Monday, November 14, 2011

The 10 Commandments of Skin Care

In my real life, I am an expert on natural body care. I work for a natural food retailer in the Puget Sound region, who pays me to advise customers on the proper care and natural products to maintain healthy skin. Throughout 15+ years of experience, research and training, I've gained a little bit of expertise on how to maintain healthy skin using nutrition and product. I talk to people all day long (mostly women) who want to either solve acute skin problems, or want to maintain their youthful, healthy skin without the use of chemicals, surgery or injections. So here, and in posts to come, I want to share my opinions on this subject. Here is my list of absolute basics for anyone who wants to start or continue a facial care regimen and prevent the damage that occurs slowly and insidiously to age us!

(A little disclaimer here: the following suggestions result from my own personal observations and opinions and are not necessarily the policy of my employer.)

Mind the sun.  Sun is the biggest factor in aging the skin. Wear sunscreen and/or a hat on sunny days. Be mindful of ground reflection; we are exposed to solar radiation even when we wear a hat, because of rays bouncing off the sidewalk, snow, or sand! . Be extra careful if you have fair skin or are at high altitudes or at latitudes closer to the equator.

Your skin is grateful if you live in the Northwest (or any other place where it rains nine months out of the year.) 
Drink water. Water facilitates collagen production, decreases pore congestion, flushes toxins.

Be gentle. Lukewarm water always; heat damages collagen. Don’t scrub your face! Don’t squeeze it! Don’t use harsh exfoliants. More is not necessarily better.

Cleanse. Use gentle natural cleansers, either foaming or creamy. Creamy can be used to remove eyemakup, too. Exfoliate once or twice a week if possible, with jojoba beads, sugar scrub, clay or enzymes. Avoid high-AHA products.
Cleanse daily, with a gentle cleanser and lukewarm water

Tone. Toner is for a) balancing skin pH b) extra cleansing c) therapeutic herbal delivery d) prepares skin for moisture & treatment preparation. A good toner should have both water and alcohol, in order to penetrate the skin.

Toner can be applied with a pad, or simply misted on to the face with a spray bottle

Moisturize. Usually an oil-based product. Helps retain water/moisture in skin. Protects from drying effects of weather. Beneficial oils and herbs in a moisturizer can be therapeutic.
High quality, hand crafted infused oils such as these can be used simply and effectively as facial moisturizers; without any added ingredients.

Proper nutrition. Consume lots of fresh, organic fruits & vegetables that are high in anti-oxidants. Lots of omega3 and omega6 fatty acid-rich foods or supplements. Healthy fats: unrefined fresh olive oil & naturally saturated fats.

Great skin starts with proper nutrition.

Balanced lifestyle. Alcohol, smoking, & stress all effect skin negatively.

Clean your skin at night. And in the morning (if you have time.) Night time cleansing washes off all the dirt and/or makeup from your day, and gives your skin 8 hours to rest, clean & nourished.
If you can only care for your skin once a day, do it at night.

Treat your hands like you treat your face. If you are interested in a more youthful appearance, remember that the skin on your hands reveals your age just as much as the skin on your face does… and even if you treasure your hard-earned wrinkles, know that your  hands are exposed to the elements, and to cleaning products, repeated washing, etc. even more than the face; which can result in painfully dry, cracked hands. Save a little of that facial love for you hands!

When time permits, I'll be creating a new blog devoted entirely to body care, with more details on the 10 Commandments, and other skin care subjects that come up in my daily interactions with customers. I will provide a link to it here, so keep an eye out! Don't know yet what I will name it... maybe "I Love Your Skin." Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 3, 2011

FOOD DAY 10-24-2011

Know what's wrong with this country? Lemme tell ya...  okay, no, really, please, just hear me out... 

What I want, is for Americans to be healthy. As an expert in the field of natural remedies and nutritional supplements, what freaks me out is my customers that want the magic pill or potion or "cleanse" for their weight problem, or digestive problem, or their lack of energy. "Look, people" I always want to and occasionally do say to my customers, "there's no magic here. Your health begins with a fresh, simple and nutritious diet; eat some real food, for pity's sake!"

Tragically, good food is not a part of most Americans' lives. There are many reasons (money, time, geography, justice, etc.) why we have lost touch with how to eat well but the unhappy result is that we, as a nation, are facing an epidemic of costly & preventable diseases. Heart disease, diabetes, conditions associated with obesity,  digestive failure, food allergies, learning disorders - in fact our poor diet is implicated in 4 out of the nation's top 10 deadly diseases. These are issues that I think about every day and so I want to share this event with everyone: FOOD DAY 2011 on October 24th.

Think of the very first Food Day a little like Earth Day - a day to reflect, take action, and raise awareness to change how Americans eat and think about food. Individuals and organizations all over the country are celebrating Food Day 2011 and the week surrounding it with big and small events: marches to encourage food policy change, demonstrations to support food worker equity, dinners with friends to celebrate thier own fresh local food, reading a book or article by a great food writer... anything that expresses the principles of healthy diet, food justice, food equity and food safety.

1-Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
2-Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
3-Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
4- Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms
5- Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
6- Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

I hope you'll celebrate somehow yourself and introduce a friend or two to the Food Day idea! I'm going to, with other folks in my union, UFCW Local 21, demonstrate in solidarity with Darigold dairy workers who face terrible working conditions and who are trying to organize their workplace. Decent working conditions for all food workers are a vital part of a healthy, just food system!
(Facebook has some good info on the Food Day 2011 page. When I googled Food Day 2011 I came up with some great ideas, too.)

Some great food writers to inspire you:
Frances Moore Lappe- her Diet for a Small Planet has been for sustainable food issues like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was for environmentalism; an eye-opener for many people. Frances just keeps on writing and speaking and spreading the word! Recent article in The Nation magazine: ____________

Michael Pollan - The Botany of Desire and the Omnivore's Dilemma, both fascinating reads. Very good PBS TV show done of the Botany of Desire, too. See it!

M.F.K. Fischer: prolific food writer of the 20th century. Her wonderful stories about French food and people brought the idea of living to eat, not just eating to live, alive for me. My favorite: How to Cook a Wolf.

Barbara Kingsolver - known more as a novelist than a food writer, but her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a fabulous experiment in eating seasonally and locally and packed with great recipes.

Anna Lappe - Diet for a Hot Planet - Frances Lappe's daughter wrote this enlightening book about the American Diet, health and food justice.

And finally... here are a few of my foodie fantasies for the health of America:

What if every neighborhood had a community garden for growing food and flowers?

What if every backyard had a little vegetable garden and a fruit tree, or vine, or berry patch?

What if everyone living in an apartment grew a pot of tomatoes on their windowsill or a container of potatoes on their balcony?
 What if every single American owned some small part of the food supply? 

Enjoy Food Day, October 24th 2011!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Art and Friendship

Several days ago I had my hip replaced. I'm home from the hospital now, and my best friend Hilary came over from Spokane to care for me: meaning that she brings me peaches, ice cream and novels, makes me coffee, watches Netflix with me in the middle of the afternoon, and worries as I hobble around the house crashing into things with my walker. She is the most wonderful friend ever!

One thing Hilary notices is the pitiful broken shade on my favorite tabletop lamp. I love this thing, although it is cheap and flimsy, because it sheds just the right amount of light and is small enough to fit into my house. The lampshade is old, dirty and brittle and I put my thumb through it the other day.

Now Hilary and I have collaborated on numerous art projects throughout our 50 year friendship, so it is no surprise when she proposes that we make a new lampshade for this little lamp. I say, "well... okay..."

At the moment, I'm going back and forth between completely distracted by pain or completely narked out by my extreme meds. Not at all confident in my ability to tackle even a tiny bit of art. But with Hilary by my side... maybe it can happen.

We look around the house for supplies, and find everything we need - that's the nice thing about living with 40 years accumulation of art supplies - good looking heavy paper (from when we worked together at print shop in the 80s) glue stick, exacto knives, ice picks, various sewing tools, bright-colored tissue paper.

Tools ready, I'm dazed. I can't force my brain to distinguish step A from step B. "Rachel, just trace the shape of the old lamp shade onto this paper." Okay, I can do that. And the next step, cutting the shape out, that's easy:

Hilary takes a scrap of paper and cuts some beautiful floral designs in it with an exacto knife, bending each cut out a little to give it contour telling me about someone she saw doing this and painting each little cut some pretty color and how cool it looked and  would I like to do that? Well yeah. But something's wrong...

Usually I can catch Hilary's ideas. I can elaborate on them, make them a little bit mine, then pass the idea back for her to mess with; that's how it works with us, that's how we make things... but I can't get her idea past my fog and pain today.  "Umm..." I say, turning her pretty scrap around in my hands, "Sure... you want me to... I mean... what?" "Or you could just do some holes, and texture with these tools." Me? No. I can't do anything. How am I going to explain this? "I think you should do it. I'll do something else."

She gets it. She does it. She's the best! 

And somehow she knows without me telling her that she's going to have to help me through this project, and that she's going to have to be the boss, pretty much, for today. 

 The shade is now glued up the side seam with a glue stick, making sure that it fits against the top ring pretty closely;


and against the bottom ring pretty closely. I think she used a clothespin for a clamp to hold the seam until the glue dried.

Next: contemplating how to attach the paper to the metal rings. The original has some lightweight paper tape holding it all together: something we can't seem to recreate. So Hilary has to innovate for us again, and comes up with a good idea.

She cuts strips of colored tissue paper, then I cut those into random short lengths:

Hilary puts glue on the tissue pieces, then hands them to me

and I place them strategically and aesthetically where needed to hold the whole thing together. In my state of confusion this small, repetitive task feels like a major accomplishment.

We stand back and contemplate the final results. Final judgement: it's pretty good! It's not art, not even craft really - just a project, and useful. Mainly, it was fun, especially since we did it together.  


Which brings me to my main point, I guess: Art as a group activity.
Too often, we undervalue the community-building aspect of projects that are created by a group of artists or artisans. Consider, like this lampshade, other collective creative endeavors:


Art can be an amazing personal expression, of course. But I find special value in art and craft, whether simple or sophisticated, that brings us closer together and defines our community and era. So; here's to more art projects and many more years of friendship!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Justice at Work

"I'm a blue collar worker," I'm proud to say it. Even though I'm an honors graduate of the University of Washington School of Business, I've chosen to make my living "in the trenches" rather than in an office or board room. I just feel more at ease working and living with the people who build and clean our houses, operate heavy machinery, teach and care for our children, and stock our grocery shelves.

I'm also a proud Union member. Basically, if it were not for our Union, my job wouldn't be worth having. Being in a union specifically gives me and my co-workers a grievance process, a living wage and affordable benefits, a chance for advancement and a just disciplinary procedure. But most importantly, it gives my brothers and sisters in the Union a collective voice in our working conditions! What could be more democratic and true to the spirit of our great country?

So, every 3 years or so we negotiate, at my workplace (Puget Consumers Coop, dba PCC Natural Markets,) a labor contract, setting forth basic agreements about our pay and benefits and working conditions. That time has come 'round again, and we've been working on a new contract since last November. We, as a Union, have selected one worker representative from each of our 9 branches/stores (the Committee) to bargain with PCC management - or more accurately, with Management's representative, a professional negotiator named Bob Braun.

Theoretically, it's a simple process: the two sides, Union and Management, draft contract proposals and pass them back and forth, making necessary changes until everyone is satisfied with a tentative agreement and then it is ratified by a vote of the Union members and signatures of Union and Management officers.

An early draft of Management's health care proposal
In real life though, it's not that simple. I've been involved in our Contract negotiations for 15 years and it's never been a smooth process, which is surprising since we work for a particularly enlightened employer. It's understandable that some of PCC's priorities might be different from their employees' - but I'm always alarmed that we're at odds this year on some of our real basic needs and rights: cost-of-living pay raises, equal access to healthcare, equal opportunities for advancement in our fields, opportunities to teach new workers about the Union... these are issues that are on the table right now. And it's not like we're asking to line our own pockets while PCC struggles financially - Tracy Wolpert, CEO, announced recently that PCC "has money in the bank" and plans to open 2 new stores!

This year the Committee witnessed a sudden halt to our negotiations, which had been going pretty smoothly, with a sudden "last, best and final" proposal from Management. As representatives of the workers, we felt that the offer benefited some but resulted in net pay cuts for about 200 of us, and also resulted in a weakened contract for future years. But we had no choice but to put it to a vote, while recommending that our brothers and sisters reject the offer.

The Li family of five, representing 3 different PCC stores, carpooled in their van  (with their 2 adorable dogs) to the Union Hall to exercise their right to a voice in their pay and working conditions.
One member proudly wears the Union colors
We held our vote at the Union Hall. Committee members were on hand to welcome voters, explain the proposal and why we recommended a NO vote. We had a very good turnout, 225 out of 800 or so (I know, it sounds wimpy, but I've been at contract votes where only 50 people showed up... apathy! don't get me started!) The results: 84% voted to reject Management's proposal - obviously, most staff members think we can do better.

Interestingly, Management knew even before the vote that their offer would be rejected by the Union membership. The morning of the vote, before anyone had even shown up to vote, they contacted the Committee and told them that they'd requested Federal Mediation (ie, more negotiation.) They knew their offer was unacceptable. So that's where we stand now... the process goes on... look for more to come in future posts!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Eugene, Oregon: Where the Cold meets the Mold

Back in Eugene. Just for a visit this time. Boy, every time I return here it looks grittier and more run down... "It's the economy," everybody says, "it's the budget cuts;"....

Despite all that, the spirit of "eating well is the best revenge" is goin' strong, and there are many many fine things about this town. On this trip one of the high points was visiting a couple of Eugene's great outdoor markets, in search of adventure and ingredients for a spring meal.

Pretty little sign
First, across the street from my sister's place and my dad's place, way out there on Lorane Highway: opening day of Spencer Creek Grange Farmer's Market. The Grange has been a community force and gathering place in this neighborhood for a hundred years or more... providing everything from a political voice and electricity, entertainment (we had country and square dances here when I was young) and nowadays, low cost internet access and a local farmer's market for the surrounding neighbors and farms.

It's a great feeling to know that the Grange is still vibrant, and a healthy part of this rural community!
Opening day of market season: a big event in the Spencer Creek neighborhood
This local grower assembled me a bouquet of braising greens
Some good old country music

Lots of places to sit and enjoy the beautiful day

Just for market days, the Grange basement becomes
"Cafe le Grange"
After cruising Spencer Creek, picking up the first ingredient for the night's dinner, it's time to go downtown to the "big" farmer's market. It's apparently so big and so crowded in town that some folks from my old Spencer Creek neighborhood are reluctant to even go there! But Dad, and my daughter and I are brave enough to venture into town.

Eugene's Saturday market, started in the 1960s, has become an institution in town.
Seriously fresh bok choy

Here is ingredient #2 for my dinner. These potatoes are so fresh, the thin tissue-y skins are just blowing off them. I love 'em when they're like that.
Perfect season for radishes

What are these, exactly?

Ingredient #3 for my dinner: leeks. The guy selling them to me said they weren't leeks, though. I didn't ask him what they actually were; it didn't matter; they're tender and onion-y and big and they'll work fine.

Don't forget some fragrant sweet peas for the table!

We're suddenly very hungry so we indulge our cravings for pizza and lemonade! Family Homesteader is another regional institution at the Saturday market and the other Eugene-area events. Delicious giant lemonade hand squeezed and hand shaken with ice individually for each customer  - 2 bucks!

Saturday Market covers 3 1/2 downtown city blocks. A big part of the fun is the drummer's circle, which today includes this fella whose mobile drum is bigger than he is.

Alternative transportation is an important part of Eugene life.
Eugene guy with his gas powered bicycle

Plenty of stuff to buy at Saturday Market, even cars.

Handmade local beeswax candles
This booth has been in the Market for 30 years

Tie dye is one of the things Eugene is known for best. This is one of about a dozen tie-dye clothing booths in the Market. If it's wearable and made of cotton you can get it here, tie-dyed.

So, at last, after stopping at the grocery store for a couple non-local ingredients, I'm ready to start my late spring dinner. Inspiration for this meal came from watching a Lynn Vea video on PCC Natural Market's website:

                                              Mustard Greens, Etc.
Mustard or other tender leafy greens for braising (spinach, bok choy, chard or a combination of these)
Leeks or green onions
Handful of pine nuts
Olive oil
Prosciutto (1/4 pound)
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Blue cheese 1 oz
Grated Reggiano for sprinkling

Boil potatoes with skins on until they're very tender, then mash with a little milk, butter and the blue cheese. Keep warm while you do the following:

Toast pine nuts in olive oil in a big frying pan, just a few minutes (they burn easily.) Remove nuts from pan and add diced or sliced prosciutto. Add chopped up leeks and saute for a few minutes, then add the braising greens. Toss the greens and cook until they're tender but not overcooked - about 2 minutes. Add toasted nuts and a splash or two of balsamic vinegar, toss once more and you're done. Serve greens over a good mound of mashed potatoes. Looks and tastes great with a side of those grape- or plum-shaped cherry tomatoes that have been sauteed in a little garlic and olive oil.

Next time I make this I'll take a picture of this dish and add it to the post! Enjoy!