Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Food --> Health

Three months ago I changed my diet and my life. (Yes, I'm going to talk about food again...!)

At the meetings we went to in Guatemala in April, I had bronchitis, I was exhausted, I was miserable, and as part of a reflective exercise I said something about how I wanted to change our family's diet because I thought we wouldn't get sick so much. We'd all had intermittent colds from when we moved to Bogota in November, and pretty much constant colds from February on (when the kids started school), culminating in my case of bronchitis. 

In May, I had my blood pressure crisis, was told very sternly to cut out all salt (when I asked how to do that the doctor said "eat fruits, vegetables, and steamed white meat like chicken and fish") and I actually did. I had been wanting to incorporate fruit and veg smoothies into my diet for a long time - and this was the push (well, the shove, really) I needed. And I have not been sick one day in the last three months

Well, caveat: I did catch a cold while we were in Albania - precisely when I went off this diet. Even though I loaded up on fresh fruits, I also went back to eating all the no-nos - and boy did that food taste AMAZING - sausage, cheese, pizza, olive bread - and boy did I feel like crap. 

I'm so happy and thankful to have been able to change my diet, my life, my health like this. I'm so happy that Terry is doing the diet (more or less) with me. I figure that around 70% of what I eat is raw fresh fruits and vegetables, and unsalted nuts. The other 30% is unsalted rice, beans, stir-fry, chicken breast, eggs. (If it were all free-range and organic then I think I would probably turn into a unicorn or something mythical and magical like that.) I feel so good that I don't even miss cheese. I know I'd never be able to do it if I didn't have doctor's orders and Terry's support. 

I'd love to make dramatic changes in the kids' eating habits as well. It's such a battleground though. Gabriel will sip at my smoothies sometimes, and Valerie is opening up to more new flavors. Recently Luz was inspired to create a play kitchen for the kids in one corner of our apartment so that she can through play get them to try tasting more vegetables. So I'm hopeful. They have constant coughs and runny noses here and I think a better diet would help with that too.

(fruit stand in Tirana)

Here is my basic smoothie recipe for those who are interested:
- a handful of almonds
- a chunk of fresh ginger root, diced
- something sweet (strawberries, apples, bananas, mango, papaya)
- something tart (plum, kiwi, green apple)
- something crunchy (apple, pear, cucumber)
- something smooth (avocado, banana, papaya - usually 2 of the 3)
- something surprising (winter squash, raw beet, spinach)
- yoghurt or milk

There are endless variations you can do - I've learned that if you add spinach, a dollop of honey is good; if you add cucumber, it adds a lot of water and you can add less yoghurt/milk. Mixing colors results in something muddy-brown and visually unappealing but can still taste amazing. I never, ever skip the ginger because I love it so much - but one time I did use too much and it was very strong! I've learned to always peel the cucumber, and to use only a small slice of beet (too much and it tastes weird). There are so many other things you could add - Anita like watermelon and basil; I've heard pineapple and celery leaves make a nice combination! It comes out different every time and so good. I often have a boiled egg along with the smoothie for protein so I don't get hungry too soon. 

Happy eating!

Monday, August 05, 2013


So what can I say about our trip to Albania? It was good to go back. It was healing to realize in all our senses that it's still there, we can go back, that it wasn't a forever goodbye. It was healing to have a better goodbye with Shpresa than the first one which was pretty traumatic for both of us. It was wonderful and meaningful to celebrate Gabriel's third and Shpresa's nth birthdays together the day we arrived.

It was HOT.

So hot.

It was strange to go past our old neighborhood, but not down our street, not past our old pallati, the grocery store, the secondhand shop, the bakery. Valerie wasn't sure she wanted to, and it was just so hot.

The best days were doing simple, familiar things - going to Dajti on the cable car, visiting "twisty slide park," going to the pool, walking down "rainbow walk" to the cafe/playground we used to go to almost every weekend, visiting a friend in her home.

It got really, really old staying in a hotel and not having access to a kitchen, even though the woman in charge of the guesthouse loaned us a kerosene burner to use in the room (I didn't). It got old not having a bathtub. I remembered other things too, other reasons why I felt so ready to leave a year ago. Our life as a family was so separate from Terry's work life.

It was amazing to hear the kids slip back into using Shqip, singing songs that we'd learned before, but they were (and still are) singing them much more articulately than ever before. Somehow the words that they couldn't pronounce a year ago had stayed lodged in their heads!

We didn't do everything I wanted to - we didn't see everyone we wanted to see, but we reconnected with the people that meant the most to us, and a lot of the places. It's strange to fall so in love with a country you never imagined visiting, much less living in. The language, the landscape, the people, for no really good reason. I have a feeling we'll be back again.