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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Eating Healthy ~ Potatoe Leek Soup

In my quest to eat better and get healthier I am back to cooking from scratch.  The recent make was potatoe and leek soup.  This soup, and leeks in general seem to be more popular in England than it is here in western Canada.  I've never fancied leeks and though I like potatoes I don't eat as many any more. I've also never been a big fan of cream soups.

However over the past few years I crave more variety in my food adventures and I'm now more willing to try combinations of vegetables and totally new to me vegetables and find they all taste quite good.

First I scoured the internet for a general idea of how to make the soup. I checked out these recipes here and here.  As always I adapt recipes to suit my style of cooking and what I have on hand so here is what I did.

Ingredients:
  • 2 large leeks washed and chopped
  • 2 long celery sticks washed and chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 small potatoes
  • 2-3 tbsp. oil
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 7-8 cups of chicken broth
Method:

Cook leeks, celery and onions together in a large saucepan using a small amount of oil.  Let these "sweat" together until the leeks are soft (about 10 minutes).  I covered the saucepan after heating the vegetables in the pan.  Once they were warm I turned the heat down and covered the pan to "sweat" the veggies until tender.


 
Add the potatoes and chicken stock once the veggies are tender and cook until the potatoes are done.

After everything was done I blended the soup in my Wolfgang Puck blender.  My blender is like the one in the photo but is red.  These are powerful blenders of 1400 watts and work very much like a Vitamix.  I bought it on sale and mainly wanted it for juicing whole fruits and vegetables. It also makes wonderful hummus and salsa.

The soup was wonderfully creamy and quite nice in flavour. I didn't have green onions as a garnish so I used mint but didn't eat it.

This soup was very tasty. I didn't add any cream or milk so there is only the small amount of fat that you use in sauteeing the vegetables. If you are on a salt restricted diet you can look for sodium reduced broth at the store.  If that isn't an option and you have a freezer you can make your own stock and have it on hand.  

I've learned that leeks are good for relaxing the lining of the blood vessels.  This is great to help reduce risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).  Leeks also have a form of folate which is readily used and absorbed by the body. Folate is good for a number of things including, combatting inflammatory conditions (like diabetes, obesity and rheumatoid arthritis) and coronary artery disease.  Polyphenols are also found in leeks and these are antioxidants which combat a number of chronic diseases and aging. Leeks also contain Vitamins C and K and minerals like manganese and iron.  This is just a brief synopsis of the health benefits of leeks.  Pototoes also have a lot of goodness in them but I felt this post was getting rather long so I won't write about that today

Leeks sure do sound like a very valuable addition to the diet.  I will be willing to try using them in soup again or in other dishes (I'll have to research other recipes).

After I had a large bowl of potatoe leek soup, a small blood orange and a handful of nuts I was perfectly satisfied.  Even better is that my blood glucose reading an hour and a half later was perfectly normal!


I think I'll join up with Our World Tuesday this week since cooking and healthy eating seems to be making up a lot of my world these days. 


Do you eat leeks?

What is your favourite way to incorporate leeks into your meals?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Little Update

 “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”  Dr. Wayne W Dyer

Hi friends,

The quote today is something I reflect on now and then as a result of my health challenges.  I can either sit and say woe is me or I can try and learn things that help me get into better health. I choose the latter.

I have not posted for a few days so I am just popping in to say "hello" and to thank those of you who have been kind enough to visit my blog this month. (I have been by to visit all of you but if by chance I have missed someone please do let me know). Where does the time go? The month is almost done and a new one beginning!

I have to get some birthday cards for friends and family who celebrate in February so I better get a move on.

Not a cloud in the sky today.

The weather here continues to be absolutely lovely. We are blessed with days upon days of sunshine and no rain. That is very unusual for us at this time of the year. I am happy to see the sun and to do without the cold and damp. I only hope it doesn't cause problems in the Spring for the water levels or for the animals.  Things that are no longer normal in the weather always seems to affect something else.

Porridge breakfast with cinnamon, pumpkin seeds and goji berries.
I had some bad news this week about my blood glucose levels (A1c).  They are higher than ever  despite all the good work I've been doing to eat healthy and get consistent exercise.

Better stress management and improved sleeping hours are areas I still have to work on.  Hopefully the coming weeks and months will see improvement in these areas too.

The good news is I have lost quite a lot of weight;  about 2/3 of the weight I gained over the past 3 years.  I also lost a couple inches from my waist (more from other areas too but I am really only tracking the waistline due to diabetes). My blood pressure which was starting to creep up is also doing much better and is right in middle of normal. Some things are obviously going in the right direction and most of this is probably attributable to exercise.   It is only a matter of time before the blood glucose cooperates.

My beautiful basket from Ghana.
Some of you might wonder about the weight gain over the past 3 years.  It was because I started having major issues with my knees.  It was really very bad for a very long time.  My health which was not so good to begin with really took a downturn when I could no longer walk.  I've been trying everything possible since then to correct the problems with varying degrees of success.  It was only in Spring 2013 when I began to walk more with the aid of walking poles.  Since then I have been out and about more than I had been in the previous few years.  I have also been diagnosed with osteo-arthritis and so am needing to shed more pounds to take the stress off the joints. Though my improvements have been slow in coming, I was encouraged by some positive news this week even though I also had bad news regarding my blood glucose levels.

I am back to tracking my blood glucose levels 8 times a day. Every now and then I go through this exercise to see what is affecting me (diet, exercise, etc.). Oh my! I had a bit of a scare. My readings were so high. In a desperate measure to try and lower the reading, I ate some romaine lettuce leaves.  It worked. Before bed my readings were actually too low.  I had to eat an apple to try and bring the blood glucose reading up a bit. That seemed to work and this morning I was more or less where I was before I went to sleep. I hope today will be less of a roller coaster.

I continue to see the acupuncture doctor and take the herbs he prescribes. Some of those herbs may also be affecting my blood sugar readings so I will keep an eye on that.  But I will continue going as I feel that ultimately it is these herbs that will bring me into balance. My primary reason for visiting the acupunture doctor is to deal with the arthritic pain.

Before Christmas I bought the lovely green basket you see in the photo above. It holds some of my yarn. As you can see it isn't nearly big enough for what I've put in it so I will move some of those balls. Believe it or not, it is very hard to find big balls of yarn were I live (I don't get to Wal-Mart) and if you do find them, your colour choices are very limited. Every now and then I find a big ball of yarn and I buy it.  I'm building up some colours for making more throws and quilts though I have no specific project in mind.

I sewed a bunch of these hexagons into strips but when I began to join the strips together they did not lie flat.

I still haven't finished the African Flower Blanket I started in November. I intended it for a gift and instead I had to buy something. The problem I ran into is how to join the hexagons so they do not bunch up.  I do not want to just join the hexagons at their points so I need some time when I am not too busy to figure things out.  I will eventually get to it but it will take some time.

My brother and I continue to wait for a room opening at the new facility so we can move my mother. In the meantime, I have a lot to deal with concerning her needs and that keeps me on the go virtually every day.  I try to make sure I can still get out and do some things for myself as well as meet up with friends besides just going to doctors and acupuncture.   I am back to cooking one night a week and next week we will do a special dinner for Chinese New Year.  Soon I will be joining another friend for a class on dressing for your body type. I have not done anything like that in awhile so it should be fun. My reading of novels and the Bible continue though I have cut down on general reading to try and focus more on the Bible. It does not always work out that way.  My crafts are also on the back burner for the time being. I am just too busy to do it all and am concentrating on diet, blood glucose monitoring, exercise and rest. Putting some things on hold is necessary to the stress management. Crafting and reading are wonderfully enjoyable and relaxing but only if I am not forcing myself to accomplish something as a result.

I hope wherever you are in the world you are enjoying yourself.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Warm Skies

In taking my walks the last two days I've realized just how warm it is. We haven't had nearly as much rain as we normally do at this time of year. I had heard that in December we got one - fourth our usual rainfall. I think it was a week ago today when we had a downpour and I got quite soaked on a short walk. I had to cut the walk short and take a bus home.

I like the pastel colour in the sky as the day was ending.

Usually too when it isn't raining, it can be very chilly here. But this year is an exception. I'm finding it rather warm.

Pussywillows...we always love to see their arrival.

When I went out yesterday I noticed that the pussy willows are budding. Egads!! It is very early for that. I used to think February blossoms were early.  One of the nation's meteorologists has been saying the last few years that in terms of the weather we should now learn to "expect the unexpected".  I can see he is right.

We've been having a bit of fog the last two days but in some areas the sky is blue and clear.

Joining in with Skywatch Friday
Happy weekend to you!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Busy Month Unfolding

The remarkable thing is, we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude 
we will embrace for that day.

Charles R. Swindoll

Hello everyone, I hope you've been having a good week so far. 

I've been busy with this and that.


 I have a friend who is applying to university in my city. The process is complicated, labourious and expensive.  I've been helping him get things sorted out. We are very close to the wire (upon the deadline). Please keep him in prayer.

I have another friend who has just moved to a new apartment and needs a few things. I've been checking out my cupboards and the thrift store for some unique items to donate to his kitchen and he has been taking things home little by little. I thank God that he has at last found a place of his own after living in several different unsuitable sharing situations.

Salad tongs from Africa for my friend's kitchen. They just need a bit of oil to" freshen" them up.

I have a mother in care who has multiple needs & every day brings news of something else.  Some needs relate to her care, some  relate to her material needs & some of them relate to the need for medical appointments. It keeps me busy. 
I thank God mom is still here and that small progress is made here and there though there are days I get very exhausted. Sometimes the progress is hard to see but I try to keep hope. 
We are also still waiting for a room at the new care facility. I hope it will be soon.

I met with my Tanzanian friend and a new Italian friend at the start to the weekend. I've spoken with the woman from Italy before but it was my first opportunity to meet her. She wanted to learn about my experiences in East Africa as she planned to travel there but was a little nervous.  Several weeks before meeting her I spoke with her by telephone.  Since then she has made arrangements to travel to both Kenya and Tanzania soon. How exciting for her. I wish I was going too!

I started going for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments once again; primarily for the pain in my knees. The last time I tried TCM  was about 2 years ago. At that time I didn't experience a lot of relief.  But this time I am not only getting acupuncture but am also taking herbs. After about 5 weeks I am starting to feel relief though it will take months yet before real and lasting change might occur.

The last bit of Moroccan stew I've been enjoying.

 The TCM doctor suggested that I not eat rice, not even brown rice. I'm not sure I agree with that but it doesn't really matter because I eat very little rice of any kind since rice isn't my favourite. I prefer barley to rice. I also eat cous cous, bulgar and quinoa as well as a bit of pasta. 

 I also try to eat beans but now and then get out of the habit because I prefer to soak my own beans rather than buy them in a can. I started back to soaking beans this week and made some Moroccan stew with chick peas (yum!).

Tomorrow I hope to make some navy bean soup. These kind of soups and stews are perfect food for the cooler winter months.


Soaked and cooked beans ready for Navy Bean Soup.

Last but not least I am reading my Bible and some other works. I've just finished a book called "Minding Frankie" by one of my very favourite authors, the late Maeve Binchy.  The book is about Noel, a young alcoholic man who turns his life around to care for Frankie, a baby girl left to him by her deceased mom whom Noel dated briefly.  The book is really about a cast of characters in a small Irish town as most of Mrs. Binchy's books are.  But Noel and Frankie are the core characters around which the other character's lives are intertwined.
Reading Maeve Binchy's books are always like sitting down with a warm comfy blanket and cup of tea in front of a roaring fireplace. I've almost read every single one of her books.

I picked this book up at the thrift store.

Last Friday after meeting my friends, I made a stop at the local library where I checked out 4 books.  I also picked up a couple more books, some novels and one cookbook for experimenting in the kitchen at the thrift (2nd hand shop) store.

I'm afraid I haven't had the  space of mind to do any more crafting since before Christmas. That might happen in February.

With a new year comes new changes. I was saddened to learn that I will no longer be able to sponsor children in Zambia. For whatever reasons the school sponsorship and pen pal program have been stopped and the children are no longer available for sponsorship.  I will be updating the information on my blog page in due time. I still have to update the blog page to introduce my new correspondence child in Ethiopia.

Also, I wanted to mention that Elvis, the young Kenyan man who is doing a diploma in medicine and surgery is expected to graduate in about one year. I'm still trying to get some sponsorship help for him. What remains to be funded is one semester of tuition (close to $500 Canadian) and monthly living costs (room and board & pocket money) until August 2014 (about $100 Canadian), as well as books for a term (about $65 Canadian).
If you can help, please do contact me.

I've put a lot in this post as I'm not posting quite as frequently this month though I am still visiting blogs that I keep up with.  I hope you are all enjoying your New Year so far. 
Enjoy the rest of your week!


Linking up with Our World Tuesday this week.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

It's Raining, It's Pouring

It's raining; it's pouring.
The old man is snoring.
He went to bed and bumped his head,
And he wouldn't get up in the morning.


Did you sing this song as a child too? I don't remember where I learned it or at what age in school but I've never forgotten it.  In those days I lived in a small city where it seldom rained except prairie type downpours in the summer month. These downpours came complete with thunder claps and light shows (lightening). Some days or nights I would be babysitting and when the thunder and lightening began at the same time, I was terrified.  I can remember it would be so loud and the lightening would literally light up the entire house (with lights off) as we were taught to unplug and disconnect all power sources once a big storm came through.

Photo:  Looking toward downtown and False Creek from the waiting room of a doctor's office.  You can make out the reflected lights of the doctors office, some chairs and a person in the corner (bottom right).

Once or twice I remember we kids hid under the bed because the lightening was so powerful and it was difficult to escape. Our house had windows all over the place and the front room had a whole row of windows and more in the front porch.
It's funny what you remember from childhood. To this day I do not like rain storms that come with thunder and lightening at the same time. The few times I have been on the Canadian prairies when this kind of storm came up was rather terrifying too.

Photo:  Looking west on West Broadway, Vancouver, BC. I'm in the waiting room of a doctor's office hence the reflected lights.
You can make out the reflected lights of the doctor's office.

Where I live now we get a lot of rain so I always think of the little nursery rhyme about the pouring rain. Our rain storms don't usually come with thunder and lightening at the same time and when they do, the lightening doesn't light up my home like a Christmas tree!
Thank God for small mercies.
It's been pouring rain all day today and very windy tonight. That usually means a clear sky the next day. Indeed some sunshine is forecast for tomorrow but then it is rain for another week.

It was a very busy day today filled with phone calls and appointments.

I did manage to finally get to the movie

"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom".

I enjoyed it thoroughly and recommend it.
Idris Elba is a formidable presence on the screen and captures the essence of Mandela very well. Naomi Harris also does a wonderful job portraying Winnie Mandela.

Here is trailer of this touching & inspiring movie.




I hope you are all staying warm and dry wherever you are.

I will be joining in with Skywatch Friday 

and

Weekend Reflections

and add the links later :-)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bible App

Photo Credit:  Fountain Hills Christian Center, Arizona (website)

Last year I made a goal to read through the Bible chronologically. I got as far as the 2 Chronicles in the the Old Testament. I've probably read the Bible several times over since I was a child but I've never done it chronologically and I've always felt there was something missing as a result. I've renewed my commitment to reading through the Bible chronologically in 2014.

One thing I discovered is that I really like to "read" the Bible by listening to it and reading along silently or out LOUD,  rather than just reading the Bible like I would any other book.   I used the on-line resource Bible Gateway last year to hear someone read the Bible out loud.

The problem is that in order to listen to the day's readings it took me a good hour and more if I want to include time for praise, prayer and study.  What happened is after spending time doing Bible readings I would then sit at the computer to do other things.  This led me to sit at the computer for too long each day.  I was also a "captive" to my headset at the computer for listening to the Bible readings for the day. Ultimately the lack of flexibility about where I could do my readings (I prefer my desktop to my laptop for ease of use), led to my inability to sustain a reading schedule.

Recently, I wrote here, about how I picked two words to help guide me through the year and help to set the tone and direction for where I want to go with my goals for the year.

The words are "simplify" and "streamline".

In 2014,  I plan to resume my readings and "simplify" and "streamline" by using a "new to me" and free Bible app on my cell phone.  I've downloaded the app and I listened to 6 chapters of the Book of John.  I enjoyed it as much as listening on my desktop or laptop and I also love the freedom and flexibility that listening to the Bible on the cell phone brings. Listening on my portable cell phone is much easier than listening on my desktop computer. Also I can make notes about where I left off in my readings (literal notes rather than bookmarks) instead of keeping track on a separate paper or computer document.

It took me a short while to discover that I can read the Bible chronologically using the app, instead of using one of the Bible Study Plans or devotions.  I still have to navigate through the app and figure out if there is a way to mark where I've left off each day beyond making a note.

If you don't already use a Bible app, and want to, you can use one of the many Bible reading and study plans and different study helps. You can also choose from different versions of the Bible.  For now, I prefer the King James Version (KJV) though I know many people don't use this Bible any longer. {I always find it difficult when Churches I attend use different Bible versions to what I prefer reading when they are giving the Sunday Sermon because the language in the KJV is so different. Maybe when I get more proficient on the app, I can simply read from it at Church too.}

There are a number of free Bible apps for smart phones.  The one I'm using is called You Version.

 Have any of you tried it?
I'd love to know what you think of it.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Guiding Words for 2014

{For my Skywatch Post, see here}

Hi friends, I trust you are all settling in to a New Year.

I love the changing of years where we say "goodbye" to one year and "hello" to another.  In recent years I've used it as a opportunity for reflection and planning.  A time to reflect on the year gone by to see what things went well and what things didn't go so well. A time to discover whether there are things that I have the ability to change or whether I need to "let go and let God". It is also a time to think about the coming year and plan and look forward to limitless possibilities.


If you have followed me for a few years you might remember reading my review of goals set for the year.  At the same time I consider whether I had to change my goals in mid-year, accomplished them or had to carry them forward for one reason or another.  I usually also plan and post my goals for the coming year in late December/early January.  This year however I felt the need to do something a bit different.



Instead of posting my goals publically I will be keeping them private. It isn't because they are so secret.  Rather I've just not been as passionate about blogging this past few months.  I still want to blog and connect with my readers.  At the same time, I want my readers to connect with me.  However, I'm trying to find a balance between the two objectives.  So I've started to blog less and visit blogs less often as well. {For now I won't be giving up blogging.}


It is all part of my desire to "simplify" and "streamline".

These two words will be my mantras for 2014. They will guide the goals I set for myself also.

I am a bit behind schedule in terms of what I've usually accomplished in the early days of the year.

But in keeping with my two words, "simplify" and "streamline" I've already spent a bit of time over the past several days doing just that.

Some of the things I've managed to accomplish in the early days of January:
  • simplify - made New Year's dinner with less variety of foods to enjoy and didn't invite anyone over for dinner. {While I did have guests over Christmas having a few days to myself to recover from sickness was less stressful because I didn't have to entertain}.
  • streamline ~ took down the Christmas decorations several days early. {I usually keep them up until January 2 but this year they came down on December 27th. I think this will be my new norm so I can start the year clutter free.}
  • streamline ~  Deleted duplicate and triplicate entries for individuals in my email address book.  {Some people accumulate excessive emails in a short space of time when they switch internet providers.   It's one good reason to simplify by using a free email account.}  
  • streamline ~  Got rid of old files and photos from my desktop.  {I should have done this sooner in preparation for installing Windows 8.  I have more streamlining to do from my hardrive folders & photo files.}

I hope that through more simplifying and streamlining there will be progress on the continual process of decluttering which is so necessary to living in a smaller space.  I also hope there there will be much more "me" time.  This "me" time is for reflecting on the deeper things of life and spending time on the things that are most important to me.  There will also be "me" time to take better care of my health.

I look forward to the year ahead and to connecting with you all.  I pray you all have a bountiful and blessed 2014!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Reminiscing

The weather has been very mild of late and we haven't had much rain for awhile. 


Thursday we were back to a bit of rain. (Thursday night was very windy so perhaps Friday will be clear skies again, woot, woot!)

 
It got me reminiscing about warmer and sunnier days. 

I went through my archives and found these beautiful sky photos from summer 2012.

 

I hope you enjoy them.

If all goes well a friend and I will finally go and see the new movie about Nelson Mandela's life, "A Long Walk to Freedom". Both of us have been wanting to see it since we first heard it would be released in December.

Have a wonderful weekend.

I am joining in at Skywatch Friday today.

African Music & Happenings