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Year-end tidbits in column format

Does this happen in your household? We have lists everywhere. We have a sticky note on the door into the garage reminding us to "pick-up the dry cleaning." Next to it is a much longer list of things to buy at Costco. Right now I have a note taped to the dashboard of my car that's a little desperate — it says "get milk."

During this season, there are those long lists of people to whom I want to send Christmas cards.

And there is, of course, the arraying of presents to be purchased, wrapped, labeled and, well"¦ presented. On that list I even have a code so I'll remember the status of each intended gift. (I started that the year the packages got mixed up under the tree — it was not a good thing.)

I have a penchant for wanting to be sure intended activities actually get done — which is why, this week, I'm writing about "things to be said before the year ends." It's a list of random ideas masquerading as a newspaper column.

In the food-and-things-related vein, here's an idea. My newest discovery is "Zip and Steam" cooking bags. You pop fresh vegetables, meat or seafood into a specially-designated bag and put it in the microwave. A few minutes later you have a delicious, good-for-you dinner. This holiday season I intend to give folks in our neighborhood those cooking bags and a colorful bouquet of broccoli, long-necked carrots and asparagus, all tied with a festive red ribbon. My husband is hesitant about this intended approach — but it's already on my list, so it's pretty much a done deal.

Here's an idea he'll like: There's a magazine called "Men's Health." I think of it as "Playboy for the aging male." (I suspect that phrase immediately popped it to the top of somebody's list). A recent issue contained the "20 worst foods in America." The winner was a plate of bacon and cheese fries served up at a restaurant I will not mention by name. It had 2,900 calories and as much saturated fat as a pound of butter.

But let's move to something healthier. For example, what are the "four biggest mistakes doctors make?" I might need to make that a column all its own, but for now, they include your doc "assuming you have the bug that's going around" and not listening fully as you describe your symptoms.

How are you feeling, by the way? A little overwhelmed? Let me share something from my personal list of "at-home cures for overload." Consider drinking ginger tea (add 1/4 cup of freshly grated ginger root to 2 cups of water and boil for five minutes). But please remember (I think I've mentioned this before) there's a list of foods that begin with the letter "g" like garlic and grapefruit (and ginger) that interact poorly with prescription medications; check with your pharmacist.

Are we having fun yet? It's such an exhausting time of year. By the way, in case you were wondering, I "got milk." Maybe I'll turn it into sit-by-the-fire cocoa, forgo the tea altogether and find that magazine.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human services at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.