Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Zumba Girl

April 14, 2013

Amanda Golden, Zumba Instructor & R.N., and Me

“You need to do something fun for exercise,” my doctor said, as she sat squarely across from me.

“But I don’t know what ‘fun’ is,” I said.

“How ‘bout you try Zumba?”

Thus began my entrance into the world of Zumba. 

I walked into the gym, and started chatting with someone nearby.

“Is this going to kill me?” I asked.

“I just focus on the feet,” she said. “Don’t worry about the arms.”

Good advice, I thought.

Amanda, the teacher and coach, exuberantly marched up to the stage platform.

“I just had some surgery on my arm, and don’t have full movement yet,” she said, “so just follow along, even if I can’t do everything.”

Holy cow … she just had surgery, and she’s doing ZUMBA?

The music started pounding, and I stepped, arms flailing, trying to see what the heck she was doing, so I could follow along.

Dang, I need to come early, so I can get a spot up front … and see what the heck she’s doing!

That was a few months ago, and now … I’m a Zumba girl!  No, I don’t get all the moves perfectly, and some of them I flat-out can’t do – because my brain hasn’t figured them out yet – but it’s so much FUN!  I even recruited my friend, Chandra, and now we’re both die-hard Zumba girls!

A couple nights ago, we arrived on time, unaware of the class’ apparent decision to do toning … with weights!  Chandra and I didn’t have the Zumba “sticks,” but we had fun anyway!  People were whooping and hollering … what a workout!  What a rush!

Next workout, I still didn’t have my sticks, so I grabbed some weights and jumped right in.  Whoooh!  What fun!

The music Amanda chooses, and the energy she brings to the stage and class is absolutely amazing.

Can anything be more fun?

The body fat’s dropping, the muscles are growing, and my energy level is astounding. 

Yes, Doctor, I now know what “fun” is!  I found it on a Zumba wave with Amanda … and there’s no turning back now!

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A Little Knowledge Can Be Dangerous

April 17, 2010

I wanted to plant a garden this year, but needed something to help me believe that yes, I can have a successful garden in this bug-infested, sweltering, southern climate.  So I signed up for a one-hour class for six weeks called…get this…Gardening For Seniors.  (OK, so we have a lot of snowbirds here each winter.) 

I started thinking…hmmm…maybe I can do this gardening thing.  But I needed more information.  You know…if a little is good, then a lot is better!  So I signed up for a ten-week Master Gardener Class.  We meet once a week, for a full day…that’s eight hours…and we’re now in the 7th week.  

The classes are packed with information, one PowerPoint presentation after another, all day long.  No breaks, except for lunch.  I must admit, as the afternoon hours wear on, I get antsy.  I start wiggling my pen, tapping my feet, and then I start rocking.  But I’m not in a rocking chair…only a cold, hard metal folding chair. 

Let me out of here! 

Don’t get me wrong.  The class is great.  But a body can just take so much of sitting still in the same place, hour after hour. 

Let’s see…so far we’ve learned about Plant Science, soils, new plants, grafting, vegetables, herbs, diseases, landscaping, insects (the beneficials and the bad guys), pesticides and labels (very important, if you like staying alive), fruits, pruning, palms, native shrubs, trees, ground covers, bulbs, perennials, annuals, and native trees. 

Hour after hour, presentation after presentation, things start to blur together.  And that’s when a little knowledge can be dangerous.  Take, for instance, the orange tree I gave to my neighbor.  I told him, “You need to prune it like an inverted umbrella, so the sun can get to all of it.” 

Thankfully, the tree is too young for pruning, so he didn’t act on my erroneous advice.  We then learned in class about citrus trees, and I realized I gave my neighbor instructions for pruning an apple or peach tree.  So I had to tell him to prune it kind of like a triangle, so the sun could get to all of it, but keep the top pruned so it doesn’t get any higher than six feet.  You don’t want to climb a ladder to pick oranges…it’s too dangerous.  Better to keep the tree short, so you can reach the fruit. 

But I still got mixed up in the middle of all the presentations about fruit trees.  I raised my hand and said, “So when I go home today I need to pick all the flowers off my little orange tree…” 

“No, you don’t,” said the instructor. 

I responded with the blank, deer-in-the-headlights stare. 

“Leave your orange tree alone,” said the instructor.  “You pick the flowers off young apple and pear trees, so they won’t produce the first couple of years, and can then bear more fruit later on.” 

Whew, that was close.  I almost aborted a season’s worth of oranges.  Like I said, a little knowledge can be dangerous. 

In four weeks I should be graduating as a Master Gardener.  By then I hope I’ll have learned my lesson well.  When asked a gardening question, I’ll have to be willing to reign in my tongue and say… 

“I don’t know.  But I’ll be happy to look that up for you!”

The Cry of Fresh Homemade Horseradish Sauce

April 8, 2010

I love spicy food.  Wasabi, horseradish, jalapenos…the hotter the better.  If I’m cooking with peppers, onions, and garlic, no matter what I’m cooking, I usually end up throwing in a chopped up fresh jalapeno pepper…seeds and all.  I love the way hot food makes me cry…tears of joy.

Today I was in the produce section of the supermarket, and some horseradish roots caught my eye.  Now, I’m always looking for a good horseradish sauce…one without all the fructose corn syrup and other junk…just give me the real stuff any day.  So today I think, Heck, why not make my own?

I got home, got supper started, then went to work on the recipe on the little tag attached to the horseradish root.

1 lb. MELISSA’S HORSERADISH, peeled and cubed

1 cup distilled white vinegar

1 tsp. salt (I use celtic)

½ tsp. sugar (turbinado)

1 small turnip, peeled and cubed

I threw it into a small blender, but that didn’t go very well.  So I threw it into the Vitamix…breathing in the fumes and crying the whole time…and had heavenly fresh horseradish sauce in minutes.  I cried and cried.

Man, this stuff is good.

I was so intent on making the heavenly, hellacious sauce, my hubby had to set the table and put out everything we cooked…steak (yes, we’re carnivores), steamed cabbage, and baked potatoes…not the microwave kind…but the one-hour-baked-in-foil-in-the-oven kind, his white and mine sweet.  While he helped, I meticulously mixed a little of the fresh horseradish sauce into some sour cream, one tiny spoonful at a time, crying all the way.

Woo-hoo!  This stuff is good!  (Did I already say that?)

I remember the days when I couldn’t even stand the spicy, hot taste of pickled jalapenos.  Such a wimp was I!  But one winter a sinus infection changed everything.  I did a store-brand knockoff nasal spray, beyond the label warnings of three days only, and lost my sense of smell…for a year.

When you can’t smell, you can’t taste food, either.  I discovered there was a whole underworld subculture of people who had lost their sense of smell.  Web sites, blogs, forums, organizations…all with stories, but no answers…back then, anyway.

I eventually discovered a way to experience some kind of sensation while eating food.  Pain.  I started with dabbing a few pickled jalapenos on anything I ate, and worked my way up to obscene amounts of wasabi.  The more I cried, the happier I became.

After a year of smelling nothing, I gradually regained my sense of smell…and taste.  But I kept my love for spicy food…Indian, Thai…bring it on.

So now I’ve got a jar of amazing, tear-jerking fresh horseradish sauce in my fridge.  I can mix it with sour cream, mustard, ketchup, or even dare to use it straight, awash with happy tears.

I’ve got to find a way to grow this wondrous root in my garden…

If A Little Is Good…

April 1, 2010

Spring is in the air!  The indoor captivity of winter sloughs off as we embrace the warmth and sunshine of the great outdoors.  And I begin to wonder…am I the only one who lives by the mantra, “If a little is good, then a lot is better?”

For years I’ve been gathering up the courage to start a vegetable garden.  Watching the Food, Inc. documentary this winter pushed me over the edge. 

That does it, I’ve got to do my part.  I’m planting a garden!

Just throw down some good soil, plant some seeds or seedlings, and you’re good to go, right?  No, not me.  There’s no way I’m going to get down on my hands and rickety old knees…not even for a welcoming yield of garden-fresh veggies.  No, I’ve got to have a raised garden…and not just 8 or 10 inches, either.  I want one at least 3 feet tall, so I can stand as I work in my garden!

I found a pile of hundreds of bricks on the side of the house, which had been buried in soil and roots for years before we bought the house.  Always up for a good workout, I made it my mission to move all those bricks to the only patch of sunlight in our yard…out front by the driveway.  I ached, I moaned, I swore I’d make that massage appointment.  Slowly but surely, I amassed a neat pile of clean bricks next to my garden site.  No time for a massage, though.  I’ve got to get this garden built and planted!

Long story short, the guy who was going to lay the bricks was too busy with other work.  So he came out and set up some cinderblocks, but no mortar…no time.  The dirt people told me it wouldn’t hold, so I pleaded my cause with the cinderblock guy.  He came back and laid the blocks with mortar.

I ordered the compost and soil, and hubby and me spent an entire day shoveling and filling the raised garden.  Woo-hoo!  Ready to plant the little veggies!

Now, I usually don’t do things haphazardly.  I found a cool vegetable garden planning tool online, with a 30-day free trial, at growveg.com.  I meticulously planned my garden layout, with all the delicacies I wanted to plant.  I printed it up, in full color, no less.

Steve and I were shoveling in the last morsels of soil when we heard our neighbor’s voice booming from next door, “What are you up to?”  He came over and surveyed our highly-raised garden plot.

“Want some heirloom tomatoes?” he asked.

“What’s that?”

“They’re not hybrids, and they’ll reproduce from seed.”

“Sure!” 

In the wink of an eye, he was rolling a wagon full of tomato plants into our yard.

“What on earth do you do with all these tomato plants?” I asked.  I later realized he was already doing it…just giving them away.

Before I knew it, our neighbor was planting heirloom tomato varieties, lots of different peppers, and lettuce in our newly-soil-filled, highly-raised garden.  My beautiful, full-color garden plan went out the window.  But that was OK.  Hybrids will do, but reproducible veggies rock!

Thank you, neighbor!

The raised garden plot was filled with little veggie plants, but I still had more seedlings I had purchased from the local hardware store.

I need another raised garden!

Without a plan or layout, and without a mission, I went out to the front yard today.  I needed to work out, and I wanted it to be productive.  I started laying down those bricks…in front of the raised cinderblock garden…within the parameters of the only decent patch of sunlight in our yard.

Before I knew it, I had another raised garden.  Now it needs to be filled with compost and soil, the veggie seedlings I bought, and something I forgot…good old Vidalia onions!

I ponder afterwards…I don’t do anything the easy way, do I?  But that’s OK.  Life tends to weave its own way, as long as we just manage to go with the flow.

I know that I can plant and water, fertilize when necessary, and do all the other gardening things.  But when all is said and done, I believe only the good Lord can give the increase. 

So now I’ve got a prayer garden…or two.  Lord, please give the increase.

And if all these tomato and pepper plants produce luscious veggies, I’ll have enough to give away.  If a little is good…then a lot is better!

My Porch Is Green!

March 7, 2010

No wonder I can’t breathe…it’s raining pollen!  Every flat surface on our screened-in back porch is green. 

My relatives up north sing to me about “opening up the house” as soon as the first bird-twittering, sunny days of Spring hit.  But those of us in the South with allergies know better.  We keep the windows closed.  I didn’t always know better.  For the first few years after moving to Florida, I’d open up all the doors and windows as the warmth of Spring and coolness of Fall beckoned.  Each time I’d get a horrendous sinus infection.  It took me about three years to figure it out.  OK, so I’m a slow learner.

But I still like to learn.  Case in point, pine pollen.  Here’s an interesting little tidbit of information I recently found: 

“People attribute their allergies to pine pollen because it’s visible, but it’s actually too large to cause allergies,” Dr. Maya Jerath of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine says in a statement. “It’s the other trees blooming at the same time like maple, oak and birch.  If you know which pollen you’re sensitive to, you can minimize your time outside during the season it is in the air and keep your windows closed,” Jerath says.

Dr. Jerath, where were you twenty-four years ago, when I was learning-impaired?

When you learn things you should have known all along, do you ever wonder, Why didn’t anybody tell me that?  Or am I the only one who thinks there’s a secret, world-wide conspiracy to withhold necessary information from all the slow learners like me?

Perhaps that’s why I dole out unsolicited advice so glibly.  I don’t want anyone to think I’m part of the World-Wide Conspiracy To Withhold Necessary Information From All The Slow Learners Like Me (WWCTWNIFATSLLM for short).

So without much further ado, here’s my free advice for allergy sufferers trapped inside their homes…all the things I’ve learned through pain and anguish, which I don’t want you to suffer through.

1. Change you’re A/C filter(s) at least monthly.  Put reminders on your calendar or cell phone.  (My husband is always saying, “Your cell phone’s ringing.  Are you going to answer it?”  To which I reply, “It’s not ringing.  It’s reminding me to do something.”  “Like what?”  “I have no idea, but it can wait.”) 

2. Use walk-off mats at entry ways.  If you have kids who won’t wipe their feet because they’re too busy thinking about the things kids think about…the least of which is keeping the house clean…use longer mats.  It takes about six steps to walk most of the loose dirt and pollens off shoes.  (I learned that one in my IICRC Carpet Cleaner Certification course!) 

3. Ask the older people in your house to remove their shoes when they come in, so they don’t track allergens all over the carpet.  After asking, plead with them.  If that doesn’t work, you can always yell, but then no one will want to come home. 

4. Vacuum at least once weekly, with a HEPA filter machine.  (You don’t have to spend a fortune on one, either.)  Don’t vacuum like the other female in my house (name withheld to protect the guilty).  She’s always in such a hurry to finish; the vacuum is air-born through most of her frenzied, back-and-forth strokes.  Instead, vacuum a little more slowly and deliberately to pick up everything.  Can you hear us now?  “Why didn’t you vacuum?”  “I did.”  “Then why are there still clumps of dirt over there by the fireplace?”  “I already vacuumed!”  No matter that it isn’t clean.  If a teenager goes through the motions of “cleaning,” the job is done. 

5. If you have larger throw rugs and a vacuum cleaner with a beater brush, turn the rugs over on a hard surface and vacuum the underside.  You’ll be amazed when you pick up the rugs and discover all the trapped dirt that came out of them.  Then vacuum the top side of the rugs.  You can shake out smaller rugs outside, to avoid shaking allergens loose into the inside air.  (Did you hear that, other female in my house, whose name I won’t mention?)

6. This next step has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that we own a carpet cleaning business.  None at all.  But really, if you have allergies and live in a warm, high-humidity area, you should get your carpets professionally cleaned every six months.  If there are a lot of people in your home, or you have pets or smokers, you may want to consider more frequent cleanings.  This is based on U.S. EPA recommendations, and not shameless self-promotion and greed.  Really! 

7. Use runner rugs over traffic areas on hard-surface floors.  Believe it or not, carpets and rugs are healthier for allergy sufferers than bare floors.  This was scientifically proven back in the 70’s when scientists measured particles in the air above hard surfaces, compared to the air above carpet.  The air above carpet was cleaner.  The reason is that when you walk over a bare floor, you kick particles back up into the air you breathe.  Carpets and rugs actually act as a large indoor air filter, trapping dust and allergens in the fibers.  But like any air filter, they need to be cleaned regularly to be effective.  Home and rental rug shampooers or small “steam” cleaners are OK for surface spots and dirt in between professional cleanings.  But in order to get the dirt and allergens trapped deep down in the fibers, you need a professional truck-mounted system to do the job right.

I promise, I’m not telling you this for greedy self-serving reasons.  I just want to keep you empowered against the WWCTWNIFATSLLM!


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