Lovin’ That little Kumquat

Loving those little kumquats all year long

Lovin’ is in the air, likely “Eros” the god of love or that little Cupid is creating so much confusion …. even at the world level the Coronavirus has been renamed COVID-19 by the World Health Organization that apparently is a “bit chaotic” as the virus causes the disease but nomenclature creates communication problems (see Science Magazine Feb. 2020 article).

In our attempts to keep healthy by preventing disease or flu we need to keep the immune system healthy. So let’s see if a vitamin C packed little squirt with an exotic name can do the trick? The little orange “Kumquat” gives us a powerful punch that we LOVE 💕

Kumquat in winter can be enjoyed all season long whether in raw, sweet, baked or liquor form. From Europe to the Americas it’s quite popular among food circles and traditions. The first time I encountered those little odd-shaped orange fellas I was in Florida and still recall that bittersweet taste. Years later I would travel to the island of Corfu (or Kerkyra), where kumquat is “queen” as one of the favored liqueurs is traditionally made and trees can be found everywhere.

It is such an impressive bittersweet taste one can eat them whole or slice them up in salads , candied, or with meat dishes the Chefs choices are exquisitely delicious and nutritious. Check these facts out:

  • high in fiber and good for diabetics or those with pre-diabetes especially in winter months when everyone needs to add more fruit and vegetables in their diets!
  • as citrus naturally high in vitamin C, with small amounts of vitamin B and E, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc. And since one can eat their small seeds whole kumquats provide a small amount of omega-3 fats
  • their essential oil can be used in household cleaning products as the aroma can help freshen a stale room and create a positive atmosphere (check out the plant therapy site).

My dear readers sending you hugs and love 💕 for this month and always, being grateful to friends who sent cards and wishes from near and far. Keep healthy and be lovin’ those kumquats!

Coronavirus update

I’ve heard and read all kind of stupidity related to the latest deadly virus like “don’t drink Corona beer” or “the flu that kills those of royalty” since the word “Corona” means crown in Greek. A lot of misinformation from untrustworthy sources.

But it’s no joke, it’s deadly, and we don’t know much about how it can be treated. And yes, it’s a good idea to drink fluids, wash your hands (at least 20 seconds), cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing with a tissue, according to CDC prevention (if you tend to rub your eyes and nose you may need a face mask 😷) — do not panic, yet.

Apparently this virus has been around mainly in animals showing up in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) back in the 60s and 70s, so it’s not just Asia (China, Japan, all have had death tolls). Remember SARS? Well apparently it’s a variation…. and then there is still the H1N1 as referred to Bird Flu. So be prepared for airport checks when you travel and understand that public safety takes precedence.

If my great grandma were alive she’d sit on her stool saying «κορώνι μου» meaning “my crown” [a term of endearment used by older people from Mani – Laconia in respect to the past King Constantine I of Greece (1913 – 1917) whom they respected as he fought in military frontlines] ….eat plenty of onions and garlic, wear your winter wool and keep your feet warm .

….and build some immune strength so here it is : Echinacea, Vitamin C (mandarins, clementines, oranges all good), garlic and onions, teas with antiseptic properties like chamomile and thyme and related immune building tea with honey (and lemon), winter apples with cinnamon, and consider a great “fast food” from Ancient Greece called “trahana” (τραχανά) …undefined I remember how the older folks made it during the summer season on low wooden tables from fermented milk and grain laid on cotton cloths, left to dry for days . The pungent smell lasting for weeks.

This is seasonal food. I prefer the sour (than the sweet) version which we lightly brown with some butter and oil, boiled in water and Presto! A yummy hot breakfast food for the entire family. Perfect for winter.

If you are sick, remember to stay home and rest as sleep is the best medicine, you are “contagious” the first few days when (if) you have fever, please use tissues to wipe that runny nose and throw them away! At tail end of illness you’ll have a lot of mucus to “get rid of” it’s perfectly normal (disgusting yes) so keep taking those cough syrups, hot tea, and honey (darker heavier ones especially from chestnut and pine trees are best for winter) are most helpful in this “release” process — they are called mucolytics  as they can dissolves thick mucus and are usually used to help relieve respiratory difficulties.

Be healthy and wise and as always followup with a doctor if symptoms are severe or get worse after 3-4 days. Keep up with the news on what’s next with this “new” virus and do your best to raise your awareness and health literacy. Thus please get your proper source of health information from trustworthy sites like that of the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and your health department.

They say God created the earth 🌎 and living creatures in seven days, emphasis on “life” here. Building hospitals over six days in Wuhan, China is not a joke ….they know that epidemics must be contained! Be smart and stay healthy ….through early Spring when flu season is over! 🤒🦠🥺

A rose in winter

If a rose is full of thorns, it does not mean it’s not full of beauty……Roses do not bloom hurriedly; for beauty, like any masterpiece, takes time to blossom.

Quotes by Matshona Dhliwayo

One of my favorite books turned Disney success was “Beauty and the Beast.” The original French Fairy tale titled La Belle et la Bête, was written by French novelist GabrielleSuzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740, a time of great tumult and revolution in Northern Europe, and the beginning of what some termed the “great awakening” for the colonial North Americans who eventually rebel 30+ years later…

Perhaps we like the story because of the ideal of love and kindness of the heroine Belle turning over the well educated yet harsh beast into a handsome, well-mannered prince (what many women may fantasize about with a crude partner, in addition to monogamy and other similar more positive traits….). More than this, her relationship with her kind father who in the middle of cold winter stopped to pluck the one beautiful red rose, I imagine similar to this one found on a post-snow day.

We don’t live in a castle, even though the temperature stood at 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7• Celsius), this fuchsia colored rose wanted to survive growing tall, wanting to reach the warmth of the winter sun. Standing alone, beautiful, bundled up in its petals as if saying, “take me into the warmth of your home.” Well, we all know the rest of the Fairytale story and we all love those winter holiday tales… and here is the health “twist”…

Are you caring for yourself and others who need you? Can you rethink monthly about your new year’s resolutions and take practical healthy steps towards this?

“Every rose has it’s thorn” was sung in that cowboy drawn accent by Guns-n-Roses and this last week has caused a lot of ‘thorny‘ subjects to come up. Range from the US – Middle East, all the way to the ecological disaster in Australia and all those helpless animals down under…. with every difficulty we grow stronger and there are always people (we know or foreign to us) who help, like the volunteer firefighter pictured here…

You make us proud

I don’t know who you are Sir, but THANK YOU for showing humanity, as many other people have risking their lives, while most of us sit in the comfort of our homes perhaps wondering what can we do? There are many agencies to donate to and of course we should be selecting those whom we think are honorable in their cause as well as reputable.

  • Maybe your parents are aging — this is a fact of life and so you need to adjust your own life as they will theirs — this indeed was one of the main reasons I wrote my Chapter on health literacy (Across the Lifespan Handbook). As the rose, we whither and pass on but our “scent” still remains, this is what we have contributed to the world of ‘beauty‘.
  • Maybe you are tired of always giving and “fixing” others. One comment I saw posted recently was that it is not “our job” to fix people or take them on as “projects”…. but I’d ask is it enough to TRY to show them the way? I recall one someone telling me about relationships to keep in mind — we all have baggage, but then it depends whether it’s carry-on or check-in.

Be realistic people, not just individualistic, we are supposed to work towards the collective good are we not? Move away from the anger of the ‘beast’; things can be prevented and helped if we care about people, our environment, our community, please ‘call a Spade ♠️ a spade‘ — say it like it is, don’t use empty or irrelevant words. Move beyond simple “likes” on FB , do something about it, and yes social media is helpful to brainstorm ideas and raise funds.

Natural disasters are one thing, man made crises are another. People become displaced in life and love, but people also learn to prevent based on lessons learned (example of one family & the Rafina 2018 fires, or the Boston Strong movements). ‘Thorns’ can be removed.

You may be called on intentionally or by accident to help others and your actions may be like the ONE beautiful rose of winter…. an unforgettable smell reminding you of the “hope” of Spring just a few months away. Don’t get stuck in darkness, heal your body and your spirit with good “food” (books and fairytales included) it only makes you stronger. Sweet and fragrant dreams….

Beyond A New Year’s Resolution

A new year, a new you. Should the emphasis be on “new” or “renew”?

New Year’s Fireworks in Prater Park – Vienna


New Years Resolutions are very much a western idea, measurable goals if you will. The concept of “reflection” however, transcends many religious and spiritual traditions. What would you reflect on for the past year? Basic questions can include:

  • Did I learn from my successes and mistakes?
  • Have I changed at least one thing about my consumption habits that will lead to a better health outcome? (Diet, exercise, use of substances, financial spending)
  • Do I ask for help when I need it? (Social support, counseling, etc.)
  • Am I learning more about myself and others? Accepting those things I cannot change….
  • Do I better understand love, friendship, family, and society?
  • How often have I given thanks for what I have?
  • Have I visualized at least one goal that I managed to succeed at?

The above help one gain “insight” and it could be a habit each year to reflect using a journal about what we accomplished during the previous year, and what we hope to accomplish or strive for in the next.

Some common goals like “exercise more” seem unattainable in the strict sense (e.g. join a gym, run a marathon) either for physical or monetary reasons or life circumstances. If you focus on what you’ve done and congratulate yourself for persistence and alternative course of action it’s more effective than being unreasonably hard on yourself.  Work toward “renewing” your outlook. Even Forbes Magazine had a set of New Year’s Resolutions to focus more on the ‘we’ and less on the ‘me’… what our overly narcissistic culture needs to be reminded of!

Examining patterns of behaviors will help you recognize them faster. We often think that we will remember everything but our memory deludes us, think “false memories.” It is most useful to write things down as your pattern may become more obvious — that “aha!” moment. Think about these issues:

Financial health — do you continuously spend more than you earn? We’re not saying starve here, or not “treat” yourself to something nice like a good bottle of wine, a fancy dinner, a new shirt or dress. BUT, do you really need to buy caviar and champagne, or the most expensive shoes for that night out? The basic rules most financially responsible families pass on to their children are:

  • track what you spend your money on
  • pay for necessities (for your health, food, insurance)
  • don’t rely on credit (pay off debts)
  • invest (start with your time, create ideas, start small think bigger) and reinvest (training and education).
  • teaching children at each stage (7 Smart ways parents teach kids about money; Parents.com even has a set of age-by-age list of money teaching recommendations).

Physical health – Can you modify some things? Take public transport and walk longer distances as this will help you get more in shape and notice things you would otherwise miss if you were driving! I often observe architecture and stores, take photos!

One night I walked 2 miles in the cold from the metro/subway in the middle of the Moonlit night….crisp January nights can offer one the most amazing ‘star’ features, you just need to be aware of your surroundings (and any stray dogs).

Rococo architecture (photo as roadside observer)!

Relationship health — Do your relationships fulfill most of your needs? This includes friendships as well as romantic relationships (are these ‘needs’ realistic…. not narcissistic?). The key here is, do these people enhance you overall? are these people  well-intended or do they drain you? (if they are toxic to your health think about setting some limits) Are you able to forgive and put your ego aside and apologize when it is needed?

People come into your life to offer something, teach you something, share something. The Eurythmics song “Sweet Dreams” says it best — some of them want to use you, some of them want to get used by you, some of them want to abuse you, some of them want to be abused… keep your head up!

There are many articles about healthy relationships which includes

  • supporting each other, open or improving communication, reducing our expectations (too many romance novels or unrealistic movie experiences of ‘romance’ or ‘love’ may add to unrealistic expectations — do you really think you will fall in love with someone you meet at a bar? rarely happens…),
  • keeping our bodies safe (no abuse/violence – check out the Duluth Model “Power and Equality Wheels”, preventing STDs/STIs/HIV by using condoms every time you have sex, getting annual check-ups like pap smears).
  • Long-term support and commitment may be better for our health — marriage may not be such a ‘bad’ thing! Are you a commitment phobic? seems to be a trend according to experts, reinforced by our fast-paced societies. 
  • Many people afraid to even take one basic step into the sea of a more fulfilling ‘relationship’ often let their lives pass them by… they are so afraid of being ‘hurt’ again, they simply shut down and close off any chances of love.

A very useful book about this was written by a Rabbi,  “Why Can’t I Fall in Love? A Twelve-Step Program” to get you to think about your patterns — do you often pick the ‘wrong’ people, do you sabotage your relationships, do you think everyone is not perfect or you’re too picky? have you closed yourself off to love?

A great movie (the book is better) on the reality of our self, potential limitations, and sometimes luck in finding love is “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The emphasis for me on mindfulness, and especially allowing yourself indulgences like food without guilt, dressing for yourself and not others, are very important in a society obsessed with perfection… and no, you don’t need to travel to Indonesia, India, or hike the Himalayan mountains to find peace. Then again the experience of seeing truth ‘in front of us’ sounds a bit like Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist.

Spiritual health — Do you feel you have a place in the world?  Do you feel you have a healthy relationship with God? (even agnostics or atheists in times of trouble may question if there is something ‘more’, and we know from research that those with a spiritual foundation fare better long-term in terms of their health outcomes).  The turning point for me was meeting renowned cosmologists and physicists who in essence are scientists, they also understand there is something greater, we are all interconnected, we simply need to ‘notice’ more and work together.  For counselors and for self-improvement I recommend Scott Peck and Thomas Moore books.  My favorites are: “The Road Less Traveled” by Psychiatrist Scott Peck, M.D. and “Care of the Soul” by a former monk turned psychologist, Thomas Moore. For healing trauma, see Edward Tick, Ph.D. books based on ancient rituals of healing such as “The Practice of Dream Healing: Bringing Ancient Greek Mysteries Into Modern Medicine.”

“Disappointments in love, even betrayals and losses, serve the soul at the very moment they seem in life to be tragedies. The soul is partly in time and partly in eternity. We might remember the part that resides in eternity when we feel despair over the part that is in life.” ― Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life

2natures

Bringing storytelling to the holidays

We are natural storytellers. Whether it’s a folk tale, a fairy tale or your own “tale” the importance of the written and oral word are vitally important for building traditions and maintaining relationships. This includes family and even your healthcare provider as sharing of stories helps build empathy and health literacy.

During the cold season it has been a tradition for hundreds of years to gather around the fire 🔥 share stories, drinking hot beverages, that bring generations together. What better then to start your own tradition now?

Belonging to a self-improvement group like Toastmasters allows those advanced speakers to formally plan and be evaluated on their oral speaking skills includes establishing eye contact and rapport with your audience with the help of props and vocal variety. This year for the annual Christmas 🎄 and Holiday party I had the chance to retell the classic Hans Christian Andersen story “The Little Match Girl” with the goal of reminding our audience about the less fortunate and why we all need to maintain hope and be mindful of others.
Friend and compatriot Toastmaster Sylvia, gave a great tale of “Sophie” the working girl who just wanted to stay home with her alcohol “friends” ….and how a few “elves” brought her back to her senses reminding her of the basics!

Yes Sophie please mind the cup, and remember Santa is good for our health, and please drink plenty of clean water!

No one is perfect in the oral tradition, it’s the small steps that matter ….speaking of which I appreciated Queen Elizabeth’s recent holiday speech of the generations coming together and how often small steps like thinking of climate change, the spirit of good faith, bring reconciliation and positive change.

Whether it’s hot chocolate or peppermint dreams do take time with those you care about, and share some good stories. As always be good to your body, mind, and spirit for better health! Happy holidays and best for the upcoming new year!

Great storytelling!

Santa 🎅 is good for our health!

He’s a jolly old Good-fella you might say, and we love the myth of Santa Claus 🎅 !

Along the lines of Camelot and King Arthur legend, there are parts of the myth of “Santa Claus” (really St. Nicholas) based on truth, and it turns out a little bit of “fib” might be good on our own and children’s health.

One article indicates that “Santa mythology for children may be important for executive functions like attention skills, which provides parents with good evidence that they should not be discouraged from stimulating their children’s imagination.”

Marketing the Santa myth

On the other hand it is quite a money-making venture and Coca Cola figured it out years ago with their initial red and white clothing to match their brand name, starting in 1933 to be exact.

Well it turns out marketing the North Pole has also been good for countries like Finland who take marketing Santa Claus pretty seriously and has increased their local business with booming locales like Rovaniemi.

However the original Saint was a Greek Bishop living during Roman times in a place in Asia Minor (now Modern Turkey) in about 280 A.D. And as usual despite his good deeds was eventually persecuted. Even his remains were fought over as this National Geographic article by Brian Handwerk indicates.

Listen to those winter tales “Twas the Night Before Christmas…” with the Good company of family and friends keeping warm with healthy soup and drink, cheers!!

Water water everywhere so let’s preserve it to drink

Do you have the water running while you brush your teeth ? What about when you wash your dishes or your car? Every single product you have and need for your life contain water 💦 are you health literate about your local and global needs?
Do you keep up with the costs of fixing broken pipes and bad infrastructure (Physical or Communication) never mind the overuse of pesticides that run into our drinking water! Most governments are not even following the law for Safety Standards !

Dr. Angelina-Kallia Antoniou, European Environmental Law Expert

We should all be concerned about the quality and quantity of our water supplies in the world which includes the threats like bioterrorism and even the opportunities of therapy with water — there are entire Web pages dedicated to this (eg. Livpure). We learned about hydrotherapies like Ποσιθεραπεία (Water we drink), Πυλοθεραπεία (water with minerals we put on our bodies). We were informed about biodiversity and the fact that 30% of the land in Greece is part of Natura 2000. All this with water-related art, water filter display and networking opportunities at the 1st International Forum on Water held December 10th and 11th in Zappeion, near Syndagma square Athens.

Dr. Vantarakis speaks about the interplay of individual and community behaviors as well as the government importance of maintaining the public’s health !

Do you understand that disease is “cyclical” and waterborne diseases come and go ? Remember Cholera (think John Snow’s water pump) or experiences of gastroenteritis? Painful and deadly. We often have only a few days to “move” in protecting our public’s health epidemiologically but not enough time for lab results …while news spreads like wildfire through media! Sometimes accurately sometimes not, as Dr. Emmanuel Vantarakis, Professor of School of Medicine of Patras University indicates.

There was talk about dealing with public health disasters that reflect what we had posted on this blog a couple of years ago and no, you cannot just hide a problem of potential epidemic proportions where countries in the future won’t even have clean water to drink due to climate changes and geopolitical games.

Congratulations to the Woman of the Year Time magazine 2019, Greta Thunberg, and we love the magazine cover ! She’s keeping our heart and mind on protecting our environment and taking recycling and minimizing plastics seriously ! Our congratulations to local groups like this beach cleaning community who have been attempting to clean up beaches and be more civically engaged with young people. Let’s go global citizens you know who you are!

We can live without food for up to 14 days, without water for only a couple of days, and our earth 🌍 needs to be maintained else humans will be extinct like dinosaurs! Great initiatives …let’s keep talking water!