Friday, February 6, 2009

Today is The Honorable Robert Nesta Marley's Earthlight. He would have been 64 today. I can't tell you how influential Bob has been to me personally. On such a deep level. He means so much to many others too. It's amazing how his work is still relevant, very relevant today. His music, though decades old, is not dated, doesn't sound at all like 70s music. It's timeless. Still hip. Still cogent. I am grateful that he graced the Earth even though it was such a short time. He came to do what he had to do, what we needed him to do and then he was gone.

Z1's favorite Bob Marley song (and one of my faves too--the base line is just so sexy) is Stir It Up!


Blessed Earthlight Bob!!

Randomness . . .

. . . To avoid blogging about something that will take some time and thought.

This morning I tried to do Billy's Bootcamp Live. It was . . . frenetic. Billy moved from one step to the next so quickly and, honestly, I don't have enough space in my living room to do everything comfortably. Not to mention, you need the special Billy Bands to do a large portion of it. I had hoped there would be some modification and I even tried to use weights--no go. I didn't finish the DVD. Any workout that requires some kind of specialized equipment won't really work for me. I don't have the space or the extra money. I also felt weakness/bordering on pain in my knees (from the jumping jacks yesterday, no doubt ) and so I'm glad that tomorrow is yoga and not aerobics. I need the break. But, I'm proud of myself--I still exercised today using Denise Austin's Blast Away 10 Lbs. I did the second workout, the interval with weights, because it is much more low impact than the first interval on the tape. So, Billy's Bootcamp is out and I don't even know if I want to try another one of his. Frenetic!!
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It took a lot for me to start up eating fish again. I really, really believe that I shouldn't kill things to eat especially if I don't have to but I figured I was sacrificing my health for ideals and that I should try and see if it would correct some of the issues I'd been experiencing. It's almost been a year since I started eating fish again and I have noticed no improvement. I'm ready to cut it out again but I won't say permanently. I do realize that because I am eating fish, I am naturally eating less carbohydrates so if fish comes out, I have to be especially mindful of that. Also, I started Z1 on fish too (he goes mainly for fish sticks) and it's one of the few foods he likes and will request. I would have to think of a replacement.
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I was running out of yarn for Emma's Sweater that I'm knitting. I found a cheap source online for more matching yarn and I now have enough to complete the project although I've lost momentum. In the meantime, I've been using some really rough wool I have in my stash to make a yoga mat bag. I got it at a thrift store with my sister-in-law well over three years ago. Initially I thought it was hemp but after washing it, it felted and so I knew it was wool. It was spun onto a cone and has little twigs and stuff woven into it--rough. But it's what I've got and it's strong, durable, natural fiber yarn. I was going to use an intricate stitch pattern, but who was I fooling? When the boys are awake (usually when I knit or crochet), I can't focus enough to do anything complex. So I'm doing a basic pattern with little bobbles to make it a little more interesting. I should be done soon.
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Anyway, we're in the midst of a deep freeze and emotionally I'm feeling it deeply. I wish the sun would come out or I could go somewhere warm so I could feel better.
Snow on Ice by Photobunny on Flickr

It is so cold outside. Brrrr . . .

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I Found Them!

. . . A gardening method and a workout DVD that are everything I've been looking for!!

First gardening: I've been reading different books trying to figure out which gardening method/layout would work best for our garden. We don't have lots of space for the garden because we'd still like to keep most of the backyard free for the kids to play. The problem with a lot of these gardening books (including one I foolishly bought and I am thinking of returning) is that the methods require a lot of of room. So I was absolutely thrilled to come across Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. Just as I was about to order the book from Amazon, I did a quick Google search and found all these links:

Square Foot Gardening official site
Link 1
Link 2
Link 3
Link 4
Link 5

These links along with the book borrowed fairly easily from the library will get us off to a great (and frugal) start. We had originally cleared land all the way in the back of the yard but the method requires as much sunlight as possible which means we will be doing the gardening very close to the house. I know exactly where. We'll re-seed the clearing we made in the back with grass or figure out what to do with it.

Anyway, this method is very simple to do and boasts that it is not labor intensive at all. The investment in terms of supplies and tools to build the boxes is minimal and what I've come to understand from reading different gardening books is that raised beds are a superior way to garden. With this method, there's no digging in the ground so there's less chance of me encountering a snake. I am so excited. The next task is to find a seed supplier.

Secondly, the workout DVD: I just finished Level 1 of Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred and it was fabulous. There are three levels on this DVD, that is, three workouts of different intensities. Each one is 20 minutes long and consists of
- one two-minute warm-up
- three 6 minute circuits (3 minutes strength, 2 minutes cardio, 1 minute abs) and
- one 2 minute cool down.

I worked hard. The routine is extremely varied which means you don't get bored or tired of the same move. And since that was Level 1 I did today, I am pleased that it leaves me room to grow and challenge myself. And while I absolutely hate jumping jacks ( a major part of the cardio circuit), with my Enell bra, at least they are not painful to do. I was also very pleased to realize that the ab workouts on Level 1 did not really challenge me since they are very similar to the one on my Crunch Yoga DVD. I am almost sure I will purchase this one.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

African Herstory

So I was absolutely thrilled to find "The Black Herstory Series" by Anxious Black Woman, the author of Diary of an Anxious Black Woman, one of my favorite blogs. ABW put so much work and effort into this series to deliver a quality collection of essays about Black women in history that I can only hope is still available when my children are old enough to understand and learn. Links to individual posts in the series are on the sidebar of her blog.

More on teas . . .

Perhaps the best way to reap the benefits of medicinal herbs is through teas. Tinctures are great too and a convenient way to take herbs for those of us who are sensitive to taste, i.e. picky but it's true that tea is the easiest way for your body to make use of beneficial herbs. This book, 20,000 Secrets of Teas by Victoria Zak is a great resource.

From the book:
  • sage tea in the middle of the afternoon will make you fell like your day is just beginning
  • peppermint tea eases pain, headaches, and is a general cure all (I can personally vouch for that)
  • rosemary tea on your scalp can help stimulate hair growth (and soothe your scalp--I can vouch for that too)
  • thyme tea, considered the most powerful antiseptic herb, helps to heal infections, infectious diseases, and septic conditions (and when paired with raw honey makes a fabulous and seriously effective cough syrup)
  • chamomile in your bath (or on your eyes with a soaked washcloth) will totally relax and do wonder for your skin
When I was pregnant, I would make iced raspberry leaf tea. Raspberry leaf is a powerful uterine toner and I believe it helped tremendously with both births. For morning sickness, tea made from freshly grated ginger multiple times a day was my savior. I still can't believe how effective thyme tea is for breaking up coughs.*

I'm on a quest to perfect health, working through my own health issues and bodily weaknesses. For a long time, I've neglected this book. There's a small shop nearby (owned by a sista) that sells a large variety of organic dried herbs. I will be reading this book, taking notes, and making a visit to her store.

I'm happy I was moved to talk about teas yesterday because I was reminded of what a great book it is. I'm also reminded that everything happens for a purpose. There I was yesterday feeling blue because of the snow so I made some tea. Z2 was sleeping so I blogged about the tea. Then I was reminded of my book.

I'm going to be trying out different teas over time and I'll certainly share the benefits I am receiving from drinking them.

*I first learned of thyme tea for coughs from Gentle Healing for Baby and Child by Andrea Candee. This is another must-have book for those interested in natural ways to help children heal injury and illness. This book alongside Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child have been so invaluable to me. I will probably do more in-depth reviews of these books eventually but I highly recommend them.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Just Tea!

Having tea is a fond memory from my childhood when my mother and siblings would drink Lipton tea. We'd have ours with evaporated milk and lots of white sugar. She'd have hers with honey and lemon. Tea was comforting to me, giving a warm full feeling in the belly on a cold day but also as a way to connect with my mother.

As an adult, I thoroughly enjoy drinking tea and have a cup nearly every day. The key to a good cup of tea I believe is that it should be 100% natural. That means, all the flavorings are real. No "natural flavors" or anything like that. Real tea leaves. Real flavors.

There are a number of teas that fit the bill. There's Numi Teas and my favorites from that company are Golden Chai Assam Black Tea and Red Mellow Bush Rooibos (rooibos is technically not a tea). Tazo Chai fits the bill too and is also quite tasty. You can find Numi of Tazo Teas at any health food store or in the "natural section" of your local grocery store.

What I really want to share with you, though, is a gem of tea company called Not Just Tea. At the annual African Street Festival in Brooklyn, we came upon a beautifully display of all sorts of teas. We were able to have a sample of those teas which handblended by a wonderful and warm sister, the owner Jennifer Jackson. We were totally convinced. Her teas are of superior quality, uniquely blended and delicious. And I love that when I buy from her, I'm supporting a sista, supporting Black business. My favorite tea from Not Just Tea is Peppermint Patty and let me tell you, it is the absolute bomb. You can buy all kinds of tea making supplies on her site too if messing with loose teas is not your thing (you know I just use a good old Pyrex measuring cup and strainer to make my tea especially after one too many tea infuser mishaps). The owner has a few retail partners so if you live close to any of those locations, you should absolutely drop by and give her teas a try. If not, don't hesitate to place an order. Delivery is quick and for any tea lover, her teas make a nice gift.

Anyway, I'm sitting here watching the snow fall and enjoying a cup of peppermint patty. While I love my tea, I still can't wait till summer.

Photo credit: "After the Tea Party" by Soaleha on Flickr

Glasses for Z1?

Everyday Eyeglasses by NCBrian on Flickr

I must admit that there's a fear that's been nagging me since the moment I found out I was pregnant with Z1: passing on the genes that have challenged me throughout my life.

Sounds so crazy, right? But . . .
  • Acne ran me through as a teenager and still gives me a run for my money.
  • Severe allergies have often kept me from doing what I want to do.
  • I've worn glasses since I was 8 and at 27, I'm completely dependent on them.
Since my children are not old enough to deal with acne and don't seem to have any symptoms of allergies, the last bullet is the one that right now has me the most worried.

Z1 is constantly saying that he can't see. Now, I don't know if he's saying that just as an excuse to press his face close to the computer screen or television or if it's true. But it is seriously bothering me. I'm going to have to take him in to my optometrist (or should I find one specially for children?) to have his eyes checked. But honestly, I'm not willing to put glasses on a three year old. I've been wearing them since I was 8 and even though they are called corrective lenses, they don't correct the fact that my eyes are damaged. Glasses are truly an outgrowth of Western medicine: ameliorate the symptoms but don't address the underlying cause of the disease/sickness. In other words, glasses don't heal your eyes and year after year, the prescription gets stronger and stronger. I am now refusing to get a stronger prescription for my glasses. I don't know what I'll do if my vision gets worse but I certainly don't intend to make up for it with stronger lenses. And I certainly I don't want to start my three year old on this road just yet. But oh, do I remember the eye strain headaches and the general disoriented-ness that comes when you can't see more than a few inches in front of you.

So of course, I'm interested now in natural ways to really correct eyesight and heal eyes. Myopia and astigmatism are the vision issues I deal with so I'll be on the lookout for how to treat these things in myself and my son through diet and supplements. I'm not opposed to surgery for myself. I've tried eye-exercises before and that was a bunch of tomfoolery but who knows? Maybe I just didn't give it enough of a try?

So I'm asking myself again, what can you really do about your genes?

See, I've come to the conclusion that every challenge we face in life is for a reason, to take us to another level of consciousness and understanding (if we choose to see it that way). My eyesight is precious to me and I can't say that underneath all my other worry is the profound concern that it won't stay with me. I'm hoping, really hoping that in this particular area of my life (and my children's lives) I can find a way to become fearless and empowered.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Raw Homemade Lara-Type Bars

So this summer I'm determined to go at least 50% raw. I already have a green smoothie nearly every morning and I'm eagerly anticipating the return of farmer's markets and getting our garden going so that I can incorporate organic, locally grown produce back into my family's diet. Right now, we're mostly conventional except for frozen organics. We are still eating plenty of fruits and vegetables but I couldn't swing the cost of organics from Whole Foods right now.

Anyway, in thinking about going raw I realized that I never shared my recipe for Homemade Lara Bars. Lara Bars are simple (you will recognize every ingredient) but delicious and surprisingly filling. Because the ingredient list is so simple, they are easy to replicate at home.

Pineapple Coconut Homemade Lara-Type Bar
You'll need:
1/2 c raw almonds (I get mine at Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup dried dates (about 6-8)
1/2 cup dried shredded coconut
6-8 dried pineapple rings, soaked for 15 mins.
1-2 tbsp soaking water

Grind nuts in food processor till fine. Add dates, shredded coconuts, pineapples and process adding water (start with 1 tbsp) till the mixture comes together. Roll into balls or press into a pan and cut into bars.

Apple Homemade Lara-Type Bar
You'll need:
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup dried dates
1/2 cup dried apple rings
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
dash cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger powder
1-2 tbsp. water

Follow the same process as above, making sure to grind the nuts first.

These will keep for a couple of days in the fridge and are a really great, handy, satisfying snack.

The variations are endless but the basic formula includes dates and raw almonds. Commercially produced Lara Bars come in a myriad of flavors and is a great starting point for your own experimentation.

Book Review of Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

Many times as I was reading this book, I wanted to put it down. Angela's Ashes is not a happy story. In fact, the abject poverty, squalor, desperation and makes it downright depressing. But it is masterfully told. McCourt's first person writing style is real, genuine and so you feel along with the protagonist: abandonment, disappointment, shame, grief, anger, betrayal but also hope and joy and pleasure in the simplest things. The turning point is when Frank finally decides to forget about his father, a drunk who abandons his family, and become a man. The story becomes more poignant as we watch Frank struggle to transform himself. As the story ends, though, the reader gets a sense that life is going to be better (the protagonist finally makes it back to America after scrimping and scrounging and working his "arse" off to pay the fare). He feels in America he'll be able to do great things and the reader hopes so much that "'tis".*

*"'Tis" is the title of the last chapter.

I'm currently reading Fledgling, Octavia Butler's last novel and I must say that I really am in love with Octavia Butler. I am moving through the novel quickly and really enjoying all of the questions that Ms. Butler asks--questions with no easy answers. Fabulous. I had started to read Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker but it was a bit too muddled. I need to have a little more time/space to focus so I can get into it. I own that particular book, though, so it's cool. No pressure to have to read it in time before it's due.

Trying out Fitness DVDs

I'd like to build my home fitness DVD (and tape) collection so I'm borrowing fitness DVDs from the library to sample them before I purchase. I have three borrowed titles in my possession right now.
  1. Tight on Time Body Blast by Tamilee Webb. Ms. Webb is famous for buns and abs of steel. I actually really like her style and presentation on this DVD. The "No-nonsense Cardio Step" is 10 minutes long so with her warm up, the cardio step three times and her cool down, you could potentially get a really good, high energy workout. The only downside is that I need an aerobic step. I asked on Freecycle and no one has responded as yet. I know I don't want to buy one just to do this particular workout but if I come across other DVDs that use a step and that I like equally as much, I think it's worth it to get the step. Ms. Webb has other 10 minute workouts to target other areas of the body including the belly area. The next area I'd be interested in focusing on would be my belly which has lost all but all of its tone after having babies. I've got an ab workout tape by Denise Austin though, so unless I get the step, this DVD really might not be worth me buying it.
  2. Yoga Shakti by Shiva Rea. I've been doing the Crunch Yoga and I absolutely love it. I look forward to it more than I look forward to the aerobics. I sweat when I'm doing it (burning calories) but I feel strong, lean and centerd after I finish. I could definitely see myself getting into a more serious yoga practice (and taking classes which everyone says is necessary to really learn well). So I was reading on one of my message boards and someone recommended Yoga Shakti. I did the "basic" today and it was okay. It's very slow and mellow (the point is the practice of yoga not necessarily exercise) so while I enjoyed it, I felt like I had wasted my time to exercise this morning and kept thinking of when I could squeeze in something aerobic today. When I visited my family in Arizona a few years ago, I had the chance to see Wai Lana on television and followed along with her. My issue with her was also that it was too laid back although I felt really, really good after following her sequence. So, if anything, I think I may have to give Wai Lana another look. So, long and short, I'm not sure if I'll add Yoga Shakti to the collection just yet especially since I may soon have the opportunity to learn Raja Yoga Meditation. I've only done the "Basic" though so I'm going to give it a chance.
  3. Denise Austin's Personal Training System. If I didn't own "Blast Away 10 lbs.", this would be a great DVD. Blast Away 10 lbs. though is as much as I want from Ms. Austin. While her workouts are excellent, her style is awful. She's usually off rhythm and too perky for my tastes. I can ignore all that for a really good workout. "Blast away 10 lbs." is only 20 minutes long but it is really high intensity and you definitely feel like you exercised when you're done. I was hoping for something similar but longer on the Personal Training System. No luck. What's great about the Personal Training System, however, is that it is an all in one DVD.--Ms. Austin focuses on every part of the body and the DVD is customizable so that you can choose the level of intensity you want. And so for that reason, I highly recommend it and would definitely have added it to the collection.
I've got more DVDs on hold at the library and as I watch them and do them, I'll post about them. Meanwhile, I'm sticking with my Blast Away 10 lbs. and Crunch Yoga as my go-to workouts. I think for right now, they're working well so I don't feel any pressure at all to get new DVDs. Borrowing the DVDs is a great way for me to check out a large variety of workouts from different people before deciding on what I want to actually add to my collection and it also breaks up the monotony.

Forgot to mention: I'm also reviewing yoga DVDs for children. So far, we've tried YogaKids: The Original and it's really good. Except for the chapter called "Cobra Pose" which has way too many snakes for me to handle watching given my phobia, we really, really enjoy it. At random times during the day, you can catch Z1 doing various poses which is cute but also great for focusing and calming him. Each pose on the DVD is introduced separately and independently so my only wish is that there was more flow, i.e. putting poses together into a series. I've got another kids' yoga DVD on hold at the library though so maybe we'll prefer that one. If not, I'll be in the market to purchase Yoga Kids.

On the YogaKids site, I signed up for the free "Weekly Yoga Pose". I just got my first one in my e-mail inbox and I like it. It teaches a letter ("L") and the difference between left and right while teaching a yoga pose.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Purposely Forgotten Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I foung this powerful piece via Womanist Musings.

From Mumia Abu-Jamal on death row

Mumai Abu-Jamal

The following excerpts come from a recording made on Jan. 15, Dr. King’s 80th birthday. Go to www.prisonradio.org to hear Mumia’s audio columns.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is once again being resurrected this time of year, in part because his birthday is approaching, but also, of course, because of the imminent swearing-in of President-elect Barack H. Obama—the first Black man in U.S. history to be so honored.

As often is the case, the Rev. King—who is being projected today—bears little relationship to the real, live, breathing and growing man behind the name.

Like many men, he had his highs and his lows, his fears and his doubts, his inspirations and his insights. His Washington speech—known as “I Have a Dream”—was neither his finest, nor his most profound, but like many Black preachers who are master orators, he brought his best to it.

King, like many busy leaders, had others write some of his speeches, and one of those men was Vincent Harding, now a theologian and historian. Harding contributed to King’s groundbreaking N.Y. Riverside Church speech, delivered precisely a year before his assassination, where he denounced the Vietnam War—marking his break with an American president (L. B. Johnson), the corporate media and many of his closest allies in the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference).

President Johnson felt betrayed by King, and the media turned from praise to ridicule. In his book “Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero” (N. Y.: Orbis, 1996), Harding quotes from the Washington Post editorial page which slammed King, who “had diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people” because of his speech against the Vietnam War, which the Vietnamese called “the American War.”

But betrayals didn’t stop him, nor did nasty editorials deter him. Indeed, the violence of war radicalized him deeply, so much so that he said later, “The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.” (Harding, p. 101).

Think of that: capitalism, militarism and racism—as evils. When’s the last time you’ve heard that?

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was being radicalized by the churning events around him—and, a year before his death, he was both anti-war and anti-capitalist.

Ask yourself, if King were alive today, with his views, could he be elected president?

If not, why not? What does that say about the nation’s political system?

___________________________________________________________________-Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Night Weaning

Z2 is now 13 months old and his mama is ready to get a full night of interrupted sleep. Depending on how well he naps during the day, he generally gets up three to four times a night to nurse. I, of course, haven't minded the sacrifice because I know in the grand scheme of things, it's really a very short period of time but I'm so ready to wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested. Z2 was night-weaned at about this age when I realized I couldn't function at work without at least five hours of continuous sleep. To night wean Z1, I slept in a different room for 2 weeks. The hubby's job was to pat, rock, basically do whatever it took to get Z1 to go back to sleep without nursing. I would make sure he had plenty to eat before bed and I got very serious about his daytime naps. In about two weeks, I was able to return to the bed and everyone slept much better. It was a challenge, though, because Z1 was not trying to give up night nursing without a fight. I suspect it will be the same with Z2. But I'm ready. In the back of my mind I know that this is one step away from babyhood but it's one step toward a different phase of our lives. He can't stay a baby forever and I'm looking forward to being able to do more personally and with them. Night weaning will allow me to shift my schedule around: stay up a little later at night and sleep a little later in the morning or keep my schedule and just have more energy to do more. So I may give him a few more weeks but then, Z2, your time is up! :)

Now most folks I know quit nursing eons ago and so I'm sometimes hesitant to admit that I'm still nursing. A lot. You know, weird looks and all that. But I'm very grateful and proud that our nursing relationship (Z2 and I) has been pretty much flawless. If you know me, you know I always say, Breastfed Babies are the Best Fed Babies. And I don't make any apologies for that. For my children, I wouldn't have it any other way and I'm very glad that I haven't had to. I enjoy nursing and Z2 definitely does too. I've enjoyed very healthy, glowing children who kick illness quickly and easily. Z1 got his first ear infection well after his second birthday, after he was weaned when I was pregnant with Z2. I have a personal testimony (well) about breastfeeding.

Most of Z2's sustenance continues to come from breastmilk and will come from breastmilk for quite a bit while longer. But this phase is drawing to a close. And I'm a little relieved, a little sad, and a little excited. All at the same time.
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