Wednesday, November 2, 2011


There are two types of fiber. Soluble and insoluble, but neither have much to do with your stomach. Fiber as a whole is plant parts, no more no less. Plants are made of long carbon chains, which our human bodies cannot break down into food parts.  Though many other animals can break down fiber into usable energy, but that is because they have the proper stomach bugs.  Animals like cows (because of the ruminant bacteria in their stomachs) and termites (also thanks to the bacteria in their gut) can make food out of fiber, but that’s a whole other conversation. Today we are sticking with people.

Soluble fiber changes is a spongy like substance in our stomachs and holds onto food parts which are then passed into our intestines. While the fiber absorbs water it mixed with food and creates a jelly like substance that slowly moves through the intestines. Our intestinal walls are made up of small finger like protrusions called intestinal villus. These little projections increase the surface area of our intestines and allow for more food to be absorbed and well as helping to move food and fiber (and dead bacteria) through to our colon. As the villi (plural of villus) move all this stuff through they are finding food bits to absorb for energy creating a slow release of metabolic energy which helps keep your blood sugar and energy levels even. Quite brilliant right?!

So while soluble fiber is sponging up food bits and helping to control your metabolic energy, insoluble fiber is acting like a broom. When a person eats things like fat and sugars and various processed foods spider web like blockages can begin to form in the intestines over time. Insoluble fiber can absorb many times its own weight in water. Which creates a large flexible mass that passes through your intestines and colon picking up any bits of left over junk clogging up the path. It literally sweeps the path clean as it goes.

How do you get this incredible cleaner-outer?! Eat plants of course. Lots of them. Plants have a funny way of being pretty complete sources of nutrition and bodily needs. Fruits like plums and prunes have a thick skin covering a juicy pulp. The skin is insoluble fiber (broom) and the pulp is the soluble fiber (sponge). Other plants like legumes and whole grains are both fiber and protein, which creates a super packed slow release energy meal that helps protect your blood sugar levels. Nuts and seeds are both soluble and insoluble fiber as well as protein source. And veggies such as broccoli, carrots, green beans, celery, leafy greens, etc are packed with both types of fiber, as well as a whole host of important vitamins and minerals. Fruits too, don’t forget the fruits.

The importance of all of this is riding your body of toxins. Dead bacteria, fats, and processed foods  that cannot be digested properly or cause allergic reactions  are all toxic and create irritation to your villi. When they get fried you no longer absorb nutrients, which means lower energy and missing nutrition that could otherwise properly power your bodily functions.  The longer these irritants sit in your system the more build up is created and sooner or later you may be staring colon cancer in the face.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Knowing Your Family and Their Medical History

If you ever feel like you have symptoms of a larger health problem the first person/people you should be taking to are the members of your family (genetic members). You are a member of a vast gene pool. And chances are if you feel like something is going on with you, they too have probably experienced like symptoms. Most health problems, with the exception of those gained from exposure to extreme conditions (radiation, mercury or other heavy metal poisoning as examples), are due to the expression of genes that are you born with and inherited from your family. I realize this sounds really obvious, but I was recently not smart enough to follow my own sage advice and had myself pretty freaked out for a good few months.

Starting around early May I was getting really bad dizzy spells. Right away I started tracking what I was eating, doing, and exposing myself to. I then took the information I collected from observing myself and did some research on what the heck could be causing these new found and incredibly annoying/debilitating dizzies. With the help of WebMd and some other medical websites I had in four months time convinced myself I was diabetic, had cancer, a brain tumor, low blood pressure, a major ear infection, Menieres disease, vestibular neritus, delayed head trauma from a car accident 2 years ago and possibly pregnant.  

The worst part of all of this (other than being dizzy all the d*mn time), was I kept going back to my maternal medical history. My mom bless her, is nearly genetically perfect. No family history of any of these medical problems I had since convinced myself I was suffering from. In fact she is tall, thin, beautiful, has perfect teeth, eyes, no allergies and rarely gets ill. I on the other hand in no way take after her. I look like my dad and his father more than anyone I am related to and much like them, I have terrible eyes, had braces twice, chronic ear infections as a child and am allergic to nearly everything. Yet, even while being fully aware of all of these things, I still did not think for a second my dad and my grandfather might hold the key to my new found vertigo. Instead, it must be a tumor.

It wasn’t. After a surprise visit from my dad a few days ago and a long discussion about how his parents/my grandparents were doing, he mentioned that my grandfathers dizzy spells were getting worse (say what now?!). At which point I had perhaps the world’s biggest “oh-duh” moment. The discussion continued and the prognosis is such: the combination of my genetically defective ears and being allergic to most everything means when I and my grandfather and my father had a severe allergic reaction to something, our inner ears get a tad swollen, which puts pressure on the equilibrium mechanism, which causes seemingly out of the blue vertigo.  The real kicker in all this was, all spring and summer I kept commenting on how I wasn’t having my normal seasonal allergies. I had actually be unknowingly suffering from allergies, but because I have been working so hard to eliminate the things I am allergic to from my life instead of feeling like the flu had stomped on my will to live, my allergies were less sever and more centralized to my inner ear. I was just missing that small little bit about family history that could have helped me figure out the problem sooner.  

So while it took me all spring and summer to pin point was what going on with my head, I did finally get my answers. And I managed to avoid a lot of unnecessary medical exams and expenses, all of which probably would have given me the usual “I don’t know what is wrong, here take this”. My own personal cure of dizzy spells works just fine, one allergy pill and one Ibprophen and a whole lot of water. No more dizzy, no more tumors or diabetes or head trauma. Just a minor bruise in my pride and intelligence and a whole lot of relief.

The moral of the story, if you are feeling symptomatic talk your family. It is also a good idea to keep a medical journal of your tests, levels, ailments, medication, reactions etc. Many times this information can come down to the difference between life and death. The more you know about yourself and your genetic history the better equipped you will be  to lead a long a healthy life.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's TOO Hot

Much to everyone’s delight the summer heat has arrived in Portland. I hate it. 90+ degrees is just too hot when homes don’t have air conditioning or pools. If you are like me and find yourself maxed out and miserable here are a few things I have been doing to try to survive this oppressive heat.

All things Mexican seem to make eating in the heat slighting more appealing. Even better most of it requires very little cooking. I have been living off guacamole and black bean tacos for almost a week straight now. Black beans can be made in a crock pot which hardly omits any heat and can be used while away at work, so you don’t have to be home for the actual cooking process. Black beans are also a great low fat, vegan protein source. Healthy Healthy!

In the past I have gotten a lot of flak for my avocado habits. True the fruit (commonly thought of as a veggie but it’s a fruit) is high in fat. But what people don’t know is that is it one of the most commonly prescribed foods for people suffering from high cholesterol. The fruit contains oleic acid which helps the body regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is also an amazing source of potassium, which is also helpful in guarding again circulatory disease and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Plus its chock-o-block full of vitamin E, K, B6, C, copper, folic acid and fiber. So just because something is high in fat doesn’t mean it should be avoided especially when that high fat item is a plant.

My Guacamole recipe:
1 avocado
1 lime
1 shallot
2 cloves of garlic
¼ cup cilantro
chili powder
sea salt
fresh ground pepper

Peel, chop and mash the avocado. Add as much lime juice as can be squeezed from the lime, mash more. Chop shallots, garlic and cilantro, add to mashed mess. Add chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Done and delicious.

I love Mexican food…..LIKE LOVE Mexican food. The only thing I missed (other than friends and family) when I studied aboard in Austria was Mexican food. But if you don’t get as excited about it as me, other good things to eat when it’s too hot to cook are cold veggies. It may sound uninspiring but salad, fresh cut cold veggies and chilled fruits will do a lot of help cool your core body temperature while also delivering much needed nutrients to help restore damage done by overheating and sun exposure.  You can also try making your own popsicles from fruit juices frozen in plastic containers with tongue depressors set in for holders. Just try to avoid juices from concentrate and those high in sugar.

Another great heat reliever is cold showers. They are incredibly refreshing and soaking your head (especially if you have long thick hair) in cold water it will lower your body temperature quickly. They are also great for your circulatory system as well as being good for the shine and tensile strength of hair follicles. Taking cold showers have also been known to help boost your immune system and metabolism, detoxify your body, fight fatigue, reduce swelling, improve kidney function, and normalize your blood pressure. Plus it reduces the amount of electricity you are using which will save you a few dollars at the end of the month.

Also don’t forget to drink plenty of water and avoid things that dehydrate you like sugars, alcohol and caffeine. Wear at hat or head covering when in direct sunlight and don’t get sun burned.

Happy weekend all!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pure Frivolity

For about a month now I have been lacking the ability to concentrate on anything serious. It probably has to do with the time of year, the fact that summer heat seems to want to stick around, plus all the everyday stress I have been dealing with lately. So when labor day weekend came around I took the opportunity to get out of dodge. A little canning with my mom (tomato base for the winter months), some early morning beach time, a little haunted house mystery and some good company left me feeling very refreshed. Though it also left with me a new obsession which is in no way health related.

I forced my friends with the promise of coffee and breakfast to get up at 5am and drive out to my favorite beach spot. Despite sleepy eyes and bad hair it was a grand decision. The beach was beutiful and cool, the parking lot empty and the tide low. We poked around the beach a bit and then when appieties overtook we headed out from food.

{looking south at India Head Beach}

{Seaguls at Sunrise}

{My Toms}

I bought my Toms in North Carolina earlier in the summer, Boyfriend calls them my ninja shoes. He wasn’t far off, these things are amazing on slippery beach rocks.

{Terrible Tilly - decomission light house}

{Sea Anenome}

{Surfers at Dawn}


{Low Tide}

After we were all properly fed we went down to Haystack Rock, it was after breakfast at this point so the tourists were aplenty. In fact we got to see the police bust some unruly visitors for climbing around on protected land. Good times!

{Best Friend and Girlfriend}



{Muscels and Barnicles}

The other major event of the weekend was a visit to my favorite house of all time. An abandoned mansion in Astoria with a long and confusing history. With the help of my dear friends, the obsession has grown in to full on research. Which in turn has fueled my curiosity further considering how public the family was and how little information we can find. Hopefully a trip to the historical society will cure to curiosity.

 The house is located on 15th and Franklin Ave in Astoria, it house three generations of the Flavel family, Astoria's first millionaire family. In fact, the family settled in Astoria before Oregon was even a state. This particular house was built for the son of Captain George Flavel in 1901. The current owner is on the run for various things, but currently back taxes and a good deal of money owned to some other families in town. So the house sits and rots into the ground. While nearly the entire town waits for it to go up for auction so it can be restored.

{Maid's Room, top story dormer}

{Under the Eves}

{siding with no paint}

{front entrance glass}

In going through my pictures, I realize and cannot believe I have never gotten a picture of the full house. This particular picture was taken by a woman who lives in Astoria and is equally enthralled by the house. The owners of the house a brother and sister by the names of  Harry and Mary Louise Flavel. Harry was charged with assault in 1983 and which time the pair abandoned the house so he could evade jail time. When Harry died last May rumors swirled that Mary Louise had returned to the house. The black bunting appeared on the railing but the house appears to remain uninhabited.

Back to my regularly schedualed day. Comming soon....some information about soaps and why a person should take great care in selecting body products.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Going New Places, Completely By Accident

In life there are often those things that you should do, and then the things you do instead. This weekend I did the instead. I should have been studying for the GRE, doing dishes, laundry, bathing my dog, mowing the lawn, cleaning out the basement, grocery shopping and finishing up my grad school application. Instead, I drove out of town with a friend and went on an adventure.

{Columbia Hills State Park}

{Protected Grasses and a Lone Tree}

The original plan was to check out the petroglyphs along the Columbia River. But thanks to some slightly off googlemap directions we wound up in the middle of the Columbia Hills State Park. The river side part of the park was originally a Native American Village, a site which Lewis and Clark camped at during their expedition west.

{Not exactly "wild" life, but life none the less}

{Moth or Buterfly....cannot find identification}

{Tree in a working ranch}

The park originally included the camp (an attempt to preserve history), the petroglyph site and Horsethief lake. From the information I can find the actual public park area is a little over 3300 acres. But from what we discovered this weekend it is a bit bigger. Probably due to a commission in 2003 to include donated land from the Dalles Mountain Ranch at which time the whole area was named Columbia Hills State Park.  



The Crawford ranch was built in 1878 by Willam N. Crawford, his son John C. Crawford was a Washington Sate Representative and later a Senator from 1915-1921. I couldn’t find all the information about the ranch that I would have liked to.

{Mail box still stands}

{Crawford Farm House}

{Peeling Details on the farmhouse}

{Grapes still growing on the garden side of the house}

{Pool buit by the Crawford Family}

{The pools is still home to gold fish}

  But in 1975 Pat Bleakney  became the third and final owner of the 6,123 acre ranch that was then named Dallas Mountain Ranch. In 1993 the ranch was returned to public domain and in 2003 it was joined with the river side property to become the now state park.

{Dallas Mountain Ranch}

{More Ranch Outbuildings}


{Old Wagon}

The park is a huge expanse of native grasses and dwelling species. I have never in my life seen so many grasshoppers and giant bees. The raven population was out of this world, we saw a few deer and we even found signs of others animals (scat and jawbones) we were guessing canine or possibly medium sized wild cats, though we saw neither (sadly but probably luckily considering how far out were we).

{Bird of Prey Nest}

{Bleached out Jaw Bone}


We under estimated the elevation of the hike, the heat of the day and lack of tree cover. As well as the population of Rattle Snakes and Ticks. So plans to go back in the fall are in action. As we were following my phones horrible directions we accidently stumbled across the ranch buildings and a hiking trail which the Columbia Hills State Park web site fails to mention. I wouldn’t suggest going if you don’t have a tough mountain vehicle, the gravel road looks unassuming but quickly becomes quite steep and rutted. In fact on the way down we both were surprised we had even made it up in the first place having, caught up in the joy of adventure, not realized the grade of the road or the size of the rocks we were driving over.

{Looking back along the trail}

{Oregon from Washington}

At any rate, having shirked all of my responsibilities turned out to be a great plan, as did following some bad directions. We discovered a new place to hike, an abandoned turn of the century ranch, some amazing wild life and we did eventually see the petrophyphs we drove so far to find.
{Racoons perhaps?}

{Mountain Goats}

{Maybe a lizard}

I guess sometimes being irresponsible leads to great things. This weekend left me with a great sense of renewal and a readiness to finish my looming tasks with zeal. On to the week and hopefully getting many things done.

*All pictures are mine. Taken in the Columbia River Gorge August 27th 2011.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Fun Day: Lunch on the Lawn

I woke up this morning in an absolute foul mood. Having been so distraught this morning I totally forgot to pack a lunch. Much to my surprise and delight friend/coworker Z had packed too much lunch, so a pic-nicing we went. Z happens to be currently tied at number one for the best cook I have ever met in real life. So a wonderful lunch of caprese (plus green bean) salad, roasted chicken and French bread in the sun made the best possible mid-day break from work.

{phone photo}

Small acts of kindness do much to lift a weary soul. Which happened to be one current topic of conversation between Z and I. So thank you dear friend you made my day.

{phone photo}

Happy Friday All!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Non Organic vs. Organic vs. Heirloom

I often find myself getting into arguments with people about Heirloom/Organic/Farmers Market produce, like anything else the magic is in education. There are tons of great resources out there to help you understand the deep rooted differences between grocery store produces items and other produce types. And there are plenty of people out there who are willing to tell you ALL about it, if you are willing to lend an ear. But I am of a distrustful nature, I will listen all the live long day as people climb up their soap boxes, then I go home and research things for myself. I don’t have a lot of sited sources here because  I assume people who are striving to better their own lives aren’t of the lazy sort and are willing to do the leg work necessary to make good choices.  But in the interest of pointing in the proper direction here are some major differences.

Non-organic grocery store produce:
1.       Most likely GMO
2.       Most defiantly picked before ripe (hence the bland taste)
3.       Usually gassed at some point during transfer to stimulate ripening like activities, which mostly just change the color of the food.
4.       Sometimes bleached, lettuces and other in ground leafy greens get bleach baths before hitting the supermarket.
5.       Grown in nutrient-less soil with the help of petrochemical fertilizers
6.       Possessing approximately 60% less nutrients than those your grandparents ate

{gentically modified to look nice, picked at the right size, gased for color and sold at your local store}

Non-certified Organic produce:
I will only trust this if I am comfortable with the seller. Organic certification is extremely meticulous and expensive, not everyone can pull it off and stay financially afloat. Generally these famers are people who take great care in growing food naturally without synthetic chemicals but who also cannot afford to keep up with the certified organic requirements. This category is a big grey area where politics start to really show. If you want to know more I suggest researching yourself, there are hundreds of books written on the subject.

Farmers Market:
I highly suggest frequenting farmers markets or upick if you can. Get to know your growers and you will get to know their practices. The best thing about produce from these sources, you know they have been picked when ripe and have avoided any bleachy baths.

Organic produce:
1.       Very strictly monitored by the government agencies
2.       No use of synthetic chemical inputs
3.       No GMO
4.       Land must free from synthetic chemical input for three years and tests must come up clean.

{Organic, its a little funky but it tastes good}

Heirloom produce:
Heirloom pants are plants grown from seeds that have stayed out of large-scale agriculture. The plants are grown, seeds collected and saved, then replanted the next year. They are cultivated through open pollination (bugs and air) and cultivated with great care. Originally these plants were saved for historical interest, but as big ag has taken over many of the worlds foods sources these plants are one of our last remaining genetically untainted food sources. Seeds can be procured at seed banks around the country and in my opinion should be support as much as possible. Plus the taste really cannot be matched, truly incredible.
1.       Non GMO
2.       Amazing taste and quality
3.       Anyone who takes the time and work to deal with expensive and sensitive seeds is going to avoid synthetic chemicals.

{Heirloom, really funky but oh so good}

Back to the real world.

Side Note/Clearing the Air

I was going through my reader articles this morning and came across a Martha Stewart DIY for an Oilcloth Lunch bag!!!!! Is she spying on me?! While I doubt very much my idea was the first in the world, I would like to state that I posted my article first, a whole three days copy right infringment here Ms. Stewart.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lazy Gardening

I love the outdoors and all things planty and green. But I am a far cry from being in possession of a green thumb (it’s more like a black thumb of wilty death). I wouldn’t say I am a terrible plant owner, I am just forgetful when it comes to watering. I have managed to keep my dog watered for 5 years but she is much more in your face about needing water. Oddly this has worked in my benefit over the years. Yes I have killed a few plants along the way. And yes I feel terrible about it.  But the ones I have managed to keep alive are low maintenance or Willamette valley natives that require very little coxing. So while the gardens around me bloom in bright vibrant colors, and mine blooms very little, I at least have the peace of mind that my garden is a tad bit smarter. I, unlike my neighbors, am not pouring chemical fertilizer over everything, spraying pesticides and wasting water. My plants like the soil, lack of summer water and changes in temperature. Native plants are  a great way to fill a garden without a lot of cost or maintence. But these plants vary greatly be region, even between my house and my parents which is less than two hours away. So finding the plants that require little work and little poisons to yourself and the environment can take time. But they will be worth in the long run.


As for non native plants there are three types that I stick to pretty regularly. Lavender and Rosemary are both drought resistant, have great home benefits and can also be cooked with. Lavender also has the advantage of being a natural bug repellant to pests like aphids, fleas and ticks. Which is a great for us outdoors types that loathe the thought of covering our plants, and our pets with toxic chemicals.  


Succulents on the other hand grow quickly and fill in spots in gardens with great texture. They are also drought resistant. Because they cover the ground so completely there are large portions of my garden I no longer have to weed. And if I want to plant something new, their shallow roots are easy to pull up and place in a new location. Easy-peasy.