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Taking the Mystery out of Going Organic
By Carol LeBeau
11/25/2013 10:35:32 AM


–FULL BIO
 

When it comes to food, these days, it’s all about going organic.  And that’s great.  Count me in!  But I must admit, navigating the maze of organic food labels, benefits and claims can be more confusing than an exercise in quantum physics!  

Is it just me?  I have a college degree but nowhere in my curriculum was there a course on “label language,” and much of it is simply indecipherable. Thank goodness, after decades of talk, the USDA’s National Organic Program has finally standardized the widely varying practices of an unregulated, grassroots movement.   The program ensures all producers play by the same rules.  What does that mean for you and me?  Official, clear-cut definitions of “organic” and its many wannabes.  

Here they are! (And if you lose this, not to worry. I’ve got the list posted on my fridge!)

100% Organic: All ingredients must be certified organic, and processing aids must be organic as well. The name of the certifying agent must be on the label, which may carry the USDA Organic seal.

Organic: Products must contain at least 95% certified organic ingredients.  The remaining 5% (except salt and water), along with any nonorganic processing aids (such as chlorine to wash packaging equipment), must be from a national list of substance the USDA has approved for use in organics.  The product may carry the USDA Organic seal.

Made with Organic: Packaging can’t include the USDA seal, but at least 70% of the product must be certified organic; nonagricultural ingredients must come from the national list.  The quality of organic foods is high even at 70%, experts say.
Organic Ingredients: Below 70% organic, the product can’t claim on its packaging that it’s organic, except to list specific certified organic ingredients on the information panel.

Natural: The USDA says that meat, poultry and eggs labeled with this word must have no artificial ingredients and be minimally processed.  But the term isn’t defined beyond those items.  Assume “natural” means “conventional.”

Fair Trade: Nongovernment organizations certify that growers received minimum prices and community support from buyers and followed specific environmental practices.  Standards are not as strict as for organic.

Free-range: Birds such as chickens are sheltered and have continuous access to the outdoors, along with unlimited access to food and water.  However, these claims are not certified.

Cage-free: Birds can freely roam inside a building or room with unlimited access to food and fresh water.  They’re without cages, but can still be packed very tightly, even when organic.

Grass-fed: Animals receive most of their nutrition from grass throughout their lives, but may also eat hay or grain indoors during winter.  Animals may still receive antibiotics and hormones, according to the USDA.

No Added Hormones: Already true of organic, so its conventional producers that tend to use this term, but there’s no certification for these claims.

Whew!  It’s still a lot of info…but at least these definitions are clear and should make buying organic a lot easier.  

Healthy eating!

How Dry I Am! Lip Tips to Keep Your Kisser Kissable!
By Carol LeBeau
11/18/2013 2:00:21 PM


–FULL BIO
 

I have a confession to make.  I’m addicted to my lip balm!  I’m not thrilled about this. But at least I’m not the only one constantly reaching for that next lip fix.

‘Tis the season, after all – the sunny, hot and extremely dry season, that is. With temperatures rising and high pressure building, they just don’t make enough Chapstick to keep my miserably dry, cracked lips moist!

The spectacular autumn sun may be shining brightly, but with dry Santa Ana winds and humidity dropping below 10 percent, many of us look for relief from constantly re-applying our favorite lip balm.  (Bee’s for me!)

Annoying and uncomfortable at best, chapped lips can become dry, cracked and sore interfering with daily activities such as smiling, eating, talking, singing and kissing.  Even worse, cracked tissue can be painful and lead to infection.

So Cal’s “devil winds” aren’t the only reason our kissers become cracked and chapped.  Yes, over exposure to wind, sun, cold and dry air are the main culprits, but people who breathe through their mouths (for a variety of reasons) can develop chapped lips.  Certain medications or allergies to cosmetics or skin care products may also be the cause.

When lips are exposed to moisture, they absorb water and plump up.  No surprise there, but conversely, when dehydrated they can dry out.  As we age, it’s hard for skin to retain moisture and dryness tends to increase in the winter.  

So, what’s a person to do?

Check out these timely tips to help you keep those luscious lips soft and moist…

*Avoid lip smacking or licking your lips.
When you do, you provide a drop of moisture which evaporates quickly, leaving the lips drier than before.  Saliva contains digestive enzymes that can break down the protective barrier on the lips.

*Stay hydrated.
Drink plenty of fluids to moisturize from the inside out.  Set up a humidifier in your home or office.

*Be sure your lip balm contains sunscreen.
According to researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, “sun damage to the lips can cause dryness and scaliness…the same way it damages the rest of the skin.”

*Ladies, wear lipstick!
A creamy lipstick (non-matte) can soothe chapped lips and opaque lipstick filters out harmful light.  This may be why women seldom get lip cancer.

*Apply lip balm.
Look for hydrating ingredients such as beeswax and petroleum.  Beware of camphor and menthol…camphor-based medicated lip balm may be irritating.

*It’s OK to reapply often.
Apply it before you go out…several times while you are out and after you eat or drink.

Apply a thick layer of balm at bedtime to lessen chapping.  Many of us sleep with our mouths open, which leads to dry lips.  (Since I began slathering on a generous layer of Aquaphor at night, no more painful cracks in the corners of my lips!)

Oh, and don’t be concerned about actually becoming “addicted” to your lip balm.  There are no physically addictive ingredients in balms.  A psychological habit?  Maybe.  But it’s safe…so grab another tube!

Why French Women Aren’t Fat! – My firsthand experience with the French “Paradox.”
By Carol LeBeau
11/11/2013 3:13:11 PM


–FULL BIO
 

It was our first trip to Paris.  So much to see and do…the Eiffel Tower…Notre Dam…the Louvre.  Amazing!

But as Tom and I recently experienced our first trip to the “City of Light,” we quickly learned the main Parisian attraction isn’t a cathedral or museum.  It’s the food!   And for nine days, we made it our goal to taste it all.

We indulged in crepes, both savory and sweet, swimming in rich cheese and cream sauces – fresh, buttered baguettes stuffed with ham and Gruyere, buttery croissants slathered in orange marmalade and steaming cups of cappuccino with creamy, whole milk. (Don’t even think about insulting your French server by asking for non-fat!)

We literally ate our way through the streets of Paris.  From curbside vendors and colorful sidewalk cafes to charming bistros with white tablecloths, we dined on steaming bowls of cheese-covered French onion soup, spaghetti bolognaise and melt-in-your moth beef bourguignon.

I won’t even begin to describe the delightfully decadent French desserts in this space.  Words are completely insufficient.  But I will say this much.  Last night I dreamt about one of those divine desserts…the rich ice cream, whipped cream and dark chocolate sauce confection known as the “blanche dame.”   

For the record, I didn’t work out one day.  Oh well, when in France…

But the day of reckoning finally came back home as I stepped on the scale to assess
the damage.  Unbelievably, the digital display indicated I had lost nearly a pound!  

And then it hit me.

I’d just experienced a touch of what’s known as the French Paradox…the country’s low rate of coronary heart disease despite a diet rich in saturated fat.  It’s the basic premise of the popular diet book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat.”   Author Mireille Guiliano advises eating only good food of very high quality, eat it in small portions and savor every bite.

And it fits our French dining experience to a tee.  Rather than wolfing down a hastily prepared PB and J running out the door, our meals were not rushed. In fact, they were an event unto themselves…consumed slowly while visiting and sipping the local Bordeaux.

As Guiliano explains, “From chocolate to champagne, eat slowly, with all your senses, and make every dining experience pleasurable so you will be satisfied with smaller portions of delicious food.  No food is off limits, only large portions.  No counting calories, no skipping meals – just control what you eat.”

It truly is a paradox.  Lean and fit, the French aren’t into low-fat, low-carb, low-taste and low-calorie.  Their diet is full of flavor and high in satisfaction. (And the majority of Parisians don’t have cars.  They walk as did we – often miles a day!)

When it comes to food, we could all learn a thing or two from our French brothers and sisters.  With their low rate of obesity and cardiovascular disease, the French way may just be the way to go!  

Bon Appetit!

Paris and Normandy: The Trip of a Lifetime
By Carol LeBeau
11/5/2013 3:37:32 PM


–FULL BIO
 

Our “trip of a lifetime” was supposed to happen nearly two years ago. Plans for our first-ever trip to Paris and Normandy were set.  Counting down the days, Tom and I were excited and ready to go.  Then came my cancer diagnosis and everything came to a screeching halt.  

Four surgeries and a clean bill of health later, we decided to give it another try.  As we landed at Charles de Gaulle airport, I thanked God for a second chance to see the historic sites of Normandy, Paris and the Chateaux of France.

We’ve been home a few weeks now, but my head is still spinning as I continue to process all we saw and experienced in that beautiful country.   

With the aide of our gifted tour guide, we travelled to France’s Loire Valley, known for its architectural heritage and world-famous castles.  The largest castle, Chateau Chambord, also served as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIV and he clearly spared no expense. It was a show-stopper.

We travelled by bus to see one of the most impressive sights in all of France, Mont-Saint Michel.  Absolutely stunning, the 14th century abbey sits on an island, perched atop a rocky pinnacle overlooking the sea.  A surreal sight from a distance, it is truly one of the architectural wonders of the world.

As we made our way toward Paris, we visited the exquisite Versailles Palace with its impressive (and over-the top glitzy!) Hall of Mirrors.  Magnifique!

Next stop…the enchanting sights of romantic Paris, the “City of Light.”  Mouth agape for days I could barely take it all in –Champs Elysees Boulevard, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.  Breathtaking!  Our trip to the Louvre, the world’s largest museum, put us literally face-to-face with DaVinci’s Mona Lisa.  (I swear she was looking right at me!)  

Enjoying crepes and cappuccinos, we people-watched for hours at colorful sidewalk cafes and took a romantic cruise down the river Seine.  

But the highlight of our French adventure actually took place outside the hustle and bustle of Paris in Normandy...home of the historic D-Day sites.  It’s also the site of our trip’s biggest disappointment, as the American Cemetery was closed to tourists due to the U.S. government shutdown.

Putting that aside, we were moved to tears as our guide took us through the British Commonwealth cemetery where so many of our friends and allies…also D-Day casualties have been laid to rest.

But for this military family, tears became sobs as we stood and reflected…in a cold, blustery driving rainstorm along Omaha and Utah Beaches…the same conditions under which thousands of young American men braved both the angry sea and the determined enemy to take the German fortifications…ultimately liberating France from Hitler’s occupation.

Never have I been prouder of our military men and women or more grateful for the freedoms I enjoy as an American.  It was a thrilling experience.

Truly, the trip of a lifetime!