Embracing micronutrients–even the human ones!

A couple of years ago a group of friends that reach all the way back to my earliest  elementary school years connected through Facebook and decided to have a reunion.  Some of us had not had any previous contact since leaving high school forty years before. The reunion was so delightful we’ve continued to see one another in small groups or pairs, and this weekend six of us are meeting for dinner on Saturday night.  I’m entertaining two of the “travelers” at our home for the weekend.

I’ve recently mentioned that I’m reading a health and well-being book emphasizing the role micronutrients play in boosting the nutritional value in our diets–Naked Calories. It occurred to me today that these friends are the human equivalent of micronutrients. In our diet, the macro-nutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fat are essentials. My personal well-being also requires closeness with my family–my human equivalent of macro-nutrients.

But overall well-being is further strengthened by the inclusion of good friends. I value the time we spend recapturing memories through stories from our youthful past (waaaaay in the past) and we do a lot of laughing and listening while sharing  about our current interests, families and travels. Valued friends are the micronutrients in my already full life. They add in the small essentials that give my emotional health the added boost.

Because we will probably be on the go for much of the weekend I haven’t made specific plans for meals. I have things “on hand” and we’ll see what we feel like doing. But I like to have something quick and easy available for Jay, just in case he gets caught with the in between plans. He’s the easiest guy in the world to please, but sometimes that means without a little planning he’ll just grab the peanut butter. I think we can do better than that.

Here in the U.S. we’re headed into  4th of July celebrations  and maybe traditional American foods and BBQ are on menus, but we do eat a little differently most of the time. We have some very healthy foods we use as staples–I think we both could live on beans!

In colder months we have our black-eyed peas, navy beans, lentils…if it’s a bean or legume, we eat them. But at the moment I have the remainder of a 25-pound bag of beautiful pinto beans housed in my freezer for protection, and I am making a big bowl of bean and rice salad.

Just look at this large bag of beans! It came courtesy of friends who visit their family farm in Colorado. They bring us a big bag as a gift and we wouldn’t want to waste a bean!

Do you like beans? I wonder if you think of them as often as we do. Speaking of micronutrients–you should see the list of micronutrients found in an average serving of pinto beans. I won’t list them all, but take just a minute to check here  for the wow factor.

Maybe the idea of ushering in the 4th of July week with a bean and rice salad doesn’t do it for you. I understand. But tastes are sometimes cultivated and this is a nice protein dish with only good fat and all added sodium optional. And it’s very tasty!

So here’s what’s going into the refrigerator, and Jay can grab some whenever he gets hungry!

Bean and Rice Salad

1) In advance of putting the salad together I’m cooking the dried beans right now. Follow your own method for cooking the beans. There is no trick and you can’t go wrong! I wash them, cover them in cold water, turn up the heat and simmer for about two hours. I don’t pre-soak or add a thing.

2) I tend to walk away from things cooking on the stove and forgetting about them. So I put my brown rice in the cooker and set it, and went to my yoga class.  I came home to perfectly cooked brown rice. Rice cookers are not necessary…I just like the ease of not needing to be close to the stove.

From this point it’s ALL easy!


3 cups cold brown rice

3-4 cups cooked and drained beans (already cold or cooled)

1 cup of sliced celery

1 medium chopped red onion (I always add more)

1 finely chopped medium-sized bell pepper

1/4 cup cilantro

Right now I have so many courgettes (I know…zucchini) so I will be chopping some into the mix. Anything goes, so look in the garden and raid the refrigerator produce bins! Be creative.


1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

2 TB water

1/2 tsp garlic powder (or if you work well with fresh garlic, very finely chop in a clove or two)

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp salt (optional. I don’t add it, but some people need just a little).

Add the dressing to the other ingredients, cover, and chill over night. It is supposed to make about 16 servings, but that would depend on how large you make the servings.  I have yet to only eat 2/3 cup at one time.

This may not be a great treat for everyone, I know, but eating a little bit more of this kind of powerhouse food will add to your energy reserves. And if you’re going to play all weekend, I want you to definitely keep going! Maybe this can be the side dish to a more traditional bar-b-que. I believe in nutritional baby steps!

Enjoy your weekend. Whatever you eat and however you play. Just do it heartily! Maybe include a few friends, and remember the micronutrients analogy!

Making plans to breathe lighter…Debra

Diana: Legacy of a Princess. New exhibit aboard the historic RMS Queen Mary

I certainly haven’t minimized my interest in the British monarchy.  I have had plenty to say about my admiration of Queen Elizabeth! And with the Diamond Jubilee I had the opportunity to share about my collection of royal memorabilia, but I have said next to nothing about Princess Diana, even though I have many lovely collectibles that commemorate her life as well. I have very little to say about someone who flared so brightly and then died so young and under such tragic public circumstances. It’s simply very sad.

One thing that is indeed worthy of remembering about Diana, however, is her dedication to supporting charities and lending her name to raising money on behalf of hundreds of worthy causes. She most certainly left  behind a legacy of philanthropy that continues through the Memorial Fund established in her name.

Aimee and I spent Sunday aboard the historic RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, enjoying the premiere of a new world-class exhibit entitled Diana:  Legacy of a Princess. The exhibit is a 9,000 square foot gallery showcasing a priceless collection of her gowns and other memorabilia. The dresses, many of which are iconic and completely memorable–I’m not into fashion but I remembered them well–come from the personal collection of Pink Ribbons Crusade co-founder Suzanne King.

Ms. King has collected Diana’s dresses at auction for more than 20 years. After Diana’s death she chose to use the dresses as centerpiece to fundraising events, primarily calling attention to the Pink Ribbons Crusade, a nonprofit organization that supports breast cancer awareness. Proceeds from this particular exhibit will benefit City of Hope, a Southern California Cancer research hospital.

The exhibit will be open for at least a year and is well worth noting. We were told that the exhibit space, large as it is, couldn’t contain all the artifacts that are part of this generous collection. Over the year other major items will be featured, including the Princess’s wedding dress.

There is more to see than items of clothing. The exhibit, featuring more than 2,000 items, also includes historical artifacts, personal items as well as letters and archival documents across multiple generations of Royals. These include King George V and Queen Mary; the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; The Queen Mother; and of course, Queen Elizabeth and her long reign. For history buffs this is quite an exhibit.  Many historical documents have been made available by the Royal Family, including Diana’s children.

I think one of the thoughts that has stayed with me is how Diana devoted a high percentage of her young life compassionately supporting others and raising the fundraising profile of hundreds of charitable institutions. Her family has chosen to keep that  legacy alive through the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, an independent grant-giving charity, “dedicated to securing sustainable improvements in the lives of the most disadvantaged people in the UK and around the world.” Then Suzanne King, an American from Texas, is also honoring the philanthropic legacy of the Princess she admired, using her personal collection to further raise donations for a cause Princess Diana also cared about. What an exceptional collaboration!

I’m sure you’re not surprised that I was unable to take any photos inside the exhibit, but I did snap a few of the wonderful Queen Mary. The RMS Queen Mary began her launch in Scotland’s River Clyde destination New York City in 1936, and made final port-of-call in 1967, becoming a permanent sight in Long Beach harbor. I didn’t even have my best camera lens with me, but I snapped a few to share, and have every intention of visiting the exhibit again before it moves on. I’ll be better prepared next time.

The exhibit just opened and will be here for a year. Long Beach is a lovely Southern California destination. Feel like traveling? Maybe the slideshow will give you just a glimpse! Enjoy!

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Whatever you call me, just look out for the fangs!

If I had been born to celebrity parents I quite possibly could be going through life as Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches or Pixie (Bob Geldorf’s children), or Moxie Crimefighter and Zolten, courtesy of Penn Jillette.

Most of my friends call me Debra, but my family and the  friends that go all the way back to my childhood default to calling me Debbie. I value the familiarity more than a change in name, but I don’t feel like a Debbie. It would be very difficult to explain what that means. I think it’s simply that I’ve enjoyed multiple metamorphoses through the years. I shift and change positions and perspectives, rework the areas in my life that aren’t satisfying and come out the other side feeling that the changes were significant. It’s hard for me to relate to the same name that worked when I was a little girl.  It might also be that I have a strong rather unreasonable reaction to “Little Debbie” cakes and cookies. I think it’s the hat. I have my quirks!

In my teens I read Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel and unsuccessfully tried to reinvent myself. I thought I’d be much more interesting if called Rachel. I was indulged for a while and then even I couldn’t keep it up.

Then Tropical Storm Debby caught my ear this weekend. I heard Governor Rick Scott urge Floridians to be “very, very, very cautious,” and not to assume Debby wouldn’t escalate into a bigger storm. My first thought was that “Debby” didn’t sound very menacing! Wouldn’t  Tropical Storm Debra signal a more foreboding potential escalation to hurricane? I like to think so anyway.

How do you like this nickname? Debra the Deadly Cobra. Yes. Hardly fits the author of a blog entitled breathelighter, does it? My adoring children gave me that title! I think we must have watched the 1988 movie Big Business together.  This very funny comedy starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin (each playing two roles) was a film farce thinly based on Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors.

Lily Tomlin, as country Rose, holds her fingers up like fangs and hisses like a Rattler while shaking her bracelets for sound emphasis.  She is hilarious in this role and I started imitating her rattlesnake moves when anyone crossed me. Thanks to my children, Debra the Deadly Cobra was born. And I’m admitting that I’m currently having a hard time keeping my fangs in check! The bracelet rattling has already started.

Nothing ignites my ire nearly as much as trying to work through a problem (like my current Spam issue) and being told that what I’m experiencing isn’t really happening! It’s awfully hard to prove a problem if someone on the other end doesn’t believe it’s possible. I’ve been working with both WordPress and Akismet reps and the first few go-rounds in describing my problem have been quite frustrating. I’ve filled out forms only to be told again, “You have to fill out the form or we can’t help you.” I don’t think they’re particularly appreciating my sarcasm wit and clever sense of humor. If I’m told again to give them an example of the problem and to fill out another form there is no guarantee that Debra the Deadly Cobra won’t strike.

I’m breathing deep and keeping my thoughts even and in perspective. But I’ve got an itchy cobra reflex just trying to get out to play…for old time’s sake! Maybe I need to laugh again with Big Business and continue to release the tension resulting from the frustration of being labeled Spam. Do keep checking your Spam folders. I’ve released three other bloggers from my Spam folder just since Saturday. Cyber -gremlins?

If you want a quick chuckle, check out the YouTube video of Lily as country Rose. You may want to adopt a similar alter-ego. It can come in handy when you need to make a point! My bite isn’t all that venomous. I promise!