhammer.

How’s that for lurid food recall?  “I recall eating too much meat and ending up with a parking lot paved gut!:”

To add insult to injury, there is the matter of meats such as beef creating an unhealthy acidic condition in your body. There is also the fact that eating a lot of meat easily creates an imbalance that often leads to craving sugar and sweets. No wonder the best part of my childhood Saturday night grilled sirloin dinner was roasting marshmallows over the still-hot grill after we ate!

You know when most people grill steak and other meats outside? In the summertime when the weather is hot and we don’t want to cook inside the house. You know what food can make your body produce heat like there’s no tomorrow? Meat and especially beef.

I mentioned this to someone just yesterday and he responded that he has noticed when he eats meat he sweats more.

Now we all know that everyone has not decided to give up meat. Beef is still “What’s for dinner” for a lot of people. What to do? It is not easy maintaining balance and health while eating beef and other meats but it is easy to start controlling and counteracting the negative effects.

  1. (Obvious if you read this post) Chew your food until it is liquid. This is an old, traditional maxim that people used to know. Know now that it still holds true. Chewing is your first digestive action and is extremely important even if the flavor of your steak has waned.
  2. Cooked food does not have live enzymes to help digest it. So follow this advice too: “Don’t dine without enzymes!”
  3. Portion your meat serving so you are eating twice as many leafy greens plus other vegetables as meat. And the smaller the portion of meat, the better. Do you really need a 12-oz New York strip or would a few slices of very high-quality beef strips in a large veggie salad give you the flavor and satisfy the craving?
  4. Quality counts. It is well-known that animals raised for food production such as beef cattle are fed with GMO feed, antibiotics and hormones. At least buy organic. If organic seems expensive, wait until you find out how expensive those medical bills will be when your heavy and unbalanced, undigested meat eating habits catch up with you!

For more information on making the transition to a healthier diet, contact me directly. (See sidebar)

Ms. Vegan Manners

Hello Sweet Readers!

Let me introduce myself! I am publicly  known as Ms Vegan Manners but my full name is Vivienne De La Choux. You, Sweet Readers, may call me Vivi! (In case you aren’t sure about that, let me ease your discomfort by explaining you would pronounce that “vee vee.”)

VIVI

Today I’d like to talk to you about the awkward situation in which we find our desire to impart our vegan wisdom on another for whom we care is met with resistance, rebuttal and downright rudeness.

First may I say, Sweet Readers, that the subject of how one eats and what food one chooses can very quickly become controversial and even political. You might consider this before deciding to tell your co-workers, dear friends and family that they are incorrect in their food choices. My oh my! That can become a heated argument faster than you can say, “tofutti!”

Think for a moment about all the scuttlebutt surrounding GMO’s, animal rights, local organic vs factory farming! As you certainly well know, food—being a core component of staying alive—is a subject that is much protected and defended by vested interests. Is your beloved “student” really ready to hear that corn on the cob is probably not a good idea unless it’s organic? Or that cheapest possible price for their weekly groceries is not necessarily the most economical in the long run?

And besides, we all know what an emotional subject food can be and it can be a medical subject as well. So many of us are turning to food choices and dietary education so we might remain healthy and active in our lives. And bless them, there are those who are successfully recovering from serious illness by changing their eating  habits.

And then there are the weight-loss diets. Let’s not even go there! Do Not, Sweet Readers, Do Not open the door to the topic of diet at your next luncheon or business brunch where there may be Paleos and McDougall enthusiasts together in the same room!

The answer to all these dilemmas lies in simply having good manners and setting a good example. By this I mean, in your personal relations and social interchanges, you consider the viewpoint and feelings of the other person as well as helpfully and politely assert your own when the time is right.

Accentuate the positive, as they say!

Most of the time, when people learn you are vegan, they have questions and you sometimes find you are answering the same questions over and over again. Realize, Sweet Readers, that the questioners are mainly curious probably because they have already heard elsewhere or realized themselves that their own eating habits are sorely lacking or possibly harmful to them.

This is the time when you should assume the best about these questions and try to answer them in the best way possible. What is obvious and common knowledge to you, may not be for the innocent questioner. Don’t take these questions as an invalidation of your lifestyle.

GORILLA

Here are a few more tips about discussing your vegan eating habits:

1. You are not required to entertain snide comments from anyone about the type of food you eat.  Just smile and walk away or if you must converse with this person, try changing the subject. Letting yourself be pulled into an argument with such people will only pull you down.

2. When going to social functions where there may not be many good food choices for you, eat ahead of time.  After all, Sweet Readers, aren’t we in much better moods when we’re well-fed? You will be less likely to feel un-accommodated if you are not starving. Instead, enjoy the party and make new friends! This is not the right time to let your host or hostess know that the food they are serving their guests is unhealthy, not supportive of environmental well-being or wrought with evil intentions to kill off the pet cow.

3. When hosting guests yourself, be thoughtful in your menu planning. Either ask someone else to bring non-vegan food if you yourself will not prepare it, or choose some dishes that could be very satisfying for anyone whether they are vegan or not.  And this brings me to the next point which is very important . . .

4. For goodness sake learn to cook! There are thousands of cookbooks and blogs such as this one centered upon vegan and whole foods cooking and there are even a few vegan or vegetarian television cooking shows you can watch. The more you invest in learning how to prepare tasty food, the better off you and your friends and family will be. A wise cooking teacher once said to me that the most delicious food in the world will also be the most healthy.

Just remember, Sweet Readers, good manners will take you very far in whatever you are seeking to do and a very good teacher is one who not only has good manners her/his self but who also teaches others to be mannerly as well.

[Prompted by today’s WordPress Daily Prompt which asks: What Makes a Teacher Great?]

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Middle Class Misfits

Today’s Daily Prompt is called, “Island of Misfits.”  We all have something we’d like to write about that doesn’t really “fit” our blog. Write it anyway. I decided to adapt the opening title of the prompt for a flash fiction post.

Middle Class Misfits

“But Jace,” Min whined, “You’re gone so much lately! We hardly get to spend any time together. I practically have to make an appointment to see my own husband! Can’t you take some time off?”

“Sorry, Babe, you know I’d love to spend the day together and we’ll do that real soon. But right now, I’ve got to get going ’cause I don’t want to be late!” he said, blowing her a kiss.

He was out the door just like that. Just like every morning when Jace rushed out, coffee in one hand, keys in the other. Jace looked like an eager teenager on the first day of his first job. He had ‘ bright future’ written all over his 65-year-old face.

Min watched as Jace trotted to the car and took off. She really had no plans herself. The house was perfectly kept, all the bills were paid, the landscapers were taking care of the lawn. Planning dinner was the extent of her exciting future.

“What kind of retirement life is this?” Min complained on the phone to Helen, her best friend.  “The man retires and we’re finally free to do whatever we want and he goes and volunteers full time! He treats it like the most important job in the world! And here I sit— bored, sad, and feeling awfully old! We talked about going to Europe but it doesn’t look like that will happen. Not this year.”  Min paused, “Maybe never, Helen.”

“Min, I hate to say this, but if he’s spending that much time away from home, he is up to something.” Helen carped, “Has he ever cheated? Does he gamble?”

“No! Absolutely not! How could you even ask such a thing?” Min was annoyed.

“Because, Min, nobody loves to work that much,” Helen insisted. “Work is a necessary evil. If you keep your nose to the grindstone long enough, you can stop working and enjoy a little freedom. You and Jace have earned your retirement and this is the time in your lives when you should be slowing down and taking it easy. You two should be enjoying the security you’ve built over the years and spending time together while you’re still can.”

“So they say,” Min sobbed, “But that isn’t how it’s working out for us.”

Min stifled her tears, knowing full well she was overindulging in pure drama-queen mode. Her Jace was an honest man with good intentions. Isn’t that why he was working over at their church— to help people? Jace always did love to help.

“Helen, I gotta get off the phone,” said Min.

“Well, if I were you, I’d go find out for myself what’s going on. That’s all I’m saying,” snorted Helen. “You’d better find out sooner than later.”

It took a while to pull herself together, but Min got dressed, put on some lipstick and climbed into her car. “Yes,” she decided, “I will go down there and see for myself.”

Min stopped for drive-thru coffee and ordered lattes for herself and Jace. “He’ll like that,” she thought.

“How’s your day?” the twenty-something at the window asked. “Thank goodness we’re almost through Hump Day, right? Do you still have to work today or are you done?” he asked.

“I don’t work,” answered Min,

“Lucky you!”

“I’m not so sure I’d call it ‘lucky,'” Min said.

Min drove on. “Just a coffee shop peddler,” she fumed. “What does he know about real work? Hump day! As if he suffers to get through a week of brewing coffee and making change! What’s he do on the weekend, sit at the coffee shop himself sipping an icy drink while he watches other people work?”

“Well I may be bored,” Min sighed, “but I could never work at a place like that. What would be the point?”

Min pulled into the church parking lot taking the last spot. “Wow, there are a lot of cars here for a Wednesday,” she thought, “I wonder if something special is going on. Maybe that’s why Jace was in such a hurry.”

“Hello Min!” said the receptionist, “Here to see Jace? Looks like you brought him a treat! I’ll get him up here.”

“Hi Paulette,” Min said with a smile. Min liked Paulette a lot. She was always so genuinely friendly when she greeted people. “”Such a lovely woman,” Min thought, “She got a smile out of me, didn’t she?”

Min looked around while she waited for Jace. A group of kids and parents were getting ready to go out with two of the staff for a volunteer neighborhood clean-up. The children were laughing and excited as the adults rounded them up and got them out the door.

Everywhere Min looked there were busy people doing all kinds of things. “They all look so happy and productive!” Min thought, “They are the lucky ones.”

In another room there was a burst of applause. Min took a peek and saw five people standing in front of an audience describing their trip to South America where they had been helping disaster victims. Min listened while one young woman told a beautiful story of how she helped a family get through their ordeal and start on the road to recovery. Min was impressed with her generous dedication. “Helen would never understand this kind of drive and purpose,” Min thought.

Just then Jace appeared. He wore a grin that was practically too big for his face. “Hi Honey! Wow, thanks for the coffee!”

They stood arm in arm, listening to the volunteers talk about their experiences helping the South Americans. The team was going back next week and said they needed more help.

“It’s definitely not a vacation,” said the young woman, ‘It’s hard work but it’s a fantastic opportunity that you’ll never regret. They need food, water . . .  everything. Who wants to help?”

A hand shot up! Another burst of applause and cheers filled the room. Then another hand shot up! “I’ve got to keep up with my adventurous wife!” said Jace, looking at Mim. She was glowing.

####

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  8. Daily Prompt: Misfit, A Poem | Vicariously Poetic
  9. How a Kira is Born (Death Note Fan Fiction) | Daily Prompt: Island of Misfit Posts | likereadingontrains
  10. Smokin’ Parkour |
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  12. Daily Prompt: Island of Misfit Posts | Mindful Splatter
  13. Why I Don’t Write About Writing | The Jittery Goat
  14. No water hose | clarior e tenebris
  15. The Sea will Decide | Lewis Cave
  16. Island of misfits | Nanuschka’s Blog
  17. Island of Misfit Posts: Misfits of London | Khana’s Web
  18. Surf, Wine and I Love it! | Completely Disappear
  19. A creative misfit? : Island of Misfit posts | so i wrote
  20. Daily Prompt: Island of Misfit Posts | Basically Beyond Basic
  21. Daily Prompt: Island of Misfit Posts | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  22. Island of Misfit Posts | So Says Matt
  23. Ironic Mac & Cheese | Thoughts & Theories
  24. 168. Misfit. | Sofie’s Diary
  25. Daily Prompt: Can One-Size-Fits-All Blog Accommodate Misfit? | Iam Who Iam
  26. Daily Prompt: The Island of Misfit Posts | Natasha’s Memory Garden
  27. Is there any I can’t write here? | A Fanatic Novice

It’s Normal

Today’s Daily Prompt asks:  Is being “normal” — whatever that means to you — a good thing, or a bad thing? Neither?

English: A Butterfly Taken at Tropical Wings i...

(Wikipedia)

There once was a free-thinking man named Norm

Who loved being artistic in every form.

He dreamed and created many beautiful things

Like dresses made from pure butterfly wings.

~

The fluttering dresses so colorful and bright

Stunned the critics and shocked buyers on sight.

“These are ridiculous, they’ll never sell,”

Carped Louie Couture and Daisy La Belle.

~

“Norm’s no designer, he’s just a joke!

Why look at those monarchs stitched to that yoke!

Alert the press! Call CNN!

His career’s over before it begins!”

~

Soon the word spread, Norm’s dresses had failed.

Bronx cheers from Joan Rivers; Jon Stewart railed.

You’d think poor Norm would have changed his style—

“No, I really love this,” he said with a smile.

~

Then one fateful eve at the Grammys, I think

Clad all in butterflies, quite gossamer and pink

A Lady appeared to deliver a song

Wearing one of Norm’s dresses flowing and long.

~

She won the award and after the show

She stood for photos and looked all aglow.

“My dear, what do you call that smashing formal?”

She looked to the camera and said, “It’s Normal.”

~

Butterfly wings were soon on most dresses

And hats and shoes and even in tresses.

Soon there were knock-offs at Harrods and Macy’s

Butterfly frocks on each Sue, Jane and Stacy

~

“Normal” was normal, that’s all there was to it.

Except for Miss Patty who did cleverly ‘tuit

That changing whims and currents of fashion;

Were not where she placed her heart and her passion.

~

“I have my own thoughts and I’m going to write

What’s important to me, what brightens my light.

No matter if this is not mainstream and hip,

I write from my heart and I steer my own ship.”

~~~~~

  1. Everybody laugh, everybody cry | From Five to Fifty
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  22. Believe It Or Not There Is A Normal And An Abnormal | The Jittery Goat
  23. As He is, so we are | A Teacher’s Blog
  24. Normal According to Whom? | das Nicht-zuhause-sein
  25. The New “Normal” | A Good One
  26. Sgt. Pepper et al | Relax…
  27. Daily Prompt: The Normal | Books, Music and Movies : my best friends
  28. Daily Prompt: Give Me Abnormal or Give Me DEATH! | Iam Who Iam
  29. Daily Prompt: The Normal | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  30. Daily Prompt: Normal Is Abnormal | Creative Mysteries
  31. Be you… | Haiku By Ku
  32. Daily Prompt: Who wants to be normal? | Jane’s Journal
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  34. This face is… | Sad Magic
  35. Daily Prompt : Forever Normal | The Bluebird of Happiness 幸福
  36. What is normal? | AnxiousElephant
  37. Daily Prompt: The Normal | The Educated Illiterates
  38. Normal is GOOD | Going New Places!
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  40. Normal equals boring. « kiyudesu
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  44. Daily Prompt: The Normal – Like Any Other | SERENDIPITY
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  46. Daily Prompt: The Normal « samidare reprise
  47. The Pain of the Entrepreneur | Sandra Harriette’s Blog
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  49. Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal | Clive’s Blog
  50. Normality Will Resume Shortly | Tony’s Texts
  51. We need to be abnormal to find normal in life… (Daily Prompt) | The Rider
  52. Daily Prompt: The Normal | My Endless Rants & Ramblings
  53. You are the Chosen One | Start My Quest
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  55. Same Me – Same Normal Daily Prompt: The Normal | New Lease–Same Hope
  56. Normality Snormality | Fish Of Gold
  57. reading backwards | The paradox of a zedonk
  58. Daily Prompt: The Normal | Left to Write
  59. Without Fail | It’s a wonderful F’N life
  60. The Normal: | Khana’s Web
  61. The Normal: Mr. & Mrs. Normal | Khana’s Web
  62. Effortless, The Pictures They Paint | Here’s My Heart & Here’s My Mouth
  63. Daily Prompt: The Normal | The corner of my imagination
  64. Daily Prompt: The Normal | The Tarot Alchemist
  65. Daily Prompt: Normal/Staying in Focus | Staying in Focus
  66. The formality of reality is never normality… | EW Brown
  67. Departure From The Norm | Daily Prompt: The Normal | Words From The Desk Of An Insomniac
  68. We Have Normality! | Sincerely, Ms. Roberts
  69. One Million Billionth Of A Millisecond On A Sunday Morning | a former clarity
  70. Daily Prompt – The Normal | bambangpriantono

I digress. (An Enormous Understatement)

Growing up eating the Standard American Diet of meat, dairy and sugar was probably at least a little better than the way kids eat today what with all the chemicalized and fake foods, although I did my best to go to the farthest extremes possible such as the Saturday morning ritual of eating as many Aunt Jemima pancakes with not-real-maple syrup as my little tummy (which was getting to be a big tummy) could hold. Never got past eight.

I loved cooking from a young age and I have always described my foray into cooking as being the first meal I ever made at the tender age of ten when I cooked my Daddy a lovely meatloaf with instant mashed potatoes and frozen peas. But that isn’t when I started “cooking.” Much earlier, I would climb up on a kitchen chair to reach the top of the refrigerator where the Arnold’s Bakery bread was kept and I would pull that down and make myself numerous butter and sugar sandwiches and stuff them down. At night while my parents were asleep.

Meanwhile my Daddy was worried about how chubby I was getting but I was not the least concerned. He would make sure I got plenty of good, solid protein in the form of charcoal-grilled steaks and baloney sandwiches while Mom made sure I got plenty of vegetables in the form of canned green beans and frozen vegetable medley. She was fascinated by food inventions and food trends one of which was the “cannibal sandwich.” Sorry to have to tell you this, but it was raw ground beef with a lot of raw onions and hot mustard on deli rye bread. I loved it.

Somehow I made it through my teen years without becoming a poster child for obesity though I was big enough that I felt more comfortable making my own clothing instead of shopping. I made all my important clothes such as prom dresses. I had plenty of friends and boyfriends and even though I did wish I could be thinner, there was something that seemed to make up for it all. I was voluptuous.

I continued on through college during which I ate like a lumber jack (interspersed with crash dieting) and continued my culinary experimentation every weekend making the most incredible foods I could imagine and after college, when I started making money, I indulged in finding the highest quality ingredients available. Back then “highest quality” meant going to a little local butcher shop and buying their most expensive item which was milk-fed veal to make veal piccante. By this time I was also old enough to drink alcohol which amazingly I had never tried until I was actually of legal age—21—but if I thought cooking was an infinite adventure, let me tell you there is a whole world of cocktail making that I discovered, especially the mixed, blended, creamy, sweet ones, but also the aged, imported and specially brewed liquors and beers. And there was cheap, sweet Scuppernong wine. Interesting yes, but not an endless adventure for me. I lost my interest in mixology and alcohol. It was just a short-term digression.

Then one day I was sauteeing my milk-fed veal and thought, “I’m not too happy and I think my life would be better if I changed how I ate.” Honest-to-god I hadn’t read anything, heard anything on TV and I didn’t know anybody who was into health food. I just had the thought and once I had that consideration—that I might feel happier if I changed my food—I took a complete 180. I have written about this before.

When I say I took a complete 180, I probably should say I moved to another planet as far as food was concerned because I found my way into a macrobiotic study house where I lived with other students of macrobiotics and the teachers who owned the house provided 100% fabulous meals made with whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits that were all organic, whole and had not one milligram of chemicals or sugar. If you lived there, you didn’t just wander into the kitchen in the middle of the night and make yourself something. You ate what they served and it was an honor to be allowed or even invited to help cook—which I eventually was invited and from there helped teach the cooking classes and became a cooking teacher in my own right for the next 25 years or so.

What’s macrobiotics? The word, coined by Georges Ohsawa, literally means Great Life. As a food philosophy, it could be said that one lives a greater or fuller life by looking at the whole picture to achieve balance and health. Whole foods are a big part of this and how to achieve the right balance is a big part of this. For much more information, look here.

This is where I really got my balance back or more accurately, got it for the first time. I knew how to choose and prepare foods to create the effect I desired within myself and for my family. I was also exposed to a spiritual philosophy that was my first entrance into understanding my own spirituality. This is another major layer of digression. From these beginnings, I realized I was looking for answers to the “big questions of life” and I kept looking until I found them in my current religious practice.

By the time I met my Hubbin’, I had been 100% macrobiotic for thirty years. He was a meat ‘n potatoes guy but he had earlier dated someone who was macrobiotic and he was familiar with the food and liked it quite a bit.

I’ll never forget the first meal I made for him hoping that he would not be turned off and we would have future dates! I made a deep-fried tofu stew with brown rice and some vegetable side dishes and some kind of dessert. Pie, I believe.

He did like it! We continued eating grains and beans and veggies at home and he would get his “fix” of meats and other things whenever he ate in a restaurant. Which was mostly all the time since Hubbin’ didn’t cook or even heat up leftovers. A bachelor for many years before me—cooking and reheating just weren’t domestic activities he’d pursued. But God Bless ‘im! At home he continued to love whatever I made and he bravely tried all kinds of things that he’d never eaten before. One of his favorite things was (and still is) freshly cooked brown rice with chopped roasted almonds on top.

We were hummin’ along just fine until I had to go to Los Angeles for training for my job and my meals were included in the program. The food served was one specific menu for each meal and most all of it was excellent in quality, and included lots of fresh vegetables, but it was by no means what I was used to. At first I tried to compromise as little as possible and eat what I could, but I was there for four very busy months and I got hungry! So I ate whatever was served.

Needless to say, that was quite a regression for me. When I returned home I was still craving meat and dairy food and even though I continued making brown rice and vegetables, I was also making the other stuff. My kids just about died of shock when they heard I’d come home and served Swedish Meatballs for dinner. As time passed the organic version of the Standard American Diet reared its ugly head more often and whole grains were no longer the stars of the show.

Both my husband and I were very busy with work and activities and it became more and more convenient to buy food out somewhere much of the time. This cannot be done on a regular basis and still eat very well unless you have a boatload of organic, health-conscious restaurants around which we did not. And even if we did have those—such as the deli and prepared food sections of large “healthy” grocery stores, you are at the mercy of “what sells.” And “what sells” in today’s health food store is largely not what I would characterize as “very healthy food.” And that subject, my friends, is another major digression I shall not take up here.

Hubbin’ had several moderately alarming health issues. I got fat. But I could also see the decline of my own health which I conveniently chalked up to “aging” until I was willing to confront what really happened. I lost 25 pounds on my own and then I digressed (again) into a very personalized, specifically prescribed dietary program and lost another 70 pounds. To be sure, there were lots of benefits to doing this program. Then Hubbin’ did it too and I did it some more. It was like a little respite from having to make any decisions at all about food. We just ate what we were supposed to and lost weight.

Does this sound appealing to you? Are you enticed by the idea of a workable weight loss program that uses only real food and no pills or potions? I understand. I was too. I had digressed so very far from “balance.” And you may be tempted to ask what the program was and where can you find out especially when I tell you that it did entail some very well-researched data on how to naturally balance hormones with just food.

What I got out of it was that I was again eating a lot of fresh vegetables daily–more than I had for some time. And I learned exactly what types of foods will cause me to gain weight. All of that was useful not to mention that I did lose weight and so did Hubbin’. But the program had no grains in it except for a few certain types of crackers. All the carbohydrates came from vegetables and fruits and the rest of the menu was low-fat dairy, meat, fish and poultry. This is not a sustainable way to eat long-term. No it isn’t.

I began noticing some health deficits that I didn’t like. The day I finished the program and began eating a tiny amount of whole grains or bread, the bad symptoms went away. The day I went back on the program to do it with my husband the bad symptoms came back. I knew I was not going to go down this road any further.

So once again, I digressed. And what do you know? I knew what to do exactly. I knew what type of “vegetarian or vegan” food would cause me to gain weight and have problems and I knew what it was about the no-carb meaty program that helped me to lose weight. (It wasn’t the meat and it wasn’t the “no grains”. And I knew that I could easily return to whole, plant-based foods and get it right and have it fit into my busy life and regain all the benefits and lose all the deficits. I knew I could cook my little heart out and keep on creating amazing food that I enjoy more than any restaurant and that Hubbin’ will also love and benefit from.

I also don’t have to worry about how much food I am eating. I find I have returned to “balance” very quickly despite the long and winding digressions. The transformation, particularly in how I feel every day, is nothing short of spectacular. And all that cooking each step of the way no matter what I was making is all part of the package that I call my “expertise.” Today I do not consider I have problems related to aging. Today I am grateful for every food experience I ever had because all of it contributed to the know-how I have acquired.

If you actually read the whole thing, I hope it was worth it. I’ve been wanting to write it for some time. And the funny thing is, as much as I love cooking and love eating and love sharing what I know about these subjects, my life is not all about food. Not in the least. I would describe it this way: I am happily and creatively complying with the fact that I have a body which requires certain things to remain healthy and alive. And having the know-how about this frees me up for the much broader, wide-reaching endeavors that I pursue.

Choosing healthy food and good nutrition is very therapeutic, but it is not the main event of living life. Cooking for me is a creative outlet more than anything else. Understanding what can be created—now there’s a fruitful digression!

Thanks for listening!

It was a long story! That’s what can happen when one digresses. And no pictures, either. So here’s one for you. Thanks for listening!

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Beautifully restored 1950's kitchen in the L. Ron Hubbard house in Phoenix, Arizona
Beautifully restored 1950’s kitchen in the L. Ron Hubbard house in Phoenix, Arizona

Most of the time, I am looking forward. I’m looking at what future I will create and how I will create it. I’m looking at what I will do to improve conditions in my own life and in the lives of others. I am looking at what is needed in order to make things better on this planet. I am helped and inspired by the man whose home I had the opportunity to visit in Phoenix, Arizona—L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Scientology religion. Mr. Hubbard lived in Phoenix in the 50’s and his home is meticulously restored down to every last detail.

I didn’t visit there just to see the kitchen, but when I did see it, I wanted to take a picture of it! My husband teased, “I see a blog post coming!” Does he know me or what?  How often would I see perfectly restored fifties kitchen stove, refrigerator and kitchen cabinetry? Imagine a 64 year-old stove with not one scratch, stain or stubborn burned spot on it! (The entire house was fantastic and I recommend you see it.)

Looking at this picture I began thinking about the food/cooking/health scene in that period of time. It was post WWII, so farmers were already being sold on the idea that chemicals left over from making bombs could be put into the soil to produce bumper crops. We won’t go down this road in detail right now. Let’s just say this led to weakened soil, the necessity for more chemicals, problems with livestock which then required antibiotics and hormones, more weakened soil attacked by more pests, more chemicals . . . .and look where we’re at now. Genetically modified foods created so they won’t die when huge amounts of pesticides–more toxic than ever before–are applied to them.

In decades past, you could not buy foods from across the globe so readily because shipping was slower and much less efficient. It was easier to maintain a diet that followed the seasons of the year and it encouraged us to eat the foods that were indigenous to our own climate—at least somewhat. Why would we want to do that? It promotes natural balance and harmony with our environment.

For some time now, we’ve been able to get just about any food from anywhere. Many of the so-called “miracle foods” come from environments far outside of my own, such as coconut products that are so popular now.

What were some of the new health and diet developments in the fifties?

  • The four food groups including dairy food were promoted in the early fifties (an idea forwarded by, you guessed it, the dairy industry!)
  • TV dinners and a myriad of other frozen foods were touted as convenient
  • White Castle and A&W fast food had already existed for decades, but in the fifties “Insta-Burger King” later to be renamed as Burger King showed up.
  • Nutritionist and author Adelle Davis was becoming popular. She was known as much for her anti-processing stand on foods and her criticizm of the food industry as much as she was for her ideas on vitamins and diet.
  • Jack LaLanne became America’s first fitness and exercise guru.
  • Microwave ovens—one of the worst, health-destroying inventions in my opinion—came out.

I grew up in the fifties and I well remember many of these things. I watched Jack La Lanne on television doing his isometrics. We ate TV dinners and just about any other new thing that came out. My mother was facinated by all the new food products. I learned the four food groups in school and I remember the first Burger King that opened in our town.

My own history regarding food is likely only interesting to just me so we can skip the details and list out: heavy meat and dairy as a child, learning about the problems being confronted by the United Farm Workers Union and joining the organization as a kid, getting totally hooked on “working out” at the gym coupled with a LOT of protein supplementation, taking a complete 180 and going all vegetarian. Staying vegetarian for thirty plus years and then temporarily going back to animal foods while still eating all the grains and veggies. Gaining a LOT of weight. Losing the weight with a very individualized diet. Realizing I paid a price health-wise while “dieting,” and now, coming to my own conclusions about what I need to eat and what I don’t want to consume any more which pretty much brought me back full circle to a whole foods, plant-based diet.

And cooking, cooking, cooking all the while!

I’ve learned so very much over the years!

  • You don’t need to eat meat, eggs and dairy food in order to have protein.
  • Children can thrive wonderfully well on a vegetarian diet as long as it is balanced.
  • You cannot leave out an entire category of foods, such as “carbohydrates,” for very long and stay healthy.
  • You gain weight by indulging in too many refined foods, whether they are vegetarian or not, and eating more food than you can easily use.
  • The body requires daily exercise.
  • You do not need to focus on individual vitamins or nutrients if you are eating organic, mineral-rich food.
  • By the same token, even the best organic-quality food today is weakened and you can assist yourself without “losing balance” with something like wild-harvested whole  micoalgae such as Super Blue Green Algae.

And here’s the most important point, which is difficult to totally define but vital for each of us to strive to understand:

  • The way I have learned what “balanced diet” means, is by studying the effects of various foods, observing these effects, and getting into and maintaining a dietary balance for a long period of time. I used the eastern viewpoint of balance (yin and yang) to understand this. Now, no matter how far and wide I’ve gone food-wise, I definitely know when I’ve lost my balance and I know how to regain it quickly. Further, we can be very much at cause over our environment food-wise by how we choose to eat. Cooking is a beautiful example of that because there is a myriad of food preparations and techniques with which we can change our foods into what we want and need. 

Where does this all lead? It leads to my own phraseology, “Free Eating.” It means that when one has a basic understanding of foods and their effects, of how to prepare foods in order to change them and create the effects you want, you have less rules, not more. Less intense focus on diet and food, not more. Less living to eat and much much more eating to live!

My own approach is that I want to eat real food, not fake, chemicalized food. Naturally occuring food is what I want. Whole food is what I want. And I want my food to be colorful, beautiful and the most delicious in the world.

Where have you been and what have you learned? Where are you headed and what do you want?

Parking Lot Tuna

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt asks: How are you more likely to make an important decision — by reasoning through it, or by going with your gut?

Tuna Sandwich

(Photo credit: Dave Lifson)

It took no reasoning whatsoever to decide now is a good time to tell the “Tuna Fish Sandwich in the Parking Lot” story. It is pure gut. (pun intended!)

One of my boys was in the Scouts. One Friday after school, we got him all packed up for a weekend camping trip somewhere and he asked me to make him a tuna fish sandwich for dinner on the road that night. I did that, packed it in a little lunch cooler and off we went to the designated church parking lot where his troop and the vans were waiting. We wrestled with all his equipment and got it all stashed into a van and off they went.

It was a lovely warm Georgia evening and a very hot, sunny weekend was predicted.

The weekend passed and Sunday afternoon I got a call from my son who was all excited when he told me, “Mom! You’ll never guess what happened! I forgot my dinner Friday and when we got back it was still there in the parking lot and it still tasted okay.”

Instant panic mode! It had been in the mid-90’s all weekend. I picked him up and was relieved to see he wasn’t vomitting all over the church parking lot. Instead, he was just so darned excited that the sandwich was still there when he got back. Me, all I could think about was rushing to the hospital to treat his severe food poisoning.

I took immediate action and I had great certainty in what I was doing. I grabbed my Super Blue Green Acidophilus and started emptying the capsules into water. He drank ten to a glass every half hour for two hours. Then we went to his soccer game and he was just fine.

I knew that live acidophilus produces a very strong antibiotic called “acidophilin.” This is a natural antibiotic and just one of the benefits of eating acidophilus. I also knew that Super Blue Green acidophilus was of a quality I could count on—that it had real acidophilus and the acidophilus would be live. And each capsule also has some Super Blue Green algae in it. These little live good bacteria carried their own lunch box of wild edible microalgae packed full of minerals and protein so they tended to be strong and powerful bacteria.

I have used this acidophilus and the other Super Blue Green Algae products for thirty years and I know what they can accomplish for one’s health and nutrition. If you would like to know more, read my page, “My Secret Weapon.

  1. My short story “New Life” (in Russian) published in “Belgorod Business Class” magazine (first number) | Inside My Glitching Mind
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  8. Decisions decisions… | The Rider
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  10. Transitioning: from reason to gut … | The Psychic Diary
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  19. “Right, I’ll go left, right!” | Prompt Queen
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