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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

Easy Vegan Dinner #2

This dinner takes about 10 mins to make.IMG_3037

Needs to get these ingredients together from Trader Joe’s and some basics from Costco.

Prepare Carrots as per package but bake convection oven at 400deg for about 8 mins to brown carrots. Then Microwave covered for about 2 minute to soften (depends on wattage of your microwave). Salt and Pepper optional.

Then for stir fry –

Add to frying pan, olive oil, garlic, ginger, stir a little and add veggies, and sliced sausage. Keep on medium – low heat, stirring as needed to prevent from burning.

Meanwhile in microwave heat up rice and use Coconut Aminos to season to taste.

Easy Vegan Dinner #1

 

IMG_3010You can make this in 10 mins- I was at Costco and bought these 3 things-

Potato and Spinach Pierogies, Korean Gondre Herb Rice and precooked Beets

 

I pan fried the Pierogies with avocado oil over medium heat, covered, 4 minutes on each side with a splash of water in the last minute to steam and soften a bit.

The Rice was heated in microwave. Beets sliced and served cold.  It was deliciously simple!

You might think this is cheating because I did not make everything from scratch. But it is still higher quality food than fast food, and you know the ingredients. This meal not as expensive as restaurant food, saves time because a trip to restaurant takes more time than you think, and finally you can certainly have food delivered but there is an energy carbon foot print cost to that if it is a gasoline powered car (plus some electric car depending on how the electricity is generated). The amount of foods that I bought is enough for several meals too.

 

California Recycling Pays

Getting kids involved with recycling has so many positives.

  1. Environmental awareness. The future of the planet is in their hands.
  2. The responsibility of a job.
  3. Appreciate the value of money.
  4. Interacting with the public as a business person. It’s equivalent to a “paper route”. Years ago, kids would go door to door delivering newspapers to their neighbors. Now our kids can potentially collect bottles from their neighbors, businesses in the neighborhood, etc
  5. They could donate the money they raise to a local charity or earn some spending money.

The California Refund Value bottles are worth in California  5 to 10 cents. Five cents for under 24 oz size and 10 cents for bottles greater than 24 oz. Although I have not found this to be consistent. Some of the bigger bottles (>24 oz) have CRV of 5 cents. This means you deposited 5 cents when you bought them, but since they are bigger and heavier, you receive more back for that 5 cent spent when you return them by weight.

Here is summary of our most recent transaction at Nexcycle Recycling Center.

We had 27 Aluminum cans: deposited 27  x 5 cents =  $1.35  -> Received $1.76

We had 62 Plastic bottles: deposited 61 x 5 cents =  $3.05  ->Received $6.40

We had 54 Glass bottles: deposited 54 x 5cents =  $2.70  -> Received $3.16

Please keep the bottle tops on. They need to be recycled too. Animals can choke on the caps. Additionally,  the caps add to weight of the bottles so you get a little more money ;).

Generic glass and plastic bottles have a value too. Much less but worth it.

See below for the Price per pound. These prices are set by the State.

Happy Recycling!

 

RECYCLE SIGN

 

 

Victory Vegan Burgers for the 4th or anytime

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Makes about 4 burgers – I doubled the recipe to have extra later in the week.

Ingredients 

1 can of green jackfruit, drained and rinsed

1 L of vegetable broth

1/3 Cup Chickpea/Garbanzo Flour (Sprouts had this)

1/3  Cup chopped red onions

1 tsp of grated Ginger

2 tsp minced Garlic

1/4 Cup Cilantro, chopped

1 tsp of Curry powder

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp Sriracha Sauce (optional)

1/2 tsp salt

Ground Black Pepper to taste

1 tbsp. of avocado oil

Coconut oil spray for pan / grill and to spray buns

Burger buns ( used TJ Whole Wheat Slims – photo below)

Condiments of your choice – see below for suggestions

Instructions

1. Boil the green jackfruit in enough veggie broth till fork tender. Drain the water and transfer to a food processor along with the chickpea/garbanzo flour, chopped onions, grated ginger, garlic, cilantro, curry powder, paprika, Sriracha, salt and black pepper and a tablespoon of avocado oil.

Give food processor a few pulses till everything comes together. Don’t over blend or the texture will be like a smoothie! Keep it the texture of ground meat. See below for a picture.

2. Take the patty mix out and place in a bowl. Add little more chickpea flour if the mix feels too sticky. Shape into patties (about ⅓ cup each) and chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge.

3. Heat pan sprayed with coconut oil.  Fry the patties for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side until desired brown.

4. Spray the undersides of the hamburger buns with coconut spray. Toast on same skillet (if you have room do it at the same time)

5. Serve with buns and condiments – see below for suggestions

Condiments Baby lettuce, mustard, ketchup, sauerkraut.

Happy 4th everyone!

Coconut Lentil Soup with Roasted Golden Beets and Mango Slaw

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This recipe is only going to work easily if you have a Trader Joe’s near by. You could make everything from scratch but that would take much more than the 5 minutes it takes to make this meal.

Mix about 1/2 cup of canned coconut milk (note this is not the coconut milk substitute for drinking but the cooking coconut milk that comes in a can) to the 20 ounces of Lentil Soup (this soup also comes in a tetra box). The amount of coconut milk depends on your personal taste. You can start with 1/4 cup, taste it and then add more if you want.

Add 1/4-1/2 tsp of turmeric (optional). Mix well. Put into a glass or ceramic bowl. Microwave until desired temp.

Mango slaw just toss together. TJ Beets are ready to eat. I served it cold, but could be warmed too.

Dessert: Watermelon.

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Bon Appetite!

 

Reusable Straws Help Keep Your Teeth White

Another super great benefit of reusable straws (bamboo, metal, silicone) is they can help keep you teeth white. You can use them with hot or cold drinks.

You want to especially use a straw with drinks like tea, coffee, colorful juices, smoothies  and sodas. This will reduce teeth staining as the drink bypasses your teeth. You can’t really do this with a disposable plastic straw because the plastic can soften or melt and add a plastic taste to your drink. Worse, a lot more of the plastic chemical leaches into your drink with the higher temps. Not healthful. Plus adds to pollution.

Another advantage is the metal or bamboo straw doubles as a great stirrer too.

We never use to think of drinking our hot drinks with a reusable straw. But now we are! New trend people….

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A Hack to Cleaning Reusable Straws

Many municipalities are banning plastic straws. These straws are not recycled and end up in land fills and or whales’ noses. Also, there is a big island of plastic waste accumulating in the Pacific and as that big island of plastic grows, soon we will be able to drive to Hawaii (!).

Not using plastic straws is a small thing that we each can do (if we all do a small thing collectively, it really ends up being a big thing). Instead, we can use reusable metal straw. Benefit for environment and less plastic exposure to you because plastic in the straw can leach into your food. Safety advice: never use a metal straw while driving – the metal could pierce your brain or other organs if you were in a motor vehicle accident…

The metal straws I bought come with a tiny cleaning straw. But I can promise you that my kids are not going to do that. I mean they may have good intentions to clean them out but the reality is it does not happen. have a time brush.

Here are the steps to easily clean your straws:

  • After use, keep soaked in water.
  • Get a left over plastic container from when you buy strawberries/blueberries or other produce.
  • Cut out a corner from the lid to fit the bottom of your dishwashing utensil basket. Good to use the curved edges. There usually are few holes in the plastic already. These holes will be the drain holes.  If not enough holes you can punch in a few more. You need this plastic bottom cover and curved edge. Without it, the straws will fall out of the basket.
  • Put the metal straws in straight side up. This maximizes the water going into the straw.
  • Use only natural dishwasher detergent. This avoids the chemical residues left on your dishes and in the straws from the bigger brand dishwashing detergents. I also avoid rinsing agents too. But if your water is really hard, get something natural. No need to be consuming undisclosed chemicals and our lakes and rivers don’t need them either.*
  • One can wash silicone straws like this. Not sure about bamboo. The extra heat and water may cause the organic material to deteriorate faster than with hand washing.
  • Voila. Clean enough straws to use again.

  • *Please note when I switched to a more natural cleaning detergent, I soaked my cutlery right after use esp if I were not going to run a load of dishes right away. If I did not do this, the food would dry and harden on the cutlery and would not necessary wash off. See my picture below…ugly containers because they are recycled but does the job.  I add a little vinegar to the water in the containers to keep them smelling fresh. Bonus is your cutlery is pre sorted. Keep them sorted as you put them into the individual baskets. This makes it much easier to put them into the drawer once washed. Remember to put the spoons and forks facing up (cleans better) and knives always pointed downwards. I was once at a party where the hostess bent over to get some dishes out of dishwasher and cut her eye brow on  a knife that was pointed up. I had to sew her up(!)
  • Addendum  – After a few weeks, a sharp knife put a hole in my plastic container- now I am using a recycled large glass pickle jar for the knives

Auto-brewery syndrome

This has got to be the most amazing phenomena. Tell me if you think it could be true or not….

I can think for 3 recorded cases of the happening and likely many more unrecorded.

So here is the story: this guy in Texas  was pulled over and found to have a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.

He told the officer that that was impossible because he did not drink. Huh?

So he gets admitted to hospital. As an inpatient, everything he ate and drank was controlled. After several days, his blood alcohol level was still high! It turns out the bacteria in his gut was fermenting the food he ate into alcohol. He was making his own booze right in his gut. It gives a whole new meaning to “foggy brain”. Can you imagine walking around literally drunk all the time?

Another great reason to eat natural, organic whole foods and definitely, a reason to stop eating junk food and foods high in simple sugars/carbs. People who eat junk food and sugary foods have different gut bacteria than those eating healthfully. I would imagine the high sugar/carb eaters have the same types bacteria they use to brew beer. Think of the gas/flatus that you produce too.  And the bloating…

The BIG Food industry processes food with added flavors (artificial or natural) to make us addicted to their products. The idea is to make us want to buy more and eat more. Now another way we can get addicted: when we stop eating the junk, we make less alcohol, hence withdraw from alcohol and so we crave more…it is plausible isn’t it?

Junk food potentially can make you not only physically sick but also intellectually dampened. You can’t be performing at your peak abilities when you are drunk. I am sure your IQ goes up when the quality of your eating goes up.

Not sure if this Auto-brewery is defensible in court for DUI. Driving when you are inebriated with what ever is your substance of choice is deplorable. Please remember to be responsible and take a taxi/Uber/Lyft. and coming soon self drive cars.

Quote of today:

Organic foods: Better for you, Better for the farmers, Better for the Planet

And Quotes for tomorrow: Organics more expensive but just eat less. The cost to the environment: priceless.

 

Simple Valentine’s Meal

My motto for cooking: healthy, simple, fast, plus delicious.

Menu

  1. Black-Eyed Peas with Collard Greens
  2. Spanish Rice
  3. Avocado (right now in California, Avocados are everywhere)
  4. Dark Chocolate Tequila Strawberries (Fondue optional)

The trick is to have a dish that looks like this. Any food served in this heart shaped dish will be “Valentine’s” appropriate.

Main Dish: Black-Eyed Peas with Collard Greens

  1. Large bunch of collard greens, washed, tear leaves up into small 2-3 pieces. Do not include any of the stems
  2. Vegetable stock plus water, enough to boil greens
  3. Red Onion, chopped
  4. 2 garlic gloves, chopped
  5. 1 teaspoon paprika
  6. 1/2 tsp turmeric
  7. Everyday Seasoning (Trader Joe’s)
  8. 1 tbsp White Miso paste
  9. 1 14.5 oz can organic diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
  10. 1 15.5 oz can organic black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  11. Ground black pepper to taste (adds to healing effects of turmeric)

Boil water and stock. Add collard greens and simmer for about 20mins until greens are soft. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water.

Add onion, garlic, paprika, turmeric and Everyday Seasoning to reserved cooking water. Simmer until onions are soft. Add in the rest or the ingredients, including collard greens. Stir until heated throughly.

Serve with rice, quinoa, sliced avocado.

Dessert: Dark Chocolate Tequila Strawberries

1 bag of dark chocolate chips or chunks

Optional- 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tbsp Tequila

Organic strawberries with green tops

Soy based wax paper

Wash strawberries. They must be dried completely. I use paper towels. If they are wet, the chocolate dip may harden.

Put the dark chocolate in a microwavable ceramic or glass bowl with the other optional liquid ingredients and microwave gently until the chocolate is melted. For stove top melting, you need a double broiler. Microwaving is much easier. I was inspired to make this fondue because I found a brand new fondue kit at the Salvation Army Thrift Shop. It looked like something form 1970’s.

Hold the strawberries by the green tops, dip into chocolate mixture half way, twirl to stop the chocolate from dripping. Place onto wax paper to cool. Use the fondue skewers if you have and eat them directly. Recommend you put down extra table protector’s because the chocolate can be very messy but fun!

Take care of Dry Winter Hands

Remember my rule of don’t put anything on your skin that you would not eat. Ultimately anything you put on your skin is absorbed into your body.

These natural Lip Balms with organic ingredients make great finger and hand moisturizers.  They go on thick. Easy to carry around because they are compact. Good for chapped lips too 🙂

Let me know how you like them by leaving a comment below.

Test your level of Empathy

The original title of this blog entry was “Happy Holidays Everyone: Please watch this inspirational video”. But now that the holidays are over, I am going to recycle it. You can use this video to test your level of empathy.

Even though I have watched this video multiple times, I still get teary eyes every time I watch it. It reminds me of the compassion that exists in all of us. Although it is may seem sparse in current times, everyone of us has the potential to make a positive contribution to humanity. Now is the best time to start. Let’s just do it.

From Psychology Today –> Levels of Engagement Empathy

How to plan your own tour: my experience for our Australia and New Zealand vacation July 2017

Every year,  we try to visit a new place on the planet. We get to appreciate a different culture, learn about history and geography. The whole process is extremely educational which can be meditative in itself. This year we decided to see the Aussie Great Barrier Reef and the Kiwi Glow Worms. We wanted to see GBR before it dies 😦 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/science/great-barrier-reef-coral-climate-change-dieoff.html and http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-great-barrier-reef-not-dead-20161014-snap-story.html

GBR and Glow Worms did not disappoint. They were TOTALLY AWESOME!

How to plan a great trip on your own without any professional tour guides.  I recommend you start one year before our trip. The really popular places get booked up quickly. It can saves a lot of money if you DIY. Plus you get the bonus of going at your own pace.  You do have to do some leg work though. The preplanning is part of the journey. Lots of family discussion as to what everyone is interested in and wants to do. The dreaming and planning is as enjoyable as the trip. By preparing all the details yourself, you remember and appreciate so much more.

On the other hand, the advantages of going with an organized tour, is there is much less planning involved. Works if you are too busy and just want to pick up and go. The tour company takes care of many of the details. But you do take a chance if you go with a small group tour  that you get put into a group of people that you have nothing in common with such as a group of alcoholics. That happened to us once: out of a group of 8, 4 of the travelers started drinking at breakfast and continued to drink through out the day. They made my kids feel uncomfortable. You lose autonomy to some extent when you go with a group. After that experience, I prefer bigger groups.

Anyway back to our 2017 adventure. These 2 countries, Australia and New Zealand are fairly easy to navigate and get around as long as you are comfortable driving on left. It also helps that they speak English and have the same or higher level of technology use such as google maps! (usually buy a month of local cellular service- Australia was $10 and New Zealand was $5 (there usually is a sale somewhere – google it before you go). For our iPhones we changed out our SIM cards with the new local ones. This protects us from any billing surprises back in home. Disadvantage is no one from home can contact you who does not have your new number – so you need to forward them your new number. iMessages and FaceTime still works esp when you get wifi).

Although, I say it is enjoyable, it can be daunting to think about planing a trip to a foreign country.  What to see and do in Australia if you have only 1 week. It is a huge country. Lonely Planet (https://www.lonelyplanet.com/australia) is a wonderful resource to help learn what a the country has to offer visitors. You can read about it and make a list make a list of what you would like to see. From that list, circle your must sees. New Zealand our choices were limited to North Island because the further south you go in July, it gets very cold. Easier to plan when there are fewer choices! I give myself a free day whenever we have to change hotels. This allows for travel time to new place and packing and unpacking. You don’t want to feel rushed. It is not only an adventure but is a vacation too.

Tripadvisor is also a blessing. Just search places and you can get advice and opinions from people who have been there. Just remember to look at the dates that the comments are written. January and July down under are not the same experience. Their winter and summer are the opposite of ours: when we have summer, they have winter.  I booked our places to stay thru www.hotel.com. I like Hotel.com because they generally have a cancelation policy where you can get a full refund and also a choice to pay now or at hotel. Note though if you pay at a foreign hotel, there is an exchange rate (which can fluctuate) and possible fee for the exchange (at the time, American Airline Credit card had no foreign transaction fee). Hotel.com has a free night program where after you accumulate 10 paid nights with participating hotels you receive a free night based on the average cost those 10 nights.

Since my must sees were Great Barrier Reef, we stayed in Cairns (Cairns City Apartments) and Daintree Rain Forest (Tea Tree Cottage). Then for New Zealand and the Glow Worms, we stay in Taupo (Sails Motor Lodge across from Taupo Lake).

We did a day trip out to GBR w this Diving company which I reviewed on TripAdvisor because they really took good care of us:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g255069-d1028370-Reviews-Deep_Sea_Divers_Den_Day_Trips-Cairns_Cairns_Region_Queensland.html

Vegan Foods:

1.Black Sapote or Chocolate Pudding Fruit- Tastes like is sounds – delicious  Chocolate!

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2. Wattle Seed tea and Ice cream – tastes just like coffee but no caffeine.IMG_4110

3. Jackfruit Burger

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4. Other tasty Vegan treats

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally a summary of our trip in video:

This video summarizes our trip (filmed with iPhone and a GoPro HERO5).

 

Addendum: Tours are great when you are going to a country where you don’t speak the language and or you have very little time. We took a Caravan Tour of Costa Rica once. We lucked out with the BEST group of people ever. Highly recommend that tour.

Try this Miso Paste

I bought this at my local Korean Grocery store. 99 Ranch Market may have too.  It tastes pretty good.

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*Although miso is high in salt (risk factor for stomach cancer and high blood pressure), the anticancer and antihypertensive effects of soy may counter the effects of the salt.

*The How Not To Die Cookbook by Michael Greger, M.D.

Oprah and Deepak Meditation Free App

These 2 famous people have put together a wonderful 21 day Meditation App that I highly recommend. Why 21 days? It’s the amount of days needed for you to repeat something over and over so that it becomes a habit. This one definitely a good habit. Search in App store on your smart phone -> Oprah and Deepak 21- Day Meditation Experience. I love the way Deepak says : I’ll mind the time…so British.

Promise you will find the time to do this. program And if you can’t find the time to do this, you REALLY need to do this! Cheers

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Eat Some Probiotics with Every Meal

Why are probiotics important? These healthy microbes are an essential part of our body. Without them we would not survive. Most of these healthy bugs are found in our gut. Also 70% of our immune system is located in our gut. There is communication between our gut microbes and our immune system and even with our brain via our vagal nerve.  Our immune system and brain cannot be healthy and balanced if we have the bad gut microbes. Healthy gut microbes tell our immune system and brain that everything is “OK”. Our gut microbes affects a lot of disease processes such as – infections, cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, inflammation, obesity, arthritis, mental health etc. Isn’t it amazing that these bugs have such a huge influence on our health?*

Our microbes are one of our forgotten organs. It is unique in that this is our only organ that not contain our own DNA.  Yet these microbes have profound affects both good and bad on our health. The good news is that we can directly affect this organ’s DNA. We do this by what we eat and with whom we hang out! Yes, it’s composition can be changed by our actions.

So sterile environments prevent us from getting good microbes*.  Some examples where we lose the opportunity to get good microbes: Vaginal vs C-section babies,  breast vs formula fed babies, drinking chlorinated vs filtered water, eating foods that contain pesticides vs organic foods, antibiotics, diets high in sugar, alcohol.

Other probiotic boosters that come to mind are sharing your home with a dog or cat. Our furry friends are beneficial in more than one way. Our dogs give us love and beneficial microbes!

We also share microbes with family, friends and community. There is now something called fecal transfer, where a person with a certain health  problem gets inoculated with fecal material from a healthy donor by swallowing capsules of donor feces.

If your gut is not healthy, you are not  healthy.

Correcting your gut microbes (esp if you are on and recently taken antibiotics) is essential.

This is so powerful, that the right microbes, can even reduce our anxiety and worry!

Hence I am recommending you eat some food rich in probiotics with each meal.

FOODS RICH IN PROBIOTICS

Remember: Probiotics when heated will destroy the beneficial bacteria. So you can’t eat these foods heated or microwaved. Also avoid chlorinated water. The chlorine disinfects and can disinfect some of your your gut bacteria too. Drink filtered water only.

Yogurt / Kefir – Non dairy preferred. It is possible that the fermentation process of dairy reduces the pro-inflammatory factors in cow’s milk. Although this has not been my personal experience.

Kombucha – fermented tea. Saccharomyces Boulardii is used in the fermentation process. This probiotic is in the yeast family and can survive the antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections. Hence it is useful in treating Clostridium Difficile infections.

Miso (paste) salad dressing

Soy sauce

Coco-Aminos

Natto- fermented soy beans

Tempeh

Fermented Bean curds

Hard cheeses e.g. Comte (Dairy)

Apple cider vinegar- dilute with water

Manuka Honey (helps immune system fight off upper respiratory infections) or any raw honey (mix with 1 cup water 1/4-1/2 tsp vinegar and honey)

Kim Chi,  SauerKraut (might be too salty for some people)

Pickled foods e.g. Pickled beets, olives, cucumbers, radishes, etc

Asian Fish sauce

Probiotic capsules (Brand and storage matters. Some have been tested and found to contain nothing. Vary the brand to increase the variety of probiotic stains.)*

How Best to take your Probiotic Capsule:

I recommend to take on empty stomach with a glass of room temperature filtered water and adding some “Just Like Sugar” which contains Inulin, a prebiotic derived from chicory.  Just Like Sugar has is a natural sweet taste to it and calorie free. Ingredients are Chicory, calcium and Vitamin C.

I have asked around my contacts about whether to take probiotic with or without food. No clear answer. I could not find any studies to say which is better either. Until there is more reliable information, I am going with the FDA recommendation for the use of oral live vaccines (which by the a way is like a probiotic because the goal is to colonize your gut with the microbe in the vaccine to give you protection from that particular disease).

For example, for oral typhoid vaccine, this is how it is taken:

  1. Take each capsule on an empty stomach (1 hour before eating or 2 hours after eating)
  2. Take each capsule with a full glass of cool or lukewarm water. Not hot.
  3. Keep capsules in refrigerator; The purest Probiotics should be refrigerated.
  4. No drinking Alcohol at least 2 hours after

Please leave me your comments.

* There still is a need for sterile environments such as during a medical procedures. If you are immunosuppressed, please ask your doctor if extra bacteria could harmful to you or not.  Examples – AIDS, Chemotherapy, genetics

( https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09zxl63 )

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23474283 )

 

Yummy Probiotic Rich Salad Dressing

 

 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

 

On Life and Death – Dr Pattanaik

I have always been fascinated by Indian culture. It reminds me why we need to always keep an open mind. Who is to say what is right and what is wrong? Everything is relative. We can learn so much. And we still have so much more to learn. Netflix has some great documentaries on India (this one is by Animal Planet https://www.netflix.com/title/70286537 – Wildest India Series esp the one about the Ganges River). I watch them when I am exercising on my elliptical machine. So interesting and inspiring.

Start with this video and you will see what I mean:

I found this on youtube about The Ganges River. It is so interesting..

Super Quick Lunches you can make

The balance between a healthy Vegan lunch and the rush to get out of the house b4 6am to beat the traffic. This is so easy. You will need some ceramic or glass containers. A Trader Joe’s helps…

My base is some pre washed organic dark greens, frozen Vegan bean/grain mixture (see below), top with Coco Amnios, favorite hot sauce, pickled beets or Olive tapenade.  I warm it up in microwave at work. Yummy.

It’s not peas that you are seeing but Green Garbanzo Beans.

Here are the package photos:

Hope you can see the ingredients by zooming in. Otherwise contact me for more details.

Let me know if you like it 🙂

My Friend the Black Widow

Just found this Black Widow living right in the middle of my pantry about knee height. When ever I go in, she retreats (thank goodness). She will take care of the Meal Moths which are a nuisance . Spiders live where they can find bugs. No bugs no spiders. She is a blessing ’cause those moths get into everything. Glad to share my home with her.

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Coco Aminos Tofu, Beets and Fennel

 

Hi There. Sorry I have not posted for a while. Was flying around the world or so it seems.  From LA to Australia then New Zealand then NY and finally back home in CA.

Took a while to get over the jet lag. Now back to normal.

I was just explaining to someone why the SAD (Standard American Diet) is unhealthy. I encourage everyone to be plant based. Most people say they can’t live without their meat. But please remember even more so, you can’t live without your plants. Plants have so many healthy phytochemicals and nutrients to help maintain weight and prevent disease.

This is what I commonly hear too: “What I got to eat Tofu?” Tofu is really not that bad. Its my kids favorite food. They started eating it as babies.

I like recipes that are simple and quick: that I can just put together off the top of my head. So I rarely measure anything (unless I am baking cookies or cakes).

Need:

-Oil- avocado or coconut

-Fennel bulbs – cut into wedges (8 per bulb), make sure when you cut the hard core to not cut all of it out so your wedges will not fall apart (if you never prepared fennel b4- here is a nice link

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-iry-fullyhosted_011&hsimp=yhs-fullyhosted_011&hspart=iry&p=how+to+cook+fennel#id=56&vid=80258c5be6997755e373d16df9bea8ed&action=view

-Vegetable broth

-Salt and Pepper

-Sprouted Organic Tofu, crumbled into small pieces

-Garlic (buy pre chopped to save time)

-Coco Aminos sauce

IMG_4512– Nutritional Yeast AKA Brewer’s Yeast. Tastes a like a mild cheese.

– Beets, ready to eat, sliced ( I brought mine from Costco.  Beets contain nitric oxide – helps protect brain)

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat the oil in a frying pan that can be put into the oven (no plastic, etc).

Heat oil over medium high heat. Add fennel wedges to brown on both sides, remember to lower heat to prevent burning. Once browned add vegetable broth to cover fennel about 50%. Add salt ad pepper. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Cover and put in oven for 15minutes.

Meanwhile, heat some oil in a frying pan like you did for fennel above. Add garlic. Stir it around a bit then add Tofu. Stir fry until lightly browned and heated. Remove from pan. Cool a bit. Then stir in Coco Aminos and Nutritional Yeast. By not cooking the Coco Aminos, it helps to preserve the probiotics.

The Fennel wedges should be ready by now.

Serve together on plate: Tofu, fennel and beets.

Bon Appetite 🙂

If you want to enjoy more posts and recipes, please subscribe to my blog. Or post a comment. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Teriyaki Tofu, Brown Rice and Kale

This is the easiest dish to make. It has a complete protein- whole grain and legume.

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Ingredients:

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This is the easiest dinner (but you need to live near a Costco and Trader Joe’s (TJ)).

Cut Tofu into 1cm thick squares. Put some Coconut oil into a non stick ceramic frying pan and heat to medium heat. Then add a single layer of Tofu. Sprinkle some TJ Island Soyaki sauce (or your favorite Teriyaki sauce) on top of tofu. Brown- takes about 4 minutes each side. Meanwhile put Brown rice into a glass dish and microwave as per directions. Stir.

Flip over tofu. Cut Nori seaweed into 1×1/4 inch pieces (you can get these already cut to this size in Asian markets). Mix into or sprinkle on top of Rice mixture. Serve immediately if you want seaweed to crunch.

Optional sprinkle with nuts. Sauerkraut on the side.

Bon Appetite.

 

 

Sugar Free Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

These Dark Chocolate Coffee Beans are great as part of a healthful breakfast. esp if you need some caffeine. The sweeteners are not artificial but made from Stevia and ErythritolPlease avoid artificial sweeteners. They are really bad for your health.

Here are the ingredients. I bought them from Vitacost.com. Vitacost always seem to have  some sort of coupon / discount thing. If you have the time, just wait, a coupon always seem to come in my email.

Organic Whole Coffee Beans and Lily’s Sugar Free 70% dark chocolate,

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You will need these things (make sure bowl is microwavable):

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Breakup the chocolate into pieces.

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Microwave time will depend on your microwave. Mine was about 1 minute. The chocolate should not be completely melted. Better to just partially melt it. Once heated enough, stirring it will cause rest of chocolate to melt.

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I added about 1 cup of roasted organic coffee beans. Please note coffee is in the list of top ten foods to buy organic because of the high pesticide residue in the conventional grown beans. Fair Trade Practices label is a plus too.

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Pour these beans into the melted chocolate and mix until all the beans are well coated.

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Then use a spoon and fork to spread then out onto sheet of non petroleum based wax paper.

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When cooled break into pieces and Viola:

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It is a little bitter. You can mix it w some organic dried berries like Goji Berries.

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This is my Goji Plant. I had to resurrect it. The leaves has been eaten by garden snails and abused by my dog. It is now in the corner on a pedestal where I have to hand water it. If it does well I should get about 5 berries (haha).

When I was a child, we use to have the berries and leaves in a simple broth soup. I found this link: http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/wolfberry-leaves/