let’s visit the Miracle Garden in Dubai…

Can’t afford it?

Too freaked out to go that far?

Ok, then let’s take a peek at what this Miracle Garden is all about.  Opening in February of 2013, this piece of paradise boasts beautiful vertical and horizontal landscaping designs.  And….get this…..has over 45 million flowers!

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So…how does your garden grow?  What a gorgeous display!  But before you let your kids run all nilly-willy, there are a few guidlines:

1.  Please keep area clean

2.  Children are the responsibility of accompanied adults

3.  Ball playing, cycling and barbecues are not allowed

4.  Pets are not allowed

5.  Management will not be responsible for personal accidents

6.  Sitting is allowed only in designated areas

7.  Flower picking is not allowed

8.  Any damages arising due to negligence or non-compliance with the mentioned instructions, shall be sole responsibility of the visitor and their companions

9.  Please use proper passages, walkways and exits allocated for such use.

THERE!  Easy peasy!  And did you know the Miracle Garden has the record in Guinness Book of Records for having the longest flower wall which will give new landmark for Miracle Garden and City of Dubai, believed to be leader in diverse and cultural tourist attraction?  

Well, now you do!! Enjoy!  Check out www.dubaimiraclegarden.com for more info

‘fast food’ for kids with autism…

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Autism is described as a developmental disorder that has a collection of symptoms in three major areas such as, social interaction, language and behavior.  But not every child is exactly alike with some showing signs in infancy and others in the first few years of life.

The Mayo Clinic has given some more specific symptoms:

SOCIAL SKILLS

    • Fails to respond to his or her name
    • Has poor eye contact
    • Appears not to hear you at times
    • Resists cuddling and holding
    • Appears unaware of others’ feelings
    • Seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her own world
    • Doesn’t ask for help or request things

LANGUAGE

    • Doesn’t speak or has delayed speech
    • Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences
    • Doesn’t make eye contact when making requests
    • Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
    • Can’t start a conversation or keep one going
    • May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn’t understand how to use them
    • Doesn’t appear to understand simple questions or direction

BEHAVIOR

    • Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping
    • Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
    • Moves constantly
    • May be fascinated by details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car, but doesn’t understand the “big picture” of the subject
    • May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch, and yet oblivious to pain
    • Does not engage in imitative or make-believe play
    • May have odd food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or craving items that are not food, such as chalk or dirt
    • May perform activities that could cause self-harm, such as headbanging

Since there is no one cause of autism, and no single treatment, making some changes in the diet might help with a few behavioral or developmental challenges!  Try to remove gluten, milk products, sugars, soy and artificial flavorings and coloring from his or her diet.  Remember that protein, fiber and good fats are needed to stabilize blood sugars .. which is critical in autistic children.

SO WHAT DO WE DO?

First of all, STAY AWAY FROM SODAS!  Instead try giving your child water or diluted juices, vegetable juices or seltzer water.

PASS THE PROTEIN, PLEASE!  Try chicken, turkey, meat, eggs, beans, or seeds.

REMEMBER SOME FIBER!  How about some high fiber options such as fruits, beans nuts or seeds.

ALWAYS CHOOSE ORGANIC!  If it’s USDA Organic, then it has been produced without the use of harmful pesticides, artificial fertilizers, growth hormones or antibiotics and other nasty’s that shouldn’t be in our food anyway.

SOME IDEAS TO PACK IN YOUR CHILD’S LUNCHBOX!

  • carrot sticks and hummus
  • fresh fruit or fruit salad
  • hard boiled eggs
  • gluten-free crackers with nut butter
  • rice cakes and tuna or chicken salad
  • gluten-free spaghetti noodles and meatballs
  • chicken drumettes or wings with boiled potatoes
  • apple slices with nut or seed butter

Avoid plastic wraps for sandwiches and opt for wax paper or parchment paper.  Let your child help you pick out their lunch container and remember to keep it fun.  Use a cookie cutter for unique shapes for sandwiches!  Make it interesting and remove all the stress out of lunch or dinner time.  Most schools give the kids 20-30 minutes for lunch so pack what is healthy yet in small bites and focus on healthier options.

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cha cha cha cherries!

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Oh yummy, yummy cherries!  It’s the sign of summer!!!

Yes, they are delicious but did you know can knock the socks off gout and also help in alleviating arthritis?

IT’S TRUE!

Just one cup of sweet or sour cherries contains about 130 calories and are a source of beta carotene, vitamin C and potassium.  There has even been research that has found the quercetin in cherries is linked to a reduced risk of coronary artery disease.  And they taste great!!

Here is some great news for those suffering with pain and swelling:

“In research published in 2004 at Johns Hopkins University, rats were injected  with either a solution containing tart cherries or a prescription non-steroidal  anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and exposed to either a heated surface or an  inflammatory agent. The tart cherries significantly reduced pain sensitivity and  at the highest dosage were as effective as the drug. The authors conclude that  tart cherries may have a beneficial role in inflammatory pain. In a 2001 study  at Michigan State University, the anthocyanins in cherries were found to be  equivalent to two common over-the-counter painkillers(also NSAIDs) for  inhibiting the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes associated with inflammation.” (source)
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Remember when buying cherries, look for plump, firm fruit with green stems.  Both sweet and sour cherries will spoil quickly.  Find them at your local farmers market since imported cherries aren’t as flavorful.   Unwashed fruit should keep in your refrigerator for up to a week.  Be sure to wash right before eating, since water can cause the cherry to split and soften.

YUMMY CHERRY TART

  • 9 graham crackers (each 2 1/2 by 5 inches)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound fresh sweet cherries, such as Bing, pitted and halved
  • 1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers and 2 tablespoons sugar until finely ground. Add butter, and process until combined. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using the base of a dry measuring cup, firmly press mixture into bottom and up sides of pan. Bake until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add cream, and beat until soft peaks form; spread mixture in cooled crust. Scatter cherries on top.

In a small saucepan, combine jam and 1 teaspoon water; heat over low until liquefied, about 2 minutes. Using a pastry brush, dab cherries with glaze. Refrigerate tart at least 30 minutes or, covered, up to 1 day.  (from Everyday Food, June 2007)

Papa and the tomato garden…

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An old gentleman lived  alone in New  Jersey .  He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as  the ground was hard.  His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in  prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his  predicament:

Dear Vincent,

I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year.  I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot.  I know if you were here, my troubles would be over.  I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me like in the old days.

Love, Papa

A few days later he  received a letter from his son.

Dear Papa,

Don’t dig up that garden.  That’s where the bodies are buried.

Love, Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next  morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without  finding any bodies.

They apologized to the  old man and left.. That same day the old man received another letter from his  son.

Dear Papa,

Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now.  That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love you, Vinnie

tips, tips and more tips!

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I freaking LOVE those tips that make me wonder if I lived under a rock all these years!

These were gathered from some old  Farmers Almanac publications.  Let’s jump in….

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  • Before peeling an orange or juicing a lemon or lime, grate the peel (zest) into a small container and freeze for later use
  • Stale bread?  Cut into 1 inch cubes to make croutons.  Toss with seasonings and oil and bake in a 325 degree oven until crisp
  • OR use Chex cereal instead of croutons on salads
  • Add a pinch of baking powder when mashing potatoes to make them fluffier.
  • Mix in broken chips in the bottom of a nearly empty potato chip bag with bread crumbs to coat chicken and fish
  • Substitute club soda for milk in pancakes to make them lighter and fluffier
  • When slow cooking pinto beans, add a carrot.  When the beans are half cooked, rinse the beans and discard the carrot.  Add more water and a new carrot.  Finish cooking
  • Keep a slice of white bread in the cookie jar to keep cookies moist
  • Add a pinch of cinnamon to chocolate chip cookie batter
  • Add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the water when boiling pasta
  • Add a dash of cinnamon to chili to help to smooth out the flavors and round out the heat
  • Add shredded carrots to spaghetti sauce to cut acidity
  • If soup or stew is too salty, add one cut up potato
  • Place hot hard boiled eggs into ice cold water or add 1 Tbs.vinegar to the boiling water and the shells will come off easily

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  • Wrap celery in aluminum foil and place in refrigerator to increase from spoiling quickly.
  • Dip the cut end of banana in sugar to prevent browning
  • Store yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream containers upside down in the fridge
  • OR add a pinch of ginger when cooking pinto beans
  • Freeze leftover coffee in ice cube trays for use later in cold ‘iced’ coffees
  • Put a wet paper towel into a sealed plastic bag with lettuce to keep it from turning brown

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  • Gather old ‘net’ onion bags together with a rubber band and use as a scrubby when washing dishes
  • To removed baked on food from a frying pan, put a dryer sheet and warm water into the an.  Soak overnight and then wash the pan
  • Spray a dirty cast iron pan generously with oven cleaner and put into a plastic bag large enough to completely contain it.  Close the bag securely and set it aside for 24 hours.  Remove the pan, discard the bag and thoroughly wash and re-season the pan
  • Spray a spoon or measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray before measuring honey or molasses
  • Use a baggie on your hand when greasing baking pans

Umeboshi plums…..time to prune..

LivingWell_UmeBashaPlum Ok, I know plums……but Umeboshi plums?  Had to do a little digging to find out about this superfood!

Umeboshi plums are a Japanese fruit, and are part of the apricot family.  They have a bizarre growth process as the fruit needs to ferment for a month in sea salt brine before it is edible. And as you expected, it has a taste that is salty, fruity and tangy! Think pickled plums…. and people say they are crazy good!

During the Middle Ages,  the pickled plum was the soldier’s most important field ration. It was used to flavor foods such as rice and vegetables, and its high acidity made it an excellent water and food purifier, as well as an effective antidote for battle fatigue.

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Supposedly a superb hangover cure, the umeboshi plum is still used for a variety of medical purposes such as counteracting nausea, reducing fevers, and controlling coughs.

Some say you can schmear the plum on toast, however it just might be a bit too….tangy.  Try it in salads first, pureeing small batches which will replace your vinegar and salt.

Orange Ume Dressing

Makes 1 cup

This is a refreshing summer dressing for tossed salads and noodle salads.

3 level tablespoons toasted sesame seeds or 3 tablespoons tahini

2 teaspoons umeboshi paste or minced umeboshi                      

2 tablespoons light sesame or olive oil                      

1 tablespoon lemon juice                      

Juice of 1 – 1 1/2 oranges (to taste)                      

1 teaspoon minced green onion or chives (optional)

Toast sesame seeds (if using) in a dry skillet over medium heat for 1 – 2 minutes, stirring constantly. When seeds are fragrant and begin to pop, remove from pan to prevent them from overcooking and becoming bitter. Blend first 5 ingredients in a blender until smooth. Mix in scallions or chives (if desired), and chill for 30 minutes before using. (via)

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if you don’t like these pumpkin recipes, you’re out of your gourd…..

Creamy Pumpkin Rice Pudding  (Find the recipe at Better Homes and Gardens or click HERE)

Yummy Pumpkin Spice Granola  (Find the recipe at Disney Family or click HERE)

Fresh Pumpkin Ravioli (Find the recipe at Love and Olive Oil or click HERE)

Pumpkin Pancakes with Cinnamon Syrup (Find the recipe at Tastes Better from Scratch or click HERE)

Pumpkin Maple Macaroni and Cheese  (Find the recipe at The Fig Tree or click HERE)

THESE ARE ALL SUCH GREAT RECIPES, I WANTED YOU TO SEE THESE WEBSITES FOR YOURSELF!  ENJOY!!

some buzz worthy recipes with honey…

Step off, sugar!!  Honey is the new sweet thing on the block!

Honey can be used instead of sugar or sweetner to sweeten any drink or baked good.  Bear in mind that the type of honey you use will add it’s own subtle flavor.  Think dark honey instead of white sugar, just like choosing dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.  Besides, the darker the honey, the more antioxidants and the stronger the flavor which is the bees knees, for sure.

Remember these tips  before going all crazy in the kitchen:

  • Substitute honey for up to half the sugar
  • Reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used
  • Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning
  • One 12 oz jar of honey equals a standard 8 ounce measuring cup

Here are a couple of drinks and smoothies that will keep you buzzing all morning!

Honey Strawberry Smoothie (4 servings)

1 pint Vanilla frozen yogurt

2 cups strawberries

8 oz skim milk

2 Tblsp honey

Combine all ingredients in blender.  Add more honey to taste.

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Banana Smoothie (4 servings)

1 pint skim milk

2 ripe bananas

2 small containers plain yogurt

2 Tblsp honey

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

Ice

Blend all of ingredients except ice.  Taste for adjustments and add ice cubes one at a time until smooth and desired thickness.

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Mexican Coffee (makes 4 cups)

4 cups hot espresso style coffee

7 oz milk

4 oz honey

2 Tblsp cocoa powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Whipped cream and chocolate shavings (optional)

Combine the cocoa powder and cinnamon with a little milk and honey to form a paste.  Add the coffee and milk, stir to combine.  Pour into mugs and garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Yummy dressings and marinades

Mint and honey dressing

3 Tblsp olive oil

4 Tblsp apple cider vinegar

2 Tblsp honey

1 Tblsp chopped, fresh mint

Place all ingredients in a pint sized mason jar, or other jar with screw-top lid.  Shake together until blended.  Great with a watercress or arugula salad.

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Sweet and sour salad dressing

2 oz. honey

2 1/2 Tblsp rice wine vinegar

8 Tblsp olive oil

1 Tblsp minced onion

1/4 tsp garlic salt

Salt and Pepper

In blender, combine all ingredients except olive oil.  Blend until smooth.  Pour in the olive oil in a slow, stead stream and mix until smooth.

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Orange Honey Marinade 

6 Tblsp honey

6 Tblsp soy sauce

10 oz orange juice

3 Tblsp water

5 oz dry white wine

1 tsp mustard

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp allspice

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1/4 tsp tabasco sauce (optional)

Combine all ingredients and let stand for about 20 minutes for flavors to develop.  Use as a fabulous marinade for pork or chicken!

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Honey-Caramelized figs with yogurt (via)

1 Tblsp honey, plus more for drizzling

8 oz fresh figs, halved

2 cups plain low fat Greek yogurt

pinch ground cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Heat honey in medium skillet over medium heat.  Cook figs, cut sides down until caramelized, about 5 minutes.  Serve over yogurt with cinnamon and pistachios.  Drizzle fo shizzle, more honey.

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FYI…there are about 3,000 types of honey around the globe.  So if you are dirt poor and can’t make that trip to some village on the other side of the world, how about just trying a honey from that region?  See?  I just saved you money and the hassle of an international airport.

Another piece of information regarding honey…..get this……If honey is stored in sealed containers it can remain stable for decades….even centuries!!!  But for all practical purposes, a shelf life of two years is often stated on the container.

Has your honey crystallized in the jar?  No problemo…just place the jar (minus lid) in a saucepan with warm water over low heat and stir until the crystals dissolve.

You can find more cool info HERE and HERE!!

kooky cucumbers…

Aaahhh….who doesn’t love the crisp cucumber?  Ok, maybe you are out there somewhere, but there are some interesting benefits of this delish vegetable fruit!  (scientifically it’s a fruit, but it really doesn’t matter now, does it?  Can’t we all just get along?)

Here are a few benefits! (via)

1.Quick pick me-up – Cucumbers are a good source of B vitamins. Put down your sodas and coffee and eat a cucumber slice.

2. Rehydrates body and replenishes daily vitamins – Cucumbers are 95 percent water, keeping the body hydrated while helping the body eliminate toxins. Cucumbers have most of the vitamins the body needs in a single day. Don’t forget to leave the skin on because the skin contains a good amount of vitamin C, about 10 percent of the daily-recommended allowance.

3. Skin and hair care – If you don’t like to eat the skin, it can be used for skin irritations and sunburns just like aloe would be used. Place a slice over puffy eyes and its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce puffiness. The silicon and sulfur in cucumbers help to stimulate hair growth.  Though don’t expect a wig overnight…

4. Fight cancers – Cucumbers are known to contain lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol.  (Aren’t those big words?) These three lignans have a strong history of research in connection with reduced risk of several cancer types, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and prostate cancer.

5. Home care – Eliminates a foggy mirror. Before taking a shower, rub a cucumber slice along a mirror and it will eliminate the mirror fogging up.  Instead of WD40, take a cucumber slice and rub it along a squeaky hinge and your door will stop squeaking.

6. Relieves bad breath – Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds, the phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

7. Hangover cure – To avoid a morning hangover or headache; eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish many essential nutrients, reducing the intensity of both hangover and headache…or just don’t drink too much the night before and have them in a salad.

8. Aids in weight loss and digestion – Due to its low calorie and high water content, cucumber is an ideal diet for people who are looking for weight loss. The high water content and dietary fiber in cucumbers are very effective in ridding the body of toxins from the digestive system, aiding digestion. Daily consumption of cucumbers can be regarded as a remedy for chronic constipation.

9. Cures diabetes, reduces cholesterol and controls blood pressure – Cucumber juice contains a hormone which is needed by the cells of the pancreas for producing insulin which has been found to be beneficial to diabetic patients. Researchers found that a compound called sterols in cucumbers may help reduce cholesterol levels. Cucumbers contain a lot of potassium, magnesium and fiber. These work effectively for regulating blood pressure. This makes cucumbers good for treating both low blood pressure and high blood pressure.

10. Promotes joint health, relieves gout and arthritis pain –Cucumber is an excellent source of silica, which is known to help promotes joint health by strengthening the connective tissues. They are also rich in vitamin A, B1, B6, C & D, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium. When mixed with carrot juice, they can relieve gout and arthritis pain by lowering the uric acid levels

When buying cucumbers, choose the ones that are firm to touch and dark green in color. Do not buy overly matured or yellow colored as they are prone to contain more insoluble fiber and mature seeds. Go for organically grown cucumbers to get a rich taste and nutritients content.

How about a facial cleanser that is great for delicate or sensitive skin?  (adapted from Natural Beauty for All Seasons)

 Refreshing Cucumber and Chamomile Cleanser

2 Tbls. fresh cucumber juice (see note below)

1 cup chamomile tea

1 Tbls. glycerine

1 Tbls. aloe vera gel

Brew a strong cup of chamomile tea using distilled water.  Let cool.  Once cool, mix together the cucumber juice, chamomile tea, glycerin and aloe vera gel.

TO USE:  Saturate clean cotton ball with the cleanser and smooth over your skin.  Repeat if necessary.  You may rinse with cool water and use a light moisturizer.  Store in the fridge because the cucumber juice will spoil easily.

NOTE:  To make fresh cucumber juice, puree a fresh cucumber in a blender or food processor and strain the green juice.

See??  They’re not just for salads anymore!!