Burgundy sunflower

Burgundy sunflower
Crescent Moon Designs Henna Art

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Moved to Wordpress

Well, I ended up moving platforms after all.  The only advantage that Wordpress has over Blogger is that you can add menu tabs -- so I have one for my homepage, Crescent Moon Designs Henna Art and one for my etsy store, HennaHeart.

The new blog is connected to my business page, and has the name, Musings of a Hennaphile. 

Thanks for everyone who read this blog.  I hope to find you at my new home, http://crescentmoondesignshenna.wordpress.com/

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Down time

It's been a fairly hectic quarter year.  I'm definitely feeling the need to recharge the batteries with a short vacation.  Unfortunately, jetting off to Italy is not an option.  Neither is a quick trip to Turkey or India.

However, there is always the option of culinary travel...and all those countries are on our vacation menu agenda.

A trip to the other side of the world is in the spice cabinet!

Also included in our mini-vacation itinerary: OFF mode.  No phone, no internet, no TV.  No electronic connectivity -- just spending time with the spouse, the puddies, some books, the camera and my drawing book.

The weather is supposed to be fantastic and our yard is green and filled with flowers from the recent rain.  We may be staying at home next week, but it already feels like a "real" vacation -- and I can't wait!

Our meadow of planted wildflowers is in full red right now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cherry blossoms for Japan

Cherry blossoms for Japan

This post on  Positively Beauty made me think about the recent disasters in Japan, other natural disasters, cherry blossoms, and the paradox of life.
Japanese cherry blossoms

The cherry blossom, the very symbol of spring, is also a symbol of the fleeting existance of life. Cherry trees grow best in places with real seasons, but the transition between seasons is usually erratic and sometimes harsh. When I lived in Baltimore, I witnessed more than one cascade of transcendant cherry blooms vanish and die after a sudden April ice storm. And yet, the next spring, there they were: cherry blossoms in all their pink radiance even though another ice storm was on the horizon.

And that seems to be what life is about. Life flourishes despite of impending disaster. Life simply is.

Throughout Earth's history, life has flourished, then been nearly wiped out, then re-emerged to bloom again. The K-T extinction event from around 65.5 million years ago is the most famous example of this seeming paradox. A huge asteroid slammed into the earth, creating massive tidal waves, volcanoes, earthquakes and climate changes. Most life on earth was wiped out. There is very little evidence of life in the fossil records from the late Cretaceous period.
Artist Don Davis' rendition of the K-T impact

 In fact, the earth has experienced at least 5 major extinction events with several minor ones, and yet life has always returned to continue doing what it does: live.

I grew up in tornado country where we were always aware how quickly things could be destroyed by a single, destructive funnel cloud.  My hometown of Nashville, TN has been shaped and reshaped by ruthless tornadoes. The tornadoes of April 1998 obliterated most of the downtown area and uprooted trees near my mother's house. In May of last year, severe thunderstorms brought more than 13 inches of rain to an already saturated Nashville and caused extensive flooding. And the city continues on, despite repeated disasters.
The 2003 Cedar fire threatens a suburban neighborhood in San Diego

I currently live in Southern California which is an area that faces yearly wildfires and is waiting for the "Big One", the 6.7 or greater earthquake that will happen within the next 30 years.  Or, it could happen tomorrow. But after the shock, damage, and destruction, people manage to survive.  The parts of the Cleveland National Forest that were charred by the 2003 Cedar Fire are now starting to recover with new growth.

California poppies are blooming once again in areas devasted by the 2003 Cedar Fire
We are small creatures who live on a planet that is fragile and at the whims of both its own instabilities and to the dangers from beyond our atmospheric borders. We are cherry blossoms, and when disasters strike, we pick up and bloom again because that is just what we do.

The process of picking up and renewing is messy and difficult. But it is inevitable.  It is the cycle of life.  And in time (after a lot of help), Japan will also blossom and thrive again.

In the meantime, give what you can, send prayers and positive thoughts, and reflect on our lives as cherry blossoms. We are lucky. We are so lucky.

The American Red Cross provides direct assistance of food, water, shelter and medical aid

AmeriCares is also giving direct aid to people in need

Have you had experiences with natural disasters?   What are some of your stories?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Energy vs. Time Management

I am reading The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz which argues that time management is not the best way to achieve more but that managing one's energy is the way to peak performance.

So far, what I've read seems like common sense. It's about balance.  Many of us are caught up in a cycle of doing, doing, doing without taking a moment to catch a breath of air, notice our surroundings, or recharge the batteries we are so busily depleting.  This book urges us to stop, take a moment to reflect on how we treat ourselves (whether we are eating healthy fuel and maintaining our physical strength with exercise and rest), whether we are living in tune with our core values (spending enough time on the things that are important and less energy on the things that just have to be done), and where our passions lie.

I had to take a reading break to take photos of the roses in the backyard.
My favorite rose!

This one was hidden underneath the branches.

This book is making me think about values and priorities and where I spend my energy.  And that's definitely worth pondering.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A moment of silence

8.9 quake and tsunami in Japan.  It's horrifying, sad and sobering.

The earthquake caused a road to buckle.

The tsumani pushed water, mud and debris several miles onshore and destroyed just about everything in its path.
The devastation is bad enough, but worries about the nuclear plant's integrity just add to the problem.
The nuclear power plant's cooling  system was wiped out by the tsunami and there are concerns about the plant's safety

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan.  Even though they are the most prepared people on earth for this kind of disaster -- no-one can truly be prepared, and the physical and psychological toll is huge.

For those of us on the West Coast of the US, esp. in Southern California, the big one has yet to happen. The bomb is ticking and we can only look at the devastation in Japan and think "There, but for the grace of God, go I..." 

  The American Red Cross: Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief
Text REDCROSS or 90999 to make $10 donation by text message.

Save the Children: Emergency Relief for Japan Quake
Toll free: 800-728-3843
Text JAPAN or 20222 to donate.

International Medical Corps
Text MED or 80888 to donate $10

Doctors Without Borders
Global Giving
Text JAPAN or 50555 to donate $10

Sunday, March 6, 2011

NASA Kepler Mission Launch

Two years ago I had the supreme honor and pleasure to be part of the launch party at Cape Canaveral, FL for the Kepler Mission.  It was an amazing evening - the week had been plagued with rain and unseasonably cool weather (for Florida), but the skies cleared and the launch was good to go.

It has been an an incredible journey ever since.  As the spouse of a Kepler Participating Scientist, I get to experience second-hand all the crazy-long nights of data-crunching, teleconferencing, gnashing of teeth and esctactic jumping when programs work. And the mission found cool stuff almost immediately, and data continues to stream in. These are exciting times!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The 24-hour, 365-Day Body

@Tracy noticed that I've been reading Timothy Ferriss' 4-Hour Body and it has helped her lose 20 pounds and keep them off.  That's awesome!  I am inspired and applaud this weight victory.

I have now finished the book, and while much of it makes sense, some does not compute, especially the part about eliminating bread and oatmeal and all dairy, except cottage cheese. (What makes cottage cheese superior to fat-free yogurt?)  I tried, but it didn't work for me longer than 2 days.  I love making kefir -- it's fat-free and high in pro-biotics (which keeps the flora happy, and when flora ain't happy...nobody happy). And I become grumpy when I can't make or eat bread. 
A variety of whole grains and pulses
So I compromise and cut out all the white stuff such as white flour, white rice and other highly refined products that mascarade as breads and muffins.  I now use whole wheat flour, steel-cut oats, and whole grains like chia, teff, flaxseeds, amaranth, millet, brown rice, black rice, and quinoa.  The results are delicious.

Dairy: I hate cottage cheese.  However, I do have to admit that large amounts of regular cheese are high in fat and low in fiber and probably not so good for you.  SO I use them sparingly as garnishes.  No more cheesey potatoes or gooey mac and cheese.  Oh well.  I also make my own kefir and drink 1/2 cup of fresh dairy kefir every day; non-fat milk, and lots of local probiotics.  I cannot find a reason to promote cottage cheese over homemade fat-free kefir, so I don't.

From Ferriss' advice, I've added beans to the diet and am mixing them in with the grains.  I've also increased my consumption of spinach, broccoli and kale.  But we do mix up the meals.  The 4-Hour Body recommends eating the same menu every day....but I suspect Ferriss is not married.  A variety of delicious meals eaten together is one of the keys to our domestic bliss, so definitely no same-old, same-old in the name of weight-loss.  I simply concentrate on portion sizes and drink a big glass of water before contemplating seconds.
Even among penguins, domestic bliss is about cooperating and making your partner happy

The Saturday binge.  I'm not a binger, so I don't consciously set out to do this.  But I like the idea of a free day -- so if I end up at a party and eat a piece of lemon meringue pie or some baklava, I can feel like it's all part of the bigger plan and that tomorrow I'll be back on track.  Parties usually happen on Saturdays...so it ends up fitting in with the book's advice.  But not on purpose on my part.

Exercise plays a huge part in this lifestyle change.  Before I read the 4-Hour Body and a lightbulb went off in my head, I was trying to let cardio shoulder the whole fitness burden.  Once I found a kettlebell and dusted off my old free weights, I started a 3 day a week, 20 min routine that has really improved my strength, kicked up the weight loss and helped me lose inches.  Ferriss is not the first person to advise using weights, but when I read his advice, it clicked... and it works.

I have to admit, I don't follow his routine other than using the kettlebell.  I like to use dvds that I can get from Netflix and switch it up.  And I've also started doing a yoga dvd after weight-training so that my muscles don't tighten up too much.  As someone who got two new hips less than 7 months ago, I am really aware of how much strength I need to build, but also how much flexibility I need to regain.  And just 20 min of yoga is helping with that.  I liked the AM/PM yoga dvd with Rodney Yee and Patricia Walden so much I bought my own copy.

 Heart disease happens in every family and is the number 1 silent killer of women in America.  So, when the moment of TRUTH happened in early January and I stood on the scale and realized that I am no longer a spring chicken and my BMI was 31, I knew I had to do something to get that number down and improve my cardiovascular system.  Clogged arteries, strokes, and high cholesterol run in my family... and weight control with cardio exercise is the long-term cure. (My aunt also medititates daily to keep her high blood pressure under control)

So I now start my mornings with 20-30 minutes of indoor walking with Leslie Sansone.  She's upbeat without being too perky.  She's down to earth and she jokes around with her crew, who come in all sizes.  She's obviously having fun, and I enjoy walking with her. I have several dvds and mix them up.  Every other day is a cardio day so I'll add in more "miles" with different videos.  Some use hand weights.  Some have varied speed work-outs.  Some have squats and lunges built in.  I'm a huge fan.

So there you have it: my program for life as inspired by Timothy Ferriss, Dr. Oz, Leslie Sansone, and my mother:

20-30 min walking every morning
3 days of strength-training which includes kettlebell swings -- love how those work the entire spectrum of the core! I usually spend between 20 and 60 min either doing a basic routine or following a dvd.
3 days a week of cardio -- a variety of indoor walking dvds or a long 2-mile walk outdoors on a pre-mapped course.  I like to get in 60 min in 2 30 min sessions during the day.
1 day of just hanging out and not worrying about exercise or diet (not necessarily on the same days)

Portion Control. I use measuring cups to make sure I have "normal" portions of grains and proteins.

Monosaturated fats: I use olive oil for most cooking and grapeseed oil for high-heat cooking; both have long treatises on their health properties, and they're delicious

Garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, pepper, etc. -- these rev up your system and as anti-oxidants, help prevent heart problems -- who knew prevention could be so delicious!

Dairy: Big decrease in consumption.  I still put a garnish of cheese on my bean burritos and I love mozzarella on pizza.  But gone are the days of cheese indulgence. It's a good thing we no longer live in the UK because that place is cheese heaven -- each little grotto has its own wonderful and delcious cheese -- and I would not be able to resist.   I figure if it's fat-free and in moderation, it's OK.  So 1 cup milk with cereal. 1/2 cup kefir.  And 2 tbl fat-free milk in my coffee.

Whole grains.  No more white stuff.  No fluff.  No white flour, rice, bread.  And preferably not things that I haven't made -- which ensures ingredient control and adds fun to my life.

Beans, pulses, lentils.  More of them.  I add them half and half to my grain dishes (pilafs and brown rice, etc.)  I puree white beans and use them to thicken sauces.  I add beans to my eggs in the morning. I eat bean burritos for lunch a couple times per week.  Another source of whole fiber. 

Vegetables and fruit.  Thanks to Tim Ferriss, I have added a lot more leafy green and cruciferous vegetables to the diet.  However, I take issue with his contention that because fruit doesn't grow during the winter in the countries where his ancestors hailed -- and they survived just fine, one should avoid eating fresh fruit. My ancestors were also from Northern Europe and ate mainly dried and fermented fish all winter long; that does not mean I have to follow in their footsteps.  I prefer to emulate the ancestors I wish I had: the Mediterraneans -and they had fresh citrus in the winter and  then a succession of delicious fruit throughout the rest of the year: pomegranates, figs, apples, pears, dates.... so much fresh delicious fruit all year round.  They also belived in bathing, invented chess, and used henna.  Their lives were much more comfortable than the lives of my frozen, fish-preserving forebears.  I currently live in Southern California, and am very grateful for a warm climate and year-round fresh produce.

So that's it.  My plan.  It's working for me.  I've lost 10 lbs since the second week in January and 5 inches around my waist.  I can haul a 40lb bag of topsoil from the trunk of the car through the garage to the garden without complaining.  I have energy all day long without more than 1 cup of coffee (the second cup is because it's delicious).  My BMI is now 29.  I still have 35 pounds and many inches to go.

I didn't get fat and lose all my muscle tone overnight. I used to be fit and slim, but three years of chronic pain from severe osteoarthritis, and lots of self-medication with Ben & Jerry's lead to the first round of weight gain.  Two hip replacements and many lemon meringue pies  later helped me reach my zenith -- AND nadir of 180lbs.

But now, I am working hard and seeing progress, and it feels great!  And I think I can do this for the rest of my life.  That's the idea anyways.