Tag Archives: Dakota Life

Vitamins for Women: Lay Ladies Lay


Mother hen with chicks02

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Childhood Memories

Image by garden beth via Flickr

My grandpa was a farmer down in southern Minnesota…and his farm in Paradise Valley along the Root River, is the spot of my most cherished, childhood memories.  I loved being there, tagging along with my grandpa and daddy as they did the morning and evening chores, cut hay, harvested crops, and chopped silage.

The dairy barn was an exciting place filled with the sights and smells of larger than life dairy cows and their calves, barn kittens, and hay lofts.

I was specifically warned never to be anywhere near the pig pens, and told dire stories of small children and careless adults– mauled and even eaten by swine herds.

The one place I could go alone was to the chicken coop.  I was given a small pail and told that I could collect all the eggs I could find, and my grandma would make them into breakfast for us when we returned to the house.

Finding eggs was a challenge…my grandma’s chickens were free range birds, only corralled into the coop at night to keep them safe from the occasional fox or owls on the prowl.  So not all the hens obliged and sat on their nests in the roost, many of these barnyard gypsies would casually lay eggs in random spots and walk off without a backwards glance.  It was a grand victory to discover hidden eggs and return triumphant with a pail full of beautiful, smooth, warm, brown eggs.

…Eggs have gotten a lot of bad press over the past few years.  For the longest time they were accused of causing heart problems and high cholesterol…perish the thought of egg yolk passing your lips.

But once again, the pendulum has swung and now studies show that actually, eggs are beneficial for optimal health and weight loss.

First, let’s consider the 2 most popular “villainies” of the egg:

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, there is no significant link between egg consumption and heart disease. In fact, according to one study, regular consumption of eggs may help prevent blood clots, stroke, and heart attacks.

New research also shows that moderate consumption of eggs does not have a negative impact on cholesterol. Yup, that’s right: the regular consumption of 2 eggs/day does not affect a person’s lipid profile and may, in fact, improve it. We know now that saturated fat raises cholesterol rather than dietary cholesterol.  Eggs contain 5 grams of fat/egg and only 1.5 grams of that is saturated fat.

So with those 2 misconceptions out of the way, consider this:

  • Overweight adults who eat 2 eggs for breakfast feel more energetic and lose 65% more weight than those who start their mornings with an equally caloric bagel.
  • Other findings reveal that egg-eaters consume 300 fewer calories per day, adding up to a loss of three pounds per month, due to the fact that an egg contains 6 grams of high quality protein and all 9 essential amino acids.  The protein just makes you feel more satisfied and less hungry.  “Eggs help level out blood sugar, provide energy-boosting protein and are full of nutrients,” says wellness coach Jessica Smith.
  • Eggs are great for the eyes. According to one study, an egg a day lowers the risk of developing cataracts and may prevent macular degeneration due to the carotenoid content, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin that are more readily available to our bodies from eggs than from other sources.
  • Eggs are one of the only foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D.
  • One egg yolk has about 300 micrograms of choline, an important nutrient that helps regulate the brain, nervous system, and cardiovascular system.
  • Eggs may prevent breast cancer. In one study, women who consumed at least 6 eggs per week lowered their risk of breast cancer by 44%.
  • Eggs promote healthy hair and nails because of their high sulphur content and wide array of vitamins and minerals. Many people find their hair grows faster after adding eggs to their diet, especially if they were previously deficient in foods containing sulphur or B12.

I love eggs: hard boiled, scrambled, tossed into egg salad. I’m glad they are being vindicated.

Today, I wax nostalgic in the egg section of the grocery store.  I fondly buy free range, brown eggs, and gladly pay the extra dollar in hopes that this small contribution allows some hen the good fortune to roam at will, being wild and wily, just like my grandma’s birds.

Be healthy, take your women vitamins, and be blessed, Kersten

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Women Vitamins: Soap, Soil, and Soul


Making Mud Pies
Image by ‘Playingwithbrushes’ via Flickr

After a long dreary winter, the sun shines bright and hearts are light, deep in the heart of Texas….. Spring is here with the jasmine and roses in bloom, the greening of oak and lawns…. I remember spring days as a child. The joy of being outdoors unfettered by snow suits and boots, mittens and scarves….oh the freedom and pleasure of spring in Dakota.

Making mud pies was an all time favorite sport. Normally, my fastidious mother discouraged gratuitous encounters with dirt. But making that perfect mud pie was an art. Patting that mud into a workable consistency, forming it into the pie shape, using the fore-finger to finesse the edges on that crust….mmmmm.. (I wonder if that is why I love working clay into sculptures and do all my own lawn work?)

I can’t remember the last time I saw a child playing in the mud…..I don’t count my intermediate students who purposefully stride thru mud as players.

I feel sort of sad for them….we are disconnected from our Earth and have lost the cycles of preparing soil and sowing  and reaping.

We don’t put our hands in the soil, we don’t connect with the microbes that support our healthy lives. In fact, we do our best to avoid any and all bacteria, to our own ultimate detriment.

In the art room, kids will ask to go to the restroom to wash their hands. I point at the sinks in our room and say “Ok, wash!” The look at the sink and then at me and say, “But there’s no soap.” I point to the soap bars by the sink, and they look bewildered. Can you believe 12 and 13 year olds are not recognizing soap if it is not in a foam or cream formate?

The most common forms of soap are now anti-bacterial, which sounds great– in theory. But the fact is, we need bacteria. Not all bacteria are bad. Bacteria are fundamental for our immune and digestive systems. We are anti-bacterializing our everyday world, we avoid the Earth; we are cleaning ourselves into poor health and possibly death.

Not only are we targeting bacteria, we are also doing it with a questionable substance. Look at the label on your anti-bacterial soap, laundry detergent, deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash,  some common home accessories (plastic dish mats and utensils), towels, and even clothing .  See if you can find a listed ingredient: TRICLOSAN.

Triclosan is a bacterial inhibitor  used since the 70’s. It really works great fighting staph infections. But when exposed to chlorinated water, triclosan converts to chloroform and dioxins.  Chloroform is a carcinogen and dioxins are documented endocrine disruptors. Triclosan is also impacts thyroid hormone concentrations. Triclosan is found in our water supplies.  It kills fish and disrupts hormones in the bullfrog .  It has been found in the urine of 75% of the population, and in 3 out of 5 samples of human milk.

The FDA, aware of triclosan related concerns for almost 40 years, has evaluated triclosan since 2008, and in April 2010, released a recommendation of continued investigation.

A comprehensive analysis from the University of Michigan School of Public Health indicated that plain soaps are just as effective as consumer-grade antibacterial soaps with triclosan in preventing illness and removing bacteria from the hands.

Alternative cleansing ingredients shown effective include herbs (thyme, oregano), silver and copper ions, and nano-particles.

I say: let’s introduce our children to the fine art of making mud pies.  Let’s put our hands back into the soil,plant our own plants,  and keep our houses clean with Grandma’s organic cleaning methods.

Be happy, be healthy, take the best women vitamins, and be blessed, Kersten

Soil for the Soul

Reconnecting With Earth

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Vitamins for Women: Down for the Count: the 5 Second Rule


I dropped a piece of steak on the kitchen floor the other night. Didn’t mean to, it just sort of slipped right off the plate.

Being a pragmatist who has lived on a Dakota farm, raised commercial Polypay sheep and Arabian horses, camped in the wilderness, cooked on a wood stove, tanned my own buckskin, as well as having visited the interior of Mexico and eaten dog with indigenous peoples, I picked it up, rinsed it off, and proceeded to grill it (medium please, no pink for me).

Polypay Ewes

My 24-year-old daughter was aghast.  She paled, backed away, shook her head, and made sure her steak was on the opposite side of the grill.  “Gross, Mom, how can you?” was her response.  Notice that she did not offer me her steak…

I think we live in a world that is obsessed with diseases and germs and the avoidance of casual physical contact.   Can’t touch or hug students in school any more, never talk to strangers, please don’t kiss the baby….everywhere you look are anti-bacterial soaps and wipes that kill bacteria indiscriminately, the good along with the bad and the ugly.  Not that cleanliness isn’t good…and please do wash your hands with soap, but…

God forbid that our kids get dirty.  Can you remember the last time you saw a muddy child?  We don’t put our hands in the soil; we pay to have our petunias planted and our lawns mown.  We spurn and avoid the microbes and bacteria we need to survive…..that should live in harmonic co-existence.

Anyway, I digress, so let’s get back to the dropped steak…..

I looked online for references to spilled food, and found a great article written in 2007 about the 5 Second Rule.  A couple of students from the University of Connecticut experimented with dropped foods, and came up with a flow chart to help you decide if you should or shouldn’t eat dropped foodstuffs.  Interestingly enough they expanded the 5 Second Rule, and determined it could be more properly called the 30 Second Rule.

You can study the image of their flow chart for yourself and feel free to use if you ever find yourself faced with the choice, “Do I eat this or not?”

Flow Chart 5 Second Rule: I

Now, according to the National Center for Disease Control, food borne illnesses are not serious for most of the 76 million Americans who contract them every year. Although 300,000 of those 76M  are hospitalized and of those, 5,000 do die, the CDC points out that most of the deaths are the very young, people with compromised immune systems, and the elderly.

Foodstuffs dropped on dry floors are the best bets for safe eating if they are first  rinsed/washed and then thoroughly cooked.

Don’t mess around with food dropped on moist or sticky floors, or areas of public traffic.

Oh, and by the way, my steak was delicious, and no…I have not suffered any illness from it.

Be safe, take your women vitamins,  and be blessed, Kersten

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Women Vitamins: Consider the Pesticides:12 Fruits and Veggies Good to Go!


While researching on the topic of the 12 fruits and vegetables that rank highest with residue, I conversely came across the 12 foods with least pesticide residue.
  • onions
  • avocado
  • sweet corn
  • pineapple
  • mango
  • asparagus
  • sweet peas
  • kiwi
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • papaya
  • watermelon
Now if you are like me, you believe that buying and eating organic fruits and vegetables could be your answer to lessening the contamination in your food.  And to a point you may be correct.  Ask the guy at the farmers’ market, talk to the produce manager…but know this:  Organic Farming does NOT equal pure, pesticide and insecticide free produce....
James E. McWilliams wrote a book called: Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly.  In Just Food , McWilliams focuses on 5 points:
  1. global food production is more fuel-efficient and more economically necessary (for developing countries that need export markets) than is local food production/consumption (“locovorism”)
  2. organic farming is no more healthy for people and for the land than is “wisely practiced” conventional agriculture
  3. genetically modified crops, in the right hands, should not be feared and are in fact necessary to feed the tens of  billions of people who will live on this planet by 2050
  4. we must drastically reduce our production and consumption of meat animals and non-farmed fish
  5. we must get rid of “perverse” subsidies that undercut fair trade
Coming from Dakota, I can understand his message.  Commercial farming, at least on small, family owned farms, is usually efficient, economical, and affordable.  Farmers do not want to over fertilize nor do they want to over pesticide.
Many are turning to sustainable practices, and most already are prime examples of living and working in an  environmentally friendly manner.
Like their grandfathers, they till alfalfa fields under, every 3 or 4 years to return nitrogen to the soil.
PLOWING AN ALFALFA FIELD BY TRACTOR.

Image via Wikipedia

They conserve areas and harvest for local wildlife, they are practicing “no-till” planting which cuts down on equipment usage and therefore cuts down on fuel consumption, it also revitalizes the soil with decaying/composting the last harvest’s stubble.  They utilize manure for fertilizing soil, and rotate crops.
Genetically engineered seeds are resistant to many bugs and fungi, therefore eliminating the use of some pesticides and fertilizers.
I disagree with his 4th point, although some of the larger commercial farms practice steroidal and antibiotic regimes that are overly aggressive and can lead to a trickle down effect in the food chain.
The 5th item is not only important to our food but also to our economy.  Our government subsidizes agriculture, both domestic and foreign.  The domestic subsidies are a form of control.  The government rigidly watches what and where and how much a farmer plants.  Many farmers are paid to NOT farm….ironic when there is still global hunger and famine.
More ironic are the unfair subsidies given to foreign farmers (sic: Australian wool and lamb) that actually lowers the American market prices and forces many farmers to abandon family farms.
I raised commercial ewes in Dakota, and one year we got $0.05/pound of raw fleece which did not even pay the shearing costs.  At the same time,  the US government was paying over $0.30/pound for Australian wool.
Needless to say, we didn’t sell our wool that year, nor the next.  We stored it in the barn and waited 3 years for the market to marginally rise.
But that’s a whole ‘nother story as my kids would say.
Keep an open and informed mind about your foods.  Take your vitamins for women and be blessed, Kersten
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Grandma’s 3 Household Friends


This is the season of long nights, short days, and cold temperatures.  We are indoors more.  Doors and windows are opened less, and our exposure to the fumes and residues of cleaning products is intensified.  If you are like me, you want to lessen our family’s exposure to the harsher chemicals odors and reactives.  So let’s look at some user-friendly   CLEANER AND GREENER solutions  that our Grandmas used.

Here are 3 common household cleaning items, none of which are expensive nor toxic.  They are also probably in your home right now.

Grandma's Cleaning Friends

Grandma's Cleaning Friends, Women Vitamins

You can use them to get things clean and fresh, without the worry of chemicals tainting your home:

1. BAKING SODA:

Baking soda is a great odor neutralizer.

  • Place an opened box in the refrigerator to absorb odors.
  • It can be sprinkled in smelly tennis shoes and left over-night to combat odor.
  • Baking soda, mixed in cat litter, helps conquer odor and will not hurt your pet.
  • It can be mixed with water to form a paste, that cleans dishes, pots, pans and cooking surfaces.
  • Baking soda with vinegar also loosens hard to clean, baked on messes.
  • When a stronger abrasive is needed, take the baking soda and add some course salt (kosher salt is perfect) to help clean tough spots.
  • It can be lightly sprinkled on rugs before vacuuming to freshen the carpets’ odor.

2. LEMON:

Fresh lemon supplies oil and an acidic factor.

  • Lemon slices are great disposal cleaners and deodorizers.
  • To freshen counter and cutting block surfaces: combine baking soda with a small amount of natural dish soap, then use a halved lemon to scrub across the surface of the counter. Wipe clean with a cloth or sponge.
  • Lemon  Cleaner: mix 1 cup of very hot water with 1 teaspoon borax, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 2 tablespoons lemon juice…use as a spray cleaner
  • Lemon & Tea Tree Cleaner: 1 cup liquid soap blend, 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 eyedropper of tea tree extract, 6 cups warm water  (Mix the ingredients together and shake well. To use, put in a plastic spray bottle, sprits on, and wipe off.)

3. WHITE DISTILLED VINEGAR:
Cuts through dirt and grease,

  • Dilute vinegar with water and use on countertops, windows and floors
  • Place 1/2 cup in dishwasher to assist with shiney streakless glassware
  • Use as a BLEACH SUBSTITUTE:
    Pour a small amount of white vinegar into your laundry.  It will keep your sheets smelling fresh and clean and as it cuts oils, it is great for people with super sensitive skin. Amount is by discretion, so be careful not to over-pour
  • vinegar and salt remove coffee and tea stains from china and marble
  • vinegar dissolves mineral and iron stains from coffee pots and faucets
  • 1 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 1 cup of vinegar shines brass and copper

Happy cleaning to you!  Be healthy, take your women vitamins, wash your hands, say your prayers (sound like Grandma?) and Be Blessed, Kersten


Norwegian Egg Coffee…and…Childhood Memories


There is something about Christmas time that brings out all the sweet childhood memories of days gone by.  I am 1/2 Norwegian, and I loved my mother’s side of our family.  Scandinavian people are warm, friendly, and hospitable to the point of death….  My mom was an only child….so we got no aunts nor uncles from her…but what she did give us was a flock of  great aunts and great uncles.

They were short and red cheeked…they loved to get together and they laughed loud and long.  They loved to drink their coffee, and they loved to get together and cook and eat and talk.

No one went hungry…ever…there were all kinds of cookies, bars and cakes…it was a child’s paradise.

About a month ago I saw an ad for an upcoming Scandinavian Christmas Festival at a Norwegian Seaman’s Church outside of Houston.  So I circled the date…and set off with Tom-Tom in the navigator’s seat…and found myself surrounded by the sights and sounds I had grown up with.

Memories of dancers and coffee....

Women in bunads, Norwegian music, embroidered tea towels, knitted slippers and hats and gloves, samples of pickled herring, goat cheese, cream cakes, and of course….coffee!

The smell of coffee is totally intertwined in my memories, and when I read reports that olfactory memories are often the strongest memories we have, I can totally concur.

My dad got up every morning and put on the coffee.  My grandmother had coffee on the stove from sunrise to sunset.  Coffee was not just the morning pick-me-up…it was the house beverage of choice.  There was coffee with every meal, coffee with every coffee break…coffee before bedtime….no insomniacs in my family tree.

Coffee was boiled, with a pinch of salt (hard water in the Midwest) and an egg…broken, crushed and stirred…YUP! the whole egg was put in the coffee pot, boilled, let to settle,  and viola!  You have the richest, clearest coffee you can imagine….I don’t know why…it just is the best you have ever tasted.

So when I find out that coffee is good for you, I just have to grin and figure that Grandma Louise and Great Aunt Mabel would be smiling too.

Some cool facts to shore up your unflinching faith in the morning cup of bliss!
* JUST DRINK 2-3 CUPS A DAY and presto! You’re 45% less likely to suffer from gallstones…

* RAISE IT TO 4 CUPS and you dramatically drop your risk of colon cancer (the second deadliest cancer in America)…

* WANT ONLY ONE CUP? Plug in the pot! Because just one cup of coffee packs the antioxidant power of three fresh oranges.

Women Vitamins salutes you with a good cup of coffee!

So raise your cup to our ancestors, who were smarter than we give them credit for…Mange Takk (Many Thanks!) Grandma …..I can see that twinkle in your eye as you sit in my memory, sipping your coffee in the morning sun.


Being the Change


So, we are all trying to be more health conscious….trying to live our lives with purpose and intention, not just drifting through it all as if we have no ownership in this experience called life. And if you are like me, awakening to all the potentials, it is pretty humbling and awesome.

If I can sum it up, it seems as if there are stages of personal evolution at work here:

* we recognize that we need to be cognizant and responsible for ourselves and our actions
* we start to put this awareness into practice
* we try daily to expand our routines to include new behaviors and responses
* we open ourselves up to continuing the process by expecting and welcoming changes

So what  are we doing?  We are exercising, eating more natural foods, we are trying to moderate our stress levels, and we are being more spiritually aware of our place in the Universe.

I have started to substitute fresh fruits and vegetables for canned and frozen.  I have found a local farmers’ market where I do my best to support local organic farmers.  I now buy organic milk even though the price of a half gallon is equal to what I used to spend on a gallon of regular milk plus a pint of 1/2 and 1/2 for my coffee.  I also am buying cage free, brown eggs…and looking for organic beef from a small butcher store.

I have started eating more, smaller meals to accommodate the natural rhythms of my digestive system.  I am careful to feed my body the minerals and vitamins it needs as well.  And I supplement my traditional meals with effective and efficient protein shakes.  It is my belief that the body is a resilient yet sensitive  organism that WANTS to be balanced and healthy and whole….so I am trying my best to listen to it more closely, and I am surprised by how much it really tells me.

blackeyed susans, backyard, women vitamins

Black-eyed susans abound

I garden more and I relish the feel of soil in my hands.  I am also generously rewarded by the blooms that nature then provides. Planting is the ultimate act of faith, just ask any farmer….

I walk and bike around the neighborhood.  After having spent years on a Dakota farm, I miss the closeness with nature that used to be right out the farmhouse door….so I have discovered parks and nature preserves like Armand Bayou and Clear Creek Nature Center which allow a momentary escape from the urban scene.

I am meditating more, watching cable less.  I turn on my cd’s and Pandora more, and the commercial radio less.  I try not be compulsed by the news, and instead spend time sending positive thoughts of love and acceptance and kindness out into my life’s sphere and into the world.  I see many of my friends changing too… and some of my friends tease and laugh at me, but I know that we can be the change we want to see. Be blessed.