Friday, December 30, 2016

In Transit.

  I am on my way home.  I am sitting in a small terminal, waiting for my flight out to my village.  The internet is crappy so I'm on long enough to let you all know I am alive and doing well.

Out in the bush of Alaska, you take one of the big planes to the hub and then switch over to a smaller airlines composed of small 9 passenger planes.  These planes haul mail and people.

It looks good to get out to the village I live and work in.  Yesterday, a storm came through which caused most flights to be cancelled.  Today, its much better and I'm told it looks good enough to get home tonight.

I really don't want to get stuck here because hotel rooms run in the $200 range while Bed and Breakfasts are around $150 so its expensive if I have to spend the night.  
When I travel, I always check the weather, call the airlines, and hope for the best.  I'm off to read but I"ll be back to normal tomorrow night.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Carrie Fisher

Star Wars, Space Ship, Laser, Space  I just heard that Carrie Fisher passed away due to a heart attack.  She wasn't that old but she will be missed by many.

I remember her from the Star Wars Movies that made history and opened the minds of a generation to a wonderful world of possibilities.

I had to look her up on the internet because I couldn't think of her being in any other shows but it turns out she had a long career as an actress in addition to being a published author.

What impressed me most about her Princess Leia roll was simply the character didn't need to cling to a guy, she went out and kicked butt rather than waiting helplessly around.  Even when she was in that bikini, chained to something, she still came out on top by attacking a guard.

The 1970's were a time where women were still figuring out they were strong and could do things but this was one of the first rolls with an extremely strong woman who did not fear getting things done herself.  I loved the movies.  Yes I own them on DVD and watch them regularly because they are so well done.

It was cool the way she sort of looked at Luke Skywalker when he announced "We are here to rescue you" with a "It took you long enough, now get out of my way, I have work to do."  She was willing to get her hands dirty if it got things done.

I loved that her character had advanced to a strong general who had lived with hope and sadness.  I enjoyed the latest addition to the Star Wars line up.  Its important to me that they kept the characters internal strength.  I've heard she had completed filming her role in the next installment but I'm sorry she won't be there for the third.

To me her Princess Leia character will always be in my life because it gave me the strength to know I could and can still accomplish anything I set my mind to.  I don't have to wait for a man to save me or help me.  I can just do it.  I suspect she has influenced so many other girls in the same way her character did mine.

It was through her obituary I discovered she'd been married to Paul Simon for a short time, wrote several books, was bipolar, and lived a hard life.  The televised interview I saw, said she had her life together once again.

She will be missed.  Goodbye Carrie Fisher, Rest in Peace.   

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Days Between

Kids, Football Games, Tackle, Sports  This is being written while I sit in the local library using the wifi signal.  My mother came along to check out books while I write this.  My father is home checking out various football games being played across the country.

I come here because my mother is still on dial-up and I also like the privacy.  Her office is also the guest bedroom and when the futon is pulled out, there is barely room to sit in the office chair.

So I hope everyone had a great Christmas Day.  I spent it over at my sister's house.  She is fighting bone cancer in the spine but doing really well with the on going treatments.  Yes she lost her hair but every time she goes in for treatment, the tumor shrinks a bit.

She hosts the party because she loves presiding over a table filled with family.  Everyone was there from the great grandparents (92 and 87 respectively) to the youngest 15 month old great grand child.  The meal was great but what was the most beautiful moment was when one of the grandchildren stood up and signed to a beautiful rendition of "Mary Did You Know."  She performed it as if she were actually singing it complete with emotion and body swaying in time.  It brought tears to everyone's eyes.

She has another year till she graduates with a degree in sped and a minor in ASL.  She is going to do so well.  Afterwards, we had the usual gift exchange with numbers and choices of stealing.  I picked a present with a bottle of Jim Beam which was promptly stolen.  I didn't mind because I don't drink.  It gave me the chance to steal a package of coffee and tea.  I gave the coffee to my parents but I kept the tea.

Afterwards, they brought out a game which had everyone giggling and having a good time.  The package was wrapped in multiple layers of tape and paper.  One person tried to open the gift while wearing those glove potholders.  A second person rolled two dice on a tray looking for doubles. As soon as they rolled doubles, the first person gave the package and pot holders to the next person and got the tray of dice to roll.

There was a lot of giggling and cries of "hurry, hurry".  A couple times the person rolled dice before the other person got the potholders on.  Everyone had a great time.  Just after the game, the great grandparents decided it was time to leave so I took them home.

It was really a good day because the weather was nice and I got to see family.

I hope everyone is having a great time over the holidays.  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Meeting Your New Year's Resolutions

Hate, Wisdom, Compassion, Love, Fear  It is that time of year again when we all make resolutions and know we'll blow half of them within the first three months of the new year.  There are ways to help us adhere to our resolutions because most of the resolutions are designed to create new habits.

Some days it just finding the motivation to continue and other days its making sure you do not go overboard.  In other words, how do you create resolutions you can keep without over doing it?

I have a few new resolutions this year I hope to implement and not crash and burn because I need a couple new habits to make life easier.  Sometimes I feel like a dog chasing its tail and so these tips will also help me implement my resolutions.

1. Make the resolution one you want, not something you think you should do.  Don't choose something that someone else says you should do.  These resolutions are for you, not anyone else so the resolutions should be meaningful.

2. Limit the resolutions to only two or three items because its easier to focus on those goals and your resolutions are goals, things you want to accomplish.

3. Make your resolutions extremely specific.  Instead of saying you will exercise more, make it you'll  work out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 PM in the gym.  This makes it so you have a time and a place and are less likely to blow it off.

4.  If its a goal like you want to save money, make it automatic so money is placed in your savings account every month before you have a chance to spend it. 

5. Create a plan you need to accomplish the goal.  Rather than face the whole goal, break it down into a series of easily manageable steps needed to make it.

6.  Be willing to change some habits.  In order to meet your goal of going to the gym, you might have to give up one hour of watching television.  Be aware you have already established habits that can sabotage your resolutions and you may need to figure out what those habits are, address them so you meet your new goals.

7. Write down the goal to make it more real and visualize it.  Visualization can often help you accomplish them.

8.  If you have one or two friends who can give you support, tell them so they are there to cheer you on and help celebrate your steps.

9. Be willing to forgive yourself if you stumble.  You get up and start again.  If you stumble, it is not the end of everything, it only makes us human.

Remember resolutions are goals whose result is in a new habit we want.  So I hope these suggestions will help you succeed in fulfilling your resolutions.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Boxing Day

If you've ever watched the reruns of MASH, you'll have seen the episode where they celebrate Boxing day.  Its only celebrated in a few countries who have a historical connection to the United Kingdom or in a few European countries such as Germany.

In the show, the enlisted changed places with the officers so the enlisted men got to run things once a year.  It was supposed to improve morale but what is it , really?

The origins buried in the mists of time but it is speculated that  Boxing day started about 800 years ago in the Middle ages when churches opened their collection boxes so the coins could be distributed to the poor.  Some churches today, still open their alms boxes for the poor.  It is thought these boxes originated with the Romans who used their boxes to collect the bets on winter games.

This idea is based upon the carol "Good King Wenceslas" in which Wenceslas, a 10th century Duke, who saw a poor man collecting wood on Saint Stephens day (December 26th).  He gathered up supplies and delivered them to the man.

In addition it was traditional for servants to get the day off to celebrate their Christmas.  Historically, they would work Christmas so the day after, they received presents  which they took home, opened, and then celebrated their Christmas.  It was one of their few days off.

In addition, tradesmen such as milkmen, butchers, and others would collect their boxes or gifts from customers for the great service they'd given over the year.  It was the tip of the time, much the same as we'd give the paperboy a few dollars for his work.  Just for clarification a Christmas Box is another name for Christmas present.

Boxing day as an official holiday has been around since 1871 when it was declared such by Parliament. Over time, it has evolved into the British equivalent of Black Friday.

No one is sure exactly how Boxing day evolved.  I've given you a few theories but there is no proof of it origin.  Let me know what you think.

Friday, December 23, 2016

11 Interesting Facts About Eggnog.

Eggnog, Christmas Market, Hot Drink   Yesterday, I looked at the history of egg nog.  Today I'm going to look at some interesting facts about egg nog.  You got one yesterday when I shared the riot at West Point in 1826 but there are more.

Another fact shared yesterday concerned George Washington's personal recipe for eggnog.Egg

1. Over 135 million pounds of eggnog are  consumed every year.

2.  National Eggnog day is celebrated on December 24th, also knwon as Christmas Eve.

3. Colonials used rum in their eggnog because it was less heavily taxed than  other alcohols.

4. In the 1800's, eggnog was often prescribed as a medical treatment for things such as malaria fever. 

5.  Now other things such as lip balm, gum drops, etc are eggnog flavored.

6. Eggnog is usually only sold from mid-November to January in the stores. 

7.  Eggnog is high in calories, fat, and cholesterol.

8. When eggnog is made into a custard, it can be turned into ice cream.

9. Its referred to as Hell's Angel in a book from 1932.

10. A hot version of it is said to cure sore throats.

11. The eggnog latte was created back in 1986 by the man who bought Starbucks in 1987.

So there you have it.  Eleven interesting facts about eggnog.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Eggnog, Cocktail, Christmas, Beverage  Last night, I watched one of those baking competitions on the Food Channel where they have certain ingredients they have to use in their cooking.  In this case it was the holiday favorite - Eggnog.

Its something I've grown up with but not all brands are created the same.  I've always wondered about the history of this drink.  Does it even have a history stretching back further than the turn of the century (20th).

Apparently, there is a record mentioning nog dating back to the 17th century. At this point in time, the term referred to a strong beer brewed in East Anglia while a noggin is the name for the cup used to imbibe nog in.  Historians believe our egg nog is descended from a posset which is a thick alcoholic drink made up of milk, spices and other ingredients.

The posset was popular in medieval times but by the 13th century, Monks often drank a posset with milk, eggs, and figs.  Since eggs, milk, and certain alcoholic drinks were expensive, the upper classes used this drink to toast for prosperity and good health.  By the 1700's egg based concoctions became popular in the early days of American colonies when everyone had access to milk, eggs, and rum.

In those days, everyone had their perfect recipe including George Washington. These early recipes often had rum, whiskey, sherry and brandy mixed in together with the eggs and milk. Unfortunately in today's marketplace, some commercial egg nogs have as little as one percent egg yolks due to the FDA.

At one point, eggnog was so popular that the lack of alcohol for the drink spawned a riot.  It was the winter of 1826 at West Point Academy where cadets always celebrated Christmas with spiked eggnog but that year, the superintendent prohibited alcohol from being brought on campus.  He went so far as to post guards but the young men persisted.  Unfortunately, tempers were high and fights broke out leaving a damaged campus.  19 cadets were expelled and West Point no longer celebrated as they had.

By this time, eggnog was associated with Christmas and considered part of the season.  It was one of the expected social drinks provided at this time of the year but it was not always drunk on Christmas.  In other places such as Baltimore, young man would call upon their friends, having a cup of nog at each house.  As the day progressed they become more drunk.

One other thing about eggnog historically is that it was drunk hot, not cold as we drink it now.  In addition, this drink lost the alcohol during prohibition unless you were willing to buy some illegally.  However, the non-alcoholic variety began making an appearance in stores in the late 1940's.  By the 1960's, non-alcoholic egg nogs joined the mainstream.

Now you know a bit more about eggnog.  Have a great season.

Enjoy your holiday season.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Alice In Wonderland - Me!

 Most of you probably never feel like you are Alice in Wonderland when you go through the store.  I do!  Every time I leave Alaska and visit grocery stores in the lower 48.

Compared to here, the stores I'm used to shopping in have little more than the basics. Think of a 7 - 11 type store with appliances, guns, and plumbing supplies but nothing fancy when it comes to food. 

I think the fanciest thing I've seen at grocery stores in the cities in Alaska is an olive bar filled with 10 different types of olives.  Yesterday, I popped over to the store closes to the hotel and felt like I'd fallen through the rabbit hole.

There were so many choices. I saw a trail mix bar which held all the ingredients one would see in any commercial trail mix plus a few more.  You get to create a custom mix for your tastes so you don't have search for the one without corn nuts or with pineapple and coconut.

 When I strolled by the produce section, I stopped by the pre-cut area because they had things I'd never seen before.  I've read about veggie noodles you use instead of pasta noodles for a healthier meal.  I actually bought one of the machines but I'm still figuring out how it works.

In the case, there were packages of veggie noodles ready to do.  They seemed rather expensive but I don't know for sure. I also found broccoli which had been riced and packaged ready to be used.

I found beet noodles which looked really good but I'm not sure what you would serve with them.  I just checked out the internet and you can serve them raw with feta cheese and dressings or cook them up with greens and feta cheese.

I'm wondering if they would be good cooked up with all the same ingredients for Harvard beets?  Or maybe mixed with mushrooms and curried?

So many possibilities but I think it would be easier to use zucchini noodles because we use zucchini in so many other foods.
Perhaps served with an Alfredo sauce or some sort of pasta sauce.  I think its easier to be creative with the zucchini than the beets.

Would I buy something like this?  Maybe but it would be more as a convenience and time saver than anything else.  One of my new year resolutions is to figure out how to use the machines I bought earlier this year for spiralizing veggies into noodles and cutting them into julienne strips for my meals.

I did figure out one of the hand held gadgets designed for this really doesn't work but then again, I might not have figured it out. 

I'm off, have a good day and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Season

 Its the time of year when many of us fly across the state or country to visit relatives and family for Christmas.  This means we spend time in airports awaiting our next flight.

When I flew through the Seattle Airport, I experienced one of their entertainers who provided cheer of the season.

I think I took these pictures around 7 in the morning, when the one man band walked through playing a variety of Christmas music. 
 He was fun as he moved through the concourse singing and accompanying himself.  The music was constant and fun.

The children around me were absolutely delighted with the dancing fairies who accompanied him in their beautifully decorated cart while the adults hummed along with the music.

On the back of the cart, one saw a sign advertising that merchants wished everyone a Merry Christmas.  I hope to see him again when I fly through the 23rd on my way to another destination where I'll be spending Christmas.
This happened in the C concourse near the flight board.  I think this guy performs here every year because I remember him from other years when he came through bright and early in the morning while I awaited my flight back east.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Almost There

If you do much traveling, you'll wonder in for that crack of dawn trip and see people stretched out on seats trying to get some sleep before their flight departs.

Yes, I am one of those people you might see stretched out sleeping because I often end up at the airport where I get in late at night and leave early the next morning and its just not worth the cost of a hotel room for a few hours.

Seattle added some nice new S-shaped couches in the C concourse up by the C-11 to 18 gates, smack in the middle.  Yes, I grabbed a spot to lay down and sleep.  Well I tried to sleep but at least it was comfortable.  As you can see there were a lot more people with the same idea. 

These sofas are brand new.  I checked with someone who said they'd been installed in the last three months.  I can tell you from personal experience that these are really awesome and quite comfortable.  You don't have those seat edges cutting in to you as you toss and turn.

It turned out my trip was a bit more exasperating than usual.  My first plane ran a couple of hours late when they didn't have a plane available to send out at the published time.  There had been bad weather the past couple days so they were trying to get rid of the back log and nothing was flying on time.  I was 5 minutes past the cutoff time so I was stuck in a small place whose average hotel room is about $200 per night.  I'm talking a small plain room with lousy internet.

I got out the next day and arrived in Anchorage just in time to run a fast errand before getting back to check in for my flight to Seattle.  Due to arriving in Seattle quite late at night, I spend the night there on a new couch while I waited for my connecting flight.  I finally made it to Pennsylvania around dinner time, Sunday, but totally exhausted.  During the trip, my computer was locked up in my carry-on and I really didn't get a chance to do anything on my blog until late Sunday evening. 

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the exciting entertainment I saw in SeaTac Airport in celebration of Christmas.  Have a good day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016

Eskimo Bingo Part 2

Lottery, Lotto, Sphere, Luck, Win, PlayI talked about Eskimo Bingo earlier this month but it turned out to be way different than what I'm used to.  Someone brought the rules they normally play by and it turned into a chaotic fun adventure.

I would have taken pictures but I was trying to avoid being run over  by people so I'll try to paint a mind picture for everyone.

Picture if you will, a large open floor space with wrapped gifts stacked in the middle of the room surrounded by people sitting right next to each other forming a circle.  The timer is set for 10 minutes and out of the 30 people, about 15 have a pair of dice.

When the timer starts, the people with the dice roll them and if they roll a double, they grab a gift from the center then roll again.  If they roll doubles, they get another gift.  If the person does not roll doubles, the dice move one person left.

When the gifts run out in the middle, you get to steal from someone who has gifts.  The person on my left kept telling me to hurry because she wanted to roll the dice for gifts.  The people on both sides of me tended to run me over in their quest to quickly get a present before rolling the next set of dice.

Once the gifts were gone, people literally launched themselves out of their seats to grab someone elses gift.  No one was allowed to open anything till the timer rang.  At the very end, some people had nothing, others had four or five gifts.  I had nothing at the end, mostly because I was trying to keep from getting hit by flying bodies.

The gifts ranged from used books to canned food to a pencil and pen set.  Afterwards, gifts were traded, given away, or kept depending on the desires of the person.  The whole 10 minutes was complete chaos. I'm amazed no one was injured or killed during the game.

I am not a competitive person so I didn't mind coming out with nothing but I know others were excited to have 3 gifts.  Personally, although it was exciting and fun, I prefer other gift exchanges where everyone has a gift at the end.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Future is Now!

Graffiti, Spock, Leonard Nimoy  Star Trek, a series that premiered back in the 1960's and has had multiple incarnations since then.  Although the actors in the original series has aged or passed on, the movies still continue, thrilling a couple of generations.

It was one of the first shows with an interracial kiss so it was ahead of its time.  Since the first series graced the airwaves, many of its tools have become reality.

1.Many of the ships had food replicators where you walk up and order your meal.  Although food replication is in the infant stages it is possible to use a 3D printer to create certain food items. 

2. The universal translator they used so you could instantly understand what the alien said.  The Voice Translator app can translate 71 languages.  In addition, I've seen programs you can put on your phones, use the camera to scan signs and the signs are instantly translated.

3.  Tablets.  The tablets we've seen in a variety of episodes are very real.  I have three right now I use for various things but they are very real.

4. The flip communicator used by Captain Kirk and his crew have come and gone already. Think of the flip phone from a few years ago and how it resembled those early devices. 

5. The flat large screen televisions which we saw as large screens where information was shared.  Now, most avid sports fans have a large screen television attached to the wall.  Some of the fancier hotels offer the same things.

6. Blue tooth ear pieces so you can carry on a conversation with someone on the phone. It first appeared in the original Star Trek on Uhura who used it to monitor everything on and off the ship.  Now you see people wearing them everywhere.  It makes it hard to determine if they are talking to you or someone on the phone because all you see is the ear piece.

7. Tricorders were used by various personnel including the doctor.  These exist as hand held portable computers which can scan for medical or scientific information.

8.  Do you remember when the captain of the ship would communicate with another ship and you saw the person you spoke with?  That exists as one of several different programs which allows you to do that.  I've done it with people using my itouch.  It is cool, knowing you you are speaking with.

9. Transparent Aluminum from the movie where they land in San Francisco and need to move a whale.  It exists but not exactly as we might envision it. It is actually transparent aluminum armor which begins as a powder that is heated into a crystalline form similar to glass. In this form it is bullet proof and weighs less than regular glass.

10.  Remember the hyposprays?  One whoosh and the medicine was injected through the skin with no pain, no poke, no needle?  It exists but its known as a Jet Injector.  The real world one works by using air to push the medicine into the person's body and was designed to use during mass vaccinations.  It looks more like a paint gun because it can hold a lot of medicine.

11.  I always enjoyed the "Set your phaser to stun!"  It wasn't till around 1969 that the first Taser gun was invented which uses an electrical charge to stun a person.

I wonder if science fiction gave inventors the idea for some of these inventions or did the ideas that appeared in publications give science fiction the ideas.  Either way, I think its cool so many things have become a reality.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What Are Alexa Scores?

Blur, Business, Chart, Computer, Data I keep reading about Alexa scores and how important they are especially if you are monetizing your blog.  According to what I've read, you want a number below 100,000 so you can attract sponsors.

Sounds good but what is an Alexa score?  Why is it so important if you want to monetize your blog?  I had no idea but with a bit of research, I discovered more about this tool.

First off, Alexa is owned by Amazon and the service  charges a monthly fee from $9.99 for the basic package to $149.99 for the all inclusive package.

Alexa analyzes your traffic over a 3 month period to determine rankings.  The lower the number you score, the higher the amount of traffic you are receiving but there is a catch.  In order for visitors to be counted both you and they have to have the appropriate toolbar on your computer.

The company admits that all scores are rough estimates but those below 100,000 are less rough estimates than those above that threshold.  The closer to a ranking of one you get, the more accurate it is going to be.

From a statistical point of view, its sample size is determined by the number of people who have the toolbar.  It does not search the whole web to check for other data.  From what I've read, Alexa scores are not considered that important for much other than looking at trends.  In fact, most everything I've read states you should not sweat your Alexa numbers because they don't mean that much in the over all scheme of things.

Yes, I know its shocking but I cannot find any real need to have a low Alexa number because there does not seem to be any real reason except you might be able to charge more for ads. I looked at it but it does not seem to give me any real advantage so I don't plan to worry about it.

If there is a great reason for having a low Alexa score, please let me know?  I just couldn't find a good reason in all my research.  In fact, most of the research indicated its not worth paying much attention to those numbers since only people with the proper add-on can do it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

11 Uses for Yogurt!

Yogurt, Berries, Blueberries, Dessert  I love yogurt.  I eat a fair bit of it, mostly the Greek style because I prefer its thickness.   I use it in cooking or eat it straight.  I might mix in granola or fruit but I often eat it plain.

I ran across something which made me realize that you can use it for other things.  Please use plain yogurt for the following uses.

1.  Eating it can help your diarrhea go away because yogurt has the proper bacteria to help restore and balance the intestine.

2.  It contains Alpha-Hydroxy acid which can help even out skin tone, tighten pores, cleanse skin, and even help freckles fade over time. So use it as a facial and help your skin.

3. Spread yogurt over a sun burn to help the skin repair itself.  You spread it over the effected area, leave for 20 minutes, then rinse off.

4.  Yogurt can be used instead of mayo in tuna fish sandwiches.  It can also be used as a replacement for sour cream.

5. Yogurt makes a great hair conditioner.  Work yogurt into clean wet hair and let set 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing.   Yogurt is good for itchy scalps and helps control dandruff.

6.  Mix one tablespoon of honey with one cup of yogurt and rub it all over your hands.  Let it stand 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing off.  It will leave your hands smooth.

7.  Mix 1/2 finely ground walnuts with a cup of yogurt.  Rub this all over your feet to exfoliate and smooth them.

8.  If you add food coloring to plain yogurt, you have edible finger paints  so you don't have to worry about the safety of your finger paints.

9. It is said that yogurt is good for relieving the itch of athletes foot. Apply yogurt to the infected area, let dry and wash off with water and dry.

10. If a baby has a yeast based diaper rash, spread yogurt over the rash instead of a commercial diaper cream.

11.  Use it instead of cream in soups.

I love yogurt and I have it with granola for  breakfast or add it to Indian dishes for a smooth tart flavor.  How do you use it?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Eskimo Bingo

Bingo, Gambling, Game, Luck  I know, who ever heard of Eskimo bingo?  I hadn't until a few days ago when a coworker suggested we play it in a couple of days.  I have no idea where the name comes from and the game does not involve a bingo card or anything else remotely bingo oriented.

It is a game but not what you'd expect with a name like that.  It is actually more of a party game because you bring a nicely wrapped gift from around your house.  It is usually something you want to get rid of but it can't be anything like a half used bottle of soap.

It is sort of similar to other gift games in that people choose a gift and can choose someone elses but not in the way most operate.

To play you have a pair of dice and a set time limit. The idea is each person rolls the pair of dice.  If they roll doubles, they select a package but they do not open it otherwise, they pass the dice on to the next person.  They go around and around selecting gifts until the pile runs out but if the time has not run out, they keep going.  If they do roll a double, they are allowed to take a gift from someone else. 

They keep this up till the time limit is reached.  At which point, everyone is allowed to open their gifts and everyone enjoys their prize.  I plan to make a pan of brownies to give as a present.  I tend to give food items rather than anything else. 

For the fun of it, I looked the game up on the internet and it is a real game.  It goes by other names such as white elephant or dirty Santa or a bunch of other names it a popular way of getting rid of things.  My family has something similar where they assign numbers and everyone selects presents in that order.

The first person selects a gift and then opens it so everyone can see it.  The next person has a choice of taking the open gift or selecting an unopened one.  The third person can choose either of the two opened gifts or an unopened one.  If a person's gift is taken, then they can choose an already opened gift so they know what they are getting or they choose something new.

One time, I got this great pair of kitchen knives but they were taken and I could never get them back.  My dad got stuck with one of those whirly things for the front lawn.  I say stuck because no one else wanted it.

I hope everyone has a great day.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Do-It-Yourself Spa

Massage Therapy, Spa, Relax, Massage  There are days I'd love to go to a spa to partake of the services but the closest one is two hours by air away and that trip takes 5 hours or so to do.

I know other folks who would love to go but have children or other reasons they cannot partake of one on a regular basis.

It turns out you can have a lovely do it yourself spa at home for way less than you'd spend at a real spa.

You can plan a full day of activities or a few depending on the time available.  These suggestions are easy to do and take little effort.

1.  Facial steam - Heat up some water but not to the boiling point.  Add a few drops of essential oil, herbs or a tea mixture you like.  Place a towel over your head so it covers the sides of the pan and enjoy for 10 minutes.  The steam will open your pores and relax you at the same time.

2. Facial mask - mash some strawberries, or bananas, or make a mixture of yogurt, honey, aloe vera gel, and an avocado. Put on and let set 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing off.  Just do a web search to find a recipe that appeals to you if you do not like any of these.

3. Body exfoliation - can be done by mixing equal parts of brown sugar, oatmeal, and olive oil. Mix and then apply to skin slowly in circles.  When done, rinse it off under a shower.  You might want to do this in the bath tub due to the mess it makes.

4. Soak in a tub of hot water with oatmeal or a can of coconut milk.  Be sure to turn down the lights and light a couple of candles to add atmosphere to the process.

5. While soaking in the tub you can use my grandmothers trick of placing sliced cucumbers over the eyes to help with puffiness but I prefer used tea bags because I have them around the house.

6.  Hair mask - try one made out of avacado ( 1 whole one), 2 tbsp cream, and, 1 tbsp  honey all mixed together and combed through freshly washed hair.  Wrap in plastic and wait 15 minutes before rinsing. You could also use coconut oil in the hair before washing to help it.

7. Hands - mix equal amounts of olive oil and sugar.  Use to exfoliate hands.  Warm a small amount of honey and apply to hands.  Wrap the hands in plastic wrap before sitting down for 30 minutes.  When done, wash it off.

I would include my favorite but not everyone has a sauna at their houses.  I get invited over to sauna parties and they are great.  They have volcanic rocks on a wood burning stove that are heated and the hostess spills water on the rocks so a could of steam hits.  It opens pores beautifully.  I'll explain it more in another column.

I hope you find these hints  a help in planning ways to pamper yourself so end up at the end of the day feeling like a new person.  Enjoy and let me know what you think?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Days of Infamy!

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Evening, DuskYesterday, was December 7th.  The day Pearl Harbor was bombed 75 years ago.  Referred to as a Day of Infamy by Franklin Roosevelt, the president at the time.

There is one member of my family who was in Honolulu that Sunday morning when it happened.  He was only 17 and a senior in high school but he and so many others heard the bombings occur as Japanese planes flew over.

On Christmas day, he and the rest of his family left the Islands by ship to move to Washington  or Oregon where it was considered much safer.  Right after he graduated, he joined the navy and spent the rest of the war as a hospital corpsman.  His mother did her patriotic duty by working at Boeing, helping to build bombers.  She was one of those advertised as "Rosie the Riveter."

Fast forward to a day in September when the world was riveted to their televisions watching rerun after rerun of planes crashing into the World Trade Towers.  Anyone who was old enough remembers where they were when it happened.  We didn't have to wait for the news to flash across the radio.  We saw it right after the event.

I signed onto my computer to chat with a friend or two who asked me if I'd heard?  Of course I said "heard what?". At that point, they insisted I turn the television on and I was stunned with the news.  I taught at a community college so when I went in, everyone was trying to listen to the news.  The IT department provided regular updates but people were in disarray.

I had a friend who had flown to Boston for training and it was several days before I heard anything from here.  One of my students had family who were out touring New York at the time of the bombing.  It was several weeks before they were found in the hospital because other family members had to fly there and actually visit the hospitals one by one  until they found the unconscious person.  They were standing near the towers when the whole thing went down.

A co-workers husband was working in a building near the tower.  He could not leave the place until they got everything under control and as a journalist, he needed to stay so he could report on it.  In addition, I lost several students who disappeared without notice due to being called up.  The community college refunded their tuition for that semester due to having to serve for several months.

In a sense, this second event, 9/11 is my generation's day of Infamy due to the damage it did and due to the rallying effect it had.  The military had no trouble meeting quotas because eligible men rushed out to enlist just like after Pearl Harbor.  The two have so much in common including the loss of life.  I try to remember those who died in both attacks because most were innocent and did nothing to deserve having a life cut short.

Have a nice day.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Yogurt, Fruit, Vanilla, Strawberries  I love yogurt but sometimes shopping for it can be hard because there are so many different types to choose from.  Due to where I live, I look for the types I can use out as starter or I buy starter from a couple of different companies.

Recently, I've seen yogurts made from non-dairy milk, in addition to the regular ones so what is the difference among all of them.  Are they all healthy?

First you have to look at fat content for regular yogurt.  There are three classifications of yogurt in this group.  First is regular yogurt which is made from whole milk and must have at least 3.25 percent milk fat.  Next is low fat yogurt made from low-fat or part skim milk and has a milk fact content of between .5 and 2 percent.  Last is the non-fat yogurt made from skim milk with a content of less than .5 percent milk fat.

Since most of the low fat and non-fat yogurts are unable to thicken on their own, some sort of thickener such as pectin, gelatin, or carrageenan (made from seaweed) is used to make it look like regular yogurt.

In addition there are other ways to classify yogurt and that is by the type.  Recently, there has been an increase in  Greek yogurt so you can find it in most stores.  They say Greek yogurt is thicker due to it being strained before use, or because it has a higher milk fat content.  I've used some as starter for my yogurt at home and its come out quite thick.

According to one article, you have to be careful when buying the Greek yogurt because some companies are adding a thickener to it.  This type of yogurt is said to be better to cook with because it does not become as thin and runny as regular yogurt.

Another style of yogurt we see is Balkan or set style where the mix is placed in containers and left to incubate so it creates a thick texture while Swiss or stirred style and is stirred while incubation is taking place to give the final product a nice creamy texture. 

In regard to the non-diary yogurt, the liquid requires a thickener to actually set it.  There are vegan starters from places like Cultures for Health which can be used to make yogurt from non-dairy milks but these are one time use packets and cannot be reused like regular yogurt.

I've been told by friends you can use a regular yogurt starter with non-diary milks but you need to add sugar so as to give the bacteria something to eat.  I do not know if it works at all.  I plan to try it sometime with I have a moment.  I have read that its best to use homemade nut milks because the commercial ones may have additives which interfere with the process.

If anyone has experience making their own non-dairy yogurt, I'd love to hear from you.  When I get a chance to experiment, I'll let you know how it goes. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Zombies Live!

Game Asset Call, Halloween, MonsterZombies seem to be everywhere you look right now. They appear in books, movies, and even songs.  Everywhere!  There have been books written on zombie brains, zombie gardening, zombie knitting, and other topics.

The idea that zombies exist has been around since the 8th century in the Congo and can be found in several different cultures. As far as humans go, there are a few movies and shows which have people turning into zombies due a disease but in reality zombies do not exist but there are zombies in nature.

 Certain species of ants can turn into zombies!  Imagine that! There exists a fungus whose parasitic nature allows it to manipulate the brains of these species of ants.  The fungus only releases its mind controlling chemicals to the proper host.

The fungus uses the to complete its life cycle. The ants encounter the fungal spores while foraging  for food.  The spores transfer into the ant where they invade the body.   When the infection reaches the brain, chemicals are released and take over the ant's central nervous system forcing the ant to clamp down on a leaf or twig.  At this point the fungus kills the ant and forces a stalk to grow out of the ant's head. When its ready, the stalk releases more spores to infect more ants.

The fungus itself is only attracted to one or two varieties of carpenter ants found in South America.  Research indicates that if an infected ant stays in the nest, the fungus in unable to develop either due to conditions not being right or because they are thrown out by healthy ants.  It appears the fungus also drives the infected ants out so they can get to a place where the fungus is able to reproduce.

 It is possible the idea for a plague spreading through the land and turning people into zombies might have come from these creatures or its possible its extrapolated from the fact that people infected with rabies often appear totally insane due to its effects on the central nervous system.

If this virus mutated so the incubation period was shortened to a day or two and it became airborne rather than transmitted through bites, it could produce zombie like creatures. Don't worry at this point in time it is extremely difficult to genetically engineer such a virus which means it would be even more difficult to take over the world using this.

So the next time you watch the Walking Dead or World War Z, rest assured that there is no plague or virus out there to make these scenarios true.  Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Running AwayTo Join the Circus!

Circus, Marquee, Circus Tent, Show  Do you remember when you were little and you decided to run away from home?  Where did you want to run?  Was it to the next block?  Or grandma's house? Or perhaps even the circus?  I don't think I ever made it past the end of the block.  Its hard to go anywhere when you have a big black Great Dane trailing you when you try to run away from home.

There was a movie years ago that starred Elizabeth Montgomery in which she played a person who ran away to the circus and made it there but times have changed.

The circus has only been around since the mid 18th century but the big top is a bit younger having come into use in the 1830's.  For a very long time, the circus traveled from town to town, stopping to put on a show for a few days before moving on.  It was a time when you could disappear and reinvent yourself as someone else.  It was a time when you did not need social security cards, birth certificates, or any of the Identification we must carry in today's world.

The circus offers the outsider a wonderful illusion of daring, of exposure to the exotic and strange, while making the whole experience safe. How often did anyone see elephants or bearded women in the past?  What about those trapeze artists who could fly through the air and be caught in such a way that you released a held breath before cheering in admiration at their skill.

The illusion was strong and inviting because people would escape their lives by running away with the circus in the hopes of finding a better or different life. It was sheer escapism but I'm sure those who did join the circus discovered it was tarnished and not as glorious as they thought.

I tried to find out where this phrase came from but could not.  I found lots of articles on how to join the circus now but only if you have certain skills and if the circus wants you.  I don't even know if circuses still come to town and pitch the big top or if those have gone but the memories are there for those who grew up with the circus held in a field somewhere and not at the convention center. 

Let me know what you think!

Friday, December 2, 2016

History of Wedding Rings

Ring, Wedding, Wedding Rings, Marriage  We've all attended weddings where one or both participants exchange rings.  Traditionally, the ring is placed on the fourth finger of the left hand (counting the thumb as one) but have you ever wondered where that tradition came from?

Out in this part of Alaska, many people exchange carved ivory rings rather than ones made of diamonds or metal.  Historically, it is believed rings were made of leather, ivory, or bone.

The belief associated with these rings was simply the more expensive the material the more the man loved her and the wealthier he was.  It wasn't until the Romans that the idea of ownership came into being.  When he gave her a ring, it meant he "claimed" her.  At the time, rings were made of iron because it represented strength and permanence. It is also believed they were the first to engrave rings.

Around 860 AD, Christians began using rings in wedding ceremonies but they were extremely decorated and the church didn't like that. So by the 13th century, rings became plainer and more appropriate as a symbol to represent a union of hearts.

Although rings have been worn on different fingers including the thumb there are several theories out on why the ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand.
1.  The tradition came from the Romans who placed the ring on the fourth finger because it was thought the finger contained a vein of love directly connected to the heart but this vein idea is false.

2.  In early Christian marriages, the priest started with the thumb saying "In the name of the Father", the first finger "the Son", the second finger "And the Holy Spirit", and slid the ring on the third finger or ring finger with the Amen.

3. Since most modern rings are made of gold which is a soft metal, it is less likely to be damaged because most of the world is right handed.

I don't know which is true, perhaps all of them are but I found it quite interesting to see the various thoughts on why we wear the ring on the ring finger.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

14 Strange Currencies.

Money, Dollars, Success, Business  If you remember your history, Long Island was bought for a handful of glass beads and trinkets.  I don't know if the story is true and it really doesn't matter.

Strange things have been used for currency in the past.  Lets look at a few:

1. The people of Yap used huge stones brought from Palau by canoe.  Its value depended on the number of people killed during transport.

2. The Romans used salt as currency.  Interesting fact, our word salary comes from the Latin term for salt.

3.  Back in 2008, Argentina ran out of coins, people used small candies such as tootsie rolls instead.

4. In ancient China, knives inscribed with their value were used until around 200 BC when their use was abolished.

5. Tea has been used as currency in Asia and been the preferred coin in remote places such as Siberia and Mongolia.

6.  In Ghana, iron snakes were a perfectly acceptable form of exchange among the Lobi people.

7.  At the time, Fiji became a British protectorate, the local official asked to be paid in whale teeth rather than gold because it was more valuable to him.

8. In the Republic of Congo the Katanga Cross was the standard.  The 2.2 lb cross was made out of copper and was worth 10 lbs of flour or 6 foals.

9. In certain parts of the world, a specific shell circulated among several countries in the Pacific as the local currency

10.  In Newfoundland, prior to the establishment of the first bank, people used dried cod as the preferred choice of exchange.

11.  In China, receipts for copper were used as currency rather than the actual copper.

12. Canadian Tire printed its own fake money as a way to cement customer loyalty and pretty soon businesses and ebay began accepting it.

13.  Potato mashers were the coin of choice by the Bafia people who used to live in Cameroon previously.

14. The criminal underworld sometimes uses liquid Tide as their currency.

There are quite a few more strange ones including furs, bit coin, etc but these I found the most fun. Let me know what you think.