Beyond Words

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

A Matter of Taste January 17, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:58 am

A month or so ago our dog and house sitter noticed I always have a mason jar full of Swedish Fish on my kitchen counter. He came in one day and said “I bought you some and didn’t even realize they came in different colors!” He, like many, assumed the popular red version is all there is but they also come in green, yellow, and orange. He also assumed the different colors tasted the same. I immediately said “No way! The yellows are lemon; the greens are lime, etc., etc.” End of story.

 

Until Sunday.

 

Dots1

 

On the way to see a local musical production, friends and I were having lunch when one of them said she recently heard that gummy bears may be different colors but not necessarily different flavors. What? Blasphemy! This gummy candy lover couldn’t believe her ears and neither could the rest of the crowd. You see, we love our gummies so much that one of these sweet friends always brings sweet little snack bags of sweet gummy candies to enjoy during the show.

 

I personally love all gummy candy. Swedish Fish. Gummy Bears. Dots. Jujy Fruits. Fruit Slices. Spice Gum Drops. Jelly Beans…but only the original ones…not Jelly Bellies. I love jelly candies so much I give them up for Lent every year. So, you can imagine the horror and curiosity levels when I heard their flavors might be poser flavors!

 

Fruit-Slices-Nutstop

 

Apparently it’s all related to how color affects not only moods and productivity, but also what flavor we think we taste. An orange gummy candy? Well of course its flavor is orange. Purple? Hello, grape. But what about red? It could be a number of flavors but most commonly cherry, strawberry, or maybe watermelon.  The same goes for drinks and other flavored items. An orange drink tastes like orange. A purple lollipop is grape flavored. But could a green gummy be cherry flavored or even the same flavor as a purple one? That’s the story. That’s the mystery. And I’m on it fellow gummy gurus.

 

Scientists and researchers are also on it and are analyzing how our five senses affect each other. Our eyes see yellow so our tongue tastes lemon. But, one researcher told Ashlie Stevens of WFPL in Louisville, Kentucky that he gave students a row of clear beverages that had fruit flavoring in them and asked them to differentiate the flavors. No problem, they aced the test. But, when he added food coloring to those drinks that didn’t match the flavor, he found they said the orange drink tasted like orange even though the flavoring may have been grape. The color of their beverage totally impacted what flavor they thought they were drinking. So have gummy candy manufacturers been doing this all along?

 

Gummies

 

Apparently Skittles has, as the little round candies have different fragrances and different colors, but they all taste the same. Skittles execs admit this though so they really aren’t hiding anything. On the other hand, Haribo gummy bears, the leader in the world of gummy bears, promise their product has five flavors: lemon, orange, pineapple, raspberry, and strawberry. And Haribo should know. The German company made the first gummy candy in 1922 and currently operates 15 factories that produce more than 100 million gummy bears every day. But, if you venture away from more “high-end” and name brand gummy candies, you’ll discover that you get what you pay for, as less different colored candies in less expensive versions often all taste the same, regardless of color.

 

Swedish-Fish

 

Okay, but what about my beloved Swedish Fish? Say it ain’t so Malaco! Developed by the Swedish candy producer Malaco in the late 1950s for the U.S. market, Swedish Fish company execs swear the flavor of their fish-shaped gummies vary by color. I think they do, but if given a blindfolded test, I’m not sure I could tell the yellow from the green.

 

Funny you should ask because John and I did such a test in a lab known as my kitchen and my friends and I did one as we sat waiting for the play to start. Granted, neither of these consisted of professional hypothesis testing, but they were fun and a bit conclusive. John had me blindly taste Swedish Fish (twist my arm!), sometime different colors; sometimes the same color in a row. We concluded that the flavors of Swedish Fish vary by color but I couldn’t necessarily taste lemon with the yellow, lime with the green, etc. They all tasted different but how they tasted didn’t scream their corresponding color. So there’s that.

 

gummy-fruit-slices

 

For the Haribo and Lifesavers blind taste test in another lab called a theatre, I closed my eyes and ate one gummy bear. Then another. Then another. The first two tasted similar but the third one was different. I did the same with the Lifesaver Gummies in the bag. We decided that the gummy Lifesavers definitely have different flavors although you can’t always pinpoint exactly what flavor it is but that the flavor variation of the gummy bears was much more subtle.

 

One candy whose flavor is often debated is the red Swedish Fish. Some say it’s cherry, others call out raspberry, and still many think it’s fruit punch or black currant. One popular theory is that they taste very similar to lingonberries, which are used in Nordic and Baltic cuisines. No one knows for sure and no one is telling.  We do know for sure  that the flavor of a red Swedish Fish, whatever it may be, is unique and specific only to it and that it’s texture is a bit different than the others. You might also be interested in learning that each Swedish Fish candy has “Swedish” on it and that they are vegan and 100 percent animal cruelty-free. I knew I loved them!

 

Jelly beans

 

So I leave you knowing a little bit about how our five senses intermix when it comes to taste and that Haribo, Swedish Fish, and Lifesaver Gummies all have different colors with different flavors. I can also personally attest that fruit slice candies and spice gum drops all have different flavors, as do Jelly Beans. None of it is scientific on my part, but it was sure fun conducting the tests. Just to be sure, you might want to test some yourself and while you do, have a gummy for me. Sweet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll Drink to That January 14, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:58 am

 

 

The toasts have been made and the cheers have been said. Champagne corks were popped on New Year’s and hot toddys were enjoyed over the holidays. Don’t’ get me wrong, I love a nice glass of wine or Bailey’s on the rocks, but a new year brings with it new goals so why not make one of them to drink up on beverages that are healthy, some in ways you never expected?

 

H2Oooooohhhh

Yep, we all know drinking water all day every day has so many benefits but it can also be something we tend to forget about drinking. But don’t.

 

Chew on this: your brain is 90 percent water and your body is 70 percent. On top of that, most of your blood and cells are water-based. Drinking water increases energy, relieves fatigue, promotes weight loss, flushes out toxins, improves your complexion, helps with digestion, and boosts your immune system.

 

How do you know if you’re drinking enough water? One thing to consider is the color of your urine. If it’s mostly clear, you’re probably good to go…and go you will! Something else to consider is how many people worldwide don’t have regular, if any, access to good clean drinking water and consider it a luxury. How easy we have it to simply turn on the faucet or visit any retail outlet and, voila, water. Clear and clean water. If nothing else, drink it daily in honor of those who would love to. Just saying.

 

Most experts recommend drinking 64 ounces a day. If that sounds like a lot of water and possibly undoable for you, spice it up with berries, mint, lemons, or limes. Me? I honestly don’t keep a running tab on how much water I drink each day, but I always have a bottle of water with me wherever I go, I always keep a big glass of water in my kitchen, and I always take a bottle with me to bed. I love water!

 

 

Aloe Water

We all know that an aloe plant is the best way to relieve burn pain, but the juice made from the tropical plant goes way beyond topical. Aloe Vera juice or water are both great ways to hydrate and they have major anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve heartburn, digestion issues, constipation, and improve liver function. They’re also packed with nutrients like vitamins B, C, E, and folic acid.

 

The hydration qualities of aloe juice or water are also beneficial to the outside of your body, including your skin. A rich source of antioxidants, aloe can heal and cleanse the skin and may help reduce acne and other skin conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis.

 

I prefer aloe water but aloe juice also has a mild flavor. I especially like the pulp, but then again I’m an orange juice with pulp drinker. If you can’t stomach drinking it solo, consider adding it to smoothies and shakes. Just make sure to choose purified and decolorized versions of both.

 

 

Coconut Water

Another popular water choice today is coconut water. I haven’t jumped full-blown onto the coconut water train, but it has millions of devotees of its powerful nutritional punch of electrolytes, phosphorous, calcium, and loads of potassium. All of these make it a great post-workout beverage as it’s said to replenish and refuel aching bodies and muscles. Again, if you don’t like drinking it on its own, mix it with plain yogurt and some fruit for a nutritional and yummy smoothie.

 

 

 

HIGH TEA

Unfortunately I’m not talking the southern tradition of sweet tea, which I do love. I’m talking green tea and other healthy herbal teas.

 

Green tea is reportedly so good for you that some researchers says it’s the healthiest thing you can drink. It’s all about the catechins and polyphenols. Catechins are is antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage. Polyphenols give tea its anti-inflammatory qualities and anti-carcinogenic effects. Green tea has also been shown to improve blood flow, help keep blood sugar levels stable in people with diabetes, lower cholesterol, and prevent some heart-related issues like high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.

 

Tea, especially green, may also help with weight loss. Yes, it has zero calories but its combination of caffeine and catechins speeds up your metabolism and increases the number of calories you burn from fat.

 

What’s good for the body is also good for the mind.

 

Green tea also contains I-thianine, an amino acid that may help increase the frequency of alpha waves in the brain. The result? Increased feelings of relaxation and a calmness of mind and spirit.

 

I love bottled green tea for on the go and for lunch, but the best and healthiest way to drink it is to opt for hot, caffeinated , and unsweetened versions. Here’s why: much of green tea’s heart healthy benefits get destroyed during the decaffeination process and a cup of hot tea is much more relaxing than a cool bottled version while you’re out and about.

 

If you’re an old-school “I love to brew my tea in a teapot” person, more power to you, as the longer tea steeps the more catechins you consume from it. But, there are so many quick and easy ways to make a hot cup of tea today there’s really no excuse not to. I also enjoy a hot cup of peppermint tea to cure what ails my belly and some chamomile to help me sleep better. Whatever method and whatever flavor you choose, enjoy!

 

 

DOES A BODY GOOD

My name is Carla and I’m a milk drinker. Pure, whole, regular ole milk. I drink it every night with dinner and I’m not ashamed to say it. My 87-year-old mom has drank it all her life (and is known to put half-and-half in her coffee!) and is healthier than most 30-year-olds, so I look to her for proof that milk is not a four letter word. Yes I’m aware of the hormone issue and the almond and soy revolution, but for now, I’m sticking with cow’s milk. Except…I did recently discover chocolate almond milk and I’m sold!

 

“Milk does a body good” says the ad campaign, but all milks are not created equal. There’s that little issue of hormones in cow’s milk, so many physicians and nutritionists recommend plant-based milks like soy milk instead. With so many people today having dairy allergies and being lactose-intolerant, it’s good there are multiple milk options. But, if you don’t opt for cow’s milk, keep in mind that you may need to supplement potassium, protein, and riboflavin in your diet.

 

In addition to its signature calcium, whole milk from a cow also contains vitamins B1, C,  and D; as well as niacin and folate. It also contains minerals that boost the body’s bone formation and enzyme functions. The Mayo Clinic says everyone needs calcium for bone health and to help your heart, muscles and nerves function optimally and milk is an excellent source of it. Kids who don’t get enough calcium may not reach their full adult height, and adults may have low bone mass, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis. In addition to possible harmful hormones, cow’s milk also contains saturated fat, so nutrition experts and The American Heart Association both recommend nonfat versions.

 

Soy milk provides an option for those who are allergic to dairy, are lactose intolerant, or just aren’t crazy about the taste of dairy milk. Soy is low in fat, rich in protein, and offers healthy B-complex vitamins. It’s also low in saturated fat but avoid the common added sugars and reach instead for unsweetened soy milk.

 

Almond milk is naturally sweet and silky and has a nutty taste of, well, almonds. But, it’s low in calories and chock full of minerals and vitamins like D, E and A, as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron and phosphorous. Perhaps best of all is that the fat in almond milk is heart-healthy because it contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which research suggests can protect against coronary heart disease. Like soy milk however, almond milk often contains added sugars so it’s best to get unsweetened or “light” varieties. Pretty sure my chocolate almond milk does not qualify for this.

 

When comparing cow’s, soy, and almond milk based on calories and saturated fat, they are all pretty even. An eight ounce serving of nonfat cow’s milk has 90 calories and 0 saturated fat, the same serving of soy milk boasts 110 calories a .5 saturated fat, and an equal serving of almond milk has 60 calories and 0 saturated fat.

 

 

COFFEE BREAK

It’s no secret that coffee is hot…as in in your cup and in society in general. Whether you prefer a plain black cup of java or a non-fat sugar free soy latte, you know just where to buy it and just how to make it. But, did you know that coffee has antioxidants that may help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals and that it’s the country’s number one source of antioxidants? The number one source. Who knew, right?

 

Research also suggests that a daily eight ounce cup or two of either caffeinated or decaf coffee protects against heart disease and stroke. By regularly drinking a cup of joe you may just reduce the risk of having calcium in your coronary arteries, which is a sign of vessels hardening and narrowing and can ultimately cause heart attacks. Coffee consumption is also linked with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and a lower incidence of death in general. With coffee shops on every corner and coffee taking up entire grocery store aisles, it’s no wonder we drink coffee not only in the morning, but all day long. Maybe this is a good thing, as those who drink three to five cups a day get the biggest benefits. I’ll take one to go please…and make it grande!

 

So raise your glasses to water, milk, tea, and coffee and say “cheers” to a healthy and hydrated 2018!

 

Drink up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Struck January 7, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:03 pm

3 kings gps

Webster defines “epiphany” as an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure. You know, “I was driving to work and had an epiphany that I need to take next week off.”

 

In Christianity, today is the Feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the visit of the Magi, or the Three Kings, to the infant Jesus. It is customary to have you home blessed today and in some cultures, to jump into freezing cold water. (Does my New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge count?!) It also traditionally ends the Christmas season.

 

The Three Kings followed a star to find the Christ child and in his homily yesterday, Pope Francis asked “what star have we chosen to follow in our lives?”

 

Tough one, right?

 

The world tells us to follow the money and strive for success and power. I don’t necessarily strive for power but I do want to be considered successful in whatever I do. Sadly, I also often follow the wrong “stars” and as Pope Francis reminded us, “Some stars may be bright, but do not point the way.”

 

Hello Hollywood.

Hello sports.

Hello music.

Hello politics.

 

Think about it, the Three Kings were just that, kings, but they knew there was a king of all kings born and they actually brought Him gifts. I’ve always used this idea, that Jesus got three gifts, as reason why Kristen to this day only gets three gifts each Christmas. But for the rest of the year, what gifts am I striving for and what gifts am I giving to others? What stars am I following?

 

Calm and humble life

 

Thank you Einstein. Well said. As I recently blogged, we are a restless bunch and calm is often what we strive for, but how do we get there? I’m no math person, but I agree that when things aren’t adding up in your life, start subtracting. Start following the right stars.

 

First of all, eliminate junk from your life and things that tear you down rather than build you up. You know what and who they are. If you’re not sure, what do you think about most? That, my friends, is your treasure, your heart, and the star you are following. If it’s junk and if it tears you down, peace out. Get rid of it. Remind yourself that some people are so poor, all they have is money.

 

Impressed by...

 

You may also want to ask yourself:

“What will I be remembered for?”

“Whom do I envy?”

“What do I lie about?”

“What will I do today that will make me proud in a year?”

 

The answers may be hard to admit or address, but they reveal what stars you follow and what presents you give.

 

The Pope went on to instruct us not to thirst for arrogance and riches, but instead hunger for humility and helping the poor. As you do so, you just might become the star in someone else’s life and will discover the epiphany of following the right star. Lead the way. Shine bright.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hearts of Buffalo January 5, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:56 pm

Let’s just say me and “squib kicks” don’t get along. My Sooners should have never done one at the end of the Rose Bowl first half last Monday and my hubby’s Buffalo Bills probably should have during their game against the Tennessee Titans back in January 2000. But enough of my bitterness, it’s time for some cheering and who better to lead us than Buffalo Bills fans. You know, those die-hard and hearty people who will do this for their team…

 

Bills fans1

 

Call ‘em crazy, but as impressive as that is, what Bills fans are doing right now is even more impressive. They are making a difference in kids’ lives $17 at a time.

 

Do what?

 

Yep, it’s true and is the story nightly news is covering and is revealing the hearts of Buffalo in a year when the NFL could use all the positivity it can get.

 

Lemme explain.

 

The Bills had not been to the NFL playoffs in 17 years, the longest drought going into the season. The last time they were there, it was that game against the Titans, now infamously known as the “Music City Miracle.”

 

Buffalo had taken the lead with a field goal that put them ahead 16-15 with 16 seconds left in the game. But, instead of kicking perhaps a squib kick to run out the clock (the hair on my arms is actually rising right now), Steve Christie kicked it away and the rest is NFL history and infamy. Tennessee ran the ball back for a TD and won the game 22-16. The Bills haven’t sniffed the playoffs since.

 

Until now.

 

Thanks in part to the Cincinnati Bengals.

 

Granted, the Bills did their part by beating a team they cannot stand, the Miami Dolphins, in an early game last Sunday. Ironically the score, 22-16, was the same score as the Music City Miracle. Only this time the Bills were on the winning end. But they weren’t safe yet. They desperately needed another team to lose and that team was the Baltimore Ravens who were playing the Bengals. With a win, the Ravens would take the last playoff spot. With a win, the Bengals would go home anyway. The Ravens had everything to win and the Bengals had nothing to win. And the Ravens had the lead as time wound down.

 

This is where the magic happened. On fourth down and with 53 seconds left in the game, Bengal QB Andy Dalton threw a game-winning TD to receiver Tyler Boyd and just like that the Ravens were out and the Bills were in. For the first time in 17 years.

 

Soon after the immediate celebrations ended, Bills fans everywhere did something that is just as impressive as Dalton’s pass: they started donating to his AJD Foundation, which benefits seriously ill and physically challenged kids and their families en masse. They were that grateful for his heroics and they wanted to show it.

 

The story gets better.

 

They donated $17 apiece, you know in honor of those 17 years. And in living up to Buffalo’s “City of Good Neighbors” slogan, to date those $17 donations…more than 14,000 of them…have totaled over $300,000. Even Dalton is amazed and Tweeted his appreciation.

 

“Buffalo fans are a class act. They’re helping out a good cause. It’s been fun to see the reaction that we’ve gotten from them.”

 

I can say first-hand that yes, Bills fans are a class act. They are loyal to a fault and some of the nicest and most genuine people I’ve met. In the middle of their team’s glory, they are thinking of others even with tongues firmly planted in cheeks. And they are not done. Donations keep rolling in and they’ve also started rolling in to Boyd’s YouCaring page that offers recreational football leagues for kids in Pittsburgh. That number is now over $50,000.

 

“Thank you to the Bills entire fan base,” Boyd Tweeted out. “What great people you are. We have reached our goal!”

 

Dalton and his wife have since purchased five billboards in the Buffalo area, thanking the fans for their support and #billieve is trending. Nothing could make me happier (okay, maybe one thing, but again, breathe out the bitterness, breathe in the Bills) and this is a girl who watched those Bills lose four Super Bowls in a row. Yeah, this family knows all about football letdowns but still, if you’re a Bills fan, you always billieve.

 

You also love your wings, so what better way then to also thank the Bengals with some wings?

 

Bills promise wings

 

As promised, those wings are on their way. 1,440 of them. Personally I think it should have been 1,700 but who’s counting?

 

Wings from Bills

 

Now the Bills are off to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in an AFC Wildcard game. I’ll be thinking of all those Bills fans as I eat wings, root against my beloved Dede Westbrook, and hope the Bills win 22-16 or by at least 17 points. It would only be fitting.

 

Let’s go, Buffalo.

 

That Little Four Letter Word December 20, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:22 pm

More

 

I’ve been known to throw down a four letter word every now and then and I definitely have my go-to one. I’m pretty certain I’m not alone. Stub your toe? Let it rip. The car behind you doesn’t let you in? Verbal road rage ensues. My team throws an interception? Locker room talk at its finest.

 

F-bombs and potty talk notwithstanding, I’ve discovered there’s another four letter word that has me twisting and shouting: MORE. Yep, the word “more” my friends, is a certified four letter word. And it’s stressing me out.

 

It’s something society throws in our face. You should work more. Make more. Do more. Achieve more. Succeed more. Post more. Want more. Buy more. Exercise more.

 

Yes, I long to be that girl who wants to exercise more, but I also want to laugh more. Share more. Enjoy more.

 

Tis the season for more, but often not in a good way. This is the time of year we inevitably spend more and want more. We do more and go more. We make ourselves crazy trying to achieve more and perfect more.

 

More presents to buy and more packages to mail.

More parties to attend and more outfits to purchase.

More gifts to make and more cookies to bake.

More decorations to put out and lights to hang.

More internet sales and social media posts.

More time to spend on things I seem to not have time to spend on.

 

It kinda makes me BLUE and results in another four letter word: BUSY.

 

I don’t like busy. It doesn’t inspire or impress me. It makes me unsettled.

 

Still, I do want more.

 

More time to relax.

More down time.

More time to reflect.

More money to donate.

More friends to share with.

More family members nearby.

 

I also desire more HELP and more TIME.

I crave more pure joy and way more simple CALM.

My body tells me I need more REST.

 

I could also use a lot more yoga. A four letter word that centers me.

I would also like more time to READ and to WALK.

 

Why do the holidays create more stress and less gratitude? Wouldn’t it be nice if we instead focused not on MORE but on another four letter word: LESS?

 

Less stress.

Less to do lists.

Less errands.

Less expectations.

Less noise.

 

To accomplish this, we need to implement yet another four letter word: STOP.

 

Stop the crazy.

Stop the self-induced pressure.

Stop trying too hard.

Stop keeping up.

Stop the madness.

 

If we must have more though, how about more LOVE?

I love that idea.

 

How about devoting more time to PRAY?

Answered prayers, right?

 

Ironically LOVE and PRAY are both four letter words and if practiced consistently, just may create that calm we all crave.

 

So, let’s let go of the musts and shoulds of our lives, if even for just a few moments each day, and focus instead on the reason for this season of more.

 

We don’t need more, we need to love more.

We need to appreciate more.

And we need to slow down more.

 

Can I get an AMEN?

 

Amen

 

 

 

Peppermint Just For the Health of It December 16, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:10 am

Candy Cane bowl by Lisa Sieczka via Getty Images

 

Something about candy canes just makes me smile. I particularly love their red-and-white striped pattern as I love stripes, I love patterns, and I love me some red and white! I remember my mom hanging them on our Christmas tree and although I don’t follow her in that practice, I do have a festive vase of them sitting on my kitchen counter every Christmas. Funny thing though, I really don’t like to eat them. I just like to look at them. Maybe I should rethink this though, as peppermint like the kind found in candy canes, actually has some major health benefits.

 

Are you feeling stressed and anxious during the current and crazy holi-daze? Are you maybe drinking a little more alcohol than normal at Christmas parties? If you’ve said “yes” to any of this, you might also be suffering from a tension headache, commonly brought on by stress and alcohol consumption and oh so common during the holidays. Well, guess what? Peppermint can actually ease those tension headaches! Ahhhh…just breathe!

 

peppermint-essential-oil

 

Yep, study after study show that rubbing a topical peppermint oil on your forehead and temples can reduce headache pain as well as any over-the-counter pain reliever. And it smells so good!

 

In addition to drinking and stressing more this time of year, you might also be eating more and perhaps even eating things you don’t normally consume. Maybe before you head out to another party or before opening that cookie jar, take a whiff of peppermint oil or even a candy cane as just smelling peppermint has been shown to curb cravings and appetites.

 

If you do enjoy a little feeding frenzy but then encounter a little rumblin’ in your tumblin’, no worries, as peppermint is also known to tame tummy aches. In fact, the mint can help with all types of stomach problems, including nausea, heartburn, menstrual cramps. and even irritable bowel syndrome. One Italian study found that IBS symptoms were significantly reduced among 75 percent of those who took peppermint oil capsules while an Australian study discovered that peppermint actually activates an anti-pain agent in the colon and soothes inflammatory pain in the gastrointestinal tract.

 

Tis also the season for colds and flu, but before reaching for cold medicine to clear up your stuffy nose, reach for peppermint instead. Although it may not always open your nasal passages, it magically tricks your mind into thinking it has. The key is menthol, which peppermint is chalk-full of and is what makes all those over-the-counter meds smell so yummy and minty.

 

peppermint-thumbprint-cookies-2

If you’re feeling aches and pains or if you’re exercising more to work off those candies and cookies you’ve been eating, you may be a little sore. Peppermint can help here to, as it has a cooling effect when topically applied for muscle ache, stiffness, and even nerve pain.

 

Another health benefit of peppermint is that it boosts concentration and has memory-enhancing properties. This is good news to all you students out there studying for finals and for anyone finalizing year-end budgets, reports, or simple “naughty or nice” lists. Peppermint scent can actually give someone a mental perk, resulting in greater alertness, increased motivation, and enhanced performance. So powerful is peppermint’s punch, that some schools have been known to out peppermint candy during test periods!

 

Peppermint-Essential-Oil-Young-Living_large

I pretty much swear by my Young Living peppermint oil and use it often. I massage it into inflamed or sore areas and joints to ease inflammation, arthritis symptoms, and tendonitis. I also rub it on my forehead, temples, sinuses, and neck for headache relief, respiratory issues, and general stiffness. If I’m feeling particularly stiff or achy, I might use another essential oil made specifically for injuries, but I always top it with peppermint because it smells so good! Its scent is also I regularly diffuse it.

 

Peppermint oil also boasts a high concentration of natural pesticides that help repel some insects, including pesky mosquitos. If you do get bit by something, rub some peppermint oil on the bite area to relieve itching.

 

Candy cane cocktail

Finally, let’s not forget about the plant’s cooking qualities and culinary uses. Fresh or dried peppermint, as well as peppermint extract, are common in herbal teas, ice cream, candy, jams and jellies, and many an alcoholic drink. A Moscow Mule or Mojito without mint? Nyet! You could say this is peppermint’s “in” season, as you find it in everything from peppermint Kisses to peppermint bark to peppermint room candles. Peppermint as an ingredient doesn’t’ stop in the kitchen though. It’s a main ingredient in many a chewing gum, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, and soap.

 

So why peppermint? No one really knows, other than it’s a natural plant full of natural benefits. Scientifically, peppermint is actually a hybrid mint, meaning it’s a cross between watermint and spearmint. It contains way more menthol than spearmint and enjoys widespread cultivation worldwide. Even in my mom’s flower beds in Santa Fe.

 

To this day I will pick a leaf off a peppermint plant and eat it, reminding me of doing so as a child. My mom always grew mint in our yard and would use it in her sun tea.

 

It’s actually easy to grow and will grow almost anywhere. It develops best moist places with part-sun to shade and a good supply of water. Being that it’s a hybrid, it’s typically sterile and doesn’t produce seeds. It grows “like a weed” though by spreading its branches, meaning each new plant grows from a fragment of the parent plant.

 

Candy canes without quote

But back to the candy cane. Did you know the flavor of peppermint is similar to hyssop, which is also a member of the mint family and was used in biblical times for purification? The shape of the candy cane also religious undertones, as it was intentionally shaped to symbolize a shepherd’s crook, the very shepherds who were among those who witnessed the birth of Jesus and a reminder that like the Good Shepherd parable, Jesus protects us like His little lambs. The red and white colors of a candy cane are said to represent purity and love. And finally, what do you get when you turn a candy cane upside down? The letter J. Whose name starts with J? Jesus!

 

So there you have it. Candy Canes represent Christmas and they could very well have the healing qualities of peppermint. What’s not to love, right? Now where did I hide that peppermint bark?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tree At Last December 10, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:29 pm

 

So many of you already have your Christmas trees up, but if you’re like me and you’re just getting to it, consider yourself a late bloomer! We got our tree today and now it’s time to light it up.

 

A few years ago I decided to not put any ornaments on our tree. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas ornaments and have boxes full of them. Childhood ones. Many I’ve gotten travelling. Some were gifts. Others I just saw and had to have. But, once our nest was empty and I was the sole tree decorator, it was just too much to handle. Hanging all those ornaments and finding room for them on the tree didn’t bring me joy anymore, it just stressed me out. And then there was the laborious task of taking them off, wrapping them up, and boxing them. Squeal! So, momma made the executive decision that from here on out, our tree would just have lights. Lots of them. Tons of them. Maybe for some people, too many of them. But, I found that sitting in a room with nothing but the tree lights on is quite soothing and simply beautiful.

 

 

Putting those lights on said tree is another story. There are so many methods and strategies. In the past I went the route of going “round and round and round” with strings of lights but I’ve learned to instead work vertically. If you mentally divide the tree into triangle shaped sections and hang the lights up and down, it’s a bit easier and the result is stunning. Start at the bottom of the tree and be sure to push some of the lights into the inner tree to create depth. Voila!

 

Getting the right lights is also important. I previously preferred all white little twinkly lights, but am coming around to multi-colored ones too. Growing up we always had those old-school colorful bulbs and I can just picture how beautiful our tree was with them and tons of icicles. I don’t do icicles anymore but I still treasure the memories of them.

 

So for lights, keep in mind that incandescent bulbs cost less than LED ones and have a warmer glow but LED bulbs use less energy, last longer, and come in both warm and cool glows. You pick! It’s best to use all the same brand of lights if your goal is a tree filled with a similar glow and bet on 100 per lights per foot of tree height.

 

 

When it comes to plugging those puppies in, always think “safety first.” Use only properly-wired extension cords and keep all lights away from any flammable objects, including gifts and tree skirts. I’m obsessed with a three plug-in kit I bought a few years back that allows me to simply push a button on the remote and turn on three separate outlets. There are also foot-powered cords that make turning on Christmas lights easy.

 

 

 

For us, it’s always been a real tree. Both my husband and I grew up with real trees and have kept that tradition for the 30+ years of our marriage. There are pundits for both. Surprisingly, opting for the real deal isn’t as environmentally harmful as one might think. In fact, producing an artificial tree takes almost 10 times the energy as growing a live one. And did you know trees in a tree farm are trimmed once-a-year so their branches make the triangle shape we all love? It takes about eight years in a farm or forest for a tree to be ready for our Christmastime homes. If you do go the real tree route, be sure to recycle or compost it properly.

 

Holding all your ornaments and strings of lights is a tough job for a tree branch. Spruce trees are full-bodied and strong and their branches seem to hold even the heftiest of ornaments while Fir trees are often more expensive than other evergreens but they generally hold their needles the longest.

 

 

So why do we put up Christmas trees anyway?

 

The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. In Germany, the first Christmas Trees were decorated with edible things like gingerbread and apples. In Victorian times, trees were decorated with candles to represent stars. In many parts of Europe, candles are still used to decorate Christmas trees. The first trees were often topped with a figure of the Baby Jesus but over time angels or stars became the norm and still remain so today.

 

Many also believe the custom began many moons ago when St. Boniface, who was a priest form England, traveled to Germany to convert the pagans. He found some success but many still worshiped what they considered a sacred oak. He is said to have come across a group of pagans about to sacrifice a young boy while worshipping an oak tree. In anger, St. Boniface cut down the oak tree and, to his amazement; a young fir tree sprang up from the roots. They became followers, decorated the tree with candles and St. Boniface showed them that unlike the oak that lost its leaves every year, the evergreen’s leaves remained year round. This, he said, is much like the life Jesus offers us: never ending and always there.

 

As to why we puts lights on our trees may go back to none other than Thomas Edison, who put some of his new electric light bulbs around his office. In 1890 the Edison Company published a brochure offering lighting services for Christmas. These electric tree lights grew in popularity when President Grover Cleveland decorated the White House tree with lights in 1895.

 

So there you have it: Christmas trees 101 in a nutshell. How lovely are their branches.