Government is not promoting good health

I know, this sounds like a conspiracy. Well, I believe it is.

I have just started a petition at http://www.whitehouse.gov asking the administration to instruct the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to write the National Dietary Guidelines, not the USDA (Department of Agriculture).

Please review the petition here, sign, it and spread the word.

As top executives at the Department of Agriculture have traditionally had long-standing ties with big agribusiness, and as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes are at epidemic rates, and as diet is largely responsible for our health, I believe the fox is minding the hen house when it comes to the health of the American public.

The pharmaceutical, beef, chicken, egg, dairy industries and their ilk do not have the best interests of the public at heart. Their best interests are in profits. The pharmaceutical industry, for example, profits from the sicknesses and diseases that the high fat, high cholesterol Standard American Diet from the USDA guidelines. The sicker the American people get, the more money the pharmaceutical industry makes. For the USDA to promote artery-clogging meat, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, chicken, and pork as a hefty portion of the Standard American Diet is irresponsible to the extreme, and causes hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths every year.

If we want to reduce the top health hazards of Americans (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.), and thereby drastically reduce the amount of money spent on health care every year, these dietary guidelines must come more in line with the guidelines proven to prevent and sometimes even reverse the ravages of disease caused by poor diet. The government organization most likely to do the independent research required to conceive a healthy dietary guideline is The Centers for Disease Control.

I refer to Dr. Neal Barnard’s The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Dr. Michael Greger’s nutritionfacts.org, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyne’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Program, Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s Center for Nutrition Studies, and others.

If you’re not familiar with these ground-breaking studies, it would be good for your health and the health of your family and the health of the planet if you looked into it. Start with these websites, read these doctors’ books.

And if you like what you find, please sign the petition.

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I Rode the Bus Yesterday

It’s not as if I’ve never ridden a bus.

When I’ve ridden the bus before, it has been in a strange city, or because my car died, or I didn’t want to ride my bike home in the rain. Never before had I just decided to take the bus to go where I wanted to go and then come home again. But I did yesterday. What makes yesterday different is that I have reached a “certain age” and now can ride for free.

The Bus

 

I am a spoiled westerner, married to my car. I know that people in the east regularly take public transportation. When I lived in Washington, D.C. for seven months, I took the bus and the Metro (subway train) daily to/from work and everywhere else I needed to go. But that’s because I didn’t have a car. I rode my bike, and I took the Metro.

My car is old and failing. I am rooting for it to survive another couple of years until I can buy an electric car with sufficient range to make sense for me. I absolutely refuse to buy another car with an internal combustion engine. So maybe taking the bus will give my car some relief and extend its life. Added bonus: I spent no money on gas when I took the bus.

Anyway, this is what I discovered yesterday.

The bus stop is a six minute walk from my house. The buses run on time. They’re clean. A little shabby, perhaps, but clean. The bus schedule is not always convenient to my schedule, so from now on, I will take a book. Or my knitting. It slowed me down, and gave me time to think, to look around, to appreciate the beautiful day, to enjoy the antics of the kids who were also waiting for the bus.

On the bus, I discovered there is a whole community of commuters who greet each other like old friends. They probably are, as they ride the same bus together every day. That was fun to see.

There are places in my town where parking is ridiculous. In fact, there are places I don’t even want to park my bicycle. So now I have an alternative. For certain, I will take the 6-minute bus ride to the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.

I picked up a bus schedule, although the website is amazingly easy to use. I had no idea that the buses run as frequently as they do, to as many places as they do. I didn’t even know that I can take my bicycle with me on the bus. This is truly a great alternative method of transportation. I, with blinders on, stuck in my car, had no idea.

But now I do.

And now and then, I’ll be riding the bus.

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I Think I’ll Run for President

Since I believe that the two major party candidates currently running for the highest office in the land are in it for themselves and not the country (one more so than the other), I have no option left but to run for president.

Here, therefore, is my Common Sense Party’s platform. You will see that it is not one of issues, but of values.

bunting

Every proposed decision to be made by every person in my administration will hold that decision up to this set of six values to see if it holds true and is just:

  1. Life. The Declaration of Independence promises us Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. This is bedrock of my candidacy. If what you propose to do does not promote, protect, and preserve life—all life, every life, in this country and around the world—it will not pass into law. This includes the legal slaughter which is war. This includes animals.
  1. Equality. We are all equal. Every person on this planet. Period.
  1. The Opportunity for Personal Growth. Every person needs the time to reflect, to dream, to contribute to society the art that is each personality and expressed in each life.
  1. Empathy. Hardliners will get nowhere with me.
  1. Compassion. The ability to see the other point of view is central to a peaceful society.
  1. Love for Humanity. What else is government for?

Okay, you know I’m just kidding. I’m not a candidate for any office. There is too much yarn out there to be knit up into soft, warm, beautiful items of comfort. There are too many tomatoes to be grown and eaten on my homemade bread. Too many stories that need to be told through my peculiar filter.

But I am serious about the values that our candidates promote. Especially the oft-touted “family values.” What are they? Can they articulate those values? Are they the same as my values? If not, why not? Even if they are only “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” do the candidates really believe in those values?

Once a candidate’s values are set, everything else about how they will govern becomes obvious.

We all know this is a very important election. Ask these questions of not only the national candidates, but your local candidates as well.

Choose wisely.

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Ten Things a Vegan Kitchen Must Have

So you’re new to veganism? Congratulations on embarking upon a journey to improve to the health of your family and our planet. They say that once you become vegan you continue to find reasons to stay vegan, and I have found that to be true. Sometimes, though the recipes you find call for what appear to be exotic ingredients. But the truth is, once you outfit your kitchen, you’ll find vegan cooking to be easy and delicious. I’ll address those exotic ingredients in another post. This post is about having the right tools for the job. These are my top ten.

  1. A Vitamix. I resisted buying an expensive Vitamix because I had a blender, and I just didn’t see the point. Boy, was I wrong! I bought mine reconditioned directly from the Vitamix website (vitamix.com) and I use it every day. Seriously. Every day. I have both the standard container that comes with it and I also bought the additional “dry mix” jar. I use the standard jar for everything from lunch smoothies to vegan salad dressings to the best hummus ever. I also make vegan iced desserts and soups that take less than ten minutes from start to finish. The dry mix jar I use for grinding coffee, flour, making matcha from my homegrown tea, turning dried peppers into cayenne powder, you name it. I can even make powdered sugar out of regular sugar, or brown sugar out of sugar and molasses. I can make cornmeal out of popcorn! The cost of the machine is nothing compared to the savings on expensive sauces, dressings and herbs. Unquestionably, a must have.

vitamix

  1. A rice cooker. I spent my formative years in Hawaii, so I am a rice eater. My husband (a Midwesterner) has to remind me now and then to bake him a potato, because I never think about it. Rice is nice. A simple, plain vanilla rice cooker is all you need, one that will cook your rice to perfection and then hold it warm while the rest of the meal is getting ready. There are expensive rice cookers with lots of bells and whistles including a steamer, but they’re not necessary. I buy all my grains in bulk, and mix them together in the canister. No one pot of rice is the same as the next. I mix together long grain brown rice, short grain brown rice, jasmine rice, wheatberries, barley, rye, bulgur, and sometimes I throw in some lentils and some dried soybeans. Scan what’s available in the grain section of your market. The result is a healthy, delicious mix that goes with almost any meal.
  1. A mandolin. There are many appliances for chopping vegetables on the market, and if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you probably either have or will acquire most of them. For my money, though, a mandolin is the most versatile. You don’t have to plug it in, it rinses off easily, takes up little space in the kitchen cabinet, and is always handy. Again, you can spend a lot of money on a fancy mandolin, but it isn’t necessary. Mine is old and wonderful, with interchangeable blades for grating, slicing both thick and thin, and something else that I’ve never tried. It might make matchstick potatoes, I’m not sure. In the fall harvest, I could not survive without the mandolin for slicing cucumbers for pickles, or slicing cabbages for slaw. Slicing potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables is a breeze. The blades are sharp, though, so always use caution.

mandolin

  1. A slow cooker. This is what I made for dinner last night: 2 cans water pack jackfruit (from the Asian market), one sliced onion, one sliced green pepper, ½ cup barbecue sauce. Cook all day on low and serve over bread or on a hearty roll. Vegan Sloppy Joe’s from heaven. I threw it all in the slow cooker in the morning and it cooked on low all day. Here’s what we’re having for dinner tonight: two cans of black beans, two yams, sliced thin (on the mandolin), one package of soy chorizo sausage, and 2 cups of enchilada sauce (don’t buy it, make your own http://ohsheglows.com/2016/01/31/enchilada-sauce/ ). Let these cook on low all day and then fill a tortilla and get ready for everybody to go nuts. The slow cooker is the vegan’s best friend. There are lots and lots of vegan slow cooker cookbooks, too, to get you started on your journey.
  1. A soymilk maker. This is without doubt the biggest money saver in my kitchen. It looks like a fat coffee pot and makes a quart of soymilk in about 18 minutes from 1/3 cup of dried soybeans and some water. You can do the math on how much a quart of homemade soymilk costs, compared to what it costs in the store. Load these two ingredients into the pot, plug it in, and it cooks and grinds the beans. Mine came with a strainer and a pitcher. Strain out the soy okara (the dog loves that on her morning kibble) and voila! Delicious soy, rice, or almond milk. Dried soybeans are easily found in your health food store. I buy them in the bulk bins, and whenever possible, I get them in 25 pound bags. Between baking, our over-consumption of coffee, and morning oatmeal (made overnight every night in the slow cooker), we go through a lot of soymilk in this house.

soymilkmaker

  1. A good knife and a good knife sharpener. Vegans do a lot of vegetable chopping. There is nothing more frustrating than a dull knife. And, in fact, dangerous. We cut ourselves when the knife is dull, because we use too much pressure. Invest in a good chef’s knife and a good paring knife. Go to the knife store and spend some money, because these will last you not only for the rest of your life, but for the lives of whoever is lucky enough to inherit them. Once you have invested in fine cutlery, take care of it. Never leave a fine knife soaking in the sink. Never put it in the dishwasher. Wash it, dry it, and put it away. Have a small, simple, effective knife sharpener handy in a kitchen drawer that you can easily access to put a fine edge on your knife at a moment’s notice. You’ll be safer, and you’ll be happier.
  1. Pantry space. I know, space is always limited. But there are items that vegans use often enough that it is worth the fight for a few shelves in the garage. While I buy many items in the bulk bins at the health food store, I buy big bags (25-40 pounds) of pinto beans, soybeans, steel cut oats, and long-grain brown rice. Cooking dry beans is far more economical than opening a can. It’s good to have the option. I keep a container of “refried” beans (that I make in the slow cooker) on the top shelf in the refrigerator to add to just about everything. Not only are beans good for us, but a daily spoonful feeds the flora and fauna in our bellies so we don’t suffer from the uncomfortable gas that can occur when we only eat beans once a week or so. I buy cans of beans, tomatoes, and tomato sauce by the case as well as a few other staples that we use all the time.
  1. A library of good vegan cookbooks. I have declared a moratorium on buying vegan cookbooks. I have about twenty, and that’s enough. Although… there is always something new from one or another of my favorite authors. There are cookbooks (and websites!) for every household. Vegan casseroles. Slow cooker recipes. Standard European dishes made vegan (French, German, etc.) Ditto with Asian dishes. I have learned the wonders of Indian spices. It took me a while to get the hang of vegan baking, but with the help of a great cookbook, and some advice from friends, I can now bake with the best of them without using dairy or eggs. I annotate every recipe, always improving on it for our tastes, and I highlight ones I like in the book’s Index, so I can easily find them again. These days I’m using a different cookbook every week, so I can get more depth of insight into the author’s way of thinking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  1. A group of like-minded friends. So this isn’t a kitchen staple, but it is a lifestyle necessity. When I first joined the ranks of the vegan, I found a Meetup (meetup.com) group in my home town and began going to the events. I found a great community of interesting and interested people, and I learned a lot. We watched videos on nutrition, on agribusiness, we cooked together, shared tips and tricks, talked about new foods to try, and what to avoid in the grocery store. This is where I learned about the convenience of the right appliance, and the best tried and true cookbooks. I learned more about nutrition in this group than I had learned in my entire life heretofore. I found my new guru in Dr. Michael Greger (www.nutritionfacts.org), and his fact-base nutrition information. My vegan friends are happy, fun, and the light of health shines in their eyes.

The vegan lifestyle is a good one. Healthy, planet-friendly, animal-friendly, and a good choice. With the right support of friends and the right kitchen tools, this way of life can be one of the best decisions you have ever made.

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Write it in Spain this summer

As you probably know, I’m teaching the Kick Start Your Novel class this summer in Spain.

The organizers have put out this press release about the event. I’m not sure how sweet and innocent I look, but I can assure you, sweet and/or innocent I am not.

This is going to be a rockin’ good time, and you will assemble the skeleton of your new novel before we’re finished.

Come join us.

Kick Start Your Novel in Paradise

New workshop in Moorish Spain will push writers to the next level

She may look sweet and innocent, but don’t let that fool you. Elizabeth Engstrom has a reputation for forcing writers past their preconceived limits.

Engstrom has over a dozen novels and 250 published stories, articles, and essays to her credit. Among her best-known works are Lizzie Borden and Candyland, which is now a movie starring Gary Busey. She has teamed up with Writers & Publishers International (WPI) to offer her Kick Start Your Novel workshop one last time.

Running from June 19th to 25th, Kick Start Your Novel in Spain is the ultimate summer vacation for any serious writer of fiction who is willing to work hard and keep an open mind. Attendees will dramatically improve their writing skills while enjoying the colorful history, food, and culture of southern Spain.

“Not every writer can teach. I know what people need to learn, and I give them this information without subscribing to a formula,” Engstrom says. “I’ve been teaching a long time, and my students get published.”

Those students include Naseem Rakha, whose best-selling novel The Crying Tree got its start in one of Engstrom’s Kick Start Your Novel workshops. Engstrom has taught writing classes in Italy, Ireland, Alaska and the Caribbean, and has been running The Ghost Story Weekend in Oregon for almost 30 years.

“Liz is more than a teacher. She is a mentor, a friend, a coach and an encourager,” says #1 NYT bestselling author Susan Wiggs. “Her teaching becomes part of the blood and bone of a writer’s art.”

Kick Start Your Novel is not for the faint of heart, Engstrom adds.

“My students start off kicking and screaming and resisting, but by the end of the workshop it’s a big love fest,” she says, explaining that the course teaches a completely different way to write. “When you write hot and urgent on the spot, something magic happens.”

Part of that magic lies in the setting itself. Located on the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain in Andalucía, Málaga has been featured in many novels and stories. The birthplace of Pablo Picasso, this region has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Orson Wells was so mesmerized by Málaga that he insisted his ashes be buried there.

Málaga’s exquisite beauty and literary history have resulted in a thriving community of artists and writers. With its rich historic and cultural past, miles of beaches, and stunning mountain villages, this Spanish paradise is guaranteed to inspire.

Writers are encouraged to reserve their spot with a deposit, as there is limited space available and the workshop will sell out quickly.

For more information, please contact:

In North America                                                     In Europe

           

J.H. Moncrieff, Publicist                                         Tausha Johnson, Program Director

jh@jhmoncrieff.com                                              info@workshopwriters.com

+1-204-453-8215                                                    +34 682798328

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Psychology Today

I’m honored that the amazing Dr. Katherine Ramsland blogged about my new book in her Psychology Today column.

sex scene book cover

The book is available in paperback, audio and as an e-book.

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Kick Start Your Novel in Spain!

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be teaching my favorite and most popular 5-day workshop in beautiful Spain next summer.

You’ll find all the details here. Space is very limited.

Come join us and get that novel going in the right direction.

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