My Orthodox Christmas Cactus

My Orthodox Christmas Cactus

My Christmas cactus decided to bloom late this year. Perhaps I neglected it, or didn’t speak sweet nothings into its ear, or played music not to its liking. I don’t know the secret wisdom of plants, not being a plant whisperer, you know. But my cactus woke up about the time I brought a small poinsettia to visit it. I guess it was destined this year to be an Orthodox Christmas cactus.

Although the twelve days of Christmas end on January 6, the Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7th. Are they out of step with everyone else, double dipping into Santa’s bag, or what else is going on?

Orthodox Christmas Day
Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on or near January 7 because they still use the Julian Calendar, which was the lunar calendar devised during Julius Caesar’s time in Rome. The Gregorian, or modern calendar, is our modern civic calendar and is used around the world. It’s a solar calendar based on a 365 day year, which has twelve months of irregular lengths. Pope Gregory XIII gets credit for the calendar, but it’s an adaptation of a calendar designed by Luigi Lilio (also known as Aloysius Lilius), who was an Italian doctor, astronomer, and philosopher. He was born around 1510 and died in 1576, six years before his calendar was officially introduced.

Catholic countries adopted the new calendar in 1582, but Protestant countries were skeptical at best, taking nearly 200 years to make the change. England and the colonies switched over when an act of Parliament introduced the new calendar, advancing the date from September 2 to September 14, 1752. The Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 introduced the Gregorian calendar to the British Empire, bringing Britain into line with most of Western Europe.

Its introduction wasn’t straightforward. The year 1751 was a short year, lasting just 282 days from 25th March, which was the New Year in the Julian calendar, to 31st December. The year 1752 then began on 1 January.

To align the calendar used in England with Europe’s calendar, needed a correction of 11 days: the ‘lost days’—Wednesday, September 2, 1752, would be followed by Thursday, September14, 1752. An early urban legend was born: the Calendar Riots. These claims of civil unrest and rioters might have been inferred from a Hogarth painting “An Election Entertainment,” in which a political banner has the text, “Give us our eleven days.”

Hogarth: An Election Entertainment

Benjamin Franklin famously wrote about the switch in his almanac: “…And what an indulgence is here, for those who love their pillow to lie down in Peace on the second of this month and not perhaps awake till the morning of the fourteenth.” (Quoted by Cowan, 29; Irwin, 98)

Old Ben favored the adage “early to bed, early to rise, makes one healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

My daddy taught me an old poem about the months of the year. It went something like this. I found 93 other variations on the theme (see link below).

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and dull November
All the rest have 31
Excepting February 1 in 4
February then has one day more.

Dad also counted out the months on his knuckles: the heights going in one direction were January, March, May, July, and the valleys in between were February, April, and May. Coming back again, he’d count the high knuckle as August, the valley as September, a knuckle for October, a valley for November, and end with a knuckle for a December.

Fathers teach us important information, such as how to calculate moveable feasts by the equinoxes, which depend on the sun position in the sky, and the moon’s phases. I never knew what sort of arcane knowledge would come from his mind, but he enjoyed sharing this special esoteric information.

The Zwiefalten Calendar, or Labors of the Months

Not everyone was sold on the old Julian calendar. In Germany, around the year 1145 CE, the tribes kept the old astrological calendar. Annus, the year, is portrayed as a hairy, bearded man in a skimpy mantle, sitting in the center of the page. He holds the moon in his right hand and the sun in his left, while day hovers just below the sun; and night, below the moon. The seasons are in the corners, dressed properly for the time.

The Leap Year is an important addition to the Gregorian Calendar, since every four years February is 29 days long and the year is 366 days long.

Julian Calendar Christmas is December 25

Icon of the Nativity

Orthodox Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on the same day as all other Christians, but our calendars are different. Therefore, Orthodox Christians’ observance of Christmas Day on or near the Gregorian calendar day of January 7 is not a nationwide public holiday in the United States.

No Room Inn Nativity: Found Objects Find a Home at the Manger of God

For many Orthodox Christians, Christmas Day is not about presents, eggnog or Christmas characters that have become popular through commercialization.  Christmas Day is a time to heal the soul. It is also a time of peace and unity. Many Orthodox Christians attend a special church liturgy on Christmas Day on January 7. Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas Day with various traditions. For example, many churches light a small fire of blessed palms and burn frankincense to commemorate the three wise men’s (also known as Magi) gifts to baby Jesus. 

Orthodox Christmas on December 25 in the Julian calendar will be celebrated on January 7, because this date is only valid between 1901 and 2100. The Gregorian date for Orthodox Christmas will be January 8 in 2101 if the Julian calendar is still used. On that day, the Julian calendar will be 14 days longer than the Gregorian calendar.

Symbols

White cloth is used on dinner tables in some countries to symbolize purity and the cloth that baby Jesus was wrapped in. Straw may be placed on these tables to symbolize the simplicity of the place where Jesus was born. Candles may be lit to represent the light of Christ and the festive Christmas meal represents the end of fasting.

Orthodox Christmas Day Observances

https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/orthodox-christmas-day

94 Poems of Calendar Months and Days

https://www.leapyearday.com/days-of-the-month-poem-1

Equinox and Solstice

https://earthsky.org/?p=68679

No Room Inn, found object icon: Cornelia DeLee, now in private collection.

Labors of the Month illustration

http://wyrtig.com/EarlyGardens/British/LaborsOfTheMonths/ZwiefaltenAll.htm

British Calendar Riots

https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Give-us-our-eleven-days/

Rabbit! Rabbit!

Welcome to December 2019

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and no one choked on a turkey bone or their uncle’s unsavory political opinions. I had a chat with my first cousin, who once again retold the traditional dinner time story of my succumbing to sleep with a turkey leg in my hand and my blonde curls down in my plate. I was two years old at our grandparents’ home and nearly seven decades have passed as I’ve heard her or my aunt tell this same story, so I just wait for it and laugh. It doesn’t represent who I am now, however, so I don’t dwell on it. It tells me more about their inadequacy than it relates to mine. This is a little rabbit comfort to any bunny reading this who’s still smarting from their past festive gathering and not looking forward to the upcoming Christmas feast.

There must be cookies!

We’re on to the great holiday season now. In the USA alone, we’ll celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, as well as the upcoming Winter Solstice. Some non religious folks will also celebrate Festivus, which is actually an offshoot from the tv series Friends. Since many people like to do Friendsgiving, they’re good to go for Festivus also. The symbol of light is predominant in Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Christ is the light coming into the world, the oil in the lamp burning miraculously for eight days is the miracle of Hanukkah, and the colors of the Kwanzaa candles represent struggle, Hope, and the people. The Winter Solstice is also a commemoration of the shortest day of the year and a welcoming return of the sun to longer days.

We all journey toward the light.

Even though the season is marked by the spiritual nature of believers, the commercial emphasis of this season can be overwhelming. Moreover, Christmas sales begin earlier and earlier each year. While merchants once waited until Thanksgiving, and then pushed their date back to Halloween, they now have items for Christmas out as early as Labor Day. If you dislike climate change, aka global warming, consider the bane of “merchandising shift:” soon we’ll be bombarded by Christmas sales year round.

Perhaps we need to put a priority on what’s most important in our lives:
• Do we need clothes which wear out quickly and can’t be given away because they aren’t useful?
• Do we need new gadgets, if we’ll only get bored with them in a month?
• Would more time together be better for us as a family?
• Would books, learning new skills, or art or music lessons be a better gift?
• Would a gift to the homeless shelter or local food pantry remind us more of our blessings?

Handmade cookies for gifting

Many strange and the usual holidays abound in December. From remembering the tragedy of AIDS and the hope for the living, to National Bacon Day, we can always find hope and comfort in the darkest days of December. An odd holiday is National Bathtub Day, which falls on Repeal Day. I happen to be old enough to have “known those who partook of bathtub gin.” This gin was the same as Ozark moonshine, just citified. However, Bathtub Day has nothing to do with hooch, but only about soapy suds and relaxing. Taking long, hot baths or showers is good for relaxing the muscles and opening up the sinuses.

If you haven’t shopped your heart or wallet out yet, Green Monday offers yet more discounts a mere week past Cyber Monday. Of course, if you received a gift during the year, but didn’t use it, you could always regift it to someone else! This is the idea behind National ReGifting Day. I like homemade cookies, since I can freeze them and eat a small treat every week or so. National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, National Chocolate Candy Day, Bake Cookies Day, and National Cookie Exchange Day all fall into this category.

Although National Christmas Tree Day falls on the 8th, the White House will light their great tree on the 5th, a tradition presidents since Calvin Coolidge have kept since 1923. The only times the tree wasn’t lit was during WWII, and the lighting also was delayed due to the death of President John F.Kennedy on November 22, until the thirty-day period of national mourning had passed. On December 22, President Lyndon Johnson, accompanied by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and daughter Luci, opened the lighting ceremony saying, “Today we come to the end of a season of great national sorrow, and to the beginning of the season of great, eternal joy. He shared his hope that the nation would “not lose the closeness and the sense of sharing and the spirit of mercy and compassion, which these last few days have brought to us all.” Saint Nicholas Day reminds us the original St. Nick was honored for his gifts to the poor, rather than to children who already have a closet full of toys.

Strange holidays get celebrated to emphasize causes both silly and necessary. First the silly. What would we do without Ding a Ling Day, when one gets to do something silly, such as write “Monkey Day” on a friend’s calendar as a joke, but then they celebrate simians of every type from then on? Barbie and Barney Backlash Day is a 24 hour hiatus for parents so they can tell small children the song can’t be sung today. Instead Baby Shark goes on and on and on.

National Flashlight Day is always celebrated on the Winter Solstice, perhaps because it’s the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It’s always good to have a flashlight with you when you walk your four legged friend, or when you’re crossing poorly lit areas of the neighborhood. It also comes in handy to find lost objects underneath furniture and car seats. You might want to find a sturdy Box to put the gifts in for your local tradesmen, as was the custom back in England on Boxing Day, the holiday after Christmas. In the USA, most folks resort to tips or gift cards, since we don’t have hired help.

Find time for quiet as the days grow shorter

If every bunny makes it through the excitement of all the parades, sitting for a photo on the lap of a Santa or an Elf, and hasn’t lost their minds scrambling to pack two months worth of parties into the last two weeks of school before the whole bunny family packs up to travel over hill and dale to the grandparent bunny’s house, I suppose we could pay attention to Tick Tock Day, when we’re called to finish up our Round2It List. I’ll most likely roll mine over to 2020 and call it New Projects, because if I hadn’t gotten Round2It by now, it isn’t going to get done before New Year’s. I’ll toast the New Years entry with a glass and see every bunny back again.

Everyone have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a Prosperous Kwanzaa!

Joy and Peace,
Cornelia.

December 1: World AIDS Day

December 2: National Mutt Day, Special Education Day, Cyber Monday

December 3: National Green Bean Casserole Day, Giving Tuesday

December 4: National Cookie Day, Santa’s List Day

December 5: Repeal Day, Bathtub Party Day, Day of the Ninja

December 6: St. Nicholas Day

December 7: Pearl Harbor Day, Letter Writing Day, National Cotton Candy Day

December 8: National Christmas Tree Day, Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, National Brownie Day

December 9: Christmas Card Day, Green Monday

December 10: National Lager Day

December 12: Gingerbread House Day, Ding-a-Ling Day, Poinsettia Day

December 13: National Ice Cream Day, National Cocoa Day, Free Shipping Day

December 14: Monkey Day

December 15: National Cupcake Day, Cat Herders’ Day

December 16: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

December 16: Barbie and Barney Backlash Day, Boston Tea Party Day

December 17: National Maple Syrup Day

December 18: Bake Cookies Day, Answer the Phone Like Buddy the Elf Day

December 19: Holly Day, National ReGifting Day

December 20: National Sangria Day, National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, Go Caroling Day

December 21: 1st Day of Winter, Humbug Day, National Flashlight Day, Super Saturday

December 22. National Cookie Exchange Day, Hanukkah begins

December 23: Festivus

December 24: Santa Claus Day, National Eggnog Day

December 25: Christmas

December 26: Kwanzaa, National Candy Cane Day, National Thank You Note Day, Boxing Day

December 27: National Fruitcake Day

December 28: Playing Card Day, National Chocolate Candy Day

December 29: Tick Tock Day

December 30: Bacon Day

December 31: National Champagne Day, New Year’s Eve

History of the White House Christmas Tree— https://thenationaltree.org/visit-the-tree-2/event-history/

https://www.holidailys.com/december-holidays

Rabbit! Rabbit!

I’m late for November. As the White Rabbit once said, “I’m late for a very important date.” I usually tell folks I’m often late and occasionally great.

Daylight Saving Time is at Hand

Between Halloween and the Day of the Dead celebrations, this old rabbit has had too much fun. I’m not the party animal I was in my fluffy bunny days. Hot-tober dropped like a stone into a glacial lake as November brought our first true cold snap to these parts of my world. Brisk air always calls for the flu shot before the providers run out of their first batch of vaccines. Another delivery will come down the pike, but the flu will beat it before it arrives. I got mine just in time.

Revenge on Scary Monsters

“The time and tide wait for no one,” the ancient proverb tells us. As we approach the end of the year, the older ones among us may find time moving more quickly as we age. When I was a small child, the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving seemed interminable, and the days until Christmas were eternal. My sense of time was inversely proportional to my degree of interest in the date beyond. If I wanted it desperately, the time I waited was excruciatingly long. Now, time flies from morning to night, from day to day, and season to season. My decades are approaching escape velocity. I get the sense no matter how many decades I have left on this earth, they’ll be too short to accomplish all I hope to do.

Time Waits for No One

Time is a fourth dimension, some say. I meet those who need to “find something to do with my time,” as if it were empty and needed filling. It’s not the time that’s empty, but the person who needs filling. We are best filled when we give to others, especially to others who have less than we do, as in Emily Dickinson’s poem:

These Strangers in a foreign World

These Strangers, in a foreign World,

Protection asked of me —

Befriend them, lest Yourself in Heaven

Be found a Refugee —

Make a Place for the Stranger at the Table

CALENDAR FOR NOVEMBER

2—Day of the Dead

3—Daylight Saving Time Ends

15—National Clean Out Your Fridge Day—make room for the feast

21—National Stuffing Day—practice a week early to get it right!

28—Thanksgiving—if you don’t have family, invite friends, or feed the poor at a food pantry or the feed wildlife with seeds and nuts.

17-21—GERD Awareness Week

Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix

Cold and grey weather in December makes me want to bake in the kitchen. I must have my mother’s DNA for sure, since some of my fondest memories are of her up to her elbows into a giant mixing bowl as she stirred together the various candied fruits and nuts for the fruit cake cookies and loaves she produced in mass quantities every Christmas.

This recipe also had a significant amount of cheap whiskey in it, so when I was preaching in small towns in Arkansas, I usually let one of the ladies of the church know of my need. “Don’t you worry,” they’d tell me, “we’ll make sure this gets covered.”

A few days later I’d be invited over to this kind lady’s home for lunch. She’d have a Christmas gift for me. Inside the colorful bag would be a small flagon, double wrapped in a brown paper bag. “You don’t have to tell anyone where you got it. That’s a secret, just between you and me.”

I’d nod and smile. Christmas has always been time for secrets. My parents would hide presents up in the attic until we got big enough to pull the rope for the hidden stairs. Then they hid the gifts in the trunk of my daddy’s black Pontiac. I never knew why we weren’t able to find the keys. When we were truly old, my folks managed to keep the Christmas secrets by gift wrapping the presents at the store before we came home from school.

One of the mysteries of Christmas I discovered along the way was Santa could write as elegantly as my daddy, but I never told anyone else. After all, I had two younger siblings and I wouldn’t want to spoil his visits for them! This recipe makes a Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix for snacks. You can vary it infinitely and even use it as a base for a Chocolate Bark recipe. It’s great for a share party.

Fresh out of the oven!

Ingredients

4 cups unsalted, roasted whole nuts (almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts)

1 cup seeds (I used pumpkin, quinoa, and sunflower)

1/4 cup agave

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 Tbs brandy

227 grams chocolate chips (1 cup)

1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)

1 teaspoon turbinado sugar

Red pepper flakes from three chili peppers

Step 1

Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the nuts and seeds.

Step 2

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine agave, butter, red-pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon salt. Microwave until the butter has melted, about 30-40 seconds. (Alternatively, you can melt the mixture in a small saucepan on the stove.)

Step 3

Pour the butter mix over the nuts and seeds, and stir until well coated. Dump onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. You want the nut mix spread out as much as possible.

Step 4

Bake, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are tacky and look and smell toasted, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle over the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and all of the turbinado or dark brown sugar. Let cool on the baking sheet, then transfer to a bowl and serve (or transfer to an airtight container, where they’ll keep for up to 4 days).

Nutrition information for 1 serving (24 total servings)

EGG NOG RECIPE FROM SCRATCH

Before the first frost is on the Halloween pumpkin, my local grocery store stocks the milk case with flavored egg nogs. While I think they might be rushing the season of good cheer a bit, and the rest of the world is going Gaga over the PSL, I’m not yet ready for this rich holiday beverage just yet.

Christmas in my corner of the world

I like to mark the seasons and the holidays as they come, and give each one proper due and respect. These have become like old friends, with whom I can share my memories of the way things used to be, as well as our hopes for the future to come. Once Thanksgiving’s interminable meals of turkey variations had ceased, we couldn’t bear to face another bowl of turkey soup, turkey casserole, turkey and dumplings, or chipped turkey with gravy on toast. My daddy had an uncouth expression for this recipe, so mother only served it once and last of all.

When it finally appeared on the dinner table, it was a sign of rejoicing for us, for Christmas was just around the corner! We knew soon we’d be making fruit cake, cookies, candies, and other seasonal specialties in mother’s kitchen. The grownups usually had a party at our home, so we’d get a taste of that wonderful concoction, homemade eggnog with a bit of spirits added for the celebration. We got the cup without the spirits for the early party, but I remember tasting my parents’ cup to experience the grownup beverage.

As I’ve aged, I have lost my taste for these exceptionally rich foods. I’m more like the babies in their high chairs: I want my flavors and textures distinct and discernible. One day I may need a divided plate to keep my foods from touching, but not yet. Of course, the idea of a milky, alcoholic drink with eggs in it dates back to a medieval British drink called “posset,” writes Elizabeth Dias for Time. “By the 13th century,” she writes, “monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health.”

The dead of winter was good time to celebrate survival and to lubricate the social bonds to bring about continued prosperity of the community. The wealthy could afford those expensive ingredients to make eggnog in Britain, but in America it became a common drink due to the number of farms. Rum became the alcohol of choice, since rum from the Caribbean wasn’t taxed as heavily as European spirits like brandy.

George Washington’s recipe for eggnog suggests the founding father had a strong stomach. He forgot to specify how many eggs should be used in it, but cooks of the era thought a dozen or so would be good. Washington’s recipe includes the usual ingredients—sugar, milk, cream, eggs—but adds one pint of brandy, half a pint of rye, half a pint of rum and a quarter pint of sherry to the mix. Raise one to the father of the country!

FAMILY EGGNOG RECIPE

My aunt gave me a handwritten book of over one hundred recipes when I got my first apartment in art school. One was for Christmas Eggnog, which isn’t “just something to drink, but a traditional Christmas ceremony in Dixie, when friends and family gather together to enjoy Yuletide festivities.”

Her recipe served 12 and had 12 of nearly everything:

12 eggs separated

12 Tbs sugar

12 Tbs whiskey

12 Tbs Jamaican rum

1 quart whipping cream

Nutmeg

For Auntie ‘s recipe, separate the yolks and whites. Beat the yolks till light, then add sugar slowly, and beat again till light. Add the liquor very slowly; don’t dump it in all at once! Keep beating while adding the liquor. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks in separate bowl and fold into yolk mixture. Whip the cream till it expands to double in size. Fold this into the mix of eggs and whites. Tradition serves this drink in small cups with grated nutmeg topping and a silver spoon. A thin slice of rum soaked fruit cake accompanies it on a plate. My understanding is with fruit cake, the more rum it has, the better it is, or that may be the eggnog talking.

TRADITIONAL EGGNOG RECIPE

I put a traditional egg nog recipe through my recipe program. I didn’t care for what I saw! This drink wouldn’t be on my healthy eating plan. Then I decided to adjust the recipe. I decided not to use the full sugar or whole milk, but opted for the lesser caloric bombs. I kept the full fat whipping cream, since it’s there to give body and thickness to the drink. This texture is important. Save the 2 egg whites for adding to an omelet for a meal. Don’t waste them.

Nutritional Values

Ingredients—

1 vanilla bean (or 1 Tbs real vanilla extract)

4 cups milk 2%

2/3 cup sugar (2/3 cup or 32 tsp Splenda for diabetics)

4 whole large eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Scotch whisky, bourbon, or rum (optional)

Cinnamon or allspice for topping

Servings–Makes 12 servings of about 1/2 cup each (before adding 1 oz. alcohol)

Directions–

Split the vanilla bean in half by holding one end down on a cutting board and running a knife away from your hand and down the length of the bean. Open up the bean, and then use the back side of the knife to scrape out the black seeds. Place the seeds and the husk (or the 1 Tbs real vanilla) in a small saucepan along with the milk and sugar or Splenda.

Heat over medium low heat, stirring regularly to prevent burning until the surface is foamy and the milk is steaming hot.

In a large bowl, add the whole eggs and egg yolks and whisk until pale yellow and foamy. Place the bowl on a wet towel so it doesn’t slip, and then pour the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly (it may be easier to have someone help you). It’s important to keep the egg moving as you add the hot milk, otherwise it will clump.

If you’re concerned about Salmonella, measure the temperature of your mixture with a candy thermometer and if it has not hit 160 degrees F, pour it all back into the pot and cook over low heat while stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. If you heat it anymore, the egg will curdle.

Whisk in the cream and serve warm, or chill in the fridge. I like to serve the alcohol on the side, so people can add as much or as little as they like. This respects the designated drivers, as well as those who don’t drink alcohol for personal reasons. Remember adding alcohol adds calories and carbohydrates. One ounce of alcohol per hour is the most the average person can metabolize. Consuming more than four (4) drinks on a single night is considered binge drinking, an unhealthy lifestyle activity. Consider drinking every other nog beverage without spirits to slow your imbibing down, or choose water instead.

HOLIDAY GREETINGS

I hope you have a safe and blessed holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanza, or Hanukkah, and may the joy of life and the promise of hope be always in your hearts and minds. Let’s all pledge to choose one better action for our health in 2019 and keep after this one thing! We can do it!

Love, Joy, and Peace,

Cornie

HALLOWEEN SPECTERS

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES
Have you readied your costume for the annual Trick or Treat event? I saw folks shopping for costumes as early as mid September, for both adults and children. Most of these garbs aren’t scary at all, unlike the one worn by the ghosts and ghouls of ancient lore, by which I mean my neighborhood companions and I.

19th Century Spookiness

We protect children today from such horrors, but back in the 1950’s, ritual exposure under adult protection was considered part of growing up. A very small child dressed as a ghost with a pillowcase over her entire body. Only the eyes and mouth holes were cut out, plus a slit in the front for holding the basket of treats. The shifting nature of the pillowcase was part of the plan—the child couldn’t race to the next house in the dark or the eyeholes would slip and then they’d slip too. I never realized how cunning my parents were.

1950’s Neighborhood Ghost Costume

LET THE HARVEST FESTIVALS BEGIN
Halloween is the official beginning of the harvest festival season in America.
First is the Chocolate Candy season, also known as Trunk or Treat in the church. Then 22 days later is Thanksgiving, a day given over to cooking and eating, with leftovers for a week afterwards. For the next month until Christmas, cookies and homemade treats roll out of our kitchens as if we were our grandparents. Once the New Year arrives, even if we make a resolution to stop this madness, we get an invite to a Super Bowl party on February 3rd, 2019. This is all happening in less than one hundred days (95).

We do this in addition to our regular lives, of course, for we don’t let anything go. No, we merely pile stuff higher and the wonder why it collapses. It’s called the Western Life Style.

TEEN COSTUMES

LIFESTYLE POSTER CHILD
The main negative features of this lifestyle include stress (long-term and continuous, psychological), positive energy balance (excessive energy intake and low physical activity), low-quality food (both high fat and energy dense, and at the same time poor in micronutrients), and disruption of chronobiology(insufficient sleep). What toe have I not stepped on yet? As my old congregations used to say, “At first you were preaching, but now you’ve done gone to meddling!”

WESTERN LIFESTYLE DEADLY
As countries around the world adopt the Western Lifestyle, rates of metabolic syndrome and diabetes are also increasing. For 2017, the International Diabetes Foundation estimated there were 451 million (age 18-99 years) people with diabetes worldwide. These figures were expected to increase to 693 million by 2045. Almost half of all people (49.7%) living with diabetes are undiagnosed. Moreover, an estimated 374 million people are likely living with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and almost 21.3 million live births to women were affected by some form of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy.

In 2017, approximately 5 million deaths worldwide were attributable to diabetes in the 20-99 years age range. The global healthcare expenditure on people with diabetes was estimated to be USD $850 billion in 2017.

DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE
“An acute disturbance in any of the physiological regulatory systems evokes reactions that tend to reestablish equilibrium. When the stimuli, even of moderate magnitude, tend to be repetitive or chronic, change and allostasis in one system impact on the other, and vicious cycles are created and reinforced.” The plain language translation is our bodies tend to seek equilibrium. If we lose weight, our bodies try to regain it. The vicious cycle many of us are most familiar with is losing the same amount weight over and over again.

Homemade Pizza Costume

THE FOOD WE EAT
Does what we eat make a difference? Every day a new diet fad comes down the pike, or at least a new packaging of an old one trots out for us to ride it for a while. Then we fall off that horse and look for another, with more appeal (cookie diet, anyone?).

Our food choices interact with our genetic, metabolic, and environmental factors. In obesity and metabolic syndrome, often dietary patterns are considered of central importance. In these, attention has been focused over calories, amounts, and proportions of macronutrients, and their effects on the energetic balance by themselves, and through metabolic regulators. You recognize this in the shorthand “calories in/calories out” slogan.

However, obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes are way more complex operations than mere subtraction. A calorie isn’t just a calorie. That is, not all calories are created equal, although all whole foods have nutrients. Only recently have the acute effects of food ingestion, taking into consideration the type of food, and the specific effects of some nutrients, namely, fatty acids, began to be studied in relation with obesity and inflammation.

INFLAMMATORY ROLE OF FATS
Total dietary fat and saturated fat are associated with insulin resistance and high blood pressure as well as obesity-related inflammation. An immediate postprandial increase in plasma inflammatory markers after a high-fat meal had been shown in abdominally obese men. Consumption of a saturated fatty acid-rich diet resulted in a proinflammatory “obesity-linked” gene expression profile, whereas consumption of a monounsaturated fatty acid-rich diet caused a more anti-inflammatory profile. This means carnivores eating well marbled steaks every day aren’t doing their bodies long term good, but of course they’re too busy being important to have a real doctor test their blood. And they “feel fine.”

MUFA’s are foods and oils with higher amounts of monounsaturated fats, such as Nuts, Avocado, Canola oil, Olive oil, Safflower oil (high oleic), Sunflower oil, Peanut oil and butter, and Sesame oil. Everyone needs some fat in their diet, for it keeps our skin smooth, our hair lustrous, and our appetite satisfied. We don’t need fried foods or animal fats on a daily basis.

LIVER AND FAT STORAGE
The liver has two functions that directly impact the formation of excess fat: metabolism of carbohydrates (sugars) and digestion of lipids (fats). When we consume carbohydrates, our blood sugar rises, triggering a rise in insulin. That rise in insulin signals our liver to begin storing the excess glucose within its own cells. When the liver is full, it begins storing the excess carbohydrates as fat in our body fat. Sometimes that fat begins to accumulate in the liver cells, and the liver becomes fat.

Similarly, when we consume more lipids that the body can use for energy, the liver stores the excess lipids in body fat, and this excess of lipids can begin to accumulate within the liver as well. Whether the excess of food is made up of carbohydrates (sugars) or fat (lipids) —the liver stores the excess energy for future use. Often this results in excess fat accumulating in the liver itself. This is known as Fatty Liver, the first stage of NAFLD and should be viewed as a warning to change unhealthy lifestyle habits and adopt a low carbohydrate and low fat diet that is high in fresh vegetables and lean proteins.

TAKE OUT BOX
We need to eat enough quality nutrients to lose weight. Starving ourselves won’t do it, since this messes up our metabolism. Eating the good food, complex carbohydrates with fiber, for instance, and lots of vegetables full of water (spinach, zucchini, mushrooms) will help us meet our nutritional goals. Foregoing fried foods, highly processed foods, and fast foods will also improve our health. Exercise every day, if just to walk around the block. I sometimes fail on this. But I find a way to move more around the house or do big muscle chores.

Cornie’s Batgirl Costume

Time—we all have the same amount of it. What we do with it is the important thing. If I add an event to my schedule, something else has to go away. I’m not Wonder Woman. I’m not God. I might be Batgirl. I can’t do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me, but I can do all the IMPORTANT things Christ calls me to do in his power.

MORE SCIENCE
Below I’ve made some notes on the role of obesity, free fatty acids, and insulin resistance if you want more information. The link below has an excellent paper if you want to dig deeper. Low grade inflammation and free fatty acids are both implicated in NAFLD, non alcoholic fatty liver disease, which occurs when fat is deposited in the liver.

OBESITY AND INSULIN RESISTANCE
The reason why obesity is associated with insulin resistance is not well understood. Obesity is a condition characterized by an increase of body weight beyond the limitation of skeletal and physical requirements, as the result of excessive accumulation of body fat.

NOT A ROCK BAND
Free fatty acids (FFA) cause both insulin resistance and inflammation in the major insulin target tissues (skeletal muscle, liver and endothelial cells) and thus are an important link between obesity, insulin resistance, inflammation and the development of T2DM, hypertension, dyslipidemia, disorders of coagulation and ASVD.

FAT TISSUE: FACTORY AND WAREHOUSE
Adipose tissue not only stores and releases fatty acids but also synthesizes and releases a large number of other active compounds. According to this concept, an expanding fat mass releases increasing amounts of compounds such as FFA, angiotensin 2, resistin, TNF-α, interleukin 6, interleukin 1-β and others. Some of these compounds, when infused in large amounts, can produce insulin resistance.

However, any substance, in order to qualify as a physiological link between obesity and insulin resistance, should meet at least the following 3 criteria:
0. the substance should be elevated in the blood of obese people;
0. raising its blood level (within physiologic limits) should increase insulin resistance and
0. lowering its blood level should decrease insulin resistance.

So far, only FFA can meet these 3 criteria in human subjects.

Plasma FFA levels are usually elevated in obesity because
0. the enlarged adipose tissue mass releases more FFA and
0. FFA clearance may be reduced

Moreover, once plasma FFA levels are elevated, they’ll inhibit insulin’s anti-lipolytic action, which will further increase the rate of FFA release into the circulation.

The liver is more insulin sensitive than skeletal muscle.

FAT PILLS ARE REAL
Nevertheless, there is convincing evidence that physiological elevations of FFA, such as seen after a fat rich meal, inhibit insulin suppression of hepatic glucose production (HGP) resulting in an increase in HGP (1).

Acutely this rise in HGP is due to FFA mediated inhibition of insulin suppression of glycogenolysis or releasing glucose from carbohydrates.
Longer lasting elevations of FFA, however, are likely to also increase gluconeogenesis, or making glucose from non carbohydrate substances.

Chronically elevated plasma FFA levels, as commonly seen in obese diabetic and non-diabetic individuals, also cause insulin resistance.

GENES AREN’T OUR DESTINY
We know there’s a genetic component linked to the UCP3_HUMAN or mitochondrial uncoupling protein 3 and 2. Healthy pancreatic β-cells are poised to respond rapidly and efficiently to acute changes in circulating nutrient availability to maintain metabolic homeostasis.

CHRONIC EXPOSURE TO OVERNUTRITION
However, it is well recognized that chronic exposure to overnutrition, such as what occurs in obesity, results in a blunting of the insulin response to an acute stimulus.

INFLAMMATION
Whatever its origin, be it or not obesity the main initiator, the chronic low-grade inflammatory condition that accompanies the metabolic syndrome has been implicated as a major player in both the installation of the syndrome and its associated pathophysiological consequences.

WEIGHT LOSS HELPS INFLAMMATION
In good agreement with this interpretation of things, weight loss of obese patients is repeatedly verified to be associated with a decrease of inflammation biomarkers accompanied by improvement of metabolic parameters, namely, insulin sensitivity.

Monteiro, Rosário, and Isabel Azevedo. “Chronic Inflammation in Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome.” Mediators of Inflammation 2010 (2010): 289645. PMC. Web. 11 Oct. 2018
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913796/

Diabetes Impact on World
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29496507

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS TREES

Some of us toss out the living room Christmas tree on December 26th, because it’s been up since Thanksgiving Day. Christmas Day begins the 12 days of Christmas, a celebration that ends on January 6th with the visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus’s birthplace. You can make variations of the Christmas tree with pancakes and eat them for supper or breakfast.

Make them with whole wheat flour and get the whole grain benefits. Cornie’s BASIC PANCAKE RECIPE is at the link below. SparkRecipes requires a free account to login, but it gets you access to a recipe calculator. This is a handy tool you can use to input your own recipes and figure the calories, carbs, and protein figures of your meals.

https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=2829882

In the new year, we can be more conscious of our health by knowing what we eat and how it affects our health. I reworked my traditional family recipes to cut the fat, salt, and carbohydrates so I could avoid the diabetes which runs in my family. This isn’t something a person can do cold turkey or make the change all at once, but by cutting back these three things a little at a time over a period of a year, my tastebuds adjusted to the new normal.

Best wishes for the days to come! Better health for all of us!

Love, Cornie