Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Happy Rosh Hashanah!


This year Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset on Wednesday, September 20 and ends on Friday, September 22. It marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It is  5778 in the Hebrew calendar.

New Year is time for celebration, but also a time for reflection. As millions of Jews all over the world celebrate this happy holiday, we all hope for peace, happiness, and prosperity not only in the Middle East, but around the world.

May this New Year be Happy and sweet! L'shana Tovah!


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sugar Addiction And How To Break It


Sugar Addiction And How To Break It by Dominique Allmon©2017

Sugar consumption is on the rise all over the world. This fact has horrendous implications since the metabolic syndrome, obesity, Type 2 diabetes in adults, and alarmingly early onset of Type 2 diabetes in children, are only few consequences of sugar consumption.

Scientists have demonstrated that refined sugar is a highly addictive substance. One study found that the extremely sweet taste can surpass the cocaine reward even in people who are addicted to heavy drugs. In another study scientists demonstrated that quitting sugar can be as difficult for some people as quitting nicotine or alcohol.

Are you addicted to sugar?

Addicts seldom admit that they have a problem and often find justification for their behavior.
  • Do you always eat dessert? 
  • Do you always have to have something sweet in your house?
  • Do you make excuses to take just one more piece of that delicious cake?
  • Do you struggle to say no when you are offered something sweet? 
  • Do you have sugar "attacks" where you feel you must have something sweet or you will not make it? 

If you eat sweets on regular basis try to give them up for a day or two and see what happens. If you develop headaches and mood swings the chances are that you are addicted.

A few years ago one of my favorite nutritionists, Patrick Holford, devised clever nutritional strategies for people who wished to quit their addictions. 

Quitting any kind of addiction is not an easy process. The withdrawal symptoms are often unbearable and can make it difficult for anyone to give up the stuff he or she is addicted to - be it nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, heavy drugs or even sugar. While drugs or alcohol are considered harmful to our health, sugar addiction is often trivialized, neglected or not even recognized as such. Worse, many people do not even know that sugar is harmful to health. Many do not know that they are addicted.

What is sugar?

Sugar is the generalized term used for sweet, short-chain, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food to sweeten and improve the taste. They are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Together with starches and fiber, sugars belong to the class of carbohydrates that are necessary to provide energy and regulate protein and fat metabolism, among others.

All sugars are either monosaccharides (simple sugars) or disaccharides. Simple sugars are easily and quickly digested and utilized by the human body, but there is a difference in the way liver processes glucose and fructose. (This is a vast subject that requires another article.) Disaccharides such as sucrose or the common white table sugar, on the other hand, require enzymes in order to be converted into simple sugars that are then utilized by the body.

Sucrose, which is composed of the monosaccharides fructose and glucose, is found in sugar beets, sugar cane, sorghum, maple syrup, molasses, and pineapple. It is composed of one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose and can be metabolized in a healthy body.

Sucrose is used extensively to sweeten food and beverages, but even people who do not add sugar to their diet may be consuming large amounts of so called "hidden" sugar that is added by the food industry into ever growing amount of foods. Salad dressings, mayonnaise, ketchup, peanut butter, baby formula, bread, sausage, luncheon meat, etc. all have sugar added to them.

Addiction to sugar begins very early in life and is constantly reinforced by millions of dollars spent on advertising all over the world by the food industry. Average person living in America consumes more than one hundred fifty pound of sugar per year! It is estimated that only thirty pounds come from sugar that people are consciously adding to their food. The remaining amount comes from industrially produced foods and drinks.

Why should you quit sugar:
  • Sugar can make you fat! Sweets and foods with added sugar deliver incredible amount of empty calories and no fiber or nutrients to keep you nourished and satiated. As soon as you had your sweet fix you normally crave for more. You not only eat more calories than you can burn, but sugar promotes belly fat that once there is probably the most difficult to lose.
  • Excess sugar consumption has the same toxic effect on liver as does alcohol. In fact, increased sugar consumption had the same detrimental effect on health as the consumption of alcohol and could be responsible for hypertension, myocardial infarction, insulin resistance, obesity, malnutrition, liver disease, and pancreatitis.
  • Sugar suppresses the release of  the human growth hormone or HGH. Consumption of sugar, especially within two hours after workout, causes hypothalamus to release the inhibitory hormone somatostatin. Somatostatin from the hypothalamus inhibits the pituitary gland’s secretion of the HGH and the thyroid stimulating hormone. 
  • Sugar disrupts the immune system. In the 1970s the Noble Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling discovered that the vitamin C increases the body's ability to fight infections. He also found that sugar inhibits this ability. In order to be able to fight bacteria and viruses, our white blood cells must accumulate vitamin C at the 50-fold concentration all the time. Vitamin C is constantly being moved through the cell membranes into the white blood cells all over your body. Dr. Pauling discovered that glucose, which has similar chemical structure as the vitamin C, can replace vitamin C concentration in the white cells. In fact, when blood sugar rises to 120 after a consumption of cakes, candies or sodas, the ability of white cells to fight infections decreases by about 75%! Moreover, it can take up to six hours to restore optimal levels of vitamin C in the white blood after consumption of sugar. 
  • Sugar depletes vital nutrients or interferes with their absorption. Levels of vitamin D, calcium, chromium, and magnesium in the body are affected the the high intake of sugar.
  • Sugar can increase risk of cancer. Researchers have found that sugar in the intestine triggers the formation of a hormone called GIP. GIP is controlled by a protein called β-catenin that depends entirely on sugar levels in the body. This in turn, increases insulin released by the pancreas. Researchers found that there is a strong correlation between β-catenin and the cell's susceptibility to cancer formation. Moreover, research also shows that high sugar consumption lowers the survival chance of breast cancer and colon cancer patients.
  • Sugar can damage your heart and shorten your life. In 2013 the Journal of American Heart Association has published a study confirming that sugar affects pumping mechanism of the heart and can potentially increase the risk of heart failure. Researchers found that a glucose metabolite called glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) that is derived from sugar and from starch was responsible for the changes in the muscle protein of the heart. These changes could eventually lead to heart failure. 
  • Sugar contributes to premature aging. When sugar enters your system it has the tendency to bind to fats and protein molecules in your body. This process is know as glycation. It results in the production of advanced glycation end products known as AGEs. These molecules cause damage to connective tissues and are responsible for chronic inflammation. But AGEs are not only responsible for processes that are "hidden" deep inside our bodies. They also are the cause or visible aging. Collagen and elastin are the proteins in skin that are responsible for the health and youthful appearance. These proteins are also most susceptible to the glycation process. 

It is probably much easier to enumerate reasons for quitting sugar than to quit this sweet addiction. Like many people I have a very sweet tooth and cannot imagine a festive dinner menu without dessert, but I also know too well that sugar is not good for me. It is enough for me to look into a mirror the next day after I satisfied my sugar cravings the night before. The skin looks inflamed and the joints feel stiff. I know that if I continued eating sweets for another day or two things would get even worse. So I quit for a week or two only to get tempted again.

Young people can recover from the sugar binge much faster and may not even gain weight, but with age the damage done by sugar becomes more obvious and almost irreversible. So, how do we quit sugar cravings?

Sugar craving exist on two levels:
  • physiological, where it manifests itself as an addiction to sugar, the chemical substance that affect entire body chemistry
  • emotional, where it manifests itself either as craving for comfort and happiness, or as a reward for a particular type of behavior.

To successfully quit sugar we must understand and address both, the physiological and the emotional  dependence on sugar.

If you are addicted to sugar you must understand that there is no one-fits-all solution to addiction. Every human being is unique and will power and self-motivation are not always enough. However, everyone can implement a few simple steps that would gradually re-set the addicted brain and re-program body chemistry.

The Break-Sugar-Addiction Program

The plan involves two aspects of our physiology: brain chemistry and blood sugar balance. Deficiency in certain neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, often leads to sugar craving. Fluctuation in blood sugar leads to cravings and energy crashes.

  • The very first step to recovery from sugar addiction is a gradual change of diet. Begin your personal program by conscious reduction of sweets and desserts you consume. Sweets and desserts are the obvious, identifiable sugar sources. This would mean that you have to remove sugar and sweet foods from your pantry and change your shopping habits. Stay clear of cookies, candy, cakes and ice cream, and less sugar to your coffee and tea. Going a cold turkey does not work for everybody so you may need to replace your desserts with sweet fruit that at least has vitamins and minerals, and has a form of sugar that can be digested by the body. Try to replace fast food with high quality protein and add fresh vegetable to your menu. At the same time you should supplement your diet with high quality multivitamin and mineral formula. Vitamins and minerals will help you nourish your body and may help reduce  cravings. In addition you should take a high quality Omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics to restore flora in the intestines.
  • Removal of sugar from the diet may cause mood swings, low energy, or headaches. To balance the brain chemistry supplement with L-tryptophan and 5-HTP. These two supplements will help the brain to produce the mood enhancing serotonin. To support blood sugar balance take a chromium supplement. Also, add sugar-balancing cinnamon to your diet.
  • To control sugar cravings supplement with saffron extracts and amino acid L-glutamine. The suggested dose of L-glutamine supplement is 500mg, 3-4 times a day, best taken on empty stomach about 30 minutes before a meal, or when you feel your blood sugar is very low and you feel like having something sweet. The sugar craving may vanish within minutes and you will not even feel jittery or stressed. 50-100 mg standardized saffron extract will help boost dopamine levels in your brain and decrease carbohydrate cravings.

Many nutritionist suggest that we should consume foods that have low glycemic load, or the GL. The GL tells us how a particular food will affect the blood sugar balance. Foods with high GL will cause sugar spikes and cravings. Foods with low GL convert slowly into glucose and encourage body to burn fat. A low glycemic diet will keep you nourished and satiated and will not only help you break your sugar addiction, but also lose weight.

Depending on your current situation you may need to consult a certified health practitioner who will help you break the sugar addiction. A certified nutritionist will help you create a healthy nutrition plan. He or she will also help you clear candida that may also be the cause of your sugar cravings.

If your craving for sugar is mostly emotional you will need to address the underlying emotional issues. Yoga, relaxation and meditation in combination with supplemental magnesium, L-tryptophan and 5-HTP may help a lot, but you may have to see a therapist to understand why your emotional problems are causing addiction. And if you reward yourself with a large piece of cake, you should probably change your strategy. Try a large bowl of fresh strawberries the next time you feel that you need a reward.

By Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2017

P.S. Many people who wish to break the sugar addiction resort to artificial sweeteners to satisfy their love and craving for the sweet taste. The only artificial sweetener that I would take is stevia. Stevia is made from the leaves of South American plant Stevia rebaudiana. Studies demonstrated that stevia may actually lower blood sugar levels and improve the function of insulin.  



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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Life Is A Precious Gift - Remembering September 11


September 11 impressed upon us that life is a precious gift … And I think we all have a duty to devote at least a small portion of our daily lives to ensuring that neither America nor the world ever forgets September 11. - Sen. Bill Frist

Image: Life Is A Precious Gift by Dominique Allmon@2017

 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

70th Anniversary Roswell UFO Festival



Sometime in July 1947 a mysterious flying object crashed in the desert of New Mexico in the vicinity of a sleepy desert town known to everybody as Roswell. 

Wreckage that was recovered from the crash was brought to the Roswell Army Air Field. The local paper, the Roswell Daily Record, reported that a "flying saucer" had been captured and started the biggest UFO controversy ever recorded, or so. 

The "remains" were allegedly transported to Area 51 in Nevada and the whole incident remains covered in a fog of secrecy. To this day no one really knows what was found in the desert. Was it an alien spaceship, a secret government experiment, or simply an high altitude weather balloon?

https://www.rageon.com/products/70th-anniversary-of-the-roswell-ufo-crash-phone-case?aff=Hy53
70th Anniversary Roswell UFO Crash Cell Phone Case

Year 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of that event. Roswell expects more visitors than ever and welcomes true believers, those who want to believe, UFO aficionados, skeptics, science fiction lovers, artists, artisans, and everybody who simply wants to have some fun. 

For many people UFOs are a serious business. More than thirty speakers were invited this year to discuss the challenges of alien life in Space and on Earth. Alien costume contest, laser show, concerts, Light Parade and a parallel Galacticon venue are all scheduled to take place during the celebrations that will end with fireworks on the 4th of July. All this is happening at temperatures around 100°F and is accompanied by tasty Southwestern food, spices, flavors et al.

By Dominique Allmon


    

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Happy First Day Of Summer

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer. - F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby
Happy first day of Summer! Happy Summer Solstice!

Image: First Day of Summer by Dominique Allmon©2017


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ragged Old Flag



I walked through a county courthouse square,
On a park bench an old man was sitting there.
I said, "Your old courthouse is kinda run down."
He said, "Naw, it'll do for our little town."
I said, "Your flagpole has leaned a little bit,
And that's a Ragged Old Flag you got hanging on it.
He said, "Have a seat", and I sat down.
"Is this the first time you've been to our little town?"
I said, "I think it is." He said, "I don't like to brag,
But we're kinda proud of that Ragged Old Flag."

"You see, we got a little hole in that flag there
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing "Oh Say Can You See".
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams."

"And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the Texas flag, but she waved on through.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on that Ragged Old Flag."

"On Flanders Field in World War I
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood red in World War II
She hung limp and low by the time it was through.
She was in Korea and Vietnam.
She went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam."

"She waved from our ships upon the briny foam,
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home.
In her own good land she's been abused -
She's been burned, dishonored, denied and refused."

"And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land.
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin,
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in.
'Cause she's been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more."

"So we raise her up every morning,
Take her down every night.
We don't let her touch the ground
And we fold her up right.
On second thought I DO like to brag,
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag."

Written by Johnny Cash

Image source here

Friday, April 21, 2017

Green Tips And Two Green Earth Day Recipes


Green Tips And Two Green Earth Day Recipes

As people gather to collectively celebrate the 47th Earth Day in America and elsewhere, many take time to review their own lifestyle strategies. recycling, reusing, reducing household waste and the use of plastic, chemicals, and ecologically unsustainable products. 

Much has to be done to protect the environment, but instead of waiting for the politicians to change things, each of us can start taking steps in his or her own home, office, school, or town. One of the simplest, but maybe not the easiest, thing we can do is to change the way we eat and obtain food:
  • buy organic
  • buy locally grown or produced
  • buy seasonal
  • grow your own
  • forage
  • make your own food
For many people this might be easier said than done, but lack of time or lack of money are not really good excuses. 

Organic food might be expensive at the first sight, but consider the increased nutrition fresh organic food provides. Less chemicals in your food also means less hazard to your health and possible reduced future health care coasts. Local farmer's markets are full of bargains.

Locally grown, seasonal produce helps reduce your carbon foot print, and once again, provides fruits and vegetable at its peak nutritional value. Many local farmers resorted to organic farming at some point in the past, but cannot afford the incredibly expensive organic certification. Visit such local farm to find out how food is grown or produced. Smaller farmers seem to have a very different set of ethical values than the food industry. Profit, while incredibly important, is not necessarily on top of the list. 

Grow your own! In 2017 a perfectly manicured 1950s American Dream style lawn looks a bit outdated to me. Some communities or residents' associations may not permit you to have a vegetable garden on your property, but you can still grow herbs and vegetables in decorative pots on your porch. Big city dwellers can easily create a container garden on their balconies or terraces. Those who only have a windowsill can at least grow fresh kitchen herbs. If you have never done this before you can take gardening courses. Many master gardeners offer gardening classes for beginners. Once you've got your fingers dirty, you will never want to buy another carrot or tomato. There is nothing more comforting than to see your food grow. 

Foraging is becoming more and more popular. If you do not have much experience with wild herbs, berries or mushrooms, you may have to take a class or attend a foraging workshop. The abundance of wild food is unimaginable, but you have to be very careful as there are herbs, berries and mushrooms that look like the good thing, but are often extremely poisonous. 

Last but not least, make your own food! If you are a working adult with kids and family on your head, this can be difficult. You may not be able to do it during the week, but you can certainly make a ritual out of family cooking on weekends. Weekend is also a good time to prepare some healthy food for the coming week:
  • salads in jars, that you can make ahead
  • smoothies or smoothie combos that can be made ahead - simply chop the ingredients and freeze them in small portions so that they are ready for blending during the week
  • soups can be cooked ahead and frozen, or fresh soup ingredients can be chopped, portioned out and frozen for later use
  • stews can be made ahead and frozen
  • bread baking on weekend can be a real fun
I hope that these few suggestions will help you get better organized. If you have tomatoes, peppers or herbs growing in your backyard you do not even have to drive to a store to get the salad ingredients.

Green Tips And Two Green Earth Day Recipes

 ~ Green Sauce Recipe ~

This is a variation of the famous Frankfurt Green Sauce. It can be used as a condiment for roasted meats, cold cuts, steamed, stewed or roasted vegetable, baked potatoes, and egg dishes; as a deep or a salad dressing; and in soups. It has a very green, almost grassy taste and may remind you a bit of the Argentinian chimichurri.

Ingredients:
  • 2-3 cups of mixed garden and wild herbs, roughly chopped (parsley, chives, arugula, sorrel, dandelion greens, ground elder, chervil, Sanguisorba minor or salad burnet, borage, ramsons)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium large purple onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp grated horse radish root (optional)
  • 1/2 cup virgin olive oil 
  • 1 cup natural probiotic yogurt
  • 1 tsp Celtic sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method: 
  • In a food processor pulse blend herbs, garlic, onion, and lime juice until they turn into a green coarse paste. Do not over process.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients and blend until all is well combined. The sauce should not be too thick. Add more lemon juice or a bit more yogurt to achieve a nice consistency. 
  • Adjust the taste to your personal liking and serve with your favorite dish. The stores well in the fridge for two to three days, so it it quickly. It can also be frozen and used in soups.

~ Ground Elder Pesto ~

Green Tips And Two Green Earth Day Recipes

Ground elder, also known as bishop's weed, is a rather underestimated herb. When it shows up in your garden you will treat it as an unwanted weed, but the more you learn about it, the more you will come to love it. It also grows in the wild and can be foraged, but you must be careful as it resembles the highly poisonous hemlock. Both plants look almost the same when flowering. A simple test will help you distinguish ground elder form other plants: simply take a single leaf and rub it between you fingers. The aroma will remind you of carrots. Best time to forage for leaves is from May till July. This herb has many health benefits. It has a very high content of vitamin C and is good for gout, scurvy, digestion, and piles.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup ground elder leaves, packed
  • 1/4 cup pistachio nuts, raw or roasted 
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • juice of medium large lemon
  • grated peel of 1/2 organic, untreated lemon
  • 1/4 cup virgin olive oil
  • Celtic sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Method:
  • In a food processor pulse blend ground elder, garlic, pistachios, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Do not over process. The mixture should be nicely coarse.
  • Add olive oil, salt and pepper and whiz again. Serve with pasta dishes, as a dip, soup or salad garnish. If you like cheese you can add crumbled Pecorino  or Parmigiano cheese, as you normally would if you made a classic basil pesto. 

Both recipes may sound slightly unusual, but if you can get the ingredients, give them a try.

This year Earth Day falls on weekend. Take advantage of it and go on a hiking trip, ride your bike, start a garden, or meet friends and family over a healthy, home made meal. Reach out to your community and see if there is anything you could do collectively to reduce your carbon foot print. The climate change may be real or perceived, but the environmental pollution is not. Many things must be done so that the generations to come can enjoy the beauty of our planet.

~ Happy Earth Day 2017 ~

Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2017

    

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Happy Easter!



The Easter Bunny came by today
and left surprises along his way.
Colorful eggs are all around.
With baskets in hand we search the ground.
Hiding in places here and there
Easter eggs are everywhere. 

Anonymous 

~ Happy Easter ~


Image: Easter Bunny & Broccoli by Dominique Allmon©2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

Happy World Health Day!



Just like keeping a healthy diet is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating the right foods is just as important for getting the most out of your workout. - Marcus Samuelsson 

By now, most of the New Year's resolutions are long forgotten, or fading from view. If you are like many adults who would rather take care of their cars or patios, you probably should take a moment and reflect a bit on true meaning of life and the necessity of healthy lifestyle.

Statistics tell us that people live longer than ever. Unfortunately, many of those who live longer are not necessarily healthy and the quality of their lives is often questionable. Life is not fun if you are bedridden and in pain.

Biological aging begins as early as 30s. By the time most people reach their late 50s, they suffer from degenerative chronic diseases that developed over the years of self neglect. It is possible, however, to reverse premature aging and to heal chronic ailments, and one does not even need drugs.

Healthy nutrition, exercise, stress control, and positive outlook on life can do magic in no time. One simply has to follow these basic precepts religiously.

Easier said than done? The choice is yours, no doubt, but if you do not have the motivation to save your own life, no one can help you, now or later.

Do not wait until it is too late. Embrace healthier lifestyle today.

Wishing everybody happy and healthy World health Day - in radiant health - Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2017

Image: Rainbow Chard by Dominique Alllmon©2017


*Statements in this article are made for educational purposes only. They are not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ikigai - Japanese Secret To A Long And Happy Life


Ikigai by Dominique Allmon ©2017

People can feel real ikigai only when, on the basis of personal maturity, the satisfaction of various desires, love and happiness, encounters with others, and a sense of the value of life, they proceed toward self-realization. - Kobayashi Tsukasa

We seldom meet people who do not wish for a happy life. For many, the struggle is hard, but it shouldn't be. One has to simply love what one does. That's all. 

Nothing easier said than done. Unfortunately, most people end up in jobs they hate and vegetate unhappily till their retirement. Life is postponed for that later moment in time, when there is more money, more freedom, more time, more leisure, to do what we please and love. Unfortunately, that moment seldom comes, but if it does, it does not last long and does not bring the effect that we had hoped for. Happiness seems to be a habit that must be cultivated all life long. One does not simply retire from a tedious job and become happy the next day, but one can certainly change the direction of one's life early enough not to end up frustrated at an older age.

Have you heard of Ikigai? 

Ikigai is a Japanese concept of our reason for existence, very similar to the French raison d'être, or the ultimate purpose of one's life. The Japanese believe that everybody has ikigai. Ikigai is the force, the motivation, the passion that makes our life worth living. In other words, ikigai is what makes us tick. Those who find their ikigai can enjoy long and happy life.

The Germans say that you are a happy man if you know how combine the "nützlich" or the useful, with the "angenehm" or pleasant and enjoyable. Many of us have heard stories of successful Wall Street bankers leaving everything behind only to grow organic food or raise chickens on a farm. Such dramatic decisions are not necessarily motivated by money alone and there is always more to their story.

If your job doesn't make you really happy, but it pays for your lifestyle and allows you to keep up with the Joneses, you might not find your ikigai; but if you have moved to an English countryside to restore and sell antique furniture because antiques are your passion since your early discovery and exploration of your grandma's attic, you are meant to find your ikigai, even if the money you earn isn't buying you an English manor right away.

Ikigai is to live to your own expectations, not to the expectations of others. If you are a lawyer because everybody in your family is, and this is your passion, you are the lucky one. However, if you were "coerced" in this direction by your relatives, but would rather be a concert violinist, you may end up unhappy sooner or later. Emphasis on "might" because a lifelong practice of law may help you discover aspects of your profession that are deeply satisfying.

Ikigai is to lose yourself in your passion or, in other words, find passion in everything you are doing, and carry it all life long. Ikigai is what makes the difference between lethargic, tired retiree who isn't needed anymore, and a happy, energetic, active octogenarian who is traveling the world, painting landscapes on a seaside, learning Chinese calligraphy, or preparing for a marathon run.

Discovery of one's own ikigai requires deep introspection, courage, maturity, and a very honest assessment of one's current place in the world. The compromise one is willing to make in early twenties, may not hold up to the litmus test of a later years.

Finding your ikigai early enough can make an incredible difference in your life. The choice between deep frustration and genuine happiness looks like a no-brainer, but this choice can only be made if one is brave enough to leave the assumed comfort zone.

If you can balance your chosen profession with your mission in life, your vocation, and that which you are truly passionate about, you are meant to experience ikigai.

How to find ikigai?

To find your ikigai you will have to honestly answer four questions:
  • What do you love doing? - Ask yourself what is it that gives you greatest joy and makes your heart beat faster.
  • What are truly good at? - Name your natural talents and skills that you have mastered.
  • What is your vocation? - Do you have a cause you want to fight for? Is there anything you would do to make the world a better place?
  • What do you get paid for? - What skills and services can you offer in exchange for money without compromising your values? 

Take a moment to look into your heart before you answer these questions. Take a piece of paper and write down your answers. You may want to use an ikigai diagram of overlapping circles to better illustrate common aspects of your existence. Reflect on your current situation and visualize where would you rather want to be. At the end of this exercise, ask yourself a question what needs to be changed or done to bring you closer to your ikigai and follow this direction.

As I wrote above, certain maturity and a high dose of honesty is required to make big changes in one's life. If you are not truly happy, if you feel that something is missing in your life, you might have to take a close look at yourself. What you could find, might surprise you.

Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2017

        

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Oneness Of All Creation


I share the belief of many of my contemporaries that the spiritual crisis pervading all spheres of Western industrial society can be remedied only by a change in our world view. We shall have to shift from the materialistic, dualistic belief that people and their environment are separate, toward a new consciousness of an all-encompassing reality, which embraces the experiencing ego, a reality in which people feel their oneness with animate nature and all of creation. - Dr. Albert Hoffman

    

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Have You Kissed A Frog Yet?


It wasn't a kiss that changed the frog, but the fact that a young girl looked beneath warts and slime and believed she saw a prince. So he became one. - Richelle E. Goodrich 

~ Happy St. Valentine's Day! ~

  

Image: Lindt's Frogs In Love by Dominique Allmon©2017

Friday, January 27, 2017

Happy Year of the Fire Rooster!



In Chinese lunar calendar year 2017 is a year of the Fire Rooster. It begins on January 28, 2017 and ends on February 15, 2018. 

Rooster is one of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac. Chinese Buddhists tell the story of a feast given by the Buddha. They believe that rooster was the tenth animal to arrive at the feast.

A probably much older story talks about the legendary Jade Emperor who wished to select twelve animals as his guards. He sent an Immortal down to Earth with a message that whichever animal came first through the Heavenly Gate his rank will be the highest. And so, twelve animals rushed to serve the Jade Emperor and the rooster arrived right after the monkey as the tenth in a raw. 

In Chinese astrology zodiac signs are combined with the Taoist theory of Five Elements. Each animal sign appears every twelve years, but only every sixty years in each of its aspects. Metal, water, wood, fire, and earth determine a special quality of each animal. The current cycle is dominated by the fire element, thus the Fire Rooster. Celebrate as much as you can! The Rooster will be back in twelve years, but the next Fire Rooster will appear in 2077!

The Chinese believe that both, the zodiac signs and the elements affect destiny and personality of a person born under them. The quality of the year to come also depends on this combination. 

Roosters are believed to be hardworking, courageous, and very resourceful. They thrive in the company of others and enjoy to be in the center of attention. People born in the year of the Fire Rooster are considered to have a strong sense of duty and responsibility, and are trustworthy. They make good public servants. 

Interestingly, the rooster years are considered unlucky for the people born in the year of a rooster. Destiny of everybody else in the rooster year depends on their own birth year and how their personal zodiac animal interacts with the rooster. These predictions are often very complex and involve an astrologer or geomancer who would make proper calculations and create individual horoscopes. 


In Chinese astrology rooster is a very lucky sign that is associated with punctuality, competitiveness, bravery, and prosperity. 

In an ancient commentary to the Book of Songs dating back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) rooster had five virtues: literature, military prowess, courage, benevolence, and trustworthiness. These virtues will determine the quality of the year to come. The fire element adds a little urgency to the mix. Fire destroys the old, creates the new. It brings warmth and illumination (light), energy and clarity.

2017 will be a year of creativity and prosperity. With the inauguration of a new president, America will restore its military prowess and trustworthiness. People that have been forgotten or neglected by the previous administrations (ex. the Veterans) will experience a new wave of benevolence. 

If you want to succeed in 2017, you have to be diligent, courageous, and inventive. Like a rooster, you will have to wake up early and do your chores. Your prosperity will not come overnight, but your work will bring fruit that you will eventually be able to enjoy.

Wishing everyone Happy Chinese New Year
and a very prosperous Year of the Fire Rooster!
Dominique Allmon

恭喜發財

Dominique Allmon©2017

    

Images courtesy of James W. Allmon whose artwork is featured here.


*The Year of the Fire Rooster greeting card can be obtained form Redbubble
*The Year of the Fire Rooster T-Shirt can be purchased from Jimmo at www.jimmoshirts.com

Friday, January 20, 2017

Letter to Sarah



My very dear Sarah

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death - and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar - that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night - amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.
 
Sullivan
Camp Clark, Washington

The following is a letter written by Maj. Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah (née Shumway) at home in Rhode Island.  Ballou died a week later, at the First Battle of Bull Run.  He was 32.

Excerpts from this letter were read by Senate Minority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer (New York) at the Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th president of the United States.

Letter source here

Thursday, January 5, 2017

La Galette des Rois Or The Kings' Cake



Galette des Roi, known in English as the King Cake or the Kings' Cake, is a famous French dessert traditionally prepared on the Twelfth Night (January 5th) or the Christian holiday of Epiphany (January 6th) to celebrate the visit of three Wise Men (the Magi or Kings) to the newly born Baby Jesus.

The King Cake tradition began some three hundred years ago with a rather simple sugar-covered bread, but most probably has its roots in the Roman feast of Saturnalia. A single broad bean (la fève) was inserted before baking. The lucky person who found the bean in his or her slice of cake would become a Bean King or Queen and would reign over the feast. The reign would end at midnight before Epiphany.

With time, king cake recipes became more sophisticated. Around 1870 bakers replaced the broad bean with a trinket called la fève like the bean it replaced.  The trinket usually was a small figurine representing Baby Jesus, a King, or the Wise Men. The season for the cake would last from the Twelfth Night till the end of the Carnival on Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras.

The cake was usually cut into as many portions as guests, plus one for the unexpected visitor, to show generosity, charity and benevolence in the best Christian tradition. That extra slice was called a share of God, or a share of Virgin Mary. 

There are many versions of the cake, depending on the country or the region where the cake is baked. Two versions are popular in France today: one that uses puff pastry and frangipane (almond pastry cream) and another that is made out of brioche-like dough and is topped with colorful candied fruit and sugar. Pastry shops usually sell the king cake with a paper crown for the person who finds the trinket.

Eastern or Orthodox Churches celebrate the birth of Jesus on January 6th. I some parts of Europe (Poland, for example) Epiphany is also the last day people enjoy the Christmas tree. All the lights and decorations are taken down the next day and the trees are tossed away. The magic of Christmas may be gone, but there are at least a few more weeks to enjoy during the Carnival.

Dominique Allmon




Image source here