Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Living Your Dream? October 28, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:05 pm

You could say it all started with our family’s little white poodle Pepita…affectionately called Peppy. I used to hug on her constantly and would take her with me to hide behind a large potted plant of my mom’s whenever I was in trouble. Or sad. Or mad. Or just moody. Peppy was my pet but she was also my ride or die. Then came Fula and Sabrina, Boots and Sundance. All my life I have always had a dog so, in answer to the above question, my natural instinct was to want to be a veterinarian.



That all came to a literal screeching halt when my beloved black poodle Sabrina Renee (don’t all dogs have middle names?!) was hit by a car in front of our house and the vet couldn’t save her. I realized right then and there that I could never be that person who couldn’t save someone’s four-legged family member.



In a more “pie in the sky” sense, I also dreamed of being either Laurie Partridge or Chris Evert. I loved to sing and I loved tennis but in reality, those dreams were most definitely more dream-like than life-like. Then there was Nancy Drew; oh how I loved her and her books and had visions of catching sleuths and discovering hidden gems. Ironically and in a very round-about way, my eventual career allowed me to do just that!



It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered that career and my true calling. I was a college freshman and met with an advisor because I hadn’t declared a major and was somewhat floundering academically. She asked what my interests were and I said Political Science, History, and English but that I wasn’t interested in teaching. She thought it over like a good advisor does and then suggested I consider Journalism because it kinda combines all three. Bingo! I had my answer and I had my career.



After agreeing on a major we then had to decide on a school. She researched universities with good Journalism schools and through nothing but what I like to call a “God wink,” I decided on the University of Oklahoma. I didn’t know a soul in Oklahoma and had never been there but I loved football and in what felt like overnight, my parents were driving me to Norman. From day one it was the perfect place for me and I will be forever grateful to OU for not only shaping my career but changing my life. Looking back, I wish so bad I could remember that advisor’s name to thank her for helping me climb those stairs to success in a way I would have never dreamed of. Even in my childhood dreams.



But what if I that little child in me would have gone on to become a vet? Or stuck with tennis or singing? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been the next Laurie Partridge or Chris Evert, but maybe I would have saved many a family pet’s life. It’s probably best that becoming a vet was squelched cuz turns out I am not a math and science kind of girl. I’m a word girl and would have probably been lost in a small animal vet curriculum.



As fate would have it, I did end up teaching, albeit preschool at our former church, and it was something I loved. I also worked in both the sports and music industries as a reporter and publicist, with the former being the most fun and energizing job I ever had. As for Nancy Drew, well, I didn’t uncover any great mysteries but maybe reading all those books of hers inspired me to write.



When it all comes down to it, you have to believe in yourself and yet be able to pivot when necessary. Don’t get caught up in other people’s demands or approval of where you want to go and who you want to be. Instead, take Ayn Rand’s advice and tell yourself, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”



You just never know how life will unfold, right? Work hard and hustle. Follow your heart but also have a Plan B. And maybe even a Plan C. Go with your gut but go with your strengths too. And it goes without saying that you’ll probably also have to take risks but always make wise decisions. As Stephen Covey said, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I’m a product of my decisions.”  Build those dreams people, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.



What about you? What was your childhood dream job? Did you achieve it? Did you end up doing something completely different? Why? Have you made sure to gain both knowledge and wisdom? Are you making a living…and making a life? Please share!





90 Years Strong October 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:46 pm

Today the beautiful woman above, my mom, turns 90. A huge milestone by any measure and one that merits huge celebrations. Sadly, I’m unable to mark the big day with her and our family because of COVID.


It makes me sad and it makes me mad.



For her 75th birthday my two sisters and I treated her to a weekend at a resort. She was so happy as captured in the above photo and we were hoping to do the same this year. We also thought about buying her a nice new comfy chair, but if you know my mom, you know she said “I don’t need a new chair…my old one is fine.” So, instead of giving her the gift of a massage or a chair, we are all in our separate homes celebrating the woman who made and molded our family. And to make matters worse, I just got word it’s snowing. Snowing in Santa Fe for my mom’s 90th birthday. What I wouldn’t give…


More sad. More mad.


If anyone deserves to be pampered, it’s my mom. Raised an only child by her loving but strict grandparents while her mom served a local family as a live-in nanny and house cleaner, she managed to always hold her head high and aim for the stars. She reached that pinnacle when she met and married my dad, a Navy veteran who served for many years in state and federal government positions. She was the quintessential Harriett to his Ozzy. She was the pretty one next to his handsome 6’1” frame. So pretty and so stylish. I like to say I got my sense of style from her as well as my obsession with perfume. Regardless of our family’s financial situation at any given time, mom always had perfume and I have wonderful memories of her getting ready to go out and spraying it on. I’ve kept the tradition and passed it down to our daughter.



Mom’s dream life took a nightmarish turn though when my dad suffered a heart attack when I was very young. Like the proud and hardworking man he was however, he rallied and rebounded.  Many years later however he succumbed to colon cancer. September of my senior year of college. Cancer killed him and it essentially killed my mom.



She was devastated. This was a woman who yes, eventually went to work as a public school librarian, but who gave everything to her marriage and was lost without it. My first clue was their checks, which had the name “Mr. and Mrs.” rather than both first names. My parents were old school and relearning life was difficult for my mom.





She finally came around somewhat, volunteering at various places in Santa Fe and travelling some, but she was never really the same. She loves her three girls, her grandkids, and her great grandson, but the deaths of two grandkids have taken their toll on her. Yet today at 90 years young, she is for the most part healthy, albeit frail and often sad. She’s alone but in a weird way prefers that. As we commemorate her birthday, my sisters and I are in the middle of the difficult task of deciding just how long she can continue to live alone. Her life-long nightmare has been to be put in “one of those homes,” so we have to both respect that while choosing what’s ultimately best for her. I don’t envy anyone who has been through this. It is truly heartbreaking and I cannot even fathom the thought of selling her home…my childhood home.


But today we celebrate her and all she’s given us. I firmly believe my mom’s constant prayers saved me from many a disaster and am so very grateful to her for them and for passing along her strong and fervent Catholic faith to me. She wasn’t the perfect mom yet expected perfection from us, which I was far from. She did her best and I’d like to say an impressive job considering she had no true motherly role model. And even though she wasn’t great at instilling self confidence in me, somehow I’ve always known she wants the very best for me. She almost single-handedly saw to it that my dad agreed to pay for out-of-state college tuition…how they did so is still a mystery to me…and for that I am also forever grateful. She also loves my daughter more than life itself, even though she’s never quite figured out how to be a “grandma” and stop being the “mom.”



She’s a tough one, for sure. She’s often negative yet forever faithful; humble but tough to please. She can be critical and stubborn yet would do anything for her family.



Ironically, yesterday’s entry in my “Mornings with Jesus” daily devotional touched on the subject of taking care of aging parents. It reminded readers that in His last hours on the cross, Jesus himself entrusted His mom to John. Can you imagine?! No pressure, right? It then went on to say that taking care of aging parents is hard but it’s also a blessing and that in doing so, we can count on Jesus’ strength to get us through it.



It’s my sister and brother-in-law as well as my niece and nephew-in-law who need that strength right now as they are the family that lives near mom. Being the “tag you’re it cuz you’re the closest” main caretakers of an aging parent isn’t something anyone envies, but I do kinda envy them today since they get to be with her. I hope they take lots of photos and I hope she’s happy. Funny thing: when asked what she wants for dinner tonight…anything, name it…she chose enchiladas. Stacked. Like they should be.



My mom is the only living parent my husband and I have. I’m grateful for her every day and especially today. It’s been one heckuva year, a year that’s ruined so much including being with my mom today, but it’s also another year I get to celebrate her life. A 90-year life filled with promise and pain, but also hope and love. Here’s hoping for many more to come. Happy Birthday mom! Ninety never looked so good!




Heart and Soul October 11, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:24 pm


I took one day this past week and did some major soul care. I made banana bread. I did my online yoga class. I quietly read my book. I got a massage and a facial. I did so not because I’m entitled or a princess…I’m so not…but because my body needed it. My mind needed it. My spirit needed it. My soul needed it.


Do you ever think of what your soul needs? We spend countless hours working on our bodies and improving our minds, but what about our souls? Don’t they also need tending to?


But what exactly is your soul, you might ask. It’s defined in many ways, depending on where you look. Sadly, if you google “soul” today the first thing that comes up is an upcoming Disney film. That should tell you enough!



You could say your soul is the “driver” of your body. Some think of it as simply a big invisible piece of us that’s vital yet vague. It’s “officially” defined as the spiritual source in humans; our moral and emotional nature; the principle of human life, feeling, thought, and action; and a distinct entity separate from the body. In short, it’s the spiritual part of us as opposed to the physical part. Common synonyms are conscience, personality, and spirit.


The bible tells us that we consist of body, soul, and spirit and that our material bodies are evident but our souls and spirits are less distinguishable. Believer and non-believers alike probably can agree on this and most believers believe that God is the spiritual guide of our souls. So then how in the world do we care for an ambiguous yet essential part of us that is our soul and avoid joining the ranks of countless lost souls?



We dig deep. Dig to see what’s really inside of us. One of my local priests, who I consider a rock star, recently reminded us that what we put inside ourselves is who and what we become. He suggested we start putting in more love, more goodness, and more God. Fill yourself with God!  Feast on “what’s good for the soul” and fast from everything out there that is eating away at our soul care.


Just today he reminded us that feelings are okay, but not at the risk of losing our souls. I for one am fasting from much of the negative and all of the propaganda out there that is anything but “soul food” for me. Everyone’s feelings are so amplified right now and “I’m offended” has become a mainstream mantra. I’m putting it out there that your feelings aren’t going to convince me of anything different or maybe I already agree with you so seeing the same stuff over and over again is exhausting. None of it is worth losing my soul over. Deceit and hypocrisy are in fact prevalent poisons to the soul and my soul is walking away.




It’s not an easy thing to do, and I’ll be first in line to admit when I venture back into those dark places. Unfortunately, many of us continue to sell our souls by cashing out and logging in. We buy more stuff, which should mean we are happier than ever before, but that’s not always the case. We seek fame and fortune but I’m always reminded of my friend’s observation of the fashion industry when she said, “They’re rich and famous but have lost their souls.” That was years ago but to this day I remember it and now I look at the eyes of all those super models and often see vacancy.


And, as documentary “The Social Media” shows us, even though we think of ourselves as the customers of social media, we are not. We are the products, being bought and sold to advertisers and online accounts that promise solutions and more and more information that will fulfill our lives and has resulted in countless unfulfilled lives full of often needless stuff and misleading data. It’s also resulted in empty hearts and souls.


When you dig deep, what do you see? Spiritual mentor Susie Davis addresses that point in one of her fabulous podcasts when she asks, “What is the condition of your soul?” Good question, right? What does your soul look like? Is it empathetic? Is it rested? Is it lost? Is it bitter?



It can at first feel overwhelming and confusing, but let’s consider for a minute the soles of our feet. Those feet get us places, have a million nerve endings, take the brunt of our weight, and their soles tell so much about our overall health and well-being. Same with the souls of our bodies. When you’re happy, they’re happy and when they’re happy you’re happy. When you hurt, they hurt and when they hurt you hurt.



Indeed. We have bodies, but we are souls. Davis suggests thinking of our bodies as our souls’ address and just like any address, both the outside and what is inside needs attention and upkeep.



I also like that she describes the Holy Spirit as the “decorator” of our soul and I’m pretty sure we all want a welcoming and comfortable household for our guests so they feel truly at home, right? Again, even non-believers should agree that our souls and the homes they and we reside in should be welcoming and benevolent. Can I get an Amen?



But there’s so much out there drowning us that we often feel like it’s a sink or swim world. We are being tossed around in waves of worry and a sea of hopelessness; struggling to keep our heads above water and grasping for anchors and floats. Time to think of God as the anchor of our soul and know that the further away our rope strays, the sooner we will feel that inner tug and return to our anchor. He will help us float safely ashore and give peace to our souls.


So yes, your body is the house of your soul and your soul is the home of God and today more than perhaps ever before we want to feel safe and protected at home, right? We are craving comfort, healing, and hope. God wants that same feeling inside our souls and longs for us to make them beautiful, so we need to “decorate” these “homes” with all the right things. I decorated the other day with baking, yoga, reading, and self-care. Tomorrow it might be taking a walk, calling a friend, or simply resting.



We often forget how beneficial rest is. As children we fight having to take a nap but as adults we long for them. Naps are good for the soul. A recent study found that people who nap once or twice a week-even for just 20 minutes-had a lower risk of heart attack and stroke compared with those who didn’t nap.


If you can’t nap, perhaps just rest. Really rest. Many of us think that just because we are doing nothing we are resting. Not true. And sleep does not always equal rest. If I had a dime for every time I tell my husband I didn’t wake up rested I’d be a millionaire. Rest is so much more than sleep; it’s detoxing and refueling our spirits and our souls. Even Jesus said, “Go away and rest,” and God rested on the seventh day; not for His purpose as He never needs rest, but to set an example for us that rest isn’t for the weak; it’s for the strong.


Rest is good for our souls, as is prayer, often thought of as the “home-life” of the soul. The more we pray and the more we rest, the healthier our souls are and the healthier we feel.



And yet, we rarely take the time to slow down and rest.  We tend to believe busy is good and are always one email or text away and then wonder why our minds, bodies, and souls are over-pressured and anxious. Even the most extroverts of extroverts crave solitude but, as will all of us, sometimes have trouble finding it. We will never find peace and quiet if we’re always available and function with a “to do list” check mindset. Instead, how about making a “to don’t list?” Fill it with ways to reduce the pressure and quiet the noise. It’s what our souls are craving. They are telling us to slow down and we need to listen to them.


Thomas Merton describes solitude as not only rest, but the mentally nourishing ability to be attentive to the present moment. This is tough for the planner in me, but all signs point to its benefits. When we are in solitude, Merton notes, we are able to fully taste something as simple as water and feel the weight and warmth of a blanket. This is good for your body and good for your soul.



I’ll wrap with Davis’ four components of a soul to help get you on the soul care right track:


  • Your mind: where you think and reason. Are you being rational? Are you thinking for yourself? Do you often overthink and feel overwhelmed or are you at peace with where you are?


  • Your will: the piece that helps you do things like marathons and diets. Where is your will? Is it gentle? Humble? Stubborn?


  • Your emotions and feelings: what triggers you and what inspires you. Are you grateful? Anxious? Too sensitive? Not sensitive enough?


  • Your personality: where you learn who you are and how to relate better with others and handle things. Are you using your personality in a healthy way?


She also states that in order to have a healthy soul we need good self-leadership, which requires you to:


  • Know yourself. Know your tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses. Know what makes you feel good, i.e. feeds your soul, and what doesn’t.


  • Love yourself. It’s hard, if not impossible, to lead someone you don’t like.


  • Lead yourself. In order to get to a place of wholeness, you need to think for yourself and don’t let other voices persuade or lead you.


So maybe today, or tomorrow, or at least sometime during the coming week, take time to make a personal house call and feed your soul. It’ll do your body good.



Salt On the Wound October 7, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:11 pm

I poured salt on a wound yesterday. Literally. I have a small wound on the tip of one of my fingers and didn’t even consider it as I started to fill a salt shaker. OUCHIE!  It burned and stung so bad that the idiom immediately came to mind. But why is it not only a play on words but true? Why does salt hurt a wound? It got me thinking and I’m here to tell you.



I’ve always been more of a salt person than a sweets person. Give me chips and dips over cakes and pies any day. Salty, savory is my MO but I still want to know why putting salt on a wound hurts yet we are often told to gargle with salt water to heal mouth aches and pains and bathe in Epsom salt to treat wounds and infections.


The reason pouring salt on a wound hurts, I researched and learned, is because when tissue is damaged, pain receptors become sensitized and as the salt dissolves, it causes the fluid surrounding the cut to become hypertonic. Putting salt on a wound basically stimulates pain-sensing neurons in much the same way a hot pepper does. Been there done that too.


But science be damned! Onto more fun and interesting stuff!


So putting salt on a wound does actually make matters worse, but the saying is also an idiom for making a difficult situation even worse. The idiom “pour salt on the wound” dates back to the mid-1800s when salt was used as a further punishment on wounds previously caused by flogging.  (An idiom, for all you fellow wordsmiths out there, is a group of words that have a meaning that often isn’t literal. Think “costs an arm and a leg” or “stabbed in the back.” ) But, should we take all of this with a grain of salt? Hah! Another one! Another salt idiom!


To take something with “a grain of salt” means to view something with skepticism or to take something lightly, especially advice. For example, “anything free should be taken with a grain of salt as nothing is really free.” Tell that to some politicians!


Someone who knew all about salt was Jesus. He told His disciples “You are the salt of the earth.” Back then, salt’s primary use was that of preservative while today we think of it more as something that brings flavor and zest to food. Doesn’t Jesus do both? He preserves us yet enhances us just as salt preserves and enhances something other than itself. Amazingly, even today’s definition of “salt of the earth” refers to an individual or group considered the best or most noble in society, much like those very disciples.


And, if you look closely at Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” painting, you’ll notice that Judas Iscariot has knocked the salt cellar over with his elbow. Thanks to the traitor of all traitors, spilled salt became associated with treachery, lies, and bad luck. Because of this, if you do spill salt, it’s believed that tossing a pinch over your shoulder blinds the devil and removes bad luck.


Speaking of dinner tables, did you know that proper etiquette dictates that anytime you are asked to “pass the salt” you should always pass the pepper with the salt?



And although salt is often a frowned upon diet supplement, it does have its benefits. Gargling with salt water is often recommended to alleviate sore throats and mouth ulcers and Epsom salt is commonly used in baths as a way to draw out infection and soften skin. Caution should be taken however, and doctors should be consulted.


One area all doctors agree on is that eating too much salt, properly and formally known as sodium chloride, is not good for you. Less is certainly best as diets high in sodium increase blood pressure levels. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, as we all know, puts you at a higher risk for stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure.


Salt does have its diet benefits though. It helps maintain the body’s balance of fluids and too little salt can lead to weight gain, chronic kidney disease, and increased blood pressure and heart rate. Sounds like we need the perfect balance of sodium intake and yet Americans consume 50 percent more salt than is recommended daily. Just yesterday I was playing tennis and sweated profusely. As I was starting my yoga class later that evening, the toes on my left foot were cramping up. I realized I had sweated out so many bodily fluids and that I was a bit dehydrated. I drink water all day every day, but at that point I realized I hadn’t drank enough. Maybe if I had eaten a bag of chips before tennis I’d have been okay? LOL.



If there’s anything related to salt that can be considered satisfying, it’s saltwater. Yes, exercise does a body so much good and sometimes a good cry is exactly what we need, but try your hardest to feel stressed and anxious as you listen to waves crash against the shore…whether in person or a recording of. Even better, take a dip in salt water as seawater is rich in minerals like magnesium, zinc, iron, and potassium, which are anti-inflammatory and thought to help heal and protect the skin.


There’s perhaps nowhere better to take a saltwater dip than the Dead Sea. Not only is the famed mid-east body of water earth’s lowest elevation on land, it is nearly 10 times as salty as an ocean and is very dense, which makes swimming in it more akin to floating than actual swimming. The Sea’s salinity is around 35 percent and is much higher than that of oceans, which average just under 4 percent salinity. Comparably, Utah’s Great Salt Lake is much more like oceans than what we think of lakes and can go as high as nearly 30 percent salinity. Sadly, the salinity of the Dead Sea makes for a very harsh environment for living things like plants and fish, which is how it got its name. Salt Lake is also considered devoid of fish but does have some algae.


If you can’t swim in sea salt, maybe just drink some. Saltwater flushes are often used to cleanse the colon, treat chronic constipation, and help detox your body. As always, consult your doctor first.



And speaking of sea salt, is it the one we should be eating and adding to our food? It used to be easy picking a salt. Drive to the grocery store, pick up a blue oval container with a picture of a girl holding an umbrella on it, and be on your way. Today like seemingly everything, it’s much more complicated. Salt now comes in a variety of textures and flavors and what to use when is sometimes a hotly debated topic.


Chef Joe Anthony keeps it somewhat simple when he says to use pink salt to cure, kosher salt during cooking, and sea salt to complete and finish a dish. Let’s take a look at these and other kitchen salts.



Table Salt

This is probably the salt you think of when someone says salt. It has usually been stripped of all minerals except sodium and chloride and consists of fine, evenly shaped crystals, which make it denser than other salts. You can usually tell it’s table salt just by how fine it is. This salt is typically mined from salt deposits underground and is best for keeping out on the table for last-minute meal seasoning. It’s also good for salting pasta or seasoning soups.


You will find “iodized” versions of this salt, which was first sold in the U.S. in 1924 in an effort to reduce goiter, a health issue that was plaguing some parts of the country. If you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet of food like fish and veggies that contain iodine, you should be good to go.


Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is also iodine-free, is less refined than table salt, and is often considered the most versatile. Every pantry should have it at the ready as it’s the best salt to use when salting pasta water to bring to a boil. It’s great for seasoning before, during, and after cooking and its large flakes are especially good for seasoning meat before cooking. Because it doesn’t have iodine, it dissolves easily and is the perfect t salt for pinching.


Sea Salt

Of all the salts, this one undergoes the least processing and is often considered the best everyday use salt. Flakes are collected from evaporated seawater and are unevenly shaped and coarse. Sea salt is typically more expensive but you can use less of it. It’s best for finishing.


Pink Himalayan Salt

Many consider this the purest, most nutritious and “complete” salts as it is rich in minerals and some believe that adding it to your diet may help repair mineral deficiencies. Himalayan salt contains iodine, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium-the five minerals the U.S. population is said to be most deficient of. It is sold as fine or coarse grains, with fine-grained most recommended. The pink part?  Not only is it kinda pretty, the hue indicates the salt is dense in minerals. The salt is also thought to aid external detoxification in bathing situations and all those salt lamps you see? They’re pink Himalayan…if they’re authentic…and are said to neutralize the air and rid it of pollutants. I have one and I try to remember to turn it on every day.


Maldon Salt

My dear friend Karen, who worked at a popular and reputable kitchen store, gave me some of this a few years back and said it’s the best salt around. I’d never heard of it but took her word for it and I gotta say, she was right.


Maldon Sea Salt Flakes is not a type of salt, it’s actually a brand named after a town an hour’s drive from London on the River Blackwater in southeast England, where salt has been harvested for thousands of years. If you’re a chef or just love to cook, you’ve heard of Maldon salt. It is considered less bitter and less salty than other salts and its pyramid-shaped flakes are famous not only their full-flavor but for the visual and textural affect they give to dishes like grilled steaks. The best way to use Maldon salt is as a finishing salt. Sprinkle it on scrambled eggs, veggies, grilled meat, and the likes right before serving.



So that’s the skinny on all things salt and salty. To celebrate, I think I’ll go have a skinny margarita…frozen no salt. Go figure. But that’s a whole other blog.


Appley Ever After October 2, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:25 pm

Happy first day of October (we’re one more month closer to the close of 2020!) and happy National Apple Month! What, you didn’t know that? Well, neither did I until just last week. It totally makes sense though.  We often “bob for apples” during Halloween and Fall Fests, October is a “harvest” month, and apples are harvested in the fall. Well, traditionally harvested in the fall.

The U.S. apple industry is big bucks, raking in close to $20 billion annually. It used to be you had “in season” fruits and veggies that you bought and ate but these days it seems like you can purchase any type any time of the year, including apples. But, in these days of very few things to celebrate, let’s celebrate apples!

We’ve all heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” which a variant of was recorded as early as 1866. And although there’s no true scientific evidence that supports this claim, apples have many health benefits. Plus they taste good! They are healthy and tasty…a win-win!

Apples are high in fiber, Vitamin C, and various antioxidants. These super popular fruits are also super filling and low in calories, meaning they have benefits when it comes to weight loss and weight management.

Apples on the whole are mainly made up of carbs and water…so much water they float! They are also full of simple sugars, particularly fructose, sucrose, and glucose. But, despite their high carbs and sugar numbers, the glycemic index of an apple, which measures how food affects the rise in blood sugar levels, is low.

Apples are rich in plant compounds, particularly polyphenols, which may protect your cells from inflammation and oxidative damage and also can also prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol from becoming oxidized and building up in our arteries, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Some of the fiber in apples comes from insoluble and soluble fibers called pectin, the soluble of which is known to feed the friendly bacteria in our guts and boost digestive function. The main mineral in apples is potassium, which may benefit heart health. In addition, apples are high in quercetin, which may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anticancer, and antidepressant effects as well as catechin, which green tea boasts a large presence of and is a natural antioxidant that has been shown to improve brain and muscle function. There is also some evidence that eating apples can help lower blood sugar levels and protect against type 2 diabetes, reduce cholesterol levels, and reduce heart disease risks.  Some studies even suggest the phytonutrients in apples can protect against cancers of the lungs and colon.

Needless to say, these sweet little fruits pack quite a health punch. There are a few downsides though. Their sugar levels can be problematic for some and they may cause tummy trouble for those with irritable bowel syndrome. Still, unless you’re highly sensitive to either of these factors, the risks of snacking on an apple far outweigh many other options in our pantries and refrigerators.

So we know eating whole apples is good for us, but we can enjoy apples in so many other ways.  There’s nothing more American than apple pie, right? And what about apple sauce, apple muffins, and apple butter…something my friend Deb has recently been making and making me drool just thinking about!

There’s also apple juice, which for many sounds healthy enough but it’s by no means perfect. Apple juice is commonly around 90 percent water and tastes good, so it’s great for someone who is sick and trying to avoid dehydration, but it’s usually very high in sugar, which can draw excess water into your gut and worsen diarrhea.  The advice? Dilute apple juice and drink a mix of half juice half water and always buy 100 percent juice. And, although apples are rich in polyphenols as mentioned above, the majority of them are in the peeling, which means in apple juice they are reduced so it’s recommended you choose “cloudy” juice that contains pulp rather than the more commonly clear juices found on store shelves.

It’s important to keep in mind that juicing apples reduces and eliminates some of their benefits and may actually create health risks. Apple juice is often high in calories as compared to an apple and is usually not a good source of any vitamins or minerals. However, today’s versions are often fortified with Vitamin C, which should be your choice to buy. In addition, virtually all of the calories in apple juice come from carbs and it has little or no fiber so your best bet is to pair apple juice with proteins and healthy fats. Lastly, apple juice has been known to lead to tooth decay so don’t “swish” it and drink it with a straw if possible.

Two studies do report some good news regarding apple juice. One preliminary one suggests it may support brain function and mental health as you age and another revealed that when people with Alzheimer’s disease drank one cup of apple juice daily for one month, anxiety, restlessness, and false beliefs diminished although memory and problem solving issues did not.

One last thing: the difference between apple juice and apple cider. Making beverages from apples dates back to around 55 B.C. when the Romans conquered Europe and introduced hard cider to them. Today, apple cider is considered an unfiltered and unsweetened drink made from pressed apples that still contain pulp and sediment. Its color is more opaque than that of apple juice, which is essentially apple cider that has been heated to change its color, flavor, and texture. Apple juice is generally much sweeter than apple cider.

Now that we’ve gotten all the serious stuff out of the way, let’s look at some fun folklore about apples.

Let’s start with “comparing apples and oranges.” What a funny thing, right? Credit is often given to the Germans and Dutch for this comparison of things that are completely different and that cannot be practically compared.

Then there’s “the apple of my eye.” Today this phrase most often refers to someone who is treasured above all others but it originally referred to the actual pupil of an eye. William Shakespeare referred to it in his 1590s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream  and it is uttered many times in the Bible, including Deuteronomy 32:10, Proverbs 2:18, and Psalm 17:8. Apples in general are mentioned throughout the Bible as well, including in the Song of Solomon, which describes love as being like an apple tree. During Bible times, Romans prized apple tress for their sweet juicy fruit.

There’s another Bible passage that relates to apples and I’m pretty sure you’ve heard it. From the Book of Genesis, it is written that God made a special place for Adam and Eve called the Garden of Eden and filled it with lots of fruit trees, beautiful flowers, and everything they needed. He told them they could eat anything except for the fruit of one tree, which most people believe to be an apple tree. They disobeyed God and instead listened to the lies of the devil disguised as a serpent, which resulted in the loss of innocence for mankind and paradise on earth was lost.

During normal years and any year not associated with 2020, school is in full session by now and teachers have been gifted, sometimes with an apple. But why? This tradition is said to have started in the 1700s before governments paid for the education of their people. Families with little or no means in Denmark and Sweden gave teachers baskets of apples and potatoes as payment for teaching their children and the tradition made its way across the ocean and is still practiced in the U.S. today.

Then there’s Snow White, star of Disney’s first animated feature film.  As the story goes, the wicked queen was jealous of her stepdaughter’s beauty, orders her murdered only to discover she’s living with seven little miners. Long story short, the queen disguises herself and brings a poisoned apple to Snow White who then falls into a deep sleep that can only be broken by a kiss from the prince. Needless to say, they lived “appley ever after.”

Here are some other “fun facts” about apples:

There’s a star inside each one! Yep, if you slice an apple in half across the middle, you’ll find two stars on either half.

Apples are buds or flowers on a tree before they become a fruit, and on the bottom of every apple you can find the remnants of the flower.

Boat builders are known to not build boats out of wood from an apple tree because the wood at one time was used to manufacture coffins.

Irish folklore claims that if an apple is peeled into one continuous ribbon and thrown behind a woman’s shoulder, it will land in the shape of her future husband’s initials.

The legend of Johnny Appleseed, who wandered across the U.S. planting apple trees and leaving seeds behind, is based on a real person, John Chapman, an eccentric frontier nurseryman who established orchards throughout the Midwest.

The tradition of putting an apple in a roasted pig’s mouth goes back at least 800 years. According to Steven Raichlen, author of “The Barbecue Bible,” pigs were fed apples to fatten them for fall harvest festivals and adding an apple to the mouth is solely aesthetic and just helps the roasted pig look more appetizing. Some farmers believe feeding pigs apples sweetens the pork and a juicy pig garnished with fall fruits and vegetables sets a season tone and theme for the meal. I distinctly remember my dad roasting a pig and using the apple trick when I was a young girl. I thought it was frightening!

According to Apple computer’s logo creator, he designed it with a bite taken out solely for the purpose of it not being confused with a cherry.

So, with all this talk of apples are you ready to bake that pie or slice one into a salad? Well, if you are, you’ll want to pick the right apple for the right recipe.

Apples come in an array of variations of red, green, and yellow; have all kinds of interesting names; and generally have different tastes and uses.  I like sweet apples, so my choices are usually Fuji or Gala. Above is a handy-dandy list of different apples ranked from “most tart” to most sweet.”

As for what apple to use for what use, here is a quick guide:

Braeburn. Sweet, tangy, juicy, firm, and crisp. Great in salads and for sautéing because they hold their shape well.

Fuji. Very sweet and juicy. Best for baking things like bread and muffins.

Gala. Sweet, juicy, and crisp. Perfect sliced into salads or sautéed/mulled for cider. Not generally considered good for baking.

Golden Delicious. Sweet, mellow, and semi-firm. Best for pies, applesauce, sauces, cakes, and butter.

Granny Smith. Tart and crisp. Best for either snacking or baking if you prefer a tarter tasting pie, crisp, or tart.

Honeycrisp. Sweetly tart and crisp. These are great to grab for snacking; in salads; and for pies, tarts, dumplings, and bars.

McIntosh. Tender and tangy. The perfect choice for applesauce.

Pink Lady. Perfect for pies, cakes, breads, and bars.

Red Delicious. Sweet, tender, and juicy. Great for snacking and in salads but can also be used in baking, for sauces, and for butter.

I hope you enjoyed and learned something from this apple primer and I hope you now enjoy either a healthy apple or make a yummy apple dish. Be sure to let me know how you like them apples!