Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Future's So Bleak - I Gotta Eat SPAM

SPAM is booming these days. No, not the stuff that clogs your in-box. I'm talking about the meat-like substance that vaguely resembles ham. SPAM (aka "Something Passing As Meat") is making a big comeback these days as the economy tanks. The people that work at the SPAM factories are expecting big holiday bonuses these days. Consumers all over the world are cutting back, and as they do so, they turn to time-honored staples like Hormel's SPAM.

From the New York Times this weekend comes the following forecast for SPAM employees:

"In a factory that abuts Interstate 90, two shifts of workers have been making
Spam seven days a week since July, and they have been told that the relentless
work schedule will continue indefinitely."

When I say SPAM, do you think of Monty Python's SPAM-a-lot (like I do?)

Ah.... Monty Python is always good for a laugh. Excuse me while I watch the video again. LOL!

This past weekend, I was reading about the history of SPAM. I realized that the unnaturally pink cube of gelatinous mixture has never touched my lips. Am I missing out on something special? The SPAM website describes it as "meat with a pause button," since you don't have to refrigerate it. Somehow, that doesn't make me want to run out to the grocery store to stock up.

In case you actually want to know what SPAM is made of, here is the list of official ingredients:

chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added; salt (for binding, flavor, and firmness); water (to help in mixing); sugar (for flavor); sodium Nitrite (for color and as a preservative).

SPAM is actually quite popular in many areas of the world. If you can believe it, 3.8 cans of SPAM are consumed every second in the U.S. If you really want to see SPAM in action, go to Hawaii. Hawaiians eat an average of four cans of SPAM per person per year (this is the highest SPAM consumption rate per capita in the world). There are entire websites devoted to SPAM recipes.

Personally, I just don't know. I think canned tuna is just as cheap as SPAM. If I get to the point that I can't afford to buy real meat, I think I'll just go vegetarian.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

'Tis the season for baking... and pumpkins! Hot on the heels of my Pumpkin Soup Recipe comes Pumpkin Cranberry Bread. Now, as much as I love pumpkin, you may be overdoing it if you serve Pumpkin Cranberry Bread with Pumpkin Soup. But this delicious homemade bread is excellent for breakfast or lunch, and also makes a tasty holiday appetizer. You may also want to give Pumpkin Cranberry Bread as gifts to your kids' teachers, your mail carrier, or to anyone else that deserves some sweetness in their life.

Ingredients for Pumpkin Cranberry Bread:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 T. pumpkin pie spice
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 c. pumpkin (1 15 oz. can)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. dried cranberries

Directions for Pumpkin Cranberry Bread:

Combine flour, spice, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside
Combine sugar, eggs, pumpkin and vegetable oil - stir well in a large mixing bowl
Stir in dry ingredients with pumpkin mixture
Fold in cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Prepare two 9X5 inch loaf pans with baking spray and then lightly floured
Spoon Pumpkin Cranberry Bread mixture into two pans

Bake for 1 hour.
Remove and allow loaves to cool at least 20 minutes before slicing. I have to tell you, the photo above is my actual oven and I am literally smelling the Pumpkin Cranberry Bread baking as I am typing up this post. My kids keep coming in and asking me if it is done yet!

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread is an obvious choice for Thanksgiving. Children literally eat it up with the delicious holiday pumpkin and cranberry flavors. We enjoy Pumpkin Cranberry Bread all fall and into the winter. It is so easy that kids can help in the kitchen. No mixer is required!

How about another pumpkin bread variation? Here is an easy step-by-step video to enjoy:

Maybe you love cranberries, but not pumpkin recipes? OK, then - you asked and I will answer. Here is another video for cranberry walnut muffins:

I have one small confession to make. This afternoon, I couldn't decide between making Pumpkin Cranberry Bread or homemade Zucchini Bread. I use both recipes often, but ultimately, the ease of Pumpkin Cranberry Bread won out over the idea of grating zucchini. Then again.... I do have four able-bodied children to help with that task. So, stay tuned for my next kitchen post! Happy Holiday Baking!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cute Kid Gets Out the Vote

Its Election Day 2008! If you haven't voted by now, you probably only have a few hours left. What are you waiting for? Well, OK - I'll give you an extra minute to watch this cute kid get out the vote:

Remember, if you don't vote, you can't complain about the results!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Stress Fracture Blues

Dang it! The training for the Portland Marathon (and just perhaps my age too) has finally done me in. Just a month after I ran 26.2 miles, I ended up with a stress fracture on my right foot. And I have over-training to blame.

I am so frustrated! Running is my stress relief, my religion, my saving grace on a crappy day. Not only that, but coming up on age 40 seems to have slowed my metabolism such that I have to work extra hard to keep the pounds at bay.

Now, I get news today that there shall be no running for 4-6 weeks. What can I do? Swim? Um.... no. Not only am I not that great of a swimmer (I couldn't do a flip turn to save my life), but the thought of all the extra effort of pulling on a swimsuit and getting all wet in a pool, makes me want to run as fast as my kitten from a running bathtub. If that wasn't insult enough, I have to wear an ugly post-op "shoe" that has a stiff sole and keeps me from bending my toes when I walk.

I found out that it is not uncommon for women like me to suffer a stress fracture. Women my age (pre-menopausal - gulp!) are more likely to have issues with bone density. The amount of running I was doing - about 30 miles per week - also had something to do with it. So, how to keep injuries at bay in the future? Slowly increase mileage (check), make sure you have good, supportive shoes (OK, I need to work on that), and don't run when you are feeling any pain (my bad - I ran on Sunday even though my toes were hurting). If only I could be like this guy in the pole-vaulting video and continue my sport while I am healing:

What can I do for the next month or two after being diagnosed with a stress fracture? Starve myself - since I'm not burning off 500+ calories per day with exercise? Nope. I can't do that. I love food too much! To help me in that department, however, I have taken on Julie's no-sugar challenge, which has at least three times today kept me out of the Halloween candy. No leftover birthday cake for me either. I have considered starting to ride my bike to work - I live only 4 miles from downtown Bend - so that would be theoretically easy. But its November. Waaaah! I don't want to cycle in the snow.

I guess the bottom line is that the stress fracture is nature's little way of telling me to slow down. Heck, it was dark today at 4:30, so who wants to go out and exercise in the rain in these conditions? OK, yes, it would have been me....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

How to Live Happily Ever After

Last night, Cinderalla came to my house. She was in good company with Wonder Woman and a black kitty cat. Later that evening, I'm pretty sure I saw Snow White - but it could have been Sleeping Beauty. It was pretty dark.

With all these adorable children dressed up as their favorite Disney characters for Halloween, it got me thinking about the appeal of "happily ever after." Who doesn't like a story that ends with the girl swept off her feet by the man of her dreams? I'm not a feminist, by any stretch of the definition of the term, but I have to admit that I'm worried about setting up my own daughter to believe that happily ever after is founded on getting married to a handsome prince.

In my book, happily ever after is the way a woman lives when she is financially secure in her own right. This does not mean that there are no handsome princes out there - however, the smart woman is one who can take care of herself, no matter what happens to Prince Charming! There are so many ways to do this - from getting an education (complete high school or get a GED at least), to establishing your own credit record, and sticking to a household budget. No one is going to wave a magic wand and give you a castle to live in, rent-free! While you're out there building up your credit, learn to use your voice too! Speak up when something is not going your way, and you'll get treated better in the long run. One of my favorite thoughts (don't know who gets attribution) is that "we teach people how to treat us." Keep that in mind and you'll be a stronger, happier person.

Am I some kind of nut to suggest that you can live happily ever after just by finishing school and setting a budget? Yes and no. Life will have its ups and downs. Children will get sick. Loved ones will die. Prince Charming may argue with you endlessly about the cost of coloring your hair while he goes off to golf on the weekends. It is an ongoing process - living happily ever after. It requires constant management by YOU, of YOU. Sometimes the glass will definitely appear half-empty, but its up to you to look deep for the joyful experiences and relationships you have to turn that perception around.

I also have to remind myself that even grown-up movies are but fairy tales. The silver screen can make me feel disillusioned by my own life. The last movie I saw, "Nights in Rodanthe," had me drooling over Richard Gere and silently cursing my husband for not having a romantic bone in his body. Living happily ever after means being able to put things into perspective, I guess. Those characters on screen are truly make-believe, and we're only given a tiny glimpse into their fake lives. With mortgages to pay, carpools to run, and toilets to scrub, no wonder my spouse and I don't dash off to the beach for a carefree weekend of love-making. And if we did, we'd probably be arguing about finances most of the way. Who wants to watch such reality when they go to the movies?

It is just a fantasy to believe that we, as women, will be entirely taken care of by a devoted, doting partner. Yes, that is the cold, hard fact. Happily ever after demands more than that. It requires personal growth, independence, and healthy boundaries. As long as you are secure the person that you are - you don't need Prince Charming to "complete you." But he can still be a cute accessory.....

Thursday, October 30, 2008

12 Silly Halloween Jokes

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you have a wonderful time, whether trick-or-treating, dressing up, or partying with your ghoul-friends....(Ok, that first one was lame, wasn't it?)

In honor of the holiday, I've complied my favorite 12 Silly Halloween jokes, and a couple of great Halloween videos. Try not to laugh your head off!

What does a vampire never order at a restaurant? A stake sandwich

Why do mummies have trouble keeping friends? They're so wrapped up in themselves

What did the mother ghost say to her children ghost in the car? Fasten your sheet belts

Why don't skeletons go to scary movies? They don't have the guts

What do you get when you cross Bambi with a ghost? Bamboo!

Knock knock! (who's there) Boo! (Boo who?) Gee, you don't have to cry about it!

What should you do if you see a monster on Halloween? Hope that the monster does not see you!

What should you do if your Jack-o-Lantern falls off the front porch? Put on a pumpkin patch!

What kind of candy do Vampires like best? Suckers!

Why does everyone hate Dracula? He has a BAT temper....

What holiday is after Halloween on Dracula's calendar? Fangs-giving

How did the skeleton know it was going to rain? He could feel it in his bones

Enough of the silly Halloween jokes - enjoy this great video of some very creative costumes!

Ten Signs You're Too Old for Halloween:

1. You get winded from knocking on the door
2. You have to have someone chew the candy for you
3. You ask for high fiber candy only.
4. When someone drops a candy bar in your bag, you lose your balance and fall over.
5. People say, "Great Keith Richards mask!" and you're not wearing a mask.
6. When the door opens you yell, "Trick or..." and you can't remember the rest.
7. By the end of the night you have a bag full of restraining orders.
8. You have to carefully choose a costume that won't dislodge your hair piece.
9. You're the only Power Ranger in the neighborhood with a walker.
10. You avoid going to houses where your ex-wives live.

I always thought that Disney movies could be a bit too scary for children. Check out this horrific re-cut of the Mary Poppins classic film:

Happy Halloween everyone! Sleep tight....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Toffee Bark Candy Recipe

With the holiday season upon us, I usually find myself in the kitchen more often than any other time of year. I have dusted off a favorite of mine: Toffee Bark Candy recipe. This is easy to make, fun to share and is an excellent idea for small gifts. Simply wrap in colorful cellophane bags, and tie with curling ribbon. Your postal delivery worker, child's teacher, or anyone else that deserves special recognition will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Toffee Bark Candy ingredients:
  • 1 12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • 1 c brown sugar

  • 2 sticks butter

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 40 Saltine or Graham crackers, or 1 sleeve Keebler Club crackers (I use the
    Club crackers)

  • Coarsely chopped nuts (cashews or peanuts), if desired

  • Hershey's Toffee baking pieces, if desired

Instructions for making Toffee Bark Candy:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

  2. Line cookie sheet with tin foil, and then mist lightly with cooking

  3. Line with a single layer of crackers

  4. Melt butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in small sauce pan over medium heat, stirring frequently.

  5. 5. Bring mixture to a "foamy" boil, stirring constantly for 3 minutes.

  6. 6. Pour mixture evenly over crackers and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees

  7. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the mixture and allow to melt. Spread evenly
    (if desired, add chopped nuts and/or toffee baking pieces)

  8. Refrigerate the Toffee Bark Candy until chocolate is firm.

Love the taste of toffee? Watch the following Nigella Lawson video as she makes Sticky Toffee Sauce - yum!

Keeping Healthy Pets

Yesterday afternoon, I spent 2 hours and $250 at the vet in order to ensure that our healthy pets stay that way. I really love my dogs, Earl (shown to the left) and Garrett (below) - as well as our new kitten, K.C. (short for Kitty Cat). Garrett and Earl are two great dogs! But there are definitely times when I wonder whether it would make sense to purchase health insurance for my pets to save me a little out-of-pocket expense when we go to the vet. I understand that some policies are as low as $20/month!

For the most part, we are lucky to have healthy pets. They are young (ranging in age from 5 months to 4 years). We keep up on their vaccinations. All three animals are micro-chipped so that if they get lost we can find them. And, we're also lucky to live in a relatively dry part of the country that allows us to get out and walk the dogs regularly. All good fortune aside, however, Earl suffers from epilepsy which requires expensive blood tests and regular medication. Yesterday, the vet also told me that he needs to have his teeth professionally cleaned, which will run us close to $500 since they have to put him completely under.

When we adopted our pets, we took it seriously. I am sick at the number of pets that are adopted and then surrendered because they are not "allowed at the apartment," or because of "allergies," etc. So many owners do not consider the true cost of keeping healthy pets. We would never give up our pets because of the cost of their health care!

For now, we'll just have to bite the bullet and cough up the money for yesterday's vet appointment and the follow-up later in November when our kitten gets more booster shots. Earl will need blood work done at the same time. Gosh, its expensive to keep healthy pets. Speaking of which, I have a bit more convincing to do with my husband regarding the cost of Earl's dental cleaning...

All complaining aside, the animals in this cute video know what it means to stay healthy:

I believe that our pets keep us healthy at the same time we return the favor! So here's to our furry friends and keeping healthy pets!

Monday, October 27, 2008

8 Tips For When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

I am a mom. I have a job. I have four young children. This week is Halloween. Its also my oldest son's birthday. I have visions of myself in a bathtub, screaming, "Calgon... take me away!"

Yes, I am feeling overwhelmed.

How did I get to this point, you may ask? Well, for some reason, the word "no" is not often a response I make when asked to take on volunteer work. I am a cub scout leader and a Sunday School teacher, as well as a full-time attorney. I serve on the Board of Directors for a local community organization and I am the Treasurer for the local bar association. No wonder I am often feeling overwhelmed.

My children are involved in a number of extracurricular activities: soccer (fall), basketball (winter), baseball (spring), swimming, gymnastics and ballet. WHEW! Oh, and I also mentioned scouts, didn't I?

So how does this busy mom keep everything in line without losing my mind? Here are my simple steps:

1. Caffeine - lots of it! Actually, I usually only have 2-3 cups of coffee a day, but it sure jump-starts my morning. I started drinking some of the energy drinks in the afternoon, but they are expensive and also wreak havoc on my sleeping.

2. Keep a master calendar and carry it with you everywhere. I also have a backup computerized calendar that pings me with reminders 15 minutes beforehand (which is often way too late for me!)

3. Hire support if you can. We have a nanny pick up the kids twice a week and start them on their homework. She also gets my middle son to his scout meeting, which starts at 4:00 on Thursdays (too early for me to leave work).

4. Go with the flow - leave perfection behind and you may be able to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Just realize that each 24 hour period is its own special day, and that no matter what, you'll get through it!

5. Try to get good, quality sleep. This means limiting alcohol intake and, sadly, some late cups of coffee for me! I am much better prepared for what the day will bring when I get to bed at a reasonable hour and sleep through the night.

6. Ask for help! Don't forget your neighbors, kids' teachers, significant other, or extended family members. They can pitch in sometimes when you are feeling overwhelmed. Even if they are not there to physically assist with housework and carpooling, a listening ear can make all the difference in a stressed out afternoon.

7. Learn to say no. Yes, I need to practice what I preach here. But truly, you will find that volunteer positions will be filled, even if you do not step up. There will always be another year to serve on the PTA. Besides, you can save yourself a lot of stress if you don't have to worry about the politics of social organizations, as well as manage your marriage and discipline your kids.

8. Exercise and/or stretch at least 3 times a week. But I don't have time, I hear you saying. Even if it means setting the alarm 15 minutes earlier so you can take the dog for a quick walk in the morning, make a habit of it. You'll be more energized and less likely to be feeling overwhelmed when the day gets going.

Any or all of these tips can help you when the world seems to be crashing down and you feel like you don't have enough time to even go to the bathroom (believe me, I've been there). And if all else fails, maybe you really just need to take a bubble bath. "Calgon.... take me away!!"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Homemade Caramel Apples

This afternoon, my kids and a few of their friends got together (with my help) to create and enjoy one of fall's tastiest traditions - homemade caramel apples! These days, it is even easier than ever to candy apples. Just gather the ingredients listed below and set out some plates lined with wax paper and coated with baking spray. (Today, I was in a pinch and used foil instead of wax paper).

Next, gather your cooks together. I've found that ages 6 and up can create especially delicious homemade caramel apples without too much adult assistance! You can help younger children, ages 3-6, with spooning the melted caramel over the apples. Always supervise kids near a stovetop!

  • 4-5 firm apples (red delicious, golden delicious or fuji)
  • popsicle sticks
  • 14 oz. (1 bag) of caramel candies
  • decorative candies or nuts (smaller work best.... we like using Halloween cookie sprinkles)

To make your homemade caramel apples, first wash and then dry the apples. Remove any stickers too! Firmly press a single popsicle stick into the top of each apple.

In a medium saucepan, place unwrapped caramel candies and stir in 2 tablespoons of water. Melt slowly over low heat, stirring frequently. If desired, you may want to add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Stir well. Test the caramel by allowing it to run off a spoon into the saucepan. You'll be able to determine your desired consistency. Fairly runny caramel will coat the apples better and will solidify when cool later.

One at a time, take an apple and hold it over the saucepan. With young children, you should turn the stove off. Drip caramel over the apple, repeating until its coated. Hold the apple above the saucepan until the caramel stops dripping. Place onto wax paper. Decorate with nuts or candy. We found that rolling the homemade caramel apples in the sprinkles worked best.

Allow the caramel apples to cool and set - about 1-2 hours. Then, enjoy!

If you love the taste of caramel apples, then you must eat them for breakfast! Seriously, caramel apple french toast is a delicious harvest treat. Save it for the lazy weekends - enjoy it all the way through November!

For another take on homemade caramel apples, check out this spooky video with Sandra Lee:

I'd better go - I think the apples are ready for eating now!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Take Time for You

I spoke to a good friend of mine this morning and gave her some advice, after which I suddenly realized - hey, I need to listen to myself! "Take time for you," I said. Stop working so hard and worrying so much, and just focus on your own personal needs.

Is that easier said than done, or what?

Now, while we'd all love a day at the spa, or a weekend away from the kids, you really can find a way to take time for you, without too much effort. My favorite "me moments" usually involve my camera and a quiet setting. On Wednesday this week, I took an extra 20 minutes before heading into the office and visited gorgeous Drake Park (pictured above). The fall colors were out and the weather was sunny and cool. I walked around, shot about 30 photographs, and then - with a big smile on my face - went to work.

Another easy way to minimize stress and take time for you (and only you) is to turn off your cell phone, mute the ringer on your landline and keep the television and radio off, as well. Don't turn on your computer or check your emails. The world can and will wait for you. Even if you only do this practice for an hour a day, you will find that you can re-enter the rat race just a bit more refreshed.

When you get back online, how about looking up some jokes or cute videos, instead of checking your bank account balance? Avoid watching the evening news for a night or two. Rest assured, most of it is bad news anyway.

I'm certainly not advocating that you ignore important tasks with a hedonistic, "I love me" approach! The honest truth is, however, that many people lack true happiness in their lives because they don't do enough self-care. Determine what is missing in your life. Take time for you to pursue your passions, whether they include reading, gardening or exercising (or all of the above)!

Did you take too much time in reading this post? Don't go away yet. Spend a few more minutes relaxing with the sounds and sights of nature:

Now, do this regularly and you'll find your happiness improve when you make it a habit to take time for you!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Funny Dogs

So, today was pretty much a bad day at the office. No need to explain, right? Everyone has one of "those days." Thank goodness I have reliable friends that know just how to spam me with emails that brighten my day. How about a funny dogs video?

Taking off on the LOL Catz trend, this clip shows hapless dogs in costume, silly situations, and being tortured by cats (or Catz?) Surely the creators of videos like this have better things to do than to put these poor funny dogs on display. No? Well, that's OK with me. I had a great laugh. Hope you did too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Exercise Your Right to Vote

November is only 9 days away, and that means that the U.S. is less than 2 weeks from electing its next President. 2008 has been a crazy, amazing, frustrating political year. Who's ready for it to finally be over? I, for one, cannot wait for the negative advertisements to go off the air. Though I may miss the funny Sarah Palin skits on SNL.

But in all seriousness, if you want to have something to legitimately complain (or gloat) about for the next four years, then you'd better exercise your right to vote.

What are the basic requirements to be a legal voter? Very simple:

1. You must be 18 years of age,
2. You must register to vote,
3. You must be a resident of the county in which you'll be casting your vote, and
4. You must not be a convicted felon (prohibitions vary from state to state)

That's it! If you want to exercise your right to vote in this election and you are not yet registered, stop by your local post office, public library or Department of Motor Vehicles to see if you still have time to register. Many states do not allow same-day registration. Be sure to bring legal identification such as a driver's license and/or proof of residency (a utility bill).

America is at a critical point in its history - the economy, situation in the Middle East, and our future energy supplies all demand solid leadership in the White House. It has never been more imperative for you to exercise your right to vote. Don't leave your tomorrow in someone else's hands. Make your voice heard. Get out on November 4th and cast your ballot.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkin Soup

Looking for a tasty fall dinner that is fast and inexpensive? You've got to try this delicious pumpkin soup recipe! It only takes about 20 minutes to make, and you may even have the ingredients in your pantry right now. Even my picky kids love pumpkin soup - especially because they can help mix it up.

1 28 oz. (large) can of canned pumpkin
26 oz. of chicken soup stock (3 14 oz. cans)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1-2 cloves fresh minced garlic
1/2 cup half and half
2 cups cooked and chopped boneless chicken or turkey
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 14 oz. canned corn, drained

In a medium mixing bowl, combine canned pumpkin, chicken stock, and spices
Pour into medium saucepan and warm over medium high heat - approximately 7 minutes.
**Do NOT bring to a boil
In a separate saucepan, saute cooking oil, garlic and chopped celery
Add to soup base
Slowly stir in half and half and warm gently (again, do not bring to a boil!)
Finally, stir in corn and chicken or turkey - warm to taste
Garnish with sour cream and chopped parsley if desired

We enjoy pumpkin soup with homemade zucchini bread - another family favorite. Feel free to experiment with pumpkin soup.... add new ingredients or alter things to taste. The basic canned pumpkin, chicken stock and cream base provides a great place to start. Bon Appetit!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Going Camping

I have been dreading this day most of the month. I am going camping with my oldest son tonight, with his Cub Scout Pack. Yes, the boys will probably have a blast. Even if it snows on us. But for me, I am really not a camper at all. And I am the Den Leader! Honestly, I don't mind the dirt all that much, but sleeping outdoors has never appealed to me. Between the bugs, the critters and being cold.... I would rather go to the dentist.

When I was growing up, my mom nearly divorced my dad when he told her we were going camping near the Oregon Coast one summer. That experience was my first and last as a child - unless you count horse camp with the Girl Scouts (we got to stay in cabins there). Packed into a small RV park with tens of other "campers," my sisters and I gathered up wood for a campfire, and we made some tasteless hamburger meal wrapped in tin foil. We complained the entire time and my mom sulked. I don't think our experience was what my dad envisioned when he planned our camping excursion.

It will be different for me and the other scouts. We're going to a designated camping area, and there will be plenty of other parents (hopefully more experienced with going camping than me) to help. My car is already loaded up with 4 sleeping bags (two with which to pad the ground), a tent that I am hardly capable of putting up, clothes for 3 days (just in case), flashlights, cocoa, marshmallows, and lots of other snacks. I have pulled out my favorite campfire songs for tonight's gathering too. And, as long as I remember to bring my camera, I am sure to get some lovely shots of the gorgeous Bend/Central Oregon area of the camp.
Despite my luke-warm attitude, my son is very excited to be going camping! The day will be filled with boys' favorite activities tomorrow - whittling wood, bird watching, hiking, and performing skits. The weather looks like it will cooperate, and if nothing else, we'll have some fun memories of going camping together. I would love to believe that this will be my last camping experience, since my son is will be a Boy Scout in the spring. But, I have two more sons that are waiting for their chance to go camping with me too.
For a taste of what our weekend will be like, check out this video of scouts going camping:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Message from Sarah Palin

America - what are we going to do after the election if Barack Obama wins? I seriously think I may go into Sarah Palin withdrawal. After all, I reguarly get updates from the Governor of Alaska, who is thankfully keeping watch over Russia from her window. And the clips of Tina Fey as Pitbull Palin are so realistic, I drop my lipstick every time. Sarah Palin doesn't aim to be funny - she just is. And if she wasn't aiming to be sitting in the oval office with her finger on the trigger (don't answer the phone.... please), we could all just have a good chuckle at her adorable accent and silly ideas about dinosaurs *wink*.

I thought I had seen all the Sarah Palin videos until I came across this one by David Letterman. Enoy a message from Sarah Palin:

Isn't Sarah Palin just adorable? How many weeks until the election again?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

10 Ways to Change Your Attitude

My mother used to say to me that worry is the interest you pay on something that might happen. Actually, I know that she borrowed that quote, but I cannot find the attribution... (bonus points to the reader that provides me the quote in comments below) The bottom line, however, is that we expend a lot of potentially wasted energy stressing about situations that might not even come to pass. Simply by changing your attitude, you can improve your mood, as well as your outlook.

Certainly, many Americans have plenty to worry about right now though. Even my own job is potentially on the line with cutbacks and economic doom hanging overhead. So, how do I get through my days? By following these 10 ways to change your attitude:

1. Love trumps economic security. That's right. I may be poor in pocketbook, but I am rich with friends and family who care about my well-being.

2. I have an education and unique skills. The government may tax me, and the shenanigans of Wall Street may deplete our retirement accounts, but no one is getting my brain!

3. Reading is a cheap entertainment alternative. Thanks to public libraries and even stores like Barnes & Noble, I can always browse through enjoy a great story (usually free of charge).

4. Homemade is better than store-bought. This goes for both food and gifts. Eating at home more often is better for you and actually less expensive. Presents are more meaningful when they are created with your own talents, than purchased at a department store. Perhaps its time to learn to crochet?

5. As Erma Bombeck pointed out, the grass is only greener over the septic tank. Yes, its kind of funny, but what makes that grass so green after all? Stop envying what the neighbors have and think about the crap they might have to go through as a result... Reality check, right?

6. You can always imagine a scenario worse than your current plight. When we had twins unexpectedly (bless their hearts, we do adore them), my husband and I always said... well, at least its not triplets! Same thing with my diabetes diagnosis... its not cancer!

7. No funds for a vacation? Get to know your local community better. Be a tourist in your own town and make it a goal to explore 5 places that are new to you.

8. Help someone less fortunate. It is cliche, but it wouldn't be on this list if it didn't work. Take your unwanted items to Goodwill, help out at a food bank, or even spearhead fundraising efforts for a cause close to your heart (March of Dimes, Habitat for Humanity, etc.)

9. Steer the negative energy from worry into positive steps to improve your future. Tell yourself that you will make 3 phone calls a week with potential employers or business leads. Get out in your community and be visible. Promote yourself! Worry tends to spiral our thinking around in large part because we're obsessing about things. Act, don't think!

10. What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger. I figure that I am getting a kick-butt workout just about everyday in this regard! Stronger and stronger by the day...

A bonus number 11 in the list of ways to change your attitude. Watch the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch - a dying man, he lived the last days of his life with grace, peace, and love:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Toygers - Domestic Tiger Cats

Do you love the beauty of tigers? Have a hankering for owning your own piece of the wild? Perhaps you want to get your own mini-tiger.... a Toyger, to be specific! One of the latest in exotic domestic cats, the Toyger is a breed that combines beauty and grace. Like another popular exotic breed, the domestic Bengal cat, Toygers are somewhat dog-like in characteristics. They love to play in water, chase balls, and follow their owners around the home. Toygers can be taught to walk on leashes, they enjoy baths, and some can even be toilet trained!

These mini-tigers are not only beautiful, but specifically designed in an effort to preserve the intrigue of wild counterparts. Like Bengal cats, Toygers are developed from a cross-breed of domestic cats with the Asian Leopard Cat. The primary developer of this special exotic breed is Judy Sugden of the EEYAAS Cattery in the United States. Her hope is that, by the time the wild cats are nearing extinction, their domestic counterparts will be perfected for ownership - around 2010.

The TICA (The International Cat Association) formally recognizes the Toyger breed and has set forth specific characteristics for judging. The following traits are found in the best examples of Toygers:
-long tail and body
-rounded ear tips
-broad nose
-strong chin
-shiny, shimmery coat with "broken" stripes
-high contrast between stripes and under color (black markings preferred, but some are brown or tan)
-white tummy
-white patterns above eyes, in lower face, and whited ears (bright "head lights," like a tiger)
-circular tiger-like cheek markings
-brown/gold color coat (no other colors allowed)
-some coats are "glittered," appearing as if they are dusted with gold - these are especially beautiful.

Depending on how many characteristics your Toyger may have, and whether or not he or she will breed, the price tag for a kitten can range from $500 to $2000 as pets, and $1500-$5000 for breeding/show quality. Like the domestic Bengal Cat, the Toyger is highly trainable, loyal, loves water and can be somewhat dog-like. It can be a "talkative" cat. An excellent pet, they get along well with other animals and children.

Toyger Breeders are attempting to create resemblances between the domestic breeds and their wild "muses" not only with respect to body and markings, but even with movement! Toygers are said to move with purpose, grace and elegance, much like their wild tiger "cousins."

If you decide to add a Toyger to your family, note that they will require very similar care to ordinary cats. Food, water, toys and a litter box are all key things to purchase. Veterinary care is largely similar to other domestic cats. Be prepared to spend both time and money on your new family member. Also, as a final note - do not adopt a Toyger or any other pet unless you are sure to have the time, money and energy to devote to a pet. Clear any health issues (including allergies) beforehand. And most of all, be ready to fall in love with your unique Toyger!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Halloween Pumpkins

Its my favorite time of year - fall! The air is crisp and cool, and the trees are turning brilliant colors. Oh... and its almost Halloween! My oldest son's birthday is October 31, so this is an especially fun, celebratory time of year at our house. Probably our favorite activity is carving Halloween pumpkins. Last year, my kids got a book called Extreme Pumpkins. I don't know who comes up with this stuff, but there are images of pumpkins eating bloody stuffed animals, cannibal pumpkins, and headless pumpkin people. It is wildly funny! Last year, one of our Halloween pumpkins was an evil gourd chomping on an innocent bunny rabbit. Don't even ask me how we made the "blood." (corn starch, water and lots of red food coloring)

Being as this is an election year, there are even more frightening options available for your Halloween pumpkins. How about a Sarah Palin jack o'lantern? Right down to the updo and glasses, you can use special stencils to create your own Alaskan masterpiece... or maybe the starting point for your creativity. Even if you can't see Russia from your own doorstep, you can have Governor Palin keeping watch for you. And maybe that is the most frightening thought of all! Happy Halloween - and enjoy carving your own Halloween pumpkins this season.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Grandmother's Basement

This weekend, I drove 5 hours and joined some of my family members in helping to clean out my grandmother's basement. Actually, the primary reason for my trip was to visit Grandma in her nursing home. She fell last week and broke her hip. She is now in a wheelchair and very depressed. It must be tough at age 90 when your husband of 64 years passed away a year ago. She didn't want to move out of her house and, quite frankly, she doesn't want to live anymore. What do you say to a beloved matriarch in this situation?

But back to grandmother's basement.

Grandma is a bit of a packrat. Perhaps, a "packhorse" may be more accurate. The basement of the house in which she lived for over 65 years (she bought the place before marrying my grandfather) was filled to the brim with food, doll clothes, papers, books, shoes and presents. Gifts that family members had given them, but were not used. Gifts that grandmother bought, but never gave, still in their original boxes with price tags attached. Grandma is still with us on this earth, but it felt as though she had already passed as we went through her things and tried to organize everything for when the day comes that she joins Grandpa in heaven.

We are trying to save money. Grandmother's basement has two freezers and a huge pantry of nonperishable goods. The family decided to empty the freezers so we could turn them off and save on electricity. The food in the pantry would be divided among family and excess could be donated to the food bank when it was still good. We donated 10 brimming boxes of food to the local food bank. Grandma's garden (over 1/4 acre) provided a bounty of beans, fruit and more. Each year, Grandma spent hours canning and preserving the food for the winter months. There are still 4 shelves filled with canned food, and many, many empty antique canning jars. We will have to get back to deal with those.

As I loaded up my station wagon with several trips to the Goodwill and local food bank, I found my eyes welling with tears. My grandparents grew up in the Great Depression. They saved everything because they had to. Now, it seemed so wasteful to take boxes and boxes of things that they never used out of their home. Of course, it felt wonderful to give things to those less fortunate. The cook at the Food Bank called out "God Bless!" as we left the second load of groceries with them. I only hope that those who shop at the Goodwill store in Lacey, Washington will be grateful for the Tupperware and more that we donated from Grandmother's basement. May we never know the pain and distress that our ancestors did.... I hope its not too late.

As I drove back home today, I thought about my grandfather. With the stock market losing 40% of its value in the past year, he would surely have advice for me and my family. Grandpa was a smart man - sharp right up to his last days. I sure miss him, and the happier days.... when I could wander down to my grandmother's basement and not be haunted by ghosts.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Credit Crunch Crisis Hits Main Street

I opened up my email this morning and came across a very sad situation, resulting from the credit crunch crisis. One of my hometown's beloved holiday traditions, the Bend Christmas Parade, may not go forward this year because of the tightening economy and lack of donations to support it. Talk about Wall Street affecting Main Street! This event brings our relatively small community together every December. Antique fire engines are dressed up, floats are homemade, and cheerleaders and horses parade down the main street of Bend, Oregon to the delight of young and old. The parade ends with the triumphant arrival of Santa Claus! Will he be forced to take a raincheck this year?

Parade organizers are begging for donations so that the show can go on. A mass email to community supporters was sent out asking for ANYTHING - $10, $50, whatever we can spare to keep the magical Bend Christmas Parade alive this year. Just think how many parades $700 billion could fund....

Parades, Wall Street and Congress aside, I am quite worried about the direct effect the credit crunch crisis will have on my family this holiday season. We have four children, ranging in age from 5 to 11. Three out of four of them still believe in Santa Claus. I wonder whether we will have to explain that many of Santa's elves have been laid off and cannot make the kind of toys they are requesting. Our gift budgets will undoubtedly be tighter this year. And there is not enough holiday magic to change that situation in the near future.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I Ran 26.2 Miles

Yes, its true! On Sunday, October 5, I lined up with 9000 other runners in Portland, Oregon, for the 37th annual Portland Marathon. And - just a mere 4 1/2 hours later - I crossed the finish line. What an experience it was! I admit that I always wanted to run a marathon, from the time I started distance running in college. Twenty years have passed though, including law school, a career, 4 children and a diganosis of Type 1 diabetes. I resigned myself to the fact that a marathon just wasn't in the cards.

Well, about a year ago, my sister encouraged me to start on a training schedule to work up to a marathon. We aimed for the Portland Marathon and cleared our calendars for the big date. I consulted with my doctors and got the green light. For 4 months this summer, I diligently logged my progress, putting in anywhere from 20-35 miles per week. I ran my first half-marathon in August, and then, a few weeks later, got injured. Weeks of physical therapy (plus 2 weeks' rest) helped get me "back on track." I was ready and raring to go last weekend.

The marathon started at 7:00 in the morning (we actually started a bit after the hour because the race had a wave start) and we finished before noon. The rain set in about 5 miles into the run, but that didn't dampen our spirits. I heard about "hitting the wall" around 18-20 miles, but I was fortunate to make it all the way to 23 miles before I started breaking down. The last 3 miles of the marathon were among the toughest I've ever run. Hearing the announcer cry out my name as I crossed the finish line nearly brought me to tears.

My sister and I hobbled back to our hotel, showered and then slept for hours! We were pretty sore the first two days afterwards, but today (Day 3), we feel nearly 100%.
The Portland Marathon is one of the best first marathons in the country. It is popular among walkers, as well. Portland is famous for being extremely well-organized, which sure makes it nice for nervous participants. Perhaps most notably is the fact that the Portland Marathon is a "green" event. Among other things, the race donates discarded clothing to shelters, uses cups made of biodegradable materials, hands out canvas shopping bags, and each runner gets a tree seedling to plant - to create a virtual Portland Marathon forest!
I'm planning to run the Portland Marathon again next year. Let me know if I'll see you there!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Enjoying Real Chinese Food

Have you ever tried Chinese food? No, I mean the authentic cuisine that people of the Republic of China eat. Here in the United States, we get a very tame version of the kind of food that Chinese residents regularly enjoy. While our corner take-out restaurant offers Kung Pao Chicken and Egg rolls, in China, people eat cockroaches, shark fins and delicate organs. It seems that our Western stomachs might not handle this fare too well.

Authentic Chinese food is certainly worth tasting, particularly if you are going to visit the 2008 Olympic Games. Of course, you will have to learn how to use chopsticks, as well. There are 8 major Chinese cuisines, organized by region. Each has a distinct style and flavor. It is quite unlike the popular Americanized fare with which you are probably familiar. Chinese restaurants in the United States rarely, if ever, distinguish their entrees by region.

Among other things, real Chinese food is not as battered and deep-fried as the offerings here in the States. In addition, meats can be quite unique, ranging from squirrel to pig brains. You won't find that in a little white take-out box! Finally, you may be wondering about whether Chinese people actually eat dogs and cats. Well, you should click here for a primer on Chinese food. This engaging article includes tips on how to use chopsticks so that you can not only eat what the locals enjoy, but also in a similar manner.

To end your meal, you may be craving a fortune cookie. But not so fast. This little treat is most certainly not an authentic Chinese food tradition. It most likely had its beginnings in a Japanese restaurant in the United States! Nonetheless, you can still enjoy the thrill of a little white piece of paper in a folded sweet shell. The hard cookies are ubiquitous. To quote my last fortune... You will have a long and prosperous life. If you eat plenty of real Chinese food!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Amazing Bengal Cat

Are you more of a dog person, than one who loves cats? Perhaps you and your partner are at odds about whether to own a cat, a dog, or both? Well, here is the perfect blend of animal for you! The Bengal Cat is an exotic domestic cat breed that exhibits many characteristics of canines, as opposed to felines!

We own a Bengal - a beautiful specimen named "Romeo." These cats are not only lovely to look at, they are amazing pets. Bengals enjoy water, much unlike "regular" cats. In fact, if you want to take a bath or a shower, watch out for your Bengal cat! It may want to join you for a scrub down. Much like dogs, Bengals enjoy chasing balls or other toys. They are also easily trainable on a leash. In fact, you may find the Bengal to be the world's most perfect pet. Like cats, they are independent and can be left for 1-2 days with adequate food and water (unlike a dog). And, unlike cats, they very much enjoy human companionship, retrieving toys and, of course, playing in water! There is an excellent article on Bengal cats that you can view right here for a lot more information, including where you can get one!

We have really enjoyed our Bengal cat. Romeo gets along great with our two dogs (one small and one large). Our childen tolerate him, too, as he does them! He is the perfect blend of a cat and dog. If you are interested in owning an exotic cat, the Bengal is a super pet for you and your family. Be sure to email me with any questions.

Monday, July 28, 2008

How to Lease Commercial Property

Do you have a great small business idea? Financing to back it up? Then let's get out and find some commercial property for you to lease. If you don't know the first thing about the written agreement that you'll have to enter into with your landlord to govern the terms and conditions of your use of the real estate, then its worth your five minutes here - and a few hundred dollars to a lawyer - to help you either draw up an agreement, or review the one that is offered to you to sign. You'll also have to do a little bit of homework, technically known as "due diligence" to make sure that the site is appropriate for what you are planning to do.

Before you even get to the point of drawing up paperwork, be sure to check governmental regulations to make sure that you'll be allowed to have a commercial operation at the location and/or that the type of business is appropriate for the street on which it would be sited. For example, some grocery outlets may be considered to be "Neighborhood Commercial," if they are within a certain square footage, while others are instead full-blown "Community Commercial," which may not be permitted near a residential neighborhood. Size, number of parking stalls, traffic impacts and more all go into the consideration.

Once you determine for yourself that the area is a good location for your business (and note that this is your responsibility, and not your broker's or landlord's), then we can start talking about the lease agreement. There are 5-6 primary issues that MUST be covered in a lease:

(1) Allowed use - be crystal clear that you and your landlord are thinking about the same thing; (2) The term of the lease - do not get stuck with too much or not enough time (and an unexpected move);

(3) The annual/monthly cost of the rent and where to pay - be sure you know to where your rent check should be delivered and watch out for escalation clauses which may cause your rent to increase for repeated late payments;

(4) Maintenance costs and responsibilities - who snowplows the parking lot? are there hidden costs for parking in general? How much extra may the landlord charge in addition to rent?

(5) Rent escalation - how much, if any, does the rent increase each year? On what is the rental increase based?

(6) Will the landlord require you to be open certain dates and times? This is common in a shopping mall or similar complexes. You could have less flexibility.

(7) One last consideration - who pays for tenant improvements and who keeps them when the lease is over?

Keep these issues in mind as you consider various potential properties on which to locate your small business. Do not try to negotiate a lease by yourself without legal counsel. You could end up paying many times more in attorney fees down the road in an enforcement action, if you don't invest a relatively small amount up front on the agreement. For a more detailed overview of the commercial leasing process, click here. Best of luck in your endeavor!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Instantly Improve Your Mood

Not every day starts out sunny and bright - I'll give you that. But there are a number of ways for you to consciously improve your mood without much effort. A lot of it starts with attitude adjustment and making good choices with respect to the things that you enjoy, whether reading or exercise. By consulting this simple list of 25 things, you can be happier and healthier in a matter of hours, if not minutes.

Do you enjoy exercise? How about an invigorating 20 minute walk? Relaxation? A book store is nice, or maybe even a manicure treat. It truly is about the simple things in life. If you can't find pleasure in a cup of coffee or a new lipstick, then perhaps the problem runs a lot deeper. Read this list again and if you don't feel better in 10-20 minutes, you might want to see your doctor to make sure you are not suffering from depression.

No matter what, I truly hope that you can stop and smell the flowers. They only bloom for a short time each year!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Toll House of Cookie Fame

Have you ever wondered, while enjoying a delicious chocolate chip cookie, if there is an actual "Toll House" on which the recipe is based? Well, my dear reader, let me tell you - there is! Nestle Toll House cookies were born out of a desperate attempt of a baker to make chocolate cookies at the Toll House for travelers staying at the Inn near Boston, Massachusetts. Mrs. Wakefield had run out of baker's chocolate for her recipe and instead chopped up bits of a Nestle semi-sweet chocolate bar. The little "chips" did not melt, as she expected, and instead, the cookies came out studded with bits of chocolate. Boy, was it delicious!

Before long, smart Mrs. Wakefield sold her recipe to the Nestle company and the rest is history. Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chips carry the famous recipe on each and every bag. And, there are Toll House Cafes at which you can enjoy a cookie and some coffee (or milk), all over the United States. Step aside Mrs. Field's!

And, if you want to enjoy the original recipe, here you go. For more information, click here!

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 sticks butter (softened)
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 c. (12 oz. package) Nestle Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter, both sugars and vanilla extract until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if desired) by hand. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 5 dozen cookies.

The pan cookie variation is for moms like me who just want to get the whole batch in the oven as quickly as possible. Instead of making individual cookies, take the entire batch of dough and spread into a greased 15 x 10 inch jelly-roll pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Good Clean Jokes

Looking for a quick laugh this afternoon that won't make you blush with embarrasment or have to minimize the screen when your co-worker walks by? There are hundreds of jokes and one-liners that you can use to break the ice in mixed-company or share with your kids. I've collected over 100 funny jokes that do not rely on bodily functions or s-e-x for their humor.

For example, how about an original knock-knock joke?

Knock Knock!
Who's there?
Ya who?
What are you getting so excited about?


Why was the computer so tired when it got home?
-Because it had a hard drive!

Got to include a lawyer joke:

What's the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer?
A bad lawyer can let a case drag out for several years. A good lawyer can make it last even longer.

Of course, there are some great puns and "ponderisms":

Where do forest rangers go to "get away from it all"?

If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?

The short fortuneteller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large

Acupuncture is a jab well done

Take a break and come on over to read at least 94 additional jokes right here!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Lego Connection

Many of us probably remember LEGOs from our childhood. Who can forget the durable, hard, colorful bricks that interconnect with each other? The LEGO brand has exploded in popularity recently with a variety of building block sets based on popular movies and characters. These days, you can find Harry Potter LEGOs, Indiana Jones LEGOs, Star Wars LEGOs, and - of course, Batman LEGOs.

When I was a child, the basic toys included bricks in a variety of sizes and shapes (long and skinny to short and fat), windows, doors and even steering wheels, in case you wanted to create a vehicle. Nowadays, LEGO people across the spectrum can be found, and it seems like just about anything can be built with LEGO blocks. There are both classic LEGOs and Duplex blocks for younger children (kids under the age of 3 should not play with the small blocks as they may be a choking hazard). In fact, hugely popular LEGO video games have also been developed. Star Wars LEGO and Indiana Jones LEGO games allow players to live the excitement of the film series on any gaming platform.

Kids and parents alike love these great toys. Imaginative creations can be made, and every LEGO set also includes specific instructions for building a specific structure or vehicle. If you lose the instructions, just go to a LEGO store, or online to get a replacement.

There are even theme parks around the world based on the LEGO brand! Legoland is found in California, Great Britain, Germany and Denmark. Kids can enjoy amusement park rides, shows and displays all created from and based on LEGOs. It just goes to show you what a great product, indestructible durability and smart marketing can do!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Its All About the Portion Size

The obesity epidemic in the United States can be blamed in part on ever increasing portions of food served at restaurants. We start to expect our burgers to have 2 patties of meat and our salads to be at least the size of a small vegetable garden (and smothered with bacon, cheese and heavy dressings). Even when we try to eat right and cook at home, the weight may not come off. This is in large part due to the fact that we have lost all sense of proper portion size and control.

I worked with a dietitian five years ago when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It was amazing to consider the fact that most meals - even those I created at home - were wildly out of proportion. Fortunately, there are a few rules of thumb that are easy to consider and helpful for you to use in determining proper portion sizes. Coupled with a knowledge of the food pyramid, you could easily start to lose weight, just by being more aware of your portions (no carb counting or low-fat meals required)!

A single serving of cheese is the size of a deck of playing cards (and is not as thick as the entire stack!) Your fist is the approximate size of a serving of lean meat - about 4 ounces. For fruits and vegetables a serving is that which can fit in your cupped hand. Sauces, dressings and spreads usually fall in the category of fats, which is the tiny portion of food at the top of the pyramid. Go easy on these, and consider switching fat-laden dressings for light olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

You should be aware of alcoholic drink serving sizes too, not only for your health, but also safety on the road. A serving of beer is 12 ounces (a pint is more than this); for wine it is only 5 ounces. Of course, hard liquor is a mere 1.5 ounces per serving. Be careful not to over-pour.

Are you ready to make a healthy change to your diet? Start here and get to know the food pyramid, build a solid foundation with high fiber grains and add many fresh fruits and vegetables. Drink up too - as long as it is fresh, healthy water. Before long, you'll start to realize what was weighing you down.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Diabetes 101

I have diabetes. I've lived with the disease since 2003 when I was expecting my twins. The doctors promised that my high blood sugar levels and the need for insulin would resolve itself after the delivery. Unfortunately, I was one of the rare people who continued to suffer with the disease. After a few blood tests, my diagnosis was confirmed: Type 1 diabetes. I was 34 years old at the time.

Diabetes is reaching epidemic levels in the United States, due in large part to poor diet and exercise habits. True, the disease is hereditary, but those that are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes have the opportunity in most cases to change lifestyles to ward off high blood sugar levels. Unlike Type 2, people who develop Type 1 diabetes have suffered from an auto-immune reaction. Something goes haywire in the patient's body and it literally attacks itself, killing off all of the beta cells in the pancreas that make natural insulin. As a result, the patient must self-administer insulin (through shots and or the use of an insulin pump) for the rest of their life, or die.

With Type 2, the patient's body becomes stressed over time as a result of having to create too much insulin to counter large amounts of ingested carbohydrates (sugars). In other cases, the patient's pancreas simply struggles to put out adequate levels of insulin. Oral medications, and a sensible diet and exercise program will be prescribed. Some Type 2 diabetics may eventually have to take insulin shots.

Warning signs of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are similar: (1) increased thirst; (2) increased hunger; (3) unexplained weight loss; (4) exhaustion; (5) blurred vision; (6) numbness in the extremities. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, please see your doctor as soon as possible!

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you can definitely lead a normal life. You will have to regularly monitor your blood sugar levels and watch what you eat, but for the most part, life can be similar to the way it was before. In fact, the more active you are, the better the management of the disease will be! For more information on how to improve your diabetes health, see this article.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Marathon Training for Beginners

I am doing what I never thought would be possible - training for a marathon! It will be the first time I have attempted running 26.2 miles straight, and I expect that it will take me at least 4 1/2 hours to complete the distance. Fortunately, my sister is training along with me. There may be 250 miles between us right now (she lives in Seattle and I live in Bend, Oregon), but we're tracking our progress together on a Google Document. All together, the training will take us 13 weeks before the Portland Marathon on October 5, 2008, in Portland, Oregon.

I've been running since college, for the past 20-some years. My sister, on the other hand, started running last November, but she is quickly becoming a seasoned runner. She completed a 1/2 marathon in March 2008 in good time. To complicate matters more, I am an insulin-dependent diabetic. This means that I test blood frequently and never go running for more than an hour without my kit, cell phone and glucose tablets (as well as gu). We both have children and work as attorneys too! Nonetheless, we are strictly following training schedules set forth in Runner's World, and (as of this publishing at the end of Week 3) are doing great!

If you are interested in a marathon and/or just want to read what its like to be training for one, please read my hubs which track both of our progress: