Beating Bad Cholesterol

Bean Taco

A few months ago I found out that I have a cholesterol problem.  After researching statin medications with side effects such as memory loss and severe muscle pain I decided to talk to my doctor about alternatives.  He said that some people’s bodies as they get older just make bad cholesterol (which would mean I would have no choice but to take a statin) and some people have high cholesterol because they consume too much of it (which means I can change my eating pattern to be healthy).  So we decided to do an experiment.  For 1 month I went on a very strict diet (which I will describe) and then at the end I retook my blood test to see if my cholesterol has reduced.  The results were stunning!  My CHOL test went from 270 to 200 with healthy at <239 and my LDL went from 161 to 103 with healthy at <159.

Here is what I did to reduce my cholesterol: I eliminated butter and coconut oil and replaced it with olive oil and avocado oil; stopped eating all baked goods; no coffee for me which I didn’t know has bad cholesterol and replaced it with tea; only low fat dairy–cutting out creamy cheese was one of the hardest parts; I took fish oil supplements to elevate my good cholesterol; only egg whites; no shrimp or crab; lots of canned tuna salads; no mayo replacing it with balsamic vinegar; stopped dipping my veggies in ranch dressing and instead used homemade hummus; I never really ate a lot of red meat so it was easy not to touch that for a month; added beans and lentils to my daily diet (beans and lentils attach to bad cholesterol and flush it out of your body); ate more fruits and veggies; I tried oatmeal and discovered that I still hate it; no more nachos; I took sterols supplements (the brand I used is called Cholesterol Off) which has been proven to reduce LDL; I ate a grapefruit a day.  One  thing that I should have done which is really hard for me is to elevate my heart rate for 1/2 an hour a day.

The day I got my blood test I was so excited to eat something with cholesterol that I binged on cheese and bad Chinese food and ended up getting sick (probably from rancid oil from the cheap Chinese food place).  It would be pretty hard for me to live on a strict cholesterol diet so I think I will try moderation minus the Chinese food and retake my blood test in 6 months.  In the meantime I will try to go on more hikes and brisk walks throughout the week.

Here is a Spicy Bean Soup Recipe that I posted.  I used the leftovers to make bean tacos the next day. Yum!

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Spicy soup even my kids will eat

black bean soup final

Here in Northern California we are experiencing a winter of El Nino which means cold rainy days.  On days like this I crave warm spicy soup (and a shot of cinnamon whisky if I let my alcoholic self make decisions).  Warm Spicy Soup can mean a lot of things but in a family with a daughter who has a very low tolerance for spice and a son that likes a lot of spice, it’s hard to make something both kids will eat.  I recently heard from my Dr that I need to work on lowering my cholesterol which means for me eating more beans and less butter and shrimp (crap now I’m craving shrimp with butter noodles!).  So on this rainy cold day I decided to make Black Bean Soup (Hubby will make meat to go along with it–since I’m not allowed to cook meat anymore which is another post all together) .  Last time I attempted this soup I made it from dried beans and in the end of cooking them all damn day they were still pretty hard (soup fail).  So this time I decided to use canned beans.  I combed the internet for recipes and decided in the end that I would have to create my own because who better to know my family’s taste than me right?!

I love my dutch oven!  I would marry it except that I love rubbing my husbands feet too much to give that up (seriously he has the sexiest feet).

Here’s the recipe I ended up:

Heat Dutch oven and add salt, olive oil, garlic, onion, 2 diced carrots, 2 diced celery ribs, 1 jalapeno, 1 red bell pepper diced.  Cook for 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon cumin. Cook 2 minutes.  Add box of chicken stock, 3 cans of black beans, 1 can diced tomatoes.  Cook for 2 hours on simmer.  Take 1/2 of the soup and blend and then add back into soup.  Here is a pic of the soup once blended.

black bean soup blended

Serve with avocado, feta (instead of sour cream which I can’t have with my cholesterol), cilantro, and scallions.

I served in bowls my mother-in-law gave to us which I adore.

Add more or less Cumin and Jalapeno for desired spicy-ness.



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Everyone has problems

Gongyo book and beads

Every human being encounters challenges and obstacles at some point in the course of a lifetime.  There is no escaping birth, old age, sickness and death in addition to the daily challenges we face living a life.  The What of our problems are not as important as the How we face them.  Buddhism offers a means by which we can challenge our obstacles and even regard problems as a source of benefit.

Right now I’m at a point in my life where I have very few worries.  My family is all enjoying good health and I’m not in conflict with a single person in my environment.  Sure I have daily annoyances like the car door not latching or resolving not to drink as much alcohol and sticking to my resolution–but all in all I’m enjoying a lot of peace and good fortune in my daily life.  Buddhism teaches that by overcoming and addressing our dilemmas including our own shortcomings we can polish our life and train ourselves to respond with optimism to future problems.  In fact in a sense, challenges can be welcomed with joy and with a spirit of confidence that you can become a better person because of this difficulty.  “The realm of kosen-rufu–in which we see difficulties as peace and comfort, as a badge of honor, and advance while surmounting every obstacle–is the “soil” in which people of truly great character are nurtured and grow.” (Living Buddhism 1/16, page 50)  So I should be hoping for some calamity to face?  I should open my life to a trial of some sorts?  After all we all face problems living a life as a human being.  Still I can not bring myself to wish for trouble.  Instead I choose to enjoy what there is to enjoy right now in this moment and pray that when a predicament arises I can experience the confidence to confront it head on with a hopeful response.  In the meantime while I savor this good fortune, I resolve to strengthen my Buddhist practice and confront with an open mind any shortcomings that I observe.  Hopefully I can see my next challenge as a source of benefit that will strengthen and enrich my life rather than reacting with fear or defeat.

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Stagnant Water

Putrid Stagnant Water

Putrid Stagnant Water

“Have faith that is like ceaselessly flowing water. Stagnant water becomes putrid because it stands still. The same is true of our lives: Not advancing is regressing”, said 2nd SGI President Toda.

I’m feeling stagnant. Kids, husband and work are fine—nothing distressing and nothing exciting happening at the moment. But I find myself pouring that glass of wine before evening Gongyo (evening Buddhist prayer) and then some nights blowing it off entirely. I recently started my own company and hired my first employee. Now is the time to challenge myself with work—but I seem to be in a just getting by pattern instead of making a push for new business. My kids are still at the age where I can suggest an activity that they might like. Still I find myself letting them hang out in their rooms rather than going for a hike or into The City to a museum. My husband and I spend too much time watching TV and drinking wine when we could be playing chess or making mad love at every chance we get. My water is stagnant and I’m not propelling myself into my mission (which I’m still trying to figure out). I’m clearly not advancing and so according to Toda I’m regressing. That feels true to me. If I stand in one place and watch the world go by I will be left behind. My company will never be as successful as I would like, my kids will grow up distant, and my husband will find a life more exciting if I continue this inaction. So the cure to stagnant water is to take action toward my happiness–first by doing regular Gongyo and then by challenging that lazy part of me that just wants to drink wine and hang out. I don’t want to live my life on cruise control. I want to inspire my kids and model happiness for them.

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Happy Marriage

imgresI have a week without Hubby and the kids. In the few times that this has happened I’ve been so lonely I’ve cried.  This time I celebrate the kids successfully growing up (so far) and 14 years of marriage.  After hitting a rocky patch, Hubby and I agreed this last year was the Best Year Ever!

I’m sure there are shelves worth of self-help marriage books about listening to each other and supporting each other in your decisions.  This is of course good advice but what saved our marriage was good and often sex.

I’m sure you don’t want the details but if you do just use your imagination, which is what we used in our bedroom.

So this year I’m celebrating 13 years of child rearing (which has produced happy kids–so far), and 14 years of marriage.  I plan on cleaning the kids’ rooms, hours of uninterrupted Daimoku, Buddhist meetings at the house, a girls’ night out and plenty of masturbation.

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Job Interview

GenSphire logo Medium

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Homemade Tradition

balbalkiI grew up eating a Czechoslovakian dessert called balbalki sometimes at Christmas and other special occasions.  It’s made with potato bread and ground poppy seeds.  My Paternal Great Grand Mother used to make it after harvesting her own poppy seeds in the fall which she had planted in the spring.  Her potatoes were also homegrown.  She passed before I had a chance to meet her but my Mother continued the tradition, modernizing the recipe a bit.  The first time I brought my Husband home for Christmas he tried this dessert and politely declined to ever try it again.  The ground poppy seeds make for an interesting taste for sure.  So I never made it because my Husband hated it. Fast forward to my Father’s 70’s birthday celebration.  My Mother made balbalki which required grinding 5 cups of poppy seeds–the kids helped and had a blast cranking that grinding handle over and over again.  Then they tried it and loved it!  Yum!  They ate it for days!  So this year I turned 40 and I thought that I really wanted to pass the tradition of balbalki to the kids.  I asked my Mother to find a poppy seed grinder–they make grinders just for poppy seeds!  I wanted to make balbalki for my special day!  And you know what?  Even though my husband said he throws up in his mouth a little thinking of balbalki he ground all those poppy seeds with a (turns out) broken poppy seed grinder which took him hours!  The kids each took a turn.  I did too.  But literally for hours he ground those seeds until they were what I call fluffy.  I was being silly all these years not wanting to make something he didn’t like when the reality is that if it’s important to me he will suport me no matter what.

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Yea, I did that

I’ve neglected my blog I know.  The more time passed the more I thought I needed something big to write about.  But what’s really important to me is to keep writing so I give you a silly story that will hopefully make you feel better about your occasional mistakes.

My son had a school project where he takes a stuffed bear to a place of interest in our county, take pictures, do an interview, and present to the class.  We were originally scheduled earlier in the year but when our weekend came to get the bear we were super busy and couldn’t do it so we politely asked to reschedule.  His teacher was less than thrilled saying that we signed up for that weekend at the beginning of the school year etc. But thankfully we were allowed to move it to a later date which happened to be on Mother’s Day weekend.  The Friday before Douglas was given a backpack with the stuffed bear which the class had named Fluffy.  I opened the backpack, pulling out the Bear and got everything ready for our excursion.  Douglas had chosen an Inn at the top of the highest mountain in the county which is only accessible by foot or mountain bike.  I remembered that when my Daughter asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day I replied, “a family hike.”  So I was actually getting just what I asked for!  Everyone had a water bottle and we had a wonderful time, taking lots of pictures along the way featuring Fluffy of course.

Now this story isn’t about the all day Mother’s Day hike or even about that cute bear.  So what happened next was proof that silly mistakes remind us that we’re all…well…human.  The Monday after Mother’s Day we returned the backpack with Fluffy and I received an email that afternoon.  Where was the county book that came in the backpack?  Now I had gone through that backpack and there was no book.  He simply didn’t come home with a book.  I was sure.  I insisted.  She remembered putting it in.  I insisted that we didn’t have it.  “I’m sorry, but it never came home with Douglas.”  The end.  Except the next Saturday when I was cleaning up guess what I find.  Yep the book.  We had it all along.

Getting ready for the hike

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Bike to work? Who me?

I’ve landed a new job close to home.  Close enough to bike to work.  I’ve mapped out the route–flat the entire way.  It means doing my morning meditation (Gongyo) a little (a lot) earlier than I’m used to.  It means layers for cold mornings (does this mean I need a new bike to work wardrobe?)  On days I’m not biking I get to take Wado Dog to work!  The neighbors will be praying for those days!  I’m super excited!  While I was off traveling this summer I realized that I need more challenge in my life.  What?  Trying to keep a marriage fresh and raising 2 kids isn’t enough of a challenge?  A new job is just the challenge I need.  I’m expecting my readers to hold me accountable if I wimp out on the bike to work thing!  I’ll keep you posted!

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This summer I was granted a leave of absence from work so that I could enjoy a crazy summer long vacation.  That’s why I haven’t been blogging–that and I haven’t figured out how to blog from my iphone yet.  Dearest Husband has a little more than a month off every summer (he works in education).  During that time in past summers he has been in school for his Masters degree or we have been moving etc.  This was the first summer in what seems like forever that he’s been able to take a break.

We started out with a week without kids. The most we’ve had to ourselves is 3 days so this was a huge deal.  Cheers to the kids being old enough to fly on an airplane by themselves!  Once we picked up the kids we were on our way to the Redwoods in Northern California.  Humbolt State Park has a great junior ranger program where you sign up to send the kids off by themselves with a ranger for 2 1/2 hours each day.  Every day was a different program–both kids enjoyed getting the metal badges at the end.  While we were there we decided to visit Eureka, CA to see the 4th of July fire works.  The family has been watching the SciFi channel Eureka’s back episodes together.  Every one of us loves this show!  There’s science stuff and love stories and crazy occurrences–really it’s a great G rated show!  So The Boy was very interested to see if the Eureka was anything like the one on TV.

For me Eureka had a special meaning.  My birth mother died there before I got a chance to meet her.  At one point in her life she was very transient.  I’m not sure what her life was like in Eureka but currently there is a large transient population.  I tried to imagine her walking down the same street with several thrift stores and 2 different used book stores (which says something when a little town can support 2 used book stores!)  My birth mother apparently had a number of tattoos.  Passing by counted people there covered in tattoos, I wondered what she would have looked like now if she was alive.  BTW I have a few tattoos and am currently potting out my next one (perhaps on my 40th birthday).

Then we made our way to Oregon to see a dear friend of ours.  Dearest Husband and I used to dance with her twice a week in a class where we met.  It’s not really a class.  It’s more like a dance experience.  We even took our kids to a dance.  The Boy got into it immediately with another friend who we know who just happened to be there!  With The Girl it took a few songs but she slowly sinked in and was fully enjoying herself by the end.    The we headed off to Mount Rainer to visit Grandparents.  My mother and father are Wado Dog’s God parents should anything happen to us.  Wado Dog had a great time there  on the mountain.  My father took us on a hike up the mountain where we saw snow in July.  My mother, my daughter and I made a cheesecake with a very special family recipe. We ate venison and caught trout and had a wonderful time.

Next was a visit to Dearest Husband’s brother and his wife in Seattle where they took the kids and we had a night in Seattle to ourselves!  The kids adore their Aunt and Uncle so it worked out well.

The off to Yellowstone where we got to see Dearest Husband’s other brother and then Grand Tetons.  Except when visiting relatives we were camping.   The kids love camping!  The Boy especially!  By the end The Girl wanted to be home in her own bed with a shower.  It was an unforgettable adventure which ended in a week in a beach house in San Diego with my in laws. I adore cooking with my mother in law and we got a chance to make the best gazpacho I’ve ever had!

So now I have no excuse to miss a blog!

I’ll keep you posted!


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