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Family Traditions

This is the perfect time of the year for family traditions!  I was very moved by my daughter’s Facebook post on Thanksgiving Day. She wrote,  “I’m thankful for family and for family traditions. I know traditions aren’t always good, but I’m thankful for the ones that surround the holidays in my family. They give a sense of stability each year and something to look forward to. Even though we are celebrating tomorrow, the whole family will be here! And Mammaw is here until Christmas! God has blessed us with so much and I’m truly thankful! He is always faithful to provide for us, sometimes in unlikely ways. I can’t wait until next year, when we get to show our new nephew and three new nieces our traditions and be thankful together! God is so good! I love you all, family!” I wholeheartedly agree with her!

Below are photos from our ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving weekend. And by the way, there was really nothing very healthy on our menu for our Thanksgiving meal! Although I didn’t overdo it on the sweets, I did overeat a bit and boy was I miserable! However, I am committed to getting back on my healthy eating plan and thankful I didn’t have a significant weight gain. I am even more thankful for my beautiful family and our memory-filled time together.

“O give thanks unto The Lord for He is good!”

Do you have family traditions?  I would love for you to comment.

Healthy, wealthy and wise tip for today: Be sure to eat within one hour of rising each morning. Eat every three hours  and eat at the same time everyday. This will balance your hormones and blood sugar levels. However, make sure what you are eating is healthy!

Our “Giving Thanks” decorations.

Cornbread for the dressing baked in my iron skillet. Yum!

Dressing started. Wonder why it’s called ‘dressing’?

My homemade chocolate pecan pie (recipe courtesy of the Neely’s from the Food Network).

Everyone gathered in the kitchen – serving up the Thanksgiving meal buffet style.

Homemade mac and cheese, turkey and dressing, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, creamed corn, watergate salad, homemade rolls, cranberry sauce, little sweet pickles, olives and Mammaw’s hot potato salad. Delish!

Table laden with homemade desserts: pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate pecan pie, coconut cake.  How did that store bought pecan pie get in there? Oh well, it’s from Whole Foods so it much be healthy!

Enjoying our meal and each other’s company!

Remember the kids’ table when you were little?  I do!

After our Thanksgiving meal the family gathered for our annual tree hunt at Clark’s Hill Tree Farm.

Hayride to find the perfect tree.

Cousins having fun on the hayride.

On the hunt…

…for the perfect tree!

Found ours! Will it fit in our house??

The boys found theirs!

Our perfect trees are loaded on the wagon and soon will be gracing our homes.

Boiled peanuts and cocoa before we leave the tree farm.

Even the youngest grandkids love boiled peanuts!

Annual measuring of the grandkids. My how they’ve grown!

Our perfect Christmas tree has found its perfect resting place. And it fits!

All lit and  decorated with our traditional ornaments – some nearly 50 years old. Now we just need some presents!

Our annual family picture…the perfect end to a perfect day!


Vinegar: It’s Not Just for Salads

The Power of an Encouraging Word

In 1872 Dr. Brewster Higley wrote a poem entitled The Western Home, and the following year it was set to music to become the famous American folksong Home on the Range. It was written about his beloved state of Kansas. Most of you have probably heard the words to the chorus: “Home, home on the range where the deer and the antelope play.  Where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

Sounds like a pretty awesome place to live, doesn’t it?

Website for photo

Of course, a place like this doesn’t exist – at least not in this world. Discouraging words come to us at any given time from our family and friends, from students and teachers, from the news media and social media, from our bosses and our co-workers, even strangers.  You might say we live in a place ‘where seldom is heard an encouraging word and the skies are just cloudy all day.’

Today I learned the power of an encouraging word, and it was through an unlikely source – a 16 year old boy.

I work in school administration and my office is just next door to the guidance counselor.  She was out this afternoon and a young man walked in with a piece of paper in his hand. He headed towards the counselor’s door, noticed she wasn’t in and stuck his head in my office. I was just about to cut off his comments with “the counselor isn’t in” when he waved his piece of paper in front of me and said rather excitedly, “Take a look at this!” It was an Algebra II test with a grade of 103 marked in red at the top of the page – a perfect 100 with 3 bonus points. That’s when I realized this young man was looking for someone to share his good news with –  he was hoping for an encouraging word.  I called him by name and told him how wonderful his score was.  He gave me a big grin and said, “Yeah, this is going on the refrigerator!” I grinned back and said, ‘Yes, that’s exactly where it belongs.”  I told him how proud I was of him and to keep up the good work. As he walked out, his step seemed lighter and he said, “Yes, ma’am!” – kind of like someone in the military would say it. I imagine that he whistled as he floated down the hall.

Yes, I had encouraged this young man with my remarks, but I wasn’t prepared for how I felt.  I was exhilarated. My step was lighter and I was happy the rest of the day. I experienced a Home on the Range moment and I liked it!

After this encounter I realized something about myself:  I don’t give encouraging words nearly enough. Most of the time, I’m scolding kids in the hallway or lecturing a student who didn’t turn in something on time.  With my family, I am quick to be negative, slow to be positive. Today I made a silent determination in my heart to be more encouraging, to speak words that are uplifting instead of discouraging.

You may wonder what encouraging words have to do with being healthy. It has everything to do with it. Everyone needs encouragement. It’s in our DNA. Recently people have noticed that I’ve lost weight (19 pounds to be exact) and their encouraging words of “I can tell you’ve lost weight” or “you’re looking good” have really made my day.  It motivates me to stay on course with my I want to be healthy lifestyle.  There’s probably research on it somewhere, but I believe that positive, encouraging words must have a profound physiological affect on our brains.  I know they do on our emotional well-being. Words have the power to hurt or heal. I want my words to heal.

We all want encouraging words spoken to us. Let’s do the same to others.

Have you experienced the power of an encouraging word? I’d love for you to comment.

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today. Hebrews 3:13a

Healthy, wealthy and wise tips

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”Benjamin Franklin, from the 1735 edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack

Healthy tip for today (for your body): Do you feel tired, sluggish, experience brain fog or have frequent headaches? If so, you probably aren’t drinking enough water.  Since your body is about 60% water it is important to stay properly hydrated. Make sure to drink at least 8 – 10, 8 oz glasses of water a day.  Once I started properly hydrating, my headaches disappeared and my energy increased.

Wealthy tip for today (enrichment for your soul): Speak a word of encouragement to someone today. It will benefit you and them. “Paul called the disciples together and encouraged them to keep up the good work in Ephesus. Then, saying his good-byes, he left for Macedonia. Traveling through the country, passing from one gathering to another, he gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope.” Acts 20:1-2

Wise tip for today (for the brain):  Give your brain a boost with blueberries (don’t you love the alliterative sound of that). According to the article Your Brain on Blueberries by Mary Franz, “Emerging research suggests that compounds in blueberries known as flavonoids may improve memory, learning and general cognitive function, including reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension and numerical ability. In addition, studies comparing dietary habits with cognitive function in adults hint that consuming flavonoids may help slow the decline in mental facility that is often seen with aging and might even provide protection against disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.” Try a handful as a snack or add some to your oatmeal, cereal or salads.  Your brain will thank you!

Food Cravings Be Gone!

Get thee behind me!

You know that feeling.  It’s 9 o’clock at night and the chocolate cake in the fridge is calling your name.  You try not to listen to it, but there it is – “come on, eat me, eat me” – and before you know it you’ve devoured a huge piece and washed it down with a glass of cold milk.  Or it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon and the stress of your project deadline causes you to crave that candy bar you saw in the vending machine earlier.  You give in, grab your quarters, run to the machine and before you get back to your seat you’ve eaten the entire candy bar and are licking the chocolate off of your fingers.  If it sounds like I’m speaking from experience…I am.

I think most of us can identify with food cravings.  They seem to come out of nowhere and, if you’re like me, you rarely crave something that’s healthy.  While food cravings are pretty much universal, women tend to have them more than men.  One study reported that 100 percent of women experienced them as compared to 70 percent of men.  (Ladies, I think the men are lying…I’m just saying.)  Men tend to crave foods that are savory and women those that are sweet.  However, my husband invariably asks me after dinner, “Have you got anything sweet?” Hmmm.

The Anatomy of Food Cravings

It’s important to understand that food cravings and hunger are different.  Hunger is simply your body’s signal that you need to eat, and it begins with a hormone called ghrelin.  It signals the brain when our blood sugar and insulin levels have dropped and triggers the release of a chemical which stimulates our appetite.  We’re hungry.  We need food.  After we’ve eaten, another chemical is released that tells our brains that we are full.  Unfortunately this doesn’t happen immediately and the results can be an over-stuffed feeling after a big meal. That is stomach hunger in very simple terms.

Food cravings, on the other hand, involve an entirely different part of the body:  our minds.  I often crave something sweet after I’ve just finished a big meal.  Perhaps you do as well.  Food cravings have little to do with hunger and aren’t necessary for our survival.

Fatty, high calorie foods top the list of food cravings with chocolate being number one.  The reason is that these types of foods release a chemical called opioids (think opium) into our bloodstream.  Opioids then bind to receptors in the brain and the results is a feeling of pleasure and sometimes even euphoria (remember the chocolate cake?).  Simply put, these types of foods affect the same part of the brain as highly addictive drugs.  We become addicted to the foods that give us pleasure.  In the article Mind Hunger and Food Cravings, Cristen Conger says, “This type of dopamine stimulation and chemical reward that we obtain from fulfilling food cravings has been compared to drug addiction because both behaviors follow similar neural pathways.  The pleasure and reward that we derive are simply milder versions of those that drug addicts experience when they get high.”

How I Overcame My Food Cravings

It can be extremely difficult to overcome food cravings since they are so much like addictions. I am a self-confessed sugar addict. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved sweets, especially chocolate.  I used to say “if my arm was chocolate I would eat it” and I meant it!  At church pot-luck dinners I would go through the line and get a plate full of savory food, but the whole time I was eyeballing the dessert table making sure they didn’t run out before I got there. Sometimes if I saw a dessert that looked especially decadent I would grab it first!  More true confessions.

Since I began my “I Want to Be Healthy” journey in June, I’ve noticed something about my food cravings. For the most part they are gone.  In fact, after the first few days of eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods they virtually vanished.  Apparently when we fill our bodies with the foods we need we don’t crave junk.  I realize I’m being over simplistic, but this worked for me.   I made a decision to eat healthy.  It was hard to stick to it at first, but I’ve persevered.  Once you’ve made the decision, I highly recommend praying.  The Lord will help you defeat your cravings.

Practical tips:

  • Don’t allow junk food in your house.  If it’s there you will be tempted to eat it.
  • Make sure everyone in your house knows you’ve made a decision to eat healthy.
  • Partner with a friend or relative.  My daughter and I are doing this together.
  • Start a blog to chronicle your journey.  That’s what I did and it has really helped me stay on track.  If you put it out there for the world to see you’re more likely to stay with it.  It will also be an encouragement to others.

The place to overcome your food cravings is in your mind, the same place they began.  You must make a conscious choice to change. Think of the word repentance.  Repentance is simply a change of heart (mind) that results in a change in your actions.  We tend to think of repentance in a negative way, but one person put it this way – repentance is trading trash for treasure.  You’re trading the trash of unhealthy food for the treasure of food that is good for you.

You’ve heard the old adage practice makes perfect, but I once heard a teacher say that practice makes permanent – I like that.  Practice healthy eating and it will become a permanent part of your life.

Have you overcome food cravings or addictions?  I’d love to hear your story.  Please feel free to comment.

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Tips:

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”Benjamin Franklin, from the 1735 edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack

Healthy Tip (for your body):  In one of my earlier posts I shared about how magnesium helped with me foot and leg cramps.  It turns out that magnesium helps with cravings by regulating insulin and blood sugar.  It also helps with stress and insomnia which can trigger food cravings. Visit this link for other supplements that help with food cravings:  Supplements.   As always, check with your health care provider before taking any supplements.

Wealthy Tip (for your soul): “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and [that your body] may keep well, even as [I know] your soul keeps well and prospers.”  3 John 1:2 (Amplified)

Wise Tip (for your brain):  According to experts  if you’re going to take one supplement for your brain it should be DHA.  Smaller brain sizes are associated with lower DHA levels.  Natural DHA is found in cold-water seafood so it’s important to supplement if you don’t eat much seafood.  DHA reduces inflammation and increases blood flow to the brain.  Check with your doctor before taking DHA or any supplements.

Bonus Tip (for your outer beauty):  I hope you’ve tried my beauty regimen of baking soda, honey and olive oil (see blog “A Clarification of Sorts”).  My daughter-in-law uses coconut oil on her face and swears by it.  I think I’m going to try it in place of olive oil and see if I like it. If you try it or have tried it on your face let me know if it has worked for you.

Beauty, Hummingbirds and the Back Porch

A Love Affair That’s Killing Us

It’s a love affair that’s killing us.  America’s love affair with convenience and fast food, that is. Our society has forsaken the ways of our forefathers who ate what they hunted or raised, for the modern convenience of fast, easy, highly refined, processed, fat-laden foods.  Even though the cost of these foods is relatively inexpensive, they come with a hidden but much higher price tag: our health.

Americans are more obese, more disease-ridden, take more medicine and are less active than ever before.  Our elderly population is suffering at an alarming rate from diseases that most of us consider to be just a part of the ‘natural aging process.’  Wouldn’t it be great to know that we don’t have to end like that – that we can enjoy life and live it to the fullest until we die at a ripe old age of natural causes?  The obvious answer is yes!

I’ve been reading the book Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman and he provides some staggering statistics about the American diet:  “Americans currently consume about forty-two percent of their calories from fiberless animal foods and another fifty-one percent from highly processed refined carbohydrates and extracted oils.  Almost half of all vegetables consumed are potatoes and half of the potatoes consumed are in the form of fries or chips.”  Eat to Die would be a great title for a book about the typical American diet.

People groups who consume most of their calories from unrefined plant foods have low death rates from major diseases and are rarely obese.  Americans, on the other hand, consume only about ten percent of their calories from plant-based foods and have around an eighty percent death rate from killer diseases!  Yes, our love affair is killing us.

I love the term ‘nutrient dense’ foods, and I really wasn’t familiar with it until I read Dr. Fuhrman’s book.  After reading a few chapters, the light bulb came on for me.  I realized I was eating nutrient deficient foods and was “digging my grave with a fork and knife” to quote one of his chapter titles.

Dr. Fuhrman suggests that we eat ninety percent of our diet in nutrient dense food (see his website or book) and ten percent of everything else.  The Standard American Diet (SAD – yes, it is sad) recommends eating 8-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta and a mere five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, a real recipe for disaster.

I decided to give Dr. Fuhrman’s way of eating (I won’t call it a diet) a try.  I worried about my low blood sugar, food cravings, heartburn that I get from certain vegetables and fruits, my sweet tooth and a host of other issues.  I am happy to report that after the first week my food cravings disappeared, I never once had an issue with low blood sugar, my heartburn disappeared and I am not missing sweets!  I’ve also lost 11 pounds in the month and a half that I’ve been eating nutrient dense foods and have much more energy.  Have I gone off any?  Yes, a couple of times when we were having family get-togethers.  I hated the way I felt afterwards and so it was easy to get right back on.  I’m looking forward to more weight loss and feeling even better.

Look up the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ and you will find different answers as to its origin.  However, most agree that it simply means eat good food and you will be healthy – eat bad food and you won’t.  To that I add a hearty amen!

Now, if I would just start exercising…but that’s another blog for another day.

Have you had good success with healthy eating?  Please share in the comments.

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Tips:

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”Benjamin Franklin, from the 1735 edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack

Healthy tip for today (for your body): Make sure that you get your nutrients from whole foods in their natural state and don’t depend on supplements to make you healthy.  They are called supplements for a reason – they are supposed to be a supplement to a healthy diet. Also, when eating fruit make sure you eat the whole fruit as opposed to just the fruit juice.  You need the fiber and other benefits from the whole fruit that you won’t get in juice only.

Wealthy tip for today (enrichment for your soul): “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”  Psalm 118:29  A heart of gratitude is essential to a healthy lifestyle.  According to a 2007 study done by researchers at the University of California – Davis, feeling grateful can positively influence your well-being and quality of life.  Make a list of all the things you are thankful for.  Your spirits will be lifted in no time!

Wise tip for today (for the brain):  Not only do walnuts kind of look like the brain, they are good for the brain – just as our Creator intended.  Walnuts contain many of the nutrients, especially omega-3s, that our brains need for proper functioning and improving memory.  Be sure to eat the brown skin on the shelled walnuts even though it may taste a little bitter.  This flaky outer layer also contains many vital nutrients.  In addition, walnuts seem to increase your levels of melatonin, a hormone which regulates sleep.  Try a snack of walnuts before bedtime and your brain will thank you for the good night’s rest. I like to eat walnuts as a snack, but they are also great in salads, oatmeal and many other recipes.

Walnuts – food for the brain.

It’s All About Relationships

Detouring a bit from my ‘I Want to Be Healthy’ blog – well, not really.  Having loving relationships is a huge part of your health and well-being.

July 16 would have been my mom’s 94th birthday and her 75th wedding anniversary.  She married my father on her 19th birthday.  Mom was a tried and true Proverbs 31 woman.  She went to heaven went she was 83 years old and one of my nieces read Proverbs 31 at her funeral.  When it came to the verse that says, “Her children rise up and call her blessed,” all of my brothers and sisters and I stood up without prompting and remained standing during the rest of the reading. She was a blessed woman and it was our way of paying a final tribute to our mother.

These beautiful words that Solomon penned thousands of years ago truly describe my mom:  ‘Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her;  so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar.  She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household…Strength and honor are her clothing; she shall rejoice in time to come.  She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.’  from Proverbs 31

The words ‘She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household’ have special meaning to me.   When I was growing up I don’t ever remember a morning that I didn’t wake up to the smell of coffee brewing, bacon sizzling and biscuits baking!  Although I couldn’t smell them, there was always a platter of freshly scrambled or fried eggs on the table and sometimes a bowl of gravy and sliced tomatoes.  I don’t know how early mom had to get up to prepare those delightfully delicious breakfasts for us but it was well before daylight.  I never once heard her complain.   After breakfast, no one got up from the table because we knew it was time for our daily devotions.  She read from a book called Our Daily Bread and then the suggested daily Bible reading.  Mom always finished by praying for all us and the pressing needs of the day.  I will always cherish those memories.

One such morning in 1968, mom was praying for our brother, Mike, who had been wounded in Vietnam.  We knew he was back in the states but we just weren’t sure when we would hear from him.  Just as mom finished praying, the phone rang and she said (before she answered the phone), “It’s Mike!”  She picked up the phone and sure enough it was!  We were all jumping up and down and yelling, so much so that Mom had to tell us to be quiet.   I’m sure I didn’t think about it at the time, but looking back I am in awe of the answers that came as a result of my mom’s prayers.

‘Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.’

It really is all about relationships!  Love you, Mom!

My mom and dad in the 1940’s.

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