Category Archives: Add Color to Life

St. Patrick’s Day Tribute

A Tribute and Thanks to a Phenomenal, Part Irish, Woman –170px-Irish_clover

Mom passed away two days after St. Patrick’s Day in 2006, with her family by her side.

It’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed since then and even harder to write about Mom using the past tense – she was always so full of life and energy. She exuded an endless pursuit of learning and teaching throughout her 89 years. In fact, the month before she died, she was teaching cribbage to some local students. They joined her on Sunday afternoons at her senior living campus apartment, to learn a game she enjoyed playing over a lifetime and had taught to her grandchildren to help them improve math skills.

Of German and Irish descent, Mom was a daughter, a sister, a wife, widowed twice, a mother of four daughters, grandmother of twelve, great grandmother of 28, an aunt, an excellent cook, creative, skilled, resilient, ambitious, a good friend to many, a devout Lutheran and above all, she loved her family dearly.

On my desk is a photo of Mom holding an array of colorful flowers, each one given in honor of herLila -80th birthday - LL Blog 80th birthday at a surprise party hosted by her daughters. Each attendee was asked to bring one flower to the party. Nearly 100 family members and friends gathered. Being among so many who loved and honored her made for a magnificent celebration.

Mom loved life, loved baseball, loved dogs, read a lot, loved to garden and was an avid exerciser. She walked the Heartland trail a couple miles a day as long as she was able. In inclement weather, she picked up a friend and drove to the high school to walk the halls prior to the start of classes. Yoga later replaced walking and helped her remain limber as osteoporosis crept in.

One evening, about 3 weeks before St. Patrick’s Day, Mom fell in her apartment, broke her hip and ended up in surgery. Her recovery did not go well. She required oxygen related to a worsening lung condition and after several failed physical therapy sessions to help her walk, she asked to have all treatment and medications stopped. Mom told me and my sisters, I showed you girls how to live. Now, I will show you how to die.

Rather than move her to a care facility, we chose to move Mom to our home. With hospice support, along with my three sisters and our husbands, we provided her care.

Emotions of both joy and profound sadness filled our home during those last two weeks as she said her goodbyes to friends, family members and their dogs, who all came to visit. She said she had lived a good life and it was her time to die. Her strength helped us through those last days.

As a young girl, Mom’s red curly hair and freckles were an indication of her Irish ancestry. Her strong will, attention to cleanliness and order were expressions of her German heritage. But, her love of family was the truest expression of who she was. As her daughters, we were loved unconditionally, and enjoyed living in a well cared for home where we were treated to the some of the finest cooking ever, including many fabulous German meals. But, on St. Patrick’s Day, we celebrated our Irish heritage by wearing green and savored an annual meal of corned beef and cabbage, boiled potatoes and Irish Freckle Bread. She didn’t serve green beer but she did sip a beer with us now and then.

Mom was strong and loving to the end.

We miss our wonderful German-Irish Mom.

Advertisements

CELEBRATING ST. PATRICK’S DAY

170px-Irish_cloverDid you know the real St. Patrick wasn’t Irish and the original color associated with St. Patrick was blue? Why then is Saint Patrick the patron saint of Ireland and around the world people parade in the streets wearing green?

The son of a British Christian church deacon, Patrick was kidnapped at age 16 and sent to Ireland. There he was enslaved as a sheep herder on a chilly Irish mountainside. After escaping bondage, he made his way back to Britain, but returned to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity. When explaining the Trinity to the pagan Irish, he reportedly used the three leafed shamrock plant.

Centuries later, St. Patrick became known as a patron saint of Ireland and in the 1600’s Saint Patrick’s feast day became a holiday in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1903, St. Patrick’s Day became an official public holiday in Ireland. Wearing of the green meant to wear a shamrock on one’s clothing. The St. Patrick’s Day parade in NY City is the largest parade in the world.

For us, St. Patrick’s Day is a fun celebration of our Irish heritage and it centers on an annual meal of corned beef. For an easy healthy holiday dinner, corned beef, cabbage, boiled potatoes and Irish Freckle Bread are favorites.

Corned beef is common in many cuisines. Corned is a term from “corns of salt” used to preserve the meat. Irish corned beef was traded in the 17th century and used as provisions for British naval fleets and North American armies. The preserved meat has a long a sordid history with use on ships involved in slave markets. When fresh meat was rationed during World War II, this salt-cured product became important. The preserved beef, often cooked and canned, was preserved in “tins” and exported from Ireland around the world. Kosher cured beef became popular with the Jewish population. Today South America is a major supplier of canned corned beef.

Corned beef is found in most deli shops and the favorite Reuben sandwiches. Pastrami is smoked corned beef with added spices. Preserved and salted food, such as corned beef, are not for those on low salt diets, but for the rest of us, an occasional meal is acceptable.

Crock Pot Beef in Beer

3-4 pounds corned beef brisket

Trim all visible fat from meat

Vegetable selections: potatoes (peeled and quartered), 2 medium onions (peeled and quartered), 1 cup thinly sliced carrots, 1 small cabbage cut in wedges.

Place vegetables of choice with one bay leaf in crock pot.

Place meat atop vegetables.

Pour beer or one cup of water over beef.

Cover and cook on LOW heat for 10 hours.

Cool meat on cutting board for 10 minutes, then cut across the grain in thin slices.

Serve on large platter surrounded by vegetables.Corned beef meal

Irish Freckle Bread

1 pkg dry yeast

8 tablespoons sugar (divided)

1 cup warm water (110 degrees F.)

½ cup butter, melted

2 eggs

¼ cup warm mashed potatoes without butter or milk

3 ¼- 4 cups flour

1 cup raisins

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon sugar. Add the butter, eggs, potatoes,Freckle bread unbaked salt, remaining sugar and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in raisins and enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

·  Turn onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

·  Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Place on baking sheet. Cover and let rise untilFreckle bread baked doubled, about 30 minutes.

·  Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool. Yield: 1 loaf, 12 servings.

green-beerTHREE CHEERS TO GREEN BEER, SHAMROCKS & GOOD FOOD

WISHING YOU A HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

EXERCISE FOR LIFE

DSCF3133Fall is an invigorating time of year for many people. Even if you are not into fitness, it is a good time to start a plan. Walking in crisp fresh air, surrounded by evolving brilliant foliage colors, can help stimulate daily activity that will generate better health in years to come.

 A recently published medical study noted advanced planning can change the course of your life. Americans are living longer, but not always better. Our current life expectancy is seventy-eight, but with longer life more people are dealing with chronic diseases. So, the goal should be to begin modifying your risk base as soon as possible. Developing fitness in middle age, even if exercise was never a priority for you, reshapes your personal health landscape and can make later years more vibrant.

 In the longitudinal study of 18,000 people beginning in 1970, most of those who were the least fit at the time of their middle-aged checkup, had developed some of the following conditions early in the aging process: dementia, diabetes, heart disease and colon or lung cancer. Those who were most fit in their forties and fifties typically did not develop chronic illnesses until the final five years of their lives, instead of 10-20 years earlier like the less physically fit individuals.

 So if you look at the big picture, exercise is beneficial in delaying illness and living well in later years. Longevity without dementia is determined by genetics, fitness and staying involved mentally and socially. Even walking half an hour a day can improve your health.

 An article reviewing 45 studies, examining physical activity in people with cancer published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute this year, emphasized the benefits of exercise. There was a decrease in all-cause mortality, including cancer-related death. Many of the studies examined involved women with breast cancer. With exercise, there are improved insulin levels, reduced inflammation and an increase in cells known to attack tumors.

 Muscle cells strengthen with exercise. Balance improves. But another important benefit is better blood flow to organs including the brain. In an animal study published in the journal Learning and Memory, fit animals not only showed improved memory, they generated new neurons in areas of the brain involved with learning.

 We all have many excuses for not being able to exercise. However, if you evaluate your interests and abilities, usually there is something to do to remain active, even if you have physical problems that interfere. Water exercises for individuals with joint and balance problems can increase muscle strength and be relaxing, too. If you have joint or back problems, consider riding a stationary bicycle for non-weight-bearing activity. Talk with your physician. Maybe a consultation with a physical therapist could set you on a course to improve muscle conditioning and your overall health.

If you say, “I’m too tired to exercise” consider this: studies have found exercise energized people, even those undergoing cancer treatments. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous. Just taking a slow walk outdoors in the fall sunshine can brighten your day, increase bone-density to ward off osteoporosis, strengthen your muscles and help you live a longer healthier life.

Betty Kuffel, MD

THE POWERS OF MISTLETOE


How did kissing beneath a sprig of parasitic poisonous plant to ward off evil spirits

and improve fertility come to be celebrated during modern holidays?

Through the ages, ancient Greeks and Celtic Druids bestowed magical powers on mistletoe. This attractive green leafy plant with white berries and strong roots grows through bark and sucks its nutrients from the mother-tree. Mistletoe can grow as a bush and it thrives in trees, but is rarely seen growing in oak trees. When found in an oak, Druid priests considered the parasitic plant a sex symbol and the soul of the tree.

Kissing under the mistletoe has so many powers; it is difficult to keep them all straight. In the Middle Ages, branches of mistletoe hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. Today, decorating homes with mistletoe at Christmastime survives from Druid and pre-Christian traditions. In European folklore, mistletoe was even considered an aphrodisiac that could bestow life and fertility on believers.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a peace-plant helping enemies solve differences and could help warring couples make up. If you attended a Christmastime Kissing Ball in 18th century England, you had to agree to be kissed under the mistletoe. The special kiss might bring romance, lasting friendship and goodwill but any un-kissed girl would certainly not marry in the coming year, so there was a scramble for that kiss.

Many mistletoe beliefs are a mesh of lore and modern-day fun. Kissing under the mistletoe has become a holiday tradition representing peace and love. Just remember, no matter how hungry you are—don’t eat the mistletoe!

Some mistletoe varieties are poisonous and must not be consumed in any fashion. Keep the plant away from children and pets. Plants that contain phoratoxin can cause a variety of symptoms from blurred vision to blood pressure changes and death. Call Poison Control and seek medical attention if any of the leaves or berries are eaten.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435

US POISON CONTROL CENTER 1-800-222-1222

Betty Kuffel, MD

BRIGHTEN YOUR HOLIDAYS WITH A MEXICAN FIRE PLANT

The Christmas Flower

Each year, admirers purchase more than 75 million poinsettias during the six-week holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Years. After seeing these brilliant red, pink, white and dappled poinsettias everywhere, have you every wondered how many of the lush tropical “Mexican fire plants” survive the winter months? Not many – based on my experience. Poinsettias in my hands usually became dreadful-looking and leafless by February. But for some reason, a beautiful white poinsettia I received as gift in 2011 not only survived the year, it quadrupled in size and is developing blooms just in time for this holiday season!

Since I didn’t know what I did to make my poinsettia flourish, I decided to do a little research. I discovered more than 60 varieties exist and was shocked to learn poinsettias grow to ten feet in height in their natural tropical habitat in Mexico! Botanist Dr. Joel Poinsett, America’s first ambassador to Mexico in 1825, introduced this unusual plant to our market. National Geographic News says the poinsettia is now the top-selling potted flowering in the US.

Cultivated by Aztecs, the brilliant flower was a symbol of purity. In the 17th Century, a group of Franciscan priests near Taxco began using the blooms in a nativity celebration. But, it isn’t only during the holidays you can enjoy this perennial plant. With the right care they will thrive for years.

Details on poinsettia care below were compiled from many sources:

  • Poinsettias do best in natural light in 65 degree daytime temperatures away from drafts and cold windows. Depending on your residence, these plants do well outside if the proper location is chosen. In Montana, it is safer to maintain them as house plants.
  •  The second and very important care is watering—just enough, avoiding over-watering. It must be in a draining pot and watered when the soil is dry to the touch. Discard excess water.
  • Continue above care through March. In April, trim back the main stems to about 8 inches. When new growth appears along the stems, fertilize once a week. Water as directed. In mid-July, snip tops leaving at least 4 leaves on each stem to encourage it to branch and become bushy, creating lots of blooms.
  • In the fall, beginning October 1 and extending until Thanksgiving, the plant prefers 14 hours of complete darkness from 6 pm to 8 am. The darkness can be simply provided by covering the plant with a box or by placing it in a closet.
  • Once the dark treatment is complete, the color-changing leaves (bracts) begin to change to showy colors. Stop the fertilizing, but continue watering when needed. Place the plant in an area that receives natural light away from drafts.

My poinsettia survived through luck —and by careful watering, a little fertilizer and letting it live in the northeast corner of a sunny room. Instead of placing it in complete darkness, the natural shortening hours of daylight in the northern Montana winter has been adequate to trigger the bracts to change color. After this blooming period, I plan to snip off a few of the longer stems to encourage more leaf growth.

Best of luck in your efforts to care for your poinsettia and watch it re-bloom in 2013.

Betty Kuffel, MD

LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE

Do You Have Winter Blues?

If this time of year tends to dampen your spirits and your energy, it could be the result of shorter days and longer nights. A condition known medically at SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called the “Winter Blues” – is a documented mood disorder where people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year, become depressive in winter months.

Although experts were initially skeptical, this condition is now recognized as a common disorder, prevalent across the U.S.  SAD was formally described and named in 1984 by Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, a researcher, professor, psychiatrist and author of the book “Winter Blues.”

The National Library of Medicine notes “some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up.”

If you feel a dampened-down mood change coming on, considering adding more lights inside and outside your home. Energy efficient bulbs now offer instant-on bright white and daylight options while actually reducing your electricity bill if used to replace older filament bulbs.

Our small Minnesota town has a delightful tradition. On the Eve of “Black Friday” – a parade of lighted horses and over 20 floats make their way through main-street. Family and friends gather on the sidewalks wrapped in winter coats and warm blankets (if weather demands), to watch the parade and join in the sounds and songs of merriment that fill the air.

The last float, a shiny fire truck covered in twinkle lights, ushers in Santa. With a wave of his hand and his jolly “Ho-Ho-Ho” the truck siren is sounded and the entire downtown and waterfront area comes alive with sparkling lights.

It doesn’t have to end there. Stores are filled with packages of inexpensive lights designed to adorn your home and landscape. Lighting contests are held throughout our area bringing people of all ages out to tour the spectacular scenes.

Sparkling starlight elicits a feeling of joy whether it is in summer or winter. With longer, darker winter nights now with us, even a few sparkling lights within our homes can add a feeling of joy.

“Deck the Halls” both inside and outside to increase and spread your own holiday cheer throughout your home and neighborhood.

Wishing you a bright cheery Holiday Season.

Bev Erickson

Lipstick is More Than Color, It’s an Attitude

 NATIONAL LIPSTICK DAY – JULY 29th

Lipstick- more than a little color

 Lipstick became a prominent part of daily wear for women beginning in the 19th century. Enhanced lips add color to your face and your life. A little makeup, lip color and mascara can brighten your face and your attitude. Our mother, who died at age 89, was a lipstick advocate. She said if you wore bright clothes, accessories, a touch of make-up and lipstick, you’d feel better about yourself. I think she was on to something! Crippled with arthritis and barely ambulatory,  she always looked beautiful and stylish and always wore her lipstick.

Studies have shown there is a personal well-being benefit in taking the time to improve your appearance. Even in cancer patients, when chemo has taken their hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, carefully applied makeup is a way to improve that inner spirit. If you look better on the outside, you’ll feel better on the inside. Betty applied our mother’s advice while recovering from breast cancer and by doing her best to always look good, she was able to keep up her spirits during some pretty tough months.

Lip dyes used today aren’t new, but the stick variety is. Not until 1915 could a woman buy a tube of lipstick. Around 1880, when actresses began wearing lipstick in public, they used a rather disgusting process of painting their lips with a brush dipped in carmine dye, a red pigment made from cochineal beetles. Carminic acid, produced by the beetles, deters other insects. In the 15th century, Central American natives found by mixing the carminic acid with a salt they could produce a beautiful color useful in dying fabrics. Popularity for the dye grew and it was soon exported to use as food coloring and in cosmetics. Most lipsticks today contain synthetic dyes.

Actress Sara Bernhard began wearing makeup in public in the 1880’s, but her look was highly theatrical. In the early 1900’s, lip color products had a more natural look after a carmine-ointment was applied. By 1915, women had access to push-up metal tubes of color being newly manufactured and by 1930, a wide variety of lip products became available. Styles were changing and advertisements encouraged women to look like the stars… a pale orange color called Tangee became popular with young women. From then until now, options have exploded as hundreds of companies search for the right colors, luminescence, durability and ease of application. Today we have everything from flavored sticks and flavored gloss to 24-hour kiss-proof varieties- some of which do not last all that well.

With today’s ballooning tattoo artistry, permanent cosmetics have become popular. Many women are delighted with tattooed eye lids and lips, but if an undesirable result occurs, the cost and discomfort to remove tattoos can be substantial.

Many new lip products tout color durability and cost a lot less than a cosmetic tattoo. A few include: Revlon ColorStay, Este Lauder Double Wear, and Maybelline Super Stay. They actually work! So if you are looking for a lasting lipstick that stays where you put it, give one of these a try and add a colorful smile to your face.

Betty and Bev