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so, how did it go?

Way back in the spooky month of October, just prior to Halloween, I presented a MyPlate Haiku on Instagram. Not as deep perhaps as a Zen Buddhist koan, a paradoxical anecdote or riddle used to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning in order to provoke enlightenment, but reflective of a puzzlement nonetheless.

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while may know that in my little anachronistic village, Halloween is serious business. Hundreds and hundreds of little kiddies and big grown ups dressed in scary–and adorable–costumes descend like zombies and crowd the narrow streets to frighten away any evil spirits–and to collect their sweet rewards. My house is in a prime trick or treat location and next door to the village wizards whose annual display attracts a lot of attention.

And thus, my perennial dilemma. What’s my personal and professional responsibility as concerns contributing to this massive spike in the community’s blood sugar levels? Fun though it may seem, innocuous though one might think–it is not a good thing. There is a lot of sugar going down–way more than Mary Poppin’s prescribed spoonful.

I have stared deep down into pillowcases with more loot than a bank robber’s heist, yet the pirates and ninjas demand more. I have stared deep into the big eyes and darling faces of newly walking toddler princesses and kitty cats, imploring me to fill their plastic pumpkin with some white crystalized sugar drug–I mean treat. Seriously, should there not be some legal age requirement for serving sugar to children? I feel I should be carding these kids, checking ID, asking for a birth certificate or tricycle license.

Every year, Halloween seems to come around quickly, and each time I struggle with the dilemma. Given the havoc I know sugar and sweets wreak on the individual and global level, I do not wish to be a purveyor of this potentially gateway substance associated with dental decay, behavioral issues, food addiction, inflammation, obesity, diabetes and other maladies. To really appreciate the seductive allure of said substance, consider that recently, after a newly levied sugar-tax was imposed in their country, ordinarily level-headed Norwegians have wildly taken to crossing the border into Sweden to procure their candy and soda more cheaply in binge shopping sprees.

But, neither am I ready to leave the party. So, for years my family has stood at the door giving out a combination of edible sweets and non-edible treats in hopes of offering choice and mitigating damage.

But, this last All Hallows’ Eve I decided to go further. In preparation for the nearly four hundred grabbing hands and gaping mouths, I set out to find provisions that would not further the sugar problem at hand. The additional challenge was to try to not substitute it with useless items that would quickly be tossed in the garbage; and to have things that would be suitable for children of all different ages. And, to not spend more than I would on candy.

As usual, I solicited the help of my little witch, Zena, and with broomsticks in hand, off we flew to the nearest Michael’s Arts and Crafts store to fill our cauldron. We scoured about and found some things that were suitable. Also, next door wizard Amy,  informed me of holiday-themed milkweed seed packets available for sale to help save our important monarch butterflies. Perfect. We ordered one hundred of them.

When ready, we poured everything on the bed and got to work. We filled perky IMG_0921pumpkin-faced and scary skull-headed gift bags with age appropriate treats. It was all in fun, though I must say a fair amount of dissection was involved separating parts from wholes. There were all Halloween-themed cool sticker sheets, water-color painting pictures, stamps, little marble maze games, foam cut outs to make masks, erasers–and seed packets. Unfortunately, we did not procure the mechanical pencils which had been a big hit with the older set the previous year.

The only problems were that we ran out of the little bags and took to using business envelopes; and that Zena, being a very good witch, was a bit too generous in filling her bags which left us short of supplies to reach our projected count. But, time was short, so we’d have to make do.

It was then, in anticipation of the big day, I penned and posted to Instagram the koan-tinged haiku:

Treats of a different kind 
No candy for Halloween 
We’ll see how it goes.                                                                                                                       

(We hope they like the Save Our Monarchs Milkweed Seed Packets)

So, how did it go? Pretty well, I’d say. The house was not egged and there were no tricks. There was the one teenager–the kind who doesn’t even have a costume–who did turn and walk away when the cauldron choices were kindly presented to him. A few of the neophyte toddlers did display some cognitive dissonance provoked by being handed something they could not imagine to be the promised candy. And, there was the middle-schooler who when handed a business envelope with indeterminate contents responded by saying she did not like surprises.

But mainly, things were positive. One little girl excitedly told her folks, “We got a card!” There were shrieks of, “It’s the sticker house!” And, the teenagers, were as a whole quite appreciative at receiving something different. I’d say, it was a sign they were actually candied out. It was encouraging to see that they still could like a good, basic pencil–even a non-mechanical one.

The seed packets were mainly tucked in the bags and not really noticed in the dark, but a few who did see them thought they were cool. I hope their value was better appreciated in the light of day–with the help of parents who’d realize what they were for.

The highlight of the evening was once again when Ruth came to the door. Last year, our hearts melted when mid-evening we responded to the doorbell’s beckon to find a little girl and her family waiting. The girl handed us a piece of paper. It was a drawing of–we think–a little bat and a little pumpkin. It was hard to tell, but not bad for a four-year-old. On the back, it was signed, Ruth. IMG_1251

This year, Ruth came to the door with her little sister who was now old enough to stand. Their costumes were beautifully made by their grandmother. Once more, we received a personal drawing–this time of three large carved pumpkins. Ruth’s artistic abilities had increased exponentially. And, now it was signed, Ruth and Grace. This evolved soul, did not seem to expect anything in return. We told them how touched we had been last year and how excited we were to see them again.

As usual, and as we had feared, we did not have enough to make it through the night. As supplies were running low, we frantically tore sticker sheets into individual stickers and repurposed whatever we could.

At the final ring, we had only a few stray bat and pumpkin erasers left. Apologetically we held the basket out to the lone teenager who stood before us. “I’m good with erasers”, he said and graciously accepted the offering.

I tell this story now, not only because it is already less than six months until the next Halloween and time to think ahead. But, because it exposes our complicated relationship with and messaging about food. Please understand I do not maintain a staunch anti-sugar stand. I appreciate how and why we are wired to enjoy it and recognize that it is a source of joy. In my repertoire, I carry a story I once read. When the author was a young girl, her well-meaning parents presented her with an apple with a candle stuck in it, in lieu of cake for her birthday. She cried. It is also well documented how the denial of any sugar seems to breed an uncontrollable urge for it.

But, given the state of our health and what we know about the detriments of sugar and the foods it is cloaked in, and their ubiquitous presence, can we continue to abide the excess that this holiday ritual depends on? Especially as it so strongly impacts children. Who is really benefiting from this candy deluge? The excuses that it is just for one day, and that we can use it as a way of teaching our kids about moderation, may now be too feeble.

I think it may be time for the expansion of creative alternatives. I remember as a child Trick or Treating for UNICEF, carrying a little orange box door to door to collect money for children overseas. Apparently, that campaign was started in 1950, and is still around.  Maybe that idea can be flipped by households choosing a cause of their choice and telling the children soliciting treats that a donation will be made on their behalf to that cause. Just thinking out loud. Honestly, I am not sure I can sustain the full no-sweets effort. However, if little Ruth can draw all those pictures for everyone–I will certainly try.

As always, please say hi, leave a comment, subscribe to and share my blog, and let me know what Halloween ideas you have tried.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

Related Posts: Eye of the Newt, The Nightmare Before Halloween, Post Halloween Post

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Peepin’ Out Again

This is a mildly revised and updated version of Peepin’ Out, originally posted in May, 2014.

Recently, somehow, word got through to me, that Peeps, those brightly colored marshmallow bunnies and chicks, would now be sold year round. I can’t say if I even knew that those little cuties only peeped out on the market for a relatively short period of time each year in order to celebrate the Resurrection, but apparently this change was newsworthy.

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The Usual Suspects                        Photo by Terri Cnudde

Truth be told, I am really naive and poorly informed on certain things, like candy and religion. I have been confused for decades between Cabbage Patch Dolls and Sour Patch candies–I think that is what they are called. During nutritional consults, I confess that I have uttered the words, “Do you eat like Cabbage Patch Doll candies?”  Not just randomly of course, but in the context of an assessment when I am trying to professionally interpret someone’s intake while sounding like I know what I am talking about.

Somewhere halfway between childhood and deciding to become a nutritionist, I managed to wean myself off of my predilection for sugar woven into various seductive forms. Maybe the end of my relationship with Peeps coincided with my commitment to a vegetarian diet. Eating anything with a face became more distasteful, including these adorable balls of gelatin congealed fluff. I have managed to avoid them for a long while now, except for a time where a co-worker enjoyed flaunting her love of them in front of me like the Adoration.

But, upon hearing the news that Peeps would be popping up in stores on a daily basis, I reacted like Puxatawny Phil seeing his shadow on that fateful Groundhog’s Day. Down into the burrow I hastily fled. Just when I thought that maybe things were getting a little better regarding our capacity to ameliorate incoming incarnations of sugar, this information startled me. To soften the blinding light of  neon-colored commercialism, I had no choice but to go into the dark place below.

By candlelight, I read the small print. Peeps are stewarded by the Just Born Company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. According to the website, the wonderful combination of sweet colored sugar and fluffy marshmallow creates an unforgettable taste experience. And, furthermore, it states a great candy isn’t made, it’s just born. Jesus! Don’t these guys realize how bunnies multiply and that chicks are no slackers either when it comes to population growth? I guess they do. Apparently, 5.5 million Peeps are born each day!

This pronouncement of a seemingly immaculate conception in Bethlehem, rather than some sticky mess, presented a whole new ball of carnauba wax–one of the ingredients in Peeps along with sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, potassium sorbate, natural flavors and red 3, blue 1, yellow 6, or yellow 5 depending on the color. With 6.8 grams of sugar, each Peep is endowed with 1.5 (rounding down) teaspoons of essentially pure sugar–the kind that sends our bodies into metabolic-altering, insulin-demanding, fat-storing sugar shock.

In my quest to find out more about this situation, I was forced back above ground. Donning sunglasses, my research led me to my local national chain drug store where I made a few laps around the multi-aisle candy section disguised as a normal sugar craving person. I was forced to blow my cover by asking the clerk where the Peeps were. She reacted as if I must be from another planet. I did not bother to defend my citizenship as an earthling and neither did I explain the whole groundhog thing. But I did say my query had scientific purpose–or something like that. Obviously, Peeps were not to be found after Easter. I was six weeks too late.

But, I said, I thought they were available all year now, in a widening array of flavors. She had not gotten that memo. However, she instructed me to go to the company website if I wanted more information. I thought that was funny. But, it was actually a good idea. (This year I got to see how the little sweeties are born.)

She did add though that she had somewhat recently gotten her little daughter some watermelon ones, so maybe I was right. I stiffened like a stale Peep. Like Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield who deemed himself the protector of childhood innocence, perhaps I take my influence as a nutritionist of the people and for the people a bit too seriously. In my head, I am charged on a daily basis to personally obliterate obesity, or on a larger scale to clean up this whole nutritional mess and its adherent ills.

I liked the care and assistance the drug store clerk had given me despite her initial recoil, and now by association, I cared about her daughter. Could I not issue a global recall of these wolves in chicks’ clothing candies due to salmonella poisoning, avian flu or something to save the children? My usual quandary about how to reconcile the business of capitalist markets and the public health smacked me in the face along with another more subtle underlying dilemma–who am I to take sugar from a baby? Don’t they need some sweetness in this cruel harsh world?

Well, I figured it was time to move back up. As by now, spring had finally arrived in these parts after the long, extended rodent-predicted winter, I decided it should be safe to step back into the sunlight.

Oh well. Send word. Let me know what you think or just say hi. I miss you. And, if you are needing a healthy, bunny-approved, Easter treat, look no further than Naked Food Magazine’s 5-minute Carrot Truffles.

In health, Elyn

P.P.S.  For the winners of the 2018 Peeps diorama contest, check this out. And, oh my goodness, it looks like just this week there is some trouble down on the peeps farm regarding the company’s employee pension plan.

MyPlate Plate

MyPlate Haiku

Lagoon watercress                                                                        Peppers my tongue                                                                        With spring joy.  by Roxanne

 

is that an experience you’re drinking?

My dilemma and I were minding our own business at home, when suddenly an image of a Coca-Cola bottle, or what I thought was a Coca-Cola bottle appeared in the sidebar on my computer.

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Coca Cola global campaign executives

However, the accompanying words said, “This is not a Coca-Cola. It is an experience.” Really? It certainly looked like a Coca-Cola. While still confused, I was also informed that for Coca-Cola, experience goes far beyond the first sip, and that I should make ‘experience’ my business.

With a little click, I found myself face-to-face with Coca-Cola’s VP of Global Design. He told me that they sell almost two billion, (2,000,000,000) servings, excuse me, ‘experiences’ a day. And thus, on a digital platform he would like to have two billion conversations a day, because brands need to listen to their consumers who are all apparently craving choice and innovation.

If so, I hope he is fluent in Twi, one of the Kwa sub-groups of Niger-Congo languages, spoken in Ghana. In 2016, Coca-Cola launched a major initiative in Accra, called Taste the Feeling. It seems they were feeling badly for the millions there who had maybe not been privileged to enjoy the ‘experience’. Interestingly, a group of public health researchers has already done a little study accessing the marketing of non-alcoholic beverages in outdoor ads (visible signs) in a small section of Accra. Of seventy-seven ads, sixty percent featured sugar-sweetened Coca-Cola products–some fraction of which are near schools and feature children–I mean consumers, or soon to be ones–begging for conversation.

My dilemma caught my eye, knowing that this Mr. James Sommerville, would most likely not wish to hear from me. Given that it has been about forty something years since my last sip, I could certainly not claim to be a consumer, thus depriving the company of that 2,000,000,001 serving. Ah, but he had certainly provoked my ire with this seductive, manipulative, alluring message about the right friends, the right time, the right glass–and the tingle.

Might I suggest that he is high fructose corn syrup coating the ‘experience’ or seeing it through caramel colored glasses–with a blast of phosphoric acid and caffeine. Or, that he has drank too much of the figurative koolaid– aka the company’s addictive secret syrupy recipe.

While it is certainly possible he may have already seen my anti-Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) rants, it is not likely. If not, maybe, because like me, he’s recently been watching the 9-Part Docuseries, iThrive, Rising from the Depths of Diabetes and Obesity. But, I don’t think so.

If anything, back when I was writing more about this topic, he may have been concerned with the efforts of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), a Coca-Cola funded non-profit, engaging scientists in the promotion of energy balance and exercise as the solution to obesity, thus under playing the evidence on the impact of SSB’s. While founded in 2014, the GEBN was disbanded by the end of 2015, after a New York Times article brought attention to public health authorities’ concerns about its corporate influence. A recently published essay, provides some greater insight into the company’s intentions by shedding light on some of its internal documents.

Or, I don’t know. Maybe lately he’s just been busy globally designing alcopop drinks in Japan. (My dilemma, just gave me its ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ look. No, I am not kidding.) But, whatever, he is up to something–and I don’t get it. Even though he was looking right at me, he lost me at “physical analog world” and “push work out to the market”. I know this is nothing new, but call me naive. What’s up here? Does Coca-Cola have to weasel its way into every mouth on the planet–ruining perfectly good teeth, or worsening not so great ones? Not to mention incurring potentially more harm. Why such deliberate cunning? Is this not loca?

A few years ago, I wrote about my dismay regarding Coca-Cola’s marketing ploy of placing common names on their labels. Interestingly, as I was delving into the Ghana campaign, I came upon a story that there was a proposed boycott of the brand in the country. I had a touch of health promotion optimism upon seeing the headline. But, apparently the boycott was due to the fact that the names that the company had placed on the labels in Ghana, were names more predominantly found in the southern part of the country, and did not include the more common (and Muslim) names of its northern reaches. Oh, dear lord.

Well, here is my solution to that problem. Why not put only the names of the executives, such as James, on the labels? This way, consumers will know whom to contact directly should they need any assistance with their health or dental issues, or geopolitical concerns.

It may be tempting to say, for god’s sake, it is just a soda! Let us just ‘experience’ that feeling of happiness, let us ‘taste the feeling’ if nothing else–is a soft drink in hard times asking too much? But unfortunately, it is far from that simple. I ponder these matters about profound insults to population health and where lies responsibility. Coca-Cola and its products are certainly not only to blame, but considering their tactics, neither are they blameless. To say they are a big player is a big understatement. (I am linking to one more article of interest here about the relationship between Coca-Cola and the Ghana health system. I invite you to take a look and let me know what’s going on.)

It is most obvious to look at the rapid increases in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes around the globe as indicators of our health crises influenced by our dietary behaviors. And, yes, according to the latest survey data (published just last week), here in the US, we are still getting fatter, while the food industry giants continue to fight hard against public health measures.

But, there are also other implications of the manipulations of our dietary environment by corporate interests. In recognition of this weekend’s global marches against gun violence in our society, I had wanted to explore the topic of nutritional violence, but this guy cut into the front of the line. Bully. But, I will get to that next. They may be related. Please stay posted. Send word, subscribe and be well.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

Related Posts: Reporting from the Rim of the Sinkhole; So-duh; Brought to Tears

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MyPlate    Our Lost Students’ Empty Plate

MyPlate Haiku                                                                                                                                      I should be concerned                                                                                                                            About my health class topics                                                                                                                Serving life not death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

let them eat styrofoam

Not even two weeks in, it might seem a little early to consider the nutritional impacts of the new administration. However, while maybe lost among the more pressing issues, there among the flotsam and jetsam of the post-inaugural news was a story that caught my eye. A story that might begin to inform. But first, let me back up a little.

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Michelle Obama’s White House Organic Garden. Photo by John Shinkle.

My antenna is usually positioned to pick up the bits of information associated with food and nutrition as it relates to the personal or the political–and it beeps especially loudly when there is an atmospheric collision of the two.

As regards presidential matters, examples from prior administrations–beginning with my own nascent awareness of such things–include the following:

  • Ronald Reagan’s affection for Jelly Beans. And, his administration’s declaration of ketchup as vegetable in an attempt to allow flexibility in school lunch planning. This was a nutritionally-depleted response to maintaining nutritional requirements in the face of budget cuts to the Federal School Lunch Program. (It was actually pickle relish that was used as an example in the original regulations.)
  • George H. W. Bush’s anti-broccoli proclamation–and while broccoli took the whipping, apparently his distaste of vegetables was non-discriminatory. It was during his time in office that the USDA Food Guide Pyramid took to the streets, so to speak, a cavalcade of refined carbohydrates–bagels, baguettes, rolls, and pasta–marching in stride.
  • Bill Clinton’s propensity for Big Macs and Philly Cheese Steaks with onions and Cheez Whiz, his post-presidency quadruple heart bypass surgery, and the subsequent radical changes to his lifestyle and diet. In the wake of his own health epiphany, his Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association founded the The Alliance for a Healthier Generation. However, while in office, Clinton’s 1996 welfare reforms resulted in deep cuts to the Food Stamp Program, thus limiting the ability for working families to obtain benefits.
  • George W. Bush’s eating habits were healthier than those of his father. Better, after experiencing a pretzel-induced near fatal choking incident in the White House, he acknowledged his mother’s advice to chew one’s food carefully. While he attended to his physical activity by jogging his way through many a national crisis, it was during his years in office that the nation’s health and obesity crisis could no longer be ignored. Bush did support some well-meaning nutrition legislation, but during his second term, the USDA Food Pyramid morphed into the MyPyramid. This chaotic appearing icon further fueled confusion concerning governmental nutritional recommendations, leaving everyone to just throw up their hands to reach for the closest bag of Doritos. Oh, and then there was the recession.
  • Barack Obama’s nutritional legacy is really attributable to First Lady Michelle’s devoted efforts. Along with appointing a White House chef dedicated to healthy menus and growing an organic garden on the South Lawn, she promoted the Let’s Move initiative. Attendant legislation included the signing of the The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Despite this presidency’s strong commitment to our nutritional well being, it faced resistance from its own Congress–which passed a bill allowing pizza with two tablespoons of tomato paste to qualify as a vegetable in the USDA School Lunch Program. Sound familiar? And, it was downright thwarted by Big Food. Also, while the president’s support for the cause was irrefutable, his own dietary habits were less than aligned, as I previously detailed during his bid for re-election.

And so, that brings us up to the present. I have gleaned a tiny bit about the dietary and culinary inclinations of the new commander-in-chief. For now, let’s just say I am not surprised. I am also remembering the ridiculousness of his pizza parlor outing in NYC with Sarah Palin. And, I have now found this–his alternative facts explanation.

While for now I can ignore the personal, I am still quite worried about the political. I am concerned about the fate of Michelle’s beautiful organic garden at the White House. And, the myriad initiatives that germinated under her tender care, yielding amazing gardening programs and healthier food systems in schools and preschools as well. Not to mention the attention given to facilitate women’s ability to breastfeed their babies, optimizing children’s health from birth. What is going to happen to all of that?

Well, the details are still scant, but here’s what I have so far that may give us a clue. It comes from that one story I mentioned above. It was the story about the Inaugural Cake. Here are the basics of what happened, in case you missed it. The setting was the Inauguration’s Armed Services Ball. The cake was a nine-tiered tower whose design was blatantly plagiarized from one made for Obama’s Commander in Chief Ball in 2013. The baker, merely following orders, was not aware of the plagiarism until after the fact. At the Ball, the cake’s bottom layer was sliced by means of a military saber wielded jointly by Trump and Pence. And the real kicker? Apparently, only that lowly layer was actually real cake–the rest of it was made out of styrofoam. It was a styrofoam cake!?

Oh, dear fellow plebeians–and members of the military–prepare to heed the call of the new administration’s both obesity prevention and anti-hunger programs. It may in fact be, “Let them eat styrofoam!”

Well, that is it for now. Please take care and make sure to eat your greens. Drop in, say hi, and for those of you who have been marching around in the cold of winter, let’s share a virtual cup of tea or some hot Golden Milk to warm us up. Thank you.

In health, Elyn

My Plate Haiku by Gretchen: Smooth peanut butter/Spread on a peeled banana/Snack time perfection.

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My Plate Cup

There are lots of links in this post. Please take a moment to check them out.

By the way, have you heard of the Styrofoam Ban?

eye of the newt–the halloween report

The week of Halloween is usually the busiest one of the year for me. I have described before the antics of my next door neighbors Amy and Eric and the going ons in my little village, but this year things were truly larger than life with the celebration of the Day of the Dead and all whom that invites. So, this past week was crazier than usual with many attendant dilemmas.

It all started out with my fire belly newt. I wrote about Everest, a few years back in Feeding Things. Recently, Everest has not been doing well. He became quite bloated, and was eating less and moving less than even usual. After thirteen years with us, I thought maybe his time had come. On several occasions, I declared and bemoaned with certainty that he was dead, and each time I did, he’d surprise me by appearing in a different part of his tank. I was actually pretty upset, because thirteen years with anything, including a pretty little amphibian involves some emotional attachment. But, what was I to do?

Zena intervened by finding a nearby reptile and amphibian veterinarian. Yikes! Just when I thought I should let nature take its course, I found myself at the beginning of the week, on Zena’s birthday, at the vet. I figured I should do it for her and besides, the newt had never needed much of anything before. It was her wish to get a newt when she was in first grade, and here she was in college, asking me to please do something. Well, that was a rather surreal experience. They brought in big heat lamps, and that vet whisked dear Everest up out of his tank for a full physical examination. His eyes were declared clear, his will forces strong–as he would not open his mouth, but his prognosis poor.

Though I was anxious to get home to get ready for Zena’s birthday dinner, I waited as a few remedies were prescribed including a highly nutritious food powder that I need just mix with water and get down his throat. I drove home wondering if I had done the right thing. But, I knew this was going to be a crazy week with lots happening, so I set Everest up in a new spot with a new light, and decided to accept whatever was to be without much more intervention. Still, I was aware that it was interesting that my newt story was transpiring just in time for Halloween. Even Leah’s Cakery, the incredible bakery (and more) in the village was serving up Eye of the Newt Soup in the spirit of the upcoming holiday.

We had a lovely dinner with Zena, but that was just the beginning. When you live next door to people whose Halloween display is so elaborate that the mayor decrees that the street gets blocked off, you cannot just sit by and do nothing. None of that, “Oh, no, we don’t get many trick-or-treaters.” Only the pressure I feel to impress the “Joneses” by making some humble effort to make my house look spooky–one year it was a little Snoopy cut out that said “BOO”–allows me to preoccupy myself and forget that this holiday is a nutritionist’s nightmare.

I did not go and buy any candy, but neither did I have time to go figure out a substitute. Last year I gave out little adorable fruit and vegetable stickers (big hit) but this year my source was dried up. I dragged a huge tree limb out of the woods for my Edgar Allen Poe inspired decorative theme, I dug out the pumpkin and skull lights, I found the stuffed crows and owls and, I went in search of pumpkins–which are hard to come by when you wait till the end. Then mid-week, I remembered it was my turn to be the birthday “bunny” at work which means I had to prepare a little celebration for the person’s whose birthday it was in my unit, which in this case turned out to be my boss. Yikes. That involved some agita and concern whether my low sugar baking would be enough to impress.

In the midst of this, I did try to go find something to humor the little children enough that they wouldn’t notice that they were not receiving any candy. I arrived at a local dollar store only to find that they were closing in a few days and that the shelves were pretty bare. However, I managed to gather up a few packs of some type of crayon markers–and a new cat poop scooper.

When Peter arrived home from being out-of-town, he found the measly amount of markers in a box by the door. He looked at me and said he would go buy some candy. Still, even what you think might be enough is never enough and always exceeds what my conscience can abide.

Friday morning, Halloween Day, arrived. Though I had wedged the big tree limb onto my porch, there was still some decorating to do. And, while the pumpkins had been eviscerated they still needed to be carved. On top of everything, the next day was Peter’s birthday, and I hoped to celebrate it with the guests who were coming for Halloween which included Zena and some of her college friends, and Peter’s sister and brother-in-law.

I checked on the newt. Amazingly as the days had passed his bloating had decreased and he seemed a little more active than he had in weeks. I looked him in the eye and wished him a Happy Halloween. He gave me a little wink. Heading out to work, I ran into Leah’s. Leah is truly a wizardess and had conjured up the most adorable little Halloween chocolate cakes. I described the situation and she magically added the words Happy Birthday above the frosting skeleton.

I got to work and begged for a slightly early release, which was granted. I raced home. My street was blocked with those orange cones reminding me that I could not even park in front of my house. The clock was ticking as I walked over from where I was able to leave my car, carrying the cake and finalizing my game plan. The little kiddies would start arriving any minute. I put up the butternut squash, sweet potato and pumpkin soup in the cauldron, my witches beta carotene brew antidote for too much candy. I stood above the pumpkins, wielded a knife and recited the spell for quick inspiration for carving ideas.  And, I stuck Zena’s stuffed sloth as the final touch on the tree limb. I responded to the first rings of the door bell and ran outside to watch as the first visitors took in the wonder of it all. Peter then arrived home, just in time to become official greeter and dispenser while I hung back in the kitchen. The onslaught was intense.

So, here is this year’s report from the field. As the monsters, princesses, zombies, pirates, dice, skeletons and lions arrived at the door, the orifices of their candy collecting devices agape, Peter asked, “Which would you prefer?” “You can either have some chocolate or candy just like at every other house, OR, you can have some (state of the art) markers.” Well, though I am not sure the survey would meet the rigors of the scientific method, the results suggest about a thirty percent response rate for the markers. Really! Amid the din of shrieks for chocolate, I heard, “Wow! Markers are great! I love markers. Yeah, cool, thanks.” In fact, the response rate was so high that we had to start breaking down the four packs and handing out individual ones. That was just about the time that we ran out of candy too. Emergency measures were put in place temporarily until the situation could be resolved–which was when I ran to my other neighbor, Carrie Woerner who is running for State Assembly, and she handed over to me some of her reserves.

So, along with the spirits, many questions floated in the air.  What is it that we are truly seeking and craving?  What other tokens of love and fun can we share? When is enough enough? When do we saturate? What are the deeper implications? And, should you force feed a newt?

Well, maybe I am a party pooper (and a kitty poop scooper) but it is complicated. When the night finally quieted down and the goblins returned to their homes, Peter and I wandered over to Amy and Eric’s to see how they were doing. The candy quandary question arose. Amy, always creative even when utterly exhausted gave me an idea. Next year, I will honor the holiday by giving out some nice little bags of herbs tied up with a sweet little greeting. Perhaps some chamomile, yarrow or mugwort. Ah, yes–mugwort. The makings of a gentle potion to put the children peacefully to sleep. No sugar crash and good for parents too.

Oh, well. It’s over. The squirrels have already eaten away at the pumpkins, the newt is still alive, and tomorrow is Election Day. If you live in my district, please vote for Carrie!

In health, Elyn

Any related Halloween anecdotes to share? Please do.

Related Posts: Post Halloween Post and The Nightmare Before Halloween

P.S. Carrie did win the Assembly seat!

My Plate Haiku: What’s with my tummy/Expanding and contracting/Like the moon above.  by David

photo 3 - Edited

Leah’s Plate

brought to tears

I actually found it in a garbage can at the health department where I now work. I’d been trying to get my little fingers on one of these for awhile, so I was not totally put off by its lowly circumstances. It really should have been in the recycling bin at least, but there it lay, abandoned, thankfully right on top. I gingerly lifted it from its resting place of refuse and walked it right over to a nearby sink.sunset-288531_1280

I unscrewed the cap which I was about to discard until I noticed that it too was an artifact of interest to me– but that was secondary to the bottle, at least for starters. The bottle was still half full or half empty, so my next quasi-distasteful act was to pour the hazardous saliva-mixed remains down the drain despite my uncertainty regarding proper disposal procedures for what might be considered a toxic substance.

A few months back I had become aware of some new Coca Cola campaign entitled Share A Coke. Cans and bottles of the ubiquitous beverage now have one of about 250 first names, like Debbie, along with other emotionally tinged monikers like Bestie, Grillmaster, Wingman, Mom and Dad prominently displayed on the label under the directive to Share a Coke with the dearly imprinted. Just hearing about this manipulation of the human psyche triggered my shivers down the spine reflex. But, when I began to see the bottles for sale in my local convenience store and in the cafeteria in my office building it was downright spooky. But, here I was now, up close and personal with one.

Things must have been getting pretty bad over there at Coca Cola. Previous promises of perpetual happiness associated with imbibing the sugar-laden, highly acidic, caffeine-laced, teeth-rotting, gut-deteriorating, illness-promoting fizzy elixir must have begun to go flat. Were sales lagging? Was the logo no longer recognizable the world over? What else could have initiated a marketing blitz that reeks of malevolence as it strives to ensnare our fragile egos and enslave our purchasing behaviors.

I remember being excited when those little mini license plates with names on them that you could attach to your bike seat first came out. But, I also recall the immediate chagrin when you could not find your own name hanging from the metal display rack. Suddenly you felt second-rate, not worthy of a plate. I am not certain of all of the psychological underpinnings that are attached to this probably billion dollar campaign, but I am sure they are many. Does seeing our name emblazoned in such a public way make us feel validated, loved, powerful and more connected in this alienated world?

I don’t really get the campaign. I am sure most of the time, you have to buy a bottle with someone else’s name on it. How much can you bother to search for a bottle that idolizes yourself or a loved one? Must you settle for John when you are really seeking Mario? And then, what if you don’t have a person to share it with? That is probably what happened to my bottle, Nicole. Half finished and tossed aside, unshared and hopes dashed. Even the reward points offered on the cap were left unclaimed and discarded. Reward points? Really?

I don’t want to go any further on this except to say that this unbridled assault on our health through such methods of aggressive advertising can and does bring me to tears. I’ve written about this before. One does not have to look too hard to see the real rewards of such consumption, but you have to care to be looking and looking to care. I am too verklempt even thinking about needing to reiterate the effects of these substances anymore. Originally, the reason I wanted to get a bottle without purchase was to be able to include it as a photo for this post–but now I don’t even wish to give it any publicity or visibility. We are clearly easy targets for seduction even when clearly it is not in our best interest. So, Nicole will now go directly into my recycling bin and I am posting instead a beautiful photo of a sunset. My only hope is that an unexpected outcome of the campaign will be that with all that sharing of cans and bottles, per capita consumption will actually shrink by at least half.

Anyway, while there are sad tears there are also happy ones. I specialize in both. Recently, while also at work–it may have even been the same day that I retrieved the Coke bottle, I received an email from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. It included a video that spotlighted healthy and healing practices being undertaken at the West Side High School for at risk students in New York City through a powerful investment in a gardening program, real food, and intensive physical activity– by a dedicated and devoted principal and staff.

Thirty-six seconds in and there I was bawling (yes) in my little oh not so private cubicle. In my last post, I wrote about my reservations about the bulk of nutrition and health activities being directed at obesity prevention efforts whereas I believe the implications and consequences of our cultural dietary and health insults are so much greater. I did not get much response on that so I would still be interested in hearing your thoughts. But, in this video, simply and beautifully, a young woman named Tenia expresses why eating proper foods is important for both emotional and physical well-being–aside from weight-based associations.

This glimpse of transformation that occurs when the birthright of health is granted, when it is given priority and nurtured, and not compromised by those so willing to sacrifice our young in endless pursuit of profit is worth viewing. I highly recommend it. Here is the link.

Note to self. Don’t forget the tissues.

Just a mention that my own recent favorite brew has been matcha, a fine green tea powder. I enjoy it as a tea or mixed in smoothies. It is fuller or richer than regular green tea and it gently provides a touch of focus and energy. I was initiated with a gift of a package of Matcha from Kiss Me Organics that was exceptionally pleasant and which has become a welcomed part of my day and my diet. There are many benefits of matcha to explore and it can be incorporated into many recipes. Give it a peek.

Na area da saude, Elyn

Related Posts: Private Health, So-Duh

Nirinjan's Plate

Nirinjan’s Plate

My Plate Haiku

It is easier

To reprimand the sinner

Than change the system.  by Julie

a winning goal

I would feel a little remiss were I to not make mention this year of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). In previous years I have always made a point to do so. But, it is late. I should already be in bed. Besides, I have to get to work early tomorrow in order to partake in a webinar that is celebrating the week and its important mission. So, I will be more brief than usual. wbw2014-logo-hd

Perhaps after tomorrow’s webinar, I will have something more inspiring or informational to offer with a larger perspective. Tonight, I sit quietly with only my personal experience–the one that reminds me that twenty-six years ago at this very time I was deeply in labor, nestled in my midwife’s quiet birthing room in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. On the other side of midnight, in the dark of night of the day of my own birthday, my son would make his way into the world. Our breastfeeding relationship would begin immediately thereafter.

But, during that time, the practice of breastfeeding on a larger global scale was diminishing with serious consequences for maternal and child health, with societal and environmental implications as well. In 1981, the World Health Assembly adopted the International Code of the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, to remediate the malnutrition suffered by infants and young children due to the inappropriate marketing of commercial formula.  And, then in 1990, exactly two years after my own bond was formed in connection with the dying art of breastfeeding, the Innocenti Declaration was signed by government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF and other organizations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. It designated the first week of August as World Breastfeeding Week.

Twenty-four years later, though there have been significant gains made in reversing the declining trend, there is still work to be done. There are also newer nutritional impacts of breastfeeding being investigated as we begin to better understand the myriad functions of the gut microbiome.

This year’s WBW slogan is Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life. I suppose it relates to this year’s Football World Cup. Could that be? That’s a little funny to me because my son has been a soccer player and is a devoted fan of the sport. Though no longer on the field much he is hoping to be working in the field of professional soccer someday. May I also parenthetically add, that throughout and since the World Cup games, I’ve noticed that I have had an almost daily blog reader from Brazil–so apparently not everyone in the country was focused on the sport. A special hello to that reader(s).

The objectives of WBW 2014 are strongly linked to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set by governments and the United Nations to fight poverty and promote healthy and sustainable development in a comprehensive way by 2015. A description of how breastfeeding is linked to the MDGs can be found here. The connections are quite profound.

I am interested to see what I will learn in the course of tomorrow’s session. I will let you know if there is anything particularly interesting. In the meantime, please take a moment if you will and have a look at these powerful photos. They will say much more than my usual thousand words.

In health, Elyn

P.S. The webinar session was yesterday. It was sponsored by the SUNY School of Public Health and entitled, International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and Promoting and Supporting Exclusive Breastfeeding. I applaud the school’s long term commitment to this topic, and recommend the session highly. I believe it will be available soon for viewing online. Dr. Ruth Lawrence, an international breastfeeding authority, and author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, whose pioneering work and advocacy for breastfeeding dates back to the 1950s, is on the panel.

In the session I learned about some examples of successful applications as well as egregious violations of the International Code of Marketing.  I also was informed about some exciting outcomes in regard to increasing initiation and exclusivity of breastfeeding in some NYC hospitals and in the Vermont WIC Program due to some dedicated efforts. And, I also learned the term commerciogenic malnutrition. In this context it referred to the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and its impacts on babies, but I may ponder some wider implications as well.

As always, send word, share your thoughts, subscribe and pass along. Thanks.

Today’s MyPlate photo is of the beautiful watermelon cake my office “birthday angel”  made for me to celebrate my birthday! Go make one soon. Send me your MyPlate photo.

Related Posts: Blessed Feeding; To She Who Loves Us Before She Meets Us; Breastfeeding Redux; Oh Mother

photo (3)

Cathy’s Plate

  My Plate Haiku

Are we what we eat

Or do we eat what we are

Are they the same thing?  by Julie