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:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Live in Bend Oregon

Bend, Oregon is one of the prettiest spots in the entire Northwest region of the United States. Living here is easy, relaxed and the sun shines an amazing 300 days of the year. Although the region experienced some explosive growth in the early 2000s, the housing slump has cooled things off. You're bound to get a great deal on a first (or second) home. At about 75,000 population, Bend is large enough to be comfortable, yet small enough to feel "home-towny." Our commute to the office is a mere 10 minutes (about 4 miles each way). No longer stuck in long freeway messes, as exist in the Seattle area from which we fled, we get to spend so much more time with our kids and enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

The Deschutes River runs right through the downtown Bend area (shown in the photo to the right). Large, grassy parks provide many places for community gatherings, festivals and farmers' markets. The region is known for its recreational opportunities, including skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling/ATVs in the winter and hiking, swimming, fishing and bicycling during the warmer months.

Top rated as a place to retire, Bend is smart, environmentally-friendly and fun! If you want more information about the wonderful benefits of living in the high desert, click here.

Environmentally-Friendly Grocery Shopping

Carrying groceries is now an environmental statement. Do you shudder at the thought of answering the question "paper or plastic" correctly? Both bags are recyclable, although many more plastic bags can be found floating around as discarded trash. Paper, of course, requires trees to produce, and the manufacturing method for the sacks is itself polluting. Plastic bags are created from petroleum products - not the most environmentally-friendly source around. And, as mentioned above, they are rarely recycled by consumers.

Purchasing and using canvas shopping bags is something that every family and household should consider. First, you can fit in more groceries (up to 4 bags of food can fit into a single bag). Second, the cost is quickly recouped by repeated use. Finally, you need not worry about remembering your bags if you make a habit of putting them right back into the car after you unload your wares from the store. Its one of the easiest ways to feel good about reducing your carbon footprint just a bit.

Want to read more and find out where to purchase some excellent shopping bags? Its all right here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Want to See a Great Kids Movie

If you are looking for a fantastic, entertaining, family-friendly movie in the summer of 2008, be sure to check out Kung Fu Panda. This film is the latest creation of Dreamworks Studio and is a hilarious ride of animation. Jack Black voices "Po," the huge Panda Bear that dreams of being a Kung Fu master, but is a little - uh, big and awkward for the part. Nonetheless, Po finds himself being chosen as the Dragon Warrior to face the evil Kai Lung, who is escaping from prison to threaten all the people in the villiage. Watch this great movie to see what happens next. By the way, I give this film a total "thumbs up" as a parent of four kids, ages 5 (twins) through 10. Every single one of us loved the entertaining ride.

Be sure to check out this review for more information and where to buy the exciting video game that is based on the movie.

Are You Looking for an Answer to the Gas Crisis

Plug-in Electric Hybrid cars (also known as PEHVs) may be the answer to the current gas crisis! Unlike "regular" hybrid vehicles, these cars only use gas to charge the battery. Other hybrids run on battery power and then fuel. Recent technology allows PEHVs to travel between 30-40 miles purely on an electric charge before any gas is used. In other words, if your commute is shorter than this distance, you may never have to fill up again! During the day, plug in your car while you're at work to re-charge the battery. Some auto manufacturers, including Chevrolet, have already built models like the Chevy Volt, pictured above. Toyota Prius is also being retrofitted as a plug-in model.

Major corporations, including Microsoft, are working with plug-in proponents so that grid overload is minimized, as well as traffic congestion. Look for more information in the coming months. Hopefully, we'll be able to plug into a cleaner, greener future soon!
Looking for more information on PEHVs and how they work? Click here.