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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Eleven Wishes for the New Year


Today I wish you good health. Time has taught me that if you have this… everything else will follow.

I also wish you love. Open your heart to the possibilities. To need and be needed is at the very core of our frail and human existence.

And, may you know spiritual wealth whatever your belief, and may you draw strength and comfort from a presence that is greater, yet part of us all.

Another wish to you is for material abundance so that you may always have nourishing food at your table; a home to protect and surround you filled with treasures that delight your heart, and may you always be able to share these blessings with others.

I also wish for you knowledge and inspiration every day of the year that propels you to seek out and learn something new as you write the passages of your life. And, like a good book may your novel be hard to put down and the end long in coming.

I wish you laughter, as it is easier to smile than it is to frown. Always cherish the joyful child that resides in you.

A wish for beauty - may you find it from the breath of a rose; the sparkle of sunlight on water; the song of a bird or the pink cheek of a child – it is truly in the beholder.

A wish for “forgiveness” so that you never go to bed at night angry at someone… for something. Forgive and move on.

Today I also wish you “time” – whether you beg it, borrow it, or steal it – remember to use it, not abuse it. May you have all that your heart desires to accomplish your fondest dreams. Fill the seconds between the minutes, and the minutes between the hours with your life well lived.

A wish for “grace”: May a measure of compassion, charity and charm be yours for the asking and this be the footprint you leave for others to follow.

And last but not least WISHES FOR WORLD PEACE: None of us have known this… may it truly become a reality in our lifetime.

Imagine… the possibilities.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing each of you a joyous holiday season


One of the finest choral groups in the world is the famous Choir of King’s College in Cambridge, England.

Considered the most accomplished representation of the British choral tradition, the choir was established by King Henry VI, founder of King’s College, Cambridge in 1441.

The choir, composed of some of the most outstanding young scholars in England, sings daily in the college’s chapel and over the years has toured and established a wonderful repertoire and an extensive discography of recordings.

Each year, the choir’s “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” is broadcast around the globe on Christmas Eve.

For your holiday enjoyment, the following video, which is comprised of all 16 members of the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge provides an exquisite representation of their talent as they sing Gustav Holst’s, “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

May you and yours enjoy a most beautiful and peaceful holiday.

One Night of Peace on Earth


On December 24, 1914, a miracle of sorts took place on a field in Belgium. It happened just five months after the outbreak of World War I , and on that bitter cold night, men who were foes in battle became gentlemen who refused to fight.

Perhaps this legacy might be repeated and become long lasting in our lifetimes.

This is the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. It is something to think about during these long, dark nights of winter.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus and NORAD is tracking his every move


For more than 50 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and its predecessor, Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa Claus on his Christmas Eve flight, providing Santa, his reindeer, and sleigh, safe and unimpeded air space over North America and Canada, while sharing information with children, on Santa’s minute-by-minute progress around the globe.

NORAD is staffed by the good folks who keep our skies safe, 24 hours a day, seven days week with radar and intercept aircraft, and this time of year, they also invite you to their NORAD Tracks Santa web site where you can keep an eye on Santa’s Christmas flight right along with them in real time.

At the NORAD site, children, parents and caregivers will see a brief video of television personality, Kelly Ripa, as she explains the Santa tracking project, and on Christmas Eve day, you’ll come back to this same page and see images from the “Santa Cams” that have been pre-positioned around the world to catch glimpses of Santa, the reindeer and his sleigh.

You’ll also track Santa by downloading a free application of Google Earth, available from the NORAD web site, as well as following Santa's progress on NORAD’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

If you prefer, on December 24, you can send an email to a NORAD staff member at noradtrackssanta@gmail.com, and they will give you Santa’s last known location in a return email.


Plus, the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center phone lines will be fully operational beginning at 4:00 a.m. MST on December 24, and you can call 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk directly to a NORAD staff member who will tell you Santa’s exact location!

While you’re waiting for the big day, NORAD provides some fun and games during the countdown at "Santa’s Village," where you click on any shop in the village, and find an interesting activity that is inside each of the different buildings.

There are also special pages where you’ll see and hear Santa read the Night Before Christmas in a pre-recorded video, and learn lots of interesting facts about the big guy in red, everything from his sleigh’s technical data to how he gets down a chimney.

For Santa skeptics there is even a page where you can listen to the reading of a real letter, which was written to a newspaper in 1897 by eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, questioning the existence of Santa, and hear the newspaper editor’s touching and thoughtful reply.

There is also information about appropriate “Santa Snacks” to leave out for the main man, and pages about NORAD – "why" they track Santa and details on how the tracking is actually done.

The NORAD Tracks Santa website is a non-profit organization funded solely through corporate donations, and is fully staffed by an all-volunteer crew who love children, Christmas, and honor the memory of Colonel Harry Shoup, (Retired) USAF, who by serendipity in 1955, became NORAD’s very first Santa Tracker.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Changing the way we look at things


An interesting psychology experiment was performed by researchers from Harvard University covering what is termed as, “change blindness.”

Basically speaking it’s “information selection” – we see what we want to see, or better yet, what we (our brain) deems as important.

So much for cognitive correctness, I think you will find this brief video a fascinating mirror held up to the human condition. (No wonder eyewitnesses are oftentimes diametrically opposed in a courtroom, particularly if there is an eyewitness for the defense and one for the prosecution!)

It reminds me a bit of that old childhood game, “Telephone” – where you tell one person a secret and it goes around the room to everyone, and by the time it reaches the last person the original statement is often altered beyond recognition. (I would venture to say that would be called, “change hearing?”)

I doubt if young Robert Burns, the beloved Scottish poet (1759-1796) had change blindness in mind when he wrote: “O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.”

But, then again, maybe he did. You be the judge.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hubble Space Telescope images provide out of this world holiday cards


Your children can say, “Season’s Greetings” this year by printing out their very own free holiday cards while getting a bird’s eye view of the universe, and a fabulous science lesson at the same time from the good folks at Hubblesite.

Hubblesite is the home for all things about the Hubble Space Telescope, the world’s first space-based optical telescope named by NASA to honor American astronomer, Edwin P. Hubble (1889-1953), the man whose decade-long observations of our ever-expanding universe provided “Hubble’s Law,” the foundation for the “Big Bang” model of creation.

In addition to the free and unique holiday cards, children can further explore the Hubble web site and download magnificent wallpapers, tour the Hubble gallery seeing all the planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies that Hubble has captured with its lenses, get their own Hubble photos in three easy steps through the Hubble Print Shop, and even stop by Hubble’s Movie Theater where they can view a series of short videos that provide glimpses into Hubble's activities, discoveries and science, plus lots more fun-filled activities to spark the inquisitiveness of any junior astronomer.

Probably one of the best scientific exploration investments ever made, the Hubble was launched from the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990 at a cost of $1.5 billion, and was targeted for a 20-year visual discovery mission, orbiting the Earth at a low altitude of 380 statute miles every 97 minutes, and at a speed of 17,500 mph.

Faster than you can say “crab nebula,” children can also see snapshots of the Hubble Space Telescope in flight, and learn about Hubble’s “ground crew” - the people who make it all happen.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wrapping up the holidays


Every year when the holidays come around, I like to unwrap gifts very slowly and carefully, thereby being able to save a considerable amount of beautiful wrapping paper, tissue, bows, and bags, which to my delight are recycled for the following year and sometimes even, two, three, or four. - In these eco-conscious times, that has been my small contribution to saving trees and the environment.

The other day, I came across an even better idea, the Japanese practice of “furoshiki.” It’s a traditional method of gift-wrapping, which in itself is almost an art form, but instead of using paper, one utilizes cloth cut in a large square.

This type of gift wrap can be brought into service year-after-year or fashioned into something else – what a deal! Trees are going to love you!

The video below provides a very simple step-by-step guide on how to wrap everything from books to bottles. Have fun – I know I will!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks


Some thoughts to share on this Thanksgiving Day:

"For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.” - Albert Schweitzer

“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” - Theodore Roosevelt

Blessings to all.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What’s in a word?


Whether you write professionally or for fun, every writer has good days and dreadful days.

Included in the dreadful days are such things as writer’s block, misspellings (a homonym not caught), and the sin of what I like to call ‘florid writing’ or ‘sniveling drivel.’

How would you feel if your claim to literary fame was winning first place in a bad writing contest with your very own sniveling drivel?

For the past 27 years writers from all over the world have sharpened their pencils or turned on their laptops and set out to snivel the worst opening sentence for a novel, competing in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

The writing contest is named in honor of English novelist and playwright, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who coined such hackneyed phrases as: “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and “the great unwashed,” but who is probably best remembered for this:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

Phew!

Now, let’s have a drum roll… the 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Grand Prizewinner is, David McKenzie, a 55-year-old Quality Systems consultant and writer from Federal Way, Washington. McKenzie’s has indeed honored Bulwer-Lytton with the following:

Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the “Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests.

The Runner-up honors in the Bulwer-Lytton went to Warren Blair, Ashburn, Virginia with the following:

The wind dry-shaved the cracked earth like a dull razor--the double edge kind from the plastic bag that you shouldn't use more than twice, but you do; but Trevor Earp had to face it as he started the second morning of his hopeless search for Drover, the Irish Wolfhound he had found as a pup near death from a fight with a prairie dog and nursed back to health, stolen by a traveling circus so that the monkey would have something to ride.

Are you still laughing out loud over that one?

Some of my personal favorites came away with the distinct title of “Dishonorable Mentions.” The following, written by Lynn Lamousin, Baton Rouge, Louisiana reminded me a bit of Garrison Keillor’s “Guy Noir” alter ego on Prairie Home Companion.

Darnell knew he was getting hung out to dry when the D.A. made him come clean by airing other people's dirty laundry; the plea deal was a new wrinkle and there were still issues to iron out, but he hoped it would all come out in the wash - otherwise he had folded like a cheap suit for nothing.

And, how about this gem by Rita Hammett, Boca Raton, Florida:

She expected a beautiful morning after the previous night's hard rain but instead stepped out her door to a horrible vision of drowned earthworms covering the walkway -- their bodies curled and swirled like limp confetti after a party crashed by firefighters.

Or, this one by Harol Hoffman-Meisner, Greensboro, North Carolina?

The first time I saw her she took my breath away with her long blonde hair that flowed over her shoulders like cheese sauce on a bed of nachos, making my stomach grumble as she stepped into the room, her red knit dress locking in curves better than a Ferrari at a Grand Prix.

And finally, (I love this) the Winner of the “Vile Puns” category, Greg Homer, Placerville, California:

Using her flint knife to gut the two amphibians, Kreega the Neanderthal woman created the first pair of open-toad sandals.

Congratulations all – you’ve truly tickled some funny bones and honored the memory of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Haunted Quaboag - Fact or Fiction?


The celebration of Halloween and tales of haunting seem to go hand- in-hand. Whether you believe in restless spirits or alternate dimensions, lingering legends perpetuated over the years oftentimes stemmed from brutal acts or major calamitous events that normally give rise to ghost stories.

Here in my backyard, which is also known as the Quaboag Plantation in New England, it seems spirits find it so peaceful they come to rest and not linger on this plane, or do they? You be the judge.

It was a beautiful and elegant hotel in its day when it sat perched on the corner of Grove and Common Streets in Barre, Massachusetts. In 1980, artist, Frank Bly, captured the Barre Hotel’s grandeur in a charming winter scene. Ten years later the grand old building had burned to the ground and all that remained were the memories, and according to locals, Bly rendered a new painting of the hotel, but this time it had ghosts and spirits pouring out of its windows. Whether Bly actually saw those specters or interpreted the hotel’s demise in the language of an artist is left to conjecture and imagination.

Other stories of a thought provoking nature that reflect the early days of the Plantation during King Philip’s War provide no evidence of haunting by restless spirits even after the brutal ambush of the original settlers of Foster Hill, or the gruesome tale of William Pritchard’s son, Samuel, who on the same day his father was killed at “Wheeler’s Surprise,” met with his own dark fate - death and beheading. The story of this heinous act, Samuel’s head tossed and kicked about like a football for all to see, including his mother, certainly should provide tales of restless spirits, but none seem to exist, nor are they ever spoken about.
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Then there is the Brookfield tale of Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner, the first woman in America to be sentenced to death for her involvement, with that of her young lover and two accomplices, in the beating and murder of her brutish husband, whose body was stuffed down a well in an effort to hide the deed. Spooner pleaded for clemency as she claimed she was pregnant but it was to no avail and she was sent to the gallows, along with her lover and their two accomplices on July 2, 1778. A subsequent autopsy performed on Spooner’s body revealed that she was indeed “quickened” with child, and despite the shocking nature of the story, no haunting prevails.

Another true tale that took place in 1874, the abduction of four-year-old Charley Ross (a Philadelphia Main Line youngster) gave rise to possible haunting stories concerning Charley’s summer home in Brookfield, Massachusetts. The Ross kidnapping/ransom case was the first of its kind to garner national media attention, and on a local level was cause for continuous gossip. The summer vacation residence, which belonged to Charley’s aunt, was a grand, but brooding and dark-looking Victorian home. After Charley’s disappearance, the “Lewis Mansion”, as it was known, suddenly was left abandoned by the family, with all its furnishings and personal belongings intact. It was as if the entire family had simply vanished. Some said the kidnappers had killed Charley and buried his body in the basement of the home. As late as the mid 1940’s, before the property was raised and converted into a recreation park, children often prowled the abandoned house mostly scaring themselves with their own footsteps. Charley Ross was never found; the Lewis family never returned to claim their belongings and no one ever reported seeing a ghost – ever.

In North Brookfield, Massachusetts, just off Slab City Road, sits an enormous dam that was once was the site of Woolcott’s Mill, which was established in 1717 as a sawmill. For years, the mill site carried a stigma of misfortune each time the property changed hands – everything from an owner’s disappearance to an accidental tragic shooting of a child by his brother, and even one poor soul loosing his arm in an industrial accident at the site. In an effort to explain the odd and sometime ghoulish happenings, local residents blamed it on an unknown woman who simply was referred to as “Aunt Hepsie.”
To this day, no one has ever seen or even knows who Aunt Hepsie was and why she was singled out for infamy. So, no ghost there, but indeed an odd series of occurrences, which cannot be explained.

Our last tale concerns the murder of a young bride-to-be, “Elsie,” who was savagely beheaded by her intended on their wedding day. She is said to wander the Evergreen Cemetery in New Braintree, Massachusetts. Folks don’t seem to know her last name, nor where in this slip of land that she is buried, but without doubt, ask any local, and in hushed tones they will talk about the spirit in a diaphanous gown that haunts not on Halloween, but every 18th of April on Paul Revere Day. Writer/artist Stephanie Benoit captured the legend in verse that begins with, “A mournful, fragile vapor rises from Evergreen where spent souls lie, where great stonewalls hold back the darkness that oozes from the woods nearby.” The poem continues with the story and concludes: “Skeptics say it’s purely fiction, Elsie’s ghostly truth denied - ‘A reluctant corpse,’ say the believers, Death’s pointed finger she defied. To romantics it’s just charming folklore, of death embalmed in mystery, and Elsie’s grave and stern decorum is now New Braintree’s history.” I’ve not seen Elsie yet… but I’ll let you know when I do.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Autumn Leaves





Come walk with me among the falling leaves
and share the final moments of many lives
well lived beneath the full and ripened sun.
We will bid farewell, and mark the passing
of each precious and glorious life.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It’s Apple pickin’ time: The definitive guide to pick-your-own apples nationwide Conclusion with recipe


Once you bring your apples home from the orchard, there are numerous recipes and uses for them - everything from pies and dumplings, to confections.

The following is one of the more unique choices that will bring back thoughts of summer on a cold and snowy day.

APPLE WALNUT CONSERVE

3 pounds of apples should yield about 4-1/2 cups chopped
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup raisins
1 package powdered pectin
5 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 to 3 drops red food coloring (optional) or a bit of cinnamon for taste and mild color (also optional)
Clean and core apples, leaving skin on. Chop or dice apples to about ¼ to ½ inch pieces to equal 4-1/2 cups. Combine chopped apples, water, lemon juice, and raisins in a large kettle. Add pectin stirring well. Place over high heat. Stirring constantly, bring quickly to a full boil with bubbles over the entire surface. Add sugar; continue stirring, and bring to a full bubbling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add walnuts. (Add red food coloring if desired.) Remove from heat and pour immediately into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Seal jars and process for 5 minutes in boiling-water bath. Makes 6 to 7 half-pint jars. Awesome with warm buttered toast and English muffins or as a relish to poultry, or boiled beef. ENJOY!

What about you, what’s your favorite recipe for apples? Please feel free to share!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It’s Apple pickin’ time: The definitive guide to pick-your-own apples nationwide Part 3- The Who, What, Where When and How of Apple Picking


Most pick-your-own orchards provide containers but it’s always a good idea to ask if you need to bring your own, and if there is a minimum harvest required along with method of payment.


Pickyourown.org. is a great resource for finding the nearest location nationwide for pick-your-own apples They also cover international locations such as: Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and many other countries.


In planning your excursion, be sure to check out availability of specific apple varieties, as ripening and harvest times will vary.


Also, ask about unique features that many of the orchards offer such as baked goods, jellies and apple specialty items, as many maintain gift shops in addition to family friendly children’s activities.


Dress in layers as fall weather can be unpredictable and wear comfortable walking shoes.


When picking apples, gently pull and twist simultaneously. If you get two apples next to each other on the same branch, gently pull both at the same time but twist each in the opposite direction.


When you bring your harvest home, remember that apples do best stored in a cool (35 to 45 degrees) dry place, with lower light, but if they need to ripen, room temperature is the answer.


- HAPPY PICKIN’- Check back tomorrow for a special recipe for your harvest.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It’s Apple pickin’ time: The definitive guide to pick-your-own apples nationwide Part 2 – What’s Your Favorite Variety?


Always remember, the best variety of apple is the one that appeals to your individual taste.

The following is a list of apples and their characteristics. Just click on the name of the apple variety for a picture.

Arkansas Black: Harvested later in the season; dark purple to almost black in color; medium to large size fruit with hard texture; stores well and is great for baking.

Braeburn: Another later seasoned fruit; yellow base color with orange/red blush and red stripes; originated in New Zealand in 1952; medium to large fruit with cream colored crisp, juicy, slightly tart flesh that stores well.

Cortland: Sept. through early October harvest; a purple hued dull red apple with white soft flesh; it is a McIntosh cross with less aromatic properties; keeps well and is excellent in salads.

Empire: Another McIntosh hybrid crossed with Red Delicious; originally introduced in New York State in 1966; dark red with creamy white flesh that is juicy with a slight acidity; most enjoyable eaten when fresh but keeps well for a long period of time; also great for desserts and cider; often available starting in October.

Gala: An early season harvest originally developed in New Zealand; a heart-shaped fruit with yellow and red stripes; aromatic and sweet tasting; small to medium in size fruit; makes wonderful applesauce, good in salads, and eating fresh picked.

Golden Delicious: An old-time favorite introduced in West Virginia in 1900; generally mid to late Sept. harvest; large yellow-gold fruit with tender skin; has crisp, firm sweet and flavorful flesh; works well in salads and blended in applesauce; requires careful picking as it can easily bruise.

Honeycrisp: A medium to large sized, red over light greenish/yellow apple sometimes covered with flecks of reddish/brown; juicy, sweet, aromatic, and crisp; harvested mostly in Sept. it was first introduced in Minnesota and makes excellent eating and apple juice.

Jonathan: A medium sized fruit with a tart yet sweet taste; developed in New York State in 1896; tougher red over greenish/yellow skin; one of the first apples in the fall and a long-time favorite for eating and cooking.

Jonagold: A cross between Golden Delicious and Jonathan developed in 1968; a large red over yellow apple with crackling, firm slightly tart full flavor; stores well under refrigeration; harvested mid to late Sept.; works well for pies, salads, baking, sauce and snacks.

Liberty: A highly disease-resistant McIntosh-type apple developed in New York State in 1962; a large fruit, red over yellow; great for eating, sauce salads and desserts; flavor heightens when stored.

Macoun: Was developed in 1909 but not introduced to the general market until 1950; size and shape similar to McIntosh but with deeper red coloring and more strip variations; a very sweet, aromatic and firm fleshed fruit known as the New England Dessert apple but also great for eating, salads and sauces; harvest begins in Sept.

McIntosh: An old-time American favorite since 1811; mild and sweet flavor that’s great for eating, salads and as an applesauce blend; harvested at the beginning of Sept. to Oct.

Mutsu: A sweet crisp, greenish-yellow apple, similar to the Golden Delicious it was developed in Japan in 1930; it’s great for fresh eating and applesauce and is generally available the beginning of October.

Paula Red: A tart-tasting apple with creamy light flesh; one of the first-of-the-season varieties to be harvested; small to medium in size, it developed as a mutation of the McIntosh; bright red fruit over yellow with a dusty-sheen appearance; not overly sweet or tart suitable for eating and cooking when softness is desired.

Red Delicious: For years was the most popular apple in the world; great for eating, salads and applesauce; bright to deep dark crimson skin with fine-grained white flesh; sweet simple flavor with refreshing slight acidity; harvested in mid to late Sept. and excellent for eating, salads and applesauce; harvested later in the season.

Suncrisp: Harvested mid to late Oct; a Golden Delicious-type; red over orange colored, hard fruit that keeps well and best for baking.

Vista Bella: A medium sized, dark red over yellowish-green skin; light and juicy flesh akin in flavor to early raspberries; fine eating apple.

Come back tomorrow for the “who, what, where, when and how” of apple picking.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It’s Apple pickin’ time: The definitive guide to pick-your-own apples nationwide Part 1- A Little Bit of History


Long before 1792, when John Chapman (also known as “Johnny Appleseed”) left his Leominster, Massachusetts home to make his way westward planting apple orchards, the fruit had arrived with the settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.


The history of the apple, a member of the rose family, stretches its origins even further to an area somewhere between the Caspian and the Black Sea more than 6500 years ago.


Historically it was considered a favorite fruit by the ancient Greeks and Romans and today there are at least 7500 varieties grown worldwide, with some 2500 varieties available in the United States alone.


One of the most healthful of all foods, the apple is fat, sodium, and cholesterol free as well as a great source of the fiber, and only about 80 calories for a medium sized fruit.


Now that it’s harvest time, there are many varieties of apple that are available at orchards and farms nationwide, which are beckoning for folks to “pick your own.”


Come back and visit tomorrow as I highlight some fairly common and unusual varieties.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The top 11 things I will never eat (or have eaten and will never do it again!) Part 4 (Two exceptions that will surprise.)


I’m a b-a-a-a-d blogger – it occurred to me today that I left you all hanging with my final installment of this article. The last entry in this series of posts was on August 10, 2009 (just in case you want to refresh your memories.) Anyway, here are two items that I have eaten, which are often considered quite gross by most folk’s standards, but I have enjoyed them immensely. What’s your take on these two delicacies?


Just click on this first link to see if you know what it actually is. If you need a hint, try this link.


Yep, it’s cow tongue, but it’s not just “cow tongue” if it is prepared properly, and IMHO that requires boiling, slicing it in such a way that it no longer resembles tongue, and serving it with a delicious sweet and sour raisin sauce. Mm, Mm good!!! And, if prepared this way you will think it is the finest, most tender and flavorful cut of beef you’ve ever eaten. Plus it will look like this.


The next unusual delicacy that I’ve really enjoyed, I was introduced to as a child at a restaurant that was known for this specialty, Phil Schmidt & Sons, which unfortunately (two years ago) closed its doors after 97 years in business.


Can you guess what it is from the “before” picture or the "after."


If you’re still not sure, check out the video below. Now, what about you - care to share anymore? Bon App├ętit'!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The lovers, the dreamers and me: Jim Henson remembered

Today marks the birth date of one of those rare, multi-talented entertainment hyphenates, puppeteer-actor-producer-director-writer and composer, Jim Henson, whose legacy lives on in some of the finest children’s programming ever created.

Born in 1936 in Greenville, Mississippi, Henson accomplished an outstanding, award-winning body of work in his 53 years of life, encompassing both television and film.

Widely known as the creator of “The Muppets,” it was Henson’s skilled presentation of some of these beloved fabric characters, such as “Kermit the Frog” that provided dual stars for him and his amphibian characterization on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

It was also Henson’s puppetry talents that were instrumental to the success of one of the longest running and most honored children’s programs, Sesame Street.

Henson’s life was cut short May 16, 1990, dying within a matter of days after contracting a streptococcal infection.

Today, Henson’s creative work continues through his family-run Jim Henson Company, the Jim Henson Foundation and the multitude of products that bear his signature.

Henson’s alter ego, better known as “Kermit the frog” lives on as well and is voiced by the talented actor, Steve Whitmire.

Henson once said, “When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.”

On September 26, 1992, Henson was proclaimed, "Humanitarian, muppeteer, producer and director of films for children that encourage tolerance, interracial values, equality and fair play," when he was posthumously awarded the Children’s Peace Award. This honor, which is part of the Courage of Conscience Awards, places his name and work alongside that of humanity’s finest contributors: names such as Mahatma Gandhi; John Lennon and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

The video tribute below is also a testament to his words, his work and his life, and is but a fraction of the outpouring of admiration for Henson that has made its way to the Internet over the years.

Featured on the video is the talented Kenny Loggins, singing the “Rainbow Connection” from the 1979 hit film, The Muppet Movie, which was originally sung by Henson as Kermit. The song became part of music history when it made Billboard’s Hot 100 and was nominated for an Academy Award.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Great Healthcare Debate


Over the last few months, I have witnessed a discourse that borders on the ridiculous over healthcare.


Supposedly, intelligent and informed people are debating this issue by yelling, screaming, going ballistic, spreading false information, utilizing scare tactics and even biting body parts – frankly, I don’t understand it.


Healthcare reform is an issue that needs to be addressed whether we are Republican , Democrat or Independent, and whether we like it or not. The financial stability of this country is dependent on reform.


The National Coalition on Health Care, the nation's largest non-profit and “rigorously non-partisan” organization that represents 70 organizations, who in turn employ or represent about 150 million Americans, provides irrefutable statistical information (the hard facts and numbers) about the need for reform, and they don’t have an axe to grind, or an election to win, or a profit to make.


If after perusing NCHC’s website, and seeing the surprising number of mainstream and medical organizations involved that support the dissemination of real facts, or if you have still have doubts, fears or are confused about what a “Public Option” is, versus a "Co-op," the two-minute/39 seconds video below, featuring Robert Reich, is without a doubt, (IMHO) the most succinct and understandable explanation of the facts.


If you found this helpful, pass it on.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

PBS KIDS Reading Rainbow turns its last page


After 26 years of giving children reasons to read and opening up the possibilities that the love of literacy provides, PBS KIDS Reading Rainbow turned its last page Friday, August 28, 2009 when the powers-to-be gave the popular television show walking papers.

Over the years, Reading Rainbow was hosted by the genial yet kid-energizing Hollywood star, LeVar Burton, and even with the show garnering two dozen Emmy wins, a Peabody Award, TV Critics Award and NAACP Image Awards those factors did not prevent the program from being shuttered.

As an educational, as well entertaining children’s show, ranked only after Sesame Street and Mister Rogers Neighborhood in longevity, this demise comes as a total surprise.

What caused it? Apparently, it was twofold. Budgeting constraints being one cause (no surprise in this economy) but the other reason, which marked the show for the hit list was an initiative started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration. This initiative placed emphasis on providing children with the basic mechanics for reading, such as phonics and spelling, a niche which the current PBS KIDS program Super Why! fills quite nicely.

In an interview done by Ben Calhoun on National Public Radio’s (NPR) Morning edition, Linda Simensky, vice president for children's programming at PBS explained that when Reading Rainbow was first developed in the early 1980’s everyone was trying to figure out "How do we get kids to read books?"

Well, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Department of Education, and PBS have indeed provided the tools to help children learn to read with programs such as Super Why! but mechanics alone will not make lifelong readers. Once grasped, the tools for reading are marvelous to have but reinforcement is necessary.

Exposing young readers to the vast world of literary titles, as Reading Rainbow did during the last quarter century, opened children to the love of books, with the unlimited possibilities they provided, which (to paraphrase the show’s opening song) enabled them to be anywhere, and to let them be anything - that’s what’s in a book, just take a look.

Reading Rainbow will be missed.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Moo-oo-ving experience!



CNN reporter Deborah Feyerick was on location covering a story assignment about farming in St. Albans, Vermont.


Little did she know that she was going to be part of the big scoop.


When Feyerick and production crew initially arrived on the scene, the owner of the farm proceeded to take the crew on a tour of the grounds, when all of a sudden they came upon one of his cows that was attempting to give birth.


The farmer immediately recognized that the cow was having a difficult time pushing the calf out, so he did what he always does when one of his cows has this problem; he assisted and allowed Feverick to lend a helping “pull” using a set of chains attached to the stubborn little calf.


It was lucky for cow, calf and farmer that the news crew had been present otherwise the farmer may not have been able to extract the calf, and most likely both cow and calf would have died.


All I can say is “OUCH,” but well done indeed (IMHO.)


Oh, and by the way, cow, calf, farmer and reporter are all doing well!



Friday, August 14, 2009

The Sands of Time




One of the most remarkable examples of video footage has surfaced on YouTube, in the form of what might best be described as a cross pollination between performance art and avant-garde, but that doesn’t even describe it accurately.

In fact, there really isn’t a pure term to nail it down, other than an artist performing the act of creation.

Kseniya Simonova is the artist, and she recently claimed the winning spot on Ukraine’s own version of our popular, “America’s Got Talent” television show.

Simonova, who utilizes sand as her artistic medium, wowed and reduced her audience (as well as the show’s judges) to tears as she drew pictures with sand, telling the dramatic story of the invasion and occupation of Ukraine by the Nazis during World War II.

Her drawings, illuminated in a PowerPoint format and accompanied by dramatic music, reveal through morphing images, the horrors and losses suffered by the Ukrainian people.

It is estimated that between five to eight million Ukrainians perished during that dark period in history, and it is obvious that very few if any family histories were not touched by the devastation over 65 years ago.

See for yourself this remarkable and touching performance, which was signed at the end, not with her name, but with the simple phrase, “You are always near.”

In my humble opinion, this truly redefines the term “talent.”

Monday, August 10, 2009

The top 11 things I will never eat (or have eaten and will never do it again!) Part 3



My apologies all, for leaving you hanging on the previous post, before the one about Walter Cronkite.

Anyway, here are the remainder items that I will never eat (or have eaten and will never do it again.)

7. Pickled pigs feet –No-o-o-o-o thanks!

8. Chocolate covered crickets… No way bleepin’ way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t imagine crunching away on something that I would rather sit and listen to from my front porch on a late summer evening. I think I’ll take my chocolate the old-fashioned way in a Hershey Bar.

9.Deep fried mars bars…Now don’t get me wrong, I do like chocolate, but never tried this, because basically I can’t imagine deep-frying anything but chicken or fries, and besides I don’t think my arteries could handle this.

10. Larvets …….If you haven’t guessed by the name, I’ll link you to what this is, but before that, I’ll tell you - for me it’s a resounding “PASS!” I like my critters in the garden not in the package!

11. ant candy…In red or green apple flavor… I don’t think so! (Please let me know if you prefer the red or the green.)

Come on now, start submitting more of your favorites.

Tomorrow… a couple of entrees that I bravely tried and found them to be AWESOME!!!!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Saying goodbye


In the last few weeks, many notable luminaries have passed from our midst, now part of history, and all having touched our lives on many different levels.


The list of names is long for such a brief period of time: “infomercial king” Billy Mays; actress Gale Storm; actor Karl Malden; the “king of pop” Michael Jackson; actress Farrah Fawcett; “late-night sidekick” Ed McMahon; author Frank McCourt; actor James Whitmore, and broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite.


I remember flipping television channels and catching sales pitches from Mays, and giggling at the antics of Storm and retorts by McMahon; going into a hairdresser and asking for a “Fawcett” cut and sitting in a darkened theater enthralled by performances of Whitmore and Malden; humming a Jackson song and being moved by McCourt’s words, all fine watercolor memories, but for me, Walter Cronkite’s death brought more reflection than any on that list.


He had been a part of my life in the 20th century, perhaps more than any of the others.


It’s odd, but I have vivid memories of where I was and what I was doing when Cronkite broke the heart-rending news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination; the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald; when “one small step” was taken for mankind on the lunar surface and then again, when Apollo 13 Commander James A. Lovell reported he had “a problem.” He was there for us during the violent demonstrations in Chicago reporting the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and he was always there as the numbers of casualties rose day-by-day during the Vietnam War. He was there during the Watergate Scandal; he was there announcing the death of President Johnson and the resignation of Richard M. Nixon. He was a trusted voice and image, always there, always reporting events as they unfolded in real time.


Cronkite also reached back into history and as presenter and host of You Are There during the 1950s and then again, in the early 70s, he took me on historical newsworthy voyages of the past, opening each program with, "All things are as they were then, except... You Are There." and concluding each of those fascinating mini documentaries by saying, "What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times... and you were there."


For many years, Cronkite illuminated us all with his accurate and thoughtful reporting. I will miss this “most trusted man in America” and I will miss his other verbal signature, “that’s the way it is.”


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Entertaining idea: Birthday parties for a good cause

Today we are going to take a bit of a break from bizarre food and cover some ground on a story of real importance that I posted earlier today on my Examiner.com page. Please share this with as many folks that you know. It's for a very good cause.


The distinguished and celebrated actor, James Cromwell once said, “Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life.”

This same philosophy has been demonstrated day-after-day by a unique animal shelter known as Second Chance, located in the small and tranquil community of East Brookfield, Massachusetts, whose reach is nationwide.

Second Chance, with a grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, has instituted a notable program, Party for Pets, which has been designed to not only help animals, but provide birthday fun for children along with a good lesson in the grace of charitable giving.

Second Chance Animal Shelter is a rare breed of shelter, in that it is known as a “no-kill facility,” which means instead of an animal being euthanized if not claimed, Second Chance provides medical care, food, shelter and socialization training if necessary for animals until a new “forever-family” can be properly matched to adopt them.

Over the years, this 1200 square foot facility has done the impossible, and given thousands of dogs, cats and assorted creatures a “second chance” at life after being surrendered or abandoned by their caretakers.

In 2008, the shelter rose to national prominence as one of the top 20 facilities in the United States from over 1,000 shelters nationwide and was feted by the Zoo-Too Corporation, the Humane Society of the United States, the Shelter Planners of America, and the Pedigree Adoption Drive Foundation for the important work they do in creating loving homes for adoptable pets while promoting proper pet care with vaccination and spay/neuter programs

Now, more than ever, with the extended recession and unemployment decimating numerous household budgets, Second Chance has risen to the call and taken in an ever-increasing number of pets as families struggle to keep a roof over their head and food on their table.

If your child, or a child you know, has a birthday coming up, the Party for Pets program will provide a special party package for kids who are having a birthday and who are willing to ask their party guests to provide gifts for the shelter pets instead of themselves – it can be pet food or pet toys; designated shelter supplies or monetary donations; whatever is easiest to mail or ship back to Second Chance.

The child’s party package will arrive prior to their birthday and includes various party favors for their guests along with a special t-shirt for the birthday girl or boy.

In addition, if you live within driving distance, kids can bring the pet gifts to the shelter after their party and they will get a personal tour of the facility.

Whether you ship the gifts or bring them in, all children are encouraged to provide pictures with their written reflections on why they chose to have a "Party for Pets," and they will be featured on the “Star Supporters” web page of Second Chance.

To register for this important program simply follow this link.

As the child in your life celebrates his or her birthday, it will be an opportunity for them to reflect on the importance of their good deed and generosity, which helps to provide a re-birth or second chance for a homeless pet.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The top 11 things I will never eat (or have eaten and will never do it again!) Part 2



4. Heart - I put this in the same classification as those pesky kidneys – soapy flavor and I wouldn’t try again even if it were prepared like this.

5. Lutefisk – I heard about this delicacy from listening to Garrison Keillor talk about lutefisk on Prairie Home Companion. As far as I’m concerned, anything that looks like this after it’s been cured in lye is a definite pass for me.

6. Jellied corned beef – Nah-ah! This is the way corned beef is supposed to look.

Okay… what’s your take on this?

And, by the way, I’m being playfully wicked about this video but this is kind of where I am at with Lutefisk, although I’m sure some folks really enjoy it. I hope.….