Looking in the Mirror

I woke up on this birthday morning I took inventory of my progress during this whole process. Diet, Check, Fitness, Check. Hair, yep nothing there. Moving on… Skin? What is going on with my skin? I know I’m Fifty Two but, Wow! looking a little rough around the edges.I noticed when I went on my vegetable dominated diet my skin is softer and more supple. OK guys don’t give me any grief about this. skin is the largest organ in the body and is a really good indicator into what is going on with your body. A lot of us, especially those who grew up in the sixties and seventies, Spent our summers out in the sun. Sunblock didn’t exist and we wouldn’t have worn it anyway. If you were like me you did a far amount of smoking and drinking, and maybe other things,when you were younger. And drinking water to stay hydrated was for camels. All that being said we probably did some serious damage to our skin and your skin is, shall we say, the window to your health.

Our skin is a big part of our appearance and the good news is we can do something about it. Over the next few weeks I will be delving into the world of male skin care, Some of the things I will be dealing with are exfoliating (removing dead skin cells), Moisturizing (using a skin moisturizing products to keep the skin on my face smooth and supple and trying to repair some of the damage I have done to it in the past. The good news is most of the damage we have done can be reversed. This isn’t about looking younger, this is about taking care of what you’ve got so that it will last longer and in good condition. Think of it as putting a good wax job on your car to prevent it from being damaged by the elements.

On a more serious note your skin can be an indicator of some serious health issues ranging from diabetes to cancer. Deep and numerous wrinkles around the face and neck can be an indicator of low bone density. Velvety brown-grayish patches are an indicator for diabetes.Dull dry skin is an indicator that your body is ;ow in Omega-3 fatty acids. These Omega-# fatty acids are important they regulate brain function, and lower the risk of heart disease, arthritis and and cancer.Low Omega-3 can also cause dandruff. Persistent itchiness that feels like something is under the skin in conjunction with rapid weight loss, shortness of breath, and loss of energy is a strong indicator of cancer. Discoloration and swelling in your lower limbs could be a venous insufficiency.  There are numerous other diseases that manifest in the skin, too many to list here. But if you would like an honest assessment seek out a dermatologist. The Dermatologist will let you know if there are any serious problems and can make recommendations on treatment.

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It is important to note that the best thing you can do for your skin is diet. Diet affects all of the organs that aid in the production of new skin cells and blood flow. These organs if fed and nourished properly will begin the healing process in your skin almost immediately. A proper diet will give your skin the nutrients it needs to repair.  Look for foods high in vitamin A, dietalso foods high in antioxidants such as berries and plums, Omega-3 oils from Salmon,walnuts, flax seeds. Oils are important, look for oils that are cold pressed, or virgin as these contain the highest amount of essential nutrients your skin needs. If you have been paying attention or read some of my other blogs you will see that this is also the diet recommended for weight loss, Heart health, Arthritis, Diabetes…. It’s all connected.

Next you need to start a regular regimen of skin care that includes washing exfoliating and moisturizing. Remember this isn’t about extending life. I am attempting to improve the quality of life in my seventies and eighties. I’m betting on the long game, but why not enjoy the here and now while doing it.

 

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The Baking Gene

It seems every year I have this unsettling urge to bake around the holidays. I don’t know when this started, I don’t know where it comes from, But it begins when the temperatures start to drop here in central California around the first of December. I will bake on an almost daily basis right up until the week before Christmas then it just stops. My family has gotten to expect this bounty of sugary delights every year and begins stock piling flour, butter, sugar (brown and white) and of course eggs. There will be a stock pile of other things like nuts and fresh fruits also but not for healthy reasons.

I don’t make the same things every year, and I don’t take requests, although they try, because this is a compulsion. I never know which direction my whimsy will take me, so I never know what I will be baking from one day to the next. I usually start slow, Banana breads and assorted cookie dough.  and work my way into candies petite fores and pies. by the end of the three week binge of sugar and flour confections drizzled in chocolate and caramel and butterscotch. I don’t want to see a cake or pie for months. I think the trigger is Thanks Giving, I always start baking a few pies for the holiday and about a week later I have worked my way into a baking frenzy.

Now I have to inform my dear drooling readers that I have trained and worked as a pastry chef. I’m not talking about the person that decorates your birthday cake at the grocery store, I’m talking professionally trained Pastry Chef. Years ago I worked in a Michelin starred restaurant as the pastry chef and even got mentioned in an article in Gourmet Magazine. But, I left that life a long time ago and now find myself with a compulsion that pops up once a year. (like a really sweet smelling Aunt that shows up to visit for the holidays). So I have come to the realization that it happens and started thinking, “Hey maybe I’m not the only one”. If this is true and there are others out there then I am here to help.

First lets talk about setting yourself up so you can fulfill your addiction to baking without giving up hours of your life standing in a kitchen. “Mis En Place” is everything! Some of you are saying whats Mis En Place? well Mis En Place is the ingredients you will need to make your master piece. We, however, are going to take it a step further. For most cooks and chefs,

Mis en Place looks something like this.images (11)

But I am going a little further because there are certain things you can make ahead of time and all you have to do is bake them off or assemble the finished ingredients.

Cookies are a perfect example most of the time spent making cookies is in the baking, what I am suggesting is make your dough ahead of time, wrap it in plastic in a long two inch round tube and refrigerate until needed. By doing this when the urge to bake hits you just have to cut the cookies to the required size and bake off a batch. Easy Peesy! so instead of all the cleanup of baking from the beginning you just have to clean one pan. This will cut your kitchen time in half and you can make an assortment of different doughs so that when the need strikes your in and out in twenty minutes.

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The same can be done with sponge cake. With a little preparation you can bake off several sponges at once the freeze them until needed. some of you are asking what the  hell am I going to do with a frozen sponge? well sponge cake can be very versatile and you would be surprised at all the different and creative uses for sponge cake.

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You can roll it with fruit our cream filling.

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You can make one of my favorite delicate petite fors. You can also make cakes. One of my favorite is a Chantilly Cream and fruit compote filled naked cake.

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With the proper time spent setting up your Mis En Place you can be a rock star in the kitchen. Once you have the basics down try something a little harder. Remember though baking is not cooking, baking is chemistry with a delicious outcome. Weights and Measures are in the recipe for a reason, these are not suggestions, these are chemical equations. Do not deviate from the recipe or you will pay the price. Soundtrack: “Evil Maniacal Laugh” Just remember this is about creating not killing yourself to make others happy. Pastry is art!

Outdoor Health

Some of you out there like to go to the gym for your workout. Me , I like to exercise outdoors when I can. I am lucky enough to live in a place that has the perfect set up for keeping fit. We have great weather and all the hills you would ever want to climb.  We have beaches and dog parks and plenty of other places to go. Id bet most of us have things we can do around town that would facilitate a top level work out with just a little imagination and drive. I’d like to share some of the fun things I have come up with and I would like to hear from some of you out there. Sharing information and ideas is the only way we can help each other through this time in our lives.

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This is Morro Bay Beach. Three miles of flat hard sand at low tide and soft sand above the high water mark. From one end to the other and back is about the same as a 10 K If you only go half way and back, its a good twenty minute run. If I do the short run I like to do wind sprints in the soft sand dunes that lines the beach.camp-keep-273

Nothing will get your heart rate up faster than wind sprints on a sand dune. If a stair master is your thing, I have some thing for you. here you have a few options.Cerro Cabrillo Morro Bay

this is the view of black mountain, literally in my front yard. It’s about a 35% grade straight up and the climb usually takes 20 minutes from my front door to the top. For these hikes I like to pack a snack because the sandwiches taste better with a view like this.

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I know some of you like rowing machines and I think its a great work out but I think my version is a lot more fun.

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And we have a great cheering section that bring their own snacks.sea-otters

And every once in a while one of the big neighbors stops by to say Hi! and show off a little.

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Now some of you are saying, “We don’t have anything like that in my town ” well of course you don’t, other wise you would be living in my town and then we would have traffic.  That’s not the point, look around you can find plenty of ways to get out and make a fool of yourselves. Its just as important to get out and act like an old fool as it is to exercise. Not only is it hard on your ego it will bring you joy and a little humility is good for the soul. I cant forget the looks I got from people on our street as the time I got out on my son’s skate board and did a few runs on the ramp I built in the driveway. I told my wife I had to test it. She just shook her head and walked away. I don’t believe there is nothing around you that wouldn’t facilitate some of this .

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There is always something somewhere like these stairs people use along the beaches of southern California. get creative. I have a heavy bag hanging in the garage that is my stress reliever. Nothing feel better tan being able to kick the crap out of that bag for 15 minutes after a tough day at work and relieving stress is as important as the exercise. In fact exercise should help relieve stress. that’s why I like to exercise outside. I find that being in nature helps with stress relief better than any drug.

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It really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something on a regular basis. I like martial arts to keep my balance and flexibility, but yoga

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Wushu Taichi Center - Liu Yu presents:Saturday in Meadow Park
Wushu Taichi Center – Liu Yu presents:Saturday in Meadow Park

Tai Chi, anything will work but I recommend that you try to do a little of everything , mix it up and find what you like. If you read my earlier blogs you will see that I recommend not joining a gym and saving your money for other things. well these are some of those other things. Sure they offer yoga at the gym. But you get a more diverse group of  people outside the gym that usually have a different view of health and fitness. Gyms can be so homogeneous and you end up with someone else’s  vision of health not your own remember this is about finding a way that works for you.