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Biodegradable Dental Floss

For proper oral hygiene, you need to floss daily. Ever wonder what happens to the plastic dental floss like Glide? I can just imagine it gets into our Oceans, resulting in choking and or strangling of marine life.

Now there are other options. Biodegradable silk or bamboo floss. They are a little thicker than Glide so it your teeth are tight, it could takes some time to get use to it. But it works. With the extra thickness, it removes more food particles per swipe! Give it a try. You help the planet, the planet helps you. Karma.

I bought these on Amazon.

If you have short roots, I would not recommend.

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Valentine Almond Cookies

This is a recipe from the Island of Malta. You can shape them into Hearts and decorate with a Maraschino Cherry (Whole Foods has sans food coloring). These cookies have 2 versions: vegan and traditional with egg whites.

Bake @ 400F for 8-10 mins. Makes 84 x 2inch round cookies

Ingredients:

4 cups ground almonds

1.5 cups oat bran

2 cups sugar

5 egg whites (or egg substitute)

2 Tbsp Almond Essence

Pinch of salt

Sliced Almonds or Maraschino Cherries, cut cherries in half, let it drain, set aside.

Edible Premium Wafer Paper 8.25″ x 11.75″ Pkg of 20 for Cake or Food Decorating (I bought these on Amazon) – cut these into circles or hearts for Valentines one sheet should give you 12 circles (about 2 inch or so diameter) or 4 hearts

Mix almonds and bran in a large bowl and set aside. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except decorating cherry and sliced almonds) and mix with an electric beater until well mixed. Fold this into the dry ingredients.

Put the Wafer Paper cutouts on baking pan. Roll the cookie mixture into 1 inch balls and place on Wafer Paper. Use dampened fingers and press down dough, leaving a small edge of Wafer Paper.

Be careful not to get the dough onto the baking sheet as the dough will stick to the pan. Decorate with sliced almond or cherry before baking.

Bake 400 degree F x 8-10 until cookie edges are a very light brown

Will be bringing these to share at work on Valentine’s Day.

Remind people that the paper is edible. Some people waste quite a bit of time trying to peel the paper off 😉

Best face mask for cleaning and refining pores

I bought the clay from Amazon and organic Apple Cider vinegar is sold in most grocery stores. I use a large stainless tablespoon to mix the ingredients.

Scoop some clay onto spoon and add some apple cider vinegar about 1:1 (the vinegar has healthy probiotics and the acidity exfoliates). It will start to bubble. Mix the solution well with finger or cotton swab. Then apply to face, avoiding eyes. Let dry about 5 minute-10 minutes depending on how thick you make the mask. You will feel your skin tightening.

I remove mask by gently wiping off some of it with either a hypoallergenic natural facial towelette or a moistened tissue before rinsing off with water. This is to prevent the clay from accumulating in the drain and risk clogging up the sink.

Voila- nice smooth skin and smaller pores. Of course don’t do this if your skin is sensitive.

Holiday Vegan Main Dish – Stuffed Squash

This is easier to make than a Turkey….

Ingredients:

  • 2 Medium Acorn Squash
  • 1/2 cup Orange Juice
  • 1 good sized onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Wild Rice
  • 2 tbsp Avocado oil or coconut oil
  • 2 cups Vegetable Broth
  • Spices- 1/2-1 tsp Curry powder; 1/2-1 tsp Cinnamon; 1 tsp Cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 – 1 cup Dried Cranberries or Cherries
  • 1 cup fresh Parsley, then chop (save 4 pieces for garnished)
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh Sage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Walnuts

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, add wild rice. Stir until rice is well coated and slightly toasted. Heat 2 cups of Vegetable Broth in microwave for about 2 minutes. Put broth and wild rice into Rice Cooker. Cook as per your Rice Cooker. Rice grains will split open when done.

Microwave Acorn Squash one at a time for 1 minute (this will make it easier to cut in half). Let it cool and cut each squash into 2 equal halves. Remover the seeds. Place 2 halves face down in a microwavable dish, with about 1/4 inch of Orange Juice in dish. Microwave until soft – about 8-10 minutes. Repeat with the other Squash. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the center of squash, leaving 1/4 inch rim of squash on rind. Set aside.

Add rest of oil to pan, medium heat and then add onions. Stir until onions are browning. Stir in the rest of the ingredients ( except walnuts) including scooped out Squash pieces and cooked rice.

Scoop this mixture back into the Squash Halves. Sprinkle with walnuts and garnish with parsley. Serves 4.

For sides you can serve Miso Soup, Mash Potatoes with Kim Chi, Stir fried Spinach or kale with garlic and onions.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. I want to hear…

Forest Bathing In Your Own Home this Holiday

The concept of Forest Bathing derives from Japan. The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku. They have discovered that by breathing in alpha-pinene, an essential oil from Pine trees, there is an increase in human Natural Killer (NK) Cells, NK activity and anticancer activity in lymphocytes. To achieve this, it is recommended that you slowly walk in a pine forest covering about 1 mile in 2-3 hours. This is slow enough that it is mediative too. That slow unhurried pace is, in itself,  healthful. The average walking speed is about 2 miles per hour. In Forest Bathing, you are then walking at a maximum speed of only 25% of the normal walking pace.

Not all of us can easily access a forest. But what about a Fresh cut coniferous tree for the holidays? For many years, I have avoided a fresh Holiday tree because of the concern for fire. But this year, I was not motivated to do a fake tree. The subtle smell of plastic has become depressing. 

So I filled our home with a fresh pine tree and garland*. It smells so good. Nature does take care of us. I am, like most others, naturally attracted to the aroma of pine. The whole process of Shinrin Yoku, forest bathing can be described as Biophilia: our innate tendency to seek connections with nature. The stimulations of NK cells must be the evolutionary advantage.

Happy healthy decorating to all!

For fire and smog prevention, fireplace use is forbidden. The tree came from a YMCA fundraiser for underserved youths. These trees are farmed for the purpose of decoration. 

http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html

*For those with allergies to coniferous trees, sorry. 

Reduce Flu, Cough and Cold Transmission… it is the season

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You can reduce spread of Respiratory Infection by wearing a mask. You can reduce the spread  by up to 60-80%. Of course good hand washing is a must too.

This is common practice in Asia. Healthful cultural practice we should adopt.

It is the season. Be a trail blazer. Just do it.

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm

 

My Tibetan Vacation

Mt everest 3

I would like to share with you my journey into Tibet and some of the wisdom I gained from this experience.

Tibetan culture is very spiritual. Tibetans believe that there are 3 evils in society: Anger, Greed, and Ignorance. Throughout their life time it is a person’s responsibility to overcome these 3 evils. Tibetans pray to become kind and compassionate; honest, and generous. To spend a lifetime gathering wisdom from education, to know right from wrong, and to learn from the teaching of your elders. It’s a main focus of their culture. 

Individuals in Tibetan society have a collective goal to grow beyond these human weaknesses. It is just a beautiful way to live.  They use meditation with various mantras to help reach a special spiritual place they call Nirvana. To become enlightened – which can be defined as a state of perfect happiness; an ideal or idyllic place, with neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self. Tibetan society and its people have a defined path to Nirvana. Along the way, they teach and reach beyond themselves and selflessly give back. 

Now contrast this to life in the United States. There is an abundance of anger, greed and ignorance in our current American culture. It seems we as a collective entity have forgotten to address the existence of these negative and hurtful attitudes. How and when we got off track is difficult to say maybe we just started this way. Unfortunately, it has become part of the fabric of this country. Just read some of the hateful comments on the internet. So much negativity. I wish we had a clear path to rise above the 3 evils, to become better people in a society without anger, greed, and ignorance. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could call out people when they embodied the 3 evils? Wouldn’t it be nice if Anger, Greed and Ignorance became shameful?  Wouldn’t it be nice to hear people say I am working on raising my level of enlightenment? How much more advanced would our society be if we spent our collective energy, intelligence and spirit on positive creativity rather than trying to keep the negative energy of the 3 evils at bay? For example the amount of time we need to spend to fight against hackers, corruption, arguing amongst each other, etc. It is not productive.  It is such a waste of the short amount time we all have on this planet. We could be so much more advanced if we spent our time creating and working on new, inspirational and positive ideas. Our society is stuck at the level of the 3 evils. The anger gets us into aggressive behaviors, high murder rates and generations after generations of wars. The greed can make some people extremely rich and self-centered, instead of using their platform to help others rise up for a more balanced society. How many billions is enough? Yet there will never be enough to fill the inner emptiness. Our ignorance is reflected in our failing educational system. A future of ignorant people is a formula for a society to fail.

These 3 evils aren’t in our conscious minds. How we behave and what we accept as decent and graceful behavior has been lost. Sometimes our own truth is too difficult to face or we don’t know how to find it. So we hide it behind protective layers of facades, live in denial, blame others for our problems. But if we ignore our own inner truth, it will bubble up as anger, greed, anxiety, and depression that has no end. We use addictive behaviors to cope. That’s what happens when we are ignorant of our true selves. Our society does not provide a pathway, such as in Tibet. Americans have to purposely seek this out.

Then an inspiring turn of events.  

As I was contemplating these ideas,  I coincidently (although maybe there are no coincidences), I watched  a documentary called “The Work”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qm6fiDXmTkw on the airplane back to USA. 

“The Work” is filmed in Folsom prison, a  Level 4 prison in California. They follow the transformation of “lifers” defined as those who are serving life in prison without the possibility of parole: people who have committed horrific crimes. 

In this film, we follow selected lifers as they go through 4 days of intensive group therapy where the wall that they have erected to hide their true selves is torn down. The truth can be unbearable and so difficult to face that one subconsciously lives a life of crime rather than face the real issue. That protective wall that separated themselves from their true selves allows them to disconnect. This disconnection in part enables them to perpetrate those heinous crimes. 

During the therapy sessions many of the prisoners broke down into tears, to reach that emotional state of who they really are and to face the truth about themselves. When the tears start, “The Work” can begin: breaking down all those tough guy hard core barriers and finding the path to discover their truth. The truth can be very painful. Those deep feelings of not being good enough, feelings of inadequacy, shame, fears of being (self) judged and not being accepted and loved as a child can consumes one’s spirit. Acknowledging them is the beginning to healing. Many of the individuals open up about their unbearable childhood. The damage of adverse childhood events, including chronic racism, exposure to violence, abandonment, etc., no matter how subtle, can cause a lifetime of illness and dysfunction.  https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about_ace.html . Our painful truth. 

I highly recommend that you watch this documentary. The Folsom program has had impressive results. For those lifers who qualified for and completed the program, some were subsequently released back in society. So far none have returned.

We all live at various levels behind our protective walls, the highest wall being the most exterior of walls, the wall that is furthest from your true self. The higher the wall, the higher the level of disconnect and dysfunction. 

There are 5 levels of walls that need to break down before we get to the level of Nirvana.

Starting with the most exterior wall to the inner wall:

Level 1 – This level would be the people with severe disturbances in thought patterns. 

Level 2 – Level where the people have little insight to their behavior- examples sociopaths, borderline personalities, narcissists. 

Level 3 – The “Robot” level – people who function without emotions and lack empathy and compassion.  

Level 4 – The majority of us with our anxieties, worries, depression and neuroticism

with various stages of severity. 

Level 5 – Nirvana recognizing and living as your true self – the inner core

It takes constant work to get to break down the barrier and stay at level 5, the ultimate level, But the more you practice, the more it stays with you. 

It takes work (with or without trained professional guidance). You have to keep digging and when you  dig deep enough you will get there. Sometimes on the other side of the protective wall is a deep dark space. That dark reality about yourself may not be easily confronted. Rather than do the work, it is easier to stay the course at the familiar superficial layer. Not to step out of the comfort zone. But the shorter, seemingly easy path will end up the most difficult path of a life of anxiety, depression, chronic illness, pain and addiction. The (self) hate and racism, stems from this space. 

Discovering your truth, helps you to understand why you behave the way you do and your emotional reactions towards life events. To face your shame and your emotional pain. Take the path that moves away from the 3 evils. Your behavior and actions mirror the feelings you have for yourself. If you hate someone, look at what you hate about yourself. 

Getting back into your inner layer is where the healing starts. Start with building yourself up with self love and self compassion. Then this can become your new mirror. A new reflection that is available to you and that you can have if you do the work. Shift your path towards acceptance, kindness, compassion, generosity, wisdom and being enough.

How do we do “the work” within ourselves? 

There is a path. Rather, there are so many paths and options to reach to your inner spiritual true self. A combination of them is ideal, but there is no magic. You have to do “the work”. Examples of healing modalities are: mindfulness, meditation, healing touch, aromatherapy, Reiki, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, breathing exercises, aromatherapy, yoga, books, hypnotism, Classical 5 elements acupuncture, music therapy, art therapy, talk therapy, connecting with nature, community connections, friends and family. Of course proper nutrition is assumed (covered in my other blog posts).  

Life is a truly a journey to finding your path and then bravely taking it. Let your adventure begin. 

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Epilogue

To see and feel the auspicious mystical energy of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world soaring up with a peak of 29,035 feet is a truly transformative experience. We saw Mount Everest from the Tibetan base camp which is at an altitude of 16,900 feet. We lucked out, as the clouds cleared for the 2 days that we were there in July. We were able to see Qomolangma (the Chinese name for Mount Everest, which sounds much like its Tibetan name Chomolungma) in all its glory. 

The altitude of the base camp is above tree line so zero greenery. Just rocks and snow. In this barren landscape, there is a sense of solitude. As we stood in awe of Qomolangma’s grace and beauty while immersed in Tibetan culture, one can’t help but become inspired and to contemplate the meaning of one’s own existence and ask who am I really? What does it matter? The hypoxia at this altitude may have contributed to these questions 😉

On a practical note about traveling in Tibet: 

The Chinese side of Mount Everest, one can easily drive up to Everest Base Camp (like a true Californian :). Whereas in the Nepalese side, one needs to hike in several days before getting to the base camp. 

The cuisine at high altitudes is was not great because food can’t be heated to high temperatures. 

The non flushing stand/squat toilet are to say the least yucky. I coped with the thought that most of the world lives like this. Still I really appreciate home and my flushing toilet.

My Tibetan references include the information that was gathered from our Tibetan tour guide, Gyaltsen from Wonders of Tibet. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294223-d557334-Reviews-Wonders_of_Tibet-Lhasa_Tibet.html

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Veterans Day: We Remember

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In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

This is part of a poem that I grew up reciting every year at school in Remembrance of our fallen soldiers.

https://www.history.com/news/world-war-i-poppy-remembrance-symbol-veterans-day

I wish America had a larger tradition of using a poppy symbol to visibly honor our Veterans.

Easy Dinner #3 – Bowls

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This meal’s prep time is not 10 mins but around 25 mins with some pre-planning.

Pre planning –> Make ahead:

Miso dressing (See Sept 2017 blog for recipe or way down at bottom of this recipe) and set up rice cooker with brown rice. Turn on rice cooker few hours before guests arrive. Serving a whole meal in a bowl is simple and it was a hit with guests.

The base is organic Brown Rice or whatever grain you prefer. You can buy precooked rice in frozen food aisle. I like to use my Rice cooker because once it is set up, I don’t have to think about it until I am ready to serve the rice. For added flavor, I prefer using vegetable broth instead of water to cook up brown rice.

Best to soak rice over night to remove most of the Arsenic and then make sure you rinse the rice out well. (1)(2)

Set your oven for 400 deg.  Toss precut Butternut Squash with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Best if all the Squash cubes are about same size so cubes can bake consistently, preventing small ones from burning and bigger ones from undercooking. Bake 20-30 mins, until soft.

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Meanwhile: Toss ready to serve pre washed Baby greens with Miso dressing.

Heat/prepare your protein. You can use, for example, Smart Tenders (see below) or some chickpeas or tofu cubes.

I added some sliced pre cooked beets and Kim Chi for sides.

Best to serve Bowl Meals in some 6-8 inch diameter bowls. Asian markets are the best place to find these.

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Putting it together –> First layer in some brown rice, then the Miso greens then squash, beets and Kim Chi (can use Sauerkraut too) on top.

Bon Appetite 🙂

 Miso Lime Dressing with Honey 

1 1/2 tablespoons miso paste*
2 tablespoons rice vinegar*
1 1/4 tablespoons raw honey*
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Add toasted almonds (optional)

Mix the above ingredients. Serve in a mixed green salad

*these ingredients are rich in probiotics

(1)Breyer, M. (2017, Feb 17). How to Cook Rice to Remove the Most Arsenic. Retrieved from https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/how-cook-rice-remove-most-arsenic.html

(2)Consumer Reports (2014, Nov 18). How much Arsenic is in your Rice? https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/how-much-arsenic-is-in-your-rice/index.htm