Capers, Good and Good for You

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I love capers! I bought some for a delish pasta recipe a few weeks ago and now that I have them in the house, I’ve put them in other things. Last night I dolled up a bottle of organic Muir Glen tomato basil pasta sauce with a generous dose of capers, plus some chopped olives, and sautéed onion, garlic and whole package of mixed mushrooms with all sorts of interesting types along with the sliced buttons and portobellos. What a yummy mix!

In the 2006 article, “Importance of functional foods in the Mediterranean diet” (Public Health Nutrition: 9(8A), 1136–1140 DOI: 10.1017/S1368980007668530) available here, we learn that capers are good for you, too (emphasis mine):

Garlic, onions, herbs and spices are used as condiments in the [Mediterranean Diet], and may increase the nutritional value of food. Some also contain large quantities of flavonoids (fennel, chives, etc.) or allicin (raw garlic and onion); the latter may have cardiovascular benefits and help improve cognitive function3. The caper, Capparis spinosa L., which is found all over the Mediterranean basin and is consumed in salads or on pizzas, etc. has been used in traditional medicine for its diuretic and anti- hypertensive effects, and to treat certain conditions related to uncontrolled lipid peroxidation15. Caper extract contains flavonoids (kaempferol and quercetin derivatives) and hydrocinnamic acids with known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Panico et al.15 concluded capers to have a chondroprotective effect; they might therefore be of use in the management of cartilage damage during the inflammatory phase (p. 1137).

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If you want some great recipes exploring the flavor and versatility of capers, check out this HuffPost article. That yummy-looking photo is from Recipe Number 18! The article credits this one to Cafe Johnsonia.

And I predict that capers might just feature in a tasty meal on your table very soon!

Buon Appetito!

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For the Daily Post

Potato and Beet Salad with Navy Beans

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Photo courtesy of and recipe adapted from Naturally Ella

Hungry?

This isn’t a recipe blog, but sometimes I just have to share something great! Since I’m a vegetarian eating mostly vegan, plus my recent hospital stay and admonition to eat more high fiber foods, and my husband enjoying loaded summer salads for dinner, this recipe was promising. The recipe I used is here.

I made a lot of changes due to what was available. I couldn’t find white or yellow beets. Red ones were discouraged for how they’d look in this recipe. So I swapped in a can of artichoke bottoms in water, cut up and roasted with the potatoes. My dill, bought two weeks ago, went bad so I used dried dill. I didn’t feel like spending the money for shallots when I still had half a bag of small boiling onions, so I used some of those instead. They were great! I didn’t have champagne vinegar and probably wouldn’t buy it, so I swapped in some light red wine vinegar. I would have used my Bragg’s apple cider vinegar but it’s getting low and the mother is pretty thick. Time to buy a new bottle!

This was so good it was all we had for dinner, served with a crusty, seeded whole grain bread and some organic extra virgin olive oil for dipping. The only thing I’d do differently next time would be to add roasted pine nuts.

Bon Appetít!

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 22

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Graphic courtesy of Awaken Mindset

It’s been about 22 weeks since US Inauguration Day 2016, the life event that has propelled me into a weekly blog. This week has brought terrible heartache from the London fire, the hateful shooting of a Congressman and others ironically bringing both US political parties together as nothing has in a quite a while, more hostile deaths of US servicepersons in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and most recently the deadly collision of a US destroyer class ship with a huge Philippine cargo ship 56 miles off the coast of Japan, with the fate of 7 sailors currently unknown. Add to these tragedies the serious American legal issues mounting up daily and the subsequent angry tweets and contortions of logic and truth.

I’ve curated some really good diversions for you this week, and I hope you’ll find something you can use here! There is such beauty, peace and positive energy all around us despite the negativity and fear being sown far and wide as distraction and worse. Don’t let the dark distract you from the light which is always there.

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Hyyge House founder Alex Beauchamp has elevated eclectic, homey and welcoming style to a major thing, and her blog is filled with wonderful photos showing her exquisite, artistically appointed cottage in Topanga Canyon, near Malibu in Southern California. Every item in her home, indoors and out is well chosen and sweetly positive. I would happily live in any of the cottages and bungalows she has furnished in the hygge style. Her blog and Instagram could uplift your regular web itinerary.

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When you think of water balloon fights, perhaps you recall your mom or other scolding authority figure telling you not to do that, you could put an eye out. Or maybe you remember happily vicious wars, a flurry of waterlogged missiles pounding your opponents as you tried to dodge theirs and failed, both ending up soaked and exhausted when the last balloon was launched and wetly spent. Yes, water balloons can be very dangerous and probably should only be used with goggles, and all the rubber remains ought to be be gathered up so they don’t end up in the gullet of a bird or other creature. That said, here is a video of the craziest water balloon caper ever. Needless to say, don’t try this yourself. It could have ended very badly!

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Photo courtesy of Lion’s Roar magazine

What with all the daunting problems our planet faces right now and in the future of our kids and grandkids, our personal challenges and stresses, and the political climate in the US, UK and elsewhere that begets anger, fear and cynicism, a vulnerable person could burn out. If you’re a helping professional, one who bears witness to the trauma and suffering of others, and you don’t exercise adequate self care, your risk of burnout is great. Fortunately, burnout is preventable. Lions Roar magazine addresses this important issue here.

And here is your musical medicine for today, a powerful spiritual anthem for my time, and maybe for yours. My friend Ann Koplow recently ended her blog with a wonderful video. I listened in rapt delight. Then, as often happens when I visit YouTube I listened to another, and loved this one. You may need to watch it more than once to identify all the players. Hint: Clapton was clean shaven, or a least I think that was he! Listening on your Bluetooth speaker is highly recommended.

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 21

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It’s Week 21 and we need distance and diversion now more than ever. Not only those, but we’ll also need energy and resolve for activism and action, and the chutzpah to do what it takes to effect change. As Mahatma Gandhi taught us, we need to be the change we wish to see in the world.

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Israeli-Palestinian Unity flag by Deviant Art

First, how about a really positive news story? A Jewish nurse was treating a mother who could not nurse her infant. What she did was wonderful. Read the details here.

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Photo from mojan.com

Second, are you an empath? If you are a sensitive person who feels the pain and suffering of others, if you yearn to help, if you are a helping professional (a nurse, a teacher, a physician, a psychologist, a therapist or counselor, an advocate) you may be an empath. Self-care is essential for your wellbeing, and one way to engage that self-care is through the use of healing gemstones. Sivanaspirit offers us some great information on this subject.

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Alice Coltrane, widow of musician John Coltrane, was a skilled musical artist in her own right. He had ordered a full-sized floor harp to be made for him, and the making of it took quite a while. Sadly, he died before it arrived. The harp sat for some time, but finally his widow decided to learn to play it. The following video features the lush jazz sounds she coaxes from this very harp. The New Yorker magazine published a comprehensive feature on Alice Coltrane’s devotional music that digs deep into her story.

 

Namasté 

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 19

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Wow, Week 19 already. Seems like more, doesn’t it? An eternity. Yeah well, you can live and die in a moment, so…

This week in my little life has been crazy. It started a bit tentatively with a few days of transient abdominal pain that got progressively worse, then a trip to the doctor who sent me to the ER. It was a recurrence of diverticulitis, the first I’ve had in over 20 years. Think labor pains or the worst doubling-over belly ache you ever had. Intense. But I’m home now and slowly getting back to normal, although still not there yet.

Here’s what I’ve curated for you this week:

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Photo by Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

First, an inspiring piece about the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu. I know that his dad, known as “Moon” Landrieu, who was also a mayor of this most unique American city, would be very proud of him. I know I am, and I’m a distant niece of Robert E. Lee. Thank you, Mitch!

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Uruguayan amethyst, courtesy Gem Adventurer

 

Love sparkly, colorful jewels?          Me, too. Especially purple ones. Some of you may be surprised to know that some stones are more suited to you than others. Take this quiz to learn which is your best gemstone. (I was thrilled to learn that mine is amethyst.)

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Spinners from learningexpress.com

How do you like those new fidget spinners? What? Haven’t heard of them? Then hustle over to Mashable to learn more. By the way, there are more different kinds than I knew.

I was delighted to read that Outkast’s “Hey Ya” is the choice of many Australians for their new national anthem.

Namasté

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A to Z Challenge: D is for Dandelions

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D is for Dandelions.

Up here on the Pocono Plateau of Monroe County where our town of Pocono Pines is situated, the dandelion crop is very abundant this year. The fields fill with gorgeous yellow flowers, and then up pop the fluffy heads and it looks as if it’s snowing as the seeds take flight on the breeze. After that we have fields of stems looking rather shaggy and forlorn. Then the mowers come and cut them all down only for the process to start all over again. Everything in its time, the cycles of life continue, day to day, month to month, season to season, and year to year.

I took these photos over the past weekend. Not wanting to miss blogging, I wrote this post from the hospital where I am unexpectedly confined for 3 to 5 days for tests and observation after a bout of painful diverticulitis. No fun, but my friends are wonderful and so is my sweet husband who braved a 60-mile round trip to bring me clothes, iPhone charger, companionship and love. ❤️ The life cycle continues with me as well. 🙏

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I decided to take the A to Z Photo Challenge around my little town of Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania. We’ve had a home here for over 10 years, and taking this challenge is offering me the opportunity to get to know it even better than I have. I hope you will enjoy this photo journey as much as I do!

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 18

 

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Week 18, and each day this week seems to have brought one Breaking News story after another. What do we do with the parry and thrust, the he said-he said, the weird, the loony, the scary and the unbelievable?  To paraphrase Bette Davis in “All About Eve”: Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy fight.

So of course we need our diversions. Here goes. Mother Jones magazine says that we are turning to comfort foods to salve our fears and quell our anxieties.

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Some turn to Pinterest to ogle food porn, those succulent photos of cheesy macaroni casseroles, pans of iced cinnamon rolls, plates of pretty cookies, pots of spicy chili, and recipes for every imaginable ethnic cuisine or dietary plan, and every way to cheat you could possibly want. If you want to enjoy a meal and not go crazy off the dietary deep end, it helps to search “healthy smoothies” or “salads” or your desired way of eating, be it vegan, paleo, low-carb, plant-based, high-protein or what have you. Then the food porn is at least in your wheelhouse. Hmm, sorry for the mixed metaphor 🤔.

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It is during times like these when mind-fulness, focus on the experience of the here and now, is crucial. The projection into the future doom and gloom, the downfall of our democratic civilization, the climate meltdown of our planet home, a nuclear holocaust, and all the other scary prospects that the future might hold if this or that happens, is a kind of mental exercise that only brings suffering. We have enough suffering, or dukkha, in our lives as it is. The Buddha said that dukkha–suffering, is the First Noble Truth. So to learn to stay focused, meditation is a great help.

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Helping others can help lift us from a potential pit of despair. Suffering may be unavoidable, but it brings good karma to help alleviate it whenever we can. A dear friend of mine and his wife are helping to bring water to an arid part of Africa, a location where women and children have to carry heavy containers of water on their heads up hills just to cook and wash. If you would like to help the Abonse Pipeborne Water Project, they have a GoFundMe campaign on right now.

This week’s musical diversion comes to us from 1962 when cellist Yo Yo Ma performed for President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy and President Eisenhower after having been discovered by famed cellist Pablo Casals. His older sister played the piano to accompany this precocious 7-year-old boy’s amazing performance.

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 16

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The Sixteens above commemorate The Pixel Project’s “16 For 16” Campaign: “A campaign in honour of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence while raising funds for the cause to end Violence Against Women.” Definitely worth it.

Ready for some diversion? Here’s what I’ve got for you this week. You’re worth it!

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Putting ourselves first is often wisest, especially when wishing to help others.  As we hear from a flight attendant on every airline flight, we must put the oxygen mask over our own nose and mouth before assisting our children or others around us. So when we neglect our own needs in the service of others, we will not be able to do it for long. We must refill our own cup if we wish to share generously with others. Here’s a good piece by Marc and Angel: An Open Letter to Those who Always Put Themselves Last. You’re worth it!

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Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Shimane prefecture, Japan
日本語: 足立美術館。所在地は島根県安来市

One thing we must do for ourselves is cope as well as we can with stress. Avoiding stress is impossible, but drowning in it is usually avoidable. What can we do to minimize stress so it is less toxic and destructive to our lives and those who care about us and those who may need our help? We’re all worth it.

  • Breathe deeply and mindfully to reduce anxiety; it works!
  • Eat nutritiously and regularly; starvation is no virtue.
  • Sleep at least 6 hours every night, but no more than 8 is best.
  • Exercise at least 3 days a week and walk on the other days.
  • Practice your spiritual or religious beliefs sincerely and often.
  • Meditate, do yoga, pray or seek peace and beauty, as in the zen garden above.
  • Live your values, which means understanding what they are.
  • Give and receive love, affection and kindness freely.
  • Seek help for your own problems: therapy, medical treatment or expert advice.
  • Consider adopting a pet if your circumstances permit; they enrich our lives.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff (most is), pick your battles and put down the bat.

Moses Sumney is a recent musical discovery of mine, thanks to a video in a GQ article about Brad Pitt. The article is good, and Moses Sumney is definely “Worth It.”

Namasté

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Workers of the World, Unite!

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Pete Seeger, in Shielagh’s translation of a photo originally appearing in Bluegrass Today

Today is May 1st, May Day, the International Day of the Worker, a day to show solidarity with labor unions and their hardworking members everywhere. If you work an 8-hour day, thank a union. If you work a 40-hour week, thank a union. If you get a break in the morning and the afternoon, thank a union. If you get paid overtime when your hours exceed the 8-hour day or 40-hour week, thank a union.

Lest we toss the Workers of the World Unite slogan, attributed to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, into some extremist dustbin, read what Abraham Lincoln said in his first annual message to Congress in 1861:

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital hire or buy another few to labor for them. 

— U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, December 3, 1861

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Union blood runs through our veins in this family. My parents were both union members. My dad, an architect and set designer for the motion picture industry (MGM and Twentieth Century Fox) in the 1960s, belonged to the IBEW, The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. My mother worked as a draftsperson and also as a set designer for RKO Pictures in the late 1940s and belonged to the IATSE, The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. I belonged to the CWA, The Communications Workers of America, when I worked in the business office of Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania and then belonged to the IBEW during a brief stint as a directory assistance operator. My husband retired as a member of the CWA after a career in the public sector. His father belonged to the APWU, The American Postal Workers Union as a postal worker. His mother belonged to DC 37 of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, as a human resources clerical employee for the City of New York. And for almost 20 years, I maintained my psychotherapy office in the Amalgamated Lithographers Union Building near Union Square in New York.

This country was built on union strength. Let’s support those thousands of hard working men and women lending their collective strength to extend the union movement and thereby strengthen this great nation. Our best times as a country have been when unions have surged, bringing freedom from want, freedom from preventable illness through affordable healthcare, and freedom from job insecurity.

So, let us turn up the sound and let our voices ring, as we join Pete Seeger singing, “Union Maid” with its iconic refrain, “You can’t scare me, I’m sticking with the union.”

And perhaps you remember the ballad of Joe Hill, a martyr to the union cause, as sung so beautifully by Joan Baez:

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 12

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Graphic courtesy of Men’s Health magazine 

It’s week 12 of this weekly post, roughly corresponding with the recent change in leadership in the US. You won’t read specifics from me here by design, but the news is filled with the details. All I can say is, please choose your information sources wisely. There are extreme sites out there that conflate and contort reality to suit their base. Enough said.

Here’s your first diversion: I love those colorful veggie numbers above, and when I found the source, Men’s Health magazine, I read the piece. The idea is to have a 12-hour break between the last bite of one day and the first bite of the next. So if you had a dish of ice cream at 9pm, you would wait until 9am to have the next day’s breakfast. They cite research and recommend limiting eating to an 8-hour window.

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Buddha’s Diet, from Running Press

Buddha’s Diet by Tara Cottrell and Dan Zigmond recommends much the same eating window. While Buddhist monastics typically limit eating between dawn and noon, this book advises to limit eating to nine hours, and to do so mindfully and healthfully, but there are no lists of must-eats and must-nots. I have been following its guidelines now for several weeks and find it easy to do and beneficial in a number of ways. The morning does feel like a fast. Before that first meal, I drink decaf black coffee, decaf tea, seltzer and plain water, as much as I can, to stay hydrated. I do have caffeinated coffee if I really need it, but most of experts I’ve read say we’re better off without it. Plus, it dehydrates.

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Photo courtesy of National Geographic 

Is laughter really the best medicine as the Reader’s Digest always said? Could be. Author and former Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins reportedly cured himself of a serious illness by deliberate laughter, having Marx Brothers movies brought into his hospital room and giving in to deep belly laughs. There’s a lot out there on the subject, so Google it yourself. Now, enjoy reading about the mischievous Kea parrots of New Zealand who love to laugh. The second video on the page shows their playful resourcefulness. Good for a chuckle, too.

And for your listening pleasure, here is Angel Olsen with “Never Be Mine.”

 

Namasté 

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