Friday, March 9, 2018

Elderberry Health Syrup

Forever is how long I have been involved in health foods, somehow knowing instinctively early on that real food was better food (with one serious caveat: I'll take french fries any way I can get them).  My daughter grew up going grocery shopping with me in a slew of natural health food stores.  Ask her about the time she took organic chicken salad with organic curry to school (curry turns things green! kids will laugh!) and her great love for Peanut Butter Bumpers.

I've always reached for natural stuff first whenever anything ails me but especially before anything ails me.  Frankly, as someone who has probably the worst case of white coat syndrome/latrophobia on the planet, I need natural remedies to work for me.

I discovered the miracles of elderberries years ago.  I make this syrup every winter to keep me healthy and I would usually take it whenever I remembered to. But this year with all the terrifying news about the flu, I took it religiously...sometimes 3 or 4 times a day.  I'd walk by the fridge, reach in and grab the jar and take a swig.  Yum.

I've talked about how my lungs collapsed (pneumothorax) nine years ago and  how my lungs have not been the same since - causing me lots of pain, especially in temperature extremes like cold winter and humid summer.  This winter has been different.  I have had almost no lung pain which is the most ridiculous thing after complaining constantly for the past 8 years and hiding inside for most of summers and winters.  This year JP was unable to exert himself physically so I was even outside shoveling on frigid days which is simply mind-blowing.  The difference between this year and the past 8?  My elderberry syrup consumption, no question.

Here's some crazy information I want you to know about elderberries:

Elderberries have been a folk remedy for centuries in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, hence the medicinal benefits of elderberries are being investigated and rediscovered. Elderberry is used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsilitis. Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. People with the flu who took elderberry juice reported less severe symptoms and felt better much faster than those who did not. Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1951.
Elderberries were listed in the CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs as early as 1985, and are listed in the 2000 Mosby's Nursing Drug reference for colds, flu, yeast infections, nasal and chest congestion, and hay fever. In Israel, Hasassah's Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body's immune system and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it. The wide range of medical benefits (from flu and colds to debilitating asthma, diabetes, and weight loss) is probably due to the enhancement of each individual's immune system. (From the site The Book Of Taste, read more here.)

All that, from these tiny little berries.

Elderberry syrup is really easy to make and will take only about an hour.  (Please note that although it's called syrup, it's not thick like pancake syrup.)

Here's what you need:

I get my dried elderberries via BulkHerbStore.com.  They're organic and perfect.

Our local honey comes from JP's friend, owner of the wonderful Harvey's Honey here in southern NJ.
To get the real benefits elderberry syrup can provide for allergies and such, I cannot encourage you enough to use local honey.  Store bought honey will add sweetness and that's about all it will do. Local honey is astronomically better.  Its benefits are too numerous to list here but you can go to this site to learn more: Reasons To Buy Raw Local Honey  Local honey is usually really easy to find but if you don't know of a source, just Google "local honey near me".

And then there's the Apple Cider Vinegar.  We only use Bragg because it's the best and  comes "with the mother".  It's a staple in our house.  If you look closely at the picture above, you'll see a bunch of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. That's "the mother".  In other words, all the good stuff.  Go to this link to learn more about this brand and how it can lower your cholesterol, lower your blood sugar, increase metabolism, etc.  Always remember to shake the bottle before using to distribute "the mother".

The picture above shows how I strain the elderberries and then mash them right in the strainer.  I use that small glass jar because it's the right shape and size to do the mashing work.

I throw the mashed up berry pulp outside as a treat for the birds.  🐦

Here's my recipe* and here is the link to download it.

You can also add cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, if you're so inclined.

Na zdrowie!

*See Recipes Disclaimer here.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

TBT: 2012 Writing Contest

In 2012 I participated in and won a writing challenge sponsored by NAIWE - National Association of Independent Writers and Editors.

You had to write a series of short articles over the course of 5 days but I unfortunately can only find one of the five.

It's fun to find older stuff you've written...and really, really hard to not want to edit it!

The challenge for the particular day I wrote this was:
Writers craft words into memorable phrases, stories, poems and plays. What writers make your heart sing? Why?

Here's what I wrote for that:

Those of us in love with words all have our favorite wordsmiths; the writers who have the ability to let us see with our mind's eye and feel as if it whatever is happening is somehow happening to us personally.  We've all seen the lists of someone's favorite authors and it is almost always populated with the big guns, the rock stars of the literary world -- Twain, Austen, Hemingway, etc. -- or whomever is currently topping the best seller list.

I would be lying if I denied my appreciation for these masters but if my personal truth be told, I'm far more enamored with the lesser known writer, the young writer, the writer who sits awake night after night pounding out the words, head in the clouds, heart filled with passion. 
Recently a story was circulating on the Internet about a renowned violinist playing unrecognized in the subway.  The gist of the story was that here was this famous musician whose performances regularly sell out at $100 per seat, yet he was almost completely ignored as he played in the subway.  Had he sent out a press release and charged admission, his subway show would have been the talk of the town with everyone clamoring for a ticket. 

We are a starstruck society. 
But what are we missing as we look up to the chosen few that we decide to idolize?
In our certainty that there will never be another (insert famous author name here), I cannot even imagine the talent and potential greatness that is being overlooked. 
If authors themselves were sold in stores, I'd much rather purchase mine at the thrift shop instead of some high end, glitzy emporium where 'anybody who's anybody' shops for overpriced, mass-produced meaninglessness.  
Besides, treasures are often found at thrift shops. 

Stars, super or otherwise, are not always visible.  Sometimes it's up to us to go seek them out.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Winter Hiatus / Do-Over

This year has not started out so great.

A lot of health stuff and subsequent realizations about health and people...and then some significant lifestyle changes...and then deciding that we need to make decisions because of all that stuff.
Not a high fun quotient.

During all of this I also made some bold decisions about my photo art, including cancelling a solo gallery show.
I know; there are a million people who would kill to have their own gallery show...who would do whatever it took to secure that...and I go and cancel mine.  Aye yi yi, right?

Well good. Maybe by cancelling I opened the door for another artist to get a gallery show of their own.

I cancelled the show for a couple of really good reason (see above, paragraph #2) but there was one more reason that got me off the fence when I was stuck in indecision about whether to do the show oe not for awhile:  I just don't love doing them.

I don't love the prep involved especially to someone else's standards.  No surprise there as I have never done well with rules.

I don't love giving away 30-40% of the profit and having to up my prices to make up for that. This is probably a really big primary reason that I won't be doing galleries for the immediate future (I reserve the right to change my mind at a later date) as I strive to keep my prices low enough so that the art is available to almost everyone.  Changing that goes against the core.

I made the decision that instead of gallery-type events, we're going to do a handful of art fairs and festivals.
We'll get to set up our only little world inside and around our 10x10 tent and I can add some of the other things I'm passionate about like my painted signs...and have a fun, eclectic site that we are in charge and control of.  I'm way more suited to doing things that way and when/if I get overwhelmed by noise and people, JP will be right there to take over.  The truth is that my creative endeavors are a partnership with him and could never even happen without him.  He loves being a part of it and when I do gallery-type shows all he gets to do is lug all the heavy crap even though he can talk about my artwork almost as thoroughly as I can.

Simply, we operate best as a team so I'm doing less "I" and more "us".

There is one thing on the agenda coming up that "I" will be doing because he can't help with it:  I'll be giving a talk at the Trenton Free Public Library in October, so those of you who stalk me might want to take the day off of work that day or have one of your operatives show up for you.  I'll be talking about my artwork while also talking about how to see things in this visually-saturated, high-paced world we live in.  Or something along those lines.  Who knows, I still have months to plan it.
In my former life as a senior editor of reference books, I used to speak before quite large groups on a regular basis so I'm not really freaking out about this.  At least not yet.

You can check out my event page to see what fairs and festivals are coming up...for us.

Going forward, I also plan to amp up my writing, although it hasn't waned at all even through our recent trials and tribs.  I've been writing and publishing under a pseudonym for years and that i$n't going to change but I want to do more earthy writing as the real me.  This raises the fun quotient significantly.

I might even find some time to update and add to my poor website, which has been languishing half-done for months.  Bleh.

Where does the time go?

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