Milk, Cheese, and Dairy Products

November 20th, 2009

Milk, Cheese, and Dairy Products

Myths About Raw Milk

Pasteurization is a process that kills harmful bacteria by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time. Some people continue to believe that pasteurization harms milk and that raw milk is a safe healthier alternative.

Raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms, such as salmonella, e. coli, and listeria, that can pose serious health risks to you and your family.

Here are some common myths and proven facts about milk and pasteurization:

  • Raw milk DOES NOT kill dangerous pathogens by itself.
  • Pasteurizing milk DOES NOT cause lactose intolerance and allergic reactions. Both raw milk and pasteurized milk can cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to milk proteins.
  • Pasteurization DOES NOT reduce milk’s nutritional value.
  • Pasteurization DOES NOT mean that it is safe to leave milk out of the refrigerator for extended time,particularly after it has been opened.
  • Pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria.
  • Pasteurization DOES save lives.

Tips for Fresh Produce Safety

November 20th, 2009

Buying Tips

Purchase fruit and vegetables that are  not bruised or damaged.

When selecting fresh-cut produce – such as a half a watermelon or bagged salad greens – choose items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products.

Remember that the drips from the meat products may contain bacteria which will seep into your other purchases.

Storage Tips

Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F  or below.

Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled

Preparation Tips

Begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.

Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded.

All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking.

Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first.

Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended.

Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.

Drying produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.

Mothers’ Day

May 11th, 2009

Happy mothers day to all mothers.

Mothers everywhere enjoy special attention on this day.  Sometimes change  presents challenges to families when the usual routine of celebration is different with the passing of a family member.

Loss is always hard to bear but on special occasions like Mothers Day, the memories of the deceased are even more poignant.  It may be helpful to families to  honor the memory of the missing family member in some way.

How do families cope with loss due to death and  divorce?

For children everywhere I am sure that  parents want only what is best for their children. Sometimes this message is not clear due to the hustle and  bustle of life and other stressors.  The message on this video is relevant to all children on this Mothers Day.

Reflections on Mothers Day

Please do check this link which has interesting information on the origins of Mothers Day and the movement to honor mothers everywhere.


Weddings and the Mother of the Groom

April 29th, 2008

Growing up in a large Indian community in South Africa, weddings were regular social events. Indian weddings are joyous, colorful, with lots of food, entertainment, dancing and celebrations. For the young ladies, this is also a time to show off the latest fashions in saris, jewelry, shoes and accessories. In the 1960- 1970’s as young girls my sisters, friends and I frequently attended weddings and enjoyed the festivities.

The beautiful bride is always the center of attention, dressed in the latest finery. During our teen years and later as young mothers we dressed up in our best attire. We would plan our outfits, hairstyles and try the latest trends in make-up. Amongst the guests, we would view the fashion styles with varying degrees of admiration, envy, amusement, surprise and generally offer compliments. Privately we would discuss the styles that we thought were good and those that were outrageous with sniggers and giggles.

We paid no attention to the parents of the bride and groom at all!! To us young ladies, this category of folks did not fit into the mold of fashion. We expected them to wear new garments, but never believed that they possessed any interest in style. They were too old we reasoned. As my sister said we regarded them as old “ fuddy duddies”. Could anyone in that age group even be interested in fashion? We also reasoned that anyone old enough to have children being married, were somehow resigned from life and any interest in beauty products and style. They acted prim and proper and solemn on the occasion of their children’s weddings. Rightly so we all thought, considering their age.

Now fast forward to 2008 and I find myself in this category of fuddy-duddies. My eldest son just got married a few weeks ago. Yet my sister and I were in a frenzy of excitement about what to wear, the latest fashions, losing weight, tips for improving the complexion, removing wrinkles, hiding blemishes, hairstyles, coloring the hair, pedicures, manicures, jewelry, wearing stiletto heels, and all sorts of plans to look good.

Will the younger generation be thinking the same way we did, that who will give a second glance to this category of folks? Maybe times have changed and the 50’s are the new 30’s. Is that why we have not changed our outlook very much?

So all that time ago did our parents also attempt to look good and look into the latest fashions?

South African Celebrations and Struggles

April 29th, 2008

April 27th was the 14th anniversary of Democratic South Africa.
In Oakland, we attended a celebration of the event, hosted by Sagren Govender of COSAS, Committee for South African Democracy. The event recognized great leaders and folks here in the USA who spearheaded the movement for change and democracy. Talented artists read poems and sang inspiring songs. It was followed by a delicious pot-luck dinner and interesting socializing.

Many brave men and women protested and even died for a free and better South Africa. While laws no longer separate people and equal opportunity is preached, there are many who are still poor and struggling to make ends meet in South Africa. Organizations like COSAS in the USA organize and provide material help to fund schools, provide school supplies and school uniforms to poor communities in South Africa.

Major problems facing the citizens of South Africa, apart from unemployment and AIDS are crimes of burglary, assault, hijackings, murder and rape. Innocent victims are often caught unawares while entering their driveways, at traffic lights or just anywhere in the city. It is very common to have cars and homes broken into, tires stolen from cars, and clothing stolen from washing lines repeatedly.

Many major stores and businesses have relocated from the city center to malls in the suburbs to avoid being victims of holdups. There are safety measures evident everywhere from banks, to homes, vehicles, security systems and car guards at public parking areas.

Almost everyone has experienced being robbed or attacked or knows others who have had these experiences. Crime is so rampant that it has almost become a non-event. There is a certain complacency about the existence of crime. When my nephew was completing an insurance claim as his car was broken into, he appeared quite calm and relaxed. The manner in which he talked about it and casually filled in the forms indicated that this is something that happens all the time and is not out of the ordinary. It just happens.

Lifestyles have changed in order to ensure safety. Strolls in downtown and window shopping at night is not possible anymore. Not wearing jewelry and covering up watches on the wrist has become the thing to do if you go into downtown. In many homes it has become acceptable and nobody questions the need to lock all inner doors in a house as well as the outside doors. One also looks around to ensure that nobody is lurking in the vicinity before finally locking up, setting the alarm, and stepping out into the car quickly. High walls, burglar guards, and security systems are evident everywhere.

One often hears heartbreaking stories of young women, children and babies who are raped. According to the organization, One in Nine, 1 in 9 women in South Africa report rape to the authorities. Of these 1 in 9 women, there is a less than 7% conviction rate. For more on this organization check this link,

People there are being robbed of a sense of security and peace. It is not just the material value of things being taken away, but the emotional toll is very high. It is humiliating to be confronted by armed men who shame, rape, destroy and forever leave the victims with fear and hopelessness. We know of a friend who is afraid to sleep and has to cope with the associated health problems. How can a young lady, raped in the presence of her father cope with life? How does her father cope?

Perpetrators often get away from the crime scenes and even when arrested, sentences are brief. Even visitors are at risk, as perpetrators hang out at tourist spots and attack them. It seems that the authorities are making attempts to keep such spots crime free. What of the rest of the country?

Were it not for the fact that we have close family and friends in South Africa we would not risk our lives by returning. We fear for the safety of South Africans and dread hearing that someone near and dear to us has lost their life as a result of the violent crime.

The struggle for safety, a basic human need must now be addressed.

Leptin, Ghrelin and Sleep

November 16th, 2007

I recently read a very interesting article on the value of sleep. New sleep studies indicate that when we sleep the body is busy working to ensure that we benefit in ways that go beyond just a good rest.

During sleep, hormones that promote growth in children and adults, in addition to chemicals important to the immune system, are secreted. You can become more prone to disease if you don’t get enough sleep, and a child’s growth can be stunted by sleep deprivation.

If sleep is constantly interrupted or we end our sleep prematurely we lose some of the five stages of sleep and therefore also lose the health benefits associated with those stages. For details on the 5 stages of sleep, check out the article, How Sleep Works at “”.

The hours that we sleep also has an impact on the quality of the day we may have. Lack of sleep makes us moody, irritable, unable to focus and may result in great danger if we drive while sleepy. Besides not being able to make decisions that require being alert we may fall asleep at the wheel resulting in death and destruction to ourselves, the victims and family members. Driving while sleepy is as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol.

What really intrigued me was learning about the hormones that regulate appetite, GHRELIN & LEPTIN, that Dr. Humphreys stated sounds more like a “Hungarian comedy-act.” Dr. Keith Humphreys, a professor in Psychiatry at Stanford wrote an article on sleep, titled,  The More You Sleep The Longer You Live, in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, September, 2nd, 2007.

GHRELIN is produced in the stomach and signals the brain that that we need to eat. LEPTIN, produced by adipose tissue or fat has the opposite effect and lets the brain know that we have had enough to eat. When there is chronic lack of sleep increased amounts of GHRELIN is released, while the release of LEPTIN is diminished. You continue to feel hungry, so you continue to eat, even though the body has had the required amount of calories.

So it seem that we have solutions within us to have a good day. Just try getting more sleep. For more on sleep check out

Diwali – Festival of Lights

November 5th, 2007

Hindu’s the world over will be celebrating Diwali also known as Deepavali or the Festival of Lights on the 8th & 9th November, 2007 . The word dÄ«pa or deeya means earthen lamp.

At Diwali, lamps are lit indoors and outdoors. There are several stories which describe the reason for the celebration. The one I am most familiar with is the return of Lord Rama and Sita from the forest to reclaim their throne in the city of Ayodha.

To ease Rama’s return, citizens lit lamps so that he could find his way back at night. As Rama walked through the country the citizens celebrated his return a day earlier in the South with the Northerner’s celebrating the next day.

When we were little we used to clean the house thoroughly, including washing the walls, windows and every nook and cranny. We wore new clothes and enjoyed wonderful, exotic food and sweetmeats. Families visited and exchanged platters of sweetmeats and cookies. In the evening a prayer was performed, lamps were lit and we celebrated with dinner and fireworks. Neighbors all around lit fireworks and it was was always a special time for families as everyone watched the displays together.

As with most Hindu festivals, there is always another deeper meaning associated with the myths that give rise to the celebrations. Light is  meant to signify that darkness in our hearts can be overcome with light or truth.

Although it is good to spring clean our homes, it is also an opportunity to look within and cleanse the pain and enmity we may hold. It is a time to  ease off  the need for retaliation  and find new ways to cope with difficult times.

Diwali is  a time to celebrate  together with family and friends. It encourages congeniality, sharing,  caring, peace and harmony.

Do you have any special memories of Diwali? Give me your comments on how Diwali impacts your life. For more articles of interest on quality living visit the links on the right.


October 26th, 2007

Around the world natural disasters have wreaked havoc in the lives of people at all socio-economic levels.

It must be very difficult to lose everything one owns and then have to live in unfamiliar emergency shelters with hundreds of strangers. For most of us our homes are places to relax, to be ourselves, have privacy above all else, and a comfort zone where everything is familiar and in it’s place. Floods, fire, hurricanes and earthquakes can end all that security in a very short time.

Newspaper reports indicate that many people are under insured. The California Insurance Commissioner, Steve Poizner believes that a quarter of the homes destroyed in the recent fires in Southern California are under insured. Evidence is pointing to the fact that although the cause of this fire was arson, the strong Santa Ana Winds fanned the fire, making it very hard to be contained.  When one has to face a major loss , it is another blow to learn that a policy cannot be found, was not updated to reflect new purchases or additions to the home.

While we may not be able to prevent natural disasters, insurance companies point our there are several things that can be done to be prepared and retain a measure of peace of mind. These include detailed records of all your possessions. Everyone should use their digital cameras or videos to photograph the things they own. These include furniture, jewelry, exercise equipment, and entertainment centers amongst other possessions.

When disaster strikes it can be so overwhelming that we may be disoriented and unable to recall or describe clearly everything that we possessed. On the website listed below you can download and print a copy of an inventory that you may be able to use as a guide for a record of all the possessions in your home.


It is also suggested that you keep updated versions of this inventory in other locations such as a safety deposit box, with a reliable friend or at work.

It is also a good idea to keep all important documents such as passports, birth certificates, credit cards, checks, homeownership records and family photographs in a place where they can be quickly gathered to take with you.

I am not too familiar with the use of fireproof safes. If anyone can comment on these it will be appreciated. Any other suggestions of disaster preparedness will be welcome.


June 26th, 2007

The US has lots of opportunties for most people to acheive a good education and employment.  An area that is sadly lacking is vacation days off for its employees.   The average number of days off in the US is 14 days annually, far below the number of days offered in other  countries.   Americans are  described as the ‘most overworked, vacation-deprived people on earth.’

Lynn Brenner in an article in the Parade San Francisco Chronicle,  dated 4/15/07  states that most employees only take about 10 of these 14 days and 37% of workers take less than 7 consecutive days off a year.   On the other hand there is a growing number of Americans who work more than 50 hours a week and this figure is steadily rising.  Often job performance is rated on the hours worked and rewards may go to those that worked the longest hours.

 A study by the Families and Work Institute, “Overwork in America”,  found that  1 in 3 workers experienced feeling overworked as a chronic condition. These long and stressful work conditions impact the ability to take care of responsibilites at home. Very often it is the children who are deprived of parental guidance and support as tired parents  are physically and in some cases mentally drained to effectively take care of other matters.

It is very hard on  parents  having worked a full day,  to  come home to the usual chores, after school activities  and the care of the family. Children need such a lot of time and attention that one wonders whether it is possible to meet their needs adequately.

In my experience,  taking few days off work has become an accepted phenomenon in the US and many people find the concept of more vacation time mind boggling. When  my fellow employees in the US  heard  about my past experience with  lengthy vacation times that South African employers offer,  they found the concept to be very strange. Employees here have become conditioned to accept the status quo and seem to lack the need to even ask for more.  I am surprised that even the presidential candidates do not address this issue at all. It is as if family time is not accepted as a health issue.  Yet it is well know that many physical symptoms such as heart attacks  and high blood pressure can be traced to stress, anxiety and unhealthy lifestyles.  The long work hours and extremely limited vacation time is a leading cause of  stress and other related problems.   

In some countries it is compulsory to take vacation days.  Most European countries offer their staff between 4-6 weeks annually. Providing time off for workers and encouraging them to take the days off is regarded as an investment, as the employees  generally return refreshed, invigorated, relaxed and in good mental health to take on the job responsibilities with “vim, vigor  and vitality.”

 Healthy minds contribute to healthy and happy families and in turn to happy employees.     

When Does Foster Care End?

May 31st, 2007

“Yes its ok to use my story. I hope that people will see what is going on and change the system a little. I was recieving money every month until I was 21 years old but What the system doesnt understand is that you dont just leave college when you turn 21 and Im still struggling. Its tough seeing other people who are in college and have family that they can depend on when they get into a rough spot not only financially but that is what most young, college students have problems with. Even the family that raised me is not there. Its like they feel that Im not apart of them since I left when I was 17. I dont have anyone but friends and the system does not help at all. I have applied for every kind of assistance that you can think of and have been denied because I am not a single mother. I think that is pretty twisted. Its almost like they want people to fail. I have taken pictures of my wrist. THe pictures are saved in my phone. I am considering pressing charges for false arrest and being roughed up. “

The above quote is an extract from an email of a 22 year old ex-foster child who is need of family support.  This young lady spent most of her life in foster homes having been separated from her parents at 2 years.  Her sadness and isolation and later apparent defiance antagonized many foster parents.  At 14 years her foster mother decided to adopt her and a sibling.  As there were many unresolved issues as well as a stipulation from the prospective adoptive mother that she was to end all attempts to contact her birth mother, she declined the adoption offer. 

In her case the reality of coming to terms with her mother who is still addicted to drugs and leads an  unstable life is very hard to accept.  She really hoped that her mother would be there for her after foster care. Even after failing to keep appointments and other promises it hurt her very deeply when her mother did not attend her high school the graduation.  She was the first in her family to graduate and no family was there to share this important day in her life.      

Her mother has added to her problems by using her social security number as they share the same first and last names.  Due to this mix-up the young lady was recently arrested by a traffic officer when a drivers license check revealed that there was a warrant out for her arrest.  Her mother has used her identity to make several fraudulent charges.  She had to find money to retrieve her car which had been impounded and other expenses pertaining to this arrest. The arresting officer is also alleged to have handled her in a rough manner and showed no sympathy when she tried to explain that her mother had used her identity.

Foster care has provided a safe haven for many children as there are exceptional foster parents who do so much more than provide food and shelter. There are those who truly understand the trauma that befall children when separated from parents and everything that is familiar to them.  These foster parents support the children in spite of acting-out behaviors and continue to find resources within themselves and the community to help the children become successful adults.

Children often do not comprehend why they have to leave their birth parents and often blame the social workers for “breaking up the family.”  They may also feel guilt and remorse as they believe that they are responsible for the problems.  It takes a long time for children to cope with all these losses. They are often unable to express their frustrations verbally and what is seen as defiance, rudeness and a lack of interest  to comply with the rules is often an expression of their pain and anger.      

Counseling and supportive foster parents are a great resource for foster children as they are often troubled  and very much in need of someone to take care of them, even though this is not the message that is “heard.”  It is hard on foster parents to cope sometimes and it takes a great deal of patience to know what is behind the acting out behavior.  One has to provide care and understanding yet set limits to curb unruly behavior and  teach more appropriate ways to express frustrations.  When foster parents decide to discontinue with a placement, the cycle of separation anxiety,  loss, rejection, distrust and feelings of low self esteem surface again as children move on to the next foster home.   

Many children in the foster care system have been deprived of bonding with caregivers, nurturing,  and being exposed to activities that stimulate them mentally. This deprivation as well as the pain of separation  and other anxieties often make it hard for children to concentrate and understand the class work. Poor grades often affect socialization among one’s peers.  Sometimes the adjustment in the foster home is also setback by children having an unrealistic and idealized image of what life would be like with the birth parents. This is often true of children whose birth family have not kept in touch with them.

It is very sad that these children who most need the support of adults are expected to cope by themselves after they turn 18 years of age.  Although state aid is available for children should they want to attend college, they have to comply with rules including keeping a certain standard of grade.  Sometimes these minimum grade expectations are difficult to manage by children who lag behind academically.

A few private agencies like CHOICES  – Children Have Options in Caring Environments in Dayton, Ohio  do have programs that help foster children to adjust to adulthood by providing them with subsidized apartments, budgeting and other life skills.  However these resources are very limited. Other independent living skills programs are also in place to help children develop independence.  While these programs have their merit the majority of children  seem to need   the guidance of people that continue to be connected to them.  

Most birth children continue to receive the support and guidance of families well after they they turn 18 years.  It is not uncommon for parents to pay for a child’s boarding and car repairs when children are at college and do not earn enough to pay for these expenses.  Even when they do leave home, they know that they have a home to come back to should things not work out.  Many adult children return home after graduating college to save on rent while they search the job market.

Most foster children have nobody to turn to. Yet they all have to pay rent and  buy food and clothes.  Public transport is not easily accessible in most cities.  Therefore it becomes necessary to invest in another high maintenance expense by buying a used car if one wants to work.

The picture is bleak. A high number of ex-foster children become victims of the Criminal Justice System. How can we save these young men and women?