Living life with one arm in a sling

For two weeks, my “One & Only” (O&O) has lived life with one arm in a sling. Most of us who are able-bodied and have two arms working don’t think too much about the importance of two arms working together simultaneously. Just like me, on my keyboard writing this post, I am using both arms/hands. It is a very difficult situation when suddenly one arm/hand is not functioning.

We take so much for granted when we have two arms working together. We need this for the basics such as showering, getting dressed, tying up shoelaces, cutting up food and much more. No driving the car for months for my O&O. He now has a chauffeur who will take him wherever he pleases!

One advantage is that my O&O is right-handed and it is his left arm that is in a sling. But this is not only a sling, it has a support behind the sling that holds the arm in the right position to heal. Sleeping with this sling and support can interfere with your sleeping. It can be very difficult to find a comfortable position. Then there are the exercises x 3 times per day and a constant pill taking regime to keep the pain under control.

A shoulder replacement is a very technical operation and through friends we found a specialist at the Brisbane Hand and Upper Limb Clinic. It is one of the largest clinics in the Southern Hemisphere where surgeons specialise in hand and upper limb disorders and injuries.

Fortunately, for my O&O in a few months he will fully regain the use of his left arm. Not like some others who are permanently disabled and only have the use of one arm. One of these people is Jennifer, a young American woman who was born with only one arm. Read here about how she overcame her disability to live a full and successful life with the aid of a prosthesis. Jennifer likes to keep positive and as is reported in her story, if life gives you lemons then it is time to make lemonade.

It is very challenging living life with one arm in a sling. But it seems many are prepared to do this to relieve the pain and like my O&O gain back the full function of his arm without pain. In USA 4.5 million people each year seek medical care for shoulder pain and 250,000 have rotator cuff surgery.

This is a photo of the artificial joint that is now in my O&O’s shoulder. There are more photos but one I am sure is more than enough!

If you have wondered why I have not been blogging lately it is because we have spent months working on a project (I will share this in a later post). Weeks before my O&O’s surgery we were preparing for the time post his operation when he was incapacitated. He spent time cutting wood for the fire, gardening and a plethora of other activities. What we have found is that it is difficult to be fully prepared for such a situation and the length of time it takes to recuperate. But we will get there and yes, it will be worth it!

And by the way, this week my email was corrupted and that took some time to sort out. Then, the tablet that controls our ducted air-conditioning malfunctioned. On the bright side, I have learnt how to use our self-propelled mower and for the first time in decades made up and poisoned weeds in the garden. Where do they all come from? There is great satisfaction in mowing the lawn and then sitting back and looking at it! Not too much sitting around though there are leaves that must be raked from our deciduous trees and other chores to be done. Life is never uninteresting at our place, even if one of us has one arm is in a sling.

When in this situation it is time to “sit and stare” – time to enjoy the fire.

A wood fire is very relaxing and good for the soul.

Too Much Apple Pie!

Who is eating too much apple pie? Not at our house. These days we prefer or our digestive system copes better with savoury food. This is working in our favour, keeping us healthier than we would be if we ate apple pie. When I was growing up apple pie was often on the table and even today it is popular. As we grow older the better option is to eat fresh wholefoods, when we can. My continual mantra is – where we can, we should grow our own food. At least, some of our food and certainly herbs.

When I see a person in the supermarket with herbs in their trolley I want to take them aside and have a little chat. On second thoughts, maybe this is not the best way to approach the subject. It is so easy to grow herbs. Even if I did not grow anything else, I would have to grow herbs. I remember back to my first attempt at herb growing when I was much younger! I did not have great success. The reason is I did not give them enough water – enough said!

Eating too much apple pie will put on the kilos and potentially create obesity. There is a large (word chosen carefully) obesity problem in the western world. Over half of the population in Australia is overweight. Too much apple pie or too much fast food or the wrong food, will increase our weight.

We have plenty of sweet basil at the moment. I used this and other herbs to make another batch of tomato and herb sauce. This sauce gives a wonderful aroma to our Sunday night pizza and adds great flavour to a pasta dish. Maybe throw in a few prawns and bellissimo!

 

Tomato, herbs, onion and garlic together with a touch of red wine make a great home-made sauce. Mix with a hand blender after cooking and bottle.

I am no different to many others, in that I need to lose a few kilos. Although, my weight gain is not caused by too much apple pie! I thought I was at a healthy weight for my height but I find that I am not as tall as I used to be. Or should I say that I am shorter than I was? Therefore, to be healthy, I need to lose the weight. Losing weight is not easy. This probably explains why so many people are overweight.

Being overweight is not without its health dangers. Through our eating habits we create a lifestyle. What we eat, drink and/or smoke can result in a lifestyle disease. It is entirely up to me to make sure I eat healthy food, to have a healthy lifestyle. No one else will do it for me. Hence, setting up our Mediterranean garden so we can grow more of our own food, even in a small space, is a good start.

Our Meyer Lemon has fruit!

Our dwarf Valencia (seedless) orange tree is flowering profusely.

It will not be long before we are eating our home-grown Tahitian Limes.

If you are thinking of growing some of your own food don’t put it on hold, start this weekend. Buy a punnet of lettuce, a tomato plant, a few herbs and put in a planter at your backdoor. Keep watering and before long you will have your very own mini Mediterranean garden. Apart from being rewarded with watching your plants grow you will be building a better and healthier lifestyle. No one wants to be weighed down with a lifestyle disease.

Lifestyle diseases include heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer, hypertension and premature death. These are all the things I want to avoid. I think we made a good start by giving up apple pie. While some of these diseases have a genetic cause, most of these diseases can be prevented through modifying our lifestyle. This is much easier said than done. It takes time and effort to overcome lifestyle habits.

Our way forward is to:

  • Eat breakfast (when starting the day with breakfast we are less likely to fill up mid-morning with unhealthy snacks)
  • Eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts
  • More fish and less meat
  • Cook more meals at home
  • Cook meals from scratch (avoid packaged sauces and canned food, apart from tomatoes!)
  • Reduce our daily intake of sugar and fats
  • Drink more water (a little soda from our soda stream in the water and a twist of lemon or lime helps)
  • Find healthy snacks
  • Exercise more

If we do all the above we will improve our chances of keeping healthy and limiting disease. Being within our healthy weight range is a serious matter, even a life changing matter.

If you want to find out your healthy weight range click here!

The Upsides and Downsides of Health Care in Australia

There are upsides and downsides to health care in Australia. The upside is that we all have access to health care through public hospitals and the universal health care system, Medicare. When you have private health care insurance, the upside is you have more choices. With private health care insurance waiting times for elective surgery and access to other medical specialist care is reduced. The downside is that you pay for health insurance and sometimes for health care services, not covered by your policy. The other downside is that Medicare is under pressure as health care costs increase. The system cannot keep up with demand and that is a big downside, just plain “bad news” for all Australians.

The 2014 Report by the Grattan Institute tells us that “every year public hospitals spend one billion dollars with little or no benefit”. That is a particularly big downside. Spending one billion on health care in Australia with little or no benefit!

HEALTH CARE COSTS GROW

Each year health expenditure is growing. Spending on health in Australia was $161.6 billion in 2014–15. Expenditure was $4.4 billion (2.8%) higher than in 2013–14. The health care share from the economy, that is the amount from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period was 10%.  We are told that health care costs are too high, yet the USA spent 17.5% of GDP in 2014.

The cost of the Medicare levy to consumers is 2% of taxable income. In 2015-16 you did not pay the levy if your taxable income is less than $21,335 ($33,738 for seniors and pensioners). Now 30 years on from when Medicare commenced are we better off? Not so. It seems the system is on a downhill slide as we are not getting the benefit that was forecast. The intention was that we would receive 75% or 85% of the expended cost to see a doctor or medical specialist. Over time the gap has widened and out-of-pocket expenses for the consumer increases.

GOVERNMENT FREEZE ON MEDICARE REBATES

The government Medicare rebate freeze has an impact on the services provided by general practitioners (GP’s) and medical specialists. The rebate freeze is not helping the doctors, nor the consumers. By 2020, unless something changes, medical practitioners will be getting the same amount for a service they provided in 2014. They must increase their costs, as overhead and operating costs grow.

If the government will not lift the rebate freeze then the consumer will pay. It has been argued that bulk-billing practices, in such an environment, will reduce over time. Already, GP’s in New South Wales are charging aged pensioners $55 for a consultation. Similarly, in Queensland, medical practices are raising their fees so that they can continue to offer bulk-billing to low income earners and age pensioners.

CONSUMER COSTS INCREASE

The refund for a medical visit has fallen over time. For example, I saw an eye specialist three times in the past 12 months. The refund back from Medicare is 36% and 37% of the total cost, depending on the item number. But no more than 37%. Each time I paid $266 of the $360 fee. That is a big out-of-pocket expense to pay.  Even if you have private health insurance this does not extend to picking up the gap between a medical fee and the Medicare refund. The downside is that the system is very unwell.

Take another example, a situation whereby a parent needs specialist care for their child, such as a paediatrician. They firstly need a GP referral, as without this they cannot claim the Medicare benefit. The following is just one scenario. In 2015 a parent asks online “my paediatrician visit for my child will cost $250, how much will I get back from Medicare”? A comment is “I only paid $165 and I got back $60 from Medicare”. The gap for this parent is $100. This is a considerable gap, if a parent needs paediatric care for their child and cannot line-up in the public system. No private health insurer covers this type of expense, it is out-of-the pocket for the parent.

Medicare system urgently need restructuring

OLDER AUSTRALIANS PLACE PRESSURE ON MEDICARE

Let us go to the other end of the spectrum, older Australians. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has a position statement for Older Australians access to Medicare. On 13 August, 2012 they stated “between 2010 and 2050, the number of older people (65-84 years) will more than double, from 2.6 million to 6.3 million, and the number of very old (85 and over) will more than quadruple from 0.4 million to 1.8 million.” Note: the “very old”. My mother at 90 years is now in the “very old” age group. It is not enough to be “older” the aim now is to be “very older”. I will never understand such an approach. Just “older” for whatever age group over 65 years would suffice. But then again, it gives “older” people a new goal in life – to reach the age of “very older”!

The AMA has called for urgent policy development, given the increased demands for medical services. They bring attention to the fact that older Australians are not being valued as the medical infrastructure needed is not in place. The restructure of Medicare is urgently needed before it fails more and more people. The AMA state that the cost of providing bulk-billed services to older people is unsustainable. What does this mean then for older Australians? It means that we will may have to pay, and pay dearly, for our medical costs. This is already happening as I mentioned earlier. The downside is that everyone will be paying more and some older Australians will die. When people can’t afford to pay, they delay seeking specialist medical care. If they delay too long, the cost is very high – a life! But it seems that all politicians focus on are numbers, not people!

THE COST OF PRIVATE HEALTH CARE INSURANCE INCREASES

Last week there was the announcement that private health care will go up by 4.84% in April, 2017. Almost 50% of Australians have private health care. However, that is about to decrease as many are now opting out of private health care insurance, the cost is too high.

If you are not one to abandon private health care you can seek help regarding your options through an Australian Government website. I decided to compare policies and find out what would be the yearly cost for two people, with an excess of $500 for Top Hospital and Comprehensive General Cover. Of the eight recommended policies, the lowest cost was $5,880 per year and the highest cost was $7,758 per year. Both are higher than our current yearly private health insurance cost of $4,548, with the government rebate. An increase of 5% will take our cost to $4,775. For some time, we have been thinking about our general cover which includes, podiatry, psychology, acupuncture, naturopathy, remedial massage etc. We have paid the general cover premiums for decades but only access optometry and dental services. Do we need this? Will we need this? Should we like others, take the risk and jump ship when it comes to general cover?

OLDER AUSTRALIANS AND PRIVATE HEALTH CARE INSURANCE

A retired couple living a modest lifestyle requires $35,000 per year; a comfortable retirement will cost $60,000 per year. For a couple living a modest lifestyle their health care costs, based on our cover would be 14% of their yearly budget. For a couple living a comfortable lifestyle the cost reduces to just over 8% of the budget. Whatever way you look at it, all around there are downsides.

WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?

The solution is not in the hands of consumers. It is in the hands of the Federal and State Governments to work together with medical providers in order to improve health care options for Australians of all ages. The health care system is sick and needs urgent attention. While we all wait for politicians to restructure the system and not just tinker around the edges, what do we do? The best answer I can come up is diet and exercise and have a regular health check with your GP if you are older! Making sure we don’t fall into the category whereby we are being over-serviced. Over-servicing does happen therefore it is always a good idea to question the doctor about the treatment plan. All older Australians who can access bulk-billing can easily become one of the group of “worried well” seeing their GP, just in case! Also, what about the cost of going to the doctor’s every time just to get a repeat prescription. That is something that could be addressed and potentially save millions, if not billions.

In the meantime, we eat healthy foods, no cakes, no chocolates, limit alcohol and no sugary drinks. Reduce portion sizes, that is, only eat enough to be satisfied and drink lots of water. What – no chocolates! My 90-year-old mother loves chocolates and at her age it is one pleasure she should keep enjoying. What about you? What are you doing to keep healthy to reduce your health care costs? Are there any other upsides that come to your mind?

P.S. I have great admiration for the dedicated and hard-working doctors, nurses and allied health professionals across the country. This is a great upside, during so many downsides!

The Naked Retiree, Depression and the Mediterranean Garden

The Naked Retiree, getting older, tired and depressed should now be creating a Mediterranean Garden. There is more than one reason that the naked retiree must get out in the garden. Already, many retirees have felt the heavy hand of the Federal Government changes to the age pension. That is, those that have less in their pocket. A few naked retirees have a little more, but not much more! Around 170,000, to be more precise, will receive $30 more in their fortnightly pension payment. Though for many of those, this small “leg up” will not make much difference when many are already living on “struggle street”. There are hundreds of thousands of older Australians who have a new title – the “losers”. That is the title that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull conferred on older Australians. The ones that are helping the government manage an unsustainable budget with debt and deficits none of us can begin to imagine.

Now there is talk about the family home being included in the assets test for the age pension. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) is the latest body to call for the change. It may happen or it may not happen but with all this media publicity it creates a sense of foreboding in retirees. All of which has the potential to exacerbate the symptoms of depression or cause those who are depression free to feel miserable about what the future holds. If you are feeling depressed beyondblue has a support service that will help you. To counter the symptoms of depression it becomes even more essential for the naked retiree to get out into the garden, a Mediterranean Garden!

It may look small but when we do the garden makeover it will be big enough!

Many of us have heard about the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet or eating regime. This includes, improving cardiovascular health, less chance of developing diabetes and increased longevity. An Australian study at Deakin University has discovered further benefits. The findings were encouraging after only 12 weeks of eating a Mediterranean-style diet. In that time, one-third of the participants showed a significant improvement in their mood and depressive symptoms. There was never a better time for naked retirees to start a Mediterranean Garden.

Very soon our herb and vegetable garden will be increased in size and fully enclosed.

The benefits are many if you grow some of your own food. Firstly, you will save money at the supermarket check-out. Then, if you follow the Mediterranean eating regime you have less chance of developing diabetes. Now the naked retiree is feeling a whole lot better about themselves and life in general. This is of course, if they do not worry too much about their “long life” and how they will manage financially as they age. So, what is in this Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean way is to eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts; olive oil and canola oil; using herbs and spices to flavour food; limiting red meat; eating chicken and fish at least twice a week and red wine in moderation. To get the lifestyle really working combine the food with exercise. This is the Mediterranean Way and it is now “our way”. We have this type of diet and it will be even better when our food is fresh, straight from the garden, as soon as we make a few changes to our garden.

Our garden makeover includes an enclosed herb and vegetable garden. We must go down this track to keep out the possums, brush turkeys, birds and bandicoots.  Our lovely plump “Grosse Lisse” and cherry tomatoes are under attack by predators.  Tomatoes are a basic of the Mediterranean Diet and that suits me perfectly as I love tomatoes. This week I made a “Garden Herbs and Tomato” Sauce. We have a small supply ready for any pasta dishes or pizza’s over the next month or so.

This is our tomato crop that the birds and brush turkeys have been enjoying!

It does not take too much effort to make your own pasta and pizza sauce. This batch of “Garden Herbs & Tomato” Sauce has tomatoes, organic garlic, onions and herbs. Only the herbs came from our garden. The combination works well for a great taste!

We have planted citrus fruit trees that already are bearing small fruit to be harvested in the winter months. Once we have our enclosed herb and vegetable garden we will be able to dig and plant with more vigour and confidence knowing that we are protecting our small crop. Getting out in the garden, digging and weeding is also good for our health. It takes time, space and effort and not all naked retirees have the agility or health to create a garden. If you are older and you can’t manage a garden, then find out about a local farmer’s market and get your produce from there. You will find it fresher and cheaper than in the supermarket.

Naked retirees, the cohort also known as “losers,” are the older Australians, many of whom went through the Great Depression of the 1930’s. After living through the “Great Depression” they and other retirees are now living through the “Great Oppression” of the Turnbull Government. When will this cease! And where are the most brilliant minds in Australia, the ones that can get us all out of the “budget blackhole”? At the very least, without penalising older Australians. There must be another way. In the weeks and months ahead I will look at more statistics about how other countries are beating the “budget blues” without beating up on their older citizens.

The Rosemary Bush has flourished with regular watering. Growing your own herbs is so much cheaper than buying them at the supermarket.

While I am writing this, I am listening to Plácido Domingo Encanto del Mar, a collection of Mediterranean Songs, which is a coincidence. I really enjoy the Mediterranean music and listen to it often and very soon we will have our very own Mediterranean Garden. The way things are going politically and the decisions that are being made we “need” our Mediterranean Garden.

Our house has Mediterranean influences. We have arched windows and the brick entrance is arched. We also have a water fountain out the front. Once I get the solar worked out, instead of running this with electricity we will hear the gentle sounds of running water. Maybe then I could start a tradition with neighbours, friends and family. Every time we have a visitor they must turn their back and throw a coin in the fountain! Just like at the Trevi Fountain in Rome. These coins can pay for our new seedlings for the Mediterranean Garden! Will that mean we will have “less” visitors? A funny statement I read recently was from an older woman who said to a visitor “please visit me again when you have less time”. The naked retiree must maintain a sense of humour as life can be difficult in difficult times!

It is difficult to “fly with the eagles, when we are stuck on the ground with a bunch of political turkeys”. Despite this, we are a resilient bunch, us older Australians. If you don’t feel as resilient as you would like, go out and find a group to support you through tough times. You could also join me and join National Seniors Australia. It is an independent voice to ensure the views of older Australians are heard by governments at all levels.

Frugal Frieda Exercises

Each month in 2016 Frugal Frieda tell us how to save money. This month the topic is exercise.

Frugal Frieda exercises and the exercise that she does is to walk or ride a bicycle. If you remember the song “Walk On” the lyrics speak of walking on through the wind and rain. The lyrics are not telling us to walk despite the weather it is a metaphor for not letting life’s circumstances hold us back. The lyrics encourage us to keep on going. When it is windy and raining though Frugal Frieda does not like to walk. She can manage the wind and possibly a shower of rain if it happens on the homeward journey, but that’s all!

Frugal Frieda does not pay for gym membership or a personal trainer. These activities are a phenomenon that has developed in the last few decades due to our lifestyle choices and habits. Habits include too much food, too little exercise and too little time for walking. Again it is trendy to go to the gym and though costly, some of us are willing to pay for someone else to watch over us to make sure we do our exercises.

If you pay to go to the gym or have a personal trainer you probably look a lot better than me! This is because when we manage our own exercise program we are totally reliant on motivating ourselves. If self-motivation is a problem it may be a good option to have a personal trainer for a while to help with setting up an exercise schedule.

It is not good to live a life exercise free, but it pays to live a life of free exercise. Money in your pocket and not in those who capitalise on our lifestyle habits or lack of these. Should Frugal Frieda apologise to all those who rely on helping others to exercise as an income? Not necessarily, there will always be those who prefer the gym option for motivation, use of a range of equipment and the availability to attend all year round, whatever the weather.

Frugal Frieda can understand that athletes who are playing professional sport need the support of physiotherapists, sports psychologists and the gym but not Frugal Frieda she has never aspired to be a professional athlete.

Walking is good for us and science has shown that it has many benefits for our health. Read about it here. 

How fortunate are we that our new home is tucked away in a quiet corner of Toowoomba. It is not far from bush walking tracks. We will be able to walk the tracks and enjoy nature in all the different seasons that Toowoomba offers.  All I have to do is to put on those walking shoes and walk out the door and not let life’s circumstances hold me back!

I have new walking shoes. When walking dusty tracks though I will wear my old ones.

I have new walking shoes. When walking dusty tracks though I will wear my old ones.

Tip for February: Walking has many health benefits. As the weather becomes cooler in Queensland it is the perfect time to walk out the front door and go for a walk. Walking in the bush is even better for us. I will see you out walking!

It’s a lemon

It’s a lemon is a common saying when something you buy is defective, particularly when buying a second-hand car.

However, what I am writing about is not a lemon in that context but how magnificent the lemon tree is, the one that produces lemons. In our previous garden we had an amazing lemon tree. It was a Meyer Lemon and it was a prolific producer of lemon. It did not get too much attention or fertilising but season after season it produced great fruit. Lemon trees like the sunshine and not too much wind but our Meyer Lemon we planted in Maleny managed wind and rain with no trouble at all. We kept it pruned low and it was around 15 years old when we left, still in a very happy state.

There are three popular lemon trees in Australia: the Eureka, the Meyer and the Lisbon.  The Eureka and Lisbon both need frost protection. We have had a Lisbon lemon but I found it not juicy enough and the tree grew too tall. The Lisbon is the best variety for jam making. The Eureka is a juicy lemon with high acid content. The Meyer Lemon is from China and apparently a cross between a lemon and mandarin or orange. The fruit of the Meyer does have a slightly different shape to the Lisbon or Eureka, it is more rounded. Meyer Lemon is my lemon of choice as I have had such a great experience with the Meyer. I am missing picking lemons from the tree out of the garden. Lately we have bought lemons for $1.50 – $1.70 each!

This is a photo of our Meyer Lemon Tree in our previous property. It was a prolific producer of juicy, sweet lemons.

This is a photo of our Meyer Lemon Tree from our previous property. It was a prolific producer of juicy, sweet lemons.

There are so many uses for lemons it should almost be standard in everyone’s garden. We will make sure we plant a lemon tree in our new garden. If I lived in a unit I would have one in a pot so you don’t necessarily have to have a garden but just make sure it is positioned to get a good dose of sunshine.

Lemons are anti-ageing and good for our skin. Now that I am older I need to drink more water with lemon juice! Lemon juice has antibacterial properties and is good to gargle if you have a sore throat or just drink a cup of tea with lemon juice added. Kitchen cutting boards can also be sanitised by cutting a lemon in half and rubbing over the board. When I see lemons at a good price I will buy extra and freeze.  All I need to do is place in a freezer bag whole and take one out at a time, as needed. Easy peasey! The many ways we can use lemons goes on and on and in my mind they are a celebrated citrus.

Lemon trees are so famous they have had a song written about them but more so the people who sang the song, Peter, Paul and Mary. The song was recorded in the 1960’s and I remember it well as a teenager. The lyrics describe a father’s warning to a young boy who advised him not to put his faith in love. The verse in the song states “lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat”. The tale told in the song is that when older the boy fell in love and everything was wonderful until his beloved left suddenly and went with another. The warning of his father rang out that putting your faith in love is like the lemon tree, the flower is sweet but the fruit impossible to eat and love can falter. If you are around my age and would like a little nostalgia you can click below and listen to the song. If you have not heard of the song then this is your moment of discovery about an iconic American folk trio.

Think about planting a lemon tree if you don’t have one in your garden or on your balcony. The Meyer Lemon is sweeter so the lyrics must not refer to the Meyer Lemon. It is also a very easy variety of lemon to grow. I have updated the lyrics for the Meyer Lemon Tree – “lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet and the fruit of the Meyer is so wonderful to eat”! When next you hear someone say “it’s a lemon” they just might be getting excited about the fruit from the lemon tree!

Eat mindfully

I am not very good when it comes to mealtime and following my “golden rule” to eat mindfully. I am always being distracted by a book, a newspaper, a television program or my smartphone. If we eat mindfully, we are concentrating on eating, the food, the experience, the taste and what is happening with our body as we eat. Ideally, to eat mindfully I concentrate on one activity at a time. Sometimes this is a very difficult task for me when I am a multi-task type of person.

On the other hand, conversation when having a meal is not so much a distraction as it gives us time to pause, time to digest and savour the sight of our food, while we are mindful of talking to another person for a short time.

When we eat mindfully it allows us to fully concentrate on what we are doing and as we do this we may even find we eat less. I am starting the experiment. I started a few days ago. I want to fully experience my food, enjoy it and enjoy the moment of time as I eat mindfully. At lunch time today I went out on a tangent (a better way to say I failed!) and read the Sunday Newspaper while I had my lunch.  How does such a habit develop? Does it happen because we eat alone or does it happen because we are so busy and develop the habit of multi-tasking? However it happens, it has happened to me and now it is up to me to break the habit of multi-tasking at mealtime. I know it will be better for me if I concentrate on one thing at mealtime – and just eat mindfully.

But it is one thing to eat mindfully and another to be mindful of what we eat! I like to follow the 2&5 rule; two pieces of fruit a day and 5 vegetables a day. To achieve the 5 vegetables a day I have developed the habit of making coleslaw and having this with a salad at lunch time, most days of the week. My coleslaw consists of cabbage, carrot, capsicum and onion – 4 vegetables, add tomato and beetroot and now there are six! My “One & Only” and I also like our “one slice salad sandwich” (OSSS)  – see the photo below of my OSSS made on a slice of Swedish Rye Bread. We also usually add ham and mustard to the OSSS to give it that extra delicious flavour. It also tastes better if I eat mindfully as I am fully aware of the sensation and experiences of eating the food.

Enjoy a one slice salad sandwich to get your 5 vegetables a day

Enjoy a one slice salad sandwich to get your 5 vegetables a day

While I practice eating mindfully I have to eliminate a few items from my grocery shopping, if I am being mindful of what I eat. One of these is Hollandaise Sauce in a packet. It is such an easy option but there are all sorts of emulsifiers and stabilisers, anti-caking agent, modified starch, colour and the list goes on. There is a healthier alternative and I have it at my fingertips. All I have to do is take a few minutes to make my own. I have an easy recipe and I am determined I will make it this week when we have a fish meal. Are there healthier alternatives you are dishing up in your kitchen? I would love to hear about them to encourage me in my cooking so I can enjoy my meal even more while I eat mindfully.

Downsizing

These days there is a lot of talk, particularly amongst baby boomers, about downsizing and this usually relates to the family home. In actual fact, downsizing is all about making something smaller. As you get older downsizing takes on a new dimension because as we age we become smaller in height. So, how low can we go? The process of “body downsizing” starts around age 40.  We can lose up to centimetres in height as we get older. It has to do with the gel like discs in our back that lose their cushioning and through osteoporosis – a condition whereby the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue.

How tall are you?

How tall are you?

My “one and only” (O&O) and I are on the downsizing scale as ageing kicks in. I was never tall. At school we used to line up in height order. I was usually last or second last in the row. I hope that does not happen in schools today. Whilst thinking about this I had to get my O&O to measure my height. Now in my mid 60’s it seems I may have lost around 15cms in height. There is also the possibility that the height measurement on my driver’s licence was exaggerated by me, all due to that school line up! My O&O said that is was a rough measurement so I am of the belief that my body downsizing is minimal at this stage.

While the height shrinkage, I prefer to call it “body downsizing” exacerbates after age 70 years there are a few steps we can take to maintain our height. If you are Vitamin D deficient than your doctor may prescribe a Vitamin D supplement. Other measures are to get enough calcium. About 99% of calcium is found in our bones. In order to maintain strong bones we need to eat foods such as dairy products (low fat contain about the same calcium as full fat); salmon/sardines; greens such as broccoli, bok choy and silverbeet. Instead of sour cream for our curries at our place we have plain yoghurt. Yoghurt is more nutritious and has less fat than sour cream. Eating “foods for height” is a good idea. The same foods will also keep us healthy. In my next post I will talk about our house downsizing that has just happened. A new and exciting era of our lives.

The Wooden Spoon

I have been looking closely at the wooden spoons in my kitchen. Not that I am attracted to wooden spoons however I am quite fond of them as a utility companion in the kitchen. But times change and so have my wooden spoons. I thought it was time I looked into the matter more and whether my wooden spoons that I am using in the kitchen are hygienic.

The humble wooden spoon as ingenious as it is can harbour bacteria if not cared for properly

The humble wooden spoon as ingenious as it is can harbour bacteria if not cared for properly

Wood has been used for centuries to make a range of instruments including those for cooking. Most woods have natural anti-bacterial properties but what is best and should I be using a wooden spoon? Is there another option that is more hygienic? And while I am thinking about this what about my chopping boards!

I discovered it is better to have a wooden spoon made from hardwood, not a soft wood, such as pine. Pine is more absorbent so I should be buying a wooden spoon made of oak, maple or olive wood. After the purchase I need to care properly for my wooden spoon.

Here are a few tips about looking after your wooden spoons from a cooking equipment expert.

I have a tendency to put my wooden spoons in the dishwasher even though I know it is better if they are hand washed. But the dish-washing experience for the wooden spoon is not good. It will get too wet and this is when bacteria can find ways into the wood and into our cooking.

There is a lot to think about when you pick up that wooden spoon next time you are in the kitchen. It could be a bacteria time bomb. Read about the risks here and other items in our house we need to care for properly to reduce the threat of bacteria.

Therefore it should not be of any surprise that I am on the lookout for new wooden spoons. I am still to find the type of wood and the quality finish on the spoon I want for my kitchen. In the meantime I have bought three new chopping boards…a good start!

I found some great information about caring for my wooden spoons on The Reluctant Gourmet blog. If I follow the advice my new wooden spoons will last for longer and I will have improved kitchen hygiene. And if you follow the tips, so will you. Happy Cooking!

 

Body Maintenance, More or Less

Now that I am older and retired I have more time to think about and give priority to Body Maintenance. That is, having a good diet, exercise and implementing a preventative health regime. I also need to care for my emotional and mental health but for now my focus is on maintaining my physical body and keeping it healthy.

To keep up with Body Maintenance there are two key words that keep coming up in my life. These are MORE and LESS. We need MORE of some things and LESS of others. As I began to mull over the MORE/LESS principle I realised there are a range of areas I need to consider in maintaining a healthy body. What follows is what I have come up with. Perhaps you have would like to add to my list and if so I would like to hear from you.

I have been working on reducing my cholesterol and this is why I need to put into practice the MORE/LESS principle. If my cholesterol goes any higher my doctor will more than likely prescribe a Statin. Statins are drugs that lower cholesterol. There are side affects to Statins and I would prefer to keep my cholesterol under control naturally rather than rely on pharmaceutical medicine.

Therefore, I need MORE of the ‘good’ cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and LESS of the ‘bad’ cholesterol low-density lipoprotein (LDL). The ‘experts’ tell me that I need MORE fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain; MORE reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and dairy products; MORE lean meat and LESS fatty meat and MORE fish; MORE nuts, legumes and seeds and LESS cheese and ice cream.  When I go to the supermarket it is best to buy LESS packaged items. For example, it is better if I make my own hollandaise sauce instead of buying it in a packet. All I have to do is to make it MORE often rather than rely on the easy peasey take it down from the shelf approach. While I can eat eggs ‘moderately’ to reduce my cholesterol it is difficult to cut back on eggs when we have our Princess Chickens laying their ‘royal eggs’ at our door every morning.

Eating MORE fresh fruit and vegetables will make a difference to my body maintenance regime

Eating MORE fresh fruit and vegetables will make a difference to my body maintenance regime

Further to this I need to drink MORE water and LESS wine/alcohol. The National Guidelines in Australian for alcohol consumption is no more than two standard drinks per day for a healthy woman and man and four standard drinks on a single occasion to reduce the risk of alcohol related harm. A standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol.  You may have heard about Hello Sunday Morning (HSM) movement which aims to develop a better drinking culture. Read more about it here. Fortunately for me I am an avid water drinker and have been for decades, so all good there. The key here is not to become an avid wine drinker!

It can seem overwhelming when all I want to achieve is a healthy body that will keep me going for the decades ahead. Keeping it simple though helps me achieve my goals. If I stick to the “fresh is best” regime and concentrate on eating the MORE foods and fewer of the LESS foods then I should be okay. I am not a cigarette smoker and just as well as smoking cigarettes is not a MORE or LESS matter. I have seen too much of the detrimental effects of smoking with relatives and others. If you give up is it not only good for your health but also good for your wallet. You will have MORE money in hand at the end of a week.

MORE exercise is also important for a healthy body and LESS sitting around. The goal is to keep moving. Doing activities such as cleaning the house or car are good for me as mundane as the activity is. Walking or cycling gets me in touch with my surroundings and community. It also has additional benefits as reducing heart disease, blood pressure and high cholesterol. Note to self: walk MORE!

As we get older monitoring our heart rate and blood pressure becomes MORE important as it gives us an indication of our overall health. If you don’t have a monitor at home or an app on your mobile, you can check this when visiting your medical practitioner or at your local pharmacy.

MORE and MORE I am understanding the importance of putting the MORE/LESS principle into practice. It will make a positive difference to my health and lifestyle. Coupled with an optimistic outlook and taking care of my emotional and mental health the journey of life is an enjoyable experience. Join me in trying the MORE/LESS principle and let me know if it works for you.

And remember “take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live” – Jim Rohn.