Foods that are Low in Carbs

A low carb diet is a good lifestyle choice. Studies show it is a healthy way to lose weight, and for many it is a great way to keep weight off. Diet and exercise together are the best way to keep yourself fit and ward off disease. Here are many low carb food choices you can make.

 

Most low-carb diets suggest limiting carbohydrate intake to between 50 to 150 grams per day, depending on the diet. Most low carb diets for weight loss start with extremely low carbohydrate intake,  in the range of 20-25 grams per day. That lasts for a couple of weeks, then rises to 60 to 90 grams per day for continued weight loss.

Things to be aware of with low carb diets

Especially if you are used to eating a lot of high-carb items and sugary foods. Your body will crave them like crazy for the first three weeks or so. Your body is going into a state called ketosis, which starts to use your fat for energy. This can cause bad breath, so stock up on sugar-and-carb-free mints.

You may experience… how can we put it delicately… trouble with your digestive tract. Drink lots of water. Lots and lots of water.

If your body is used to a lot of carbs, you may experience something called the “Keto flu”. You might feel fatigued, and have muscle weakness. It will go away within a week or so.

If you do eat a lot of carbs and sweets, it will be easier on your body and will power to do a pre-diet slowdown. Start eating fewer carbs every day for a week or so, to get your body used to fewer carbs. Then the first two weeks won’t be potentially painful.

We wish you luck on your low carb lifestyle. For many people, it’s the key to taking weight off and keeping it off!

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Home Safety Tips for Seniors

It’s just a fact of life: as we age we become less, shall we say…agile, nimble, sprightly, dexterous…choose any synonym for quick and spry you like, we simply don’t move the way we used to.  We also develop certain ailments that require certain medications and if we continue to live independently as we reach our “senior” years, certain accommodations must be made to these simple facts of life.  As I continually tell my kids, “Getting old generally sucks, but you can make some minor adjustments to make it suck less.”

Let’s just accept the fact that accommodations must be made for our continued seniorly independence and those accommodations must be made for the sake of safety.  Given that the number one cause of injuries among seniors is from falls (falls are also the number one cause of fatal injuries), the following tips will focus on how to avoid them.  Simply stated, do whatever you need to do to avoid falls within and without your home. The other area of concern for seniors is that of medicine and ensuring that they take the proper amount…think Goldilocks here, neither too much nor too little, but the proper amount.

Tips to “fall-proof” your home

  • Add rails and grab bars where needed. The two main problem areas here are stairs and the bathroom.  Yes, this will probably require the assistance of either a contractor or someone with carpentry skills, but isn’t your safety worth it?  Along stairways, both interior and exterior, handrails should line both sides and both should be used, especially when descending.  In the bathroom, rails should be added in and around the tub/shower and around the toilet to prevent slipping and to assist with sitting and standing.
  • Remove excess clutter throughout the home. “Clutter,” in this instance, refers to anything that could be a tripping hazard and can include shoes (while not on your feet), magazines, pet toys, books, clothes, and trash in any form.  “Everything has a place and there’s a place for everything,” as my dad is still fond of telling me when I leave one of his tools in a place other than where it’s supposed to be.  It’s simple.  Keep your floors free from junk and you’ll greatly improve your odds of staying upright.
  • Watch those throw rugs and floor surfaces. Ensure that all rugs are properly secured to the floor to prevent them slipping from underfoot and avoid the use of slippery cleaning solutions on hardwood and tile floors.
  • Install non-slip surfaces in the tub and/or shower. Actually, this rule applies to people of all ages, not just seniors.  Water, soap/shampoo and a slick, smooth surface is a recipe for disaster, seriously.  It matters not whether you use simple non-slip strips or cute little fishies and duckies, just put them in place.
  • Light dark/dim places, inside and out. It really, really, really, really, helps if you can see where you’re walking…really.  Replace burned out or dim bulbs throughout your home and add additional lighting if there’s any question regarding proper illumination.  Oh yeah, leave some lights on during the night, especially in the bathroom.
  • Consider wearing a medical alert system with fall detection. Some come GPS equipped to ensure fallen seniors are quickly located and they are relatively inexpensive, usually under $50.

A few more safety tips

  • Create and use a system for your meds. There’s an app(lication) for that.  If you’re comfortable using a smart phone, download a medication reminder app.  It’s the next best thing to a nagging spouse.  Or use a pill box, or a pocket calendar, or link taking your meds to a daily activity (wake up, teeth brushing, eating), or use your friends and family members.  Also, keep an up-to-date list of your current meds, to include name, dosage, number of refills, and strength.
  • If you haven’t already, install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home. And change the batteries every time you alter the clocks for daylight savings time.
  • Eat well and stay hydrated. MagicKitchen.com can sure help you here.  As we’ve discussed in previous posts, as we age our nutritional needs change.  Ensure you’re getting the RDA of all essential vitamins and minerals through eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins.  As for hydration, there’s a simple test to determine if you’re properly hydrated.  If you’re urine is clear, you’re good, if it’s eye-blinding neon yellow, you’re dehydrated and need some liquid.

Getting old doesn’t necessarily mean you must give up your independence.  However, there’s no doubt that our bodies change as we age and some accommodations must be made due to this fact…so don’t be a “stubborn old codger,” as my mom likes to call my dad, and make them!

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Common Foods with Surprising Health Benefits

It seems that many people believe that some sort of special diet with exotic foods is required to “eat healthy.”  We go out of our way to locate and drive to so called specialty stores to find strange foods that we discovered in some online article that extolls the nutritional virtues of these foods we can’t pronounce (like spirulina, harissa and cupuaca).

And, often times, we pay exorbitant amounts of money to purchase these foods when we could gain the same health benefits from far more common and less expensive alternatives.  Since you seem skeptical, here are five examples of foods found in every local grocery store that offer numerous health benefits.

Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomatoes – There isn’t a more common food than tomatoes, is there?  These semi-round spheres of fruity goodness (yes, they are considered a fruit) are chock full of nutritional nutritioness that provide numerous health benefits.  They contain all four major antioxidants (alpha and beta carotene, lutein and lycopene) which are concentrated in their peels and provide them with their rich red color.  Studies have found that the regular consumption of tomatoes can reduce the risk of stroke and prostrate and pancreatic cancers due to the presence of these antioxidants.

Raisins – Also known as concentrated grapes, raisins possess plenty of B vitamins, iron, potassium, carbs and fiber.  Dietary iron is primarily used by our bodies to transport oxygen, via red blood cells, to our various muscles and brain.  It also supports our immune system, aids with metabolism and assists in the building of amino acids.  The potassium in raisins has been shown to lower blood pressure by limiting the effects of sodium.  Its fiber, half of which is soluble fiber, helps to lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.  And while the reputation of carbohydrates has recently been drug through the mud, they are very necessary for energy and many endurance athletes (yours truly included) substitute raisins for sport gels in order to avoid processed sugars.

Grapefruit – This low-cal, high nutrient fruit contains plenty of vitamins C and A, fiber, and the antioxidants beta-carotene, lycopene and flavanones.  Studies suggest that these nutrients reduce blood pressure, LDL (or bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  They also provide a boost to our immune systems, stabilize our blood sugar levels and prevent insulin resistance whereby our cells stop responding to insulin which can lead to type 2 diabetes.  The fiber contained within grapefruit can also provide appetite control as it slows the rate at which our stomachs empty which causes us to feel full for longer periods of time.

Yogurt – One of the key elements contained within yogurt are probiotics or “friendly” bacteria that improves our digestive health and can help with constipation, diarrhea (side note: I could never spell “diarrhea” without spell check) and inflammatory bowel disease.  Yogurt also naturally contains plenty of calcium and many manufacturers add vitamin D, both of which are necessary for bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.  Finally, yogurt also contains plenty of protein that assists with muscle recovery and creation.  One last piece of advice: use plain yogurt and add natural flavoring, such as berries and other fruit as many manufacturers add tons of unnecessary sugar, even the one with the “fruit on the bottom.”

Ginger – The Asian spice, not the British Spice…Girl (you knew I couldn’t go a whole post without a lame joke).  And yes, I realize that ginger is somewhat exotic as it originates from Asia, but its been here for centuries and its been used for medicinal purposes in Asia and India for longer than that.  The active ingredient in ginger is a volatile oil known, appropriately, as gingerol.  It is why, when we were children and had an upset stomach, our moms gave us ginger ale, which, for me, was a very rare treat and almost made vomiting worth it (side note II: ginger ale came from the practice of British pubs placing out bowls of ground ginger for the patorns to sprinkle in their beers).  Gingerol, it seems, eliminates excess gas within our digestive tracts and eases symptoms associated with motion sickness, such as dizziness and nausea.  Gingerol is also an anti-inflammatory which can lessen the pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as improve mobility in the affected areas.

So, next time you’re contemplating a trip to a specialty grocery store for some durian or chayote, check yourself before you wreck yourself and stop by the local shop for a few tomatoes, grapefruit, boxes of raisins, some plain yogurt and ground ginger.  Your body will thank you for it.

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Making your Dad Smile this Father’s Day

Your dad is unique.  You must recognize this fact before we start discussing gift ideas for Father’s Day.  Some like to fish, some like to build things, some like sports (perhaps all), some like to cook, some like the ballet, some like music (listen to or play), some like a few beers with their beer buddies.  However, almost every dad, to include yours, loves to spend time with their kids, especially if those kids are fully grown, have their own lives and/or families and live many miles away.  That being the case, perhaps the greatest gift you can give your dad this Father’s Day is some of your valuable time.

Ever since I moved away from home and started my own family, I think of Harry Chapin’s melancholy song from 1974, Cat’s in the Cradle, as Father’s Day approaches.  Of all the “likes” I listed above, none applied to my dad.  For you see, my dad liked to work…and not at home.

He was what he called a “tin knocker” aka sheet metal worker/welder and he was very good at his chosen profession (I think I related some version of this story here last year).  He would say that he didn’t “like” to work, but that he “had” to work to provide for our family.  I suspect it was a mixture of both “liked” and “had.”  Whatever it was, all I knew was that when I looked in the bleachers during my little league games or, later on, my high school and college track meets, or among the spectators lining the numerous cross country courses I ran on, I never saw my dad, not once.  And I would sadly sing that Chapin song in my mind.

However, since my dad has retired he is making up for lost time, with me as well as his grandchildren and for my part, I have gone out of my way not to “grow up just like him,” at least with regard to not spending time with my children and then growing up to not spend time with my father.  That being the case, my father, myself, and my two boys spend every Father’s Day together doing things of his choosing…so long as it’s not work.  The moral of the story: its far better to spend time than money on your dad this Father’s Day.

But there’s nothing wrong with doing both, as I usually do.  I just ensure that I don’t spend much on his gift and that I spend some time (get it) choosing a gift I know will make him smile.  Here are a few ideas that just might make your dad smile as well:

  1. What I Love About Dad by me Book – This little treasure offers 50 fill-in-the-blank prompts or sentence starters that allow you to express in your own words (sorta) what your dad means to you. You’ll be amazed how completing the prompts elicits warm fuzzy memories of your dad as you travel back through the years to recall all the things, large and small, he did for you as you grew up.  Here are a few examples of the included prompts: “I love that you taught me to appreciate ____________________.”  and “I’m glad I got your _______________________.”  Learn more here:  https://www.uncommongoods.com/product/what-i-love-about-dad-by-me-book
  2. Photo Tie – Yeah, I know, who gets their dad a tie for Father’s Day? But there are so many ways to go with this and it’s one of those gifts your dad MUST wear after receiving.  All that’s required is to upload your favorite pic of yourself (I highly recommend one that will embarrass the wearer to the utmost degree) and this company places it on that ultimate piece of fatherly apparel.  Check it out: http://www.personalcreations.com/product/Photo-Ties-30033588?prid=pcseogu&ref=PCRorganicgglunkwn&sk=&tile=hmpg_hero1&productgroup=PPHOHIM&viewpos=2&ratings=4.75540000&reviews=139&trackingpgroup=PPHOHIM
  3. (Toothpaste) Tube Wringer – My dad is an ardent skinflint, tightwad, penny-pincher…He’s cheap, OK? And when I purchased this for his last birthday his eyes had that special glint that my mom hasn’t seen in decades when he opened it and realized what it was.  One of the memories of my dad from my childhood years is of him haranguing every member of our family to roll the toothpaste tube from the bottom up in order to extract as much as possible as he, “wasn’t made of money.”  Well, this little gizmo achieved his ultimate goal.  Here you go:  http://incrediblethings.com/uncategorized/tube-wringer-for-the-last-bit-of-toothpaste/

The above are just a small sampling of the unique gifts you can find for your unique dad.  All you need to do is match the gift to the recipient and then remember, time is more valuable than any gift, especially on Father’s Day.

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Essential, Yet Old School Home Exercise Equipment

Our lives continually seem to be dominated by technology that changes on an almost daily basis, and home exercise equipment is not immune to this phenomenon.  The current trend is to connect the equipment to that internet machine in order to run, or bike, or row, or swim (well, maybe not swim) in various locales across the globe with other people from various locales across the globe with a remote trainer providing the motivation.  However, many believe, myself included, that when it comes to exercising, there’s no school like the old school.

I tend to view this debate in a similar manner to that classic pugilistic and cinematic masterpiece, Rocky IV.  As I’m sure you recall, Rocky decides to travel to Russia to train and then fight Ivan Drago, who had just killed the object of Rocky’s bromance, Apollo Creed.  The training regimes of the two rivals were diametrically opposed.

Rocky trained in Siberia with horse collars, rocks, a horse-drawn wagon, ropes, snow, and mountains, in other words, like a 19th century hermit.  Drago, on the other hand, had the most technologically advanced equipment known to man, all connected to computer diagnostics to measure his every step and punch (Oh yeah, and steroids too).  The moral of the story?  (SPOILER ALERT) Old school exercise equipment is superior to new school as Rocky prevailed, obviously, due to his Neanderthal-like training methods.

So, with the example of Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago fresh in our minds, here are three perfect examples of antiquated pieces of equipment that should be in every home gym.

  1. A heavy bag – Yes, I realize in Rocky I, that Rocky eschewed the heavy bag in favor of a side of beef. However, few of us have a future brother-in-law (Paulie) to provide us access to a meat packing company.  That being the case, a heavy bag will have to suffice.  This simple piece of equipment, if used properly, provides both cardiovascular and weight-training benefits, especially if you bring mixed martial arts into your workout.  And while most equate a heavy bag with just an upper-body workout, it can also provide a great core workout, which is all the rage in the training world.  For beginning heavy bag workouts, check this out: http://livehealthy.chron.com/heavy-bag-workout-routines-beginners-6313.html 
  2. Medicine balls – To my knowledge, there is no video evidence that Rocky ever trained with medicine balls, but perhaps that footage was simply omitted from his various training montages. Please notice that it’s balls, rather than “ball.”  Medicine balls come in a variety of weights in order to provide a range of workouts, from intense cardiovascular to weight training.  Here’s a list of 25 medicine ball workouts that will get your heart pumping and your core…well, doing what a core should do: http://greatist.com/fitness/25-must-try-medicine-ball-exercises
  1. An air bike – No, they haven’t invented a bike that can fly…yet. Air bikes have been around for decades, long before spinning classes became more popular than actually riding a real bike.  The concept is quite simple, the harder you pedal, the more resistance created by that huge fan that serves as the air bike’s front wheel.Combine the cycling motion with handle bars that oscillate in conjunction with the pedals and you’ve just incorporated your upper-body into your workout.  And they are generally much less expensive than a technologically advanced stationary bike.  If you must train with a screen, simply place the air bike in front of your console television set.  Again, there is no known footage of Rocky training on an air bike.  However, Rocky does pull his trainer, Mick, while Mick sits upon an adult tricycle in Rocky II.  Here’s some more info on air bikes: http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/air-bike-hiit-workout/

So if you’re looking for some cost effective (cheap) exercise equipment that has seen a recent resurgence in popularity, due to their muscular and cardiovascular benefits, then look at any or all of the three above examples.  Yo, Adrian!

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It’s Spring, Get Outside: 8 Outdoor Activities for Seniors

Have you noticed that the heat is coming on less and less in your home?  If not, just look at your last heating bill.  And in our world of cause and effect, the cause is increased outdoor temperatures and the effect SHOULD be increased outdoor activities on your part.  Outdoor activity is the panacea for cabin fever and you don’t even need to fill a prescription.

Look, I’m sure you’re aware about the benefits of regular physical activity, but what about the benefits of regular “outdoor” physical activity?  Humans have an innate connection and attraction to nature which is referred to as biophilia and too many of us attempt to resist that connection.  Yet another fact: less than 3% of America’s senior population attains the recommended 2.5 hours of physical activity per week, and that can have dangerous consequences.

Some of the benefits of outdoor activity are more obvious than others, such as increased exposure to sunlight which exposes us to vitamin D which improves brain, bone and muscle functions (just beware of overexposure…as with everything else, moderation is best).

However, studies have also shown that regular outdoor activity improves our health and well-being and improves our physical, emotional and cognitive functioning.  So, keeping all this in mind, here are eight outdoor activities we all should do more of:

  1. Tai Chi – Before you think I’m getting all “Karate Kid” on you, let me explain. Yes, tai chi began as a defensive martial art, but it has since evolved into a balletic activity of continuous, gentle movements.  It’s different from yoga in that with yoga you hold a pose (sleeping dog) for a short period of time, while with tai chi, you’re in continuous motion, albeit, at a slow pace.  Locate a “tai chi in the park” group in your area, or simply access the internet machine, learn the basics and head to your backyard.
  1. Search for gold — …with a metal detector. And no, it doesn’t have to be on a beach.  Grab your metal detector and head to the local park or historical site and you’ll be amazed at the objects that are lying around out there.  Here’s am interesting article that offers examples of successful treasure hunts and can help get you started: https://www.wired.com/2011/08/treasure-hunters/
  1. Picnics – Grab your basket, blanket, chicken salad sandwiches, your favorite companions and locate an out-of-the-way picnic spot, preferably on a level, grassy area near a babbling brook. Just ensure that getting to that spot requires some walking to get there.  You’ll be amazed how relaxing this activity is and how the conversation flows when you’re away from a screen.
  1. Yard games – Hit the backyard or park for a rousing round of horseshoes, bocce ball, croquet or badminton. These games are perfect for bringing out the competitor in all of us and can be a great way to reconnect with friends and/or family members.  Side note: I understand the safety aspect, but I truly miss “Jarts,” the yard game that involved plastic circles and metal tipped lawn darts…just sayin’.
  1. Be a tourist – even in your own hometown. Go on a historical walking tour, visit the zoo or botanical gardens or downtown area or local, state, or national parks or Civil War battlefields or any other outdoor place that interests you.
  1. Bird watch – Yeah, I know, I used this one in my fall outdoor activities post, but it’s perhaps even more relevant in the spring as birds become more active as they prepare to bring the next generation of our avian friends into the world. The few birders I know are extremely passionate about their hobby and tend to record just about every aspect of their sightings, to include the species (of course), and when, where, and under what weather conditions the sighting occurred.  This is one of those hobbies that permits various levels of immersion, but its seems to have some addictive qualities, and, in this instance, that’s not a bad thing.
  1. Gardening This activity is perfect for the spring for obvious reasons and there’s nothing more satisfying than eating delicious and healthy food you planted and cultivated yourself. And if you live in an apartment or senior community that does not offer space for this activity, move…just kidding.  There are many places that rent small plots for a nominal fee.
  1. Stroll through a local farmer’s, flea or craft markets – The larger the better. Heck, this one doesn’t even seem like an outdoor exercise, but it most certainly is.  Remember, all that’s required to reap the benefits is getting outside and slightly raising your heart and breathing rate for a moderate period of time, and wandering through a massive flea market in search of hidden treasures certainly qualifies.

One last note, try to do these activities with a group of friends or family members and do so on a regular schedule.  Also, use the group to coerce (or shame) each other to get out there and find that Baltimore Oriole, or practice tai chi like Anne Hathaway and Robert de Niro in “The Intern,” or go in search of lost jewelry, or weed the garden, or watch the handlers feed the elephants, or whack that shuttlecock around, or pack that picnic basket.  Hell, just get outside and be active.  You’ll be glad you did.

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For the Mom Who Has Everything…

Yes, it’s coming, like a shark’s dorsal fin speeding through the water that can’t be stopped…duuuh-nah……..…..duuuuh-nah……………duuuh-nah, duuuh-nah…………….duh-nah, duh-nah, duh-nah, duh-nah………dunn, dunn, dunn, dunn, dunn, dunn (yes, that’s my poor attempt to put the theme to Jaws into words, sorry).  Of course, that dorsal fin represents Mother’s Day, which arrives on Sunday, May 14th.  But don’t panic, at least not yet, because here are some unique gift ideas for the mother that has everything, I mean, after all, she has you!

Something different – Now, of course these gifts are not for all moms as we all know, every mom is different.  But here’s a sampling of some interesting gift ideas.

  • Drunken owl wine bottle holder – I don’t know why, but every time I look at this thing it makes me smile. Maybe it’s because it’s such a random animal (I mean an owl?) and it looks like a baby drinking a bottle…is that creepy?  Hopefully it will make your mom smile too.  Check it out here: http://www.homewetbar.com/drunken-owl-wine-bottle-holder-p-4187.html
  • Dawn redwood Bonsai forest – Rather than flowers, why not get your mom something that will last quite a while and is perfect for a table center and conversation piece? And it looks really cool.  Here it is: http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/dawn-redwood-bonsai-forest

  • A personalized smart phone case – Wouldn’t you like your mom to always carry a picture of her favorite child (you) in the form of a smart phone case? Well, all you need to do is go here and design a case that’s perfect for your perfect mother: https://www.mycustomcase.com/

  • Literary candles – I think, genetically, once a woman becomes a mother they immediately become candle aficionados. I don’t question this strange phenomenon, I just cater to it.  That being the case, here are some unique scents for the candle and literature loving mom in your life that are linked to Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, and Pride and Prejudice (and zombies…yes, a book was written and a movie produced entitled “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I neither read the book nor viewed the movie).  Peruse them here: http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/literary-candles

  • Time saving and delicious meals from MagicKitchen.com – The last thing you want your mother doing on her day is cooking, or on any other special or non-special day for that matter. Have the Mother’s Day meal delivered to her (or your) door and save her (or you) a great deal of time and hassle.  MagicKitchen permits you to customize your meal and also offers delectable “bundles” to include Gourmet, Customer Favorites, Homestyle, and Top-Rated bundles.  Have your Pavlovian (you know, that Russian dude that conditioned a poor dog to salivate at the sound of a bell) moment here: http://www.magickitchen.com/menu/mothers-day.html

“Make” her something – And no, I’m not referring to like a dining room table or a back porch or something, unless she really needs either of those two things.  I was thinking of something a bit more personal, something that she wants rather than needs, something intimately linked to you, her and your family.

Here’s a quick example: last year I semi-learned how to play the guitar (no, I didn’t go so far as to write the music and lyrics to a sappy “I Love You Mom” type song).  My mother, as she constantly reminds me, was born in Ireland and we immigrated to the US back in 1968.  Anyway, despite becoming an American citizen, she has missed her homeland ever since.

So last year, I learned to play and sing (terribly, I might add) “Danny Boy” and I played and sang it for her on Mother’s Day.  Yes, I missed a few notes and sang REALLY off key.  However, by the time I was done, she had a tear on her cheek and a smile on her face.  She then exclaimed it was the most thoughtful Mother’s Day gift I had ever bestowed upon her in my 51 years on this earth.  I then asked her “why?” and she simply said, in her fading Irish accent, “Because you put some thought into the gift and “made” it just for me.  Nothing’s more personal than that.”

I firmly believe that you can do the same thing for your mother…not play and sing Danny Boy, but make her something with your mind and two hands.  Write her a poem, or a song, or a play, or a rap song, or a short story about you, her and your family.  Create a photo essay or a humorous, yet poignant power point presentation that you present to her and the whole family or montage with old family photos.

Draw or paint your family or an old house you all lived in, or her favorite place she likes to sit and think, or an old pet.  Throw (as on a pottery wheel, not literally “throw”) a flower pot or coffee mug for her.  Plant a tree for her, or her favorite plant, flowering bush, or perennial.  Create a short movie for her with your smart phone.  Just use your imagination, make the gift personal to her and try to make her laugh and cry at the same time.  She’ll love you even more for it, if that’s possible.

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The Obscure Origins of April Fool’s Day

You’ve all heard the stories, right?  From the fooler or foolee that executed or was victimized by the ultimate April Fool’s joke.  Hell, it was only a year ago that I regaled readers of this blog about my wife and her mother “fooling” me into believing that we were on the verge of birthing triplets, to include ancestral proof and an ultrasound video of the trio.

Another classic April Fool’s story was applied on a national scale when sportswriter, George Plimpton, wrote of New York Mets fireball pitcher, Sidd Finch, in the April 1, 1985 edition of Sports Illustrated.

Plimpton claimed that Finch was raised in an English orphanage, studied Buddhism, and could throw a baseball an astounding 168 miles-per-hour.  Mets fans were ecstatic, networks and newspapers rushed to interview the yoga-practicing phenomenon, and batters feared for their lives.  And it was all a hoax conceived by Plimpton, Sports Illustrated and (gasp!) even the Mets were in on it.  All involved came clean in the April 15th issue.  But where and how did this tradition of fooling people begin?  And why on April 1st?

Let’s answer the second question first.  The month of April is named after the Greek goddess of wit, mirth and laughter, Aprilis.  Aprilis was the daughter of Aphrodite (goddess of love and pleasure, among other things) and Dionysus (god of wine, parties and ecstasy among other things).  With a lineage like that, it’s easy to understand why Aprilis was fond of a god-awful good time.

Zeus eventually tasked Aprilis with making him laugh at other’s expense.  In other words, he had Aprilis use her significant humorous wit to develop and initiate practical jokes on the other gods and goddesses.

Aprilis once famously replaced Hades’ fearsome, three-headed dog, Cerberus, with a fluffy, three-headed bunny named Mazeménos, which roughly translates to “cuddly.”  Simultaneously, she convinced her father to replace the deadly waters of the River Styx with wine which the damned promptly used throw a massive party during which they all became thoroughly inebriated.  Hades failed to see the humor in all this.  However, Zeus laughed his ass off.  Now that we know the answer to the first query, let’s tackle the second.

During the Renaissance, when the artists, authors and royalty of Europe re-discovered the works of ancient Greece, some came across the stories of the heretofore obscure minor goddess, Aprilis.  One future king who reveled in the exploits of Aprilis was Henry VIII of England.

Before Henry wed six different women and had two of them beheaded, he was an impetuous youth with too much time on his hands, which could probably be said of many princes.  After all, he had an older brother, Arthur, who would ascend to the English throne rather than Henry.  Therefore, as the second born male heir, Henry was pretty much left to do as he pleased.

Young Henry quickly fell in with his father’s court jester, Stephen.  A quick word about Renaissance court jesters, or “fools” as they were sometimes called.  They certainly were not vacuous, dim-witted men prancing around in tights and a four-cornered hat complete with bells, juggling beer steins while telling crude jokes.  A Jester was, in fact, a highly intelligent individual chosen for his rapier-like wit and ability to challenge all at court with his biting sarcasm and humorous insults.  Sounds a bit like the goddess of wit, mirth and laughter, does it not?

Anyway, young Henry and Stephen had a grand time “punking” any and all members of Henry VII’s court.  And Stephen, with the protection of the young prince, was able to get away with murder, so-to-speak.  Even after Henry’s older brother, Arthur, died in 1502, making Henry next in line to the throne, he kept Stephen close and used him as an unofficial adviser.

However, this relationship displeased many at court, including Henry’s father who considered Stephen a nuisance at best and a corrupting influence on Henry at worst.  Eventually, Henry VIII’s father had the Duke of Leister accuse Stephen of treasonous activities.  A show trial ensued and Stephen was locked away in the Tower of London in 1508, never to be seen again.  His fate, to this day, remains unknown.

After Henry VIII ascended to the throne in 1509 and throughout his reign, he never forgot his childhood friend who could so easily make him laugh.  As Henry wrestled with the affairs of church and state, he often remembered those carefree days spent with Stephen as they roamed the halls and rooms at Windsor Castle and Hampton Court.  It is believed that largely due to these memories, Henry desired to set aside a special day in which practical jokes were not only accepted, but encouraged, in honor of his first and only true friend, Stephen.

And what better day to celebrate the memory of Stephen, than on the first day of the month named after the goddess of wit, mirth and laughter, Aprilis?  So there you have it, the long, convoluted and somewhat touching story of the origins of April Fool’s Day.  And yes, this entire story is a total work of fiction in the tradition of the tale of Sidd Finch.  I have no idea of the true origins of April Fool’s Day as I feared if I did know the true facts, they would seep into this fictionalized version.  Happy April Fool’s Day.

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Kale, Avocado and Chia Seeds are Out: The Top Ten Superfoods of 2017

In case you haven’t heard, 2016 superfoods are, like, so last year.  We’re well into 2017 and it’s time to update your superfood list and we here at MagicKitchen.com are here to help.

Through exhaustive and laborious research (don’t think I’ve ever done anything exhaustively and/or laboriously in my life) we’ve compiled a list of the ten most popular superfoods for 2017.  Some we’re sure you’ve heard of before (watermelon seeds) and some, while having been around for all of eternity, are just having their nutritional values “discovered” (sumac, maringa & the alien sounding sacha inchi nuts).

Remember, this is just a superficial description of each, for more information, simply “Google” each one.  And without further ado, here they are:

  1. Watermelon seeds – These things are on just about every superfood site I visited during my laborious and exhaustive research and each site claimed they will not sprout and grow in your tummy if eaten. They do, however, provide mad nutritional benefits if eaten only after they sprout (outside your stomach) and are shelled prior to being eaten.  Not to worry, you don’t have to do that yourself as they can be purchased that way.  As for their nutritional benefits, they offer ten grams of protein per ounce, and are chock full of vitamin B, magnesium and both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  1. Raw cacao nibs – A synonym for “nibs” would be bits or pieces. Just think of this as chocolate without all the other stuff, especially sugar.  Raw cacao contains numerous flavonoids which serve as an anti-inflammatory and support both the cardiovascular and nervous systems.  Flavonoids also provide many fruits and veggies with their rich colors, such as the vibrant red of raspberries.  Other nutrients contained within cacao include magnesium and riboflavin.
  1. Buckwheat – No, not the lovable character from Our Gang/The Little Rascals that Eddie Murphy immortalized in Saturday Night Live skits from the 1980s, but the gluten-free flour substitute used to make pancakes, among other things. Buckwheat (there’s actually no wheat in buckwheat.  It’s a fruit seed.) is a great source of vegetarian protein, dietary fiber, and manganese.  It’s also been shown to help control blood sugar levels and protect against heart disease.
  1. Purple Vegetables – And not just eggplants and beets, but corn, carrots, and asparagus too. Why?  Well, it goes back to those antioxidants called flavonoids that provide these veggies with their color that the musician Prince (RIP) most certainly ate in large amounts.  These flavonoids help lower the risk of high blood pressure, reduce inflammation and support brain health and since they’re also rich in vitamin A they support eye health as well.
  1. Chaga mushrooms – Usually found in dried or powder form, chaga isn’t a true mushroom, but a fungus that grows on birch trees…before you gross out, remember, all mushrooms are, technically, a fungus. Derived from the Russian word for “mushroom,” chaga contains over 200 phytonutrients and flavonoids that support the immune system.  Other nutrients contained in chaga (which is often used to make tea or coffee) are B and D vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and pantothenic acid.

  1. Sacha inchi nuts – AKA Incan peanuts as they’re found in the Peruvian highlands. These plant seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamins A and E.  These nutrients have been shown to control blood glucose levels, lower LDL cholesterol levels and support brain and heart health.

 

  1. Jackfruit – As opposed to a jackass (sorry, couldn’t resist). The tropical, starchy, fibrous jackfruit is the largest fruit on the globe.  A single jackfruit can weigh in at more than 100 pounds.  It can be used by vegetarians, or even carnivores and omnivores for that matter, as a meat substitute (Mmmmm, jackfruit steak).  It tends to absorb the flavor of what it’s cooked with and provides its consumer with various flavonoids, protein, potassium, fiber, vitamins B and A, and iron.
  1. Maringa – The tiny leaves of the maringa tree, native to India but also found in Africa, Asia and South and Central America, are showing up in smoothies all over the Western world and with good reason. They are a very nutrient dense source of vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, protein, potassium and antioxidants that combat stress causing free radicals within the body.
  1. Sumac – This Middle Eastern spice (not the “poison” version we deal with in the U.S.) has a tart and salty taste and has been found to be stuffed full of antioxidants and serves as a great salt substitute as well. These free radical neutralizing, anti-inflammatory antioxidants also promote heart health. Many simply sprinkle the red powder on their salads, pasta or rice, but others use it to flavor their meat and fish as well.
  1. Black Currants – The tart berry, not a dark running river or stream of electricity…get it?…were once thought to spread a fungus that killed pine trees (that’s not the case). They’re most often used in jams, jellies, juices, and health drinks and contain what all the other foods on this list do…antioxidants, but they also possess vitamins C, A and E, gamma-linolenic acid, and anthocyanins.  These nutrients help support healthy immune and cardiovascular systems.

So, after writing this, I immediately made and consumed a purple carrot, black currant, maringa, sumac, buckwheat, raw cacao, sacha inchi nut, watermelon seed, chaga mushroom, and jackfruit smoothie and soon after developed the combined superpowers of the Hulk, Spiderman and Wonder Woman.  Individual results may vary.

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