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Stay sexy ~ Stay Curious!

We all know the brain is the most important sex organ – so today’s Stay Sexy column is about keeping your brain supple, happy, engaged and excited. In short, exercising your brain!

It’s one of those basic use-it-or-lose-it phenomena – the more we stay interested, curious, open to new situations and eager to learn, the healthier our brains will be. “Anything that closely engages your focus and is strongly rewarding… will kick your brain into learning mode and necessarily notch it up,” according to a recent article.

So today I’m going to share our newest curiosity – the Saguaro Cactus, Arizona’s famous trademark cactus with its arms pointing to the sky. It’s new to me. I’ve never (before) lived where they grow and hardly ever traveled where they were common. But for the month of March, we’ve parked our motorhome at an RV park in the Sonoran desert west of Tucson, Arizona. The edge of our park opens onto desert trails that lead to Tucson Mountain Park and beyond it, Saguaro National Park.

We’ve started hiking those trails – a mile and a half yesterday, two miles today. We can observe the entire life cycle of the Saguaro on our wanderings. Yesterday, under the protection of a Palo Verde tree (which is a story for another day), we found a virtual Saguaro nursery. The baby cactus plants need just enough protection from the occasional freezing temperatures in this region that they thrive best with a little shelter. There must have been over a dozen “babies” under this tree, ranging from less than an inch to over a foot.

These two babies in the middle of the photo are two or three inches tall – a year or two old.

You can see the green “bark” of the Palo Verde tree in the upper left. It’s hard to find, but in the lower left corner are the spines of a very tiny baby, only half an inch tall. A one-foot Saguaro is on the right side of the photo.

Saguaros typically don’t grow their arms until they’re several decades old. The arms are needed for the blossoms – night-opening blooms pollinated by bats. The cactus can grow as tall as 70 feet and live as long as 150 years.

 

Hubs is just under six feet tall, and the Saguaro on the left is rooted in a gully behind him, so it’s close to thirty feet tall. We don’t know what anomoly caused the arms in the lefthand cactus in the next photo to grow straight out instead of up – winds? Drought? Genetic variation?

At the other end of the life cycle, we saw the carcasses of several of these fallen giants, their outer shells long gone and their long white inner spines exposed and lying in a log-like pile. Those spines are what holds the water – up to several tons, in a large cactus, able to sustain life through the long desert droughts.

When our Tucson friends first told us about hiking in the desert, I’ll confess it didn’t sound very inviting to me – I’m used to hiking in forests, surrounded by trees. But both of us are falling in love with this desert and its impressive diversity. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about it in future posts.

Have fun, and Stay Sexy!

 

Stay Sexy ~ What do you Reach For?

Not what you’re thinking, probably – today I’m talking about the healthy eating part of staying sexy, with some tips on satisfying substitutes you can reach for when you bump up against a craving for something you know isn’t good for you.

Caveat: I am not a dietician. I’m sharing what works for hubs and myself, things we’ve learned by trial and error and a little advice from our friends.

We all know one of the biggest threats to healthy eating is the list of favorite foods we should hardly ever eat – the things we need to cut way back on if we want to keep our bodies fit and energized and – of course – sexy. Do you struggle with cravings for some of those things? We do – so here are some alternatives we’ve come up with:

I love chips and dips – especially taco chips. But I want to avoid the empty calories of simple carbs whenever possible. I’ve just discovered Trader Joe’s Quinoa and Black Bean infused Tortilla Chips. Compared to most ordinary corn taco chips, there’s less fat, double the fiber, and fabulous southwest flavor. Very hearty and satisfying, goes with my favorite hummus perfectly.

Speaking of hummus: Did you know it makes a tasty sandwich spread? Use it in place of mayonnaise, to add even more healthy legumes to your diet. Far less fat, more fiber and protein, too.

Another great chips substitution – popcorn! Nutritionally, it’s lower fat, higher fiber (twice as much per serving), and fewer calories than potato chips. At our house we air-pop it, then add a tiny taste of butter: 1 teaspoon for the entire batch, or 1.8 grams of fat per serving, and just a touch of salt. Hot out of the microwave, it’s very satisfying.

Ice cream? Not even on my radar, since I can’t eat dairy products – but my husband, as a cardiac patient, has become very fond of Greek yogurt, from the dairy case or frozen. Higher in protein, lower in fat, and (if you pay attention to the nutrition label and select carefully) lower in overall sugar. His favorite? Chobani Dark Cherry Greek Yogurt: Half the sugar of the equivalent amount of ice cream, zero fat, and three times as much protein.

Here’s a LINK to more “reach for this” tips I shared last March. What is your worst unhealthy food craving, and what healthy substitutions have you come up with? We’d love to hear from you!

Have fun, and Stay Sexy!

 

Stay Sexy ~ Do Something Different

Want to stay vibrant, healthy, exciting and sexy across the life cycle?

Here’s what it takes:

Think differently.

Do something different.

Keep on doing it.

Not new, not earth shaking, not something I haven’t said in my own way, but I ran across it yesterday in a place I wouldn’t have looked for it.

I follow (and hardly ever miss reading) Bob Mayer’s blog – initially because I heard him speak with Jennifer Crusie and I read the books they wrote together, then because he was a pioneer in indie publishing, and because I started reading and love his solo fiction. Here’s a shout-out to Duty, Honor, Country and The Jefferson Allegiance. Great reads.

He’s a West Point graduate with a Special Forces career, and he draws on that experience to write his fiction and run his life. Truly. He’s been a traditionally published best-selling author, but he saw the wave of change coming and established an indie publishing house for his back list, his new releases, and a few additional brave authors. Lots of traditional authors got swamped by the wave – he’s still riding it, and thriving.

So when he says something, I pay attention.

The opening line to his blog yesterday was “If I’m not where I want to be, then I must change.” Exactly. How do we do that? We all have the same basic material to work with – think differently, do something different, keep on doing it. Not new. What was new (to me) was the meta-analysis: in order to make a change, it helps if we know which of these three steps is most difficult for us. Then we can focus our energy on figuring out why that step is our barrier, and doing something about that.

For me, #3 is the bugaboo: sustaining the change. My something different is my twelve minute morning workout. That means I have to do the same “different” thing every morning, and some mornings I just don’t feel like it.

I’ve learned I need a huge laundry list of reasons that can get me up off the couch and moving, a combination of sticks and carrots. Some mornings, frankly, it’s vanity. I really like looking trim and fit. Sometimes it’s my osteopenia – the fear of ending up someday in a nursing home with a broken hip. Often it’s the specter of Alzheimer’s – my gene pool is just loaded with good reasons to sustain the change. Right now I’m rehabbing  an injured knee, and if nothing else gets me going, the knowledge that I’ll have less knee pain later in the day works just fine. Sometimes, even, it’s knowing that I’ll be writing this Stay Sexy blog post every week: accountability. And on a really good morning, it’s just knowing how very good I feel all day when I’ve started my day with the core routine.

I’ll close with his closing words. I highly recommend reading his entire post.

“Sustained action equals change.  Sustained action is training.  Sustained action brings about new, healthy and productive habits.”

Have fun, and Stay Sexy.

 
© 2014 Adriana Kraft. All Rights Reserved.