Feening For Fennel

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It is quite common for people with lupus to have digestive issues and  last  Wednesday was the beginning of a nasty bout for me.  The timing was pretty bad: I had scheduled an aquaponics training for the very next morning and I  had some very excited farmers looking forward to it.

There was no way to mask the pain so it was great that I was in the company of likeminded  ‘food as medicine’ people: High Garden Center farmer George,  Dr. David Epstein, and Lois Peterson; a PGG board member who is currently furthering her study in  nutrition.

Dr. Dave suggested that I consider adding digestive enzymes pre-biotics  and pro-biotics to my supplement regiment. I was experiencing a flare (an auto immune crisis) so that was sound advice. Fortunately I have all of that on hand… including kombucha of course.  🙂

Lois suggested I go gluten-free and dairy free completely until things calmed down.  She also reminded me of the importance of bone broths when trying to  heal the gut. I grabbed Nourishing Traditions out of my office for reference.  Good thing I did! I had never considered putting wine in my broth! While I didn’t go there this time (with the turmoil in my belly I’ve decided to stay away from alcohol for the moment), I have filed that away under things I will certainly do in the near future. I cooked an organic bird slowly over the course of two days.  In addition I added loads of extras: a cinnamon stick, several garlic bulbs, onion, about 2 inches of ginger,  2 inches of turmeric, carrots and celery.

George sent me into the garden.

Grinning and Bearing it.

Grinning and Bearing it.

He mentioned a few plants that I might want to steep and drink as tea but for some reason I went right to the fennel, popped a few sprigs into my mouth. I have had fennel before in salads but have always remained pretty neutral on it. On this day, however,   I was actually craving it.  And I’ve been noshing on it every day since. Fennel has a licorice like flavor so it taste like candy to me. Eating it, was soothing.

After several days of running into the garden for my fennel fix, I decided to see why my body was asking for it.  After researching it further, it turns out it makes perfect sense.  Here are some of the benefits of fennel listed on juicingforhealth.com:

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Anemia:  Since fennel is rich in iron and histidine, it serves as a good natural remedy for anemia. The production of hemoglobin is increased as a result of the consumption of food containing iron.

Breast milk, secretion:  Lactating mothers can consume fennel juice regularly to increase the secretion of nutritious milk for their infants.

Cancer:  The high content of vitamin C, flavonoids and essential oils in fennel bulb all provide synergistic healing properties for the prevention of cancer.

Colic:  Colic happens because of an imbalanced intestinal flora.  The essential oils found in fennel are useful for rebalancing the flora for remedy of renal colic.

Constipation:  The roughage in fennel seeds act as a stimulant in the clearance of bowels.  By taking fennel juice regularly, it helps to rebalance the digestive tract, thus promotes regular bowel movement.

Diarrhea:  The essential oils in fennel like Cineole and Anethole help to remedy diarrhea. By taking fennel juice regularly, it helps to rebalance the digestive tract, thus promotes a healthy bowel movement.

Diuretic:  The diuretic property of fennel helps in the removal of toxic substances from the body through frequent urination. Thus, it helps to reduce inflammation that causes rheumatism and swelling.

Flatulence:  Excessive flatulence happens due to the highly imbalanced intestinal flora in the digestive tract.  Fennel has the capability to reduce the bad bacteria while increasing the good bacteria that help rebalance the digestive flora.

Hair health:  The sulphur content together with all the right amino acids and essential oils in fennel help strengthen hair and reduce hair fall.

High blood pressure:  The high potassium content in fennel helps reduce high blood pressure and thus decreasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Indigestion:  The essential oils in fennel increases the secretion of digestive juices, helping in reduction of stomach inflammation and in the absorption of nutrients from the food eaten. Since fennel also has anti-acidic qualities, it is used widely also as an antacid.

Menstruation disorders:  As fennel is an emmenagogue, it helps regulate the hormonal action in the female body, easing menstruation flow.

Vision health:  Fennel has unique properties that can help protect from eyes inflammation, as well as with other eye disorders which are directly or indirectly connected to muscular degeneration and aging.  Due to the anti-oxidants and the necessary amino acids in fennel, they help rejuvenate and prevent aging. The juice of fennel leaves when externally applied on the eyes may help reduce eye irritations and fatigue.

I am on the mend! Was it the broth? Kombucha?  Fennel?

I’d say all three.   I’d also say that I am healing my body with  comfort food, soda and candy.  Except it’s real food. And that just makes me giddy.

 

 

 

 

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Running for Pound Cake (my plan for holiday eating)

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So isn’t a secret that I take exercise and nutrition seriously. For me, it is about way more than getting into skinny jeans (what brainiac thought those were a good idea anyway?); it is a matter of life (full and vibrant) or death (lack of mobility and functionality).  However, I certainly appreciate flat abs and a nice tush as much as the next lady AND I realize how holiday indulging can sabotage the best of efforts.

Therefore, I present to you my Thanksgiving —–> Christmas plan.  I’ve broken it into three sections:

IN MY BELLY

MOVE  MY A**

AND SAVASANA

In My Belly:

The hubster makes my grandmother’s pound cake twice a year. Once at Thanksgiving and once at Christmas. Yeah, sure, it might be better to break it up with more months in between but that’s another thing about me;  I don’t mess with tradition. 😉 I also make sweet potato pies every Thanksgiving and freeze a couple for Christmas. These I don’t eat; so it is not a real problem.  However there is also dressing and macaroni and cheese to consider. 🙂 Truthfully, I can forgo all of it with the exception of grandmas cake. It’s going in my belly. twice. And by twice I mean four times: two slices around Thanksgiving and two around Christmas.

Here is what I will consume everyday between these must-have experiences:

1) Drink 16-20 ounces green smoothie. My standard recipe is: kale, cucumber, beets, organic frozen mixed berries, pineapple, coconut water and ginger root.

2) Drink bone broth/ homemade stock. This is en vogue right now so I’ve been playing around with it a bit more. However, my mother and grandmother always made their own stock.  Sometimes I stew some veggies in my stock but mostly I drink 4-6 ounces of it a day. Straight. No chaser. Chock full of nutrients.

3) Eat/drink fermented foods. Now I’ve mentioned my kombucha consumption before but during the holidays there are no missed days. I also have one serving of homemade yogurt and occasionally I will have kefir or kimchi (more about those later). I am a huge fan of probiotics especially for those of us with inflammation and/or gut issues.  Particularly if you occasionally eat pound cake (or something like it) like me.

4) No simple carbs (with the exception of the aforementioned)

5)Complex carbs are limited to the vegetable variety. And a few low glycemic fruits. 🙂

You can see how these five rules give significant structure to my eating.  There are other things that are not mentioned here that are understood no-no’s on any day: no junk food, no fried foods, no fast food, no fake food.

Move My  A**

Here is what I’ve committed to (minimum):

2 days of running (10 miles minimum a week, includes HITT workout and hill repeats)

2 days of CrossFit

2 days of yoga

Bottom line: If you are going to do the crime, you gotta do the time. I’m willing to move my a**. Are you?

Here is a handy chart that can help you figure out how to make up yesterday’s damage:

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Savasana

This is the hardest part for me. Finding that quiet, stress free place in my head to go to when life is a bit squirrely. In the past, nothing got stressed out quite like the holidays. Especially when I was hosting. This year however things were different.  But it took lots of effort. When one of the boys left the water on in an upstairs bathroom and the tub overflowed leaving water stains on the kitchen ceiling, I just took a deep breath. Namaste. We fixed the plumbing side of things but the aesthetics remain. *sigh*. When my daughter accidentally soaked the sifter Thanksgiving morning almost making said pound cake not happen, I kept my cool and called my neighbor for a replacement. Aside from the 10 minutes we all held our breath until I reached her on the phone; no harm no foul.  I plan to go to my special place often in the next 3 weeks. Life in my house can get more than just squirrely. It’s a down right jungle.

So there you have it. Do a recommend you do what I do? Not exactly. We are all different. You need to find what works for you. For example, I don’t have weight loss or weight/muscle gain goals at the moment. If I did, this would look very different. What I do recommend is that you take the time to come up with a plan. Standing over a table full of carbs at the company pasta competition (I just heard about such shenanigans from a client) is NOT the time to negotiate with yourself. Before temptation arrises, find a quiet place and consider your goals. Be honest with yourself about what you are willing to do to get there. Write down your plan and share it with someone; accountability is very important!

One last thing:

STICK TO THE PLAN.

Now take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.

Namaste

What in the heck is Kombucha?

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I’m addicted to a delicious brew call kombucha. I’ve kept it hush-hush because AGAIN, folks don’t need any more evidence that I am wack-a-doo.  I’ve mentioned it on the blog before but I’ve held back in telling you guys how MUCH I drink it. I’ve been brewing and drinking kombucha daily for over a year. It has changed my life.  I’ll tell you how in a minute but first… what is this stuff?

Kombucha is a fermented tea drink. It is made when a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is added to brewed tea and allowed to ‘feed’ off the sugar. It kinda looks like a mixture of a mushroom and a jellyfish (Ew I know, but whateves I eat sushi :)).  The culture ferments for about a two weeks and a fizzy  tonic is created. It tastes like a cross between apple cider and vinegar. Very unique drinking experience.  You can add spices (ginger, mint, and lemon grass all work great) or organic juices (pomegranate, apple and berry juices are my favorite) to your brew and create a ton of different flavor options!

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My beautiful ‘momma’ scoby, my tea brewing nicely, and the finished product.

One cool thing about Kombucha is that no one is 100% certain where/how it started.  Some say Manchuria (Northern China), others Russia… what we do know is drinking it does require a bit of a leap of faith.  So why do I (and countless others) keep tipping back our glasses? Well, it’s in the probiotics baby!

While there is little ‘proof’ of the healing properties many claim kombucha has, the probiotic content cannot be denied.  The evidence that probiotics are instrumental in restoring gut flora is mounting.  However, those of us who believe in it don’t need scientific research, we have our own experience that speaks for itself.  Given my history of digestive issues, I know almost immediately how something affects my belly. When I drink kombucha regularly, my stomach is calm… even when I am less than 100% with my diet. I have also noticed that I have more energy, my skin is clearer and I have almost no sugar cravings.   I also have endometriosis that at times takes me from washboard abs to the protruding stomach of a second trimester expecting mother overnight. There is lots of pain and misery that comes along with that as well.  When I drink my kombucha daily, that just doesn’t happen. After two trips without it, I’ve decided that I will no longer travel without kombucha. It is just that serious to me.

So how do you get your hands on some? I brew my own. I will tell you in a future article how you can do that as well. In the meantime, swing by your local natural foods store. If they don’t carry it, I guarantee they can tell you how to get it!  My local Whole Foods carries it on tap. It is made in North Carolina called a company called Buchi. Once I had to resuscitate my scoby (long story) and I was without brew for several weeks. Buchi was just starting to be offered so  I bought a couple of growlers. Thank you baby Jesus for small blessings. Their stuff is really very good! My favorite flavor is ‘Fire’ with ‘Earth’ coming in second.  I’ve heard they have a new holiday brew (site says it has cloves, vanilla and cranberries- ummm… yes please!) I’m excited to try that during my next shopping trip.

A word about the bottles they offer in the refrigerated section. Typically, I am not a huge fan. They are really over priced in my opinion. A serving of my brew costs me less than $.50 to make using all organic ingredients. Buchi is $11 for 64ounces (first time the refillable growler is $4 extra). The 16-20 ounce bottles I’ve seen costs $5-6 dollars a piece!  I have also not found one that comes close to the yummy taste of my brew.

Yeah… I know I quickly becoming one of ‘those’. I’m cool with that. I’m realizing that ‘those’ folks are my kinda of people. After all,  I married one of ‘those’.  He is thrilled to see me come around.  He’s wanted to go off the grid for some time.  Not kidding.  Also not going to happen. When it comes to food and nutrition, I’m sold.  I’ll  even give up cable… just as soon as he figures out how I can continue to get the OWN network.  Solar energy and water collecting are up for discussion but I will always need to make my way to my waxonista for routine eyebrow control and make a pit stop at the nail salon for a mani/ pedi. This wild woman will can only take this thing so far!

P.S. If you are in the Atlanta area: I am co-hosting a Kombucha tasting party with my friend Pilar of Rancho Alegre Farm. Let me know if you are interested and I will put you on the invitation list!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

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So far so good this week,  but last week will be tough to beat. 🙂

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Rancho Alegre

It started with an evening class at Rancho Alegre.  Pilar led a discussion about  probiotic drinks and essential oils.  I’m always game to discuss Kombucha and Keifer!  Besides she and I have really hit it off and it was great to see her and experience her farm first hand.  My daughter loves animals so I took her along for the ride.

Mid week, I went to Truly Living Wells Wednesday Market in East Point.  Remember Rashid? I met him at the Multicultural Sustainable Argriculture Conference last month.  I purchased okra, tomatoes, and red peppers. It’s okra season so I never pass an opportunity to get my hands on them!

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Some of the goodies found at Truly Living Well’s Wednesday Market in East Point

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My favorite Fall Stew

I wasn’t able to speak to Rashid that like I had hoped so when I found myself in downtown Atlanta on Friday, I decided to swing by  TLW’s Wheat Street garden (I had heard from a reliable source that he would be there). He didn’t seem to mind that I was stalking him; he actually invited me to have a seat and join in on an interview that was being conducted by a group of Georgia Tech students.

I had stumbled into a gold mine.

Rashid gave detailed (and sometimes irreverent) accounts of his experience starting his garden and his vision moving forward. He explained how urban agriculture addresses many different urban community concerns including: need for quality whole foods, skill/trade building, crime control and connections between neighbors.  He obviously knows what he’s talking about; it shows in his garden. While we sit, children chase each other through the rows of growing vegetables and young men and women working on behalf of TLW guide customers as they make purchases; all while the city buzzed in the backdrop.

As it turns out Atlanta is a perfect place for growing your own food. Rashid is very proud of the fact that he has an operating market every week of the year. He also sees the demand for the vegetables being greater than the supply  to be a good problem to have; it shows that the community (from high-end restaurants to local residents) value what they offer.  It was great to hear this leader speak about his love of food and people. How wonderful to be able to bring the two together!

Here is how I prepare my okra and tomato stew:

Ingredients: 2 cups sliced okra, 1 onion, diced,  2 cups diced tomatoes, 5 garlic gloves (I leave my cloves whole), Himalayan  sea salt, turmeric, 1 diced chile, (all seasonings to taste- my momma taught me to tap the spoon on the back of my hand and taste until it is right) 1.5 pounds shrimp (peeled and deveined)

Bring all vegetables and seasonings to a boil (I do not add water, I find the tomatoes are all I need to keep it nice and chunky!). Simmer  on low heat for 10-15 minutes (don’t let the okra get mushy).  I add the shrimp after I remove the heat. The hot liquid cooks the shrimp and they don’t get rubbery. That’s all! It taste even better the next day!  The boys eat theirs with rice and hot sauce. 🙂

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Shirt says “This Ain’t My First Rodeo” Sure Ain’t!!! Big things are happening… stay tuned!

I was in downtown Atlanta to scope out locations for an upcoming photo shoot.  It is connected to a really AWESOME project! Yeah I am being secretive. I wish I could say more but  I’ve been sworn to it! Very hard for me but I promise when I share… it’s going to be good!!! The photographer on the project is Jeff Guyer of Guyer Photography.  Check him out, he is an awesome photgrapher and very patient person. Anyone who photographs me has to be. <— not kidding.   Here’s a test shot from that day. I wasn’t prepared to be photographed (hence the t-shirt and barely combed hair- I cropped out the flip flops) but I’m all smiles inside!

Kale Mango Lassi

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I really try to keep my ego in check because  I know how dangerous she can be.  Good thing I screw up enough to stay humble. 🙂 But, every now and then I do something brillant.  And today is such a day!

Allow me a moment to share…

I got to the park ready to run and realized that my one of my kids stole my headphones. Wasn’t happy with those two at that particular moment.  So that left me time to really think on my run. Which I really did not want to do. I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired. As a matter of fact, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I’ve been experiencing some new symptoms.   My disease (Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome) is known to travel with Sjrogren’s and Lupus and I can tell I am headed in the direction of one or both of those.  Extremely dry eyes and mouth, kidney pain, rashes and photosensitivity have all been coming in waves the last few months.

I’ve made adjustments in my workouts (post about that coming real soon) and tweaked my eating AGAIN. Which leads me to my thoughts on my run. I am a clean eater but I when I am having a ‘flare’ I have to take extra measures. I’ve added some additional supplements and I been focusing on restoring the good flora in my gut.  For the last year I’ve been brewing and drinking Kombucha and really seeing a huge difference in how I feel.  I am sure that it has something to do with the fact that I’ve put it in the place of my evening glass of wine BUT there is no denying the tremendous probiotic benefits of fermented foods.  My husband has been making yogurt for about as long and also cooks with the Keifer (close probiotic cousin to yogurt).  I am a one fermented girl! I truly believe that the reason I am able to get up from a rough night and still run 2.5 miles is because of my lifestyle and eating choices.  Oh, and there is that being stubborn thing.

 

When Jan and I were on our way back from our run, she mentioned that she had a ton of yogurt left (our friend Nirmala makes it for her; she actually got my husband started on his journey). I remembered that I had two mangos that needed to be used…. MANGO LASSI! Now,  it is really not the season for mangos or mango lassi ( a refreshing Indian drink) but neither of us like wasting food. Besides, I had a rough night of symptoms last night and could use a healthy dose of good stuff in my belly.  I was prepping to make the lassi when I thought…

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I  should put greens it!  I was daring to be great on this one (Brene Brown anyone?).

The kale, mango lassi was born.  I can’t swear by it but I think this is an original invention. <—–here is Miss Ego.  Thought I’d point her out.   Regardless, is really, really good.

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups yogurt (homemade is best but organic store bought is fine too)

2 very ripe mangos sliced

Blend until smooth.

Add two cups of kale to the mixture.  Blend.

Squeeze about a tablespoon of raw, local honey and blend a bit more.

This is how it looks. What a pretty shade of green!!!!

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Pretty damn proud of myself. 🙂

 

I still have a little yogurt and a pineapple that is looking at me sideways.   Round 2 here I come!

 

So a Nuddist, a Buddhist and a Tattooist walk into a bar…

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1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. 

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. 

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. 

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
Taken From The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz 

I first read The Four Agreements in 2001 and I find myself revisiting it often.  While simple by design, I lose sight of the principles. Living has a way of imposing amnesia. Therefore, I read it at least once a year.

This year this book brought me closer to a childhood friend. We had reconnected  on Facebook and I immediately felt a spiritual connection to her.  She had experienced health challenges and was exploring a holistic approach.  We had talked at length about everything from the many benefits of honey (her obsession) to kombucha (mine).  When The Four Agreements came up in discussion, somehow I knew we’d have lots to talk about. Holistic health and spiritual consciousness have a tendency to go together. 🙂

Our online conversation left us wanting to connect deeper.  We also wanted to expand the discussion and include other like-minded women.  At that moment we breathed life into our retreat.

I eventually posted an “all call”.  I figured those who needed it would connect. My Facebook friends know that I am a little ‘out there’. A weekend with me is definitely going to be fun but it also means healthy eating, activity, and stimulating conversation. Maybe not what most people have in mind when it comes a girls weekend away. I can’t say I was surprised at who answered the call.  I have an intimate group of behind the scene supporters. I got an inbox message showing interest from each one of them.  Unfortunately, when all was said and done, only one of those ladies was able to come. She invited two friends (one I had met briefly on a run). I was going my beach trip with women I hardly knew. Cool.

What happened this past weekend was nothing short of magical.  It is hard to put into words how it feels to be in a completely loving environment: free of judgment, full of support, and a healthy dose of accountability. <—– How often has that happened to you with a group of women? Me… uhhhh…. NEVER.

Did I mention that these women were all beautiful? Pop a quarter off her glutes, Marilyn Monroe bombshell, baby’s breathe Angelic, and Glamazon (can’t take credit for that one) BEAUTIFUL. It is as if their inner spirit can’t contain itself: It spills over into their smiles, their hair, their soul-full eyes.

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We prepared meals with health in mind.  From gluten-free lasagna to quinoa with blueberries; our bellies and our hearts stayed full.

We laughed and we cried.

A lot.

We took our incredible energy into Savannah and jammed out with A Nickel Bag of Funk.  WHAT A NIGHT.

So what about the title of this blog entry?

Sorry….that’s an inside joke between me and these amazing ladies.  I will tell you this: although our backgrounds and current lifestyles covered the spectrum, I couldn’t have imagined a deeper connection.

Check out our experience from Lisa’s perspective here. While you are one her blog check out her story. She is radiant.