Tuesday, November 25, 2014

{Recent Reads} The StoryTeller by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult has done it again.

The story lines of her books tackle complex, polarized situations where off the bat, I have a firm view. She artfully develops characters on varied sides of the issue, exposing different perspectives and realities. The research and detail she does to tell the tales is impressive. The books always teach me something and make me think. I don't want the stories to end.

I just finished The Storyteller... it was wonderful. I'm glad I did this one with on audiobook.  The accents of the narrators added to the experience and pulled me into the story. 

Synopsis from GoodReads:
Sage Singer befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses... and then he confesses his darkest secret—he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.
What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who's committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And most of all—if Sage even considers his request—is it murder, or justice? 
Jodi Picoult fans:  Which of her novels is your favorite?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Easy delicious roasted fall vegetables

When cooler temperatures hit, my on-the-regular shifts from lots of smoothies and salads to more roasted vegetables and soups.
This season's switch kicked off Saturday with my weekly visit to the produce market.  Southern Produce, (aka Southside Produce), on Range in Denham Springs, is a little gem.  Everything is fresh, prices are pretty decent, and they carry many local items, plus the staff is so friendly. 
Southern Produce Staff

 This week I included two items somewhat new to my kitchen – acorn squash and fresh brussel sprouts.
Produce stand basket

I washed and diced/sliced the items for three different roasts.
The first was root vegetable focused – acorn squash, white sweet potatoes and carrots, lightly tossed with a small bit of olive oil, kosher salt, cracked black pepper and fresh rosemary.  
Roasted vegetable mix

This was spread into a single layer on hot baking sheet – preheated in the oven at 425 degrees.  I put this batch in first to give it a bit of lead time as the veggies are dense.
The second batch was a rough cut of sweet onion, sliced orange bell peppers, halved brussel sprouts and baby bella mushrooms; also tossed with a small bit of olive oil and seasoned with sea salt, cracked black pepper and dried thyme.

Lastly, I attempted a straight roasting of the other half of the acorn squash.  I brushed it with olive oil, salt and pepper.
After baking the root vegetable tray for 15 minutes, I put the other items in the oven dividing the brussel sprout batch between the baking sheet and a cast iron skillet.  The acorn squash got it’s own small tray.

The items roasted until fragrant and soft (about 15-20 minutes). 
They were amazing!  Roasting brings out a deep, nutty flavor.  The vegetables in the cast iron caramelized a bit more which was absolutely lovely.  Next time, I’ll roast the half squash cut side down so the top will camelize and the captured steam will help it cook more quickly.
Roasted Vegetables

I stored the vegetables in the frig with a plan to use throughout the week as the hankerin hits. I was thinking in a hash or a frittata for breakfast, or mixed with some rice or pasta for lunch, maybe or as a side dish with some protein for dinner.  As I write this post Monday night - this batch is almost gone.
Roasted vegetables

My husband and children like veggie roasts and I try to keep some variety of mixture on hand as a staple during the fall and winter months. No recipes, just this basic method, as the fun is trying different items, herbs and seasonings.  

Current dietary guidelines recommend filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, and in order to reap full health benefits from fruits and vegetables, many adults need 7-13 cups of produce per day (see With Fruit and Veggie, More Matters). Keeping your favorite roasted mix on hand is an easy and scrumptious way to eat clean and get in your vegetables.
Do you enjoy vege roasts?  What are you favorite items, preparations and uses?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

School garden at LVE

This morning, I volunteered at our kid’s school to help plant the fall/winter garden.  I showed up with knee pads and garden gloves, ready to work – but the children were on it.  I mostly observed them do their thing. The garden at Lewis Vincent Elementary is not elaborate.  They used small areas along windows on the back courtyard for planting. 

For supplies, the 4th and 5th grade teachers sent a notice home Monday requesting donations of winter plants and seeds, soil, watering buckets and other needed tools. As usual with this school – parents responded. 

Lewis Vincent Elementary Garden

Two days have been designated for planting and from this morning's work, the garden already contains winter vegetables including a variety of lettuces, cabbage, and brussel sprouts.  

Lewis Vincent Elementary Garden

Also in are herbs like rosemary, mint, chives, ginger root and one without a tag we could not identify (the kids said it smelled like feet). The garden also contains ornamental items – pretty peppers, cabbages and soon to arrive is the one parent's donation of a live Christmas tree to be planted on the side of the courtyard.

Lewis Vincent Elementary Garden

There were quite a few blooming experts in the group as many have gardens at home.  All the kids were exuberant as they dug and planted, shared about what they contributed, smelled the fragrant herbs and examined plants they had never seen before. 

Tending the garden will be worked into their activities throughout the year and when harvest time comes, Ms Baynard said they will make a huge pot of soup. YUM!


Some of my most meaningful childhood memories involve working with my parents in our small yard garden in Chicago, or watching my grandmother tend the huge garden on their farm in Mississippi.  I’m not good at gardening, but try a little something every year and enjoy passing this experience along to my children.  (See My lesson from gardening.)

There is so much to be learned from gardening.  In her article The Garden, A Master Teacher, Kirsten Berhan writes:
“It seems that educational experts through the ages and across the globe have all cited the garden as a master teacher. In the garden we learn first-hand about nurturing and caring, patience and discovery, stewardship and respect, beauty and life. We also learn practical skills such as; mathematics, science, health and nutrition. Perhaps even more relevant today is the opportunity that gardening gives us to reconnect with nature. Research and anecdotal evidence tells us that when this connection with our natural world is established and nurtured, the child’s mind becomes centered and focused, eager to attack other areas of academia.”

It is so effective, there is an instructional strategy called Garden Based Learning, (GBL), that uses the garden as a teaching tool.  Research shows children exposed to this teaching method experience increased vegetable preferences and nutrition knowledge as well as improved environmental attitudes. They also show higher levels of learning and evidence of stronger life skills.  

Thankfully, the presence of school gardens is growing across the country. 

Starside Elementary School, Kansas
image source: kansasgreenschools.org
School Garden Collage
Image sources:  mathditto2.com, schoolgardenwizard.org and ossedc.wordpress.com

In this technological age, children need such opportunities to connect with the life process and nature.

Does your neighborhood school have a garden? If so, please share about it.

If not, why not?  Here are some resources to help make it happen:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NJFFS launches SilverSneakers FLEX exercise classes

One in three Americans is now 50 or older and there is an increasing awareness of the importance of exercise for maintaining the quality of life and wellness.

As a ACE certified health coach with an older adult population specialty, I have expanded my group offerings to include SilverSneakers FLEX classes.

The SilverSneakers® fitness program is a fun, energizing program that helps older adults take greater control of their health by encouraging physical activity and offering social events.

SilverSneakers® FLEX classes are designed to:
  • Bring physical activity outside of the traditional fitness center
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease
  • Help connect participants with others who share interest in a healthy life
This month, we began a weekly SilverSneakers FLEX group exercise class and an indoor walking group.

Strength, Stretch and Balance is held Tuesdays at 9 am at New Hope Baptist Church, 5856 Greenwell Springs Road, Baton Rouge, LA.  This 45 minute exercise class uses the BARRE Basics technique. Participants are asked to bring a mat (or large towel) to class. All levels are welcome and accommodated.  Class notice here.

The first class was held yesterday. 

I had a wonderful time with these lovely ladies and suspect the relaxation segment at the end was the favorite portion of the class.

The Indoor Walking Group kicks off today at Cortana Mall, 9401 Cortana Place, Baton Rouge, LA. Our group meets Wednesdays at 9 am for an invigorating 45 minute walk in climate controlled comfort. We start at the JC Penney stage (across from Macy's).  Each session includes a guided stretching segment at the end. Class notice here.

These SilverSneakers FLEX offerings are free for SilverSneakers members. 1 out of 5 people 65 or older is eligible for a SilverSneakers membership. If you’re a group retiree, or part of a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement Health plan, you may already have a SilverSneakers membership. Visit silversneakers.com for more information or to check SilverSneakers benefits. 

If you are not a SilverSneakers member, classes are $3.  

Have questions, post in comments and I'll get back to you. 

Take care, God bless and be well,

SilverSneakers® is a registered trademark of Healthways, Inc. © 2014 Healthways, Inc.

Monday, November 17, 2014

One hour investment for your health

one hour workout 4% of day NJFFS

We need to move.  “Every cell in the human body benefits from physical activity,” says Tim Church, MD, director of preventative medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. 

One hour of exercise a day (done regularly) can: 
1.     Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by almost 46%.  (Ref: Medical News Today)
2.     Reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (Ref: Centers for Disease Control)
3.     Help manage arthritis. (Ref: Health24.com)
4.     Counteract the negative health effects from 6-7 hours sitting. (Ref. time.com)
5.     Rev up your immune system for the next 24 hours. (Ref. Fitness Magazine)
6.     Ward off weight gain. (Ref: WebMD)
7.     Make your skin more radiant (Ref: WebMD)
8.     Help reverse skin aging process. (Ref: Huffington Post)
9.     Release stress (Ref. Mayo Clinic)
10. Improve sleep (Ref. Psychology Today)

Great returns for an investment of 4% of your day.  

If you exercise regularly - how do you make that happen?