Ideas for Valentine’s Day in a Pandemic

HeartsI have previously written about how those not in a couple might enjoy Valentine’s Day: https://carolbrusegar.com/planning-your-valentines-day-singles/ But this is not a typical year. This is Valentine’s Day in a pandemic!

Perhaps the day has sneaked up on you as it has for me, given all that’s going on these days. If so, many sources have come up with ideas to help us. For your convenience, here are links to a few places to browse; there are some duplicated ideas, but also different ones in each:

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/style/home-decor/g35031389/quarantine-valentines-day-ideas-at-home/  This has some great fun photos to go along with the ideas for a chuckle or two.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/valentines-day-ideas/g35140980/quarantine-valentines-day-ideas/

https://parade.com/1150777/marynliles/virtual-valentines-day-ideas/  These are all virtual ideas – a variety of types.

https://people.com/lifestyle/how-to-celebrate-valentines-day-2021-coronavirus/  Ideas for both couples and those celebrating alone.

https://www.chicagoparent.com/play/holiday-fun/ways-to-celebrate-valentines-day/  If you have children.

https://www.funwithkidsinla.com/post/fun-smart-ways-you-can-celebrate-valentine-s-day-2021-and-be-safe-too  More family ideas.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/valentines-day-ideas/a30472475/galentines-day-quotes-instagram-captions/   Galentines Day quotes, etc. Fun stuff.

The People Magazine article ends with these words, which I wholeheartedly endorse:

Most importantly, remember that it’s just another day. Whether you’re alone or celebrating with your partner in a way that you hadn’t imagined, just remember that Valentine’s Day is just another day to show the people around you that you love them and to show yourself some love. The less pressure you put on it, the less stressful it will be … and once it’s over, you’ve got one thing to look forward to: all of that discount Valentine’s chocolate to buy.”

Honoring the Lost in a Year of Great Loss

Remembering the Lost

Honoring the Lost From Every Walk of Life

The hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by COVID-19 continue to mount as I write this in the last days of 2020. May we all make honoring the lost a part of our year-end reflections. For the families and friends of those people, they are the most important losses of the year. Each of these deaths is a loss to a family, a circle of friends, a community, and often beyond that.

Some of them were health care workers – doctors, nurses, specialty technicians, food service, maintenance staff – who served in specific locations. Also lost were other “essential workers” who continued to do their jobs that allowed life to continue at some level – paramedics, police officers and firefighters; grocery store and other retail employees; providers of transportation and city services and more. They are all heroes and martyrs on another level this year.

We are overwhelmed and numbed by the sheer numbers. It is largely incomprehensible. I found this article with multiple visuals helpful in grasping this reality: Breaking Down the Numbers I hope we can take some time to remember and honor these victims of a horrible pandemic that still grips our country and the world.

Honoring the Lost Whose Names are Well Known

We have also lost people whose names are known by millions of us – some related to COVID-19 but most not. They are known for their various contributions to our national identity or culture. Musicians, actors, artists, other entertainers, leaders in civil rights and government, athletes, journalists, authors, scientists, and more. They are people whose talents and skills enrich us in multiple ways.

The television networks feature lists and photos that stream past us as they recap the year as usual. Magazines and newspapers will provide their selection of notables. Who are the people you wish to particularly remember as they leave this dimension?

For me, the loss of three lifelong Civil Rights leaders are at the top of the list. The recognition and honoring of John Lewis, 80, was most visible to all of us. His lifelong activism, beginning when he was very young, through 30 years in Congress left a huge list of accomplishments and a legacy of leadership.

T. Vivian, 95, one of Lewis’s compatriots in the movement died the very same day and sadly we didn’t hear enough of his life and contributions. He grew up in Illinois and Missouri and was involved in a sit-in to integrate lunch counters in 1947! As a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, he became involved in sit-ins, marches and the Freedom Rides. He organized affiliate organizations to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Nashville and other cities. He moved to Atlanta in the 1970s and from that point organized and headed multiple educational, activist and business organizations focused on equality and access.

Joseph Lowry, 98, died at the end of March when the pandemic was gobsmacking all of us. He was involved in the group of ministers around Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that was so key to so many of the advances of those years. He served as the president of SCLC from 1977 to 1997, leading campaigns for justice in multiple states at a time when it was difficult to get media attention to this work. He pastored Methodist churches for nearly 50 years.

Another giant lost was Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 87. Her death and legacy were covered extensively, and we learned more about her contributions during those days. From being only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States to being a pop culture icon in her eighties, she was amazing. Her legal activism on behalf of equal rights for women extended over decades.

Why do I highlight these four? Prime among my reasons are their dedication to values and causes that motivated long lives of contribution.

A trailblazer of another kind also died this year – Lucille Bridges, 86. Hers is a unique story of having her 6-year-old daughter, Ruby Bridges, be one of the first children in the south to integrate an elementary school. Lucille was 26 years old when she and her husband made that bold and difficult decision in 1960 New Orleans. Through an entire school year, she walked Ruby to school with white people jeering and federal troops protecting them. No white students would be in a classroom with Ruby, so for the entire school year she and the one teacher willing to teach her were in a classroom alone together. The family paid a steep price for this bold action. Ruby’s father lost his job as a service station attendant when he wouldn’t withdraw her from the school. The local grocery store stopped selling to them. Lucille’s parents in Mississippi were forced from the land they sharecropped. Ultimately the stress and conflict caused Lucille and her husband to separate. The courage and persistence of this family which included eight children is an example that needs to be shared.

I encourage you to reflect on these and other losses of 2020. How do their stories inspire you? The Washington Post’s “Notable Deaths of 2020” provides information on the above and others: Notable deaths of 2020 – The Washington Post

 

Have a Hygge Holiday Season and Winter!

Hygge

 Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

“Holiday season” is defined in various ways. Yours may or may not be the same as mine – and any of us may decide to modify our definition in this unique year of the pandemic. Personally, I celebrate Christmas through the 12th day of Christmas, January 5. There are ways in which I extend it even beyond that. I wrote about that last year (pre-pandemic) here: https://carolbrusegar.com/expanding-parameters-december-holiday/

At whatever point you read this, the ideas can be applied to the days and weeks ahead – including through the winter months as we continue to stay at home much more than usual. Let’s all have a Hygge holiday season and winter!

Hygge has become increasingly popular everywhere in recent years. Perhaps you are already a devotee,  perhaps you’ve never heard of it, or perhaps you’d like to explore the idea more. So let’s start with what it is and where it came from.

Hygge, pronounced (Hue-gah) is a Danish word originally derived from an Old Norwegian word meaning well-being and protection from the outside elements. Denmark has notoriously cold, long winters. The concept of hygge has been used by Danish people to help mentally combat the brutally dark, relentless winter season and fill their homes with comfort and love. Hygge is a word that is so important to Danish people; it’s often used to describe what their culture is all about. Hygge is not necessarily something specific that you can buy, because it’s more of a feeling than a possession. Hygge really is the epitome of Danish living; in the last several years the concept of hygge has made its way to the US and many other countries with extreme popularity and trendiness.

Hygge can widely be described as a feeling of coziness, comfort, familiarity, friendship, laughter and seasonal homemade food and drinks. Although it’s possible to achieve hygge any time of the year (an outdoor BBQ with friends or a movie under the stars with family are great examples of summertime hygge), Hygge is generally associated with the colder months. This is because of its ability to uplift spirits during dark, long winter months. It can be especially comforting and enjoyable during these months of the pandemic. As we are staying safe at home to protect ourselves and others, focusing on creating peaceful, cozy surroundings can fill us with the feeling of contentment. Here are a few, simple ways you can bring holiday hygge into your home.

Warm lighting – achieve a great sense of hygge, by lighting some candles, having a real or gas fire or setting up string lights. Warm lightning is key to coziness.

Cozy linens, blankets and textures – get out all of those soft, fluffy blankets and have them available on the couch or chairs and by the windows, so that you can easily cuddle up with your favorite books and movies and relax.

Home cooking and baking – cooking some traditional holiday meals and treats will help bring holiday hygge into your home. Comfort foods like holiday ham, stews/soups/chilis, breads of all kinds, cookies, and apple/pumpkin/sweet potato pies will waft soul-warming scents throughout the air, making your home feel cozy and cared for. Baking together is a perfect hygge activity. It may be items that have become traditions, or a way to try new recipes that may be added to that list for coming years.

Comforting scents – filling your home with festive and cozy scents can be done in a variety of ways.  You can use scented candles, scented wax in a wax warmer, or scented oils. A wide variety of scents are available – warm vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices as well as pine and peppermint are some holiday favorites. Potpourri can be placed in open bowls in various rooms and refreshed with scented oils, or simmered with water on the stove or in a slow cooker. Scented pinecones and fresh evergreen trees or boughs are always a great addition.

Warm beverages – drinking these can warm body and soul. Hot chocolate can be varied in many delightful ways, as can apple cider. I wrote about the latter earlier: Apple Cider – Fall’s Delicious, Variable, Healthy Beverage!  Of course there are many other options for all ages!!

Try some new things, repeat things that you’ve enjoyed before, and have a Hygge holiday season and winter!!

 

If you’d like to learn more, I have two recommendations:

Here’s a great book written by a Dane who is a researcher at the Happiness Research Institute:

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living

This coloring book not only has Hygge designs, but includes the concepts along with some journal pages, tips for coloring and some finished products to illustrate them.

Hygge Happy Coloring Book: Coloring Pages for a Cozy Life (Design Originals) Discover the Scandinavian Secret of Happiness & Enjoy the Good Things in Life with Mellow, Relaxing Hygge Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the Pandemic is Changing a Holiday Outreach to Prison Inmates

TG in Arkansas

Hours riding in vans, loading and unloading equipment at nine different locations, going through prison security nine times, set-up and waiting, greeting hundreds of inmates, preparing and facilitating communion at each location. That has been my experience of the week after Thanksgiving for the past several years. Being part of Timothy’s Gift Christmas Tour to multiple correctional institutions during that week has become an anticipated and cherished part of the holiday season. It’s a holiday outreach that touches those who visit as well as those visited in profound ways.

The purpose of the tour is to deliver a message of hope and affirmation that each person is loved and not forgotten. Those who experience the program of music, words, personal greetings and affirmation have expressed the power of it. Letters from inmates we receive indicate impacts well beyond the ninety minute program at each location.

Enter the Pandemic

But not this year. The pandemic has, of course, halted such programs into prisons. The absence of this tour has created an emptiness for me and others who regularly participate. Seeing photos and remembering experiences in institutions in different states over the years – Arkansas, Ohio, Florida – accent the vacancy this has left. As I look at the faces in the photos, I think about what life must be like for the inmates now.

It’s difficult to even imagine the impact of the pandemic isolation of the past months in a correctional institution. We have certainly felt the impacts of stay-at-home orders over the months. In prisons, during the worst days, they have been confined to a single location with almost no time outdoors to get exercise. Food was brought to cells and barracks, no educational programs were available, no work assignments that normally  helped pass the time, no church or group meetings for inspiration and comfort, no visiting allowed by loved ones.

The normal activities have opened up as much as has been possible in the past months, depending on the location and the virus statistics there. As on the outside, restrictions may have been lifted and then re-imposed. Precautions are still necessary and very limited visitation of family is generally allowed now. It’s impossible, however, to know how long it will be before outside programs will be allowed and when people will be comfortable going in.

Plan B for Holiday Outreach

Thanks to the genius of Timothy’s Gift founder Ron Miller and people he engaged in the project, a different kind of holiday outreach has been created for this unusual year. Since we can’t go in person, a DVD of a Christmas program including music, spoken word, and humor has been professionally produced. It has been sent to 62 prisons in Florida and Arkansas for them to show to groups and to be available for individual viewing!

We look forward to getting feedback from inmates, administrators and staff of the institutions about this holiday outreach. The DVD will reach many more people than a program in rooms with limited capacity could reach, and in so many more locations than can be visited in any one tour. Although this approach lacks the impact of “when I was in prison you visited me,” it is a way of touching hearts and minds with a message of care. Hearing that they are not forgotten – even in the midst of a pandemic – is important, in whatever way it is possible to get the message.

If you are interested in learning more about Timothy’s Gift, go here:  https://www.facebook.com/timothysgift/community/ for photos, comments from inmates and more.  To support Timothy’s Gift, go to http://timothysgift.com/give

 

The Miracle of the Christmas Ship – a True Story for Your Enjoyment

Many of us love to read Christmas/holiday stories and books during December. Every year there are a lot of fiction books published to feed our reading hunger.

I decided to offer a true story to the mix, The Miracle of the Christmas Ship. It is now available as a Kindle book on Amazon.com and will soon be available in paperback as well. It’s a short book – if it were fiction it would be called a novella. Short and sweet – no long tome. It’s an inspiring story from the past that also provides historical context. I hope you will check it out and enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

https://carolbrusegar.com/the-miracle-of-the-christmas-ship/

 

A Thanksgiving Like No Other: Resources For the Celebration and Cultivating Gratitude

A Thanksgiving Like No OtherThanksgiving 2020 is a Thanksgiving like no other. In the midst of a wildfire of COVID-19 which has spread across the country, it is in the interest of ourselves and everyone else to take a pause. There will be another Thanksgiving. We will celebrate with our extended family and friends again. The risks of people being infected, getting sick and even dying are severe.

Let’s embrace this Thanksgiving like no other  by following the medical and local leadership advice and planning a celebration at home with only those in our immediate circle.

Last Thanksgiving I shared a collection of online resources to engage and entertain children and the whole family for the day and the entire weekend. There are great things to download and print, games, learning opportunities, recipes, and more. Plan for enjoyment:   https://carolbrusegar.com/thanksgiving-free-online-resources-entertain-family/

Through these past months of the pandemic, everyone has had their life disrupted in some ways. The severity of that impact has varied greatly. All of us feel loss of a variety of people and things. There’s a lot of pain and sadness, depression and anxiety. Many of us will find it more challenging to be thankful right now. Yet the very intention to identify, acknowledge and celebrate can be therapeutic in the midst of extraordinarily challenging times.

Gratitude is powerful. It can shift our thoughts and mindset and open us to more positives. It can inspire us to do things to enrich others’ lives. Expressing our gratitude to people who have enhanced our lives and supported us through difficult times helps both us and those to whom we communicate.

Adela Rubio describes 3 reasons that gratitude shifts our energy: It shifts your focus to the present moment, creates a new orientation, and establishes a indelible connection with Source. “Gratitude is a powerful transformation tool. It changes you and the world you live in!”  https://adelarubio.com/3-reasons-gratitude-shifts-energy/#

Perhaps there is no more important a time than this to structure a gratitude time into our lives. It can be as simple as having a small notebook or some paper clipped together where you write five things each day. As the days pass and you look back, you can see where you have been and what has touched you. Another approach, recommended by Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD and professor at the University of California Riverside, is a weekly gratitude exercise. Once a week, perhaps Sunday evening, reflect upon and write down five things for which you are grateful. For some, daily expression becomes boring and routine; weekly can be more meaningful.

Or you can take a more structured approach with prompts for you to write about each day (or less frequently but regularly). I offer you this free, directly downloadable 30-day Gratitude Journal to get started (or to resume a left-behind practice).  http://carolbrusegar.com/30daygratitudejournal

Z. Colette Edwards, MD, MBA has written a post that includes multiple aspects of gratitude. It was written this year and reflects our current reality in the midst of the pandemic.  Dr. Edwards is a physician and life/executive/wellness coach who blends traditional medical and integrative perspectives in her work.

Dr. Edwards includes a list of 20 Ways to Celebrate Gratitude which focuses on things we can do to express our gratitude to others, which has benefits for both ourselves and the recipients. For example, “Email or text notes or drawings to healthcare workers” or “Verbally thank the grocery store clerk who is stocking shelves non-stop or checking one customer out after another, and thus putting themselves at risk.” Here is the full post: https://peopletweaker.com/hcr-blog/gratitude-during-difficult-times/

Yes, it is a Thanksgiving like no other. Cultivating gratitude in yourself and encouraging it in others can be a powerful positive force now and for the weeks and months ahead.

Here’s a book with 105 short essays on gratitude. Each is written by a different author with a unique perspective and story. It’s a great thing to pick up and read an essay or two when you need a boost.  A Gift of Gratitude

 

 

 

Developing the Art of Staying In

painting watercolors

We are past the holiday season with winter surrounding us, whatever that looks like where you are. The pandemic has affected everyone. Let’s continue the challenge of developing the art of staying in safely!

Earlier, I offered some ideas for fall that included getting out in nature for activities of various kinds: https://carolbrusegar.com/celebrate-and-enjoy-autumn/ Now let’s focus our plans and activities on things we can do at home safely, possibly with a small number of friends or family.

The art of staying in begins with focusing on activities and pleasures we may not have taken time for in more active seasons. Some will take some time, others are just tweaks of things you may already be doing.

Being Healthier By Using Spices

Many of us are tiring of cooking at home much more than we used to. We may be eating the same few things over and over. New recipes can perk up the rotation; even just adding additional spices can enhance a dish or a beverage. And here’s a bonus – besides tasting great, certain spices are widely considered as “healing spices” that can boost the immune system. Anything we can do to strengthen our body’s ability to fend off colds, flu and other seasonal ailments is especially important this year.

Turmeric is one of the top spices in this category. It is closely related to ginger and has been used for its medicinal benefits for more than 4000 years. It is ideal in rice and chicken dishes. Here’s a simple recipe to try: https://www.food.com/recipe/turmeric-lemon-chicken-19687  Turmeric can be used in teas and other warm beverages. For example, Turmeric Golden Milk which also includes honey and pumpkin pie spice.  https://www.yummly.com/recipe/Turmeric-Golden-Milk-2226958

Cinnamon is a favorite flavor and is used in many fall recipes, especially baked goodies. It is also an antioxidant powerhouse.  Experiment with additional ways to consume more of it this fall. Try adding cinnamon sticks to your water – I like to combine them with apple slices in my infused water – and to hot beverages like apple cider or coffee.

For ideas about using some other immune-boosting spices, go to https://carolbrusegar.com/use-healing-spices-to-boost-immune-system/ .

Scents of Fall DIY Projects

Making your own scrubs, bath salts, candles, etc. is a great self-care activity. The process is enjoyable; the results provide relaxation. In addition, these items are great gifts for others. To get some ideas and “recipes” go here:  https://carolbrusegar.com/scents-of-fall-diy-projects/

Did you make Clove/Orange Pomanders when you were a kid? I did. They add scents of fall, too, and can be artistic projects as well. Check this out for ideas for designs, ways to make them last longer, and ideas for using them. https://www.almanac.com/content/how-make-pomander-balls

Learn Some Watercolor Painting Techniques

At my granddaughter’s birthday party, we had a painting party utilizing a YouTube video to guide us. It was great fun and expanded my interest in similar resources. I found that Jay Lee Painting has a variety of videos teaching watercolor techniques using simple trays of watercolors. You can use heavy art paper rather than canvass and have a relaxing and enjoyable time alone or with others.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=watercolor+painting+jay+lee

Take Advantage of Online Arts and Other Events

Early in the pandemic, I was intrigued with the number of concerts that were being given online so that musicians and other performers could stay connected with their followers and boost the spirits of anyone who watched. I anticipate a surge of such events as we move into the holiday season. Watch for announcements, check on websites or social media platforms for offerings and enjoy them. For example, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is having its first-ever Virtual Winter Season, December 2–31, 2020. In the spirit of making dance accessible to all, it will be free for everyone to enjoy. What a treat!  For more information: https://www.alvinailey.org/blog/announcing-aileys-virtual-season-dec-2-31 Festivals and other such events are often virtual these days. Find some you are interested in and see what they are planning.

For all of these events, enjoy them alone/with your household, or have some friends tune in at the same time and share the experience by connecting electronically during it.

Developing the art of staying in can be enjoyable and open new vistas and interests at the same time. It can boost your spirits and transform the time at home.

How the pandemic is affecting us continues to change. I invite you to be journaling through these changes if you are not already doing that. I created a free downloadable and printable journal a few months ago at the beginning. It can still be useful.  You can print additional pages as you wish. I also invite you to join this Facebook Group:  http://carolbrusegar.com/Journaling-a-Tool-For-Life

In the journal, I provide some questions/prompts that can help you zero in on your experiences and questions.  So that it is most flexible, those questions/prompts are in list form and you can write about what seems most useful on any given day. Or perhaps you just want to do daily reflections as you go along.

Here’s your link to the direct download: http://carolbrusegar.com/Journaling-Through-Crisis

Celebrate and Enjoy Autumn

No matter what the year has been like up to this point, I hope that all of us will celebrate and enjoy autumn! Various polls over the years have indicated that the season most cited as “favorite” is autumn/fall. There are a variety of reasons for this: relief from extreme heat, beautiful fall colors as leaves turn, return to school and fall schedules, the multiple holidays of the season, and more. Even in this most unusual year, there are reasons to celebrate and enjoy this time of the year. And perhaps it’s even more important than ever to do that.

A part of taking care of ourselves when there is much uncertainty and stress at many levels is to find and create ways to relax and renew our bodies and minds. It can be alone or with loved ones.  We often think of self-care as routines and practices. In addition to those, identify and choose some activities outside of your normal daily and weekly patterns. Here are a few autumn-specific ideas to celebrate and enjoy autumn.

Enjoy Nature in All its Autumn Glory

One excellent thing to do in the fall is to enjoy nature. Wherever you are located, the change of seasons is evident. It is more subtle visually in some areas than others, but changes are everywhere. If you are fortunate enough to live in or be close enough for a visit, the annual changing of leaf colors in some parts of the country are certainly worth a drive. Taking photos of the beauty and sharing and/or printing them for display are ways to bring enjoyment to yourself and others. Here’s a link to a fall foliage map for 2020 where you can see by date, through November, where the colors will be best. Fall Foliage Map 2020

Engage Friends in a Virtual Activity

As we continue to demonstrate caution in interacting with others during the pandemic, our creativity is our best ally. Choose an activity, set a time and guidelines, and invite friends and loved ones to participate. Use Zoom, Google Meet, or other group platforms to gather at the appointed time to share the results.

Here are some options; add any that you think of.

  • Pumpkin carving or decorating (paint, glitter, etc.) – have each participant prepare ahead of time and share the results, or connect on your virtual platform for a specified period of time to do the carving or decorating together.
  • Share a favorite family recipe that you especially enjoy in the autumn. Show both the prepared item and have a recipe to email.
  • Autumn wreath making – send out suggestions of materials to gather ahead of time and make the wreaths at the same time while connected on your virtual platform.
  • Share ideas for adding autumn scents to your home – invite people to share and possibly demonstrate their favorite ways they do this. (candle or oil scents they love, potpourri they put together, etc.)

Visit a Local Apple Orchard

Most apple orchards and pumpkin patches have adapted their offerings to make them safe for participants this year. Check ahead of time to make sure you are comfortable with them. In some cases you can pick apples, in other cases you will be able to walk through the orchard and choose apples to sample and buy. There are usually apple treats to take home, and perhaps recipes to make at home.

Head to the Pumpkin Patch

Grocery and other stores offer pumpkins for purchase and it’s so handy to just pick up what you want there. But why not go to an actual pumpkin patch? Many cities and towns have big pumpkin patches where you can walk around and look at all the various sizes and shapes of pumpkins to pick out your favorite ones. Besides those for carving and/or decorating, purchase some of the varieties that are best for baking or cooking and experiment with fresh pumpkin recipes at home. There’s an added bonus at a pumpkin patch – it’s a great opportunity for some photos with pumpkin backgrounds with the family.

Have a Fall Picnic

Identify a place where you can enjoy the fall weather and scenes and pack a simple picnic lunch. If you want to try outdoor exercise, you can do some hiking too. Or you could picnic in your own back yard. If you have a fire pit or grill to use, roast hot dogs and marshmallows. Marshmallows = S’mores for many of us; add the graham crackers and chocolate for that favorite treat.

There are many things we can do to celebrate and enjoy autumn and still keep ourselves and our families safe. Make some plans now and have a great time. Here’s a link to a free instant download of a Fall Bucket List form to use as you plan. Fall Bucket List 

 

 

Summer Superfood Smoothies For Health And Energy

smoothies Summer is winding down, but warm weather continues for many areas. I have noticed my early summer focus on healthy eating has diminished. Perhaps you have also. This is a good time to re-look at some options and boost our health and energy as we move into fall with all of its unique 2020 challenges.

If you’d like to refresh your memory of options of summer superfoods and what they offer, I wrote about them here:  https://carolbrusegar.com/great-superfood-choices-for-summer/

Why are smoothies such a good way to consume those great superfoods? Here are three good reasons.

Quick and Easy Preparation

Superfood smoothies are very quick and easy to prepare. They take literally 5-10 minutes at the most to prepare. Gather your ingredients, do any chopping, throw the ingredients into the blender and within a minute the smoothie will be ready to drink.

If you are preparing for one person, I hope you have a personal blender which makes the process easier. There are many varieties; check them out here: Personal Blenders

They Taste Delicious

You can combine ingredients to fit your taste preferences, either of green-based or berry-type smoothies. Eating or drinking something “healthy” that we don’t enjoy means we likely won’t continue consuming it very long. So experiment with recipes and variations to find combinations you love and look forward to drinking. (I suggest a great recipe book below.)

Drinking Your Smoothie in the Morning Starts Your Day With Energy

Although smoothies are great whenever you choose, there can be benefits to having one for breakfast. Of course, they are a healthier alternative to sugary cereals and high-calorie pastries. And they deliver lots of nutrients which will help you to feel more alert and energetic and ready to start the day.

Now, let’s look at a few tips for creating healthy superfood smoothies.

1) Use either fresh or  frozen ingredients

Fresh ingredients are great when they are easily accessible and economical. But frozen ingredients can contain just as many nutrients as fresh. If they were picked and frozen right after being harvested, they’re going to maintain the same level of nutrients as they had when they were fresh. Many times frozen ingredients are cheaper to buy, and there is less waste too.

2) Use natural flavorings

If you find your superfood smoothies to be a little bland, always use natural flavorings to enhance them. Did you know for example, that dates can help to add sweetness to a smoothie instead of sugar? Honey is also an excellent natural flavoring to add sweetness.

3) Add water to thin the smoothie out

If you find the smoothie is too thick, water is the best thing to use to thin it out. It’s healthy, readily available and will help to thin the smoothie out without adding additional calories.

4) Tailor your ingredients to your needs

Any superfood smoothie will provide a healthy alternative to many of the other things you might eat. Perhaps you would like to boost your immune system or want to take off some pounds. If you have those goals, you can research ingredients or recipes that will work for that.

5) Pair your superfoods carefully

Not all superfoods will go well together. So, when thinking of what to add in the smoothie, be careful to match the right superfoods together. Orange fruits and avocado or kale and almonds, are great examples of superfoods which work well together.

This cookbook will help you with both tailoring your ingredients to your needs and in deciding on combinations of superfoods. It provides recipes, indicates what they offer your health, and is a great reference. http://Simple Superfood Smoothies: A Smoothie Recipe Book to Supercharge Your Health

smoothy book

 

Black Pepper During Flu Season

PepperI previously talked of some natural approaches to prevention and treatment of cold and flu: https://carolbrusegar.com/using-natural-preventatives-and-treatments/

Another preventative and treatment that is right in your cupboard is black pepper!  We think of it as a basic seasoning and perhaps little more, but it is known to have powerful cold-fighting properties. Not only is it great for the immune system, but it’s also known to help with a wide range of other ailments too.

How can black pepper help during flu season?

Regular consumption of black pepper can help to fight off infections and boost the immune system. It contains an especially high amount of Vitamin C – a crucial vitamin in the treatment of colds. Black pepper contains a high level of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It is these which prove useful in the prevention and treatment of colds and the flu.

Another great benefit of black pepper is that it can help to alleviate congestion. A common symptom of colds and the flu is chest congestion. So, even if it’s too late to use black pepper to prevent a cold, you can still use it to help alleviate the symptoms.

How can you use it?

There are numerous ways you can use this spice to prevent and help to treat a cold. Of course, add more to various foods on an ongoing basis – soups, stews, egg dishes, salads, in rubs on meats, etc.  If you’re already fighting a cold, you could try mixing black pepper with honey. This is especially great for suppressing a cough and it’s been used in Indian medicine for centuries. You’ll need to crush up the peppercorns and mix it with a little honey for maximum benefits.

Another way of using black pepper to combat colds is to add half a teaspoon to a cupful of water. Add in some ground tulsi leaves* and half a teaspoon of chopped ginger. You should aim to drink it at lukewarm temperature. If you’re not keen on the taste, you can add a spoonful of honey.

*Tulsi, also called Holy Basil, is a close relative of culinary basil for cooking. The three varieties of Tulsi do, however, have additional medicinal benefits. These include being anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, and ability to stimulate the immune system’s activity. It comes in a variety of forms – leaves, tea, capsules and more. To explore the options, go here: Tulsi Options

Are there any side effects?

In terms of using black pepper in cooking, there aren’t any side effects to be aware of. However, if you’ll be taking black pepper supplements, you’ll want to stick to ones with a strength of 5mg to 20mg. Higher strengths could produce burning sensation in the throat or high absorption of medication. These are the only two potential side effects identified.

What other ailments does black pepper help with?

As well as helping to fight off colds and flu, black pepper can also potentially help with other ailments such as:

  • Arthritis inflammation
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • High blood sugar
  • Poor gut health

The health benefits of black pepper are extensive – and it is one of the cheapest and easiest spices to use!  So in general, to boost your immune system, be generous in your use of pepper in your food and explore additional uses. If you do develop a cold or flu, you can use supplements or more potent black pepper remedies to eliminate the symptoms.

Here’s a selection of pepper, peppercorns and more: Black Pepper

And a Black Pepper Supplement