<![CDATA[Creating Healthy Places - Healthy Blog]]>Thu, 22 Oct 2015 14:47:15 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Green Juice in Hand]]>Fri, 14 Aug 2015 19:22:36 GMT/healthy-blog/green-juice-in-handPicture
Green juice in hand, Annonda meets me at a local coffee shop. It’s friends-at-first-sight.

I tell her that I work with Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County and that I am looking for stories to inspire others to take care of themselves. So, Annonda tells me her story:

“I thought, ‘I need to change because this is not healthy’. I was working at Sonic and eating there and then I would go to McDonald’s for dinner. I saw a video called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. A friend and I gave up fried food. We started exercising and running up hills. I started to eat [unprocessed] chicken instead of red meat. I started to juice. I started to eat whole wheat instead of white bread. The more I kept going, the easier it was to eat salads and grilled chicken. I would make my juice in the morning and walk to Kingston High School - it was a good 20 to 25 minute walk. Afterwards I had to work. I managed to get the juices in. After three months I was still eating “healthy” but stopped with the juicing. I was committed to maintaining the weight loss and stopping the red meat. I eat just chicken, fish, salads and vegetables. I feel so much better, alive and energized.”

Straight-talking Annonda lets me know that, “The other day, I was with my Mother. She had a sub, I had a salad. After she ate, she felt tired. I told her, you feel drained, I feel alive.”

18 year-old Annonda has lost 35 pounds since August of 2014 (it is now July of 2015) and she has kept it off. I ask, what is her secret? She says, “you just have to decide to change your life.“

Annonda enjoys kale, banana, strawberry and almond milk smoothies. Initially, she would hold her nose while eating it; now it is “alright”. “I never really thought I could do it for myself. Before, my Mom controlled what was in the fridge. It is hard to have control when someone else is the one putting something in the fridge.”

I ask Annonda where she buys produce. She tells me she is a bargain shopper and gives me some great advice, “It is expensive and you can’t buy it in bulk or it goes bad.” Locally, she will go to Aldi’s or Shoprite. She is super interested when I let her know about the Kingston YMCA Farm Project and South Pine Street City Farm, two urban farms that carry reasonably priced produce. 

Annonda tells me, “I stopped drinking soda. I replaced it with seltzer and it was amazing. That was my replacement. Soda is too sugary”. Annanda says, “I asked myself, ‘Am I going to stay this unhealthy?’ I was eating so much of that bad stuff, I could have a heart attack.”

Annonda tells me how sometimes she gives in, “because you have to do it.” But afterwards, she gets right back on track. “I snack on almonds and raisins. I make my own home-made granola.”

I ask Annonda for a few of her favorite foods and she shares a kale salad recipe with me. She lets me know that, “It’s really simple. You rub olive oil on kale”. Annonda likes to accompany her kale with oven-baked boneless chicken in a low-sodium Teriyaki Sauce and red quinoa.  Annonda enjoys a home-made dressing that includes olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, whole grain mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper. She garnishes her salads with sliced almonds and dried cranberries.

Annonda is embracing joy in her dance with vegetables. She is setting the stage for a healthy life for herself… preventing the intrusion of obesity and type two diabetes into her life

           Thank you to Dana Katz of Family of Woodstock for connecting Annonda and myself. 

<![CDATA[Refuge]]>Mon, 22 Jun 2015 17:57:40 GMT/healthy-blog/refugePicture

I was sleeping and being comforted
by a cool breeze, when suddenly a gray dove from a thicket sang and sobbed with longing,
and reminded me of my own passion

I have been away from my own soul so long,
so late-sleeping, but that dove's crying
woke me and made me cry, Praise
to all early-waking grievers [1]

I found myself at South Pine Street City Farm on a Monday. This oasis in a desert of concrete brought my shoulders back down from around my ears. I was urban food-garden bathing akin to "Forest Bathing"[2] I will say this: recreation therapy is real. Most activity where my neck loosens up and my breath lengthens sounds like a good idea.

I have had a week and months full of hard news involving my own and others' losses and myriad griefs. I have also been feeling the albatross of unfulfilled deadlines around my neck so an email from Trish Hawkins, one of the South Pine Street City Farm's farmers, was welcome. She invited me to come visit the South Pine Street City Farm which was a reminder to take a breath of fresh air. The lure of oxygenating my body and soul hooked me and I went. [3]

Trish and I saw each other this week at an Eat Well Kingston meeting. Trish and Joel (the other Farmer) and I know each other from a gardening training at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County. In the Eat Well Kingston meeting the group of about twenty had the opportunity to brainstorm about what our hopes and dreams and desired outcomes around what an Eat Well Kingston will be.

In this meeting, I spoke about reclaiming the joy of a culture of food. Someone asked me to clarify what I meant by culture. My definition of culture is many-layered, like an onion. By culture I mean creating those little daily rituals and traditions of creating meals from delicious, nourishing food so that preparing food become second nature. Beyond the literal nourishment and calories-in and calories-out of food there is that ineffable thing that can happen called joy. My dog Jasper, a Redbone Coonhound, embodies this quite well. When he has eaten and is full, he gets on his back and rolls around making happy noises. It it is hard not to giggle at and with him.

By reclaiming a culture of food I also mean re-learning how to prepare food and sharing the stories about food. Some of us have grown up eating only commercially processed food, as have our parents and grand-parents and great-grandparents. What foods were our great-great grandparents eating? How were they preparing these meals? What was the process? Was there an alcove set aside for yogurt making? Were the collards and dandelions from a certain spot good for braising? Were there fruit trees? Did the eggs at a certain time of year have more than one yolk? Were the cucumber pickles sweet or sour? Did the chickens ever get drunk on fermented cherries and dance around the coop?

Food nourishment and soul nourishment are so important. When they appear in one place, it is kismet[4] and... the very literal fruits and vegetables of people working with the intention to realize it.

At South Pine Street City Farm, I was honored to give Joel and Trish money in exchange for the food I was receiving. Like Wendy, a customer at the Farm stand said, "this food is priceless". This is quite a different experience than the one I often have in supermarkets where I am at the cash register lamenting the cost of food. My food, I feel, is pretty alienated from me in little and large plasticized paper boxes and bags. My connection with working and exchanging money here was radically different. It was a transaction that was filled with love.

Steven from RNN Television was there, letting the Hudson Valley and beyond know the who, what, when and the where of this place. As the Thirteenth Century teacher Rumi wrote, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,/there is a field. I'll meet you there."

Meet me there, at the picnic table, at South Pine Street City Farm in Kingston on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 3-7pm through mid-October. FMNP is accepted. (Farmer's Market Nutrition Program checks).

South Pine Street City Farm is located at 27 South Pine Street, Kingston, NY 12401, south of Greenkill Avenue across from Binnewater Ice Company and near Stewart’s and the infamous “five corners.”


[1] Rumi quoting the Andalusian poet Adi Al-Riga through the translations of Coleman Barks

[2] /uploads/1/0/8/0/10806617/march_2015.pdf

[3] I remember the first time I heard the expression, "a breath of fresh air". I was eleven and I read it in a feedback form a camp counselor wrote to my Mom describing me. Patty Conley (wherever you might be) wrote that I was, "a breath of fresh air". It was one of the first times a person in authority, a teacher-like person sweetly complemented me. That was nourishment for my soul.

[4] This is a word used in Turkish, Arabic and Hindi, From the Arabic qisma for "portion" or "lot". There is a nuance of fortune, fate, inheritance and coincidence rolled into one, in this word.

<![CDATA[Super Awesome Hydration Mom]]>Thu, 28 May 2015 21:01:08 GMT/healthy-blog/super-awesome-hydration-momPicture
The other day at a Food Forum at Sunshine Market in Kingston, I was greeted by, "Oh! You're the Water Lady!" This bubbly lady let me know that she and her three children have been preparing "Waters With A Twist" - fruit and vegetable infused waters - since she had last seen me at a Food Tasting at QuickStop in Kingston, the month before. 

"Super Awesome Hydration Mom", as I'll dub her, went out and bought her kids their own bottles to make their own fruit-infused waters, or "Waters With A Twist". Super Hydration Mom took a few more Waters With A Twist postcards for her three kids, some recipes for Seared Greens and the Healthy Snack Food Guidelines put out by the Ulster County Healthy Department. She told me that she was going to review food labels on packaged foods for fat, sugar and salt content with her kids as an educational experience. My Educator dreams are coming true! What could be better that people passing on good information!

Taking a note from Super Awesome Hydration Mom, make the time to gear yourself up for food success! Nourish your inner kid with a setup for Waters With A Twist, with some herbal tea, with food prep... Give yourself the luxury of a grocery list, of a new water bottle, of a seasonally appropriate salad or smoothie. 

At yet another Food Tasting at Peters Market in Napanoch I was greeted by a woman who called me the Salad Lady. I had distributed samples of chick pea salad and tabouleh the month before, in March. April's offerings of raw kale salad and mixed green salad were a hit. I had five young ladies ranging in ages from 5 to 15 as well as two employees, tell me they had never tasted kale before... and that they liked it!

Eating healthfully on a budget can be delicious and fun :) Plus, it might make you famous, in a good way!

<![CDATA[I’m not doing it to be a muscle builder. I’m doing it to be alive.]]>Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:38:45 GMT/healthy-blog/im-not-doing-it-to-be-a-muscle-builder-im-doing-it-to-be-alivePicture
As he recounts his story, I can visualize Alex pushing his Honors Student daughter’s wheelchair through the cobblestone-lined streets up to the fort in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Another image comes to my mind of my cousin Eddy, wheeling himself around the cobblestones of Colonia, the Spanish-Portuguese settlement in Uruguay. It is not easy and they do it anyway.

Alex tells me about his friend, Lyle Schuler, the owner of the MAC Fitness Center in Kingston www.macfitness.net who, “saw the neuropathy in my feet was so bad I could hardly work. He asked ‘how bad does it have to get?’” Lyle asked if it had to get to the point of amputation.

Alex tells me, “The neuropathy was so bad that if you stuck a pin in it, it didn’t hurt… but if I stepped on a little pebble I was through the roof with pain. My palms were itchy. I knew there was something wrong. My blood sugar was over 300.”

I ask Alex, “How are your feet now?” His response is: “Better. It is hard to correct once the nerve damage is there. I am careful when I am shoveling snow or if it is under zero degrees out because I might not feel the frostbite.” And, Alex adds, he can actually shovel snow for an hour. His heart is conditioned enough to physically be able to do so. I have a childhood friend whose father died of a heart attack in his early fifties while shoveling snow. Alex’s point hits home.

Alex’s Personal Trainer at MAC Fitness is Mike Romano, whom he can’t praise highly enough. Alex tells me about the increased muscle tone and definition in his arm. In terms of exercise he tells me, “I’m not doing it to be a muscle builder. I’m doing it to be alive.” Alex follows a rigorous schedule of working out and personal trainer sessions.

When a person has diabetes, they need to take care of wounds because of compromised circulation and the possibility of ulceration which can lead to infection and amputation. Alex explains to me that he takes care to wear long pants to exercise, to cover his legs from possible abrasions or injury. He is careful to wear covered shoes and to stay warm enough when he is out of doors.

 “My friends are dying, they are 57 or 62. If I don’t have cancer, why should something else take me? If I am still here, I have to take care of my family.”  Alex has several children. In speaking of them, he beams with love and his pride of their accomplishments. One daughter is a nurse and a reproductive health educator. He has a son who is an MVP athlete scholar and was recently accepted into Bard. About the Honor Student daughter who uses a wheelchair he tells me, “I have to be alive for Melanie. You have to find what your motivator is. I have to be here for Melanie. We laugh every day. It is the little things in life. When I look back, it’s why I have to be here now.”

 “It can be fun, this life. You have to be here- Oh, I love macaroni salad, so I just look at it and say, that’s not for me. I used to own a [vehicle] repair shop and eat a KitKat at 10, a Twix at 12 and a Snickers at 3.” Those days of fast food have ended. Alex has broadened his horizons in trying new, more healthy foods. He uses herbs and spices for added zest. There is no sugar added to his food in any form. He measures his portions and monitors his blood sugar level, multiple times per day. His blood sugar is stabilized. Alex checks in with his doctor and has reduced his levels of medication.

Alex tells me about the Tuxedo jumpsuit he may wear for the United Way fundraiser on April 24 – I hope so Alex! There will be a dance performance and he wants to moonwalk off of the stage. At this point in the conversation, I am cracking up with laughter after some poignant moments in which we both shared tears.

<![CDATA[Hitting The Ball Out Of The Park]]>Mon, 23 Mar 2015 19:20:38 GMT/healthy-blog/hitting-the-ball-out-of-the-parkPicture
Alex Stier, the owner of Home Plate Deli & Caterers in Kingston, is hitting the ball out of the park in managing his Type 2 Diabetes. 

Alex’s response to my email introduction made me smile, a lot.
“Hi, I am currently on vacation on a […]Cruise, back on Saturday the 21st. I will contact you early during the week. (Doing a lot of walking, no late night buffets and in the gym every other day!)”

I could tell that Alex’s story would inspire other people with Type 2 Diabetes to take care of themselves.  Then, when I called him to schedule a time to meet, he suggested a window of time after his session with his personal trainer. I had not even met the man yet in person and I felt motivated by him.

An enormous “Thank you” goes out to Marge Gagnon of Rose Women’s Care Services for introducing me to Alex.

Check out the blog on March 30th for my interview with Alex.

<![CDATA[Family Style]]>Wed, 25 Feb 2015 17:53:00 GMT/healthy-blog/family-style Picture
I spent the weekend at Rowe Camp and Conference Center at a Songwriting Workshop. The food served there is delicious and served family-style which means that a platter of food is placed directly on the table where everyone is seated. During Sunday breakfast, I said that I was going to practice mindful eating[1] instead of just eating everything on the table… and a lovely conversation unfolded. I spoke jokingly and seriously about how my job was making me healthier. I mentioned this blog and the adventures which have led me to calorie-counting and we all started talking.

Also at the table was Hannah, a songwriter of historical ballads, she spoke about “Intuitive Eating”[2] a book I am going to look up. Mark Simos, the Songwriting Professor, also mentioned an article he had read where calorie-counting is not noted as the only aspect important for weight-loss and health[3].

I want to ***highlight, underline and asterisk*** in the blog that I am using calorie counting as a tool for portion control for myself. The point of weight loss is to create health. With better health, on all levels… intellectual, mental, emotional, spiritual and physical… we radiate beauty. Each one of us is an individual jewel with specific needs and different facets. Rachel Robinson, the Shoprite of Kingston Dietitian pointed out in a cooking class that we must not forget that people sometimes also need to gain weight for health. Calorie counting can be useful for that, too. The idea is to eat optimally for nutrition.

Family-Style styles of serving food can be challenging for me. I encountered this the other day when a forty-ounce bowlful of savory little sausages were set before me. There are tricks to dealing with whatever might be your personal bowl of sausages… or hard shell chocolate candies… or sugary beverage. Paying attention and exerting the will are useful tools. Moving the bowl to the other end of the table is useful, too.

As much as I would like to, I will not be consuming a couple of bowls of whipped heavy cream beat into a nice Crème Chantilly or a pound of dark chocolate to get to the 2260 calories I am supposed to be consuming for a healthy weight loss. That is just common sense AND from a research-based point of view, I would not be getting the nutrients I need which are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy or protein sources. According to MyPlate.gov half of our plate should be fruits and vegetables, the other half should include lean proteins and whole grains… let's not forget the dairy.

And speaking of whole grains, here is a delicious chickpea stew to serve over your quinoa... a recipe for you:

Moroccan Chickpea Stew[4]
The following recipe is from Julie Van Rosendaal[5]

Slow cookers and pressure cookers are great for cooking dried beans without requiring a pre-soak. Just dump them in and make sure there’s enough liquid to absorb.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

This Moroccan-inspired chickpea stew is hearty and healthy, loaded with pulses like chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans and lentils that are packed with fiber, protein, essential vitamins and minerals. And they’re cheap, too. Add a handful of torn spinach at the end, stirring into the hot stew until it wilts. Make it a complete protein by serving over couscous, rice or quinoa.


2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups (500 ml) dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or two 19 oz cans chickpeas (if using stovetop method)
2 28 oz (798 ml) cans whole or diced tomatoes, with their juices grated
zest and juice of a lemon
1-2 tsp (5-10 ml) cumin
1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp salt


Slow cooker: Combine all in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add an empty tomato can full of water. Cover and cook on low for 6–8 hours.

Stovetop: Heat a drizzle of oil in a large saucepan; cook the onions over medium heat for 5–8 minutes until starting to turn golden. Add remaining ingredients (use two 19 oz cans chickpeas, drained, instead of the dry chickpeas), bring to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the stew thickens slightly. Serves 6-8

Per serving: 278 calories, 1.8 g fat (0.3 g saturated fat, 1 g poly-unsaturated fat, 0.5 g monounsaturated fat), 11.4 g protein, 55.8 g carbohydrates, 0 mg cholesterol, 12.4 g fibre.

[1] Gena Bean, Director of www.mindfulboston.com and Instructor of MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) initially introduced me to this concept. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School presents this concept in “Full Catastrophe Living” 2013

[2]Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA, CEDRD, “Intuitive Eating” 2012

[3] Dr. Eric Kusher, “Why Can’t I Lose Weight and Keep It off?” NaturalNutmeg.com October 2014, pgs.16-17

[4] From the CCEUC February 2015 Good For You Newsletter produced by Fern Suess: